H. C. Sings a Jaunty Tune

Daisy Keys and Harry Clifton Phenice in 1950 at the time of their Golden Anniversary.

Toward the beginning of last year (Feb. 13, 2020), I wrote a post about my great grandfather Harry Clifton Phenice.  He was my mother’s maternal grandfather.  In that post I shared a recording of him playing the song “Soldier’s Joy” on his violin.  The recording was from June 12, 1943, in Hathaway, Louisiana, the hometown of my mom Betty Lou Bucklin Landry.  In the beginning of that recording, a family member gives the date and says that the Phenice family was getting together for the first time to make a phonographic record of their time together.

That tune on the fiddle wasn’t the only music made that day.  Not by far.  One of the songs on the recording really got  my attention.  It was a song that H. C. sang solo.  It was not the best recording, but I thought it was a fun little tune.  I listened to it over and over again to try to figure out the words to the song.  I tried to search for a few song lyrics, but I was never able to find a result.  Then last week I was thinking it was time to share that song with everyone.  So I listened to it again to see if I could determine what song it was.  So I did a search with the precise words that I could make out.  I did a search for “whene’er I meet upon the street” and I got a result.  That’s right.  I got one result.   And it was the song I was looking for.

It was on a website that had Old Time Song Lyrics on it.  I knew that I could now share the song with everyone.  It had a word or two different that I couldn’t make sense of.  Then I found another site that had the sheet music for the song.  That’s right!  The sheet music.  It was the correct lyrics of the song, but it doesn’t match the melody.  The song was by Fred Wilson and it was published in 1865.  That song was as old to my great grandfather as this recording is to us today. 

The name of the song is “The Gal With the Roguish Eye.”  No wonder I couldn’t tell what old H. C. was singing about in that tune!  It starts with

“Oh, I think it very pleasant to promenade the street

and gaze upon the fashion of each pretty girl I meet.

With little hats and bonnets and boots (cost nine or ten),

Which makes her altogether more expensive than the men.”

It’s kind of unusual lyrics for a song.  Most men don’t talk about the fashions of women and talk about their little hats and bonnets!  I’m not really sure what the line about boots costing nine or ten means.  It was over 150 years ago, so it could be referring to boots costing 10 dollars.  I suppose that would be considered expensive in those days.  And then it continues with

“Oh, dear oh, it makes me feel so shy

Whene’er I meet upon the street that gal with a roguish eye.

Oh, dear oh, it makes me feel so shy

Whene’er I meet upon the street that gal with a roguish eye!

I love the words to this song!  H. C. really sounds like a character and I’m sure he was giving a playful smile to his wife Daisy when he sang this song.  The definition for roguish in this context is playfully mischievous in a flirty way.  H.C. was 68 years old when this song was recorded.  My mom would have been 10 years old.  She always said he was a pleasant fellow.  I think it comes through in the song.  What do you think?  Give it a listen.

It’s such a fun song.  I’ve been singing it almost every day over the last week or so.  So I thought I’d sing along with him.  I recorded myself singing the second verse of the song.  It goes like this:

“Among the smiling faces, there’s one above the rest

who dresses with the greatest care and of the very best.

She don’t appear to mind me whene’er she’s passing by

But drops her veil clear o’er her face to hide her roguish eye.

If I knew how to do an edit to make it sound like an old recording, I’d do it.  That would be just the opposite of what I do with the photos all of the time.  The verse sounds okay, but my favorite part is when I’m singing together with my great grandfather!  How fun is that?!  If we’re fortunate, one day my brothers and I will meet up with our great grandfather in a Place Out of Time and sing that old tune together.  In the meantime, you can enjoy this rendition.


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