Saturday, March 28, 2015


We're Going to Win, Twins - Mary Jane Alm

If you grew up in the Upper Midwest, these words should be familiar:

We're gonna win, Twins
We're gonna score
We're gonna win, Twins
Watch that baseball soar.
Crack out a home run
Shout a hip-hooray
Cheer for the Minnesota Twins today.
This song has been around since the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961.  It's played when the team takes the field for home games.  It was (and maybe still is) used to kick off radio coverage of Twins games.

The song was initially intended not for the baseball team but for one of its sponsors, Hamm's Beer:

Sing out for Hamm's beer,
Sing out the name,
Sing out for Hamm's beer,
Of sky blue waters fame
I can't determine if that version ever aired.  I'm assuming not, since the Campbell Mithun advertising agency sold the tune to the Twins for a dollar.  Ray Charles (not the one you're thinking of) revised the words to the tune Dick Wilson had composed.  The Ray Charles Singers (not the Raelettes) sang the fight song and it blasted from AM radios every summer for the next few decades.
Side note: Hamm's didn't need the tune, since it already had a very catchy "From the Land of Sky Blue Waters" song that was featured for many years in popular commercials like this one:

The Twins have updated the theme song a couple of times.  The best known version, the one played as players take the field, is sung by two men and two women, and I didn't realize until recently that one of those voices belonged to Mary Jane Alm.  She was and is one of Minnesota's best known and beloved vocalists.  The Mary Jane Alm Band and its leader never broke out nationally, but regional fame eventually led to Alm's induction to the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

I was able to catch up with Mary Jane Alm and quiz her about her experience as a vocalist on "We're Gonna Win Twins." 

1 - Are you even a baseball/Twins fan?
Mary Jane Alm:  I am a longtime Minnesota Twins fan.  I grew up in southern Minnesota and my dad took my brothers and I to the big city to see the Twins many times growing up.  We started going to games when the Twins played at Met Stadium.

2 - How did you get the gig singing on "We're Going to Win, Twins"?
MJA:  I was one of the first call session singers back in the '80s and '90s along with the other singers on this song, Kathy Mueller, Scott (Scooter) Nelson and Steve McLoone.  We got hired for all the biggest radio and television spots that were produced in the Twin Cities...  And this was one of them. 

Scott "Scooter" Nelson of the Mary Jane Alm Band

3 - The Twin's bought the song for $1.  I'm hoping you got more.  Not to pry into your finances, but was it a flat fee or do you get residuals... or free entry to Twins games... or anything?
MJA:  I can't quite remember how much money I made but I do know that it was a flat fee...  No residuals, no free baseball games or Twins memorabilia.
4 - Have you ever sung the song since the recording?
MJA:  The four of us got to sing the Twins song and the National Anthem at a baseball game following the release of the song.  We did get great seats to see the game that day and got to meet some of the players.
5 - Did you help with the musical or vocal arrangement or were you hired strictly to sing your part?
MJA:  We were hired strictly as singers... We had nothing to do with the writing or arranging.
6 - How familiar were you with the original, 1961 version of the song?
MJA:  I was very familiar with the original theme song.  Everyone who grew up in Minnesota knew the song by heart!!
7 - You actually have twin sons, right?  Was that karma?
MJA:  I do have twin sons.  They just turned 20 and are both completely awesome!!  Karma?  Maybe... wouldn't it be great if they did another remake and my musician son played on it??
Thanks, Mary Jane.  Let's end this post with one more version of the Twins theme song, this time from another Minnesota musical institution, the Hall Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Though the Road Buckles Under

 STAY WITH ME - Jerome Moross (1913-1983)

"Stay with Me" has been in the news lately. No, I don't mean the song by Sam Smith that inadvertently rips off Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down," but the song of the same title that Bob Dylan sings on his new album, "Shadows in the Night."  This "Stay with Me" was also released as a single and Dylan closed many of his concerts last year with it.  

When the most important songwriter of the last fifty years puts out an album of standards, the songs he selects receive a rarified stamp of approval. While some of the tracks on "Shadows" are quite well known (Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Some Enchanted Evening"), others are underappreciated gems. 

"Stay with Me" falls into the latter category.  A spiritual song that's less about religion and more about human hope and fear, it brings to mind "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Lucky Old Sun," standards which Johnny Cash sang on his American Recording series. 

Like Cash's covers, Dylan's version of "Stay with Me" is stripped down to an elegant arrangement, sans any orchestration, and makes evocative use of the miles on the singer's voice.  Seldom has Dylan sounded so appealingly vulnerable.

So where did this song come from?  Like all the other songs on "Shadows in the Night," it was sung by Frank Sinatra.  In June, 1965, a month before Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" turned pop music on its ear, Sinatra released an album that included "Stay with Me," which he had recorded as the theme song for "The Cardinal" in 1963.
"The Cardinal," directed by Otto Preminger, was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Picture. It tells the story of an American priest who overcomes various crises as he rises in the Church hierarchy.  

The film features an outstanding score by Jerome Moss, who also composed the music for the theme song; the song's lyrics were written by Carolyn Leigh ("Witchcraft," "The Best is Yet to Come").
Moross, an accomplished composer, is best known for his scores for "The Big Country" and "Wagon Train," but he was also an innovator who wrote for Broadway and classical ensembles.   

Moross's daughter, Susanna Moross Tarjan, put together a fantastic site for her father's centennial.  She took the time to answer my questions about "Stay with Me" and I'm happy to share her thoughts with you.

1 - What did your father think of rock singers/songwriters like Bob Dylan?
Susanna Moross Tarjan:  I have no idea what my father thought about Bob Dylan, or even if he did.  Remember, he died in 1983 and had been quite sick for some time.  I'm not sure how aware he was of all that.  However, he did not like "Rock and Roll."  He also didn't like Moog synthesizers, which were popular at that time.  I think he'd be amazed at what synthesizers sound like today, and MP3.  He didn't even know about CDs, which changed everything for me as far as getting his music "out there."
2 - What do you think of Dylan's version of "Stay with Me"?
SMT:  I find Dylan's version of "Stay With Me" very moving.  The song clearly arouses some spiritual feelings in him which he conveys.  I think it has a different quality than any other song on the album.

3 - As far as I can tell, "Stay with Me" is the only song your father wrote with Songwriting Hall of Fame lyricist Carolyn Leigh. What do you know about that collaboration?

SMT:  I don't know how that came about.  I would guess that it came via the film company.  The recording came about because Frank Sinatra was a friend of hers and she asked him to do it as a favor to her.  I'm so glad he did.  It's such a beautiful recording.  For people who haven't heard it, it's on YouTube.


4 - "The Cardinal" was unusual in that your father, who composed the score for the film in addition to co-writing the theme song, went on location with the production from start to finish.  Was "Stay With Me" part of that journey?
SMT:  "Stay With Me" came after the film and score were done.  It was unusual for the composer to go along with the production company.  My father acted as the traveling music department.  But he loved it.  He had a lot of interesting experiences, including trying to find "Horst-Wessel" songs in Vienna that he needed for a Nazi marching scene.  Of course no one had ever heard of them but finally his driver helped him.  He and my mother had a great expenses paid trip to Europe and she had never been before.  This was long before the days of deregulation and cheap fares.

5 - Did your father ever play "Stay with Me," or sing it at home, or talk about it in his later years, or was it simply one of many things he composed before moving on to other projects?
(see answer to #6)
6 - What did your father think of Frank Sinatra's original version of "Stay with Me"?
SMT:  I wasn't living at home then so I don't know how often he played it.  He certainly liked the song and I know he loved Frank Sinatra's version.  However, like with other works, he moved on to other projects.
Susanna and Jerome Moss @ 1944
7 - Your father wrote ballets, a symphony, film scores, Broadway musicals and more. Much of his work is longer form and instrumental. Is there anything in "Stay with Me" that you feel is reflective of his work as a whole or is it atypical?
SMT:  "Stay With Me" is reflective of his work in that it is a beautiful melody.  He never gave up writing tonal music even though it wasn't in fashion during his prime years.  He believed there was always another tune to be written.