Monday, May 07, 2007

Not the same old song and dance

Politicians have always been a source of entertainment. All too often their antics are not intended to amuse, but every once in a while we are blessed with a professional entertainer who rises above harmless entertainment and is unleashed on a once honorable public office.

Pat Paulsen used to say that every four years we elect another amateur comedian to the White House, and it was about time the American people put a professional, like him, in office. I used to love Pat Paulsen’s editorial comments on the Smothers Brothers Show. You have to wonder where we’d be if he had been elected.

Of course, the people have elected professional entertainers to represent them many times in the past and will surely elect many more in the future. California’s got the Governator. Sonny Bono was once the mayor of Palm Springs. Ronald Reagan was the 33rd Governor of California and the 40th President of the US. The folks of Minnesota handed their statehouse over to professional wrestler, Jesse (The Body) Ventura. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving senator in history, has represented West Virginia since 1959 and recorded an album in 1978 earning the nickname Fiddlin’ Senator Byrd.

Louisiana has long had a history of colorful, flamboyant politicians. Jimmie Davis was Louisiana’s Singing Governor, twice.

Jimmie Davis was born into a poor family of sharecroppers near Quitman, Louisiana in 1899. Despite being born into poverty, Davis finished high school and went on to attend Soule Business College in New Orleans. He received his bachelor’s degree from Louisiana College and a master’s degree from LSU.

Davis gained success as a singer during the 1920s. His early music was patterned after the great Jimmie Rodgers, a soulful country blues, complete with some fine yodeling. He also performed and recorded some blues numbers accompanied by the African-American Texas bluesman, Oscar Woods that included some risqué numbers. As a life-long Baptist, he balanced the raunchy blues numbers with several recordings of southern gospels.

Best known for “You Are My Sunshine”, which Davis claimed to have written while at graduate school at LSU, Jimmie Davis had a very successful recording career before he turned to politics. Davis won his bid for governor against Lewis L. Morgan not by making great speeches or having a popular platform. Jimmie Davis won the votes of Louisiana voters by playing his most popular tunes at campaign stops. He summed up his campaign strategy with one sentence: “It’s better in politics to give folks very little talking and a whole lot of songs.”

As governor (1944-1948) he managed to stay out of trouble with the law, a rarity in Louisiana gubernatorial politics. In fact, he managed to stay out of Louisiana for a good portion of his term, spending plenty of time in Hollywood where he starred in several B westerns. He also continued to perform and tour.

In 1959, driven by the national move toward segregation, Jimmie Davis decided to run for the governor’s office again. This time he ran on a pro-segregation platform and won. His second term (1960-1964) was nearly as uneventful as his first, except he did have a number one hit with "There's A New Moon Over My Shoulder."

Jimmie Davis - Red Nightgown Blues.mp3
early recording with Oscar Woods on slide guitar.

Jimmie Davis - There's A New Moon Over My Shoulder.mp3
Davis wrote and recorded this during his second term.

Charles Mitchell's Orchestra - You Are My Sunshine.mp3
The song he is most remebered for, recorded here by Charles Mitchell, one of over 300 recordings of "You Are My Sunshine."


Anonymous Rockin'n'Rollin' said...

Great old moods, Ed!

May 10, 2007 3:11 AM  

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