Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Liberty Records: Quiet Village

Today’s selection is not very Christmassy (if that’s a word), but after spending 20 years in radio, you tend to get burnt out on Christmas music very quickly. There’s only so much of a hit and run reindeer, mommy kissing Santa Claus, the lack of two front teeth, Alvin, and back bacon one can take. To satisfy the insatiable Christmas fans, I promise a Christmas release tomorrow from Liberty Records, no doubt – and Ross Bagdasarian had nothing to do with it.

For today, the musical style is exotica. Martin Denny, the father of the genre, was also a Liberty recording artist. He and his band discovered their unique sound while playing at the Shell Bar in Hawaii. When the band played, the local frogs croaked. When they stopped playing, the frogs stopped as well. As a gag, some of the band members decided to do bird calls during the performance. The next night, the owner asked them to do the song with the frogs and birds again – and exotica was born.

The signature tune of the genre was Denny’s adaptation of Les Baxter’s 1952 song “Quiet Village.” They recorded it in 1957, but since there were no frogs present, Denny used a makeshift güiro from a grooved cylinder. In 1959, Liberty Records decided to release “Quiet Village” as a single and it shot up the charts to the #4 position. It also crossed over to the R&B chart where it peaked at #11.

For the album “Exotica,” the beautiful model Sandy Warner graced the cover. In fact, Warner was the face of Martin Denny’s albums for the next eleven releases as well. I always loved this song and was able to purchase the original single release with a stock Liberty sleeve in 1976 in mint condition at a little music store in East Jenkins, KY. I think I paid a quarter for it.

It was the second time I visited this now extinct establishment and I always walked away with collector items including a rare Beatles album that I paid $2.00 for in 1973. Its current worth is between $600 and $800. The value of the “Quiet Village” single – not so much, and it is probably valued in the $15 range – still worth a lot more than I paid for it nearly 40 years ago. Enjoy this Wordless Wednesday selection from Liberty Records.

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