E.V. Body

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The songwriter E.V. Body has fans; one hesitates to say "his" or "her" fans, since the exact sex of this Body has never been established. For example, there is the bartender who takes a phone call and…
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The songwriter E.V. Body has fans; one hesitates to say "his" or "her" fans, since the exact sex of this Body has never been established. For example, there is the bartender who takes a phone call and then, as instructed, pages "Sal Lami" in the bar. This individual would most likely think E.V. Body is some kind of genius based on the Body of songs written. Then there is the airport information receptionist who makes announcements for the benefit of "Juan Long Dong," another blip on the E.V. Body radar, as is the restaurant maƮtre d' who goes from table to table trying to locate "Pep E. Roni." In other words, people that don't get the joke. But while these other instances are simply pranks of varying nuisance value, E.V. Body is part of a cynical scheme, which, since it happened in the music business, can only be about one thing: stealing money.

Perhaps a more polite way to describe it would be taking money that nobody else is going to bother to claim, which might not exactly be stealing. At any rate, the first writing credits for E.V. Body began showing up in the late '20s, continuing for decades. The name is associated with producer, songwriter, publisher, A&R man, and record label owner Joe Davis. His various ventures often dipped into the rich soup of public domain material, whether it was a country blues standard that performers remembered from their grandfather's father, a Scottish ballad that went back beyond that, or an old cowboy song that had been brought in from the hills by vintage performers such as Carson Robison. The doofus type that doesn't get the joke might consider E.V. Body some kind of songwriter's songwriter, responsible for such absolute classics as "Hand Me Down My Walking Cane," "Ain't Gonna Rain No More," "Frankie and Johnny," "Birmingham Jail," "Willie the Weeper," "Barbara Allen," "Lonesome Road," and "Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight?"

The name is commonly taken as a simple joke on the supposition that anybody or everybody could have written these folk songs, but the royalty money certainly didn't go to everybody. It went straight to Joe Davis. The piling up of loot went beyond individual records, as one of the most profitable aspects of this type of copyrighting involved the publication of entire song folios. Song publishers of the '20s and '30s were into accumulating as many titles under their control as possible. An entire collection of songs originally introduced by cowboy artists such as Robison or Vernon Dalhart would be published under the name of E.V. Body once the original copyright lapsed, or if there was any indication that the material was sourced from folk music. Some writers claimed a copyright on a folk song simply by writing an arrangement; that is how E. Platzman wound up with composer's credit for "Auld Lang Syne," at least beating E.V. Body to the New Year's punch. If an entire folio of such titles was published, an individual who seized authorship of a dozen of the titles would make out handsomely. But one cannot accuse E.V. Body -- or Davis, for that matter -- of mindless, uncontrollable greed. In one such song folio the chestnut "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain" gets passed over for the E.V. Body coffers and is copyrighted under bluesman Spencer Williams' name, perhaps as an honorarium for writing what might be the worst song of all time, "German Blues"; that's the tune that describes a GI eating a ground-up dachshund. It is understandable why E.V. Body didn't want credit for that one, either.