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He can play the guitar, the banjo, and—if you must know—the ukulele. And he'll take off his hat to no man when it comes to whistling. Also he can sing a bit (one of his first jobs was that of a song-plugger) and he can play the piano, though not very well. He is a frequent and pop­ular entertainer in various radio hours.
Sure-Fire Formulas
He it was who wrote the ballad of Naomi Wise. And he has written hundreds of others for the recording of which he plays the accompaniment. In the case of the ill-fated Naomi he had an old tale to work with, but he can over­night convert any spot news event into a ballad.
"First I read all the newspaper stories of, say, a disaster," he explains. "Then I get to work on the old typewriter. There's a formula, of course. You start by painting every­thing in gay colors—'the folks were all happy and gay* stuff. That's sure fire. Then you ring in the tragedy—make it as morbid and gruesome as you can. Then you wind up with a moral."
You can get a clear idea of how the Robison formula works out by examining his popular ballad of The Miami Storm which was finished and out of his machine before communication was restored in the stricken area.
He opened with a description of the city by the sea—"a spot that was bright and fair. A city of palm trees and flowers. A garden of beauty rare." A second stanza of sweetness and light, followed by the tragic note:
And then in the darkness of midnight Their laughter was turned to tears;
The wrath of the storm was upon them, That filled every heart with fears.
The wind was the voice of a demon That howled as it crashed through the town;
And great ships were torn from their anchors And broken upon the ground.
And then when the gray dawn came stealing The toll of the storm was known;
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III