Saturday, 7 December 2013

Who remembers Wink Martindale?

A friend of mine is an avid poker player. A game of great mystery to me and the mystery deepens every time she (Ms X mentioned in a previous post here but revealed as The Baffer in the clip above) puts something on Facebook about her latest exploits. Yesterday was no exception when she seemed to be less than happy with a recent game. At least that's the way I interpreted her remarks: I could be wrong as I don't understand the lingo. However, The Baffer's experiences with her deck of cards brought to mind one Wink Martindale.

I've always had a morbid fascination for spoken word records because the chances are, if there is a spoken word passage or – better still – if it’s entirely narrated rather than sung then it’s almost preordained to be awful. And the granddaddy of all awful spoken word records must be Wink Martindale’s huge hit Deck of Cards. A little research shows that Winston Conrad "Wink" Martindale was born in Jackson, Tennessee, and started his career as a disc jockey at age 17. His version of Deck of Cards, the ridiculous, melodramatic story of a soldier caught playing snap at the back of a church, reached Number Five in the UK charts in 1959. And this wretched record just won’t die: Martindale has been in the charts with it on three different occasions, and it has been recorded by everyone including Max Bygraves (coming up shortly). And the last line of the 'song'?: "I know! I was that soldier!" Rubbish, he wasn’t. The original story, adapted for Wink's recording, has been around since at least 1762 – 180 years before WW2.

Wink has had a successful TV career over the years hosting a series of game shows, including What's This Song?, Trivial Pursuit, Boggle and Debt. Why didn't we get to see them over here? Apparently he still pops up on USA TV every now and again. Who knows, he may even still be singing Deck of Cards. Listen and, if you are of a certain age, indulge in a little nostalgia.

As an extra helping of awfulness, I’ve included Max Bygraves’ version of this appalling song. Inexplicably popular, especially as the man was a dreadful singer, pedestrian comedian and a terrible game show host (another thing he shared with Wink), old waxy Maxy’s career began in earnest shortly after WW2. He appeared in a number of cringeworthy films (believe me, they were. I saw a few of them. Why?) before
establishing himself as a housewives'
favourite, releasing an endless stream of albums and singles through the 50s and 60s (will anyone admit to remembering the SingalongaMax series?). When he issued his version of Deck of Cards (in 1973) it managed to reach Number 13 in the charts. Sniffing out the possibility of a few more sales, the Martindale version was reissued, reaching Number 22. Can you imagine - two versions of the song in the charts at the same time? What was wrong with us? Was this in reaction to Ted Heath's Conservative government? Yet another thing to blame on the Tories?
Max died last August (2012), just a couple of months shy of his 90th birthday. Married to former WAAF sergeant Blossom Murray, with whom he had three children, for almost 70 years, naughty Maxy also fathered three other illegitimate children who, although he went to great lengths to distance himself from, finally made peace with the serial philanderer shortly before his death. But this shouldn't detract from your vicarious enjoyment of his version of Wink's masterpiece. Listen and be amazed at how Max can take it down a couple more notches on the naffness scale.

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