October 9, 2011

Coffee and music a perfect blend


---- — Quick, what's the title of the song with the following lyrics? "A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup?" A hint? Ink Spots, 1940. Got it? Of course you do. And now you're singing it with all the lyrics. That's what I like about you. It's "Java Jive."

It's time for another meander down the street marked "Gordie's College of Musical Knowledge." If you're on my wave length, you always have a song going in your head. For me, the first line of William Congreve's 1697 play "The Mourning Bride" rings true: "Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, to soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak." You thought the word was "Beast?" Nope.

This morning, as I shared the day's first cup of black coffee, I hummed "Java Jive" and delved into my oldies collection to listen to Bill Kenny and the Ink Spots, as they recorded it 71 years ago. If you haven't heard it, find it on the Internet and drink to it as I have so often.

"Java Jive" has been sung by many others since 1940. Among the most popular versions are those by The King Sisters in 1941, Manhattan Transfer in the 1970s and by me (rather badly) in the shower at least a thousand times.

I drank at least 30 cups of black coffee each day for almost 36 years while on the radio. It kept me wired for sound. Coffee is one of the reasons I walked away from the business in 1997, but that's a chapter best left to moulder. Thank goodness I gave up the three-and-a-half packs of cigarettes I smoked until 1975. I still drink 10 or more cups daily, and as testimony to that, we have at least a half-dozen working coffee makers here in our "Little" house on the river. I'm not sure we still have a percolator, but we used one for years, and I remember dancing to the "Percolator Twist." Uh, oh. It's now racing through my head. I also remember making that morning pot of java in a glass Silex coffee maker. Do you? Of course, we also "boiled" coffee right on the stove many years ago. By the way, I just measured it out and discovered that my current coffee mug actually holds more than two-and-a-half cups. I might have to revise the tally of my present daily intake.

These days, I'm thoroughly spoiled by my family, and I love it. Our daughter Barbie and her husband, Chris, are now visiting from Long Island. A couple years ago, they sent me a fancy machine that keeps the water hot and brews you a cup of Joe at the touch of a button. The single-cup pods are beastly expensive, but I'm hooked and probably will remain that way. If anybody's looking for Christmas gifts, boxes of coffee pods will do just fine.

Kaye has a little two-cup coffee maker she uses for decaf after that first cup of high test in the morning. I've never had any adverse reaction to gobs of caffeine in my diet, but she doesn't seem to tolerate it later in the day. My late father, the Rev. Russell E. Little, was also a big coffee drinker. I remember visits to the Massena Diner when I was a lad and hearing my dad telling the waitress that, "This coffee has a moorish taste to it." Invariably, the poor server had no clue what he was talking about until he asked for a second cup and a third. I think coffee was a nickel back then.

I've been probing the distant corners of my addled brain and have come up with an almost open-ended list of artists and songs about coffee. We shouldn't forget Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and other more modern folks who have recorded coffee songs.

Music and coffee — two of my favorite subjects. Let's all sing loudly now, "A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!"

Have a great day, pass the coffee, and please, drive carefully.

Gordie Little was for many years a well-known radio personality in the North Country and now hosts the "Our Little Corner" television program for Home Town Cable. Anyone with comments for him may send them to the newspaper or email him at