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Monday, September 17, 2007

Some More on Emmett Miller's Any Time

Dreamtime had an email over the weekend that led me into an interesting search for the origin of Emmett Miller's signature song, Any Time.

The song was written in 19 and 21 by a Herbert "Happy" Lawson, of whom there is a little information available on the Web. Any Time has proved to be a durable legacy for Mr. Lawson, though. The song charted as a #1 Country Hit for Eddy Arnold in 19 and 48, 24 years after its creation. Arnold's version also made it to #17 on the Pop charts, and a cover version by Foy Willing and The Riders of the Purple Sage - who would later become Roy Rogers' backup band - placed as a #14 Country hit that same year.

Among many others, Any Time has also been covered by Eddie Fisher, Pat Boone, Patsy Cline, Rosemary Clooney, Duane Eddy, Connie Francis, Bill Haley, Dean Martin, The Osmond Brothers, Arlo Guthrie, and Leon Redbone.

One of the more interesting things about Miller's version of Any Time is that it includes three opening stanzas that aren't part of the printed sheet music. Lawson's "official" version, and the one used by most performers with some variations, has the lyrics...

Any time you're feeling lonely
Any time you're feeling blue
Any time you're feeling down-hearted
That will prove your love for me is true.

Any time you're thinking 'bout me
That's the time I'll be thinking of you
So, any time you say you want me back again
That's the time I'll come back home to you.
Fairly straightforward, right? It could be a spooner singing goodnight to his sweetie, or even a soldier bidding his girl goodbye. But Miller's version puts a darker spin on the song...
Now, I'm so sad and blue
'bout nobody but you
Why you don't seem the same to me.

I told you that I love you
right from the start
You told me the very same thing
and now you try to break my little heart.

If you don't want me
Why don't you come on and tell me so
I love you, and I'll say just before I go....

Now, any time that you are lonely
Any time that you are blue
Now, any time you're feeling down-hearted
That will prove to you my love is true.

Now, any time you're thinking of me
That's the time I'll think of you
Now, any time you want me back again
That's the time I'll come back to you.
... which describes a breakup much more emphatically than Lawson's version. I'm guessing that because he did Any Time as part of his minstrel act, Miller added the opening stanzas as a skit he performed with a female partner... probably something to the effect of her telling him her love had gone cold, his replying with the little three-stanza ditty about how she's made him "sad and blue," and then his going into the actual Lawson song.

But there's also a surprising variation from Lawson's in the last line of the fourth stanza, with Miller clearly singing, That will prove to you my love is true, rather than the printed lyrics, That will prove your love for me is true. Miller's singer emphasizes that his love is so true that it will overwhelm the girl's feelings, whether she's actually in love with him or not. Lawson's singer more reassuringly notes that the girl's feelings are natural because she's already in love with him.

At this point, I could pull a Nick Tosches and start bringing in everything from Bob Dylan to how the introduction of the automobile was changing American dating habits in the `20s, but I'll resist.

Fascinating guy, that Emmett Miller.

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