Friday, April 13, 2012

Neon Philharmonic -- "Morning Girl" (1969)

Morning girl 
Put your dreams away
And read your box of Cheerios
And powderpuff that pretty nose

Some of you will remember "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which was a huge success on CBS between 1970 and 1977

The show's famous theme song and opening credit sequence perfectly captured the essence of Moore's character -- a young woman named Mary Richards who had moved to Minneapolis from a small town after breaking off an engagement.  She wasn't terribly experienced in the ways of the world, and was sometimes too kind and generous for her own good.  But underneath a somewhat timid exterior, Mary Richards was courageous enough to have left her comfort zone behind, move to the big city, and create a new life for herself.

The lyrics to "Morning Girl" always brought the Mary Richards character to mind.  Now it brings to mind my twin daughters, both of whom are recent college graduates who have gotten off to a good start in the working world but who have a long way to go to get to where they want to be.

Right now, both of them have jobs that are close enough to allow them to live at home to save a little money.  I'd be happy if that state of affairs continued indefinitely.  But sooner or later, I have a feeling that both of them will move away from home -- perhaps far away from home, if they follow the example of Mary Richards.  (They may even get married, heaven help me.)  Until then, they are in a sort of no-man's-land between childhood and adulthood, between dependence and independence. 

I don't think either uses a powderpuff on her pretty nose, but I'm pretty sure at least one of them eats Cheerios for breakfast.  (I don't know for sure because she is out of the house and on her way to her office long before I'm out of bed in the morning.)

I don't know if Mary Richards ate Cheerios on the Mary Tyler Moore show.  I wouldn't be surprised, given that the manufacturer of that breakfast cereal is headquartered in a Minneapolis suburb.  

But I do know that despite her youth and relative lack of experience, she was more than capable enough to do her job and deal with life's challenges in general.  My daughters are just as competent, which still catches me by surprise on occasion -- I guess I'm not really used to the idea that they are 25 years old.

Frederick Tupper Saussy III wrote "Morning Girl" and played keyboards for the Neon Philharmonic, the one-hit wonders who recorded that song in 1969.

Saussy grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1958.  His jazz combo released an album while they were still college students.

After graduating, he taught English at Montgomery Bell Academy, the very tony boys' prep school in Nashville that was the model for the school in the 1989 Robin Williams movie, Dead Poets Society.  (The school's alumni include former Senate Majority leader Dr. Bill Frist, novelist Madison Smartt Bell, and legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice, as well as a number of professional athletes.)

Saussy then co-founded an success ful advertising agency but managed to keep his musical career going, too.  He recorded several jazz albums, wrote a number of works for the Nashville Symphony, and collaborated with a number of well-known Nashville recording artists (included Roy Orbison, Ray Stevens, and Chet Atkins).

The Neon Philharmonic, a psychedelic/pop band that Saussy helped form in 1967, released two albums in 1969 -- their big hit, "Morning Girl," appeared on their debut album, The Moth Confesses.  After releasing a number of unsuccessful singles in the years that followed, they disbanded in 1975.

In addition to being a teacher, advertising executive, and jazz/symphonic/pop composer, Saussy published a play in 1972, and did some stage acting in Nashville.  In 1980, he began to edit the Main Street Journal, a political publication that advocated a return to a monetary system based on gold and silver.

Apparently, Saussy made no secret of his disdain for the American income tax system, and the big bad IRS eventually came knocking at his door.  In 1985, he was convicted of willfully failing to file a tax return and was sentenced to spend a year in a federal prison.

While his appeal of that conviction was pending, Saussy got a postcard from Martin Luther King's assassin, James Earl Ray, who asked him to help him write his autobiography.  Tennessee Waltz: The Making of An American Political Prisoner was published in 1987.

Saussy's appeal was eventually denied by the Supreme Court, and he was fearful -- rightfully so, no doubt -- that his role in writing Ray's autobiography might make him less than popular with African-American prisoners.  So he went into hiding for ten years, finally turning himself in to authorities in 1997.  While serving his sentence in a California prison, Saussy gave piano lessons to the prisoners and directed the prison chapel's choir.

Saussy spent the years he was hiding out doing historical research.  He concluded from that research that the Jesuits were behind the American Revolution.  (He wrote that "the papacy really does run American foreign policy, and always has.")  While in prison, he wrote a book on the topic titled Rulers of Evil: Useful Knowledge About Governing Bodies, which was published after his release.  He also began to write and perform music again, and recorded an album shortly before his death of a heart attack in 2007, when was 70 years old.

If I had known all this stuff about Saussy a couple of weeks ago, this would have been my April Fools' Day post.  None of you would have believed anything I've written about Tupper Saussy, but every word of it is true.  Click here to go to Saussy's website if you don't believe me.  

Here's "Morning Girl":

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

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