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Lyr Add: The Ballad of Aimee McPherson


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Joe Offer 28 Mar 00 - 01:05 PM
Abby Sale 28 Mar 00 - 08:06 PM
GUEST 06 Nov 11 - 05:20 PM
Joe Offer 06 Nov 11 - 05:40 PM
Joe Offer 07 Nov 11 - 09:46 PM
Jim Dixon 10 Nov 11 - 12:02 PM
Joe_F 10 Nov 11 - 02:12 PM
Cool Beans 10 Nov 11 - 02:40 PM
Kenny B (inactive) 10 Nov 11 - 05:06 PM
Joe Offer 11 Nov 11 - 01:24 AM
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From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 01:05 PM

Our song circle topic tomorrow is "radio." I have to learn a new song, since I figure everybody is going to pick the only radio song I know, Albert E. Brumley's "Turn Your Radio On." I found this gem in the database, and added a few corrections and included a piece from the People's Almanac. There's a recording on the Columbia Pete Seeger collection called Links in the Chain, recorded in 1961 and released on an album called "Story Songs." Seeger credits the song to J. Lomax, Jr., but the album I have gives no further background information.
Can anybody give any more background information on the song - was it written by Lomax, or just collected by him? Are there any other songs about Sister Aimee? Seems to me I heard somebody do a song about her with a similar chorus, but now I can't find the song. Can anybody lead me to it? I think it's by Cab Calloway or Fats Waller or one of those guys.
Anyway, here's the stuff I dug up on Sister Aimee Semple McPherson, one of the more colorful people in California's colorful history.
-Joe Offer, Sacramento-

From the Wesley brothers in the 1750's down to Billy Graham in the 1970s, Americans have always loved their evangelists. Yet no revivalist in our history has been more enthusiastically loved—or more thoroughly disgraced—than Aimee Semple McPherson, who became a national institution in the 1920S.
Though she was ultimately to make millions through her preaching, Aimee's career got off to a shaky start. In 1907, while a farm girl of 17, she married an itinerant preacher named Robert Semple who took her to China and died shortly thereafter, leaving his young wife pregnant and destitute. After the birth of her daughter, Aimee found her way back to the U.S., where she married Harold McPherson, who fathered her 2nd child, a son, but restlessness soon overcame her. Packing up her mother, 2 children, and a large tent, she set out in a battered car for a career as a traveling revivalist.
Her first great success came in Southern California, which provided fertile ground for her ecstatic, optimistic rendering of the gospel. In 1921, while Sister Aimee was speaking at an outdoor rally in San Diego, an inspired old woman rose from her wheelchair and tottered toward the podium. She was followed by hundreds of other cripples, as hysteria swept the arena. Overnight, Aimee Semple McPherson developed a national reputation as a faith healer. Nevertheless, Sister Aimee remained modest about her miracles. "I am not a healer," she said. "Jesus is the healer. I am only the little office girl who opens the door and says 'Come in.'
Soon Sister Aimee had raised enough money to open the Angelus Temple near downtown Los Angeles, which was to serve as a permanent base for her activities. This building, which cost $1,500,00 to build (a handsome sum in 1923), was topped by a huge rotating lighted cross which could be seen for a distance of 50 miles. There was also a powerful in-house broadcasting station which sent the message of Sister Aimee's "Foursquare Gospel" around the world. A special "Miracle Room" displayed stacks of crutches, wheelchairs and braces left over from faith cures. The main temple provided seats for 5,000 of the faithful, and Sister Aimee was able to attract a full house nearly every time she preached.
Instead of the familiar fire and brimstone of traditional evangelists, Sister Aimee stressed a gentler brand of salvation which emphasized the pleasures of heaven rather than the torments of hell. Her dramatic stage presence and her beautiful golden hair added powerfully to her appeal. There was always a good deal of show-business pageantry in Aimee's services. In her "Throw Out the Lifeline" number, a dozen maidens clad in white clung desperately to a storm-lashed Rock of Ages, while special-effects men labored mightily to create thunder, lightning and wind. Just when all seemed lost, out jumped Sister Aimee in an admiral's uniform to order a squad of lady sailors to the rescue. They tossed out the blessed lifeline, while the male chorus, dressed as coastguardmen, swept the mechanical waves with searchlights. The virgins were saved, trumpets blared and the congregation cheered while the American flag waved triumphantly over all.
Unfortunately, no one was available to rescue Sister Aimee when she herself needed it most. After reaching her peak in 1925, she was soon to suffer a spectacular fall from grace. In mid-May of 1926, Aimee drove to a hotel facing the Pacific Ocean, changed to a swimsuit, and then sat on the beach, working on a sermon. Her secretary left for a short while, and when she returned Sister Aimee had disappeared. The supposition was that the great revivalist had gone out for a swim, suffered a cramp or some other difficulty, and drowned.
Thousands of the faithful camped along the sands while boats patrolled offshore, searching for a clue. One grief-stricken girl actually committed suicide. A young man jumped into the water, shouting, "I'm going after her," and drowned. A professional diver died of exhaustion.
Meanwhile, both police and newsmen scoured the West for some clue to Sister Aimee's fate. For a month, every lead brought authorities to a dead end. Then, on the 3ist day, a ransom note was delivered to the Angelus Temple. It stated that Sister Aimee had been kidnapped, and would be released in exchange for $500,000.
The following day—at one o'clock in the morning, to be exact—Sister Aimee suddenly turned up in the Mexican border town of Agua Prieta. She confirmed that she had been abducted from the beach, held prisoner in a remote desert shack, and had finally escaped through a window and stumbled for miles across burning desert sands to safety.
The police were suspicious. She showed no evidences of captivity or flight. Her dress was neat, her pale skin untouched by the desert sun. Reporters, equally suspicious, began chasing clues. It quickly became obvious that Sister Aimee, who had been divorced by her husband a few years before, had been having an affair with one Kenneth Ormiston, the operator of her radio station. Coincidentally, her lover had disappeared from sight the very same day that Aimee had vanished from the California beach.
When the Los Angeles district attorney launched a formal investigation, conclusive evidence was found to show that during the time of her alleged captivity, Sister Aimee and her married lover, Ormiston, had indeed been seen together in several hotels and at a seaside cottage. The district attorney was about to start criminal proceedings against Aimee when her friend William Randolph Hearst, the publishing tycoon, intervened on her behalf and got the charges dropped.
When the facts were eventually made public, Sister Aimee's popular appeal fell off dramatically. The great evangelist now appeared to be a "woman with a past." Nevertheless, Aimee struggled to continue her career and regain her former image. Love came again to Aimee at the age of 40, but 2 days after her marriage to roly-poly Dave Hutton, he was sued by another female for breach of promise. Aimee fainted, fell, and hit her head on some flagstones, and after her recovery the couple was divorced.
Through all these troubles, a sizable number of the Foursquare faithful stood by Sister Aimee; her services at the Angelus Temple continued to provide one of the best shows in town. Her popularity, though greatly diminished, continued into the 1940's.
On a September evening in 1944, Sister Aimee spoke to an enthusiastic crowd in Oakland, California. The next morning she was found unconscious in her hotel room and died soon afterward. Then came sad news. The coroner's verdict was that Sister Aimee had died from an overdose of sleeping pills.
—M.S.M (People's Almanac)


Oh, have you heard the story of Aimee McPherson?
Aimee McPherson, that wonderful person,
She weighed a hundred eighty and her hair was red
She preached a wicked sermon, so the papers all said.

Hi dee hi dee hi dee hi
Ho dee ho dee ho dee ho.

Now, Aimee built herself a radio station
To broadcast her preaching to the nation.
She found a man named Armistead who knew enough
To run the radio while Aimee did her stuff.

Now, they had a camp meeting out at Ocean Park
Preached from early morning 'til after dark.
Said the benediction, then folded up the tents,
And nobody knew where Aimee went.

Now, Aimee McPherson got back from her journey,
She told her tale to the district attorney.
Said she'd been kidnapped on a lonely trail.
And in spite of all the questions, she stuck to her tale.

Well, the Grand Jury started an investigation,
Uncovered a lot of spicy information.
Found out about a love nest down at Carmel-by-the-Sea,
Where the liquor was expensive and the loving was free.

They found a little cottage with a breakfast nook,
A folding bed with a worn-out look.
The slats was busted and the springs was loose,
And the dents in the mattress fitted Aimee's caboose.

Well they took poor Aimee and they threw her in jail.
Last I'd heard she was out on bail.
They'll send her up for a stretch, I guess,
She worked herself up into an awful mess

Now, Radio Ray is a going hound;
He's a-going yet and he ain't been found.
They got a description, but they got it too late.
'Cause since they got it, he's lost a lot of weight.

Now I'll end my story in the usual way,
About a lady preacher's holiday.
If you don't get the moral then you're the gal for me
Cause there's still a lot of cottages down at Carmel-by-the-Sea.

From the liberated Woman's Songbook, Silverman.
Note: It happened in 1926. Lasted 36 days. Results inconclusive.
Armistead was really Kenneth Ormison, her radio engineer.
Hallelujah! RG ^^^
The Version in the Digital Tradition is just slightly different.

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Subject: RE: The Ballad of Aimee McPherson
From: Abby Sale
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 08:06 PM

Here's something to think about. I don't know if it means anything. I posted a "Happy!" for Aimee's birthday with a little of the history & a verse of the song. After a bit I received a very plaintive note from an elderly man. He's come on my post in a web search for his idol. Now he was deeply hurt that people still believed this slander about a great religionist. He still believed fully in her & her message. He stressed that no ill-doing was ever proved against her. True, of course.

As Joe noted, the trial was stopped & dropped.

Still, from all reports, "Radio Ray" Ormison was an extremely not nice guy & their liason pretty open down there by the sea.

But that she still has believers really says something about human mind sets.

As I said, I don't know what, though.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Aimee McPherson
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 05:20 PM

I believe THE BALLAD OF AIMEE McPHERSON was written by Pete Seeger.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Aimee McPherson
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Nov 11 - 05:40 PM

As I said above, there's a recording on the Columbia Pete Seeger collection called Links in the Chain, recorded in 1961 and released on an album called "Story Songs." Seeger credits the song to J. Lomax, Jr., but the album I have gives no further background information.

If a Pete Seeger album doesn't attribute the song to Pete Seeger, it's highly doubtful that Seeger wrote it. The Great Song Thesaurus (Oxford University Press) says "Minnie the Moocher" or "The Ho De Ho Song" was written in 1931 by Cab Calloway, Irving Mills, and Clarence Gaskill. Calloway's is the seminal recording of this song, and the Thesaurus says the song is Calloway's theme song. It's based on a traditional folk song, "Willie the Weeper."

Seeger makes no mention of the Sister Aimee song in his Incompleat Folksinger or his Where Have All the Flowers Gone songbook.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Aimee McPherson
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 09:46 PM

It's clear that the songwriter is not Pete Seeger - but does anybody know who wrote it - and when?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Aimee McPherson
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 10 Nov 11 - 12:02 PM

THE BALLAD OF AIMEE McPHERSON is also printed in 2 more recent songbooks by Jerry Silverman, published by Mel Bay:

A Guitarist's Treasury of Songs (2008)


Songs of Fun & Foolishness (1992)

You can see the chords and notation for the melody line in either of them.

There is no songwriter credit on the page where the song appears.

I can't see whether there is an appendix or copyright page that might give credit to sources.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Aimee McPherson
From: Joe_F
Date: 10 Nov 11 - 02:12 PM

"The betting odds in the Los Angeles saloons are 50 to 1 that she will either hang the jury or get a clean acquittal.... The local district attorney has the newspapers on his side, and during the progress of Aimee's hearing he filled one of them in the chivalrous Southern California manner, with denunciations of her. But Aimee herself has the radio.... Twice a day, week in and week out, she caresses the anthropoids of all that dusty, forbidding region with her evangelical coos. And twice a day she meets her lieges of Los Angeles face to face, and has at them with her lovely eyes, her mahogany hair, and her lascivious voice. It will be a hard job, indeed, to find twelve men good and true to send her to the hoosegow. Unless I err grievously, God is with her." -- H. L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, December 13, 1926

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Aimee McPherson
From: Cool Beans
Date: 10 Nov 11 - 02:40 PM

Between Aimee and "Washington Square" this has been a good month on Mudcat for Pete Seeger's "Story Songs" album. Anyone want to discuss "Monongahela Sal" or "Way Out There"?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Aimee McPherson
From: Kenny B (inactive)
Date: 10 Nov 11 - 05:06 PM

I sent a copy of Pete Singing Monogaheela Sal to a lady who operates a Tourist Boat on the Mongaheela and Way Out There is a great song but i cant do the yodel like Pete its on youtube Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger singing Way out There

Ps I do my own yodel for folks who have never heard the original but let them know

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Subject: Pete Seeger's Story Songs album
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Nov 11 - 01:24 AM

Hi, Cool Beans -
As far as I can tell, Pete Seeger's Story Songs album (Columbia Records) has not been reissued, although I think a lot of songs from the album have appeared on other recordings.

I did find at least part of the album on YouTube:
    A 1961 collection of traditional ballads and more recent story-songs such as a pair of Woody Guthrie classics, Story Songs is a fine traditional folk-style album. Although story-songs are often thought of as children's music -- and there are some safe-for-the-kiddies songs here, most notably "The Foolish Frog," a story his musicologist father Charles Seeger had told his own children -- this selection of tunes also includes a fair amount of material for more grownup tastes, most notably Guthrie's gangster ballad "Pretty Boy Floyd" and the snarky "Aimee McPherson," about the disgraced evangelist. Overall, Story Songs is a typically fine and well-chosen selection of songs given Pete Seeger's usual treatment, but there's little that's genuinely gripping here in terms of performances. In the end, it feels as if Story Songs was an interesting idea competently executed, but with little in the way of passion or enthusiasm. As a result, it's a listenable album, but hardly a great one.

        Title Composer Time

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