Posts Tagged ‘Mark II [The]’

‘Night Theme’

Friday, April 24th, 2020

As has been noted here numerous times, one of the formative albums in my musical life is the 1963 release by trumpeter Al Hirt, Honey In The Horn.

It encouraged me in my horn playing, giving me a model, something that all young artists and performers need. And it introduced me to a wide variety of songs, although it took a few years to realize that. On the album Hirt covered songs written by legends such as Hank Snow (“I’m Movin’ On), Allen Toussaint (“Java”), Boudleaux Bryant (“Theme From A Dream”) Ira Gershwin and Vernon Duke (“I Can’t Get Started”) and others.

Shortly after I got the record for my eleventh birthday, I knew the tracks well enough to “play” them in my head, nailing the background chorus work and Hirt’s solos. It took me years, though, to begin to read the credits, and it wasn’t until the Internet years that I began to look for the original – or at least additional – versions of the songs.

Some were easy, like the three mentioned above. “Java” came from Toussaint’s pen, “I Can’t Get Started” is one of the entries in what we now call the Great American Songbook, and “I’m Movin’ On” is one of the biggest hits in country history. Others took some digging, like “Al Di Là” by Carlo Donida and Mogol, which turned out to have been Italy’s 1961 entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.

And there were some I never looked into: “Tansy,” “Man With A Horn,” and a few more.

Not long after I began this blog, I wondered about the moody “Night Theme.” Broad Googling got me nowhere, and a trip to YouTube failed. A few years later I went to one of my favorite tools, the website Second Hand Songs and found nothing, there, so I forgot about “Night Theme,” except whenever Hirt’s rendition popped up on the RealPlayer or iTunes or when I played his CD in the car:

A mention earlier this month at my pal jb’s blog, The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, of a different tune with the same title got me looking again. Armed with a wider range of tools, and a copy of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I got some results.

“Night Theme” was the product of songwriters Wayne Cogswell and Ray Peterson a pair of Rhode Island natives. Cogswell’s fingerprints are all over 1950s pop and early rock ’n’ roll, especially for his work in Memphis with Sam Phillips. Peterson was a guitarist and composer based mainly in his home state, if I read things correctly. Right around 1960, according to a 2014 piece in the Johnston Sunrise newspaper in Warwick, Cogswell came back home and started Wye Records with a business partner, but still wanting to perform and record, he looked for a musical partner and found Peterson:

“I met Ray Peterson and we decided to do a dual piano act, one piano, two players, like the old Ferrante and Teicher thing.” One of the products of the piano thing was “Night Theme,” an atmospheric, blues-infected instrumental that was a favorite for slow dancing at record hops and teen hangouts for many years.

The duo released the record – Wye 1001 – as The Mark II, and in 1960, it got to No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100.

So that’s one minor mystery solved. I have a few to go.