Music Heritage Home Page
other day I found an image of a Liberace matchbook from the 1950's,
and got off on a tangent (easy for me),
as it reminded me that a while back a friend (thank you, Diane) had
sent me an mp3 for a song called
"Dear Liberace," by Ruth Wallis. Now we both adore the music
of Ruth Wallis, and I've played several risqué
songs by her on my show over the years (like "Queer Things Are
Happening"). So that gave me the idea to do
a blog and share the song, which prompted what turned into several
hours of internet research (see, a tangent).
I don't think I need to give much introduction to Liberace (1919 -
1987). For decades he was a hugely
successful entertainer, with recordings, television and performances.
And he was hugely
flamboyant and that he could joke about his outfits during his act
made him all the more beloved with
his mostly female audiences. His showmanship was as much of his act
as his actual playing.
I definitely recall that when growing up in the late 1950's even deep
in my closet I recognized him as gay,
and the kind of gay I wanted no part of. But at that time there was
almost no other celebrity perceived
to be homosexual, no role models whatsoever.
this blog's main focus is on songs about Liberace, and my research
found many more than expected.
It seems the ball got rolling in 1953, with three recordings. Probably
attracting the most attention was
the one on Columbia Records by Charlie Adams & the Lone Star Playboys.
If you think that name sounds
like a sort of hillbilly act, you would be correct, as you can hear
in the YouTube clip below of the song
act recorded the same song that year, Jody Levins & His Boys.
Looking at the labels (and this is likely
much more detail than you care about) I notice the writing credits
on Levins' recording is F. Adams,
and on the Adams disc, on a much larger label, the name Matassa is
added. That is very likely
Cosimo Matassa, a well-known New Orleans recording engineer and studio
owner with ties to
many labels, including the Fats Domino sessions on Imperial Records.
So my theory is that when
the Jody Levins recording started to get attention, it was "covered"
by Charlie Adams, and part of
the licensing deal at Columbia was to add Matassa's name for a cut
of the writing royalties. And my
point is, I think the Levins disc was first.
"Hey, Liberace" by Jody Levins & His Boys
Liberace (when you weren't saying in print that he was homosexual)
certainly a good sport, and even performed the song himself on television
to the Ruth Wallis record I mentioned at the start. Wallis died in
2007 and I'm so impressed with her
that she is likely the only straight artist to have a tribute page
on my website. A number of years ago
record collecting magazine Goldmine ran an interview with her, and
it covered her song,
"Dear Liberace." She indicated she had an earlier song,
"Dear Arthur Godrey," and she decided
to update it. She said, "I started to write a song for Liberace,
he was a wonderful person. He was
going to get married at the time, and I couldn't fathom it. So I started
writing what was going to be
a takeoff on 'Dear Mr. Godfrey,' it was going to go something like,
'Dear Liberace, don't marry
that darn girl. I could understand that now - Lee couldn't have married
that girl anyway. But Lee
was a lovely person."
"Dear Liberace" by Ruth Wallis
"When Liberace Winked at Me, by Libby Morris
last song I want to share from the 1950's is by Canadian comic singer
In 1956 she recorded "When Liberace Winked at Me."
left, probably a quick read. And on the right, "Why Liberace's
Theme Song Should Be
"Mad About the Boy!"
am kind of surprised (disappointed) that no one seems to have recorded
a song about the palimony
lawsuit taken against Liberace in 1982 by his then 22-year old live-in
chauffer Scott Thorson. That was
settled out of court a few years later for a mere $95,000. Maybe folks
feared the litigious Liberace
would not hesitate sue them as well, as he did many others over the
in 1988 the UK band Twelve Just Men gave us
Don't Want to Die Like Liberace"
my research found at least two dozen songs referencing Liberace, many
are fleeting or just
plain awful, including two or three that are hardcore punk...not sure
what those lyrics were. So, I'm
jumping to 1995 and the Sparks, who included "The Ghost of Liberace"
on their 1995 album,
"Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins."
the Sparks Video
got just three more song for you. In 2005 Paul Thorn included the
curious song "Fabio & Liberace"
on his CD "Ain't Love Strange." And 2008 brought an act
going by Kitten on the Keys
(real name: Suzanne Ramsey) . On her "Salty Meat Girl" CD
she sang "I Want To Be Like Liberace."
That song, interestingly, takes a biographic angle. It's perhaps the
most true song of them all.
"Fabio & Liberace" by Paul Thorn
"I Want To Be Like Liberace," by Kitten onthe Keys
"The Curse of Liberace's Tomb," by the Bad Detectives
the Bad Detectives decided last year to sing about "The Curse
of Liberace's Tomb,"
ironically on a CD called "Look at Life."