When I Want to Laugh I Think of Allan Sherman

Folk singer, Celebrity, and Nut.

Allan Sherman's greatest albums from 1962 and 1963.

Continuing on with my occasional list of albums that have had the most influence on me, I am heading back to the early 1960's and the First King of Song Parodies, Allan Sherman. Before Steve Dahl rocked with "Ayatollah," before Al Yankovic foisted his weirdness upon us, I was memorizing the lyrics to every song on Sherman's three hit albums, My Son the Folk-Singer, My Son the Celebrity, and My Son the Nut.

A TV producer with a knack for putting funny words to well-known tunes, Sherman, a Chicago native, was a mega-star for a short period of time. He had a Top 40 hit with "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah," he parodied the French Revolution and Louis the 16th to the tune of "You Came a Long Way from St. Louis," and he dipped into his own heritage with "Harvey and Sheila," the story of a Jewish couple set to "Hava Nagila". And yes, that is where Barb derived the name for our pond swans. More on Barb and "Hava Nagila" below.

My family had all three albums. I played them on our old mono record player incessantly, my parents allowing my 7-year-old mind to be indelibly marked.  Just how permanent was the damage? Badly enough that just last month I was able to perform an acapella duet rendition of "Hungarian Goulash" while quaffing beers and eating schnitzel at a Haufbrau Haus restaurant just outside of Cincinnati.

I wasn't the only family member with Allan Shermania. I remember my sister Linda and her friend Marilyn performing "Here's to the Crabgrass" while rushing a high school sorority in 1965. They didn't make it into the sorority, maybe because by then Sherman's career was already on the wane. His health was waning as well; he died in 1973, ten days short of his 49th birthday.

And inspired by the master, I have been writing parody lyrics ever since...

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Hava Nagila: Alan Sherman parodied it; Harry Belafonte loved it. And Barb couldn't get enough of Belafonte's version on the incomparable (more than a year on the charts) 1959 album Belafonte at Carnegie Hall. bellafonteShe even asked Brett Lavender, the wacky, New-Yorky, DJ to play this version at Laury's Bat Mitzvah. If Barb had a Top Ten list this album would rank right near #1.

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