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The Little Song That Could

09 Feb

I’ve been a music lover for well over fifty years. I grew up collecting 45’s and falling asleep each night with my earplug and transistor radio. I served in the Air Force during the Vietnam conflict and then enjoyed a thirty-year career working in the computer industry. During this time, I continued listening to and collecting music. I used my hobby to make some extra money playing weddings and reunions. I needed that money because my wife and I raised four children and I’m happy to say they are all college graduates.

When I turned 50, I decided to give radio a try. I worked as a volunteer on a local high school station that played oldies all day each Sunday. I developed my show “the Innocent Age” and met a lot of very nice people locally and online. After a couple years, I got a chance to be on a small AM station in Cleveland. My good friend Frank Kramer was on Monday nights, and I did my show on Tuesday nights. The station had a weak signal at night but streaming on the Internet provided us with ample audiences. Frank and I both got to play songs that had been long missing from station play lists and in many cases never made them in the first place.

One Monday night, Frank played a song called “Don’t Say He’s Gone” by the

Mary-Ellen & Margy Keegan - The Short Cuts

Short Cuts. Frank had the Carlton 45 and liked both sides but had no idea who the group was. The next day before I came in for my shift, Frank told me a great story. We didn’t know it, but the Short Cuts were two sisters from the Cleveland area, Mary-Ellen and Margy Keegan. Margy had moved away, but several neighbors and friends of Mary-Ellen called her to say they had heard their song the night before. She called the station and Frank called her back. Frank didn’t do interviews on his show, but I did, so he had her call me. It took a few weeks, but Margy flew up from Georgia and I interviewed both sisters for a show that I did that also had interviews with the Secrets and Poni-Tails, both successful groups with members who grew up in Cleveland.

My friend Steve Petryszyn held two record conventions per year in Parma, Ohio for over twenty years. The last fourteen of those years, I played the music and made announcements. His last show was in 2002 and both the Short Cuts and the three local members of the Secrets performed on stage. By this time that small AM station changed formats and both Frank and I were off the air entirely, but I kept in touch with Mary-Ellen and Margy.

A few years later, I had found my way back to Internet on a small station near me. I produced my shows and uploaded my files to a server and while it wasn’t live, my old listeners eventually found me and despite the extra work, it was a lot of fun. I produced a show and played the flip side of their Carlton 45 entitled “I’ll Hide My Love”. I called Mary-Ellen to let her know The Shortcuts were once again being heard on the World Wide Web.

About a year later, Mary-Ellen called me to say that “Don’t Say He’s Gone” showed up on a bootleg CD on the Internet. I don’t think she ever understood why people would want to listen to this song that had not been heard all that much when it was released back in 1959. I assured her that it was a great record and to take the bootleg effort as a compliment. I tracked down the source of the CD and had them send Mary-Ellen free copies (they used both songs on two different CD’s).

A couple more years went by and I put my own station on the air. I called it TUNEDEX MEMORIES in honor of my favorite station growing up in Cleveland, “Color Channel 14 WHK”. The station runs 24/7 from the comfort of my office. I added both the Short Cuts tunes to the play list and called Mary-Ellen once again to let her know that listeners all over the world would be enjoying her songs.

Last year I added TUNEDEX MEMORIES to Facebook. One of my new

The Doo Langs

friends is Ash Wells, who operates Rare Rockin’ Records in Australia. He let me know that a group in Spain who sings under the name of the Doo Langs recorded “Don’t Say He’s Gone” as a promotional tool to get a recording contract. I contacted the group’s founder Eddie Peregrin and they soon posted “I’ll Hide My Love” as well. You can listen for yourself at myspace.com/thedoolangs.  Eddie is joined by Anna Gascon , Ana Guerri , and Nerea Gas.  As the Doo Langs they perform locally in Spain and hope to secure a recording contract. What song did they use to attract attention to themselves? Our little song that could… “Don’t Say He’s Gone” of course. Eddie must have bought a copy of the 45 because he credits the Short Cuts on his MySpace player. The group’s name has another un-intentional link to my hometown of Cleveland. Our own Andrea Carroll released a song called “The Doo Lang” back in the 60’s, which was very popular on Cleveland radio.

While doing research on the Doo Langs, I was amazed to discover that a group called the Pussywillows had recorded “Don’t Say He’s Gone” in 1988. It took awhile, but I was able to contact the group members. April March, Lisa Jenio and Lisa Dembling released an EP with 7 great girl group songs. April told me that they loved “Don’t Say He’s Gone” as soon as they heard it. A “friend of a friend” of the group was a record collector. He produced a mix tape for the girls of obscure collectable songs. Once again, our “little song that could” had caught the appreciative ears of other singers that liked it so much they simply had to record it themselves.

Mary-Ellen Keegan wrote “Don’t Say He’s Gone” in 1959. It’s no secret that it was not the commercial success that she and Margy had hoped it would be. It’s also no secret that they were victims of the times. Rock was exploding on radio and airplay time was precious. The Short Cuts certainly weren’t the only performers that didn’t get enough exposure on radio stations around the country. But as they say, quality endures, and the proof is that “Don’t Say He’s Gone” continues to enthrall performers and entertain listeners long after it was written.

UPDATE!!!  It’s now TWO YEARS LATER, February, 2012, and “the little song that could” keeps chugging on. There is a brand new release in the world of Doo Wop by Susanna & the Roomates entitled “Sixteen Reasons and More”.  The amazing group harmony sounds of the British Doo Wop group the Roomates meet a lovely female leading voice in Susanna Pichin.  The CD is available from rarerockinrecords.com and will soon be at amazon.com.  And what song just happens to be cut #2?  You got it, the little song that could, “Don’t Say He’s Gone”.  Mary Ellen got to hear the new version of her song with the help of a friend of mine, DJ Brad, who hosts a great Doo Wop show on Tuesday nights at http://www.doowopcafe.net.  Once again, Mary Ellen is just thrilled that her song keeps finding new homes.  Be sure to check out this latest version – it’s a keeper!

If you’d like to hear the original version by the Short Cuts, both sides of their Carlton 45 remains “in rotation” for the fourth consecutive year on TUNEDEX MEMORIES at http://songsyoushouldhaveheard.com.  If you have any questions or comments for any of the groups, please feel free to send them to innocentage@yahoo.com and I’ll be happy to pass them on.

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4 Comments

Posted by on February 9, 2010 in Chuck's thoughts...

 

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4 responses to “The Little Song That Could

  1. eddie

    February 10, 2010 at 7:37 am

    What can i say.. Bravo Chuck!

     
  2. Roy

    September 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    This is a wonderful story.I have always like the song by The Short Cuts,and read there story in “Rock ‘N’ Roll and the Cleveland Connection”.This book is a treasure trove of information on many of the local groups.I always thought that the record should have done much better then it it,but I think that you are right about airplay.Any chance of getting thoes intervies of The Short Cuts,The Secrets and The Poni-Tails.It would be great to hear them.Roy

     
  3. frank

    September 11, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    great i am glad that the two sister Mary and Margy who recorded the original songs are still alive and kicking are given well deserve recognition!!!

     
  4. Jennifer Biernat

    January 24, 2016 at 9:32 am

    The Little Song That Could…and did. Thank you for this wonderful entry.

    I’ve been listening to The Royal Teens’ “Why” and “My Kind Of Love” on youtube, it happened to be songs from a playlist, which I decided to listen to while putting on some make up for my flight attendant training. But every 2 or 3 minutes I would run to the computer and click on repeat. And this has been going on like this now for 3 days. It started with an also lesser known group The Royal Halos – My Love Is True (1959) I couldn’t get enough of and wished there was more info on them on the internet and this wonderful song of The Short Cuts. I’ve been listening to this song now for several hours and searching for some info on the Keegan sisters. I am happy to have found your website.

    I even found out about this book “Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Cleveland Connection” by Deanna R. Adams, on page 41/42 the author mentions a short but wonderful biography of The Short Cuts. (Check on Google Books).

    I once heard of someone who recorded a song but somehow never released it though he put all the effort he could do by the time he did it, he’s been living a normal mortal life after this and then like 30 years later they released his song and he got a little fame afterwards. Damn, I don’t know the name anymore… :(

    But I am pretty sure that now that people share such rare gems like The Short Cuts and The Royal Halos they should be preserved for music and cultural history… I wished I could contribute to such project somehow. This is truly my passion…

    To think of how many more yet unknown and long forgotten little diamonds like these are still covered by the darkness of dusty basements and attics…

    There are wonderful Doo Wop concerts even in Germany and performing these songs would contribute to the everlasting memory of these cultural milestones. This is where selling CDs with compilations of these songs after the concerts would spread the word and reach lots of people who would love to fall in love with them too.

    The first time I’ve heard Don’t Say He’s Gone I felt pretty sure I’ve found a song I haven’t heard in years, my first reaction was “aww there you are, finally I’ve found you” and I thought I’ve heard this this in a movie but never got to know the title and the singers. The more I was stunned to learn this song in fact is so rare. Sure, I could have confused it with the Lennon Sisters, the Poni-Tails etc.,who knows. And yet, the feeling of an old memory awakes to daylight and tells me, it was no other song that could have done this, this great little song could only do this.

    Many greetings from a 26 year old Lufthansa stewardess from Germany!

     

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