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Gift giving is a precarious social construct.

On one hand it speaks to the better angels of our nature in that we occasionally like to show our fondness for, or appreciation of, somebody close to us by giving them something of value to tell them we care.

On the other hand gifts are often used in fairly transparent ways to curry favor with somebody, or in thanks for a service already rendered for which there may not have been more typical financial remuneration.

The bright-eyed idealist tends to use the term “gift” to describe these gestures while the hard-hearted cynic tends to call them “bribes”.

The rock ‘n’ roll observer on the other hand simply calls it “par for the course”.


A Little Bit More
This record on the surface seems to be a rather innocuous one for any insight on the music biz, as it was nothing but a small regional hit by a big group with far more important songs in their catalog, meaning it otherwise would almost certainly have little written or said about it by anyone for any reason.

Yet it provides the perfect opportunity to get into a subject which would wind up shaping rock music in countless ways even though the content of Would I Still Be The One In Your Heart contributed virtually nothing to rock’s musical evolution.

Few people in the winter of 1950 – or for that matter probably few people digging deep into The Orioles song vault today – would give a second glance at the three last names appearing under the song’s title on the record label. In fact it’s the title itself, which was mistakenly printed Would You Still Be The One In My Heart, that is most likely to draw the lion’s share of the pedantic attention simply because its inadvertent change happened to alter the meaning of the song even though Sonny Til sings it as it was written, with “I” in place of “You” and “Your” substituted for “My“, and as such is one of those mild screw-ups that people tend to focus on.

But those three names beneath the title are what we’re focusing on – Carroll-Bryant-Wayne – because that’s where the story of the record industry’s practices comes into greater focus.

My Little White Lie
Just who WERE these three people? Well, two of them we’ve talked about briefly before, Willie Bryant and Ray Carroll, who were the co-hosts of New York’s most popular radio show with black listeners.

Bryant himself was African-American while Carroll was Caucasian, that alone making them a revolutionary team for the late 1940’s when they began broadcasting together on WHOM in 1948.

Bryant had been making a name for himself in the black community as the emcee at Harlem’s Apollo Theater after a career in vaudeville as a dancer and leading a band which in turn led him to be hired by the radio station WCBS in 1946 to host a show dedicated to black music, primarily jazz, still the hot style at the time.

Carroll meanwhile was initially teamed with Symphony Sid Torin, another white disc jockey, in 1947, playing primarily black music. Torin left and Carroll hired Bryant to co-host, though that may have been initially just to help choose the records, but soon they were the hottest thing on the air in New York, breaking the de facto prohibition on interracial on-air pairings in the process at a time when there were literally just a dozen black men on the airwaves as disc jockeys across America.

Over the next half dozen years they defined the evolving New York black entertainment scene, their jazz leanings giving way to more raucous rock ‘n’ roll with their late night show After Hours Swing Session which ran from 11PM-2AM.

Now it’s entirely likely that Willie Bryant was capable of writing songs. It’s been said that he was every bit as gifted a performer on stage in a variety of roles – comedic, dancing, even singing – as the more famous white acts who ruled vaudeville and later moved into radio, film and television, so his credentials there are pretty solid. Carroll on the other hand probably not so much. But the chances are, since both of their names appear on the copyright for Would I Still Be The One In Your Heart, that they were simply “cut-in” by the third songwriter, another guy with a long list of credits to his name.

Bernie Wayne was born Bernard Weitzer in New Jersey in 1919 and was already fairly successful as a songwriter, penning the hit Laughing On The Outside (Crying On The Inside) which Sammy Kaye, Dinah Shore, Teddy Walters, The Merry Macs and Andy Russell all had Top Ten hits with in 1946. His greatest success would come with the standard Blue Velvet, though maybe even that was surpassed in terms of iconography by There She Is, the theme song for The Miss. America contest.

In any event, he was the “third” writer, presumably the main writer if not the only writer, of this song by The Orioles.

The reason why any of this is important or relevant is because back in the summer of 1948 it was Bryant and Carroll who were responsible for making The Orioles stars when they flipped over The Orioles’ debut, the generic, lightweight and overly cute Barbra Lee, sfter it failed to draw much response on their show and they immediately stirred interest in the B-side, It’s Too Soon To Know, plugging it incessantly. Within days that song was the hottest thing on the air and The Orioles had their careers launched into the stratosphere as a result.

Naturally Jerry Blaine of Jubilee Records, as well as The Orioles and their manager Deborah Chessler (pictured below with Carroll and Bryant at The Apollo) would be anxious to bestow some gift on the disc jockeys to show their gratitude… it’s not hard to see where this is headed.


Sigh A Little…
As for the song itself… still the main point of these reviews, despite our many detours, Would I Still Be The One In Your Heart is something that seems tailor made for The Orioles, and may in fact have been from the start, as it’s another slow declaration of despair that Sonny Til and the boys specialized in, meaning it has little chance to stand out from the rest of their records that were equally despondent over the tenuous nature of love.

But while its perspective is all too typical for their output it does at least confirm what they excelled at, though by now we’re growing weary of hearing yet another tale of woe from somebody who really should join a monastery so he doesn’t have to keep going through such anguish when each girl he takes out leaves him – apparently to find someone who doesn’t break down in tears when she gets up in the restaurant to use the bathroom because he thinks she’s walking out on him or something.

As always Til’s voice is exquisitely pure in its tones, breathy to start with, sometimes halting and seemingly fragile enough to be knocked over by a stiff breeze, but then suddenly rising up in fuller voice to sell the emotional twists and turns along the way which work better than they should since they’re not attached to anything stronger than this lightweight drivel.

Once again, as with so much of The Orioles material, whether written by Chessler or in this case by one, two or three outsiders, the melody is forced to be carried almost exclusively by Til himself and he does handle that task with some grace. The song moves along at a ponderous clip but because of Sonny’s deft touch it never becomes so plodding that you lose focus.

We DO know where is going thematically though and as a result there’s no suspense in its telling, which is where your interest begins to wane.

Cry A Little
It’s amazing that so many songs The Orioles tackle can tell the exact same story, each and every plot point coming with alarming predictability and Would I Still Be The One In Your Heart is no different.

As usual Sonny sees a cute girl and asks her out, probably proposes marriage in the cab on the way to dinner on their first date which has her clutching the door handle ready to open it as soon as they drop below 35 MPH so she can leap out to safety… But Sonny never lets her get out of his reach and consequently she endures the longest, most uncomfortable dinner of her life as he incessantly asks if every last detail is to her liking.

When their night ends – without him being invited inside, I assure you – she feigns a smile and says she had a good time and “Sure, I’d love to see you again… call me” – and before he can race down to the pay phone on the corner to take her up on that offer she’s already changed her number (or yanked the phone from the wall) and is making plans to give up her apartment and move across town… if not out of town altogether.

All of that would be bad enough but not only do we know where the narrative is leading we also know where it’s going structurally, as Alex Sharp’s floating tenor confirms the arrangement is the exact same one they’ve used on almost every song in the past, replete with baritone vocal bridge courtesy of George Nelson, which by this point adds nothing as once more he doesn’t even get different lyrics to sing to advance the story.

No matter who is writing their material the stultifying repetitiveness of their approach does them in. Without a more original concept, memorable hook, or stronger melodic inventiveness The Orioles can only do so much and this time it’s not enough.

If I Pretended You’re Not On My Mind
One of the crucial aspects of this project is to try and explain the musical and cultural landscape of the time these records were made in addition to reviewing the sounds heard on the records themselves. Sometimes that makes things a little crowded on a page but thankfully The Orioles obliged us by delivering a record that was underwhelming so our focus could shift to the practice of giving song credits to disc jockeys, or accepting songs BY disc jockeys, to further their careers.

However Would I Still Be The One In Your Heart wasn’t going to further ANY of their careers much as it was a dull song that only made it to the local New York Cash Box charts thanks to Bryant and Carroll’s incessant plugging of it, even as those without a stake in it were more likely to be put to sleep by the record.

Yet those were secondary considerations, for when it came to these deals it wasn’t that the disc jockeys were expecting to get rich with royalties on any of these songs but rather it was designed to reassure them that their roles on the periphery of the music business were in fact vital enough for such an attempt to be made to placate them in the first place.

As long as artists and record labels continued to feel the need to give them gifts, in whatever form or fashion it took on, then the balance of power would remain fairly even in their minds and both sides would feel comfortable come morning light following these sometimes unsavory arrangements they transacted after dark.


(Visit the Artist page of The Orioles for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
The Blenders (May, 1950)