Thursday, March 19, 2015

Josephine "Jodi" Ann Bancino, country-pop songwriter of the '50s and '60s


Anita McCune, Betty Sue Perry, and Jodi Bancino

I decided to write about Jodi Bancino after seeing this photo of her in The Tennessean. The caption said that it pictured Anita McCune, Betty Sue Perry, and Jodi Bancino in 1961 preparing for WSM's Country Music Festival. The three songwriters, it added, "became pen pals when each started writing songs for Sure-Fire Music Co. in Nashville." (Betty Sue Perry, incidentally, was the oldest daughter of country star Loretta Lynn.) 

I knew of Bancino from Joe Dowell's song "Little Bo Peep," which she wrote. Dowell briefly mentioned her in his interview with Music Weird. The first of his three-part interview is here.

Sure-Fire Music Co. was owned by the Wilburn Brothers, a country music brother duo that scored a big hit in 1959 with a remake of the murder ballad "Knoxville Girl." Although Teddy and Doyle Wilburn were the brothers who made up the musical duo, their older brothers Leslie and Lester shared ownership in Sure-Fire Music. Doyle and Teddy originally started the company with steel guitarist Don Helms, who was their neighbor at the time, but the Wilburns' other brothers joined when the company got too big for Doyle, Teddy, and Helms to manage alone. Helms and the Wilburns also owned the Wil-Helm Talent Agency in Nashville.

The Wilburn Brothers with Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn was Sure-Fire's biggest star, and the company owned most of the copyrights for her songs. After both of the Wilburn Brothers died, she sued in 2004 to regain ownership of her songs.

The Wilburn Brothers helped Dowell get his contract with Smash Records, so that was how he ended up cutting Bancino's "Little Bo Peep." Bancino wrote numerous songs for the Wilburn Brothers, including "The Land of Heaven" (with Eileen Maultsby), "No One Knows Better than Me" (as Jodie Bancino), "Someone Else's Love," and "Look Down." 

Billboard, May 19, 1962
Although Bancino primarily wrote for Nashville, she placed some songs with pop and rock artists, including the Crickets (the R&B group, not Buddy Holly's group; the song was "Dreams and Wishes" ), Joe Dowell ("Little Bo Peep," video below), Rory-O ("Make a Wish"), and Timi Yuro ("Look Down").

She also wrote "I Don't Hurt as Much," which appeared as the B-side of T. Tommy Cutrer's twist remake of Jim Lowe's "The Green Door." The two Billboard clippings shown here mention her song.


Billboard, May 26, 196



Jodi Bancino died in September 2010 at the age of 92. Her obituary mentioned her songwriting career (my bold):

Bancino, age 92, went home to be with her Lord and Savior on Thursday, September 9, 2010. She was preceded in death by her husband, Carl, sister, Rose Jeluso, brothers, John and Sam Geluso. She will be lovingly remembered by her sons, Andy (Sharon) Bancino [died March 7, 2011] of Grandville, John (Rosetta) Bancino of Bradley, MI; eight grandchildren; 15 great grandchildren; six great great grandchildren; sister, Ann Valentine; brother, Frank (Francis) Geluso; many nieces and nephews. She was very proud of her gifted ability to be able to write songs that were produced and published in Nashville, TN by the Wilburn Bros. of Sure-Fire Music. To this day at 92 years of age she still received royalties for her music played around the world. We would like to thank the staff at Railside Living Center of Byron Center for her excellent care and friendship the past 9 years. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 10:00 a.m. Saturday, September 11, 2010 at Our Lady of Sorrows, 101 Hall St. SE with Rev. Theodore Kozlowski as celebrant. The family will greet relatives and friends Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Ronan Vanderpool Stegenga Funeral Chapel and one hour prior to the Mass at church. Interment Woodlawn Cemetery. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Jonathan Winters' brief foray into music (1958)



Music Weird previously wrote about Joan Rivers' unusual early-'60s pop single. Comedian Jonathan Winters also made one pop record early in his career. He recorded many comedy albums over the years but didn't record another "song" until 2006, when he cut the recitation "Old Folks."

Our story begins in 1958. Gerry Granahan's group, Dicky Doo & the Don'ts, had a new record out called "Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu," which was instrumental except for a nonsense vocal interjection. Granahan had scored two previous hits that year with Dicky Doo & the Don'ts' "Click-Clack" (the first-ever release on Swan Records) and a solo recording, "No Chemise—Please." In a wise promotional move, Granahan's group named themselves after Dick Clark's nickname for his son. Might help them get on American Bandstand, eh?


Billboard, April 28, 1958
Comedian Jonathan Winters at that time had been a disk jockey in Ohio and New York and had appeared on some television shows. He was making a name for himself with his zany humor and ad libs, and increasingly moved into straight comedy. Because of his growing popularity, Coral Records signed him to a "long-term contract," Billboard reported in 1958. 

The contract turned out to be short-lived. His first and only record for Coral was a cover of Dicky Doo & the Don'ts' "Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu." Because the nonsense title was like something from outer space, Winters' version was credited to "Jonathan Winters with the Martians."

The Dicky Doo record didn't have a space theme at all, so Coral must have been trying to out-market it by cashing in on the martian craze with Winters. Some people claim that Robin Williams took his extraterrestrial Mork character's "nanu, nanu" from "Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu."

The flip-side of Winters' record was the similarly space-themed cut "Take Me to Your Leader," another song by the writer of "Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu," Eddie V. Deane. Deane, who was a comedian too, would go on to write the Mike Douglas hit "The Men in My Little Girl's Life" and the "Big Bad John" parody "Small Sad Sam."

Billboard gave Winters' record a favorable review but noted that Dicky Doo & the Don'ts' version had a head start. The Dicky Doo record was reviewed in Billboard a month earlier, and, predictably, the group appeared on American Bandstand. As a result, Dicky Doo & the Don'ts' version charted nationally, but Winters' version didn't chart even regionally, as far as I can tell. 


Billboard, May 5, 1958

That lone single ended Winters' musical career on Coral Records, and a couple of years later, he started recording comedy albums for Verve. As with Joan Rivers' pop record, Winters' contribution to the musicality of his Coral recordings is negligible; one side is mostly instrumental, and most of the other side is sung by a vocal chorus.

You can listen to both cuts below.