I was going to do A Cottage for Sale this week, but some scheduling problems with a guest singer have delayed that, so I’m turning my attention in the meantime to another tune by the same composer.
The composer is Willard Robison, a busy songwriter, band leader and radio host of the 20’s and 30’s (so says Wikipedia anyway) and the other song of his that got my attention is the standard Old Folks. Of the tunes listed in his resume, A Cottage for Sale and Old Folks were the only ones I was familiar with. I knew the former well, but had never played Old Folks. Since this is one of the more shameful gaps in my mental library of standards, I thought I should finally learn it, so I tracked it down at the real library in Philadelphia.
People have compared Robison’s work to Hoagy Carmichael’s and I think you’ll see the similarity in Old Folks, with its simple rural American feel and a blues-y tinge. The lyrics, which pack a remarkable amount of imagery and sentimentality in 32 bars, are by Dedette Lee Hill. Click on the title in red to hear the tune. The lyrics are below.
Ev’ry one knows him as Old Folks,
Like the seasons he’ll come and he’ll go.
Just as free as a bird
And as good as his word,
That’s why everybody loves him so.
Always leavin’ his spoon in his coffee
Puts his napkin up under his chin
An that yellow cob pipe, it’s so mellow it’s ripe,
But you needn’t be ashamed of him.
In the evening after supper,
What stories he would tell.
How he held the speech at Gettysburg for Lincoln that day,
I know that one so well.
Don’t quite understand about Old Folks,
Did he fight for the blue or the gray?
For he’s so diplomatic and so democratic,
We always let him have his way.