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Seven pop, jazz, and/or swing performers covered “The Old Master Painter” in 1950. In the order of their versions as rated on Your Hit Parade, they were: Richard Hayes, Dick Haymes, Peggly Lee & Mel Torme, Phil Harris, Snooky Lanson and Frank Sinatra. It is surprising that Sinatra was the last of these. Now if you Google the song it is Sinatra that dominates. I think it was the Hayes version, the most popular at the time, that excited me sufficiently that I was able to persuade my dad, a Lutheran preacher, to drive me downtown to the record store – next to the Spokane Chronicle building – and buy me a copy. A generous man, he was not, however, enthused with the song’s pantheistic sentimentality. Still he was happy to help his spoiled youngest son of four feed his enthusiasm. Bless you my father.
The lyrics go . . .
THE OLD MASTER PAINTER
That old master painter from the faraway hills
painted the violets and the daff-o-dills
He put the purple in the twilight haze
then did a rainbow for the rainy days
Dreamed up the murals on the blue summer skies
painted the devil in my darlin’s eyes
Captured the dreamer with a thousand thrills
The old master painter from the faraway hills
Then came his masterpiece and when he was through
He smiled down from heaven and he gave me you
What a beautiful job on that wonderful day
That old master painter from the hills far away.
That song and the Haynes happy singing of it is something that still bubbles up for me, and perhaps too often. It is one of my dependable interruptions. An obsessive parody. And it is Sykes slides like these two – the one from the Palouse, most likely, and the other from Utah or perhaps southeast California – that trigger the Old Master in me. (Google Richard Hayes and Old Master Painter and you can hear a fragment of his version. But be kind, I was 12 at the time.)