Show #26: THE SERENDIPITY SINGERS
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The following interview with The Serendipity Singers was broadcast January 28 & February 1, 1964 from New York City on worldwide short-wave radio. This historic radio interview was transmitted from the studios of Radio New York Worldwide on the show Folk Music Worldwide hosted by newsman Alan Wasser.

Featuring folk song performances by The Serendipity Singers: "Sunshine Special"; "Crooked Little Man"; "Wagoner's Lad"; "Boots and Stetsons"; and "Freedom Star". Transcript includes full song lyrics.

 

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 (24:55)

Transcript:

MEL BERNAM (ANNOUNCER): Here is Radio New York Folk Music Worldwide. A program devoted to the best in folk music throughout the world. Showcasing the top performers and authorities in the field. Now your host for Folk Music Worldwide, Alan Wasser.

ALAN WASSER (HOST): Hello again, and welcome to Folk Music World Wide. With us today are two of the Serendipity Singers, a young group from out in the west with a very unusual name, which we'll explain later in the program.

But first, why don't we get right to a piece of their music, so you'll know how they sing and what they sing. How about Sunshine Special?

[Song Performance: "Sunshine Special", The Serendipity Singers]:

Lyrics:

Oh, oh, oh, uh oh, it goes
That Sunshine Special
Comin round the bend
I hear the whistle blowing in the night
I hear the whistle blowing in the night
Oh, when I hear the whistle blowing in the night
I'm going to take that Special and leave them all behind.

I'll ride it to the end of the line.
I'm going to ride it to the end of the line.
I'm going to ride way out, to the end of the line.

Oh, when it has a hundred coaches
Coming round the bend but you
Canít ever see 'em rollin' end to end
That six wheel driver, let me get on board
I wanna feel the wind blowing through my toes
I want hear the pounding of the engine as she goes

Oh, oh, oh, uh oh, it goes
That Sunshine Special
Comin' around the bend

Oh, well, I used to think that mountain was so mighty fine
Got a payment in your pocket to the end of the line
That six-wheel driver, let me get on board
I wanna feel the wind blowing through my toes
I want hear the pounding of the engine as she goes

Oh, oh, oh, uh oh, it goes
That Sunshine Special
Comin' round the bend
Round the bend
Round the bend
Round the bend
Lonesome whistle.

(end of music)

ALAN: Sunshine Special by the Serendipity Singers. In the studio with us today are the leader of the Serendipity Singers, Bryan Sennett, and one of the girls in their group, Diane Decker. Bryan, the first and obvious question is, where on earth did you get the name Serendipity Singers, and what does it mean?

BRYAN SENNETT (GUEST): The actual word "serendipity," Alan, was coined in 1754 by Horace Walpole in a book called "The Three Princes of Serendip." And, it has become a common usage now.

I'll read the definition here for you, out of the dictionary. "The faculty of making desirable but unsought-for discoveries by accident." And this is what we feel is true of the group.

ALAN: You feel that the group itself is an unsought-for but desirable accident, or do you like to think that the music is?

BRYAN SENNETT: The music, I hope. What we're doing and how we're treating music.

ALAN: Let me go back to that song we just heard, Sunshine Special, which has one line that fascinates me. "I wanna feel the wind blowing through my toes." Maybe you can give us some kind of a background on that song.

BRYAN SENNETT: The tune was written by Terry Gilkyson of The Easy Riders. He's written a lot of railroad songs and I think it has a good feeling for that kind of work.

It's typical, I think, of railroad songs, just a bum's attitude towards what he's doing. Very free lyric.

ALAN: Incidentally, this brings us to another question. Where do you get your material in general?

BRYAN SENNETT: All of our material, I think, is original in that we're heavily arranged. And we're maintaining the use of lyric and saying what a song should say. We're trying to take it in a modern scope and do something else with the song.

ALAN: Taking a song as a sample, "Crooked Little Man." Now, where does that come from, and what did you do to it?

BRYAN SENNETT: This is a nursery rhyme, that I'm not sure of the origin of. We put the music, just about a crooked little man who lives in a crooked world, he's worried about a hole in his roof. It's how we treat it dramatically, I think, that we find expression in it.

ALAN: Well, after that lead-in, the obvious thing to do is play "Crooked Little Man" by the Serendipity Singers, so here it is.

[Song Performance: "Crooked Little Man", The Serendipity Singers]:

Lyrics:

Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
My roof's got a hole in it
And I might drown.
Oh, yes my roof's got a hole in it
And I might drown.
There was a crooked man
And he had a crooked smile
Had a crooked six pence
And he walked a crooked mile
Had a crooked cat
And he had a crooked mouse
They all lived together
In a crooked little house.

Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.

My roof's got a hole in it
And I might drown.
Oh, yes my roof's got a hole in it
And I might drown.

Well, this crooked little man
And his crooked little smile
Took his crooked six pence
And he walked a crooked mile
Bought some crooked nails
And a crooked little bat
Tried to fix his roof
With a rat-tat-tat-tat-tat.

Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
My roof's got a hole in it
And I might drown.
Oh, yes my roof's got a hole in it
And I might drown.

Now, this crooked little man,
And his crooked cat and mouse,
They all lived together
In a crooked little house
Has a crooked door
With a crooked little latch,
Has a crooked roof
With a crooked little patch

Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
My roof's got a hole in it
And I might drown.
Oh, yes my roof's got a hole in it
And I might drown.

Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
Un uh
Oh no
Don't let the rain come down.
My roof's got a hole in it
(My roof's got a hole in it)
My roof's got a hole in it
And I might drown.

(end of music)

ALAN: "Crooked Little Man," by the Serendipity Singers. Besides Bryan Sennett, who you already met on the show so far, there's another member of the group in the studio with us. By the way, the group has nine members, seven of whom are boys and two of whom are girls.

And, of course, when I was having them in, I couldn't take all nine and the obvious solution was to have the leader and one of the girls. And I'm glad I did, because she's a very charming young girl.

Her name is Diane Decker. Diane, what does it feel like to be one of two girls working with seven boys?

DIANE DECKER (GUEST): Well, I find that it's really a lot of fun that way. It's more easy to be a personality with a larger group than it is to be with a smaller group, because you're less inhibited, I think.

ALAN: Well, don't you tend to get lost in the crowd?

DIANE DECKER: Well, probably to the people out front, I do, but I don't feel that way at all.

ALAN: In the end of "Crooked Little Man," there was a girl. Was that you, or was that the other girl?

DIANE DECKER: That was Lynne, I believe.

ALAN: Well, what would be a good example of a song that you appear in prominently?

DIANE DECKER: Prominently? Well, "Wagoner Lad" Lynne and I do a duo. And both of us are featured throughout it.

ALAN: Can you give us a short summary of the background on that song?

DIANE DECKER: "Wagoner Lad" is a Western song about a girl who falls in love with a Wagoner lad.

ALAN: All right. And that's given Joe enough time to get the song queued up, so, Joe, "Wagoner Lad" by the Serendipity Singers.

[Song Performance: "Wagoner's Lad", The Serendipity Singers]:

Lyrics:

Pullin' away, he's pullin' away
Now his wagons are loaded and he's pulling away

Hard luck is the fortune of all womankind
They're always controlled, they're always confined
Controlled by their parents until they are wives
Then slaves to their husbands the rest of their lives

I once knew a girl, and her story is sad
She always was courted by the Wagoner Lad
He courted her truly, by night and by day
Now his wagons are loaded, he's pulling away

Pullin' away, he's pullin' away
Now his wagons are loaded and he's pulling away

"Your parents don't like me, they say I'm too poor
They say I'm not worthy to enter your door
I make my own living, my money's my own
And if they don't like me, they can leave me alone."

He got in his wagon, his switch in his hand
"Come sit down beside me, for as long as you can."
"I can't sit beside you, I can't hold your hand.
So fare thee well darling, Iím leaving this land.

Pullin' away, he's pullin' away
He got in his wagon, he's pullin' away,
He's pullin' away

Move 'em out!

(end of music)

ALAN: "Waggoner Lad" by the Serendipity Singers. Well, before we get some more music by the Serendipity Singers, letís take a short break for a message. We'll be back in one moment.

(pause for commercial)

ALAN: Okay, this is Alan Wasser again, back at Radio New York Worldwide's Folk Music Worldwide, with the Serendipity Singers. Before we go and hear another record by them, let me just ask that our listeners, as usual, keep the letter's coming.

Since we're international, there's no way of knowing how many people are listening, except by letters, and that makes it very important. Just drop a line, tell us what you thought of the show, tell us whether you want any particular kind of groups in the show.

Write in to me, Alan Wasser, or to the show, Folk Music Worldwide, at Radio New York Worldwide, 4 West 58th Street, New York 19 New York, USA.

And if you missed that address, Mel'll come back at the very end of the show to give you the address again. Now, let's get back to the Serendipity Singers. Bryan, perhaps you can tell us something about the other seven members who aren't here today.

BRYAN SENNETT: I think a good general statement, Alan, for the most part, we're from the west. Texas, California, Colorado, and Nebraska. We got together in school.

Seven of us went to the University of Colorado and two are from the University of Texas. I think that being from the West, we have a feeling for a lot of the music that comes from this area, as evidenced in "The Wagoner Lad," that you heard just a moment ago.

The next number that I'd like for you to listen to is "Boots and Stetson." This is sort of a topical song about an old profession of being a gunslinger. In difference with most songs about the profession, it doesn't paint such a rosy picture. It's a realistic sort of psychological outlook of a gun fighter.

ALAN: All right, let's hear "Boots and Stetson."

[Song Performance: "Boots and Stetsons", The Serendipity Singers]:

Lyrics:

Boots and Stetsons and six guns
And the lilies grow high
They grow for a man with a gunslingin' hand
Who before his time must die
They grow on a trail he has traveled,
A trail well covered with blood
They weep for the graves of many men
They weep for the men now dead

A woman may love him but she
Knows soon above him
Are lilies gonna grow high
Then like that lily she'll bow down her head,
Bow down her poor head and cry
On some boot hill they will bury him
His legend will fade in the wind
The lilies will nod and gently weep
For another gunman's end

Boots and Stetsons and six guns
(Boots and Stetson and six guns)
And the lilies grow high

(end of music)

ALAN: "Boots and Stetsons" by the Serendipity Singers. On their album, they're identified not just as folk singers, but as folk-jazz singers. Bryan, perhaps you'd want to give us an idea of what folk-jazz means.

BRYAN SENNETT: I think it's in our arranging. We do traditional things, as well as contemporary folk material, Alan. But, our arranging is more in a jazz vein. And it's due, I think, to our orientation.

The backgrounds of all the members range from theatre, jazz, and also folk music, of course. We just feel that the scope of folk music has been limited and without real reason, it's become a standardized form. And it isn't really necessary to be given an ethnic approach.

ALAN: Well, the four songs we've just heard are all traditional, if re-arranged by you. Perhaps you want to give us an example of a song that you have written as a closing song for the show.

BRYAN SENNETT: All right, this is a song about a very topical word of late, in many respects. It's called "Freedom Star," and it speaks of freedom, in it's general sense I think.

ALAN: Who wrote the song?

BRYAN SENNETT: I did.

ALAN: All right, "Freedom Star," by Bryan Sennett, as sung by the Serendipity Singers.

[Song Performance: "Freedom Star ", The Serendipity Singers]:

Lyrics:

I'm gonna tie my hope to Freedom's Star
I'm gonna spread the word both near and far
Stand tall young man hold your head up high
The gift of freedom you cannot buy
Hold tight, my brother
To Freedom's Star!

In a world so full of doubt and fear
Every man must guard his rights so dear
Listen to what's said and know what it means
To hold those things so pure and so clean.

In our freedoms eyes a man's a man
If he's yellow, black or white or tan
Our people must believe and must lead the way
To show the world we mean what we say.

I'm gonna tie my hope to Freedom's Star
I'm gonna spread the word both near and far
Stand tall young man, hold your head up high
The gift of freedom you cannot buy
Hold tight, my brother
To Freedom's Star!

Liberty's weight is a heavy load
It takes a strong manís heart to tote that load
To decide for himself and to speak out loud
To be his own, makes a man so proud.

I'm gonna tie my hope to Freedom's Star
I'm gonna spread the word both near and far
Stand tall young man, hold your head up high
The gift of freedom you cannot buy
Hold tight, my brother
To Freedom's Star!

(end of music)

ALAN: Well, we're flat out of time on the Serendipity Singers show. That was Freedom's Star. Bryan and Diane, I want to thank you very much for coming in and appearing on Folk Music Worldwide.

BRYAN SENNETT: Thank you, Alan,

DIANE DECKER: We enjoyed it.

ALAN: And, for our listeners, until next week, this is Alan Wasser saying, "So Long."

MEL BERNAM (ANNOUNCER): This has been Folk Music Worldwide. Devoted to the best in folk music throughout the world. Spotlighting top performers and authorities in the field. If you have any suggestions, requests or comments, why not write in to Folk Music Worldwide, Radio New York, WRUL, New York City, 19 USA. This has been a Music Worldwide presentation of Radio New York Worldwide.

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