…leaving, leaving, leaving…me

As a radio format, Easy Listening first emerged in the post-Big Band Era ’50s and is now a rather broad category that can include anything from Lounge and “Light” Music to Soft-Rock, “Nu-Jazz” and Space Age Pop (look for an Esquivel selection, coming soon, straight from a bachelor pad near you).

Although it has its detractors and, let’s face it, too much of anything is too much, there are times when a little dab of the easy stuff is just the thing, and with his mellow baritone and trademark (Andy Griffith-like) whistle, you don’t get much easier than Roger Whittaker.

A true Anglo-Kenyan Colonialist (born in 1936 when Kenya was still a Crown Colony), my own favorite memory of the man was in 1982, when he was “victim” on the British version of “This is Your Life,” where every week Eamonn Andrews, the presenter, would surprise a featured subject and revisit his/her life in pictures and with stories and testimonials from old friends and family members, some of whom would be flown in from afar. The show stopped live broadcasting the following year, by the way, when another of the “victims,” a retired professional boxer, couldn’t stop swearing.

What was memorable about the Roger Whittaker episode was that one of the surprise “friends” was a London Bobby who had once stopped him for speeding around Trafalgar Square.  When Whittaker tried to pretend he didn’t speak English by answering in Swahili, he soon realized that he was speaking to the only policeman on the entire London Police Department who spoke Swahili. The cop gave him a ticket that day and now here he was,with Eamonn Andrews pronouncing,  “Roger Whittaker, this is your life!”

Of course, old Eamonn had already covered some of the other basics, observing how Roger was born in Nairobi to Edward and Viola Whitaker, who had moved from England to a farm in Kenya for the warmer climate.   How he’d spent two years in the Kenya Regiment after being drafted into National Service and how he ultimately landed in Britain where he hoped to pursue a teaching career, while (where have we heard this before?) singing in local pubs and clubs, eventually being discovered and landing a record deal in 1962.

Written, recorded and released by Whittaker in 1969, “Durham Town (The Leavin’)” was his first big hit in the UK, reaching Number 12 on the charts.  It was quickly followed by (the slightly more saccharine)“The Last Farewell” and “New World in the Morning,” which would hit it big on the U.S. Billboard Easy Listening charts and help to provide the mellow (except when behind the wheel) Roger Whittaker with the easygoing worldwide audience he has enjoyed ever since.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Wednesday 9 May

Durham Town (The Leavin’)

 I’ve got to leave old Durham town

I’ve got to leave old Durham town

I’ve got to leave old Durham town

And that leaving’s gonna’ get me down

 Back in nineteen forty-four

I remember Daddy walking out the door

Mama told me he was going to war

He was leaving

Leaving, leaving, leaving, leaving…me

 Now, I’ve got to leave old Durham town

I’ve got to leave old Durham town

I’ve got to leave old Durham town

And that leaving’s gonna’ get me down

 When I was a boy, I spent my time

Sitting on the banks of the River Tyne

Watching all the ships going down the line

They were leaving

Leaving, leaving, leaving, leaving…me

Now, I’ve got to leave old Durham town

I’ve got to leave old Durham town

I’ve got to leave old Durham town

And that leaving’s gonna’ get me down

Last week Mama passed away

Good-bye, son, was all she’d say

There’s no cause for me to stay,

So I’m leaving

Leaving, leaving, leaving, leaving…free

Now, I’ve got to leave old Durham town

I’ve got to leave old Durham town

I’ve got to leave old Durham town

And that leaving’s gonna’ get me…

 I’ve got to leave old Durham town

I’ve got to leave old Durham town

I’ve got to leave old Durham town

And that leaving’s gonna’ get me…

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