I recently inherited 3 big boxes of sheet music from my father-in-law, an amateur trombone player. He enjoyed buying sheet music on eBay, and often sent me copies of songs he thought my senior audiences might like.
I’ve sorted through only a little of the music so far. There have been items I expected—books of Cole Porter and Duke Ellington songs, for example. But I’ve also found the unexpected—“Georgy Girl” and the theme songs from both All in the Family and Dragnet. I suspect these weren’t things he particularly wanted to have, but rather they were part of a larger eBay purchase.
It’s common for old sheet music to be sold in batches, stuff nobody wants tossed in with more desirable items. If you’re after one song included in the batch, you have to buy all of it. You can end up with a lot of oddball music that the seller just wants to get rid of.
Anyway, I’m going through the boxes. Got it, got it, got it… Then: “Two Cigarettes in the Dark”:
“Two Cigarettes in the Dark” was the only song in Kill that Story, a 1934 Broadway murder mystery. It was a time when cigarettes were considered fashionable and sophisticated and a smoky room full of well-dressed people had a certain allure.
I found some recordings of “Two Cigarettes” on YouTube but didn’t care for them. However, that search turned up another similarly titled tune: “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray,” recorded by Patsy Cline in 1957. I thought I didn’t like country music, but I was wowed by k.d. Lang’s version from her appearance on the Johnny Carson show in the late 1980s:
Back when smoking was in vogue, cigarette companies aligned themselves with popular radio and television shows. Lucky Strike, for example, sponsored The Jack Benny Program. Camel sponsored Camel Caravan, featuring Benny Goodman and his swing band. Jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams wrote the theme song, “Camel Hop”:
I’ll leave you with this for a laugh: an Old Gold ad from 1952. Dancing cigarettes and matches. Pure kitsch.
Paulette Bochnig Sharkey