There used to be a “cry room” at the back of the Catholic church I attended as a child. The cry room was like a penalty box shared by an unhappy baby, or an unruly child, and a parent. The room’s front wall was glass, so the accompanying adult—usually the mom—could continue to watch Mass. The sound of the service came into the room through a speaker.
For some reason, I thought about St. Benedict’s church cry room when I came across this piece of vintage sheet music:
That’s pianist, arranger, composer, and bandleader Stan Kenton on the cover. I wonder who came up with the corny illustration running alongside Kenton’s headshot: a woman crying buckets of tears, literally, while her man stands by, callous and aloof. If you can call his pose “standing.”
Anita O’Day recorded a well-known version of this song with Kenton’s orchestra in 1944. Ella Fitzgerald’s version came out a year later.
Another tune from the 1940s with a crying theme is “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams. And there’s the Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn creation “I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.”
In fact, songs about crying abound. Other oldies include “I Cried for You” (1923), “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes” (1930), “Cry Me a River” (1953), Roy Orbison’s “Crying” (1961).
A song titled simply “Cry” was the vehicle that singer Johnnie Ray rode to stardom. “Cry” was written in 1951 by Churchill Kohlman, a night watchman at a Pittsburgh dry-cleaning plant. Kohlman entered “Cry” in an amateur songwriting contest, but the song was eliminated in the first round. Then Johnnie Ray got his hands on it, and made it his signature song. Ray recorded “Cry” with “The Little White Cloud That Cried” on the flip side. The Four Lads sang background.
Johnnie Ray’s singing style was opposite that of relaxed crooners like Perry Como and Bing Crosby. Ray became known as “The Prince of Wails” for his tearful renditions. He could emote like nobody’s business, falling to the floor, tearing at his hair. His agonized vocals made him a sensation, but Ray was often mocked, too. Poor Johnnie. To borrow an expression Liberace favored: He cried all the way to the bank.
Here’s Ray singing “Cry.” Photos of his “Prince of Wails” routine start about one minute in:
Copyright © 2015 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
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