Mockin' Bird Hill

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Mockin' Bird Hill is a song, written in 3/4 time, by George Vaughn Horton, and perhaps best known through recordings by Patti Page, Donna Fargo, and by Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1951.

Background[edit]

The music of "Mockin' Bird Hill" is based closely on a Swedish waltz called "Livet i Finnskogarna" or "Life in the Finn Woods," recorded by Carl Jularbo in 1915, which enjoyed some popularity in the U.S. The first recording of the song was made by the Pinetoppers a group consisting of George Vaughn Horton and his brother Roy Horton plus three other men: this recording, which featured a female duo billed as the Beaver Valley Sweethearts,[1] was issued on Coral Records in October 1950. The first recording of "Mockin' Bird Hill" by an established act was made by guitarist Les Paul with Mary Ford vocalizing, with Patti Page making her recording due to record buyers assuming that the Paul/Ford single was the new Patti Page release.

According to Page she first learned of "Mockin' Bird Hill" while at Midway Airport: having just completed a Chicago nightclub engagement she was awaiting a flight to New York City to stopover before proceeding to Florida to open at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach the next evening. Page received a phone call at Midway from Mercury Records a&r man Art Talmadge at whose request Page skipped her scheduled flight to allow Talmadge to reach Midway with a portable turntable to play Page the Paul/Ford single which Talmadge suggested Page cover once she'd reached New York City. Page was reluctant to make a recording without the participation of her regular conductor Jack Rael who was awaiting Page in Florida: however Talmadge had already cleared Page's recording of "Mockin' Bird Hill" with Rael and had booked studio time and musicians for Page to make the recording. Page would recall: "They had a limo at the airport [in New York City], took me to Bob Fine's studio. I cut just that one song. I was very happy with it and couldn't wait for Jack to hear it. He said 'This is really very good.' He called Art, and Art said 'I'm glad you like it, Jack, because we've already shipped 200,000 records."[2]

The Page recording, made on January 17, 1951, was issued by Mercury Records as catalog number 5595, and first reached the Billboard pop music chart on February 24, 1951, lasting 22 weeks and peaking at #2.[3] At the same time Mercury released a recording, catalog number 5552 by Tiny Hill and the Hillsiders.

The Les Paul/Mary Ford recording was issued by Capitol Records as catalog number 1373, and also reached the Billboard top 10.

On the Cash Box best-selling record charts, where all recordings were combined, the song first entered the chart on March 3, 1951, reached #1 on April 21, 1951, and remained #1 through the May 12, 1951 chart. It came back to the #1 position on May 26.

Big Band orchestra leader, Russ Morgan, recorded the song in 1951 featuring the Gay Sisters on backing vocals. Slim Whitman also recorded two versions of the song.

Mockingbird Hill is also mentioned in Spanish Bombs, a song by The Clash.

Other original versions[edit]

  • His Master's Voice 78rpm record (E.A.3985) by Donald Press with orchestra and chorus
  • Columbia 78rpm Record (DB.2852) by Ronnie Ronalde with orchestra conducted by Arturo Steffani (Yodelling &Whisting by Ronnie Ronalde)
  • And on CD by New Zealand Country Singer Pasty Riggir from her album "Moonlight And Roses" Copyright 1992 by Sony Music Entertainment New Zealand

Cover versions[edit]

  • The Tanner Sisters with Orchestra recorded their version in London on April 1, 1951. It was released by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog number B 10071.
  • The Pinetoppers, featuring vocal chorus by The Beaver Valley Sweethearts, (Coral Records, No. 64061, not dated).
  • Jean Shepard recorded a version of this song on the album Got You on My Mind (1961), (Capitol Records ST 1525). It was recorded on April 4, 1960 in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Also in 1960, Burl Ives recorded a version of this song, which was chosen to be the opening number for the album The Versatile Burl Ives! (Decca Records DL-(7)4152), which was released in 1961 and was the first of a series of Country & Western albums that Ives would do for Decca throughout the decade.
  • In 1961, Teresa Brewer recorded a version of this song on the album Songs Everybody Knows.
  • The Migil Five sang a bluebeat tempo version of the song - a UK hit in 1964.
  • Ray Stevens recorded the song in 1975 for his mostly pop-standards cover album, Misty.
  • Donna Fargo took a shortened country version to #9 on the Billboard Country Chart in 1977.
  • In 1993, Dutch group Roots Syndicate (nl:Roots Syndicate) released a reggae cover, which featured on an advertisement for Centraal Beheer in the early 1990s.
  • The Swedish comedian Povel Ramel wrote a Swedish-language version of the song called Småfoglarne (The little birds), which contained a large number of puns on birds' names. It was performed and recorded by Ramel and Martin Ljung.
  • Foster and Allen recorded the song in 2004 for their album By Special Request.
Preceded by
If
Cash Box magazine best selling record chart
#1 record

April 21–May 12, 1951
Succeeded by
On Top of Old Smoky
Preceded by
On Top of Old Smoky
Cash Box magazine best selling record chart
#1 record

May 26, 1951
Succeeded by
On Top of Old Smoky

References[edit]

  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Country Music Oxford University Press (NYC) 2012
  2. ^ Colin Escott Roadkill on the Three-Chord Highway: Art and Trash in American Popular Music Routledge (NYC) 2002 p.65
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1973). Top Pop Records 1940-1955. Record Research. 

External links[edit]