Somebody Stole My Gal/All of Me

I’ve written before about my father, who was an indefatigable singer of pop songs from his youth in the 1920s, and also about Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band, who were my source for “Somebody Stole My Gal” and over a dozen other songs. I learned this by ear off a Kweskin album, years before my ears were up to the task, and only realized how far off I was when I had the opportunity to open a concert for Guy Van Duser and Billy Novick and Billy very kindly offered to play clarinet on one of my songs. I suggested this one, we tried to run through it, and he informed me that I had the chords completely wrong. I think he may even have tried to learn my version, because he’s a really nice guy, but it was a complete mess, so we did something else.

I eventually got the right chords out of a fake book — a genuine fake book from the old days, illegally printed for cocktail lounge pianists , with 1,000 popular songs, three to a page, and no royalties paid to the songwriters or publishers. By that time, though, I wasn’t playing a lot of old pop tunes, so the song kind of languished in the hinterlands of my memory until I had the good fortune to marry Sandrine Sheon and she decided to pick up the clarinet she had played back in high school, and suddenly I needed a repertoire of early jazz and swing.

It’s also thanks to Sandrine that I discovered the key of Bb. Guitarists don’t naturally gravitate to what jazz players call the “horn keys,” but clarinet is a Bb instrument and when she first got back into playing she was most comfortable in the flat keys, so I had perforce to explore them — and discovered that Bb is a great guitar key because that nice, comfortable F shape is right in the middle of the neck, so you can make it your home base and go up or down as the mood strikes you.

As for “All of Me,” I have no idea where or when I first heard it, or from whom. I know I had learned it by the mid-1970s and enjoyed playing it in appropriate circumstances, but I tended not to perform it onstage because it was also one of the tunes everyone else had learned and enjoyed playing, and there were plenty of less familiar standards to choose from. However… one day Sandrine and I were fooling around with “Somebody Stole My Gal,” and after a few choruses I felt like shifting to another song, and it occurred to me that the narrative could lead into “All of Me,” putting a new twist on the lyric. So here it is, or they are.