THE UNUSUAL STORY OF A GREAT HIT SONG
OF THE 60'S
The usual reasons for writing songs (including those which turned out to be "hits") was the need to have music for particular scenes or routines in Broadway shows, movies or revues. Occasionally, however, there were instances where songs came to be under strange, if not bizarre circumstances.
This is the story of a song with an amazing origin -- and an incident relating to it which surely deserves to be categorized as a synchronicity.*
In February of 1957, a Youngstown, Ohio housewife named Sadie Vimmerstedt (who had been a staunch fan of Frank Sinatra) was so affected by her own personal outrage about "what he had done to Nancy," scribbled a note on a piece of lined kitchen calendar paper and sent it to Johnny Mercer, the great lyricist. The following is the substance of what she wrote:
"Dear Johnny Mercer, I want you to write a song called "I WANT TO BE AROUND TO PICK UP THE PIECES WHEN SOMEBODY BREAKS YOUR HEART!' Then, Frankie boy will be sorry for what he did to poor Nancy!"
In February of 1959, Sadie received a letter from Johnnie Mercer in which he said approximately the following:
I'm sorry I've taken so long to reply to your note. I've been very busy with many things, including completing the song, ("I Wanna Be Around") and getting the right singer to sing it. I've finally gotten Tony Bennett to be the vocalist and he will sing it on the Steve Allen show."
The rest is history. The song became a huge hit and was even nominated for a Grammy award in 1963. Johnny Mercer gave Sadie Vimmerstedt a 50% share of the song's royalties. But that's not the end of this story. Because of its unusual nature, I began telling it in my own musical shows. On one such occasion, I was presenting a program in Virginia, and in the audience was a person, Tony Stein, who was a writer for a newspaper, THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT. He mentioned in his column about his having attended my program at Virginia Tech and that he particularly enjoyed the story about Sadie Vimmerstedt and Johnny Mercer.
And now, the synchronicity"*
A few years after that event, I received (to my great astonishment) an email which read: "You had it all right! My family became close friends of the Mercers and at Johnny's invitation, we made many yearly trips to his home in Savannah to celebrate his birthday."
(The email was from Sadie Vimmerstedt's daughter!)
After that, she and I exchanged several emails. Great story,