National Recording Registry Welcomes 11 Classic ASCAP Recordings to the Neighborhood
March 26, 2020
The gentle sounds of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood; Dr. Dre’s iconic Cali flow on The Chronic; Whitney Houston’s singular performance of “I Will Always Love You;” Jimmy Webb’s beloved “Wichita Lineman;” and Maria Schneider’s breathtaking Concert in the Garden are among the newest recordings inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. Others include Allan Sherman’s side-splitting “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh,” A 1953 recording of Puccini’s Tosca starring Maria Callas and Memphis Minnie’s “Me and My Chauffeur Blues.”
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today named these and 20 other recordings as aural treasures worthy of preservation because of their cultural, historical and aesthetic importance to the nation’s recorded sound heritage.
“The National Recording Registry is the evolving playlist of the American soundscape. It reflects moments in history captured through the voices and sounds of the time,” said Hayden. “We received over 800 nominations this year for culturally, historically or aesthetically significant recordings to add to the registry. As genres and formats continue to expand, the Library of Congress is committed to working with our many partners to preserve the sounds that have touched our hearts and shaped our culture.”
Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian, with advice from the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB), is tasked with annually selecting 25 titles that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and are at least 10 years old. More information on the National Recording Registry can be found here.
The new recordings added to the National Recording Registry bring the total number of titles on the registry to 550, a small part of the Library’s vast recorded-sound collection of nearly 3 million items.
Check out this list of the 11 inducted recordings made by ASCAP members, or featuring music written by ASCAP members. Scroll down to hear them on Spotify.
“Whispering” (single), Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra (1920)
ASCAP composer Paul Whiteman’s blockbuster hit “Whispering” was the first in a long series of popular recordings that sharply defined a new style and direction in instrumental dance music — one that would have long-lasting effects. Though rather quaint to modern ears, “Whispering” was made at the pinnacle of up-to-date dance music and directly led to the Big Band Era. Among its attributes were bold, clean lines with the melody clearly in front. Gone was the old fashioned-ness of the lead being handed off to different voices mid-chorus. Also, harmonic and rhythmic support was pared down to a sleek, tasteful profile, one that encouraged the smart-looking updated fox-trot of 1920. With his pianist-arranger, Ferde Grofe, and ace trumpet man Henry Busse, Whiteman would both codify a type of jazz and be popularly considered its king.
“Me and My Chauffeur Blues” (single), Memphis Minnie (1941)
ASCAP blues legend Lizzie Douglas, better known as Memphis Minnie, was born circa 1897 in Algiers, Louisiana. She took up guitar as a child after her family moved to the Memphis, Tennessee, area in 1904 and was singing and playing on Beale Street in Memphis by the age of 13. She started recording under the name “Memphis Minnie” for the Columbia label in 1929 and went on to record over 200 songs, more than any other female country blues artist. “Me and My Chauffer Blues” showcases her aggressive and uncompromising vocal delivery and stinging guitar work. It also is her best known song, thanks in part to later covers by Big Mama Thornton, Nina Simone and Jefferson Airplane.
Puccini’s Tosca (album), Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Angelo Mercuriali, Tito Gobbi, Melchiorre Luise, Dario Caselli, Victor de Sabata (1953)
In 1981, Christian Science Monitor critic Thor Eckert Jr. wrote a critique of the recording history of ASCAP affiliate Puccini’s Tosca and said, “In 1953 Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi, and maestro Victor de Sabata along with the forces of La Scala Opera gathered to make recording history — the finest ‘Tosca’ of all time, and one of the greatest recordings of an opera on records.” To date, no other Tosca has equaled this performance. Produced by Walter Legge, the recording captured one of Callas’ greatest triumphs. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians would later state, “Among her contemporaries she had the deepest comprehension of the Classical Italian style, the most musical instincts and the most intelligent approach,” while Leonard Bernstein would call her “the Bible of opera.”
“Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” (single), Allan Sherman (1963)
“Hello Muddah” is a comic novelty song with lyrics written by ASCAP songwriter Allan Sherman and Lou Busch (to the tune of Ponchielli's “Dance of the Hours”) in which a boy describes his summer camp experiences at the fictional Camp Granada. At the time of the recording, Sherman was an intermittently successful television writer and producer specializing in game shows, while Busch was best known in the persona of ragtime pianist Joe “Fingers” Carr. Sherman lived in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles and occasionally performed his song parodies for well-known neighbors like Harpo Marx and George Burns. Burns brought him to the attention of Warner Bros. Records. Sherman’s first two albums, released in 1962 and 1963, topped the charts, but it would be this single from his third album, “My Son, the Nut,” that immortalized him. The lyrics were based on letters of complaint Sherman received from his son, Robert, while the boy was attending a summer camp in Westport, New York. The opening lines are remembered fondly by three (or more) generations of Americans: “Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh / Here I am at Camp Granada.”
“Wichita Lineman” (single), Glen Campbell (1968)
Glen Campbell made a splash on both the country and pop charts and achieved enormous fame in the ’60s and ’70s with a singing style that matched a genial tone with introspective lyrics, emphasizing them in a way that made him ideal for modern country songwriters, most notably Jimmy Webb (an ASCAP Board member). Webb conceived the tale behind “Wichita Lineman” while driving through Washita County, Oklahoma, during a time when counties had their own telephone company utilities and lineman employees. Among the endless lines of poles was a silhouetted lineman who struck Webb as “the picture of loneliness.” What was the man saying into the receiver? Webb placed himself in the man’s head and, with lingering feelings from an affair with a married woman, crafted one of the most beautiful songs to ever climb the charts. With the location changed from Washita to the more euphonious Wichita (of Kansas), “Wichita Lineman” struck listeners with its poetic lyrics about a man attempting to make a romantic connection in the face of his own crippling loneliness. BBC Radio 2 recently described the song as “one of those rare songs that seems somehow to exist in a world of its own — not just timeless but ultimately outside of modern music.”
Mister Rogers Sings 21 Favorite Songs From ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ (album), Fred Rogers (1973)
Almost two decades after the last broadcast of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” in 2001, Fred Rogers remains an influential figure in American culture. As an enduring presence on national public television since 1968, Rogers emphasized holistic child development through play, curiosity and human interaction, while fostering emotional intelligence. Rogers held a bachelor’s degree in music composition and aptly leveraged the potential of music to influence emotion, memory and cognitive development by composing prolifically for his program. Numerous musical guests and the consistent presence of an in-house jazz trio led by pianist Johnny Costa also exposed listeners to a wide range of high-quality music. Certain tunes became synonymous with the program, especially the opening and closing themes as well as “You Are Special” and “I’m Proud of You.” His recitation of his lyrics for “What Do You Do (With the Mad That You Feel)” was a high point of his 1969 testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications that helped save funding for public broadcasting.
Holst: Suite No. 1 in E-Flat, Suite No. 2 in F / Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks / Bach: Fantasia in G (special edition audiophile pressing), Frederick Fennell and the Cleveland Symphonic Winds (1978)
This recording, by the Cleveland Symphonic Winds conducted by ASCAP member Frederick Fennell, was the first commercial digital recording of symphonic music in the United States and was captured on the Soundstream recorder, the first available commercial digital recorder, introduced by U.S. inventor Thomas Stockham. The original recording was released to vinyl in 1978 and then again in 1983 as the first CD release for the U.S.-based Telarc label. The recording was produced by Robert Woods and engineered by Jack Renner, co-founders of the Telarc label. Telarc and Soundstream worked together, increasing the capability of the Soundstream recorder, and the results had an immediate impact on audiences around the globe. The World Book Encyclopedia described this recording as having “the bass drum heard around the world.”
The Chronic (album), Dr. Dre (1992)
“The Chronic” is the 1992 solo debut album of hip-hop artist and producer Dr. Dre, a former member of N.W.A. Along with exemplifying the “G Funk” style of hip-hop production, it solidified the West Coast’s dominance of the genre, and its influence would be heard for years to come. Although a solo album, “The Chronic” also featured appearances by future superstar Snoop Dogg, who used the album as a launching pad for his own solo career. “The Chronic” is considered one of the most important and influential albums of the 1990s and is regarded by many fans and peers to be the most well-produced hip-hop album of all time.
“I Will Always Love You” (single), Whitney Houston (1992)
Inspired in part by the end of her musical partnership with Porter Wagoner, this song had been a big hit on the 1974 country charts for its writer, Dolly Parton. Later, it would become one of her signature compositions; over the years, she often concluded her concerts and her TV variety shows with it. In the early ’90s, actor Kevin Costner suggested that pop diva Whitney Houston record it for the soundtrack of their forthcoming film, “The Bodyguard.” Already recognized as one the great voices of her generation, Houston took the song and made it her own. Her powerful, passionate performance drove her rendition to the top of the charts. The recording would eventually become Houston’s signature song and sell upwards of 20 million copies.
Concert in the Garden (album), Maria Schneider Orchestra (2004)
Dance permeates Maria Schneider’s Concert in the Garden with titles such as “Dança Ilusória” and “Choro Dançado.” Listening to “Pas de Deux,” it is hard not to be reminded of the seminal “Sketches of Spain” album Miles Davis made with arranger Gil Evans’, with whom Schneider worked closely in the 1980s. It is a testament to Schneider’s composing and arranging talents that her work can be seen not as a copy of Evans’ work, but an extension of it. And it is a tribute to her determination and leadership that the Maria Schneider Orchestra was some 15 years old at the time of this recording, with its 18-piece membership largely intact over that entire period. For them, Schneider created an amalgam of big band, chamber music and improvisational jazz. Such improvisation can be seen in Donny McCaslin’s critically acclaimed solo in “Buleria, Solea y Rumba.” In addition, Concert in the Garden was the first album to win a Grammy without having been sold in stores, being only distributed digitally with no fixed format. Also, the album was funded and distributed by crowdfunding site ArtistShare, to respond to fan-driven demand for styles of music not otherwise readily available, while offering artists greater control over their work.
Percussion Concerto (album), Colin Currie (2008)
A drummer’s dream, Jennifer Higdon’s composition “Percussion Concerto” received a Grammy in 2010. It began its life as a co-commission between the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun wrote that the one-movement work “unleashes a kinetic storm of urban beats, balanced by passages of Asian-influenced musings that exploit the most seductive qualities of the diverse percussion instruments assigned to the soloist.” And Marin Alsop, the conductor of this particular performance, said that the concerto “embraces the concept and explains that a major priority for her is to give listeners a sense of grounding and a feel for where they are in her compositions.” This 2008 recording by percussionist supreme Colin Currie — indeed, the piece was written for him — captures his great virtuosity. The piece would go one to win the Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.