Welcome to March, folks! As is obvious to anyone who has been steadily surviving my articles over the past 5 years, I've enjoyed Japanese music from way back in the late 19th century to the present day. Despite all that, though, sometimes I've wondered if cosmic confluences interfered so that I was born a generation too late. To wit, I like watching the old stuff on Turner Movie Classics and some of the old television shows from the 50s and 60s. And of course, I do like my jazz whether it be ragtime or swing or bop.
The above is not jazz, though. It's a pop song by Dinah Shore called "Buttons and Bows" that was first released in November 1947 and was created by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. I believe I mentioned Dinah before in another article and remarked how much of a regular TV presence she was in my life; in fact, I remembered being surprised to find out that she had been famous as a singer since I had only known her as the congenial talk show host on NBC.
"Buttons and Bows" had that friendly country swing feeling to it bringing back memories of the old days, and it was a huge hit, peaking at No. 1 on Billboard and lasting 24 weeks on the charts. It's been covered by a number of artists including Bob Hope and Bing Crosby (separately).
Now, lest readers suspect that I'm entering my first totally non-kayo kyoku-related entry here, rest easy. And that is because in 1950, a cover was recorded by singer Mariko Ike（池真理子）with the title of "Botan to Ribon" (Buttons and Ribbons). I found the change in title a bit strange because although the lyrics were transmuted into Japanese by lyricist Katsu Suzuki（鈴木勝）who would become Ike's husband for a few years, the original "buttons and bows" phrase would still be in the Japanese version and would even become a popular catchphrase (battenbou...バッテンボー) during that time.
The interesting thing about "Botan to Ribon" is that instead of the slow country swing of the Shore version, the Japanese take was arranged so that it sounded as if it were recorded by an orchestra in the 1930s. As someone who used to watch "The Little Rascals" on TV and remembered some of the background songs of Japanese cover songs that had been played over the speakers at the Mash 4077 on the venerable sitcom (or dramedy) "MASH", I think "Botan to Ribon" would have been on Radar O'Reilly's playlist.
The song was another hit for Ike who had debuted in the late 1940s after graduating from her time with the Takarazuka Troupe. At the time, Japan was riding the wave of American music so with Ike debuting with "Ai no Swing"（愛のスウヰング....Swing of Love）, the Kyoto-born singer was quickly thrust into the limelight as a hit singer being crowned as the Queen of Swing. She also had her time as a regular participant in the early years of the Kohaku Utagassen, having been invited from the 2nd to 8th shows between 1952 and 1957.
The link between Ike and American pop culture didn't end there. Apparently, her nickname was "Ike", pronounced in the English way, a la "I Like Ike", the old Dwight D. Eisenhower campaign slogan.