Name That Tune

30 Jun

Cloudwin has a song stuck in his/her head and needs help extracting it. Using the clues provided, I jump in a help out…

Cloudwin –

That’s an interesting question and it brings back some fond memories from my younger days as a reckless and somewhat awkward teen.

I’m Not Sue was released in 1948 by the Six Tops, a harmonic vocal group whose “barbershop quartet + 2” stylings were the talk of the town for several months. Their popularity reached its peak shortly after the release of I’m Not Sue, a tongue-in-cheek tale about a misdialed phone and a supposedly private conversation.

Of course, the music scene changed drastically in the next couple of years, which did not bode well for those in the harmonizing genre. Bill Haley and his unkempt Comets invented rock music with their single Rock Around the Clock and things would never be the same.

This onslaught of so-called “rock” music steamrolled the unsuspecting Tops, swiftly depleting their record advance and crippling two of their members. They pressed on despite the odds, touring as a 4-member group, playing local dances, state fairs and book burnings.

Those of us who had enjoyed formative experiences with the accompaniment of songs like I’m Not Sue loyally followed the newly-minted Four Tops all over the Greater Midwest, capturing rudimentary live recordings with our reel-to-reel and compiling a fan magazine in our limited downtime.

Rock and roll turned out to be unstoppable, much in the way the Four Tops were not. Soon they were nothing but dusty LPs and faded memories. I was on my way to Korea and my younger brother (and loyal Tops fan) was headed to high school. He soon gave in to peer pressure and became a rock-and-roller, oiling up his pompadour and fathering two children out of wedlock.

I, on the other hand, was exploring the limits of my endurance, working alternating 24-hour watches and making several attempts to be dishonorably discharged. It turned out they needed warm bodies more than they needed respect or loyalty, and I was stuck there for four long years.

In any event, I still remember a few lyrics from I’m Not Sue, and I’d like to share them with you:

“I’m sorry
I thought you were somebody else
I must have dialed ‘5’ instead of ‘4’
Golly, this is awkward
Especially the part about the intimate nickname”

I guess that doesn’t translate to the page very well, but when the Tops deployed their impeccable 6-part harmony, it was like the embarrassed apologies of angels.


Clifton L. Tanager

29 Responses to “Name That Tune”

  1. davehambo June 30, 2010 at 4:27 am #

    I was never quite sure if paleskins were allowed to enjoy the Four Tops, but I did. It seems only one of the original quartet is till with us, Abdul ‘Duke’ Fakir who still sings it out at the tender age of 74 years;

    • Clifton L. Tanager July 2, 2010 at 5:50 am #

      Dave –

      I don’t think a lack of pigmentation ever stopped my brother or I from enjoying the 6/4 Tops. We only seemed to get disapproving glares from the type of people who hate to see anyone enjoying anything.

      And good for Duke. Being 74 is no reason to stop doing the things you love. Unless what you really love is less than half your age.

  2. bschooled June 30, 2010 at 7:29 am #

    I’m sorry, Clifton. I made it to the second paragraph when my computer screen suddenly found itself covered in orange juice (and a splash of vodka, for taste).

    I’ll be back as soon as I clean up. Normally I wouldn’t bother, but seeing as “my computer screen” is actually my Mother’s computer screen, I’m left with no choice.

    • bschooled July 1, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

      Ok, I’m back. Sorry about that, for some reason the song “I’m Not Sue” brings back bad memories for me, probably because I spent the first few years of my life being called “Sue”. I mean, had I been able to correct them it probably wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but at the time I couldn’t speak. And I guess I also felt a little weird about it, seeing as they were my parents.

      But that’s neither here nor there.

      I believe it when you say this song was like the embarrassed apologies of angels. I can only imagine how many respectable young Sallys, or Donnas, or “Whatever you want it to bes”, were de-flowered in the back of a 1946 Ford Anglia while this song played in the background. It probably played a big part in the low but still existent divorce rate as well, especially when that “intimate nickname” somehow made its way back to the husbands, who just so happened to be stationed overseas at the time.

      You saved the day once again, Clifton. Thanks to your stellar memory/teen awkwardness, people like Cloudwin can finally sleep at night.


    • Clifton L. Tanager July 2, 2010 at 6:18 am #

      Bschooled –

      If I know your mother (and I’m fairly positive I don’t), that’s not the first time vodka has been sprayed all over that screen. (I think you mentioned she uses it as an all-purpose cleaner…)

      I’m sorry to hear about your early experiences as a misnamed child, bschooled. I would guess that your parents were every bit as attentive as mine, who often seemed to feel that a child’s name was really a formality.

      However, as you point out, the 6/4 Tops made some of the best necking music around in those days, leading to an outbreak of deflowering in the general vicinity. An extra rotation of policemen failed to slow the activity and soon our sleepy town was up all night dealing with a slew of hastily-named and quickly-ignored children.

      I sincerely hope you are right and that Cloudwin has finally nailed down the nameless song in his or her head, bschooled. It’s a shame it’s too late to do anything about Cloudwin’s name, though, which seems to be the result of some rather careless/carefree parenting.

  3. jammer5 June 30, 2010 at 7:50 am #

    Ditto on the Tops. I remember being in high school, wishing at the time I could father children out of wedlock, or at least try, and listening to them. Not at the same time I was trying . . . hey, maybe if I had been listening . . .

    As for Cloudwin getting that song out of his/her head? Have him/her listen to that great tune, “If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Aren’t You Dead Yet?” by the Cannibalistic Monkeys.

    • Clifton L. Tanager July 2, 2010 at 6:38 am #

      Jammer5 –

      High school was a great time. So many great songs leading to so many bastard offspring, which in turn led to so many of us joining the military to escape angry fathers and their loaded rifles.

      Of course, we ended up running into a whole new set of loaded rifles, but at least these shooters had no idea where we lived and were unconcerned with the outcome of our pending paternity suits.

  4. Donald Mills June 30, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    Best regards Clifton,

    I’m not sure if you are aware but there is also a Hap Calloway song of the same title. Hap, as you’ll recall, was the slightly lesser known and more volatile brother of Cab Calloway.

    I dug up the 78 this morning and jotted down the lyrics.

    I’m not Arnie,
    Don’t call me Lou,
    My name isn’t Neville
    And I’m not Sue

    I’m not an Italian
    Not from Kalamazoo
    Don’t believe that I’m Scottish
    Please stop calling me Sue

    I don’t like bananas
    Can’t eat a cashew
    Don’t want to snack on corn bread
    Listen…seriously…stop calling me Sue, okay?

    Never trained as a cobbler
    Nor as a gumshoe
    Didn’t earn a living as a mason
    Enough with calling me Sue. Look, what the Hell?. It’s not funny anymore, man.

    Never had conjunctivitis
    Or caught myself the flue
    Don’t have the brain fever
    What? Are you deaf? I’m not Sue. Seriously, one more crack and I’m going to stuff this trumpet up your ass.

    Never has a psychiatric evaluation
    Never locked up in Bellevue
    I haven’t needed medication
    Okay, it’s on…

    It sort of digresses from there. Mainly just scat, screaming and the sound of police sirens.

    All the best,


    • Clifton L. Tanager July 2, 2010 at 6:59 am #

      Don –

      Thanks for the wonderful reminder of Hap Calloway’s existence and recording career. I believe my father was a fan and seemed very disappointed when Hap’s steady release schedule was broken up by a 30-year stretch for first-degree manslaughter.

      He would often throw this lively tune onto the Victrola following a win by the Yankees, a team with which he had an intense love/hate relationship. (He loved the Yankees when they won and hated us when they lost.)

      He would jitterbug around the living room, attempting to draw Mom in with his drunken antics and swaying hips. She would sometimes give him a spin or two which usually resulted in him tripping over the ottoman and falling into the china hutch.

      As he would lay there bleeding profusely, he would usually slur something about “bandages in the hall closet” and as to whether there might be a chance he would be “getting some.”

      My mother would reply by hurling his pillows and a blanket at his prone body, saying something to the effect that he should “ask her sister… again.”

      We didn’t really understand what Aunt Beatrice possessed that my Dad wanted “some” of, but the general impression was that he had gone to that well once too often, and no amount of bleeding was going to change that.

      Thanks again for the amazing comment, Don. And god bless Hap. The angels are calling him “Sue” now.

  5. davehambo June 30, 2010 at 9:29 am #

    Dear Mr Don; brilliant!

    • Clifton L. Tanager July 2, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

      Wasn’t it, though? Makes me want to toss this typewriter and head back into obscurity.

  6. Jillsy June 30, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    Leave it to our dear ol’ Don to set the “record” straight!

    • Clifton L. Tanager July 2, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

      He’s a gem. Perhaps someone could knight him or something. Do they do that for Canadians?

  7. thestuffinbetween June 30, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    Um, the lyric is “Party in the USA,” not “I’m not Sue.” The person who wrote the question had two obvious typos: one was “sue,” which was meant to be “sure”; and the other was “is” when it meant “it” (“it” said Party in the USA).

    Sorry to rain on your Party in the USA, Sue. Ish.

    I’ll be going now. I can find my way out. Thanks! 😉

    • superdupermommy July 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

      OMG! Soooo true. Lol 🙂 🙂

    • Clifton L. Tanager July 2, 2010 at 9:39 am #

      Stuff –

      I hadn’t considered that angle. I just figured Cloudwin’s frustration with the until-now nameless but catchy tune was just suffering from some sort of written speech impediment.

      As for the “Party in the USA” lyric: I could not for the life of me remember that being in the Six Tops original so I chose to ignore it.

      Thanks for the tip, Stuff.

  8. Scott Oglesby July 1, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Thank the lord that it’s not me answering these questions because I wouldn’t have known what in tarnation that CLOUDWIN (could you imagine what a Cloudloss would look like if that’s a win?) was talking about.

    The only Sue I could remember was that Peggy Sue but I wasn’t quite sure if she ever did marry that nice Cage boy or not.

    It’s hard to imagine that you were ever an awkward teen. The reckless I can see. Anyway I very much look forward to hearing a bit more about your pre-Korean war youth.

    That was just fantastic that you were able to puzzle that out. Just fantastic.

    • Clifton L. Tanager July 2, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

      Scott –

      Judging from the squarely-smiling face attached to Cloudwin’s question, I can only imagine Cloudloss would look sad. Or maybe quizzical.

      As for the subject matter, I’m not entirely sure myself. I thought I had a somewhat firm grasp on it (or as firm as it gets these days) but Stuff poked some holes in my detective work and SuperDuperMom agreed with Stuff’s statement using all sorts of facial expressions and exclamation points.

      I also misspelled “and” in my opening statement, but I’m going to let it ride in a rare show of solidarity with poor Cloudwin and his/her tune-filled noggin.

      I was a bit of an awkward teen. I sprouted very quickly, beginning at age 12, growing into my pipe nearly two full years before most of my classmates and three years ahead of most of the girls. I will try to highlight a few more of my pre-horrible-formative-experience years in the future.

      Thanks for the compliments, Scott, but I couldn’t have done it without your support, however post-facto.

  9. elizabeth3hersh July 1, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Sorry for the delayed response, Clifton. eBay has a two week “free listing” promotion and I have been busy posting household clutter. While I was there, I thought I would search the Six Tops and browse their LPs. Looks like they were all sold out, but I was able to snag six tops (and bottoms) of some old Tupperware Jell-O cups. I had been looking for those for years, so thanks a bunch!! Well, one click led to another and before long I was taking note of creative slogans I found for coffee mugs and t-shirts:

    “I’m already visualizing you with duct tape over your mouth”

    “You can’t spell slaughter without laughter”

    “Save the trees, wipe your butt with an owl”

    “Extinction Happens”

    …and these cute little slogans on baby clothes by (Aussie retailer) Cotton On:

    “The condom broke”

    “Pardon my nipple breath”

    “I’m living proof my mum is easy”

    This is what happens, Clifton. I get inspired by a recommendation of yours and then I’m off ‘shopping’ and before you know it, I’m late to the game and offering profuse apologies. Just so you know my time wasn’t completely wasted, I entered “The Six Tops” into a saved search so I won’t miss future postings (I hope we won’t get into a bidding war!). Thanks again for the memories, Clifton!

    • Clifton L. Tanager July 2, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

      Elizabeth –

      I think it’s wonderful that you’re out and about (figuratively) propping up our flagging economy with the purchase of mugs and t-shirts bearing phrases best left unsaid (but screen-printing them is fine) and various Jello molds. Not enough people make Jell-o these days, and this recession isn’t helping.

      Good luck on your search for the Six Tops’ releases. As far as I know, they only put out the “I’m Not Sue” as a limited-edition Flexi-disc through Sub Pop. There were only 200 copies made and most were purchased by the band members themselves to attract major label attention.

      They never got to the big time as a 6-piece outfit. Their next break was at a mid-size label. As they entered the studio to record their new material, the producer looked at the limited space and declared he only had room for “four, tops.” The rest is history.

  10. Dan McGinley July 5, 2010 at 1:52 am #

    Damn, clifton. You KNOW it had a huge impact on the immortal Johnny Cash, who sang, “My name is Sue, how do you do . . . now you gonna die!” [A Boy Named Sue, duh]

    Wow. History is once again wrapped in history. Great post!

    • Clifton L. Tanager July 5, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

      Dan –

      It had quite an impact on Johnny Cash, so much so that the remaining four (4) Tops constantly harassed him about supposed back payment on royalties. It didn’t take them long to drive the Man in Black up the wall, where he can now be utilized as a coat hook:

      Thanks for the comment and vist, Dan. Always a pleasure having you here.

      • Dan McGinley July 6, 2010 at 11:17 am #

        Wow. I finally got back and followed that link and had a great laugh. When my daughter gets older (say, nine), I may get that coat hook! Thanks, Clifton!

  11. Harmony July 5, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    A few years ago I was attending a charity event in London (we were raising money so those poor Afghan women could get some decent primary-colored beekeeper outfits) and was chatting with Sir Elton John about all sorts of trifles and he mentioned being a fan of the Six Tops. I thought he was pulling my finger, but apparently not.

    • Clifton L. Tanager July 5, 2010 at 8:42 pm #

      Harmony –

      Elton John and the Six Tops go way back. If I’m not mistaken, Sir Elton John was a second cousin of one of the original members. Unfortunately, he was unable to keep his relative in the band when the cutting began, thanks to his hectic accessory-buying schedule (mainly glasses, really) and a basic lack of sway in the musical field (this was in his pre-Sir and pre-lucrative career days).

      Thanks for stopping in, Harmony. I’m as relieved as you are that Sir Elton wasn’t pulling your finger.

    • thestuffinbetween July 5, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

      ROFL @ primary-colored beekeeper outfits, Harmony!

      I am only wondering what it was that Elton was pulling if it wasn’t your finger? That could be an issue. Maybe not for Elton, and maybe not even for you, but it would certainly be an issue for the Afghan women.

  12. Ulysses July 6, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    So we can blame the traveling Dead Heads on you and your cronies, can’t we, Clifton?

    • Clifton L. Tanager July 7, 2010 at 5:20 am #


      I’m afraid so. It was never supposed to turn out to be some sort of unwashed obssession. We were simply interested in visiting as many county fairs as possible, with the Six Tops’ performances as icing on the funnel cake.

      Thanks for the comment and visit, Ulysses.


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