I can’t let May 23rd go by without giving a nod to the late, great Allan Sherman, whose occasional silly albums brought joy to so many people in the early 1960s. It’s said his popularity rocketed when President Kennedy was overheard singing one of his songs in a hotel lobby.
Like many others of his time, he had his own TV variety show (which probably aired too late for me). But my parents were fans and bought several of his albums: “My Son the Folk Singer,” “My Son the Celebrity,” “My Son the Nut,” and probably others.
As you can infer from the titles, Sherman was among a bumper crop of Jewish comedians and other show-biz types of his generation. Most of the songs are laced with “shticks and stones” that WASP-y little Howard didn’t understand.
But then, I also didn’t understand that “Don’t Buy the Liverwurst” was a riff on the spiritual “Down by the Riverside” that was sung by enslaved people on plantations in the Old South. To me it was a funny song with a great tune.
I was allowed to play these albums and sing along, but only on the little portable record player in the basement. My parents were worried that the neighbors, who were the only Jewish family in the neighborhood, would take it the wrong way.
I’m not sure that there really was a wrong way to take Sherman’s comedy, which was clever and universal. Today he’s best known for “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,” which hit the top of the charts shortly before the British Invasion. I’ll leave you with that in this clip from “The Allan Sherman Show,” so you can sing along from Camp Granada:
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