Mr. Cole Won’t Rock & Roll

Thanks to Ben Yagoda’s The B-Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song for hipping me to an obscure song written for Nat (King) Cole by Joe & Noel Sherman.  As far as I can tell, “Mr. Cole Won’t Rock ‘n’ Roll” was only performed live – no studio recordings appear to have been released:

“Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll”     Nat ‘King’ Cole     1960

Once upon a time a song had melody and rhyme
And lovely ballads used to fill the air
The songs were sweet and lyrical,
And sang about the miracle
Of love in bloom and love beyond despair.
But gone are the June songs,
The how-high-the-moon songs.
And baritones who used to sing romantic
Are singing songs more frantic than romantic.
A-one, a-two, a-three o’clock, a-four o’clock rock.
You gotta sing rock or else you go in hock.
Five, a-six, a-seven o’clock, a-eight o’clock roll.
Throw away your senses and your self-control.
But brother I’ve got news,
Mr. Cole won’t rock and roll!

“Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll” was the final song of a set recorded live at the Sands, Las Vegas on January 14, 1960 that was – according to Discogs.com – “a special after-hours (2:30 to 5:00 A.M.!) performance for friends and entertainers who couldn’t see his regular shows because of Vegas engagements of their own.  Some notable celebrities in the audience during the show:  Jackie Gleason, Louis Prima, Keely Smith, Joe E. Lewis, Francis Faye & Jack Carter.”

Mark Baszak & Edward Cohen would write about this acid-tongued retort to a younger generation infatuated with the Big Beat in Such Sweet Thunder: Views on Black American Music:

“‘Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll’ was a show stopper with Nat’s nightclub audiences, who were made up of well-heeled, sophisticates and society types who didn’t share the kids’ taste for rock and roll.  Nat never recorded that song, and Joe Sherman privately owns the only tape known to exist.  Perhaps Nat didn’t want to have that recording played on the radio because he might not have wanted to offend the people who seemed to be going along with the trend toward rock and roll.”

Marc Myers at JazzWax would also write:

“Cole also believed that rock’s simplistic, physical message was demeaning for someone of his polished stature.  His distaste for the new music was so well known within his circle that a song was written for him, “Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll.”  But Cole wouldn’t touch it.   According to biographer Leslie Gourse, Cole didn’t like songs with hidden messages.”

I have to admit, this song has prompted me to renounced the error of my ways.  Ergo, I will only feature ASCAP compositions from the Great American Songbook from this point on.

4 thoughts on “Mr. Cole Won’t Rock & Roll

  1. Pingback: The Story of Rock | The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

  2. But of course, Mr. Cole did rock & roll on at least one occasion. Send For Me hit #1 on the R&B chart in 1957. It may not have the biggest beat, but it does rock.

  3. And if anyone cares or tries to search online for the rest of the lyrics (which are great), here they are:

    Once upon a time a song had melody and rhyme
    And lovely ballads used to fill the air!
    The songs were sweet and lyrical,
    And sang about the miracle
    Of love in bloom and love beyond despair.

    But gone are the June songs,
    The how-high-the-moon songs.
    And baritones who used to sing romantic
    Are singing songs more frantic than romantic.

    A-one, a-two, a-three o’clock, a-four o’clock rock.
    You gotta sing rock or else you go in hock.
    Five, a-six, a-seven o’clock, a-eight o’clock roll.
    Throw away your senses and your self-control.
    But brother I’ve got news,
    Mr. Cole won’t rock and roll!

    There some simple rules, some don’ts and dos
    If you want to sell a record, stick to rumpus’ old shoes
    Dungarees, bubble gum, peroxide side hair
    Not a day dream, girl, it’s a real nightmare
    But no no no,
    Mr. Cole won’t rock and roll!

    Now when a guy has got an eye for some tomatah
    He would never dare, to call her lady fair,
    If he doesn’t call his girl an alligator
    He’s the lowest form of human
    He’s a square…

    Now when tin-pan alley serenades a beauty
    Do they sing of Rosemarie or sweet Lorraine?
    No, they dedicate a hymn to tutti-frutti
    Who’s as tender as a dame from Micky Spillane

    Ahoohwah oohwah, ahoohwah oohwah, ahoohwah oohwah,
    Why do foo-ools fall in lo-ove?
    Ahoohwah oohwah, ahoohwah oohwah, ahoohwah oohwah,
    Cookie, go park the car.

    (You know, I often wondered if Rock and Roll had been out quite a few years ago, whether some of the songs that were popular then, might have sounded a wee bit like this…)

    Pretend your sloppy when your blue ooh ooh ooh ooh
    Some beat-up dungarees will do ooh ooh ooh ooh

    (Or perhaps…)

    Answer me, daddy-oh,
    Does your mother come from Kokomo
    All she ever says is go go go
    Forget it, daddy-oh

    They (they)
    A they tried (they tried)
    A they tried a to (they tried a to)
    A they tried a to tell (they tried a to tell)
    A they tried a to tell us (what?)
    They tried to tell us we’re too young
    To go ste-eh-eady my lo-ove
    Eady, my lo-ove

    Talk to me Mona, whisper in my ear
    I said, talk to me Mona, whisper in my ear
    Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, you’re to wholesome
    Won’t you dig me at the coffee house tonight
    Many cats have been drug on your doorstep
    They just lie there, and they die there!
    Let’m lie there, let’m die there!
    Oh Mona, don’t be mean, let’s make the scene tonight.

    (And we can’t forget this one by all means…)

    There was a cat
    A very strange enchanted cat
    They say he traveled very far
    Played guitar
    In his hopped-up car.
    He said, come dwell,
    In heartbreak hotel.
    I think Elvis was his name.
    And then one day,
    The crazy day he passed my way,
    And while we spoke of many things,
    Hot rod kings,
    Daddy-oh said he.
    The greatest thing,
    You’ll ever learn,
    Is just to rock and be rolled in return!

    I said a-one, a-two, a-three o’clock, a-four o’clock rock.
    You gotta sing rock or else you go in hock.
    Five, a-six, a-seven o’clock, a-eight o’clock roll.
    Throw away your senses and your self-control.
    But brother I’ve got news, sir
    Nathaniel must refuse ya,
    Mr. Cole
    Won’t rock and roll!

    (What, what am I doin’? I got carried away over there…)

    I’ve got news, sir
    Nathaniel must refuse ya,
    Mr. Cole
    Won’t rock and roll!

    (Could if I wanted, though)

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