I was thinking of using this song for the Saluting Silly Songs feature, but even though at first blush it seems a likely candidate, I’d rather think of it as something slightly more serious than that. So we’ll go with Silly Songs’ older brother in the Special Features category, Anatomy of a Song.
I’ve written before about the talented Leroy Anderson, who was a special favorite of my dad’s because of his many good songs, most of which fell somewhere between pop music and light classical. A good example is today’s featured tune, “The Typewriter”.
Anderson published it in 1953 and also made the first record of the song, playing piano himself. The typing was taken care of by a pro drummer because their first idea — using a typist — failed when she couldn’t handle the speed and rhythm required for the fast-paced song. To guard against jamming, the typewriter itself was specially modified so that only two keys worked.
Obviously it was a novelty song of sorts, but it was so clever and inventive that it caught the fancy of the record-buying public and it became pretty popular. (I can’t be sure but I think we had the record at our house.) It also became a favorite for a lot of other artists, but the difficulty factor probably discouraged a lot of the usual crowd. Eventually it seemed to be most popular with those with the ability to utilize it in a comical way.. For example, even though I’ve never been a fan of the late Jerry Lewis, he often used the song as a comedy routine in TV appearances and even in a movie. Of course, he didn’t actually use a typewriter.
Liberace always liked doing the song on his TV show, and certainly seemed to be handling the typing himself. Of course, whatever you might think about him and his act, he was a superb musician so could probably do just as well as a drummer. (Pay special attention to what he puts on top of the typewriter before he starts. Can you guess?)
And for our final performance, the amazing Billy Barty, who became a very special mini-Liberace to perform the song on Spike Jones’ show. Not only did he look (and sound) like Liberace, he also did pretty well on the keyboard.