My humblest apologies to great American composer – John Philip Sousa. Clearly his greatest musical accomplishment was stolen from him. We call it sampling today. Sixty years after the “The Stars and Stripes Forever” was written, Mitch Miller came along. He plucked up that patriotic melody, added in some fun lyrics and had all of North America singing along with Mitch. My family owned one of his albums and I was no exception.
At the precocious age of six, I was taught how to operate our treasured family’s RCA HiFi, with supervision, of course. It was quite the responsibility. With the utmost of care, I would lift the polished wooden lid, reach inside and gingerly place the stylus on the spinning vinyl. The lid was lowered again and I would have just enough time to skirt across the living room floor and get into position. With the volume cranked up every static crackle would contribute to the anticipation – announcing my show was about to start. All eyes were expected to be on me.
Pulled to the center of our living room floor was a white leather hassock footstool. This prop was literally pivotal to my whole performance.
Through the speakers came the first sounds. Tapity Tap, Tapity Tap. In strict unison, multiple snare drums would lay down the rhythm. 4,3,2,1, 4,3,2,1
Just try to resist that beat. With invisible strings the tempo immediately snapped my posture into attention. Robotically my knees would bend and lift smartly – waist high. My fat little arms would start to pump. And ….my marching would begin. 1,2,3,4 …. Round and round the hassock I would stomp. Chin held high, feet smashing the floor, hard.
Accompanying my marching was the vocals. Mitch Miller and the Gang sang along with my wails. We sang loud. Very loud.
“Be kind to your web-footed friends
for that duck may be somebody’s mother”
There were so many variables to my routine. Spontaneity was quite important. At any moment I could change it up and parade around the hassock in a different direction. Sometimes I used the footstool as a kind of aerobic step. March in place, step up, march on top, step down, around I go…. March march, march. Sometimes I would speed up my steps and fly around those corners like a frantic game of musical chairs.
I must point out one serious limitation to my fun. I was not permitted to stomp on the magic floor board separating the living / dining room. This always caused the record to skip.
Gosh I loved that song. The melody was so catchy. Mitch Miller’s lyrics were brilliant. He really struck my funny bone. But it was the end of the song that was really hilarious. Every time.
I would always position my finale up on top of the footstool. I felt the extra height added to my big show stopper. I would spread my arms wide, face my audience and bellow out the final lyrics: “Now you may think that this is the end… well it is”.
Clever eh? The surprise “well it is” cracked me up. Aside from my marching and singing abilities, I fancied myself something of a comedian. It was so much fun. Let’s do it again, and again, and again. Ok.