Arguably the most successful musical humorist in pop history, song parodist Allan Sherman was born Allan Copelon in Chicago on November 30, 1924. After entering show business as writer for the likes of Jackie Gleason and Joe E. Lewis, Sherman attempted to mount his own career as a performer, but initially found little success; "A Satchel and a Seck," a 1951 duet with comedienne Sylvia Froos satirizing Frank Loesser's "A Bushel and a Peck," went nowhere, and an ambitious attempt to release a full-length Jewish parody of the musical My Fair Lady met with legal resistance from the estate of composers Lerner & Loewe. Sherman consequently turned to television, creating and producing the long-running quiz show I've Got a Secret. A tenure as the writer-producer of The Steve Allen Show followed, but when the series ended in 1961, Sherman found himself on the unemployment line. After signing a contract with Warner Bros., he released the parody collection My Son, the Folk Singer in 1962. To the shock of the recording industry, radio quickly picked up on the album despite Sherman's obscurity as a performer; according to legend, even President John F. Kennedy was spotted in a hotel lobby singing the cut "Sarah Jackman" (a parody of "Frere Jacques"), further boosting the record's popularity. Ultimately, My Son, the Folk Singer topped the charts, and spawned a cottage industry of copycat releases. Nonetheless, Sherman remained the unquestioned king of the parody hit, and in late 1962, he returned with a follow-up, My Son, the Celebrity, which, like its predecessor, reached the number one spot. 1963's My Son, the Nut was even more successful, topping the charts for eight consecutive weeks on the strength of the Top Five novelty hit "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh," a summer camp-themed take on Ponchielli's 1876 composition "Dance of the Hours." If, as legend dictates, President Kennedy helped establish Sherman as a star, he also inadvertently contributed to the comedian's drop-off in popularity: following Kennedy's assassination in November, 1963, the nation became serious and solemn, with little interest in the breezy fun offered by song parodies. Released in early 1964, Sherman's fourth album, Allan in Wonderland, reached only number 25 on the pop charts; issued later that year at the height of Beatlemania, the concurrent For Swingin' Livers Only! and Peter & the Commissar (recorded with Arthur Fiedler & Boston Pops) fared even more poorly, with the latter record failing even to crack the Top 40. 1965's My Name Is Allan was his last chart effort, reaching only number 88. Still, Sherman soldiered on, recording Live in front of a Las Vegas audience. After 1966's Togetherness, he was dropped by Warner Bros., effectively ending his career as a performer. After publishing an autobiography, A Gift of Laughter, Sherman died in California on November 21, 1973. He was just 48 years old. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Humour - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.
Allan Sherman's career had lost much of its momentum by the time My Name Is Allan was released in the fall of 1965, and the album was hardly strong enough to revive his sagging fortunes. While Sherman's previous long-player, For Swingin' Livers Only, found him still sounding game, this time out most of the songs sounded like they would never have made the cut on his first three sets -- "The Laarge Daark Aardvark Song" may be the worst tune he recorded for commercial release (significantly recorded without the presence of a live audience), and "The Painless Dentist Song," "That Old Back Scratcher," and the homage to name-dropping, "Call Me," don't fare much better. On the upside, Sherman has fun with the shifting mores of the country in the mid-'60s on "Peyton Place U.S.A." and "It's a Most Unusual Play," both of which anticipated the themes from his later book The Rape of the A.P.E., and though they've dated more than a bit they display a bite missing from most of the set. Sherman's fascination with the English language gets another workout on "Chim Chim Cheree," and on "The Drinking Man's Diet" he revels in two of his great obsessions, booze and losing weight (both of which would ironically lead to his premature death). Sherman parted ways with longtime musical collaborator Lou Busch after For Swingin' Livers Only, and though Ralph Carmichael's arrangements are polished and professional, they lack the élan of Busch's work and sound like soundtrack music for some unproduced television special. There are scattered laughs to be had on My Name Is Allan (and the cover is a very funny parody of Barbra Streisand's similarly titled album of the same year), but it's a pale shadow of Sherman's glory days of only two years before. ~ Mark Deming
Jazz - Released June 1, 2013 | Jazz Arena
At his best, Allan Sherman was as perceptive an observer of the American Jewish experience as Philip Roth or Saul Bellow, and when he was on a roll he was a lot funnier than either, and that's certainly the case with 1962's My Son, the Folk Singer, Sherman's first album and the record that made him an overnight success, selling over a million copies within a few months of its release. Musically, Sherman's shtick was to take familiar melodies and fuse them to new lyrics that offered a very funny and openly Semitic take on contemporary American life, as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was transformed into the tale of a tailor named Harry Lewis, "The Streets of Laredo" became "The Streets of Miami," and the French ditty "Frere Jacques" accompanied a telephone conversation with "Sarah Jackman." While My Son, the Folk Singer was the most openly "Jewish" of Sherman's albums, the bulk of Sherman's humor was recognizable to anyone familiar with the absurdities of suburban life in the Kennedy era, and while many Jewish humorists treated their material as some sort of inside joke, by marrying his lyrics to songs familiar to everyone he gave them a universal appeal -- and it certainly didn't hurt that most of the numbers on his debut album are howlingly funny. While so many Jewish artists frequently focused on the often painful desire to assimilate into mainstream American culture, Sherman's characters were so innately Jewish that whether they landed in Scarsdale or the Old West, their accents and appetites traveled with them, and the unspoken but clear acceptance of the comic foibles of Sherman's twin cultural allegiances has much to do with why My Son, the Folk Singer remains both funny and potent more than four decades after it was recorded. ~ Mark Deming
Humour - Released December 15, 2009 | Rhino - Warner Bros.
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