Notebook Cover


  OPEN THE DOOR, RICHARD


By Marv Goldberg


© 2016 by Marv Goldberg






[I NEED YOUR HELP - I've attempted to hear and to visually document all the versions of "Open The Door, Richard" that I could find. However, there are several labels that I don't have scans of, several musicians and singers that I couldn't find photos of, and several versions that I've never heard. A list of these appears at the very end of the article, after the discography. Hope some of you can provide them.]


      A PHENOMENON


"Open The Door Richard" was a true phenomenon. It's had a long journey and I'll be documenting the first 25 years of recordings, as well as its history prior to those. Amazingly, artists are still recording the song 70 years later and the phrase "open the door, Richard" is still understood (or at least used) by millions.

The chorus goes like this:

      Open the door, Richard
      Open the door and let me in
      Open the door, Richard
      Richard, why don't you open that door?

With the staccato "open the door" (which mimics someone knocking furiously), a catchphrase was born. (Note that I'll constantly be referring to that chorus as the "Vocal Refrain" and "Open the door, Richard" as the "catchphrase".)

advertising with Bugs Bunny I have to be honest, I don't remember a single version of "Open The Door, Richard" from 1947. I'm sure I heard them on the radio, but I was kind of young at the time. My first memory of the song is hearing my Aunt Jennie singing the "open the door, Richard" line around the house. In fact, that line was heard on countless comedy programs for years. It was also featured in political cartoons, unrelated advertisements, and even an announcement for a Sunday church sermon. And, because Warner Brothers cartoons were always looking for popular culture icons to demolish, Richard made it to two of them. The first was "Crowing Pains", released in July 1947. In it, Foghorn Leghorn has just stuffed Henery Hawk into a phony egg. When Henery starts stumbling around, unable to see, Foghorn tells him: "Open the window, Richard, that's what it's there for." Then there was "High Diving Hare", a 1949 Bugs Bunny film. (This was two years after things had seemingly quieted down.) Yosemite Sam pounds and demands that Bugs "open up that door!" before turning to the audience and saying: "You'll notice, I didn't say 'Richard'."

In fiction, Richard himself is what's termed a "McGuffin", a motivator (object, person, or idea) that drives the plot without being terribly important in itself (think of the statue in "The Maltese Falcon"). At the beginning of the craze, we didn't see Richard, we knew nothing about him (other than he wouldn't get up), and it didn't matter. (Of course, that would change as singers began to run out of ideas about dealing with an unseen person.)

The craze began in the early days of 1947, but the catchphrase had been around for a long while before that and had already entered the vocabulary by early 1944 at the latest (we'll see why in a bit).


      WHAT'S A CATCHPHRASE?


Almost everyone uses jargon to some extent. It's a set of words and phrases unique to a specific group of people (accountants, policemen, programmers, card players, auto mechanics, etc.). Jargon is exclusionary; that is, using these words and phrases marks you as a member of the group, to the exclusion of all others (who probably don't know what you're talking about).

A catchphrase, on the other hand is inclusionary. It's a word or phrase that everyone seems to understand and, by using it, people feel that they're "with it" and fit in with mainstream society (of course, the phrases will differ from country to country). American examples are:

      23-Skiddoo
      What's up, Doc?
      Sock it to me
      D'oh
      Here's looking at you, kid
      Mr. Dillion, Mr. Dillon
      Nanu-Nanu
      Go ahead, make my day
      I'll be back (but only if said with an Austrian accent)
      Open the door, Richard

Whereas jargon requires you to be part of a group, catchphrases are spread by mass media: books, newspapers, radio, movies, television, and, nowadays, the Internet. They have currency for some period and then are used less and less (but usually never completely fade from the culture).


      RICHARD'S BIRTH


John Mason Spider Bruce Where did Richard come from? For the beginning of the answer, we have to get ahead of ourselves for a while and look at a 1948 deposition given by John Mason when he was suing Duchess Music (publisher of "Open The Door Richard") for an accounting of royalties. (Yes, boys and girls, it will all boil down to money, as most things do.) In 1930, John Mason was in a musical called "Brown Buddies" (with Ada Brown, Bill Robinson, Adelaide Hall, and Red & Struggy). In it, he played a character called "Spider Bruce", a nickname he'd use for the rest of his career. Here's a summary of his deposition:


Mason had been an actor and comedian since 1910 (he said); in addition, he wrote sketches for himself and others. In 1918, he wrote a sketch called "Open The Door, Richard" that depicted a drunk trying to hustle free drinks at a bar until being thrown out by the bartender. He staggers home, but finds that his roommate, Richard, has the only key. Knocking and pounding on the door produces no result, so he finds a ladder and tries to climb in a window. His climb is halted by a passing policeman, which results in some comic banter. Mason claimed that the skit, with straight man Richard Perry, was first presented in a show called "Dixie Beach Girls" in 1919. [That show, which Mason owned, toured for several years. I can find mentions of it in the March 19, 1921 Billboard, as well as newspapers from Dallas in 1922 and Louisville in 1926. No review, however, mentioned a skit about a drunk (or, to be fair, any other specific skit).] Richard Perry [the eponymous "Richard"] was replaced by Douglas "Slim" Henderson for a couple of years, and then by Clinton "Dusty" Fletcher. [The February 9, 1929 Philadelphia Inquirer reviewed a musical called "The Jazz Regiment" and had this to say: "... Fletcher and Mason offer a drunk scene on the swaying deck of a yacht tumbling and rolling to their own mild comments on the potency of the 'likker'."]

Later on, after Mason and Fletcher had split up, Dusty Fletcher continued to use the "Open The Door, Richard" routine. At some point, bandleader Jack McVea saw the skit and added some music to it.

McVea subsequently recorded the song/routine and it became a hit. However, the writer credit only went to Jack McVea and his bassist, Frank Clark [sometimes spelled "Clarke"; Mason claimed not to know who Clark was]. When Dusty Fletcher then recorded the song, his was the only name in the writer credits.

In mid-January 1947, Mason contacted Duchess Music, the publisher of the song, and convinced them that he had originated the skit. From then on, his name (along with McVea's and Fletcher's and Clark's) was a part of the credits. [Clark's name would soon disappear in favor of Dan Howell's. We'll get to him in a bit.]

John Mason in 1940 There was a nice article about John Mason's career in the January 27, 1940 Afro-American, but it never mentioned "Richard" at all.

Bob Russell Bob Russell That's the bare bones of the Richard saga, according to Mason. However, Mason "forgot" to mention that he probably got a lot of the routine from Bob Russell, an earlier black performer whose career had started around the time of the Civil War and continued into the 1920s. (But, since Russell had died in August 1925, there was no need to confuse the matter further.) For an article in the February 15, 1947 Afro-American, Mason told a reporter the origin of some of the gags (and you know how cynical I am about these things): "It actually happened to me," Mason said. "If my partner and me had two suits and his was the good one, I'd wear his and he'd stay home while I attended to business." [If that doesn't make much sense to you yet, it will in a bit.]

In the 1930s and early 40s, Mason's comedy act usually included Johnny Vigal and Edna "Yak" Taylor, but "Richard" is never mentioned. What's really surprising to me is that, after securing part of the rights to the piece, Mason never recorded it himself. One of several black blackface comedians, Mason continued to perform until his death in 1952.

Dusty On His Ladder The Apollo cast The Apollo opens Now we turn to Mason's former partner, Clinton "Dusty" Fletcher. (Supposedly he picked up his nickname when he played a porter in 1925's "Charleston Revue".) There are many mentions of Dusty Fletcher performing the routine. Sadly, one of those mentions wasn't in the blurb about the opening of the Apollo Theater on January 26, 1934. (The Apollo had been a white burlesque house, but that night it switched over to "all-colored productions".) On the stage for the opening, along with Dusty, were Aida Ward, Mabel Scott, the 3 Rhythm Kings, the 3 Farmer Boys, Norton & Margot, Ralph Cooper's band, Bennie Carter's orchestra, and Troy Brown. (Strangely, although Dusty's name was mentioned in the accompanying write-up, his was the only name missing from the Apollo's ad itself.) In spite of this, there's every reason to believe that Apollo audiences saw Dusty do the "Richard" routine that night. I'd like to think that it must have gone over big, because he was held over for the next week's show. However, the February 3, 1934 New York Age panned his performance, saying that he (and Troy Brown) will "soon be back numbers if they don't give their public new gags and comedy...." From that, I have to conclude that if he did the Richard skit, it was already considered an old, familiar routine.

Fletcher and Mason Dusty Fletcher in 1935 It looks like Fletcher and Mason reunited for a while. The July 27, 1934 show at the Apollo advertised "Dusty Fletcher and John Mason", linking their names together (but notice whose name is now first). The August 4 New York Age noted that headliner Tiny Bradshaw, as well as Dusty Fletcher and John Mason, had been held over. (Also on that show was a new group, the 4 Ink Spots. Wonder whatever happened to them.) Fletcher and Mason did so well that they were held over, week after week, through August 30. However, not everyone was pleased. Theater critic Vere E. Johns had this to say in the September 1, 1934 New York Age:

Dusty Fletcher and John Mason should take a vacation, they seem so tired they can't even put over stale gags anymore. Go down to Belmar, N.J. boys, and sit by the lake and try to think up some new and funny jokes. Or better still, don't go - give the money to someone here who will write some for you. No, I don't want it, my jokes can't be smeared with burnt cork. [He's telling us that Fletcher and Mason were still appearing in blackface and he wasn't happy about it.]

Fletcher in 1940 In a blurb in the December 28, 1939 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dusty Fletcher is called the "originator of the comedy scene, 'Open That Door Richard'." A January 2, 1940 article in the Pittsburgh Press said that Fletcher had performed "Open That Door, Richard" as far back as 1930, when he (and it) were in the 1930 edition of Lew Leslie's "Blackbirds" (along with Ethel Waters, Mantan Moreland, Jimmy Baskette, the Berry Brothers, and Eubie Blake). In November 1940, said the November 24 Pittsburgh Press, he was doing it in the "Hit Waves Of 1941" revue at the Casino Theater in Pittsburgh.

His name appears in conjunction with the routine through 1943. The Pittsburgh Courier of February 3, 1945 says, "Mirthful Dusty Fletcher, comedian deluxe, using a ladder for a prop, gave a side-splitting performance." It doesn't specifically mention Richard, but a ladder was one of the gags in the Richard routine. The New York Age of June 15, 1946 talks about his drunk act when he played Harlem's Club Baron (with Ethel Waters), again without mentioning the name of the skit. But the Pittsburgh Courier of October 5, 1946 had this to say about a show at the Club Zanzibar in New York: "It was a tough audience, though, 'cause even Dusty Fletcher couldn't get more than a snicker here and there, which may or may not mean that 'Richard' had better open that door and let Dusty find a new act." [Sorry, guys, wasn't gonna happen.] The Pittsburgh Courier finished out the year with this (in the December 21, 1946 edition): "Dusty Fletcher, who flopped all over the Z-bar floor when he first opened there, is so sensational now, Joe Howard is just about ready to give him a lease on the place." Subtract the hype and we know his act is, once again, doing better, after only a couple of months. Why? You'll see in a short while.


      THE FILM


The Movie The Movie Fortunately, Dusty Fletcher made a film of the Richard routine for All American News in January 1947, so we can get an appreciation of what theater audiences saw. (There's no music, it's just his straight comedy routine.) The scene is a small, bare stage with an "audience" sitting around it at tables. Here's the gist of it, with some lines that found their way into subsequent recordings (interestingly, there's no mention of a key):

Dusty thrown out A bartender throws a drunken Dusty out into the street. He'd been trying (and obviously succeeding) to hustle free drinks all night. (The bartender was probably played by Dusty's straight man at the time, Fred Winn.) Dusty is wearing long clown shoes, a beat-up swallow-tail coat, and a top hat that's seen better days.

Dusty mumbles (while lying on the ground) "Ain't no use in me buyin' when everyone else is buyin'. I'm gonna keep on drinkin' to everyone's health until I ruin my own."

Dusty is mad enough to go back inside and break up the bar, but he finds that it won't be that easy. "I'll go back in there. [tries to stand up; falls down] Well, I ain't going back today, but I'm gonna try and make it tomorrow."

[lying on the ground] "I'm goin' on home and try to get me some sleep." [This is where the familiar routine really starts.] "I got to get off the street 'cause I don't want my pastor to see me like this. You have to be so careful these days 'cause people is so quick to scandalize your name. And I don't think my name would stand any more scandalizin'."

[trying to stand] "So I'm gonna get on in the house and get me some sleep." [he stands; he falls] "I know I ain't drunk. The whiskey is heavy, that's all."

"Gettin' drunk makes you act so common. And I know I ain't common 'cause I got some class I ain't never used yet."

[stands; teeters; sits down] "It ain't no use." [realizing he'll never be able to stand up, he crawls to the "door" of his house, which is the side panel of the stage] "Yes, I'll get in the house here and wake up everybody so I can go to sleep."

Dusty knocks [Gets to his knees and starts knocking] "Open the door, Richard" [said in a reasonable speaking voice] "That's the boy I rooms with. Now what's the matter with him. [knocks louder; speaks louder] Hey, open that door, Richard. Now I know he ain't gone out nowhere, 'cause I got on the clothes. [pounds and yells] Hey, open the door, Richard."

"That's why I don't like to room with nobody. He don't wanna open the door for me. And I owe just as much rent up there as he do. I think I'm gonna move next Saturday cause this old woman she charges too much rent anyhow. [mumbles] Three dollars a month. An' got the nerve to be mad 'cause we're 'leven months in arrears. Why, she come askin' me this mornin', she said 'When you boys gwine give me some of my back rent?' I jes tol' her she'd be lucky if she got any front rent outta me. [yells] Aw, why don't you open the door, Richard?"

"Man, she come askin' me when I'se gwine to work and I ain't thinkin' 'bout no work. I don't want no job. I'm goin' back on relief Monday. I was on relief last summer, but I don't know ... they got short of help and they couldn't send the checks out and you hadda go get 'em and all that, so I put it down. [yells] What'cha gonna do 'bout the door, Richard? I don't think he's gonna do nothin'."

"But I'll get in. So I'll go around through the back and come around through the alley. I don't need no Richard to open no door. I just didn't wanta be walkin' in no dark alleys this time of night. [crawls to center stage; gets up; falls down] Now you know I ain't never drank no whiskey before that won't let you go nowhere."

[the bartender reappears carrying a painter's ladder that's about seven feet long; Dusty is still lying on the ground] "Now here's another thing, you keep this ladder out of that bar. And you stay out too." The bartender then asks, "What did you do with the paint I had in that bottle?" "Paint? Was there paint in that bottle? You put paint in a whiskey bottle and set it in front of ME? Well then, get me some paint remover."

The bartender asks, "Why don't you get yourself a job and go to work?" "Me? Go to work? Have you ever known me to work? Have you ever known anybody who's known me to work? Well, don't worry, you won't." [the bartender leaves]

Vivian Harris [on his knees fiddling with the ladder, he looks up] "Now ain't this somethin'. That old woman across the street, she sees everything that happens in the neighborhood. Now she's done called her sister to the window to witness; she wants to make sure it's me. [yells] Yes, this is me and I'm drunk again." [Whenever Dusty Fletcher played the Apollo, Vivian Harris appeared as the old woman in the window. Known as the "Voice Of The Apollo", she'd announced all the acts for around 20 years. It's probable that when John Mason or Pigmeat Markham performed "Richard" there, she did the same for them.]

Dusty on the ladder [yells, still on his knees fiddling with the ladder] "Don't open that door, Richard. Don't open no door. I don't want you to get hurt. I'm gonna take my ladder and climb up on top. I don't need no Richard. I'll get in by myself. [Stands up. I find what follows to be truly amazing: in the middle of the stage, he opens the 7-foot ladder about six inches at the bottom, stands it upright, and starts to climb (the two sides should be around four feet apart at the bottom to be stable). His balance is fantastic, considering that he's wearing those long clown shoes and pretending to be drunk. He had to have spent many, many hours practicing this routine.] I'm coming on up there, Richard. [continuing to climb - there are seven steps on the ladder] I don't think I'm gonna be here long, Richard. [He puts his foot on the sixth step, thinks better of it] I'm high as a Georgia pine. But it ain't no use in bein' too high up. [he climbs down]

[he gets off the ladder and lurches around holding it horizontally; it's a miracle that it doesn't hit anyone in the "audience"; he finally collapses with the ladder] "Aw, why don't you open that door, Richard?" [I assume that there was a lot more to the stage routine, but this is where the movie ended. The whole film was around nine and a half minutes long.]


      THE STRUCTURE


These are the various musical parts of the recordings (that is, not the spoken dialogs); they were all in the original 1947 sheet music. I'll give them names, since they're found in multiple versions and it'll make them easier to identify.

The European Intro (used as an introduction in some European versions)
      Raindrops down my collar
      Standing in the street
      Raindrops down my collar
      Misery in my feet
      I'd give my last dollar
      If I could pick this lock
      Listen to me holler
      Listen to me knock
            I'll talk about this more in "The European Intro - What Is It?" (below)

The Vocal Refrain (in every version, even if just musically)
      Open the door, Richard
      Open the door and let me in
      Open the door, Richard
      Richard, why don't you open that door?

Jordan's Refrain (in many versions, with varying wording)
      'Cause I'm standin' here scratchin' in my pants pocket
      and standin' here gropin' in my coat pocket
      and standin' here feelin' in my shirt pocket
      and I can't find the key
            I'll talk about this more in "Jordan's Refrain - Another Piece Of The Pie" (below)


      LET THE RECORDINGS BEGIN


Okay, I've put it off long enough, we've discussed the history, now let's dive into the recordings.

[NOTE: The song title is usually spelled "Open The Door, Richard", but it could also be "Open The Door Richard" or "Open The Door, Richard!". I'll try to spell it the way it is on the label when talking about a specific record. It'll be "Open The Door, Richard" when it's just the general title.]


Louis and Slim Possibly the first time Richard hit wax was in a March 1, 1944 Louis Jordan Decca recording, "How High Am I?" It's a song about being drunk and it contained the following spoken lines: "Hey, Richard, come on down here and open this door, man. Don't you see I can't find nothin' down here." He also mentions Richard in a couple of other lines without giving any clue as to who Richard is. While Decca never released the tune, Jordan re-recorded it, substantially unchanged, for a V-Disc that was issued in February 1945. Here's a mystery: in a recording called "Louis' Oldsmobile Song" (recorded in Los Angeles in early July 1944, probably for a radio show), Jordan begins with "This is Louie Jordan. I'm happy to be here at Decca, recordin' 'Open Up That Door, Richard'" and launches into what seems like an Oldsmobile commercial before singing the 1905 oldie, "In My Merry Oldsmobile". However, he didn't record "Richard" that day, (and wouldn't for another two and a half years), so why did he bring it up?

Slim Gaillard In "Slim's Jam", a May 1946 Slim Gaillard Bel-Tone release (recorded in December 1945 and also issued on Majestic), he utters the line "Open up the door, Richard" immediately before introducing tenor sax player Jack McVea (as "Jack McVouty and his tenor"). We'll meet Jack again very soon. (Because McVea was under contract to Apollo Records at the time, he's referred to on both labels as "Jack Mack".)

The Four Of Us I have to mention "Lift Up The Latch" by The Four Of Us on Modern. It starts with knocking, followed by a "female" voice asking "Who's that knocking at my door?" The answer: "Well, it ain't Richard!" While this clearly fits the pattern, it defies dating. The master number seems to indicate that it was recorded in 1945, although it probably wasn't released until a couple of years later.

None of these insertions would make any sense at all unless target audiences knew what the singers were talking about. However, other than ads for Dusty Fletcher doing his "open that door, Richard" routine in 1939 and the early 40s, the phrase doesn't seem to appear anywhere in print. Still, I suppose enough black audiences had seen Fletcher perform it so that the phrase had entered the vocabulary. On the other hand, Slim Gaillard was very popular at Billy Berg's integrated jazz nightclub in Hollywood (from which there was a weekly radio broadcast), so maybe whites were also starting to pick up on the term. (Berg's employees fielded a baseball team called the "Cement Mixers", after Slim's early 1946 hit song.)

But this was just the tiny tip of an iceberg that no one spotted floating towards an unsuspecting record-buying public.


McVea's band McVea Jack McVea & His All Stars (Open The Door Richard!)
This is the first waxing of a "musical" version. Recorded for Paul Reiner's Black & White label during the summer of 1946 and released in late September, it features an interchange between Jack and two of his musicians, Rabon Tarrant (drums) and Joe "Red" Kelly (trumpet). McVea had been a member of Lionel Hampton's Orchestra in the early 1940s (he's the baritone sax on Hampton's "Flying Home"), and, because Hampton and Fletcher appeared together often, McVea had seen Fletcher's drunk act night after night, since the band would play Dusty's intro and outro. When McVea formed his own band in 1944, he adapted the skit and added music to it. Remember, on the December 1945 "Slim's Jam" session, Slim Gaillard says "Open up the door, Richard" right before introducing Jack McVea. This tells me that McVea had been incorporating Richard into his West Coast act for a while at that point, although there doesn't seem to be any written evidence of that.

The story is told that McVea's band was finishing up a recording session for Black & White and had done such a perfect job that there was time left over. Session producer Ralph Bass suggested that they do "Open The Door, Richard". This, like most other stories of the kind, is pure fiction. They recorded eight sides at that session, and the master numbers indicate that "Richard" was the fifth, not the eighth.

It starts with the speaker leaving a bar. He tells us:

McVea: Whole band's been out at the club havin' a little ball tonight. My friend Richard went home early, y'know. He's got the only key to the house. I'll have to knock on the door to see if I can get in. [knocks] Open the door, Richard. Richard sleeps in the back room. It's kinda hard to hear. [knocks louder, voice is more pleading] Open the door, Richard. I don't think Richard heard me yet. [knocks louder; now, for the first time, we hear the Vocal Refrain, sung by the band]

      Open the door, Richard
      Open the door and let me in
      Open the door, Richard
      Richard, why don't you open that door?

McVea: [knocks even louder] Richard, open up the door, man. It's cold out here in this air. Look, there's that woman across the street, lookin' out the window every time I'm late. [spoken in a normal voice:] Yes, it's me and I'm late again.

Tarrant: [this is the first we're aware that the narrator isn't alone] Did you hear what the lady said, Jack?

McVea: No, what'd she say, Rabon?

Tarrant: She said "Oh, boy, if he was only mine."

McVea: Open up the door, Richard. Red, you got a key to my front door?

Kelly: No, I don't have a key, Jack. I don't have a key. [As you read through the various dialogs that I'll present, notice how many times phrases are repeated for no particular reason. I have no explanation for this.]

McVea: Well, somebody's got to get in the house some kinda way.

Tarrant: I know he's in there.

McVea: How you know he's in there?

Tarrant: I can hear him breathing.

McVea: Oh. Let's knock one more time [really pounds on the door] I know I got on the suit; he's got to be in there. [pounds louder; the Vocal Refrain is repeated and fades out]


Note that the narrator, while using the basic structure of Fletcher's routine, doesn't appear to be drunk. This was pointed out in Billboard's October 12, 1946 review:

Anyone who has seen Dusty Fletcher do his Open the Door routine will get a bang out of Jack McVea's version. Tale of the locked-out drunk is altered for waxing purposes, deleting all references to liquor. Instead of pie-eyed, McVea's Richard is just 'late'. Novelty side divided between comical dialog and singing, packs plenty of chuckles for the listener. Rhythm section sustains the moderate but contagious beat. Only weakness, side ends on a fade-out instead of building to a climax.

While they misidentify the narrator as "Richard", they're telling us that Fletcher's routine was very well-known at this time, although they say nothing about McVea himself performing "Richard".

Black & White ad As I said, this was released in September 1946, but doesn't seem to have set the world on fire at the time. It's barely mentioned at all in Billboard in 1946: there's a September 14 listing in the Advance Record Releases column and the above October 12 review. The only other mentions for the rest of the year are in two Black & White ads (November 2 and December 14), and those just list it along with their other releases. However, by the end of its run, it had risen to #3 on the Pop charts and #2 on R&B. And, it was the 16th most played jukebox record of 1947.


      JANUARY 1947


National ad 1947 started off with a whimper: not a mention of the song at all in the January 4 Billboard. However, the January 11 edition had an ad for the new Dusty Fletcher version, released on National Records. They called it "The Sensational Novelty That Is Sweeping The Country" although the trades seemed to be oblivious to it at this point.


National ad Dusty's record Dusty Fletcher (Open The Door, Richard!)
Hearing his routine being done by someone else, Dusty decided to record his own version. Waxed for National Records on January 4, it was released a short time later. Dusty had been semi-retired after a long career, but this was about to catapult him to real fame. He'd continue working until his death in 1954. However, in the February 9, 1947 Sunday Morning Star (Wilmington, Delaware), Dusty was quoted as saying "I've got a new and different routine. I can dance and I can sing and I'm tired of 'Open the door, Richard'." We can sympathize, but audiences wanted what they wanted. (In fact, Dusty became so famous that the April 13, 1951 Brooklyn Eagle told us that "Dusty Richards [sic] of 'Open The Door, Richard' fame will head the new burlesque bill starting Sunday at the Hudson Theater, Union City, N.J." How fleeting is fame!)

National ad An article in the March 15, 1947 Baltimore Afro-American said that Jack McVea's version had sold so quickly on the West Coast that there were no copies to ship East. "Waxie Maxie" Silverman, owner of Quality Music in Washington, DC was one of those who couldn't get any product to push. So, when Herb Abramson, of National Records, phoned Maxie and asked him for a hot tip on something that could be recorded, Silverman suggested that National contact Dusty and ask him to record the tune. It took less than a week from recording session to Silverman having records in his hands. [I'm sure you all know by now that I have lots of trouble believing most of what's in articles like this one.] Soon, both Abramson and Silverman would be partners with Ahmet Ertegun in Atlantic Records (although Silverman was of the "silent" variety).

Dusty's version had two parts, with side one mirroring his stage routine. I won't go through the whole thing again, just point out the differences.

To begin with, this time he doesn't seem to be a fall-down drunk (although he's just been thrown out of the saloon). Then, he wonders what Richard did with the key; maybe he went to sleep with it. After a while, the band comes in with McVea's Vocal Refrain (and continues to do so at various times during the record). There's no bartender in this one, so in Part 2 Dusty just remembers that there's a ladder lying around. Now a policeman enters (probably played by Fred Winn):

Cop: Hey boy what are you doing up on that ladder?

Dusty: Open the door, Richard, here's The Man out here.

Cop: What are you doing up on that ladder?

Dusty: I live up here.

Cop: You live up there? Well why don't you come down and go in the door?

Dusty: I don't live in the door; I live on the second floor.

Cop: Come on down off that ladder.

Dusty: This is my ladder, officer.

Cop: I don't care whose ladder it is, you come down.

Dusty: You mean to tell me a man can't sit on his own ladder?

Cop: No, a man can't sit on his own ladder.

Dusty: That must be a new law just come out. 'Spose I don't come down, then what's gonna happen?

Cop: Then I'm gonna whoop you until you get sober. [there ensues a fight in which the cop hits Dusty's bunion, all the while, Dusty is screaming for Richard to open the door]

Dusty: Ain't this a shame. Let me come on down. You act like one of them police ain't never arrest nobody before. [Vocal Refrain] What you say you gonna do now?

Cop: I said I'm gonna whoop you until you get sober.

Dusty: Wait a minute, let's get some understanding here. You're gonna whoop who?

Cop: I'm gonna whoop you.

Dusty: Oh no you ain't. [they fight; Dusty continues to beg Richard to open the door]

Dusty: [as the cop hauls him off while the band sings the Vocal Refrain] Man, I'll be seein' you. Richard, you done me dirty. Aw why don't you open that door, Richard.

This is actually a good translation of the stage routine into a record (although watching Dusty's "drunk" stumble around is hilarious). Dusty's version rose to #3 on the Pop charts and #2 on R&B. It was the 15th most played jukebox record of 1947.

Dusty Fletcher & Moms Mabley The January 13 Cash Box had this to say about Dusty's version: "'Open The Door, Richard!' is showing up big in various parts of the country, according to reports. This version, done by Dusty Fletcher, is bound to score heavily, since the lad has been using it in his routine for the past fifteen years, and reports have it that it originated with him. Both sides of the platter are devoted to 'Richard', which is, in effect, a comedy skit interspersed with a few musical bars and choral effects from the crew. Catchline of the entire piece are the words 'Open The Door, Richard!' So catchy is that refrain that it may catch on and become another 'Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop' or 'Cement Mixer'."


Bing's Philco show Finally, some recognition. The January 18, 1947 Billboard said that Jack McVea was "riding the charts" and was scheduled to appear on the Bing Crosby radio show (Philco Radio Time) on January 22. Actually, the song had taken off quickly and quietly, seemingly behind Billboard's back. We know this because Crosby's show had been pre-recorded on January 6. According to a statement McVea later made, Crosby was given some lines in that performance.

The January 13 Cash Box's "Around The Wax Circle" column tried to explain the song's burgeoning popularity:


"Open The Door, Richard!" seems a likely subject with which to open this week's column. So here goes. As many members of the trade are by now well aware, "Richard!" appears to be enjoying a lush sale in most every territory where it has appeared. Fortunately, or unfortunately, (as you like it), the number has not as yet made its appearance in New York, but it is certainly getting lots and lots of attention from just about everybody with claims to membership in our wax circle. One thing might be said about it. Among the Eastern lads in the business who were quizzed as to an opinion on the worthiness of the number, the greater majority of those quizzed by this department were of the conviction that the number is strictly a stiff.

Is it?

All the fanfare and big wind the ditty raised on the West Coast is in absolute denial of such criticism. Still, after listening to several versions of it, we couldn't help but side with the majority who gave it the heave-o. What has it got ? A few bars of catchy melody and refrain? Okay. Maybe it has. At any rate, we found out that practically all of the big majors are working like mad to get out a platter of "Open The Door, Richard!" So, because we are very curious and like to know what we don't know, we grabbed an expert on the telephone. We called Milt Gabler of Decca, the lad who has lots to do with artists and music for that label, and who, incidentally, is one of the authors of "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie."

"Dear Milt," said we. "Pray tell, why is everybody so hepped up about this 'Richard' which we, and lots of other folks, can't see for anything but a two-ton turkey. Could it be that the public is putting good money into the phonos to hear a couple of guys holler 'Open The Door, Richard!'? All the rest of it is just so much chin-chin."

Said Milt: "Aha! And that's it! That's what they're paying for, the comedy of it. The monologue, the skit," implying, did Milt, that what melody and chorus there was to it was just so much accessory after the fact.

Okay. We hung up. We had the opinion of an expert. And we couldn't find so much as a single representative of the Great American Public to confirm or deny it.

But there will be.


Now things start to heat up quickly. Smelling money, the lawyers pounced. There was a big article in Billboard on January 25 headed "'Open The Door, Richard' And Let All The Lawyers Come In". It said that Jack McVea had sold over 200,000 copies on the West Coast and that Dusty's version was big in New York, Baltimore, and Washington. National Records claimed that Dusty's routine had been copyrighted by him and (conveniently) transferred to National Music Publishing Company. The McVea tune, it went on to say, had been written by McVea, Frank Clark, and Dan Howell. They (conveniently) turned the copyright over to Leeds Music. They admitted that McVea's version was based on Fletcher's routine, but there was a question of "personal property copyright, not song copyright" (I have no idea what that means and I'm probably happier for it). The article went on to say that, in spite of these problems, the song was doing so well that Count Basie, Louis Jordan, and the 3 Flames were all about to release versions.

sheet music I've already said that, in mid-January, John Mason contacted Duchess Music and made his case for authorship. (Since I've mentioned Duchess and Leeds, you should know that both publishing companies were owned by Lou Levy, manager of the Andrews Sisters. Duchess was BMI-affiliated and Leeds was ASCAP-affiliated. Levy made Duchess the official publisher and Leeds its selling agent. This means that Duchess owned the copyright and collected the money for the authors and that Leeds was authorized to handle licensing agreements. This duality appears to have been triggered by a fight Levy was having with ASCAP.) When the dust had settled, the official writers were: words by John Mason and Dan Howell; music by Jack McVea and Frank Clark. At least that's what it said on the initial 1947 sheet music published by Duchess. When Leeds put out the sheet music a short time later, poor Frank Clark had disappeared, to be replaced by Dusty Fletcher. Then, it became: words by Dusty Fletcher and John Mason; music by Jack McVea and Dan Howell. (This might have been a sop to ASCAP, since Howell was one of their members.) Duchess' sheet music credits were soon changed to match Leeds'.

sheet music Here's a Tune-Dex card for "Open The Door, Richard". This was an index card with copyright information on one side and the basic structure of the song on the other. Armed with one of these, bands could perform the tune and know to whom royalties should be paid. Note that this was an early version, since the writer credits were: music by Jack McVea and Frank Clark; words by John Mason and Dan Howell (mirroring the original Duchess sheet music).


      WHO WAS DAN HOWELL?


The name of Frank Clark (bassist in McVea's band) quickly disappeared from the writer credits, to be replaced by "Dan Howell". So, of course, we have to ask "Who was Dan Howell?" The common answer is that it was just a made-up name, used by the publishers in order to siphon off some of McVea's royalties to their coffers.

David Kapp David Kapp However, although "Dan Howell" was a made-up name, the man himself was very real. In fact "Dan Howell" turns out to be one of the songwriting pseudonyms of David Kapp, future owner of Kapp Records and brother of Decca president, Jack Kapp. At this time, David Kapp was a Vice President of Decca.

Today, BMI has the song registered to Kapp, not Howell. More important, I own a copy of the 1952 edition of "The ASCAP Biographical Dictionary", which mentions David Kapp as being a writer of "Open The Door, Richard". (At least one other song in Kapp's biography had originally been credited to "Dan Howell".) And, when you enter Howell's name into ASCAP's database, the results you get are for David Kapp.


      BACK TO THE JANUARY RELEASES


That same January 25 Billboard warned that it's going to skyrocket and then fizzle, as hits like this usually do. It announced that Count Basie's version will soon be available on Victor, Decca will likely assign it to Louis Jordan (they did; he'd already recorded it on January 11 and re-recorded it on January 23, although it wasn't released until February), Columbia had the 3 Flames, and Mercury's version featured Bill Samuels and the Cats 'n Jammer Three.

Of course, every version had to be a little different (and why not, there was plenty to work with).

[NOTE: Jack McVea and Dusty Fletcher had the first two recordings. I can usually narrow all the others down to a particular month, but I don't know their release order. Fortunately, it isn't really important.]


Count Basie Count Basie & His Orchestra (Open The Door, Richard!)
Basie's version featured vocals by trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison and trombonist Bill Johnson. It starts with sounds of people talking in a bar. Over the noise you hear:

Edison: The whole band's having a party at the club tonight. Ol' Richard went home early; he's got the key to the house. I'm gonna knock on the door and see if I can get in. [knocks] Open the door, Richard. Y'see, Richard sleeps in the back room; it's kinda hard to hear. Maybe I'd better knock a little louder. [knocks] Open the door, Richard. I don't think Richard heard me yet. Knock one more time, let's see what's gonna happen. [knocks] Richard, open the door please. [Vocal Refrain] Richard, open the door, man, it's kinda cold out here in this air. Now look, there's that old woman across the street lookin' out the window.

Johnson: Who's that with her, Sweets?

Edison: That must be her sister, I guess. She wants to make sure this is me. She's tryin' to find out what's happenin' Yes it's me and I'm late again.

Johnson: Sweets did you hear what the lady said?

Edison: No, what did she say?

Johnson: She said you sure look common out here in the street.

Edison: Common? Man, I got class I ain't never used yet. I'm gonna knock again, Richard's got to get up. [knocks] Open the door, Richard. Have you got a key to the house?

Johnson: No, Sweets, I don't have a key. I don't have a key.

Edison: Somebody's got to get in the house. Can't climb in the front, but I know he's in there.

Johnson: How you know he's in there?

Edison: I can hear him breathin'. Let's knock one more time. [knocks] Richard, open that door, man. Maybe Richard's gone. [knocks; Vocal Refrain] I know I got on the only suit. Ain't got but one suit between us That's the reason why I don't like to room with nobody. Richard, why don't you open the door, man? [fades out]

A blurb in the January 22, 1947 St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, "The song about an inebriate may go big, but musically this is Basie's worst record." In spite of that less-than-stellar review, the Count's version made it to #1 on the Pop charts (the only #1 record he'd ever have) and #2 R&B. It was the 19th most played jukebox record of 1947.

3 Flames The 3 Flames (Open The Door, Richard)
The 3 Flames, with a vocal by George "Tiger" Haynes, added to the mix with their Columbia version.

[knocks] Open the door, Richard. [knocks] Open the door, Richard. [louder knocking and speaking] Open the door, Richard. [he knocks and yells] Hey, Dick, open that door! [Vocal Refrain] Now here I am standin' diggin' in my hip pocket. Here I am standin' scratchin' in my pants pocket. I'm out here gropin' in my coat pocket. I don't know; I just can't find that key. [NOTE: that last part is what I'll be referring to as "Jordan's Refrain". You'll see why shortly.] I don't know. [Vocal Refrain] Now here it is four o'clock in the morning and I'm just getting' home. I had the chance. I shoulda been home eleven o'clock. I know I left the key at home, I know that. So, I'm gonna have to wake up Richard; he's my roommate. He's a real great cat. I gotta wake him up. I know that. [lot of very indistinct wording here] Richard, open the door. Y'know, I'll tell ya somethin', Jack, when he sleeps, he sleeps, man. He's what we call a 20th Century Rip van Winkle. That cat falls asleep and he dies. Richard, open the door; it's getting' kinda cold out c'here. Open, Richard. [Here, he goes in to a strange routine about Richard and he having gone to California. There's a part about a mouse sitting in the middle of the bed eating an onion and crying like a baby.] Richard, open up the door, it's getting' cold out c'here. Gettin' cold, Richard. Richard. Richard, open the door [Vocal Refrain; some indistinct words] open that door 'cause I have so much to tell him. [more indistinct words] Now, why didn't Richard open that door?


The song was reviewed in the February 15, 1947 Billboard, calling it a "bright bounce version.... As long as Richard refuses to open that door, that's the side to show up in the music boxes." This one also hit #1 on the Pop charts and #3 on R&B. The group's stage routine ended with a well-received and well-reviewed 10-minute version.

Bill Samuels Bill Samuels and the Cats 'n Jammer Three (Open Up That Door, Richard)
Their Mercury version has vocals by bassist Sylvester Hickman and pianist Bill Samuels. It's mostly an instrumental, featuring the Vocal Refrain and minimal lyrics:

Hickman: [knocking] Open the door, Richard. Man I know you're there 'cause I got on all the clothes and I know you ain't gone nowhere. [Vocal Refrain] Guess I better go 'round and get this ladder. [hic] I had me a fifth of port wine. [hic] I'm so high, I'm up in the sky. High as a Georgia pine. [Vocal Refrain] Open the door, Richard. Open up that door, man. Now ain't that a shame; won't let me in and I owe just as much rent as he does. [Vocal Refrain]

Samuels: Say, brother Hickman

Hickman: Yeah, brother Bill?

Samuels: Where's your wife, man?

Hickman: Oh, man, she's inside the house. Where do you think she's supposed to be?

Samuels: Well, where's Richard???

Hickman: Man, he's in ... OH, RICHARD! [pounds on the door] Open that door!

Empey ad Tosh Tosh (One-String Willie) & His Jivers (Open The Door, Richard)
George Paxton, using the stage name of Tosh Hammed, released a calypso version on the Empey label in late January. The other voice on the record was Dorothy Chappelle, with Virgil Van Cleve plunking the ukulele. Tosh Hammed played a one-stringed violin (hence the "One-String Willie" nickname). He'd been around since the early years of the Twentieth Century and you can see him in a Soundie called "Dance Your Old Age Away". I haven't heard this one.

The record was reviewed in the March 1, 1947 Billboard: "... this one has Tosh (One-String Willie) giving the saga in West Indian lingo, making for a calypso creation. And for added verbal novelty, dips into an Irish brogue with Dorothy Chappelle, having designs on entering her house until Dickie decides to open that door. Virgil Van Cleve keeps up a rhythmic pace with his uke strums. .... The calypso version of 'Richard' makes a strong bid for the coin [jukebox] market."

Vocal Yokels Dick Peterson & His Vocal Yokels (Open The Door, Richard)
A group made up of former Spike Jones musicians (Peterson was a drummer), their version was on Enterprise. (Note that this is sometimes, incorrectly, credited to Spike Jones, himself, recording as the "Vocal Yokels".) The January 25, 1947 Billboard starts its review by telling us "Dick Peterson, ex-Spike Jones drummer, fronts a group consisting of remnants of the reorganized Jones crew." They go on to pan the song, saying "Yokel's version of Open The Door is pretty sad compared to Jack McVea's original waxing. Dialog in Swedish accent is too far out of character to be funny."

I have to agree with the reviewer. bandleader Peterson, using a Swedish accent, is sent to find Richard, a horn player who didn't show up for band practice. They give him the address and he leaves with "You keep the yoint a-yumpin' until I get back here". He then proceeds to misremember the address, pounding on a couple of doors and waking up people who aren't Richard. He finally finds Richard, who sounds like an idiot, and that's basically the end of the song. At least it has the Vocal Refrain.


Dusty and Basie On January 31, 1947, Dusty Fletcher ("creator of 'Open The Door, Richard') appeared with Count Basie's band at the Paradise Theater in Detroit. That must have been one fantastic routine they did together.


      ON THE RADIO


Frankie Masters On January 26, 1947, the "Showtime With Frankie Masters" program (from San Antonio, Texas) broadcast a version of "Open The Door, Richard". The lyrics talk about the band being at a club and Richard going home early and, of course, he's got the only key to the house. If they could only get in. They do the Vocal Refrain and talk about the old woman, the fact that they can hear Richard breathing, and that one of them has on the only suit. This is just one example of probably hundreds of on-air performances.


Fred Allen I imagine that every radio comedian managed to sneak the catchphrase into some routines. For example, on the Fred Allen Show, Fred knocks on a door and one of his characters, Mrs. Nussbaum, says "Nu, you expecting maybe Richard?" It was reported that, during a serious radio drama, a character knocked on a door and someone in the audience yelled out "Come in, Richard". That was enough to get the whole audience roaring with laughter. (Not really what you want from a drama.)

Even Gilbert & Sullivan got into the act. On February 17, there was a birthday party for President Truman's daughter, Margaret. One of the acts was singer John Charles Thomas, who did a number from G&S's "HMS Pinafore". As the Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) reported: "At one point during the performance of 'Pinafore,' when he was called back for several encores, the baritone, feigning exhaustion, stumbled over to a prop door, knocked sharply, and cried, 'Open the door, Richard.'" The February 23 edition of the same paper had an ad for an Open The Door, Richard Dance at the New Arkota Ballroom. All men named Richard would be admitted free.

The Pittsburgh Courier of February 15 mentions some of the radio programs that have embraced Richard: "Practically every big radio show, including those of Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Fibber McGee & Molly, Red Skelton, Phil Harris and others, have at some time during the past few weeks implored the obdurate Richard to crack the portal. And while the mythical man stubbornly refuses to comply, he has nevertheless opened a lot of mouths around the country, as their owners laugh over this latest bit of tomfoolery peculiar to America. .... Of course, it's only wonderful while it lasts, the only trouble being that it doesn't last too long. Heretofore whenever a novelty has had such a wildfire sweep, it has been played to death for a couple of weeks until it becomes the number one hit on the nightmare parade and nobody cares if they never hear it again." Others who exploited Richard on the air were Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Al Jolson, and Eddie Cantor.


      FEBRUARY 1947


Now, get ready for the February explosion: there were over a dozen versions and answer records released (since huge potential profits were clearly in sight).


Louis Jordan Louis Jordan (Open The Door, Richard!)
The lyrics of Jordan's Decca version don't make much sense (although who says they have to?). He goes from talking about a drunk named Zeke to talking about himself, while he shouts "open the door, Richard", at odd intervals, for no particular reason. (We're never told who Richard is or why he should open the door. Jordan assumed that everyone knew - remember, he'd first recorded that line back in 1944.) The UK release was on Brunswick.

[Vocal Refrain followed by call-and-response with the band]
I met old Zeke standin' on the corner the other day,
That cat sure was booted with liquor!
      [He was what?]
He was abnoxicated!
      [He was what?]
He was inebriated!
      [He was what?]
Well, he was just plain drunk!
      [Well all right, then!]

He sure was salty with the bartender. The bartender was tryin' to make him buy another drink. Zeke told the bartender "Ain't no need of me buyin' no drinks when everybody else is buyin' 'em. I'm goin' to drink to everybody's health 'til I ruin my own." Open the door, Richard.

Why, he don't know who he's throwin' out of that joint! [Did someone throw someone else out? There are gaps in his narrative. Notice that Zeke has disappeared and now he's talking about himself.] Why, I'll go back in that joint and take a short stick and bust it down to the ground! Open the door, Richard.

But I hate to be caught out on the street like this 'cause it makes you look so common. And I know I ain't common 'cause I got class I ain't never used yet.

But I guess I better get on in the house 'cause I don't want my pastor to catch me out like this. Hey Richard, open the door.

Now look at that old woman 'cross the street, done stuck her head out of the window, callin' her sisters. Look at a bunch of her sisters sayin' "Ain't that him? Ain't that him?" Yes, it's me, and I'm drunk again! Open the door, Richard.

I know he's in there 'cause I got on the clothes. [Here, he goes into the bit about the rent he owes his landlady.] Open the door, Richard. Hey, Richard, open the door.

[sings] 'Cause I'm standin' here scratchin' in my pants pocket; and standin' here gropin' in my coat pocket; and standin' here feelin' in my shirt pocket; and I can't find the key. Hey, open the door, Richard. **

[Vocal Refrain]

** I'll be referring to the part about feeling around for the key as "Jordan's Refrain" in order to make it easier to talk about (see "Jordan's Refrain - Another Piece Of The Pie", below).

Those lyrics reflect his January 23 recording of the tune. He'd originally recorded it on January 11, but there was a big problem with that version: he wasn't talking about some fictional "Zeke", he specifically named Dusty ("I met old Dusty Fletcher standin' on the corner the other day talkin' to some guy named Richard. Old Dusty sure was booted with liquor."). Decca asked Dusty for a release for the use of his name, but Dusty refused and threatened to sue. He may have been celebrated for playing a drunk onstage, but it's a different matter to be called one. So it was back into the studio, goodbye Dusty, hello Zeke.

The song was reviewed in the March 1, 1947 Billboard: "Even if Richard ever does open the door, this disking by Louis Jordan will still be a wax delight." It rose to #2 on the R&B charts and was the 14th most played jukebox record of 1947. (Note that, of the top 34 most played jukebox records of 1947, Jordan had 10 of them. A true superstar.)

The Charioteers The Charioteers (Open The Door, Richard)
Their Columbia version has the main vocal by Billy Williams. Some of the new lyrics were:

Williams: Say, I don't like your friends, man, and I don't think they like me either.

Second voice: Who's that, man?

Williams: Those two brothers, Haig & Haig. [a brand of whiskey]

[He then takes the others to meet his friend, Richard, with the usual results. Lots of knocking and lots of yelling. After the Vocal Refrain, they go into the woman across the street routine and add the following:]

Second voice: Did you hear what she said?

Williams: Wha'd she say?

Second voice: She said "Look at him, there he comes home late again. I sure wish he was mine."

Williams: And I wish you were mine and I'd come back "Double Indemnity". [While I've seen that movie many times, I can't say I understand the reference.]

Second voice: Say, look here, man, maybe Richard ain't alone. Perhaps you should say "ouvre la porte".

Williams: Ouvre la devil. I'm gonna knock on this door one more time and try to get Richard up from there.

[A policeman enters; Billy Williams responds to him, but the cop never speaks]

Williams: Hiya officer. Breakin' in? Why, man, I live here. If I had a key, I wouldn't be bangin' on the door. My draft card? Now ain't that somethin', here's a man askin' for a draft card two years after the war is over. If you want to see it, though, I got to show it to ya. I know it's on me 'cause I carried it for four years and I was in 4-F all the time. I ain't got but one suit so it's got to be on me somewhere... Somewhere... Somewhere. [pounds on the door] Come on, Richard, open the door; The Man wants to see my draft card, man.

[Vocal Refrain]

Williams: I know he's in there 'cause I hear the radio jumpin'.

The song was reviewed in the March 8, 1947 Billboard: "This is a more sober Richard, without the violent supplications that the door be opened." However, they actually liked the flip better ("You Can't See The Sun When You're Cryin'"). This one rose to #6 on the Pop charts.

Big Sid Catlett Big Sid Catlett (Open The Door, Richard)
Catlett released a really strange version on Manor, with main vocal by pianist Bill Gooden. It starts with a bizarre affected British accent, which, after the Vocal Refrain, morphs into a West Indian accent (even though he's speaking to "Señor Richard") and then, after the next Vocal Refrain, changes to a Harlem accent, none of this for any apparent reason. They do the "he lives in the back" routine, the "landlady" routine, the "only suit" routine, and the "lady across the street" routine. Other than the strange accents, it brings nothing new to the table and is one of the weakest entries in the series.

Bill Osborne Bill Osborne & His Heptet (Open The Door Richard)
Drummer Osborne's version, on Continental, starts with a long sax solo, followed by the Vocal Refrain, Jordan's Refrain, and the Vocal Refrain again. He (I don't know if it's Osborne himself doing the vocal) then launches into some dialog, starting with the standard knocking, asking to be let in, and the woman across the street. This time, they can hear him snoring, rather than breathing. In all, it would have been a better record if it had just been an instrumental.

George Washington George Washington & Band (Open The Door Richard)
Trombonist George Washington's version featured a vocal by trumpeter Harry Parr Jones. (Jones had been with Johnny Otis in 1945; Washington would be with Otis in 1950.) This one came out on Roy Milton's Los Angeles-based Ace Records and had one of William Alexander's beautiful drawings on the label. Truer to the Fletcher routine, it starts with him being thrown out of the bar and claiming that he's not supposed to buy drinks because everybody else is buying them. "I'm gonna drink to everybody else's health until I ruins my own." He staggers home and encounters the woman across the street. He then realizes that he can't find his key and has to wake Richard up. This time, however, Richard is "kinda hard of hearing" rather than sleeping in the back room. Less accepting than most, he ends with "Never mind, I'll kick it in" [and does]. It's not a slick rendition and I like it because of that.

Lips Page "Lips" Page (Open The Door, Richard)
Oran "Hot Lips" Page was Apollo's entry into the fray. Again, no real surprises here, but some of the dialog is rhymed, including "Every time I wear the suit, he starts actin' cute" and the whole landlady routine. Then, someone suggests that Page blow his trumpet to wake up Richard.

The song was reviewed in the March 8, 1947 Billboard with the overall comment: "While 'Richard' is still not amenable, that side will stand up in the phonos."


While all the versions up until now have been by black artists, there was too much money involved to keep it in the black community. This led to a Country & Western version and a couple in the Pop field.


Hank Penny Hank Penny (Open The Door Richard)
His C&W version was on King (and listed in Billboard's Advance Record Releases column as a "Folk" record). The vocal isn't terribly clear, as pointed out in its March 8 Billboard review: "Talking is discerned only by some ardent listening." They're going home because it's late and, of course, no one has the key. They knock, tell us that Richard sleeps in the back room, and knock some more. The old lady is there too, but they tell her to shut up because it's none of her business. One suggests that they rent a hotel room, but Hank is broke. Finally, they realize that "Richard ain't here"; he's left a note on the door telling them that he's gone on tour with Kilroy.

Kilroy [For those who don't know, "Kilroy" was itself a phenomenon of World War 2. Another shadowy character like Richard, he's usually depicted as a simplistic drawing of a face peeking over a fence. You can see his hands, his eyes, and his long nose hanging down. It's always accompanied by the legend, "Kilroy was here" and was found wherever GIs went during the war. Many, many radio comedy routines incorporated Kilroy and it seemed only natural that, since many, many comedy routines were now incorporating Richard, the two of them should get together.]

Pied Pipers The Pied Pipers (Open The Door Richard)
Their Pop version was on Capitol, and the music is much more robust (as you would expect from a Pop rendition). This one starts off with the bunch of them having just gotten into town. The hotels are all full, but Richard said they could stay with him. So they knock, with the usual results. They go through the Vocal Refrain and Jordan's Refrain (which makes no sense, since they're not supposed to have the key). After the standard yelling, they decide to throw a pebble at his window to wake him up. Would it surprise you to learn that they break the window? Finally, "Hey, did anybody think of trying the doorknob?" "Gee, it isn't even locked." The door creaks open (reminiscent of the "Inner Sanctum" radio show), there's a scream, and one of them says, "Oh, pardon me." The Pied Pipers' version made it to #8 on the Pop charts.

Merry Macs The Merry Macs (Open The Door, Richard)
Their Majestic recording is the other Pop version. It starts with the Vocal Refrain, Jordan's Refrain, and the Vocal Refrain again. Then, they sing the jivey "break it up and wake up and open the door." This is followed by the Vocal Refrain again and "It ain't no use to holler, ain't no good to knock. I'd give my last dollar if I could pick the lock. If we don't get no action, we're gonna count to ten. And boy will you be fractured when we bust it in." [they musically count to nine; the door opens; a voice says] "Come in. Glad to see you." [This is said in a slight accent of some sort, leading me to believe that it was another catchphrase, but, if it is, I can't identify it.] In all, in spite of their fine voices, it's a very poor entry in the series. However, this is the only American recording that used a version of the European Intro. (See "The European Intro - What Is It?".)


Note that it was fine for black and "hillbilly" performers to stagger home drunk, but not white Pop groups.


Freddy Martin Transcriptions (Open The Door, Richard)
Known transcriptions were by the Freddy Martin orchestra (on Standard), pianist Barclay Allen (on MacGregor), and the Jan Garber orchestra on Capitol. Transcriptions were for radio broadcasts, and not meant to be released to the public. I haven't heard these.

J. Lawrence Cook J. Lawrence Cook (Open The Door, Richard!)
I didn't know it was still being done in 1947, but Cook recorded a player piano roll of the song, released by QRS. (Shows you what I know. QRS is still turning out piano rolls in 2016.) It sounds pretty much as you'd expect a piano roll to sound.

Walter Brown Walter Brown (Open The Door, Richard)
Backed by the Tiny Grimes Sextet, this Signature recording was the version that nearly destroyed the entire franchise. Judge for yourself (I have no idea which voice is Brown's, although it's probably "Richard"):

First voice [rhyming]: Now I've been listening to all this talk about this character they call 'Richard'. But I can't seem to find old Richard around. So I figured I'd better come down by Richard's place and see what old Dick's puttin' down. You know one thing? Richard must be up there breakin' the law. There must be some reason he won't open that door.

Second voice [rhyming]: Yeah, I'm late for a date an' you know I'm gonna wait. See Richard [indistinct] here when he opens that gate.

Chorus: Hey, Dick. Hey, Dick. Come out and open that door.

[Vocal Refrain, occasionally saying "Open the door, Dickie"]

Richard: OK, OK, what's all the excitement about down there, man?

First voice: Say, who are you up there with your head stuck out the window?

Richard: I'm Richard.

First voice: You're Richard? Well get away from that window and come on down here and open that damn door.

Richard: Now listen here, I'm in here havin' myself a ball. I got me a fine, mellow little chick and the blue lights are on and my old wife's way down in Birmingham, Alabama. Everything is groovy. What happens? Everybody starts hollerin' for me to open the door. Phil Harris wants me to open the door. Bing Crosby wants me to open the door. Jack Benny wants me to open the door. If I don't open up for them, damned if I'll open up for you. Why can't you give a man a little peace?

First voice: That's what you been gettin'. You come out here and open that door and give us a little piece [play on words].

[Vocal Refrain]

First voice: Hey, wait a minute. Man, this door ain't even locked. Hey, look out, Richard, here we come.

Signature ad This one caused an uproar. Drunkenness and stupidity the establishment could somehow handle; cursing and sex they couldn't. There was this, in the March 8, 1947 Billboard: "... the Signature pressing of the novelty number cut by Walter Brown and the Tiny Grimes Sextet, is being recalled from sale because of some allegedly blue lyrics. Bob Thiele, Signature president [and future husband of Teresa Brewer], said he couldn't estimate the loss involved in view of pressings already sold." The record had already been on the market for a month, however, the Mutual Broadcasting System (with around 400 affiliates) had banned Brown's version; Thiele had no choice.

Bing Crosby Bing Crosby (Open The Door, Richard)
Der Bingle recorded it for Decca in February (possibly done with Dick Haymes), but it was never released. This is one I'd really like to hear.

Duchess ad Charlie Spivak (Open The Door, Richard)
According to a February 1, 1947 Duchess Music ad, trumpeter/orchestra leader Charlie Spivak had recorded it for RCA Victor. This is another one that was never released.


But covers are one thing. In order to become a phenomenon, you've got to have answer records and other recordings that prolong the series. These were the additional February entries:


4 Aces The 4 Aces (Richard Ain't Gonna Open That Door)
A new group on the scene, the 4 Aces had been recording for Trilon Records for less than two months. "Richard Ain't Gonna Open That Door" was led by George Smith. It starts with knocking and the pleading voice "Open up this door, Richard. It's cold out here in this air." This is followed by train whistle noises for some reason. Richard appears: "This is Richard and I'm very much in clothes. .... I ain't gonna open that door. No, no. .... They think I'm gonna open that door, but they're wrong. No, no. I ain't gonna open that door. Them cats is shockin' my modesty." He ends with "Keep on knockin', just keep on knockin'." His refrain is: "Them cats keep a-knockin' [repeated a few times] and I ain't gonna open that door." Much of his speech is garbled and it's not a great record by any standards.

The 4 Aces (Richard's Jam)
The flip of "Richard Ain't Gonna Open That Door" is an instrumental based on the melody to the Vocal Refrain and is, to me, much more enjoyable than the spoken side.

Reedum & Weep Reedum & Weep (My Name Ain't Richard, Part 1 & 2)
This answer record was on bandleader Ben Pollack's Jewel label. You'd think, with a name like "Reedum & Weep", they'd have been documented playing theaters, but there's nothing at all about them. Fortunately, Jewel Records was purchased by Savoy in May 1951, and the Savoy discography shows the master number for "My Name Ain't Richard, Part 1" (JRC 261) to have been recorded by the Two Black Crows on January 14 (although no titles were given for either side). Strangely, Part 2 has a lower master number (JRC 260).

The Two Black Crows So who were the Two Black Crows? I initially thought that would be an easy question to answer: they were an old vaudeville act, a white duo that appeared in blackface. Naturally, it got more complicated quickly. The Two Black Crows were originally Charles Mack and John Swor. When Swor left the act, he was replaced by George Moran. From that point on, they were known as both the "Two Black Crows" and "Moran & Mack". The Crows were extremely popular until they were supplanted by Amos & Andy (originally another white duo). In 1927, John Swor teamed up with Jack Goode and their blackface act was called the "Two Black Aces". By the early 40s, Charles Mack had died and George Moran was mostly retired (although at the time of his death in 1949, Moran and his new partner Rade "Pie" Sadler had implausible plans to bring the act to television). Swor and Goode, however, were still going strong and had renamed their act the "Two Black Crows". Under that name, they entertained at USO shows in the Los Angeles area, appeared at L.A. theaters, and made this record. We'll probably never know whose decision it was to rename the "Two Black Crows" to "Reedum & Weep".

The routine itself probably mirrored their stage act for the most part (they just threw in some references to "Richard"). I imagine that it would have been a real knee-slapper around 1920, but it must have been hopelessly out of date by 1947; judge for yourself. Note: Since I don't know which voice belongs to whom, I'll just label the parts "R:" and "W:".

[music, followed by knocking]

R: Open that door, Richard. [more knocking] Open that door, Richard.

W: Stop making that noise. What does you want?

R: I wanna see Richard.

W: Now you better go someplace else; Richard ain't here.

R: Well, he's gotta be here; this is where I left him. What's your name?

W: Willis. [?]

R: Well, have you seen Richard?

W: Well, I thought I seen him 'cross the street yesterday and he thought he seen me, but when we got up close to each other, it wasn't neither one of us.

R: You don't suppose he's got in jail, does you?

W: I don't think so, 'less he was the Richard I saw in court this mornin'. They was 'vestigatin' a little fracas that happened last night.

R: Well, did they find anything?

W: Yeah, they fined him.

R: Where did he go after that?

W: I don' know where he went after. He don' live here.

R: Well, I was here last night with Richard. I borrowed his suit.

W: That suit don't belong to Richard. It belongs to me.

R: That's what you say.

W: Ah, you've been drinkin'. I smelled it on your breath.

R: I been eatin' frogs' legs. What you smell is the hops.

W: Yeah, well you better hop out c'here, man, because you is disturbed.

R: You ain't very friendly. Seems like the only friend I have is my dog.

W: Well, if that ain't enough, why don't you get some more dogs.

R: Well, I thought I heard him breathin' in here, though.

W: That was me. I breathes all the time. Look, I'm even breathin' now.

R: Why?

W: I dunno. Some kind of a habit I got into. I can't break myself.

R: You was asleep when I was hollerin' "open the door, Richard".

W: I was not. I was readin' and learnin'.

R: Learnin' about what?

W: About alligators.

R: Alligators?

W: Yeah, does you know how many eggs do a hen alligator lay from one settin'?

R: A hen alligator?

W: Mmm-hmm. You doesn't 'spec a rooster alligator to lay eggs, does you?

R: And how many, how many eggs do a hen alligator lay?

W: 4414.

R: Some hen. 4414. Is the eggs round like a hen egg?

W: Mmm-hmm. Does you know how many eggs do a rooster alligator eat?

R: And is they pointed on one end and kinda round and flat on t'other?

W: Mmm-hmm. Does you know how many eggs do a rooster alligator eat? [I get the feeling that the question was asked too soon the first time]

R: How many does a rooster alligator eat?

W: 4414.

R: Who cares how many eggs a alligator lays or how many do he eat?

W: Well, you better, else you gonna be up to your hips with alligators. C'mon, now, get out c'here. I got some more studyin' to do. [door slams; knocking]

R: C'mon Richard, open that door.

W: I tol' ya, my name ain't Richard.

[guitar music; end of part 1]

[part 2 starts with freight train noises]

R: What you doin' at the depot? Lookin' for a job?

W: Uh-uh. I'm gone up to see the governor.

R: Er, whatcha gonna see him for?

W: Well, I went to see the mayor, and he won't do nothin'. So I'm goin' up to see the governor.

R: Well, he's a pretty busy man. Ever'body sees him. He don' hardly get no sleep.

W: Well, neither does I. That's what I wants to see him 'bout.

R: Well, he don' care about your business.

W: Well, somebody's got to stop that man that keeps knockin' on my door and keeps hollerin' "let me in, Richard".

R: Why don' you let him in?

W: My name ain't Richard and the government knows it.

R: How do he know that your name ain't Richard?

W: Well, I was born.

R: Then prove it.

W: Well, the governor [indistinct] spoke to my doctor.

R: Well, you better see his doctor.

W: Ah, he's mad with me 'cause I ain't paid my bill.

R: You ain't paid your bill since you was born?

W: Ah, no, not my bein' born bill. This is from curin' me from suckin' my thumb.

R: Well, did he cure ya?

W: Hmm-hmm.

R: Well, then, why won't you pay the man? How long you owed him?

W: 'Bout 'leven years. I ain't in no hurry to pay him.

R: What makes you that you ain't in no hurry to pay that doctor?

W: Took him 20 years to cure me.

R: You sucked your thumb for 20 years?

W: Not all the time.

R: I wanna look at that thumb.

W: Yeah, take a good look there.

R: Hmm-hmm.

W: Almost white, ain't it?

R: Well, if you're gonna see the governor, you better be gettin'

W: Hmm-hmm. I'm a little bit worried 'bout gettin' on that train, y'know.

R: But I don't blame ya. A man tol' me that the last car was always gettin' smashed up.

W: Well why don't they leave the last car off, then?

R: Well, if they took the sleeper off, the diner would be the last car and that would be very bad.

W: Hmm-hmm. You know about the best luck any man can have is to never be born.

R: Yeah, but that don't very often happen to nobody.

W: Y'know why I think you would see the governor?

R: Hmm-hmm.

W: He said tell that Mister Governor to tell the man that keeps knockin' and hollerin' "open the door, Richard" to g'wan and go someplace else and make that noise.

R: Ah you can't talk to the governor like that.

W: I don' think I want to ride on that train nohow. Ever' bone in my body aches.

R: You oughta be glad you ain't a herring.

W: I know.

R: Well, if you wanna see the governor, you better be gettin' [more train noises]

W: Y'know, if they left the last car off, there would only be the engyne left and I knows I don't wanna ride on no engyne.

R: Well, then, if you don't wanna ride on no engyne, how you gonna talk to the governor?

W: I'll phone him.

R: Thass a great idea. Phone the governor. [more train noises] 'Cause you done missed your train.

[fades out with train noises]


      JORDAN'S REFRAIN - ANOTHER PIECE OF THE PIE


I've been calling the following lyrics "Jordan's Refrain":

'Cause I'm standin' here scratchin' in my pants pocket
And standin' here gropin' in my coat pocket
And standin' here feelin' in my shirt pocket
And I can't find the key.

However, Jordan had changed them a bit; my 1947 Duchess sheet music actually says:

I'm standing here digging in my hip pocket
And I'm standin here scratchin in my pants pocket
And I'm standing here gropin in my coat pocket
And I just can't find that key.

(Notice that they couldn't make up their minds whether it was "standing" or "standin".)


All the other acts that initially used them (the 3 Flames, Bill Osborne, the Pied Pipers, and the Merry Macs) took the lyrics directly from the sheet music. However, none of those acts had anywhere near the success and appeal of Louis Jordan, so I'll continue to call it "Jordan's Refrain". Several other versions used it (with variations, of course), so it can be considered a staple of the song.


      THE EUROPEAN INTRO - WHAT IS IT?


This is what, for lack of a better term, I'll call the "European Intro":

Raindrops down my collar
Standing in the street
Raindrops down my collar
Misery in my feet
I'd give my last dollar
If I could pick this lock
Listen to me holler
Listen to me knock

I'll go out on a limb here and say that Dan Howell (Jack Kapp) wrote this. It doesn't have the "feel" of the rest of the musical lyrics; it sounds, to me, more like what a white lyricist would write. It's certainly not what a fall-down drunk would say at 4:00 in the morning. (Not only that, but nowhere in any of the songs does anyone say it's raining, so why does it mention "raindrops down my collar"? Note, though, that sheet music covers all seem to have a drawing of a man standing in the rain. That was probably more acceptable than someone being thrown out of a bar.)

Although those words are in the original sheet music, the only American recording using them (although in highly-altered form) is the one by the Merry Macs. That's why I call it the European Intro. After MCA purchased both Leeds and Duchess in 1964, the words disappear from the sheet music..


      WE'RE IN THE MONEY - THE FEBRUARY UPROAR


The February 1, 1947 Pittsburgh Courier talked about the conflict over writer credit, as well as how much they didn't like Dusty Fletcher's recording:

Pigmeat Markham [another disciple of Bob Russell] is acting like a press agent for John Mason, who is out not only to keep 'Richard' from opening the door for Dusty, but throw him out altogether. Everybody is saying (that is, around here) that it's John's act and Dusty has no business in it. The statute of limitations will probably play the star role in the pending fight which will undoubtedly drag on for years. [It had already been settled by the time this blurb was printed.] The tune seems to be on its way to national fame, which makes us crazy 'cause we don't get it. It's degrading and typical of the Uncle Tom era when a Negro had to not only wear a bandana on his head but wave one with his voice to make his way on the stage. This type of buffoonery highlighted by the recording of "Open The Door, Richard" has no place in the modern world of entertainment and should not be accepted any more from a colored man than it is from a white. We can't win any battles against bigotry and misunderstanding in this manner because it gives those who are against us an excuse for the way in which they want to keep on treating us. So for many reasons we send this week's hosannas on to Fred Robbins, who refused to give the tune airing on his radio show.

On the other hand, the January 28, 1947 Afro-American said, "Dusty is keen and sensitive about his race. At no time, has he ever attempted any routine that would degrade him. He is quick to point out that his acting the part of a drunk in the 'Open The Door, Richard' routine does not slur the race."

An article in the February 3, 1947 Iowa City Press-Citizen said that, by the end of January, sheet music sales had topped 100,000 and the estimate was for 500,000 eventually. The combined gross revenue for all the companies that had recorded the song to date was expected to come close to $2 million ($21,500,000 in 2016 dollars). It went on to say that:

As 'Open The Door, Richard' became popular and prosperous, the number of people claiming to have written it increased proportionately..... The Leeds Corp. leaped at the chance to copywright [sic] it and then narrowed the field of rival royalty claimants down to four: Dusty Fletcher, John Mason, Jack McVea, and Dan Howell. As the publishers tell it, this is Richard's history. Fletcher and Mason used the drunk and the locked door business for a vaudeville skit as far back as 20 years ago. But after being knocked around for two decades, the idea didn't come into big money until last December. At that time, West Coast Band Leader McVea thumped out the basic melody for the line 'Open The Door, Richard', and recorded it. Leeds stepped in with Dan Howell to round out the melody with a middle part and lyrics. For now, the royalty distribution stops there. Leeds figures four people squeezing through one money-lined door is enough.

Well, aside from McVea's recording being off by a few months, a lot of that is correct. They're implying that McVea wrote the music and Dan Howell (David Kapp) wrote the words to the Vocal Refrain. We'll probably never know exactly what Howell/Kapp's contribution actually was.

Groundhog A headline in the February 3 Atchison [Kansas] Daily Globe proclaimed: "News Story: Mr. Groundhog Trotted Out Of Hole Yesterday, Took One Look Around And Yelled 'Open The Door, Richard'".

The February 5 Mansfield [Ohio] News-Journal said "A controversy is now on as to who wrote the nutty number, 'Open The Door, Richard', which is reported to be 'sweeping the country', but guilt has not yet been established." Everyone's a critic.

Lauritz Melchior Also on February 5, the ultimate version of "Richard" hit the airwaves, courtesy of Kay Kyser's "Kollege Of Musical Knowledge" radio show. That night the song was done, operatically, by Danish Metropolitan Opera tenor Lauritz Melchior. The following week, columnist Jay Kaye had this to say in the Waco [Texas] News-Tribune of February 12:

This to me, is one of the most ridiculous things that goes on around radio - not only on Mr. Melchior's part, but on the part of all classical singers who have a name and choose to run down that name by the kind of tripe that is fitting to those far less cultured, musically. [I guess that includes anyone reading my article.] Mr. Melchior's singing of "Richard" is comparable to an Alice Faye version of the Jewel Song from "Faust" and frankly, I can't see the point in it. Surely, Mr. Melchior doesn't need the cash and what other reason could drive him to do a number such as this? [Maybe he had a sense of humor, Jay?]

What Jay possibly didn't know is that Melchior had also sung Slim Gaillard's "Cement Mixer (Putti Putti)" on a Frank Sinatra show the year before and, on February 2, had done "Open Up Them Pearly Gates" as a hillbilly number on the Fred Allen Show. On March 8, the Cincinnati Enquirer noted that there would be an opera broadcast that day: "Lauritz Melchior (of 'Open The Door, Richard' fame) and Helen Traubel sing the roles of Sigmund and Brunhilde when Wagner's 'Die Walkyrie' is presented by the Metropolitan Opera." [That's more like it. Remember the old newspaper adage: "I don't care what you say about me; just spell my name right."]

Henry Morgan Actually, Melchior might have to share the "Ultimate Version" award. On February 12, on the Henry Morgan Show, "Richard" was done as an "Italian opera". It was sung by operatic tenor Charles Haywood (born Samuel Cibulsky in Grodno, Belarus), a professor of musicology at Queens College (New York), who specialized in singing popular songs in foreign languages for comic effect. (Jay Kaye is definitely unhappy at this point.) Considering that Arnold Stang was part of Morgan's cast and was probably in on the skit, this is another performance I'd really like to hear.

OK, we've got a hit song, so why not get it scientifically analyzed? On February 7, 1947, a headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch blared: "Richard's Door Is Opened - It's 'Perseveration' Says Psychologist". ["Perseveration" is the pathological, persistent repetition of a word, gesture, or act, often associated with brain damage.] Dr. David P. Boder, a professor of psychology at Chicago's Illinois Institute Of Technology, said that the song was an expression of post-war readjustment. "It's a mood nursed by a period of unsettled conditions.... The words of the song aren't the important thing. In fact, the repetition of the nonsensical lyrics gives people the chance to read into the song any meaning they wish [like you're doing, prof?], whether it be a complaint against the housing shortage, lack of automobiles or any problem they can do nothing about. .... Songs such as this one gain popularity in times when moods are weary and conditions are unsettled." And they wonder why we have trouble taking psychologists seriously.

Not to be outdone, the following day the Brooklyn Daily Eagle found another Chicago psychologist to interview: Prof. Robert Seashore, head of the psychology department at Northwestern University. This headline said, "Richard's Fans Have Cruel Streak". "Most people like to laugh at others' misfortunes." [Yes, it's called schadenfreude and helps to explain the popularity of the minions in the "Despicable Me" cartoons.] "Richard's fans are likely to be frustrated, likely to be victims of inferiority complexes and may have a tendency to be revengeful." [I'm sure there's a term for the inflated self-worth that psychologists have. Remember, guys, as Freud said on many occasions: "Manchmal ist ein Sketch über einen betrunkener nur ein Sketch über eine betrunkener" ("sometimes a skit about a drunk is just a skit about a drunk").]

On February 8, Billboard talked about "Open The Door, Richard" shattering all records for the number of plugs on radio shows. However, unlike most records, the plugs weren't from the spinning of the various discs, but from gags inserted into shows. (In this case, "plug" meant any kind of mention, whether playing the records themselves or just using the catchphrase.)

Richard the bear Another February 8 article (Indiana Gazette) was of the absurd Press-Agent-Has-Nothing-Else-To-Fill-Up-His-Time variety. It concerned Richard, the largest Kodiak bear in captivity, who lived in the Audubon Park Zoo in New Orleans (he really existed). When attendants put food in his cage, they yell "Open The Door, Richard" and the bear does so. (Great story; shows you how much real news there was that day.)

The February 9 edition of the Jefferson City [Missouri] Sunday News And Tribune had this article (as did several other papers). It's so obvious a fabrication that I'll print the entire thing for amusement purposes:

HAMILTON, ONT - Feb. 8 - Radio Announcer Paul Hanover, paraphrasing the song title "Open The Door, Richard", quipped "Open The Winda, Linda".

Shortly after the broadcast today Hanover received a phone call from Mrs. W. Smith who thanked him for saving her life and that of her daughter, Linda.

Mrs. Smith explained that she had been sleeping when Hanover urged Linda to open the "winda". The little girl ran to her mother's room and asked "which window Mummie?"

The query wakened Mrs. Smith who discovered that escaping gas had filled the apartment.

Mason at the Paradise The week beginning February 14, John Mason appeared at the Paradise Theater in Detroit. "In his original skit", said the advertisement, "Open The Door, Richard". He was, the ad assured us, "America's Most Talked About Star", although it's probable that few white people had ever heard of him. Others on the bill were Dizzy Gillespie, Illinois Jacquet, and Erskine Hawkins. If you liked bands, this was the show for you.

Dusty in Life Dusty in Life It all became so newsworthy that the February 17, 1947 issue of Life Magazine, had a multi-page spread on Dusty Fletcher, dressed as Richard. You see him knocking, with the old lady, and then with Richard, who finally opened the door. (Dressed in a nightshirt and nightcap and holding a candle, he's played by Georgie Vann, of the Spirits Of Rhythm.)

Dusty at the Howard An article in the February 18, 1947 Lead [South Dakota] Daily Call was entitled "Every Knock Is Boost For Dusty". It’s a long article in which Dusty gives his version of how the sketch came to be. It's nice that he's getting a lot of publicity after so many years in the theater, but, since it's mostly a bunch of flights of fancy, I won't dwell on it. He doesn't mention John Mason, so that puts its entire trustworthiness in doubt.

Because there were big bucks to be made, we got this: the February 22 Billboard reported that someone named Jack McRae, had had an Indianapolis concert on the 14th, billing himself as the "originator and author" of the song. Duchess Music immediately sought an injunction. I suppose he stopped; there's no further mention of him.

Here's something I don't understand. Another phenomenon was "knock-knock jokes", which had really taken off in the mid-1930s. [If you've been hiding out all these years, this one, from 1934, shows the structure: "Knock, knock", "Who's there?", "Rufus", "Rufus who?", "Rufus the most important part of your house." Everyone groan!] What I don't understand is why knock-knocks and Richard never made it to the same joke. (In truth, I'm sure that they did, on radio. It's just that no one ever bothered to write about it at the time.)

Note that everywhere on the Internet, it says that there was a Yiddish version by Molly Picon. If she did it at all, it would have been on a radio broadcast; there's not a trace of her recording the song.

On February 16, 1947, the Detroit Free Press said: "The National Association Of Door Manufacturers met here Saturday. Their theme song was 'Open The Door, Richard'." It should have been the National Door Manufacturers Association, but, whether or not it actually happened, some press agent figured out that it would make a cute story.

Remember the Dusty Fletcher short film of "Open The Door, Richard" that I outlined near the beginning of this article? It was released to 42 New York City area Loew's theaters on February 24. It was also integrated into the Cab Calloway film, "Hi-De-Ho" (released in early May), although it was subsequently removed at some point and doesn't seem to be in any of today's copies.

Dusty in Killer Diller [Here's another Dusty Fletcher film that bears mentioning: "Killer Diller". Released around May 1948, it has wonderful performances by Andy Kirk's Orchestra, the King Cole Trio, Frankie Manning & 4 Congaroos, and the tap-dancing Clark Brothers. Dusty, in his usual down-and-out costume, plays a (sober) magician who's auditioning to be in a show. It turns out he can disappear and reappear at will. He explains this ability as follows: "You see - enterin' the room without comin' through the door - that's just a sample of my abilities. I developed that trick because I had difficulties in gettin' someone to open the door." At the end of the film, he needs to get his suitcase so that he can go off and marry Butterfly McQueen. Unfortunately, the door is locked and he ends up pounding on it and yelling "Open The Door, Richard". (At this point, it would no longer be amusing to have him teleport himself inside.) He, and the four "Keystone Kops" that chase him throughout the film, are actually quite funny.]

The February 28, Franklin (Pennsylvania) News-Herald had one of those absurd phony press agent blurbs that I love: "The powder room at Rogers' Corner now has an illuminated sign on its entrance flashing the following warning: 'Do Not Open This Door, Richard!'."


      ENOUGH IS ENOUGH


WPOR On February 23, radio station WPOR (Portland, Maine) took out an ad in the Portland Sunday Telegram and Sunday Press Herald that said "We've been hearing a lot of 'Open The Door, Richard' lately ... So ... R&R Taxi Co. and WPOR decided to present an 'Open The Door, Richard' Program to end all performances of the latest musical (?) sensation. If you like 'Open The Door, Richard' ... If you are fed up with 'Open The Door, Richard' ... Listen for the final WPOR performances of 'Open The Door, Richard', by demand - Monday night at 11:15, sponsored by R&R Taxi Co." Notice that, in that small blurb, they managed to mention the title five times.

A few days later the February 28, 1947 Kingston [New York] Daily Freeman had an article about New York City radio station WOR entitled "Door Closed On Richard". It went: "Radio Station WOR's door is being gently closed on Richard. The station announced today it is restricting use of the novelty tune, 'Open The Door, Richard', because it believes audiences are becoming annoyed at over-playing of the song. Comedians broadcasting over WOR have been asked to shun 'Open The Door, Richard' gags too."

The March 26 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote: "Things to be grateful for: 'Open The Door, Richard' seems to have had its day."

In spite of this, the March 29, 1947 Asbury Park [New Jersey] Press wrote "The Duchess Music corporation, which published 'Open The Door, Richard', collected fees ranging from $50 to $1,500 from advertisers who wanted to use the title for a publicity tie-in."

The January 3, 1948 Billboard, looking back over 1947, had this one liner: "Open The Door, Richard spread its plague on the U.S.A." Sounds to me like biting the hand that feeds you.


      MARCH 1947 - PLENTY OF ANSWERS


In spite of warnings that the whole craze was going to taper off, there were more entries in March: one new version and several answer records. Let me note that not a single answer record made the charts; the skyrocket had flared and died.


Melo-Tone ad No artist credit (Open The Door, Richard)
Released on Melo-Tone, this was a skating record. Probably the oddest entry in the whole series, I doubt anybody out there has heard this one.

Stepin Fetchit Stepin Fetchit (Richard's Answer (I Ain't Gonna Open That Door))
Apollo released this two-parter in March. Of course, Lincoln "Stepin' Fetchit" Perry had been around for years and was billed, on stage and screen, as "the laziest man in the world". Although many blacks hated his portrayals, he supposedly was the first black actor to become a millionaire. The record starts off with "Y'know, I was layin' down dreamin' everybody was tryin' to wake me up." The refrain in this one goes "Richard, can't get him up / Richard, can't get him up / Richard, can't get him up / Lazy Richard, can't get him up." He not only has to contend with the knocking, but also the phone ringing. But he still maintains "I ain't gonna open that door." Most of what he's saying is very indistinct, but a lot of it seems to rhyme. I find it more annoying than anything else, although the music is good.

The record was reviewed in the March 15, 1947 Billboard: "Here is the inevitable sequel. .... Packs a lot of goodly humor in the first part, but drags it out for a second side with a riding alto saxer filling in some of the grooves. With 'Richard' still a major concern, the Part 1 side as a sequel should grab off a healthy hunk of the phono play. Name value of Fetchit an added incentive for the attraction." On the other hand, the March 5 Variety said, "Personally, we found it pretty dull...."

Fetchit movie poster Fetchit movie Fetchit movie To drive home his point, Fetchit also starred in a short Astor Pictures film with the same title as the record (it also had the Earl Bostic Orchestra). Directed by William Forest Crouch (of Soundies fame), it had been filmed in February 1947 and was released in either April or May. (It's incorrectly dated at 1949 all over the Internet, but it was playing at theaters around the country by late May 1947.) This movie is so egregiously stupid and mind-numbingly boring that I won't even bother to summarize it, since I'd have to watch it a second time. Suffice it to say that Fetchit is in bed complaining about everyone annoying him to open the door when all he wants to do is sleep.

with Sammy Yates Jack McVea Jack McVea (The Key's In The Mailbox)
Jack was back with "The Key's In The Mailbox" on Black & White. This time, the All Stars had been re-named the "Door Openers", with Jack McVea, Rabon Tarrant, and Sammy Yates doing the vocals. It begins with the familiar knocking and the shout of "Open the door, Richard", then continues with "I just can't get in this house no kinda way. I can't find my key." The old woman across the way pops up again saying "If you were mine I'd hit you in the head with the [indistinct] for wakin' me up this time of the morning. Why don't you try the mailbox for the key?" They decide that "... she may be on the beam. Lemme look in this mailbox here. The key was in the mailbox!" The refrain goes: "The key's in the mailbox, the key's in the mailbox, the key's in the mailbox, so open that door and walk right in. There's food in the icebox, there's food in the icebox, there's food in the icebox, so open that door and walk right in." They decide to go into the kitchen and eat, but "Uh oh; uh oh; there's a lock on the icebox." It ends with them begging Richard to open the icebox. This one's pretty weak and probably didn't get all that much play.

[In case you don't know, "on the beam" was an aviation expression meaning "going in the right direction" by following a radio beam that was broadcast to guide aircraft.]

McVea's fame Jack McVea (Richard Gets Hitched)
The flip of "The Key's In The Mailbox" is a different story. Called "Richard Gets Hitched", it runs through a load of ancient vaudeville gags about a marriage ceremony, and is a delightful addition to the series.

First voice: Say Reverend, where you goin', man?

Second voice: Ah, bro, I think I'll go down on the street down here and see if I can pick up [indistinct] someplace.

First voice: Jackson, where you goin'?

Third voice: Where am I goin? You don't know what's happenin' today? I'll tell ya, man. There's gonna be a weddin'. I'm right here to say and we're gonna celebrate it in a syncopated way. [In a syncopated way?] Yeah, a syncopated way.

First voice: Say, Jackson, who's gettin' married, man?

Third voice: You don't know who's gonna get married? Boy, this is a big deal. Richard's marryin' Sister Goosey Lucy. Now here's the house, right here. Let's go in this house.

[music and crowd noises, followed by the ceremony]

Guest: Well, here's the parson. Good evening, Reverend.

Reverend: Good evening, brother Crow. [pianist Tommy "Crow" Kahn] Good evening, brother [indistinct], brother [indistinct]. Where's the couple? Where's the couple?

Guest: Right here, Reverend.

Reverend: Bring 'em right down in front. Richard, step a little closer. Richard, are you ready?

Richard [sounding like a brainless idiot]: Yeah, man, I'm ready, man.

Reverend: Sister Goosey Lucy, are you ready?

Lucy [sounding as dumb as Richard]: Hee, hee, hee, hee. Yass.

Reverend: Join hands. [sings] Now you take this woman for your awful wedded wife? An' you promise to beat her for the rest of your life?

Richard: I do, man, I do.

Reverend: Let's talk to Sister Goosey Lucy over here. Do you take this man for better or worse until the undertaker hauls him away in a hearse?

Lucy: I do, parson, I do.

Reverend: Cut that out, cut that out.

Lucy: Yes, I do.

Reverend: Ol' Rev's gonna cut a little step. Cut that out, cut that out. [the band plays, followed by some indistinct talk] I now pronounce you man and wife and may you fuss and fight for the rest of your life. Kiss the bride. [she giggles; they kiss] Pass ol' Rev an order of them cabbage greens. A little potato salad and vinegar.

[crowd mumbling as the music fades]


Black & White's ad Black & White took out a big ad for this record in the February 22 Billboard. Without naming either of the sides, they announced that it would be available on March 1. Part of the copy read: "5 months ahead with 'Richard'" and "First out with the sequel". Of course, answer records were already flooding the market and it was closer to 3 months than 5.

Cedric Wallace The Cedric Wallace Trio (I Ain't Gonna Open That Door)
Cedric Wallace (bass), Clarence Johnson (piano), and Cliff White (guitar) released this answer record on International. I haven't heard this one.

Gay Crosse Gay Crosse (The Door Is Wide Open)
On Mercury, it's got jive talk and rhyming lyrics. Crosse (saxophone and vocal) fronted a band called the Good Humor Six. The lyrics are from Richard's perspective:

[knocking] Now listen to that cat out there bammin' on that door at 4PM in the mornin' [sorry, Gay, but 4PM is in the afternoon] disturbin' all the neighbors. He's gonna get us put out of here yet. We're already behind in our rent anyway. That cat must be high again, that's it. [starts to rhyme] Hey, Jack, this is Richard. C'mon in. The door's wide open. Ain't you gonna gimme some skin? Now, while I'm layin' down here tryin' to catch myself a snooze, you wake me up kickin' with those 'open up' blues. But boss, you're welcome, fall right in. The door's wide open and you know it's a cryin' sin. And while you were knockin' yourself out out there and havin' a ball, you know, that door was just stickin' it wasn't locked at all. [more knocking] Hey, man, be quiet, come on in. Don't stand there makin' such an awful din. Now, when I was [indistinct] out fine and takin' myself a snore, don't stand there frownin' at that basement door. Hey, boss man, greetings, how've you been? The door's wide open, ain't you comin' in? Man, I could hear you call comin' way down the hall. But that door was just stickin', it wasn't locked at all. [music plays] Well, that's old Oscar out there stompin' around and kickin' the ground. [rhyming ends] Y'know Oscar's my roommate. I've roomed with Oscar for umpteen years. An' I just wouldn't room with nobody but Oscar. He's such a nice fellow when he ain't drinkin'. But I just don't seem to be able to stop him from drinkin'. So, I'm still his boy; we're still gonna room together, you know. One little thing: [rhyming starts again] Hey, Jack, this is Richard, come on in. The door's wide open and you know it's a cryin' sin. And while you were out there just knockin' yourself out and clowinin' and havin' a ball, you know that door was just stickin', it wasn't locked at all. [music] Jack, don't go out no more.

The song was reviewed in the March 29, 1947 Billboard: "... one of the better sequels to the Richard epic, having original rhyming lyrics in jive talk that will mean plenty of second listenings."

Skating Rhythms No artist credit (Open The Door, Richard)
Released on Skating Rhythms in May (or, at least, advertised in the May 10 Billboard), this was another skating record. I would never have believed there would be two of them and I doubt anybody out there has heard this one either. However, I believe it was the last U.S. recording of "Open The Door, Richard") for 11 years. I haven't heard this one.


In early April 1947, Cab Calloway, Dusty Fletcher, and the Ravens (a "new quartet") began a stay at the Strand Theater in Manhattan. Fletcher would tour with Calloway for around a year (which probably explains why his "Richard" film was inserted into Cab's). A review of the show in the April 19 Pittsburgh Courier said: "If you're interested, Dusty Fletcher is funniest when he's off the 'Open The Door," you know who. We like his expression, to wit: 'Jack, I'm so bad that I don't even fool with myself when I'm not feelin' good.'"

A March 1 article in Billboard was entitled "The Fourth Flame". It went: "Source of the fire which gutted the two-story building of Philco Distributers, local record wholesalers, remained unknown -- until someone reported that the last record shipment received before the fire was Open The Door, Richard -- by the Three Flames." I believe this; don't you?

An article in the March 15, 1947 Baltimore Afro-American was headed, "Truman Opened The Door But Richard Didn't Enter". This told the story of how President Truman had invited Dusty Fletcher to the White House to entertain at the annual White House Press Corps Dinner, which had been given on March 8. However, Dusty was under contract to the Skyline Club (Flint, Michigan) and couldn't make it. Do I believe this one? It goes against the grain, but it's hard for me to think that a press agent would involve the President of the United States in one of these totally fictional blurbs. On the other hand, look at the wonderful publicity the Skyline Club would have gotten if they'd let him attend. On the third hand, it was only printed in the one newspaper and came through ANP, a Dutch news agency. I really don't know. (Of course, the invitation wouldn't have come from Truman himself, but the questions remain.)

The Beaver Valley [Pennsylvania] Times had an article on April 30, 1947 that was headed "Hollywood ... Richard Again". It told the sad tale of how some lines had to be cut from films or even re-written (meaning scenes would have to be re-shot) when preview audiences laughed at actors' pleas to "open the door" in dramas. Two examples from the article:

Warners ... deleted a line after the preview showing of "The Two Mrs. Carrolls." When Humphrey Bogart pounded at Barbara Stanwyck's room and called, "Open the door," the audience shouted, "Richard."

Another line was jerked from Mark Hellinger's "Brute Force" at Universal-International. Burt Lancaster, sent back to his prison cell after two days in solitary confinement, approaches the cell block guard and says: "Open 'er up, Richard." He doesn't say that any more.

Even Shakespeare got involved. There was a March 1947 production of "The Taming Of The Shrew" at the El Patio, in Hollywood (with John Ireland as Petruchio, Marjo Harris as Katharina, and Shelly Winters as Bianca). The April 5 review in Billboard said, "Such unorthodox cracks as 'Open The Door, Richard' and 'The Iceman Cometh,' etc., pull belly-laughs and lend favorably to the general rough and rowdy approach to the Shrew."

An interesting article in the May 17, 1947 Billboard talked about the Beltone Recording Corporation of New York. "... The specialty of the house ... is doctoring of Master Records. They've repaired waxings by such stellar artists as Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, Boyd Raeburn and Larry Clinton and claim to have put the finishing touches to Dusty Fletcher's Open The Door, Richard." Leslie Cahan, who ran the operation, said that the need for this is due to "carelessness on the part of the recording studio. He says most common master woes are surface noises on the original, which can be attributed to careless use of an unclean cutting stylus, and non-achievement of maximum musical tone brilliance on the waxing date." They actually re-recorded the masters, using specially designed equipment and filters. Not something you usually think about

Herbie Harrison I have to mention MC, comedian, and impressionist Herbie Harrison. From 1949 through the 1960s, he played Western Pennsylvania and Ohio with his "Open The Door, Richard" act. (He was around from the mid-1930s, but, of course, didn't incorporate Richard into his act until after the records took off.)


      A REAL ODDBALL


Guy Chookoorian Guy Chookoorian (Toore' Patz Dikran)
Guy "Chuck" Chookoorian recorded parodies of popular songs in Armenian (just as Mickey Katz did in Yiddish and Lalo Guerrero did in Spanish.) He'd worked up a little comedy act, in Armenian, based on the Richard routine and was asked to record it. The result was "Toore' Patz Dikran", released on his own Lightning label in July 1947. While it's all in Armenian, both Guy and his label were from California and he claimed that it sold several thousand copies in the Armenian community. There's the Vocal Refrain and lots of talking, knocking, and screams of "Dikran, toore' patz" (Richard, open the door). I don't understand any of it, but fortunately Guy's son, Arshag, provided me with the words to the Vocal Refrain and a complete translation.

Come on, sing along:

Դուռը բա´ց, Տիգրա´ն,
      [toore' patz, Dikran - open the door, Richard]
Դուռը բա´ց, որ ես ներս գամ,
      [toore' patz, vor yes ners kam - open the door, so I can come in]
Դուռը բա´ց, Տիգրա´ն,
      [toore' patz, Dikran - open the door, Richard]
Տիգրա´ն, ինչո՞ւ դուռը չես բանար...
      [Dikran inchoo toore ches panar. - Richard, why don't you open the door]

This evening, I went to a dance.
Richard came home a little early.
There’s only one key for our house.
He took it with him.
Wait a minute and I’ll knock on the door,
I’ll see if he’ll get up and open the door.

[Knocking] Richard, open the door!

Richard sleeps in the back bedroom.
It’s a little hard for him to hear.
Let me knock on the door a little harder.
Let me see if he’ll hear it.

[Knocking] Richard, open the door!

He didn’t hear it.
Let me try again.
Let me see what’ll happen.

[Knocking] Richard, open the door!

[Refrain]

Richard, open the door,
It’s cold here, pal,
I’m frozen.
Look, look, look,
There’s Mrs. Talks-a-lot,
She’s looking through her window.
She saw me, she saw me,
Yes, Mrs., Yes, it’s me, it’s me.
What a horrible thing.
Tomorrow the whole city will know,
I got home at 4 o’clock,
It’ll be so shameful for me.

[Knocking] Richard, open the door!

Hey, Jack, do you have a key for my room?
I can’t get Richard up.
What? Maybe he’s not home?
No, no, no, I know very well he’s home.
How do I know?
I can hear him snoring,
Besides, where’s he going to go?
He has one good suit,
And I’m wearing it.

[Knocking] Richard, open the door!

[Refrain]

Wait! Let me try the door one time.
Maybe he left it open for me.

Wow, the door has been open.
(Tch, tch, tch, tch, tch)
Good thing I didn’t wake the boy up.

[Woman screams]

Oh, excuse me.
It was the wrong house.

[Refrain]


      RICHARD CROSSES THE OCEAN


The March 1, 1947 Billboard headline read "Richard Opens England's Door". Post-war England wasn't doing well. Crucial to Richard's journey, there was a "coal crisis", because of which they couldn't easily press records or print up sheet music. However, let us not forget that there were big bucks to be made, so Leeds Publishing wasn't about to let a little thing like a "coal crisis" get in the way. Representatives of Leeds in England came to the U.S. in late February and returned with lots of copies of the sheet music to be given out to all major London bandleaders and singers. The idea worked. There were many European recordings of the song. I'll list the ones I know about (now that I think about it, I suppose I can't list the ones I don't know about), but I haven't heard them all.

Tommy Handley The April 12, 1947 Billboard had a little article entitled "Britain Pounds Wax Portals For 'Richard' Copies". "Richard" was first introduced to audiences on Tommy Handley's BBC musical-vaudeville show. This triggered the sale of 18,000 copies of the sheet music in the first week and they expected the demand to remain at 10,000 copies a week for a while. (Whatever happened to that "coal crisis"? It turned out to be a four-week fuel ban, during which printers didn't work. But now, they were back with a vengeance.) The tune generated the most plays ever for a song in Britain (I presume that meant live radio performances, but I could be wrong.)


Ted Heath Ted Heath (Open The Door, Richard!)
The famous British bandleader recorded his version for English Decca, with vocals by Paul Carpenter and Dave Wilkins. Released in September 1947, it rose to #49 on the UK charts that same month. Even though Wilkins was black, the lyrics were kept pretty generic.

Carpenter: Raindrops down my collar and misery in my feet. Got raindrops down my collar, standin' here in the street. I'd give my last dollar (as a matter of fact, I'd give Ted's last dollar, too) if I could pick this lock. Pick, pick, pick. Listen to me holler; listen to me knock. [note the use of the European Intro; he then does the Vocal Refrain, followed by Jordan's Refrain, and the Vocal Refrain again]

Wilkins: What's the matter, boy? You got troubles?

Carpenter: You ain't kiddin'. I'm not married, either.

Wilkins: That's bad. Can I help?

Carpenter: No, I'll tell ya, I lost my key. You don't look thin enough to slide under that door.

Wilkins: Ain't there nobody in there you can wake up?

Carpenter: Yeah, there's a boy by the name of Richard, but he's harder to wake up than Rip van Winkle.

Wilkins: Want me to try?

Carpenter: Yeah, go ahead.

Wilkins [shouting in a gravelly voice]: Richard, open up that door, man. It's cold out here. Yeah, and that goes for me too.

Carpenter: See what I mean? He thinks he's Juliet playing hard to get.

Wilkins: Okay, Romeo, maybe he's gone.

Carpenter: Gone? He can't "gone". I got his only suit on.

Wilkins: Well, in that case, boy, you both got troubles. And I'm gonna leave you to it.

Carpenter: All right. Thanks a lot anyway. But I think I'll knock one more time.

Wilkins: Yeah, do that, do that.

[knocking and the Vocal Refrain; in the midst of it, Carpenter yells "I'm gonna kick that door down"]

Geraldo Geraldo & His Orchestra (Open The Door, Richard)
This one, on the English Parlophone label, had a vocal by Denny Vaughan (misspelled on the label as "Vaughn") and was from March 1947. It reached #6 on the UK charts by May. It's a straight singing version, with Vaughan singing/talking the European Intro, followed by the Vocal Refrain, Jordan's Refrain, Vocal Refrain, and lots of music. He finishes up with Jordan's Refrain and the Vocal Refrain.

Glen Powell Glen Powell & His Orchestra (Open The Door ! Richard)
Powell's record, with vocal in English by Henri Salvador, was released on two Belgian labels: Magic ("Open The Door ! Richard", including misplaced exclamation point) and Sonora Swing ("Open The Door, Richard"), both in April of 1947. The track was also issued on Broadway, but I don't know what country that label was from. (The credit on that one is to "Glen Powell et son orchestre".) It begins with knocking and "Open the door, open the door, open the door, Richard" (which starts low and builds to a shout). This is followed by some band music, the Vocal Refrain (repeated four times), Jordan's Refrain, the Vocal Refrain, and more band music. It ends with Henri knocking, pleading, and crying: "Richard, Richard, why don't you open that door?" The music is good, but there's no way a Belgian audience would have any idea what it was all about (unless the catchphrase had invaded Belgian radio programs, which is a distinct possibility).

French sheet music There's some confusion as to who "Glen Powell" was. Several sources link the name to Ray Ventura. [For example, the French sheet music cover says the song was recorded by Jacques Hélian and his orchestra (below) and by Henri Salvador with Ray Ventura and his orchestra.] However, all copyright documents, over many years, say "Glen Powell" is a pseudonym of Belgian jazz entrepreneur Felix Robert Faecq, and that's good enough for me.

Amie Barelli Amié Barelli & son Orchestre (Open The Door Richard (Ouvre la porte Richard))
This was on the French Pathé label at an unknown date in 1947. The vocal, completely in English, was by 15-year-old José "Jo" Bartel. It starts with the Vocal Refrain, followed by Jordan's Refrain, and the Vocal Refrain again, but most of it features Barelli's trumpet. At the end, after a final Vocal Refrain, Bartel says "Hey, man, can't you open that doggone door?". Again, did audiences have any idea what was going on, or did they just enjoy the music?

Bernard Hilda Bernard Hilda (Ouvre La Porte, Richard)
Hilda recorded on French Polydor, from sometime in 1947. I've seen the French lyrics to the song (by André Hornez) and they look as extensive as what Dusty Fletcher did. I'm not going to try to translate them, but what little I know of French tells me that they'll resemble the Ted Heath lyrics that I gave above. Here's how the Vocal Refrain goes, with [I hope] a reasonable translation:

Ouvre la porte, Richard [Open the door, Richard]
Ouvre la porte, qu'il puisse rentrer [so I can get in]
Ouvre la porte, Richard
Qu'est-ce que t'attends pour te réveiller? [what will it take to wake you up?]
Ouvre la porte, Richard
Ouvre la porte, par pitié [for pity's sake]
Ouvre la porte, Richard
Puisqu'on t'dit qu'il a perdu sa clé! [since I told you that I've lost the key]

Ramblers ad The Ramblers De Ramblers (Open De Deur Richard)
This Dutch group was on Dutch Decca/Omega from May 1947, with a vocal by Ferry Barendse. It was #80 on the 1947 Dutch charts and also appears on a 1976 Elf Provincien LP (another Dutch label).

Open de deur, Richard
Open de deur, kom aan, begin [come on, get started]
Open de deur, Richard
Richard, vooruit, toe laat me d'r in [Richard, let's go; now let me in]

Ik sta maar te zoeken in m'n vestezakken
      [I'm standing looking in my vest pockets]
En ik sta maar te delven in m'n broekzakken
      [And I'm standing digging in my pants pockets]
En ik sta alsmaar te graaien in m'n jaszakken
      [And I'm standing groping in my coat pockets]
En ik vind de sleutel niet
      [And I can't find the key]

Peanuts Holland Peanuts Holland & Okey-Dokies (Open The Door, Richard)
Recorded in Copenhagen, Denmark at the end of March, 1947, it was released on Swedish Odeon in April. Herbert "Peanuts" Holland was a black American trumpet player who did a lot of recording in Europe after moving there in 1947. The Okey-Dokies were a Danish vocal quartet consisting of Birgit Grelck, Inge Stausbøll, Nete Schreiner, and Ole Mortensen. Musicians included pianist Bent Fabricius-Bjerre (who you probably know better as "Bent Fabric", of "Alley Cat" fame) and guitarist Jorgen Ingeman (who would have a hit with "Apache"). I haven't heard this one.

Radio Revellers The Radio Revellers (Open The Door, Richard)
Another UK group, they recorded it for Columbia around June 1947. The members were: Al Fernhead, Arthur Reed, Freddie Holmes, and Stan Emeney. I haven't heard this one.

Buddy Bertinat The Buddy Bertinat Accordion Quintet (Open The Door, Richard)
Their version (misspelled "Ope") was recorded in Zurich and released on Elite Special, a Swiss label, around June 1947. Hans "Buddy" Bertinat was a pianist and accordionist. However, I don't know why they were billed as an "accordion quintet", since there only seemed to be four of them and only Buddy was making noise on the squeezebox. The others were Billy Toffel (guitar), Sunny Lang (bass), and Stuff Combe (drums). I haven't heard this one.

Horst Winter Horst Winter und das Wiener Tanz-Orchester (Open The Door, Richard)
The Vienna Dance Orchestra gave us another one on the Swiss Elite Special label. It was recorded in Vienna on June 24, 1947 and released in July. I haven't heard this one.

Achille Christen Achille Christen (Open The Door, Richard)
Recorded in Zurich on May 21, the third version on the Swiss Elite Special label was also released around July 1947. The vocal is by Hedy Olden. I haven't heard this one.

Simon Brehm Simon Brehms Orkester (Open The Door, Richard!)
The vocal on the Brehm recording was by American trombonist Tyree Glenn, one of many black performers who toured Europe after WW2. It was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden on April 29, 1947 and released on the Swedish Musica label in June. I haven't heard this one.

Thore Ehrling Thore Ehrlings Orkester (Open The Door, Richard)
Another Swedish entry, this one had been recorded on April 23, 1947, with Ehrling doing the vocal. It was released around June on the Cupol label. I haven't heard this one.

Henry Lindblom Henry Lindblom & Flickery Flies (Open The Door, Richard)
Backed up by the Allan Johansson Orchestra, this was a third Swedish recording done in April 1947 (on the 22nd). The Flickery Flies consisted of Allan Johansson, Brita Borg, Gunnar Nilson, and Bengt Elmberg. It was released on the Swedish His Master's Voice label, around June. I haven't heard this one.

Brocksi The Brocksi-Quintett (Open The Door, Richard)
Led by drummer Fritz "Freddie" Brocksieper, the group released it on German Brunswick sometime in 1947. This one's a very pleasant jazz instrumental, not a word to be heard. The writer credit, however, was "Charioteers".

Jacques Helian Jacques Hélian (Ouvre La Porte, Richard!)
Released on French Columbia around July 1947. The vocal is by "Zappy Max" Doucet, who sounds like he's having a lot of fun with it. The Vocal Refrain matches the one on Bernard Hilda's French version, but many of the other lyrics defy my translation attempts, so I guess a lot of it is French slang.

Alberto Semprini Alberto Semprini y su Orquesta Ritmo Sinfónica (Abre La Puerta, Ricardo)
Semprini's orchestra had the Spanish entry, on Odeon (Barcelona) in 1948. It featured a vocal by Austrian singer Herta Frankel (whom I find to have a very annoying voice). This one's a little different because she alternates singing "Open the door, Richard" and "Abre la puerta". And, although the label calls him "Ricardo", she always says "Richard".


Open the door, Richard
Abre la puerta sin tardar [open the door without delay]
Open the door, Richard
Abre la puerta dejame entrar [open the door let me in]
Open the door, Richard
Abreme ya por corrección [open it for me already **]
Open the door, Richard
No ves que llueve, ten compassión. [can't you see it's raining, have pity]

This is followed by Jordan's Refrain, but I can't make much out of that. The rest of the recording is instrumental.

** I asked a Spanish teacher and she had no idea what "por corrección" meant in this case. Possibly they're trying to say "it's the right thing to do" or maybe something like "in order to correct this situation".

Sexteto Puerto Rico Sexteto Puerto Rico (Abre La Puerta, Ricardo)
The Puerto Rico Sextet also recorded a song called "Abre La Puerta, Ricardo", this one on the Verne label in 1948. Vocals are by Pompilio "Pompo" Rodriguez (misspelled "Pombo" on the label) and Leocadio Vizcarrondo. It's certainly not the same song, but it has something of the same theme: The singers tell us that it's late, a woman named Tomasa has returned home, and she can't find her key. This is the only one that doesn't use the Vocal Refrain, but repeats over and over: "Abre la puerta, Ricardo / que tu negrita llegó" ("Open the door, Richard, your little cutie has arrived"). [This may be paying tribute to a famous song called "La negra Tomasa" by Guillermo Rodríguez Fiffe.] Since it was clearly influenced by all the other versions, I have to include this one. Verne was an East Harlem label, started by Luis Cuevas in the early 1940s, when large record companies weren't renewing the contracts of most of their Latin acts. (This led to the formation of independents like Verne, Seeco, and Tico.) The label states that it's a guaracha, a type of Cuban music that's up-tempo, with humorous lyrics.

Lubo D'Orio Lubo D'Orio mit seinem Orchester (Open The Door Richard)
Lubo (real name: Lubomir Wapordjeff) was a Bulgarian saxophonist, clarinetist, and orchestra leader. His version is a standard interpretation, all in English, with main vocal by Ilja Glusgal. It starts off with the European Intro, then the chorus then does the Vocal Refrain, followed by Glusgal doing Jordan's Refrain. Recorded in Berlin on May 1, 1948 it was released on German Electrola later that month.

Standard Jazzband Die Standard-Jazzband (Open The Door, Richard)
The Jazz Band recorded "Richard" for the Austrian Standard label in Vienna on July 12, 1948. The tune is mostly instrumental. It was also released on Pallas around the same time. (Pallas seems to have existed to distribute Standard recordings in Germany.) I believe it features the tenor saxophone of Hans Koller. I haven't heard this one.


German sheet music The German sheet music called the song "Mach' mir doch [die Tür] auf, Lilly" (open up the door, Lilly). The song is credited to McVea, Fletcher, Mason, and Howell, with German lyrics by Yell Season and Alexander Steinbrecher. It tells the story of a man who wants to see Lilly, but she's inside Richard's house. The narrator's been standing in the rain for two hours. His collar and shoes are soaked and he's getting a cold. His lament is "If I risk my health for you / I'd like to get the cold directly from you". Strangely though, I can't find any German recording with either this title or lyrics.

It surprises me that I can't find a single recording of the song made in Italy; there should have been at least one. There don't seem to be any from Norway or Portugal either.

Auatralian contest I don't know of any Australian recordings from this period, but I did find an interesting ad in the October 11, 1947 Sydney Herald. Richard had made it Down Under and the makers of Kream Corn Flour asked readers to send in a box top along with a guess as to "What did Richard say when he opened the door?" First prize was £150. Unfortunately, the contest is closed now, so don't bother to send in any entries. The grand prize went to Mrs. T. A. Bieske, but her answer was only broadcast on station 2UE, not printed.

the British play Also in October 1947, a play called "Open The Door, Richard" opened at the Wood Green Empire Theater in London. Conceived by English comedian Ernie Lotinga, it seems to be a comedy, but I can't find out anything about the plot. However, looking at the names of the characters in the playbill, I can't believe that it shares anything with our saga other than the name (but that was probably enough to get Londoners interested).

Not just an American phenomenon, Richard had traveled the globe.


      THESE DON'T BELONG


I'm Going Back In There Dusty Fletcher (I'm Going Back In There)
His follow-up record was a two-parter on National, from March 1947. I have to mention this one, because it appears in many write-ups of the Richard saga. However, Dusty is just using lines from his stage act about going back into the bar he's just been thrown out of and it has nothing to do with the Richard series.

Buddy Moreno Buddy Moreno (Open The Door Polka)
This one was released on RCA in April 1949. Carlos "Buddy" Moreno was an American vocalist and guitarist, who lived to be 103. This tune, sung with Perri Mitchell, is more like "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and has nothing at all to do with the Richard saga. Unfortunately, the title is sometimes seen (incorrectly) as "Open The Door Richard".


      RICHARD CLAIMS HIS FIRST VICTIM


The July 27, 1952 Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) had an article about a Memphis, Tennessee shooting entitled "Exasperation Leads To Killing":

Richard Miller told police he killed James Caldwell today because Caldwell exasperated him beyond endurance by shouting "Open the door, Richard!" whenever they met.

Some people just aren't music lovers.


      CLOSE THE DOOR


If you have a reason to open the door, maybe there's also a reason to close it. Tex Williams & The Western Caravan came up with one. To be honest, it really has nothing to do with Richard other than borrowing his name and turning the catchphrase around, but it's a cute song.


Tex Williams Tex Williams (Close The Door Richard (I Just Saw The Thing))
Tex wrote "Close The Door Richard (I Just Saw The Thing)" to take advantage of both "Open The Door, Richard" and Phil Harris' monster late 1950 hit, "The Thing". He sang it on a radio broadcast (at an unknown date; probably in 1951), but never recorded it for release (it appears on the "Live From The Palace Barn And Transcription Discs" CD [2002] on the Country Routes label). It's possible that he recorded it multiple times, since the copy I have doesn't sound like it was recorded before a live audience. A copyright was filed in November 1952.

Burl Ives Burl Ives (Close The Door Richard (I Just Saw The Thing))
Ives did his own version of "Close The Door Richard (I Just Saw The Thing)" on Decca in June 1953. The Billboard review of June 27 said it was "very limited in appeal".


      THE SAGA CONTINUES


After this, Richard disappeared for a few years (although the catchphrase still popped up in the newspapers from time to time). Then, starting in 1958, there was a renaissance.


Melvin Smith Melvin Smith (Open The Door Richard)
Melvin was the vocalist for Doc Starkes' Night Riders, who back him on this April 1958 Cameo release. Of course, things had to be updated a bit to appeal to 50s teens. It starts with the normal Vocal Refrain, but then Melvin says, "Now, Richard, I know you're in there 'cause I hear the hi-fi goin'. And look, Richard, I'm standin' out here with my short shorts on and it's cold out here. Hey, Richard, do me one favor. C'mon. Richard, Richard, why don't you open that door?" [Vocal Refrain] "Now I saw Bony Maronie and Peggy Sue. And I saw Short Fat Fannie and ol' Tall Annie, too. And all of them was comin' to the store where my friend is standin' now. [no idea what that means, but it really seems to be what he's saying] Oh, Richard, why don't you open that door?" [Jordan's Refrain, music, Vocal Refrain] "Oh, Richard, please, please, come on Richard, open the door. Look, Richard, I couldn't even get a job today. I know I need one." This is a far cry from Dusty Fletcher going back on relief. On April 26, Melvin performed the song on "Dick Clark's Saturday Night Beechnut Show".

Red Blanchard Red Blanchard (Open The Door Richard)
Donald "Red" Blanchard, who was part of the National Barn Dance and a DJ on Chicago's WLS, did another two-parter. Released around February 1959, this one's on Dot. Blanchard is probably most famous for doing the ape calls on Nervous Norvus' "Ape Call". On this one, David Kapp's name appears instead of Dan Howell's (remember, they're one and the same), but on subsequent versions, it reverts to Howell. I haven't heard this one.

Ernie Barton Ernie Barton (Open The Door Richard)
Barton, a rockabilly singer, released his version on Phillips International in May 1959 (although it's possibly a Sun master from 1958). The second voice belongs to Billy Lee Riley (to whom this version is sometimes incorrectly credited). Barton, too, has updated the lyrics, mentioning "Charlie Brown" and "Stagger Lee". But you've got the Vocal Refrain, the pleading to open the door, the old lady, and the cop asking what he's doing up on the ladder. Not a bad entry in the series. (Not sure how they got away with it, but the writer credit on the label was "Barton".)

Will Glahe Will Glahé (Open The Door, Richard!)
The polka accordionist (of "Liechtensteiner Polka" fame) included "Open The Door, Richard!" on his London Records "Cafe International" LP (1959). It was part of the instrumental Foxtrot Medley, along with "On The Avenue" and "C'est Si Bon". This one's for accordion fanatics only.

Billy Vaughn Billy Vaughn (Open The Door, Richard)
Billy recorded an instrumental version for a Dot LP ("The Big 100"), released in December 1959. A former member of the Hilltoppers (he was on their 1953 hit, "P.S. I Love You"), he left them in 1954 to become the Music Director for Dot records. While there, he formed an orchestra and had many releases on the label over the years. His "Open The Door, Richard" was part of a medley, along with "Goody Goodbye", "Southern Fried", "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop", and "Leap Frog". I haven't heard this one.

Dusty Fletcher on Savoy Dusty is famous Dusty Fletcher (Open The Door Richard)
Savoy re-released his 1947 National disc in January 1960. Savoy had purchased National Records in September 1957, but there was no reason given for the reissue at this time (and Fletcher himself had died in 1954). Billboard only gave it a "fair" rating in the February 22, 1960 issue, saying "Re-issue of the 1946 [sic] novelty hit may get some nostalgia spins from jocks."

Bobby Rydell Bobby Rydell (Open The Door Richard)
I wouldn't have believed it, but the Philadelphia teen idol (and namesake of Rydell High School) recorded the tune. The June 26, 1961 Billboard had a review of Rydell's show at New York's Copacabana. As part of his act, "... he lampooned the idea of the so-called good songs coming back. As example of these fine old tunes, he offered 'Cement Mixer', 'Hut Sut Song', 'Mairzy Doats', 'Three Little Fishes', 'Aba Daba Honeymoon', and 'Open The Door Richard'." These were part of his "They Don't Write Them Like That Anymore" set, which was recorded and included on the September 1961 Cameo LP, "Rydell At The Copa". I haven't heard this one.

Bill Doggett Bill Doggett And His Combo (Open The Door, Richard!)
Doggett took a whack at the tune on a Warner Bros. EP in September 1961. Billboard gave it a "good" rating without comment. It starts with the standard Vocal Refrain, sung by the combo, but is otherwise an instrumental that doesn't seem to be based on the melody at all. The Vocal Refrain is repeated near the end and we finally hear a lone voice: "Open the door, Richard. C'mon, open the door, man. C'mon, I know you're in there 'cause I got on the clothes. It's cold out here. C'mon, open up." He mumbles something about the lady next door and fades out.

I can't say I understand the potential appeal of this record. Yes, it's Bill Doggett's combo, so the music is great, but there's no story. That's an important consideration in 1961, although it hadn't been in similar bare-bones versions of a dozen years previous. Then, the whole thing was fresh in people's minds, so they knew the story. Here, there is no story, just someone pleading with someone else to let him in for unknown reasons.

Kid Burbank Kid Burbank Boys (Open The Door Richard Twist)
Kid Burbank (a pseudonym of Helmut Zacharias) took Richard into the Twist Era with his German Polydor recording in October 1962. (It also came out a few months later on German Brunswick, but minus the words "Twist" and "Boys" on the label.) This one's mostly an instrumental, but it has the Vocal Refrain and people shouting "open up". Helmut Zacharias was a famous German violinist, who also made forays into contemporary popular music. There's no violin evident on this recording, so he could be the one playing the keyboard.

Mel Henke Mel Henke (Open The Door, Richard)
Mel tackled Richard on a Warner Bros. LP ("La Dolce Henke") around October 1962. It's a modern jazz instrumental with a woman knocking and saying the word "Richard", over and over, with different phrasings. That's the only lyric until the end, when a male voice says "open the door". Makes no sense, but it's nice music.

Pigmeat Markham Pigmeat Markham (Open The Door Richard)
After performing the routine for decades, Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham finally got around to recording this two-parter for Chess in May 1964. He's more famous, of course, for his "Here come de judge" routine ("I'm so mean this morning, I just gave myself thirty days!"). Note that, like John Mason, Pigmeat Markham had been tutored by Bob Russell, learning the "Richard" skit from him. (They roomed together while traveling with a show in the early 1920s, when Russell was near the end of his life.) This one starts differently:

[sounding somewhat drunk] "That old gal put me out the house and I tried to be nice to her. Done everything in the world for that old gal and now she threw me out of the house. Don't worry 'bout nothin'. I'm goin' home to Richard. Richard can straighten me out. We got a room and ain't worryin' 'bout nothin'. Thass why I like Richard. I'm goin' up here and talk to Richard 'cause I know how Richard feels about the whole darn [indistinct since the chorus starts the Vocal Refrain at this point] thing. I'm goin' up there where Richard is. I can't open the front door. I'll go upstairs, that's what I'll do. [this seems to have been recorded live and he's probably picked up a ladder; he knocks] Hey, Richard. Open the door, Richard. Richard. Open the door. I know he's in there 'cause I got the clothes on. [through all this the band has been chanting the Vocal Refrain in the background] Hey Richard. Open the door, Richard. I don't know why he won't open that door and let me in. It's cold out c'here. Doggone it's down near zero." Then the cop shows up and they go through a long "get down off the ladder" routine, which ends with the cop saying "I'm gonna whip you 'til you get sober."

The audience seemed to like it and, although parts of it don't make any sense to me, it certainly was more in the 1947 style than anything that had been done since (with the exception of Ernie Barton's rendition).

Tsai Chin Tsai Chin (Open The Door, Richard!)
Chin recorded the tune on an English Decca LP ("The Western World Of Tsai Chin"), released in July 1965. Not only a singer, but an actress, who was in "The Joy Luck Club" and a couple of James Bond films. The album had songs like "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead", "Everything Stops For Tea", "My Foolish Heart", and "Daisy Bell", as well as "Richard". I haven't heard this one.

Lennie Roberts Lennie Roberts (Open The Door Richard)
Singer/guitarist/bandleader Lennie Roberts recorded for Dorinda and Hite Morgan's Deck label, sometime in 1965. (Yes, it's the same Deck and the same Morgans for whom the Calvanes recorded back in 1958.) This is the only instance I can find of his name being spelled "Lennie"; it's always "Lenny" everywhere else. He and his band, the Renegades, were big in Van Nuys, California in 1964 and 1965, playing for Watusi contests at various venues. They were also in the November 1965 movie, "Red Line 7000", playing for the "Wildcat Jones" extravaganza (one of the worst musical numbers ever filmed, but Teri Garr is one of the go-go dancers). The label says "Impersonations by Lennie Roberts", although I don't what that means, since I haven't heard this one.

Billy Adams Billy Adams (Open The Door Richard)
This is a Blue-eyed Soul version, with Billy screaming "open the door" and "let me in" over the Vocal Refrain. He then does Jordan's Refrain before the chorus comes back with the Vocal Refrain. He repeats Jordan's Refrain before the chorus returns. Released on Sun in February 1966, there's nothing new here.

Cody Michaels Cody Michaels (Open The Door Richard)
Another Blue-eyed Soul singer, she did a song called "Open The Door Richard" on Philadelphia's Merben label in June 1967. In it, she's begging her boyfriend, Richard, with whom she's had a fight, to open the door. All the lyrics, other than the Vocal Refrain, are new and have nothing to do with the series. However, the Vocal Refrain is the same, showing that someone remembered and was trying to keep the catchphrase alive.

Ink Spots Stanley Morgan's World Famous Ink Spots (Open The Door Richard)
A strange song for an Ink Spots group, it was released on Abbey in 1968. This Soul-beat recording was made in support of Richard Nixon's presidential campaign. (Just to appear neutral, they also released another Abbey record with the ungainly title, "Here Comes The Prez When Humphrey Wins This Year".) The whole song is sung in unison, except for indicated parts by bass Lucius "Dusty" Brooks. I'm sure they picked up a few bucks by selling these records at performances prior to the 1968 election.

Look for a way to enter
A land of peace and love
A place where a man is safe to work and
Play with all his friends.

Sometimes it seems they found the door
But you couldn't get in
Now we have a man with all the keys
To let our people in.

Open the door, Richard
Open the door and let us in
Open the door, Richard
Richard's the one to open that door

[recitation by bass]
Honey Chile
When our man Richard is president
He's gonna fill our lives with peace and love
He's gonna show us the way to live with our brothers
And end that terrible war.

A man can make a better life for his people
On the way
He opens the door for all of us
For a bright shiny day.

Open the door, Richard
Open the door and let us in
Open the door, Richard
Nixon's the one to open that door

[bass]
Nixon's the one, Nixon's the one
To fill all our days with peace and sun

A man can make a better life for his people
On the way
He opens the door for all of us
For a bright shiny day.

Open the door, Richard
Open the door and let us in
Open the door, Richard
Nixon's the one to open that door [last line sung by the bass]

Malcolm T. Elliott Malcolm T. Elliott (Open The Door Richard)
Malcolm was an Australian radio announcer and TV host, who recorded the tune for Australian RCA in August 1974. In it, he's giving a speech as "Australia's leading current affairs director, Richard Cranium". He talks wildly, seemingly running for Prime Minister, while a chorus keeps repeating the Vocal Refrain. Other than that, it really has nothing to do with the Richard series, but it's funny. For example, he says "If Nixon goes free, we'll have to free all the politicians and jail all the people." He goes on to tell the chorus, "Oh pipe down, will you!" (Thanks, Malcolm; it's about time!)


There are more recordings after this one. For example, it was done by Five By Design on their 2001 "Club Swing" album (patterned after the Pied Pipers' version) and by Al Simmons, a nice jazzy version, on his 1997 "Celery Stalks At Midnight" album. However, I have to stop somewhere and I think that 25 years of Richard illustrates the point that it was truly a phenomenon. Most adults today wouldn't be bewildered by the phrase "open the door, Richard", even if they'd never heard of Jack McVea or Dusty Fletcher.


      WHO ENDED UP WITH THE CREDIT?


After all the fighting, writer credit is varied. Most records credit McVea, Fletcher, Mason, and Howell (in no particular order), but there are many other credits. Here's a list:

McVEA, FLETCHER, MASON, HOWELL
      Billy Adams
      Amié Barelli
      Buddy Bertinat Accordion Quintet
      Red Blanchard (has David Kapp, not Howell, but they were the same person)
      Malcolm T. Elliott
      Geraldo & His Orchestra
      Ted Heath
      Mel Henke
      Peanuts Holland
      Louis Jordan
      Kid Burbank
      Pigmeat Markham
      Merry Macs
      Cody Michaels
      Radio Revellers
      Alberto Semprini (plus "Artur Kaps" for the Spanish lyrics)
      Melvin Smith
      Stanley Morgan's World Famous Ink Spots
      Tsai Chin

JACK McVEA
      Glen Powell & Orchestra
      De Ramblers
      Lennie Roberts

McVEA, CLARKE
      Count Basie
      Bill Samuels & Cats 'N Jammer Three
      Jack McVea & His All Stars

McVEA, CLARK, HOWELL
      Walter Brown
      Bill Osborne & His Heptet
      Hank Penny
      Pied Pipers
      Tiger Haynes & 3 Flames

DUSTY FLETCHER
      Dusty Fletcher (both National and the Savoy reissue)
      Henry Lindblom & Flickery Flies
      "Lips" Page
      George Washington & Band

MISCELLANEOUS
      Ernie Barton - Barton (!)
      Brocksi Quintett - Charioteers (!)
      Charioteers - McVea, Mason, Howell
      Guy Chookoorian - no credit
      J. Lawrence Cook (piano roll) - no credit
      Bill Doggett - Mason, Howell, McVea, Clark
      Jacques Hélian - McVea, Howell (plus Andre Hornez for the French lyrics)
      Standard Jazzband - McVea, Howell


      AND IN CONCLUSION


I can't imagine that anyone reading this article is a stranger to the term "open the door, Richard", that's how deeply it's permeated our culture. Happily, the catchphrase has never died out; I've found many examples of it over the years, such as:

Richard Stamz 1956 - DJ Richard Stamz' show on WGES (Chicago) is called "Open The Door, Richard". I don't know when he started using the catchphrase, but it was in full swing by 1956.

1959 - A Pittsburgh Press article (November 18) talked about an exhibit of door knobs at Carnegie Tech's Hewlett Gallery. It was, of course, titled "Open The Door Richard".

1962 - A Jet article of November 22 was titled "Candidates Named Richard Find Door Unopened". It told about several California election losers named Richard (or Richardson, to stretch it a little). One of them was Richard Nixon, who was defeated for governor. "The song was popular, a hit with the public. They weren't."

1964 - "Don't Open The Door, Richard" - an article talking about new traffic regulations going into effect in Sarasota, Florida, including one that prohibited the opening of a car door in a traffic lane.

Open up, Dick 1973 - A political cartoon depicted an elephant, representing the "GOP Old Guard" (conservative members of the Republican party), knocking on the door of the White House and yelling "Open The Door, Richard!". (Richard Nixon was president at the time).

1976 - The catchphrase was used by a Columbus, Nebraska realtor to advertise a house for sale.

1982 - It was the title of an article in a Eugene, Oregon paper about Mayor Richard Keller, who, they complained, should have held an open door budget meeting instead of one that excluded reporters.

The recordings themselves are a mixed bag: some have routines that resonated in the black community, some were purely instrumental (so there was nothing that had to be understood), and others just used the Vocal Refrain and Jordan's Refrain, leaving the audience to figure out what was going on (which would be tough if those were the only versions they'd ever heard). The pundits were right about recordings featuring "routines": they're easy to get tired of. But that phrase, that wonderful phrase, it'll be with us for a long, long time to come. Right, Richard? Richard? Where are you, Richard? C'mon, answer me; yes or no? What's it gonna be, Richard? Oh, the heck with it!


[REMEMBER - check the end of the discography to discover what I'm missing. I hope you can help.]


Special thanks to Victor Pearlin, Neil Hirsch, Doug Seroff, Greg Centamore, Mark Cantor, Opal Louis Nations, Dan Kochakian, Dave Penny, Arshag Chookoorian, Darryn Brott, and Hans-Joachim Krohberger.


      DISCOGRAPHY


BLACK & WHITE (Jack McVea & His All Stars)
792 Open The Door Richard! - 9/46
      (vocal by Jack McVea, Rabon Tarrant & Red Kelly)

NATIONAL (Dusty Fletcher, backed up by Jimmy Jones & His Band)
4012 Open The Door, Richard! - Pt. 1 & 2 - 1/47

RCA (Count Basie & His Orchestra)
20-2127 Open The Door, Richard! - 1/47
      (vocal by Harry "Sweets" Edison and Bill Johnson)

COLUMBIA (3 Flames)
37268 Open The Door, Richard - 1/47
      (vocal by George "Tiger" Haynes)

MERCURY (Bill Samuels & the Cats 'n Jammer Three)
8029 Open Up That Door, Richard - 1/47
      (vocal by Sylvester Hickman and Bill Samuels)

EMPEY (Tosh [One-String Willie] & His Jivers)
103 Open The Door, Richard - 1/47
      (vocal by Tosh Hammed and Dorothy Chappelle)

ENTERPRISE (Dick Peterson & His Vocal Yokels)
253 Open The Door, Richard - 1/47

DECCA (Louis Jordan)
23841 Open The Door, Richard! - 2/47
      (Also released on Brunswick 03778 in the UK)

COLUMBIA (Billy Williams & the Charioteers)
37240 Open The Door, Richard - 2/47

MANOR (Big Sid Catlett)
1058 Open The Door, Richard - 2/47

CONTINENTAL (Bill Osborne & His Heptet)
6042 Open The Door Richard - 2/47

ACE (George Washington & Band)
150 Open The Door Richard - 2/47
      (vocal by Parr Jones)

SIGNATURE (Walter Brown, with the Tiny Grimes Sextet)
1006 Open The Door, Richard - 2/47

APOLLO ("Lips" Page)
1041 Open The Door, Richard - 2/47

KING (Hank Penny)
606 Open The Door Richard - 2/47

CAPITOL (The Pied Pipers)
369 Open The Door Richard - 2/47

MAJESTIC (The Merry Macs)
1112 Open The Door, Richard - 2/47

TRANSCRIPTIONS
???? Open The Door, Richard (Freddy Martin - Standard) - 2/47
???? Open The Door, Richard (Barclay Allen - MacGregor) - 2/47
???? Open The Door, Richard (Jan Garber - Capitol) - 2/47

QRS (J. Lawrence Cook)
8211 Open The Door, Richard! - 2/47
      (this is a player piano roll)

TRILON (The 4 Aces)
153 Richard Ain't Gonna Open That Door/Richard's Jam - 2/47

JEWEL (Reedum & Weep)
9000 My Name Ain't Richard, Part 1 & 2 - 2/47

APOLLO (Stepin Fetchit)
1042 Richard's Answer (I Ain't Gonna Open That Door) - Pt 1 & 2 - 3/47

BLACK & WHITE (Jack McVea & His Door Openers)
828 The Key's In The Mailbox/Richard Gets Hitched - 3/47

INTERNATIONAL (The Cedric Wallace Trio)
219 I Ain't Gonna Open That Door - 3/47

PARLOPHONE (Geraldo & His Orchestra)
F.2214 Open The Door, Richard - 3/47 (UNITED KINGDOM)
      (vocal by Denny Vaughan)

MELO-TONE (no artist credit given)
787 Open The Door, Richard - 3/47
      (a skating record)

MERCURY (Gay Crosse)
8034 The Door Is Wide Open - 3/47

SKATING RHYTHMS (no artist credit given)
SR-215-A Open The Door, Richard - 5/47

LIGHTNING (Guy Chookoorian)
1   Toore' Patz Dikran - 7/47
      (in Armenian, but a California label)

MAGIC (Glen Powell & Orchestra)
4053 Open The Door ! Richard - 4/47 (BELGIUM)
      (vocal by Henri Salvador)
            also issued on Sonora Swing 665 ("Open The Door, Richard) - 4/47 (BELGIUM)
            and on Broadway 6001 ("Open The Door Richard!") - (unknown date and country)

ODEON (Peanuts Holland & The Okey-Dokies)
D-1033 Open The Door, Richard - 4/47 (SWEDEN)

DECCA/OMEGA (De Ramblers)
N-32198 Open De Deur Richard - 5/47 (NETHERLANDS)
      (vocal by Ferry Barendse)

COLUMBIA (The Radio Revellers)
FB.3301 Open The Door, Richard - ca 6/47 (UNITED KINGDOM)

MUSICA (Simon Brehms Orkester)
A8757 Open The Door, Richard! - 6/47 (SWEDEN)
      (vocal by Tyree Glenn)

CUPOL (Thore Ehrlings Orkester)
4009 Open The Door, Richard - ca 6/47 (SWEDEN)
      (vocal by Thore Ehrling)

HIS MASTER'S VOICE (Henry Lindblom & Flickery Flies)
X7376 Open The Door, Richard - ca 6/47 (SWEDEN)

ELITE SPECIAL (Buddy Bertinat Accordion Quintet)
4614 Open The Door, Richard - ca 6/47 (SWITZERLAND)

ELITE SPECIAL (Achille Christen)
4615 Open The Door, Richard - ca 7/47 (SWITZERLAND)
      (vocal by Hedy Olden)

ELITE SPECIAL (Horst Winter und das Wiener Tanz-Orchester)
8102 Open The Door, Richard - 7/47 (SWITZERLAND)

COLUMBIA (Jacques Hélian)
BF188 Ouvre La Porte, Richard! - ca. 7/47 (FRANCE)
      (vocal by Zappy Max Doucet)

DECCA (Ted Heath)
F.8767 Open The Door, Richard! - 9/47 (UNITED KINGDOM)
      (vocal by Paul Carpenter & Dave Wilkins)

POLYDOR (Bernard Hilda)
560.025 Ouvre La Porte, Richard - 47 (FRANCE)

PATHÉ (Amié Barelli & son orchestre)
PG 185 Open The Door Richard (Ouvre la porte Richard) - 47 (FRANCE)
      (vocal by José "Jo" Bartel)

BRUNSWICK (Brocksi-Quintett)
82335 Open The Door, Richard - 47 (GERMANY)

ELECTROLA (Lubo D'Orio mit seinem Orchester)
EG 7341 Open The Door Richard - 5/48 (GERMANY)
      (vocal by Ilja Glusgal)

STANDARD (Die Standard-Jazzband)
6   Open The Door, Richard - 7/48 (AUSTRIA)
      (also on Pallas 1218)

ODEON (Alberto Semprini y su Orquesta Ritmo Sinfónica)
184.633 Abre La Puerta, Ricardo - 48 (SPAIN)
      (vocal by Herta Frankel)

VERNE (Sexteto Puerto Rico)
V-0274 Abre La Puerta, Ricardo - 48
      (vocal by Pompo Rodriguez and Leocadio Vizcarrondo)

COUNTRY ROUTES (Tex Williams & His Western Caravan)
RFD-CD-28 Close The Door Richard (I Just Saw The Thing) - 2002
      (from a radio broadcast, ca 51)

DECCA (Burl Ives)
28708 Close The Door Richard (I Just Saw The Thing) - 6/53

CAMEO (Melvin Smith [& The Night Riders])
135 Open The Door Richard - 4/58

DOT (Red Blanchard)
15901 Open The Door Richard - Pt. 1 & 2 - ca 2/59

PHILLIPS INTERNATIONAL (Ernie Barton)
3541 Open The Door Richard - 5/59

LONDON (Will Glahé & His Orchestra - "Cafe International")
LL 3098 Open The Door Richard - 59
      (part of an instrumental medley)

DOT (Billy Vaughn & His Orchestra - "The Hot 100")
DLP 30,500-2 Open The Door, Richard - 12/59
      (part of an instrumental medley)

SAVOY (Dusty Fletcher)
1585 Open The Door Richard - Pt. 1 & 2 - 1/60
      (reissue of the National sides)

WARNER BROS. (Bill Doggett & His Combo)
EP 5502 Open The Door, Richard! - 9/61

CAMEO (Bobby Rydell - "Rydell At The Copa")
C 1011 Open The Door Richard - 9/61
      (part of a medley)

POLYDOR (Kid Burbank Boys [Helmut Zacharias])
24919 Open The Door Richard Twist - 10/62 (GERMANY)
      (also on German Brunswick 12 986 - Kid Burbank - "Open The Door, Richard" - ca. 1/63)

WARNER BROS. (Mel Henke - "La Dolce Henke")
LP WS 1472 Open The Door, Richard - ca 10/62

CHESS (Pigmeat Markham)
1891 Open The Door Richard, Pt. 1 & 2 - 5/64

DECCA (Tsai Chin - "The Western World Of Tsai Chin")
LP LK4717 Open The Door, Richard! - 7/65 (UNITED KINGDOM)

DECK (Lennie Roberts)
926 Open The Door Richard - 65

SUN (Billy Adams)
401 Open The Door Richard - 2/66

MERBEN (Cody Michaels)
504 Open The Door Richard - 6/67

ABBEY (Stanley Morgan's World Famous Ink Spots)
10016 Open The Door Richard - 68

RCA (Malcolm T. Elliott)
102490 Open The Door Richard - 8/74 (AUSTRALIA)


      WHAT I NEED


Let's start with what I don't need:


Any song called "Open The Door, Richard" either recorded by or written by Bob Dylan. This has nothing to do with the series. (It's also called "Open The Door, Homer".) Artists who recorded it include Jack Downing & The Other Side and Thunderclap Newman. All this contributes is "Open the door, Richard, our parents said before."

"Open The Door Richard" by Billy Lee Riley - this is the same track that was released on Phillips International by Ernie Barton in 1958. People argue about this on the Internet.

"Open The Door, Richard" by Carlos "Buddy" Moreno (RCA 20-3435 - 4/49). The actual title is "Open The Door Polka" and has nothing to do with Richard. Many sites get the title wrong.

Anything after 1974.


And here's what I do need:

PLEASE - If you have any of what I need, please drop me a line and let me know. I might have already gotten it from someone else. I especially don't want to end up with 10 mp3s of the same song. Thanks.

EMPEY (Tosh (One-String Willie) & His Jivers)
103 Open The Door, Richard - 1/47
      NEED - a label shot and an mp3

MANOR (Big Sid Catlett)
1058 Open The Door, Richard - 2/47
      NEED - a label shot

CONTINENTAL (Bill Osborne & His Heptet)
6042 Open The Door Richard - 2/47
      NEED - a photo of Bill Osborne

ACE (George Washington & Band, vocal by Parr Jones)
150 Open The Door Richard - 2/47
      NEED - a photo of Parr Jones

STANDARD TRANSCRIPTION (Freddy Martin)
???? Open The Door, Richard - 2/47
      NEED - a label shot and an mp3

INTERNATIONAL (Cedric Wallace Trio)
219 I Ain't Gonna Open That Door - 3/47
      NEED - a label shot and an mp3

MELO-TONE (no artist credit given)
787 Open The Door, Richard - 3/47 (a skating record)
      NEED - a label shot and an mp3 (good luck with this one!)

ELECTROLA (Lubo D'Orio mit seinem Orchester)
EG 7341 Open The Door Richard - 48 (GERMANY)
      NEED - a label shot

ODEON ("Peanuts" Holland & The Okey-Dokies)
D-1033 Open The Door, Richard - 4/47 (SWEDEN)
      NEED - an mp3

COLUMBIA (The Radio Revellers)
FB.3301 Open The Door, Richard - ca 6/47 (UNITED KINGDOM)
      NEED - an mp3

MUSICA (Simon Brehms Orkester)
A8757 Open The Door, Richard! - ca 6/47 (SWEDEN)
      NEED - an mp3

CUPOL (Thore Ehrlings Orkester)
4009 Open The Door, Richard - ca 6/47 (SWEDEN)
      NEED - a label shot and an mp3

HIS MASTER'S VOICE (Henry Lindblom & Flickery Flies)
X7376 Open The Door, Richard - ca 6/47 (SWEDEN)
      NEED - an mp3

ELITE SPECIAL (Buddy Bertinat Accordion Quintet)
3525 Open The Door, Richard - ca 6/47 (SWITZERLAND)
      NEED - an mp3

ELITE SPECIAL (Horst Winter und das Wiener Tanz-Orchester)
8102 Open The Door, Richard - 7/47 (SWITZERLAND)
      NEED - a label shot and an mp3

ELITE SPECIAL (Achille Christen)
4615 Open The Door, Richard - ca 7/47 (SWITZERLAND)
      NEED - a label shot and an mp3

POLYDOR (Bernard Hilda)
560.025 Ouvre La Porte, Richard - 47 (FRANCE)
      NEED - a label shot

DECCA/OMEGA (De Ramblers)
N-32198 Open De Deur Richard - 5/47 (NETHERLANDS)
      NEED - a label shot

STANDARD (Die Standard-Jazzband)
6   Open The Door, Richard - 7/48 (AUSTRIA)   -   (Also on Pallas 1218)
      NEED - a photo of Die Standard-Jazzband (from 1940s), a label shot of Pallas 1218, and an mp3

DOT (Red Blanchard)
15901 Open The Door Richard, Pt. 1 & 2 - ca 2/59
      NEED - an mp3

DECCA (Tsai Chin)
LP LK4717 Open The Door, Richard! - 7/65 (UNITED KINGDOM)
      NEED - an mp3

DECK (Lennie Roberts)
926 Open The Door Richard - 65
      NEED - an mp3

AND - anything, up to 1974, that's not in my discography.



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