Bill Frawley
("Fred Mertz")

"Sings the Old Ones"
Dot Records LP (1958)
TRACKS:

Pretty Baby
Moonlight Bay
Swanee River
For Me And My Gal
Dear Old Girl
Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland
June Night
Carolina In The Morning
If You Were The Only Girl In The
World
Shine On Harvest Moon
By The Light Of The Silvery Moon
I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now
My Melancholy Baby
Cuddle Up A Little Closer
Desi Arnaz thought Frawley's vaudeville skills would come in handy, but CBS
scotched him because of his reputation as a mean drunk. So Desi proposed
a deal: Frawley could have the part as long as he didn't drink during working
hours.

When he wasn't working, or hanging out in bars with ballplayers, Frawley
loved to stand at the piano and sing old vaudeville songs. He had been a
drinking buddy to a number of Tin Pan Alley composers, and this gave him
access to some of the best tunes of the day. He introduced "Carolina In The
Mornin' " in 1923 and claimed to be the first person ever to sing "Melancholy
Baby."  It was written in the back room of a saloon, so naturally, Frawley was
the nearest available singer.  (
Click here to see him tell the story himself.)
Excerpt from Hollywood Hi-Fi...
All material copyright 1995-2007 by Pat Reeder & George Gimarc.  All rights reserved.
Despite hundreds of movie and TV roles, William Frawley will forever be remembered as stingy landlord
Fred Mertz on
I Love Lucy.  Few recall that in his youth he was a vaudeville song-and-dance man, but it
was actually those credentials that landed him the
Lucy gig.
Click on the Amazon links to hear clips  
from the albums mentioned below!
He enjoyed his vaudeville days far more than his later success on Lucy, mostly because he and Vivian
Vance hated each other. (He called her "that no-talent, fat ass, bag of bones," among more unprintable
epithets. She affectionately dubbed him "that square-headed, drunken Irish slob," and refused to do a
Fred & Ethel spinoff series with him, "for any amount of money.") Small wonder that after eight years on
Lucy, he jumped at the chance to dig his old act out of mothballs for Dot Records and preserve it verbatim.

And that he does! The accompaniment is spare and vintage: a ukulele and snare drum on "Pretty Baby," a
banjo on "On Moonlight Bay," a tinkly piano on "Carolina." The backing is provided by a rather over-eager
barbershop quartet, while Frawley takes the leads in a "follow the bouncing ball" sing-along style, throwing
in plenty of hammy "Mmm-yassah! Is everybody happy!" schtick. When he tries to trill a high note, he
sounds a bit like Tiny Tim, but otherwise his vocal cords are amazingly smooth, considering their age and
how much scotch he's poured over them. Still, the authors are split on this album: One of us (the one who
revels in the din of alternative rock) deems it "just dreadful," while the other (the one who whiles away his
weekends playing Eddie Cantor 78s) thinks it's the cat's pajamas. We both concur, however, that as a
re-creation of a middle-of-the-bill, small-time vaudeville act of the 1920s, it is certainly authentic. We bet
there's a copy of it hidden somewhere in the back of Leon Redbone's closet.
Lucy fans will also want to dig up
Musical Moments from "I Love Lucy"
(Star Merchants LP, 1981) or the CD
Babalu Music (left), which is mostly
Desi's numbers from the TV show, but
Fred and Ethel pop up on a couple.

A good Desi Arnaz collection
(right) is
always handy for your mambo parties.  
Truly anal completists will need a copy
of the obscure song, "Old Don Juan," by
the Andrews Sisters, with a surprise
guest vocal by Desi
(far right).
Finally, of course, for fans of truly awful celebrity
singing, there's Lucy herself.  She was a comic
showgirl in a number of musicals early in her career,
but the casting directors made sure she didn't do
much vocalizing.  Yet as we all know, Lucy was
determined to sing despite all efforts to stop her.  
Her painful warbling is preserved for the ages on the
original cast LP of her 1960 Broadway musical
Wildcat, a troubled production that did introduce the
hit "Hey, Look Me Over,"
(right) and her
woefully-miscast 1972 film version of
Mame (far
right).  

But be warned: Bill Frawley once described Lucy's
fractured harmonies on one of his songs as being
"like a shovel of shit on a baked Alaska." Say,
maybe he should've been a theater critic.
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