Songs by Larry Francis
Larry Francis writes . . .
“Got Me a Cat” is a traditional song. I learned this version from a Shep Ginandes Elektra EP vinyl my dad brought home for me sometime in the mid-fifties. I probably sang it with Gordon Williamson and the Huelga School kids in Delano 1970-72. When I became an elementary school teacher, I knew it would be a good one to go with a big chart to help kids learn to read, since the repetitious chorus would have familiar words over and over. (Sure enough, kids loved it, and used it to learn–and teach each other–to read.) It’s from the same cassette–then–CD recorded 22 years ago at Caltex company headquarters in Rumbai, Sumatra, Indonesia. Later, in the 1990’s it was popular with my ESL students in Medford, Oregon, who borrowed tape recorders and songbooks and took the cassettes and songbooks home to practice their English reading and perfect their pronunciation.
Here’s another song from 22 years ago, which we have always called “All God’s Critters”. The version I learned it from was written by Bill Staines and called “A Place in the Choir” ((c) 1978 Bill Staines BMI) and recorded live at the Fall Meeting of the Northern California Conference of the United Church of Christ and included on a cassette tape “To See the Dawn of Peace” (c) 1984 Long Sleeve Records, Box 315, Mill Valley, CA 94942. I almost certainly bought it at the Claremont Folk Music Center in Claremont, CA on an outing with my family when I was teaching at Maple Elementary School in Hesperia. My two children loved it, especially the chorus, “Some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got now…” But they said, “Daddy, what about the birds?” (We all liked birds; they’re easy to like, I think.) So I tucked “or wings” into the chorus, which solved the injustice and stretches the chorus out a little more and I think makes it even better. Since it was so popular at home and since I loved it too, I sung it with my classroom of K-2 students (along with many other songs), and it was a hit again: everyone would do the hand motions, putting up their hands, then making wings, then clenching their fingers in for the paws, then clapping on the beat, one-two-three. Hard to do while playing the guitar, but possible with practice. A couple of years later, when I was teaching K-8 computing and math in central Sumatra for an oil company school, the English Learning Club asked me to play the songs for them. When I did, one of the engineers asked if I would make a recording so the club members could practice. I thought that was a good idea, but I didn’t have a usable tape recorder for recording. He had a nice one and invited me to record in his office after work. There were so many songs that he loaned me the tape recorder so I could finish up at home. We had 36 songs, and I made a songbook to go along with it, so people could practice the singing and reading. This songbook-and-tape combo was used by my ESL students when I came back to Oregon in 1990, and I’ve been using it off and on (mostly off since I retired) ever since. When cassettes went out of style, I found somebody who was nice enough to make a CD to go with the songbook and be more up-to-date.