It’s time once again to dig deep into the Way Out Junk archives to bring you another installment of “Way Out Wednesday.” This week, we spotlight the wonderful children’s album A Calendar of Happy Thoughts, with songs written and performed by Selma Rich Brody. While I never actually owned this album when I was younger, Fred Dunagan, my best friend and next door neighbor when we were kids, had some 45s with a few of these songs on them. We always just thought of them as silly, catchy little tunes. Now that I’m older, I see them as catchy little tuneswith some pretty nifty messages.
The concept was that you were supposed to have a song for each day in a month, and then I guess they expected you to start over at the beginning of the next month until the messages stuck. I’m highlighting quite a few of the songs because I had a problem deciding what I wanted to include here. Don’t worry — I think you’ll like them anyway!
The first song here is called “The Special Expression Song.” After Ms. Brody pounds into your head the importance of thinking about things, she sings a nice little song about remembering to shake hands, saying things like “please,” “thank you,” and “May I please be excused?” when you want to leave the dinner table. And pay attention because there’s a test at the end!
Our next song is “The Pet Song,” where she explains how you should take care of your pets because a dog can’t go to a restaurant when he’s hungry, a cat can’t take an aspirin when she’s sick, and your fish can’t knock on his fishbowl if he needs clean water, which (to my knowledge) is all true.
In “When Mother Calls” (one of the songs on Fred’s records), Brody tells a little story about a boy named Johnny who ignored his mother’s calls to him, and the dire consequences of his foolish action. “That was too bad for Johnny!”
“Let Your Daddy Sleep on Sunday Morning” probably got the biggest laugh out of both of us, since Fred’s dad was a preacher! And your ears aren’t deceiving you; that is the exact same tune as “When Mother Calls,” although it is a different arrangement of it. (Hey, you try to think up a song with a valuable lesson every day for a month and see how you do!)
This song has traveled around a bit on the Internet, and it’s easy to understand why when you discover that it asks the musical question, “Do you have a bathroom problem in your house?” The lesson here? “Get out of the bathroom, you doofus! There’s people jumping up and down on one leg out here!”
One thing I haven’t touched on is the musical arrangements here. Even though it’s just Ms. Brody singing all these songs and the arrangements are pretty simple affairs, they mix up which instruments are used. One song may use a banjo, the next might be prominently piano, and another uses what sounds like a church organ (like, ironically enough, “Let Your Daddy Sleep on Sunday Morning”). It’s subtle, but it makes for a lot more variety, especially when Brody decides to use the same tune for a different song. The reason I mention it here is that you’ll notice that this song, “Kindness and Consideration,” has a jazzy, honky-tonk piano and guitar accompaniment that really sets it apart from the other songs on the album.
We end with Brody’s magnum opus on the album, “Do Things Right,” wherein she explains that a good habit to get into is “When no one has to tell you what to do and what to say, you just do it, and you do it right, and do it right away!” It’s hard to argue with that. You can try, but I think she’d take you down with her crushing logic and devastatingly good manners.
That’s just a sample of what’s on the album. If you also want to hear her tell stories about “The Donkey and Salt,” and “The Honest Lumberjack,” find out why “Your Mouth Is a House” and how to “Make Each Meal as Happy as a Party,” I urge you to get this album here. And Fred, if you’re reading this, this one’s dedicated to you, buddy!