This month we continue our look at Warner Brothers on 78 as we branch off to one of its subsidiary labels, Reprise. Reprise was started in 1960 by Frank Sinatra so that he could have more control over his own releases as well as release records by his cohorts in the Rat Pack, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Junior. Initial releases stayed close to the safe Las Vegas sound that Sinatra and friends were known for. In 1963, he sold part ownership of the label to the label to Warners, and with that sale the head of A&R at Reprise, 1950s rockabilly star Jimmy Bowen, found new freedom to move into rock'n'roll.
By 1966 a Reprise was well established in genres well apart from the crooning of the Rat Pack, with artists as diverse as the Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, and the Electric Prunes signed to the label. It was a 1968 release by an artist as eccentric for the time as the 78, that would eventually lead to the release in 1969, well past the end of the 78 in UK, of the our cool 78 of the month.
Tiny Tim, né Herbert Khaury, was born in New York City in 1932. He grew up listening to all the great singers and crooners on a wind-up phonograph and soon began emulating them as he strummed his ukulele. His tenor voice suited the styles of the crooners well, but it was his falsetto that resulted in stardom. As a street performer around Harvard University he developed a following that lead to an appearance on the hit TV comedy show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. He reached back to 1929 for a number 1 song by Nick Lucas called Tiptoe Through the Tulips. This performance resulted in a contract with Reprise, which had him record the song with a full orchestra. The single went to number 17 in the Billboard charts in the USA, and number 6 on the CHUM chart in Canada.
While chart success in the UK for the record would prove allusive for the moment, in 1969 Tiny Tim appeared on the David Frost show there to promote his second album. His live performance of a medley of There'll Always Be an England, Bless 'em All and It's A Long Way to Tipperary would be released as a limited edition 78 by Reprise in the UK.
Singing in his natural tenor voice, Tiny would delight the television audience with a medley of patriotic songs that had been rallying cries during both the first and second world wars. The first in the medley, There'll Always Be an England, was written in 1938 as the clouds of war began to cover Europe. Following the start of the war in September 1939, Dame Vera Lynn would record it for Decca and in doing so created the most popular version of the tune. In 1952 she would be the first British performer to top the US charts with her recording of Auf Wiedersehen, Sweetheart on London 1227 (UK Decca F9927).
The second song in the medley, Bless 'em All was written in 1917. Written just as the war was ending, it to would serve as a unifier for all of Great Britain when recorded in 1940 by George Formby, who like Tiny Tim, played the ukulele. One of Formby's biggest fans was George Harrison, who paid homage to his style by playing a bit of ukulele as the end of Free as a Bird, one of the Beatles re-union songs from 1995. As it turns out, George was also a fan of Tiny Tim and two of them met up in the fall of 1968. A snatch of that meeting can be heard on the Beatles 1968 Christmas fan recording.
Finally, the medley features It's A Long Way to Tipperary, a British music hall tune, most often associated with World War I. Irish tenor, Count John McCormack, would record it in 1914 for Victor and bring it world wide popularity.
The record concludes with Tiny Tim returning to his trademark falsetto as he repeats a verse of There'll Always Be an England. This version of the medley is unique to the 78 and not found on any 45 or lp.
The flip side, Have You Seen My Little Sue, is a song featured on the album Tiny Tim's 2nd Album (Reprise RS 6323). Its sees Tiny Tim doing a bit of country and western, again in his natural tenor.
Both sides are great fun. Obviously Reprise had great fun with them too, seeing fit to create not only a 10-inch 78 RPM release with a full color label, along with a temporary renaming of itself as Reprise-aphone.
While the medley didn't chart, a later release from the second album, a cover of the Jerry Lee Lewis hit, Great Balls of Fire, would prove a winner, charting at number 45 for one week (Reprise RS 20802).
In 1969, Tiny Tim went on to marry Miss Vicki, in a highly publicised ceremony on the Johnny Carson (Tonight) show on US television. This event was the zenith of his career and drew an audience of 45 million, making it the largest in the history of the show. His marriage to Miss Vicki lasted 8 years, ending in a divorce.
His performance of rock'n'roll classics and old standards at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 was a huge success. Film clips of the festival feature him singling There'll Always Be an England through a megaphone.
Even though he never again hit the charts, Tiny Tim went on performing, even though his doctors told him not to, until his death in 1996 of a heart attack while on stage.
On a side note, by the time of this release Warner Brothers had been sold to the Seven Arts Productions and was re-branded Warner Brothers-Seven Arts, with Jack Warner remaining on as studio chief. A new Warner Brothers logo was created, with the classic WB shield being tossed on the junk heap in exchange for a styled pairing of the letter W and the number 7. For Reprise releases, the Reprise lower case R was paired with the W7 trademark. This was to be the last year for this mixture as Seven Arts, as a result of a dispute with Jack Warner coupled with poor financial performance, would sell the whole shebang to Kinney National, best known for, of all things, funeral homes and parking lots. While Seven Arts may have thought they could park it at Kinney would who then bury it, Kinney ran with the lot, and after getting rid of their now entertainment businesses, morphed it into Warner Communications, a company that went on to become a global giant.
Also of note is the fact that this release was not the first 78 to released on Reprise. In the Philippines, 78s appeared in the early 1960s by artists such as Trini Lopez.
It was through Tiny Tim that the grand tradition of vaudeville lived on. He encyclopedic knowledge of performers such as Billy Murray and Ada Jones and held them in the highest respect. Finally, because his dad bought him a wind-up phonograph when he was 5, the 78 would see yet one more release 31 years later.