"Playin' It Pretty"

© 1978 Lee Ruth

Composed 2/21/1978

MP3

Photo : www.arthurkoch.com

Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou Williams - Vocal & Guitar
  MP3 Sample of Lee's Original

 

Song Lyrics:
Lee's Lyrics:
When he was younger, he wanted to be Elvis/The big beat, and electric guitars

Rockin' and a rollin', shakin' his pelvis/ Joining the ranks of the stars

So many guitars playin' so fast, his hands were slow/ What could he do to make it last, many ways to go

But what he really wanted to do was to play it pretty/ It took him years and years to understand

That he was born to play it pretty/ Play it easy, play it softly, play it grand

When she was younger, she was a screamer/ Tearin' her throat up, to make herself heard

But when she wasn't, being a screamer/ She sang as sweet, as any songbird

So many people tryin' so hard, her heart said "no"/ What she found in her own yard, her own way to go

But what she really wanted to do was to sing it pretty/ It didn't take her long to understand

That she was born to sing it pretty/ Sing it softly, sing it easy, sing it grand

Beauty is in, the eye of the needle/ Of the lover, beholder, potato and storm

Dark and delight, stone, fish, and beatle/ Man and woman so warm

A lilting melody, a touch of harmony/ A hint of poetry, and I can hear and see

Some of us were born to play it pretty/ Whatever music is at hand

And anyone who plays it pretty/ Is in the band, mm-mm-mm/ Playin' it pretty, Playin' it grand
--------
When he was younger, he wanted to be Elvis

or is that "beetle"?

When he was younger, he wanted to be Elvis
The big beat, and electric guitars
Rockin' and a rollin', shakin' his pelvis
Joining the ranks of the stars

So many guitars playin' so fast, his hands were slow
What could he do to make it last? Many ways to go

But what he really wanted to do was to play it pretty
It took him years and years to understand
That he was born to play it pretty
Play it easy, play it softly, play it grand
----------
When she was younger, she was a screamer
Tearin' her throat up, to make herself heard
But when she wasn't being a screamer
She sang as sweet as any songbird

So many people trying so hard, her heart said, "No"
What she found in her own yard, her own way to go

But what she really wanted to do was to sing it pretty
It didn't take her long to understand
That she was born to sing it pretty
Sing it easy, sing it softly, sing it grand
----------
Beauty is in the eye of the needle,
Of the lover, beholder, potato and storm Dark and delight, stone, fish, and beetle
Man and woman so warm

A lilting melody, a touch of harmony,
A hint of poetry, and I can hear and see

Some of us were born to play it pretty
Whatever music is at hand
And anyone who plays it pretty
Is in the band, mmm-hmmm-mmm
Playin' it pretty, playin' it grand

When he was younger, he wanted to be Elvis

Artist on the Song:
Lee on the Song:
Why I chose "Playin' It Pretty"? It is such a well-written tune all 'round, but I'd have to say the bottom line reason is the line: "Anyone who plays it pretty is in the band" --Every time I hear that line, or sing it, it lightens the heavy burden on my heart. Written in February 1978, "Playing It Pretty" was a musical reflection on my own long, slow musical journey from rockabilly crazed teenager to middle-aged folkie-seeker-after-beauty. Since most of the rockabilly cats sang pretty songs too, it seems that I didn't really land all that far from where I started out at age 16. Rockabilly synthesized many musical influences and had pointed my musical attention in many directions. In the song, I also envisioned a female musician, on a parallel course to mine, who was a much quicker study than I'd been, and I used verse 3 to catalog a diverse list of items that could be said to have "eyes" that both perceived and served as channels into beauty.
Artist on Lee Ruth:
Lee on the Artist:

Lee Ruth got me to saving strings, and it's a habit I just can't break, all my life. It just seems like a darn fine idea. Besides, it always brings Lee to mind when I save those strings that aren't too bad, because, what if the bridge gets washed out + you're out of new strings? And maybe the whole side of the water will need strings too. Everything Lee always does is about a philosophy that basically says be of good service to your fellow man (darn that gender lingo, again!), and have fun, because life is such a gift. Here's a story about Lee: we had gone to a concert at Jesse Hall, Jon Luc Ponty I remember, and as the concert let out, a real gully-washer of a rain broke out--one of those sudden storms of springtime in Missouri--and people were grumbling and complaining because no one had umbrellas. We stepped outside, and Lee, calm as you please, looked up and said delightedly, "Dig the rain!"

Okay, that's enough Lee Ruth stories for now. I could start a website.

Though she had been in Columbia for several years, I first met Mary Lou in September 1976, shortly after I returned home from a summer in Crested Butte, Colorado. It's likely that we met at the Chez coffeehouse where we both were hanging out and playing music. She was a good singer and played solid rhythm guitar and had written an amazing body of songs, some pretty, some funky, some clever, always heartfelt and insightful. She had a quirky, almost punk edge to her performances that intrigued me, and we became instant good friends. Over the next few years, we hung out a lot together and wound up sharing a regular Tuesday night performing slot at the Chez. It's quite possible that she was the first person I played "Playing It Pretty" for, certainly one of the first, so it seems appropriate that she chose to do that song.
Producer's Notes:
Recording Credits:
I first remember hearing Mary Lou Williams and Lee Ruth at the Chez Coffee House. I'd often heard Mary Lou walking down the streets of Columbia playing her clarinet. I recently asked her if she continued this minstrel practice out in San Francisco, and she said she did! When this Lee Ruth project first got started, Rocket Kirchner told me that Mary Lou wanted to do " Playin' It Pretty." I said absolutely! So she recorded this version of the song out in San Francisco. Mary Lou also agreed to be our legal huckleberry, if we need one. I told her, "You are most definitely in the Band."

Recorded at Studio Metro, San Francisco

Record Date: Spring 2003

Recorded and engineered by Lisa Sanchez

 

Photo : www.arthurkoch.com

 

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