A Week of Fridays: Russ Morgan & the Gay Sisters, “Metro Polka”

The man who provides today’s entry goes by many names. For our purposes, we’ll opt for Phantom Third Channel, the ingenious moniker he adopts when overseeing his regular shift at WPRK. Or, for that matter, one of the countless substitute shifts he takes on during any given week, being a willing slave to music like few others I know. By simply moving his personal record collection to a storefront he would immediately have an inventory that would make any competitors shudder, agape with wonder at how they could ever keep up. Record-shopping with him is a delight, if only because its amusing to see the eyes of record store proprietors light up as if their long-lost son had just jingled the bell above the door. Should it arise, do not pass up the opportunity to have him explain to you how The Who invented New Wave.

Pop music is novelty…

Even the most high minded (maybe even more so:think prog rock) trends through the consumerist cycle of popularity, parody and obscurity. It is at these entropic ends that music becomes truly interesting; containing a tacit developed culture autonomous from original context while also startlingly foreign to current tastes. Tiny (tinny) transmissions from other worlds freed from the prisons of authorial intent. (Talk about high minded.)

Originally penned by Country Music Hall of Famer) George Vaughn Horton in 1951 for his own group The Pinetoppers, “Metro Polka” is a radio ready mid-tempo toe tapper of 50’s gender politics; an innocent instructive tale about female apron aspirations.

Russ Morgan was a big band leader known for his involvement in writing the American standard “You’re nobody Til Somebody Loves You.” Although slight, the details he would add to his version of “Metro Polka” move it into another realm. The use of Mary Lou’s folksy untrained soprano, aided by the world class yodeling of Betsy, imbibe the lyrics with a heady swirl of euphoria and joy; more of a surrender to the inevitability of being swept up by a moment than a primer for achieving wife and mother status. The choice to include a male sung verse
introduces a mirror to the feelings expressed by the female lead, making this a complicit celebration of the life altering power of music and dance. The line “and now I’ve got a mother in law, a father in law, a brother in law, and seven kids to call me ma/pa” is one of surprise not calculation. In this way, the song takes on a existential patina. Life is what happens while you are busy dancing.

A Haiku on Polka…

Everyone dances
All ages participate
women can dance with women…

This song is about sex…

Russ Morgan & the Gay Sisters, “Metro Polka”

Disclaimer: This song is posted and shared with the understanding that it is out of print and therefore unavailable for purchase in a way that will provide due compensation to both the artist and the proprietor of your favorite local, independently-owned record store. I will gladly remove it from the interweb if requested to do so by someone with due authority to make sure a request.

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