Macs N' Cheese

:: The Merry Macs - Pop! Goes The Weasel ::

I didn't know who the Merry Macs were when I bought this. To me it was just another '50s era Capitol record, and that was good enough for me. Turns out I've heard the Merry Macs many times during my childhood as my Dad owned a few of their 78s from the '40s. They were a vocal quartet, originally 3 brothers (Joe, Judd and Ted McMichael) and a woman named Cherry Mackay, who up with their name similarly to how Fleetwood Mac got their's. What a rip. Their close harmonies were a model for the Manhattan Transfer, but I'm not suggesting you should run out and buy a bunch of Manhattan Transfer records.

The group started up in the mid-20's, and hit their stride in the '40s with songs like "Mairzy Doats" and "Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition!". Cherry left in the mid-30's and was replaced by a series of female vocalists, settling in 1941 on Marjorie Garland. By the '50s, their style was passe and brother Joe had passed away. Marjorie married Judd, and the group stayed together until finally retiring in the mid-60s.

I love the picture on the cover of this record. For one thing, Marjorie looks kinda hot with her stylized silver hair, and the guy on the end, Dick Baldwin (who took over for Joe) looks kind of gay. Also, you can't see where Judd's hands are, which is apropos considering he's Marjorie's husband.

The conductor on this album, Frank DeVol is a bit of a hero to me. For one thing, he wrote the themes to My Three Sons and The Brady Bunch, among many others. DeVol did bit character parts in films and TV as well. In the late '70s, he appeared on the nightly talk show parody, "Fernwood 2 Nite" as Happy Kyne, the show's bandleader. This is where I first became aware of him. He was hilarious as the clueless, hopelessly square leader of "The Mirthmakers". The band consisted of top L.A. session dudes such as Tommy Tedesco who shredded on guitar night after night. Happy owned a fast food restaurant in Fernwood called Bun n' Run, which show host Martin Mull made fun of but the jokes went straight over Happy's head. I've got a Frank DeVol record from the early 60s, but it's just kinda muzaky. But anyway, he rules.

I think most of the songs on this Merry Macs record are re-recordings of past glory moments. A lot of the titles are downright nonsense, like "A Ruble A Rhumba", "Vol Vistu Gaily Star" and "Ho Sa Bonnie", and some of those are among their big hits. I have to say I like Frank DeVol's arrangements which are mostly spare with lots of vibes and percussion. You might think this is cornball smiley face crap, and it is, but I like it. So there.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005 10:11:00 AM

No need to apologize for liking the Merry Macs. Capitol was known for its hi-fi remake albums. Why don't you post this on Rapid Share as a Zip file so people like me can hear it in its entirety? There is no other way we'll ever get a listen. Indeed, I didn't even know that this record existed. Thanks.    

Thursday, November 10, 2005 10:20:00 AM

Hey David,

We'd love to be able to do stuff like that, but we probably never will. We really intend to just give a sample or two, not an entire album. This is for two reasons: we still want people to go out and find this stuff, and more importantly I don't think any of us have the time to rip whole albums. I know for a fact you can still find that Merry Macs album, because I just happened to see a copy at Amoeba here in Los Angeles last night, only to come home and see Mike had done a piece on it.

Now, chances are you don't live where I live, but I think you can still get your hands on a lot of the stuff we put up. Plus, it's so much more fun to have the album to hold in your hands than some mp3's on your hard drive, right?    

Friday, November 11, 2005 9:15:00 AM

Nice post. I'd love to hear more too, but understand the situation outlined to David.

I found an LP by the Very Merry Macs on UK Gala Records a couple of years ago & really enjoyed it for it's happy-go-lucky brightness.

An example of Capital hifi remake albums was "The Andrews Sisters in Hifi" where the "Hifi" part was considered, at that time, to be, at least, as important as the artists concerned as a means to selling the album.

Frank DeVol? Wow! Fantastic arranger who seems to be so little celebrated today, which does not seem to be the case for other important arrangers of that
time (Nelson Riddle, Billy May, etc.). DeVol has a warm, open style that is truly distinctive. (I do need to search more determindly, but my usual haunts have not turned up any Frank DeVol material in ages...more's the pity!)

Many thanks for reminding me of those Very Merry Macs!    

Thursday, June 29, 2006 6:52:00 AM

I've been a Merry Macs collector since 1940.Besides the Capitol,Era and Gala LPs , I have recently found another LP on Halo 50278 (1957) from CYRCO, and bought their 1940's films on video/DVD from various sources in the USA.I have not bothered with Radio Show performances, as those that I have found are poor quality.
Peter London UK June 29 2006    

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