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Vintage sheet music for
music by Kenyon Hopkins
words by Bernie Hanighen
from the Warner Brothers movie Baby Doll (1951)
Born: Bernard D. Hanighen, April 27, 1908, Omaha, Nebraska, (US)
Bernie Hanighen was one of those songwriters who wore both the music hat and the words hat. Not in the sense that Berlin and Porter did writing both words and music for their songs but in the sense of someone who on this song created the music and on that the lyrics. The music for the jazz standard "'Round About Midnight" was written by Thelonious Monk some years before Hanighen added the lyric in 1944, some say in collaboration with Cootie (Clarence) Williams resulting in a second life for it as a "darkly beautiful" vocal standard. under the modified title "'Round Midnight." With Johnny Mercer, who was his collaborator beginning in the early thirties, Hanighen was writing the music and Mercer of course the lyrics for songs such as "When a Man Loves a Woman" / "When a Woman Loves a Man"* (on which Hanighen shares the music credit with Gordon Jenkins) and "Bob White (Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight?)" in 1937, made into a hit by Bing Crosby.
*Sheet music was published with both titles and, of course, the title phrase was sung one way or the other depending on who was singing.
In his book 52nd Street The Street of Jazz, Arnold Shaw quotes Johnny Mercer (from a tape recording) talking about his experiences hanging out at The Onyx, a jazz club on 52nd Street in NYC during the thirties and forties with Hanighen and others. ("Gordy" is Gordon Jenkins.):
Gordy and I always met at the Onyx, where I also frequently spent time with Bernie Hanighen. Wrote "My Old Man" with Bernie. I wish he hadn't quit writing. The middle part of "My Old Man"  is written around a riff developed by the Spirits of Rhythm. I think that "'Tis Autumn" was written the same way. A lot of tunes were built on riffs that jazz bands and soloists of those days improvised. I think Bernie built "Man" on Leo Watson's style of singing. The words just went along (Shaw, p. 79).
Ed.'s note: The Spirits of Rhythm recorded "My Old Man."
Tenor Madness performs "Show Your Linen Miss Richardson" (Bernie Hanighen (music),
Johnny Mercer, lyrics)) on 2/26/2010. Hanna Richardson, tenor guitar & vocals;
Stefan Vasnier, piano; Phil Flanigan, upright bass.
"My Old Man" performed by The Spirits of Rhythm,
music by Bernie Hanighen, words by Johnny Mercer
(Original Recording Date: December 6, 1933, New York Brunswick 6728, Leo Watson, vocal; Wilbur Daniels, tiple, Douglas Daniels, tiple; Teddy Bunn, guitar; Wilson Myers, string bass; Virgil Scoggins, percussion, vocal -- LoxiClaiborne
Notes: album includes "My Old Man" and 23 other tracks. Spirits of Rhythm were a popular novelty band that was at its prime during the first half of the 1930s. Featuring at one point three musicians on tiples (a type of ukulele)
The Benny Goodman band with Helen Morgan on vocal perform "The Dixieland Band" (1935).
Hanighen and Mercer teamed up in 1935 to write "The Dixieland Band" about which Alex Wilder writes: "The story here is of a second cornet player in a Dixieland group who insists upon playing sweetly, which is against all Dixieland principles. So, as Mr. Mercer says one night he hit a note that wasn't in the chord, and "apoplexy got him and he went to the Lord.
"Well obviously Hanighen had to adjust the music to this musician's heresy. And he did such a splendid job that I find myself singing all the wordless places in the piano part because they're so fine" (Alec Wilder, American Popular Song The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972, p. 489, hardcover Ed.)
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