Roy Alfred

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It is almost impossible to come up with a complete list of songs that lyricist Roy Alfred wrote the words to; there are just too many songs. With all these accomplishments, it could be thought of as a…
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It is almost impossible to come up with a complete list of songs that lyricist Roy Alfred wrote the words to; there are just too many songs. With all these accomplishments, it could be thought of as a real shame that he is most remembered for "The Hucklebuck." On the other hand, younger listeners might not appreciate the incredible social phenomenon that was the hucklebuck: the dance, the records, the hidden meanings. All songwriters would want to be associated with this sort of fad, the appeal of which spread out like a web spun by the grandmaster of the night spiders. There would be X-rated interpretations of "The Hucklebuck," there would be cover versions for all ages by Oscar the Grouch and Popeye, or at least recording hacks pretending to be these characters. Music snobs will no doubt choose a different recording to represent Alfred than any of the one billion versions of "The Hucklebuck"; in fact the Ray Charles big band version of "I've Got News for You" from the 1961 album Genius + Soul = Jazz would be a hard one to top. While skeptics would argue that Charles could make a good rhythm & blues number out of a grocery list, the stanzas of this number are both aggressive and humorous, a delight to sing as well as scan. It was all in a day's work for Alfred, who approached songwriting as an enjoyable job, and could never be accused of writing a single verse that reeked of angst or pretension.

Then again, that can mean that he spent many an afternoon scribbling throwaway novelties, and it does. "Bat Man Wolf Man Frankenstein" is a song title that Jad Fair would probably die for, and it is amusing to think that it came from the same lyricist as "It's the Sentimental Thing to Do," recorded by Doris Day. It was Marvin Fisher, by the by, who recorded the monster song, as well as an Alfred tribute to "Captain Kidd." Many a record collector would be "Believin' You" if told Alfred would be the "Best Man" for writing an entire story in song titles, since he obviously "Can't Stop." "Congratulations to Someone" who can listen to them all and "Cut Off All the Fat." From the "Discovery of America" to "Eatin' Pizza" -- and a "Pizza Party," too -- he wrote about just about every subject. Some songwriters think it really droll to rhyme moon, june, and spoon. Alfred went them one better and entitled a song "Moon June Spoon," as well as one called "Flirt," another called "My First Formal Gown"; and don't forget "Music From Out of Space" or "Young Abe Lincoln," either.

Of course it was "The Hucklebuck" that made all the other copyrights seem trivial, even "Blue Bolero" and "Hooray for Santa Claus!" "The Hucklebuck" wound up being covered by Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong , Pearl Bailey, Kate Smith, and even bluesman Earl Hooker; it would have to be the only song in both Bailey and Hooker's repertoire. In many ways the song was a perfect example of material with its roots in jazz and blues being absorbed by a huge white audience in an era when there really wasn't such a thing as rock & roll, at least not in terms of how the genre would come to be defined. Musicologists trace the riff of "The Hucklebuck" to two different sources, both of them springs bubbling over with the most delicious of musical waters. In one interpretation of musical influences (also known as thievery), the 1945 recording session in which Charlie Parker and band came up with the medium-tempo blues entitled "Now's the Time" was basically a birthing ritual for "The Hucklebuck." While other huckleologists have passed the buck to John Lee Hooker's original "Boogie Chillun," it is true that Teddy Reig was at the Parker session "producing" -- in that case meaning going out for coffee -- as well as at a session with Detroit bandleader Paul Williams three years later at which a similar riff showed up under the title of "The Hucklebuck." Williams would later be so associated with the song that his stage name became Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams. Alfred's lyrics were not even written at this point, nor were they needed for the instrumental version to grab the top spot on the rhythm & blues charts. A dance based on the song became incredibly popular, but was also considered to be quite lewd. No matter: it was a number that every professional band of the time had to play, no matter what the group's style was. One climactic moment in "The Hucklebuck"'s popularity was a 1956 episode of The Honeymooners built entirely around the song.