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JoeMc on 07/28/2010 at 12:00PM

Eddie Morton: From Wearing Blue to Singing It

Although pop music these days is as sexually frank as it ever has been (sometimes boringly so), there was a time when singers had to be more creative in expressing adult themes in their music. This was the heyday of the double entendre, when the great trick was to mask your dirty talk in otherwise innocent scenarios that the hipsters would recognize but that the Guy Lombardo fans might miss.

When most people think of these kinds of songs from pop music's past, what generally comes to mind are old blues songs from the 30s: "Let Me Squeeze Your Lemon" (made famous by Charlie Pickett); "Bed Spring Poker" (the Mississippi Sheiks); "Ain't Got Nobody to Grind My Coffee" (Clara Smith, among others). Or, they might think of later R&B songs that continued the trend in the 40s and 50s: "Big Ten Inch Record" (Bull Moose Jackson) "Let Me Play with Your Poodle" (Lightnin' Hopkins) "I Like My Baby's Pudding" (Wynonie Harris) and so on. But double entendre wasn't the exclusive province of blues singers, as today's selection makes clear.

Vaudeville performers from the early days of the 20th Century recognized that a little bit of naughtiness attracted the paying customers, and the songs written for them by the songwriters of the day took this into account. Songwriting and publishing giant Harry Von Tilzer penned this little number with Andrew Sterling in 1912 that toys with the phrase "getting it" in two slang uses that persist to this day. Eddie Morton, a former Philadelphia policeman turned Broadway songster, waxed it: a former boy in blue getting a little bluer!

Actually, by the time Eddie Morton recorded this song, his cop days were long past; in fact, he was a vaudeville vet, whose career took off after he appeared as one of the best things in an afterhours show called The Maid and the Millionaire at Madison Square Garden's rooftop garden restaurant (this was of course the old MSG at 26th and Madison, which was torn down in the 20s). Victor offered Morton a contract, and he made an easy transition to the recording studio.

Morton was exactly the type of guy to sing this type of song. He'd made his name in the '00s by picking up where pioneering black comic Bert Williams left off, by recording sad sack and suggestive songs like "The Right Church But the Wrong Pew" and "I'm a Member of the Midnight Crew," which is more or less a song about debauchery. (Wonder what his old friends on the force thought of that one?) Morton's popularity ensured that song promoters would seek him out, so he not only revived popular songs by other performers but also introduced newer songs by the big songwriters.

"Somebody Else Is Getting It" was one of these new songs, and presumably Morton did fairly well with it in vaudeville since it ended up being recorded (Victor recording star Arthur Collins also did a version). He recorded quite a few songs for Victor Records in the teens, including numbers like "I'd Rather Be a Minstrel Man Than a Millionaire" and "Please Don't Tell My Wife," but in this one, our luckless protagonist, fresh out of work, finds that his damsel chooses to redirect her charms to a more well-heeled benefactor. Even though he's broke and gal-deprived, though, our hero has the last laugh, as he imagines the new beau on the chopping block:

Somebody else is gettin' it, gettin' it
Right where his collar ought to be
Somebody else is gettin' it, gettin' it
Right where the chicken got the a-x-e

In other words, the new beau may be "getting it" right now, but pretty soon he's going to "get it" in the neck.

Eddie Morton's recording career was fairly short; he recorded for Victor until 1913, did a couple of years with Columbia, and then bowed out with a ditty on Emerson called "Just a Little Bit of Monkey Left in You and Me," a Darwinian satire from 1917. He continued to sing in vaudeville for several years after, though, at least until the circuit went belly-up. He died in Wildwood, New Jersey in 1938.

Von Tilzer, meanwhile, would continue to be one of the most successful song publishers in the business up until his death in 1946. Among his other hits were "I'd Leave Ma Happy Home for You," "I Love My Wife, But Oh! You Kid," "Don't Take Me Home" (also recorded by Eddie Morton), and on the more sentimental side, "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie," "All Alone," and "A Bird in a Gilded Cage."

For more Eddie Morton, check out this CD on Archeophone.

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