THE ORIGINAL TAP DANCING KID
By Jane Getz
In the early 70s I had been writing songs and playing keyboards professionally for a quite while. I had record deal with RCA and was considered one of the top up and coming songwriters and performers. I recorded with Harry Nielson, Ringo Starr and John Lennon. Toured with Stan Getz, Herbie Mann and Jimmie Spheeris. Although Jimmie wasn't a household name like some of the others Ive worked with, he was one of my favorites. He was also a personal friend. I considered him to be a first rate talent.
I toured with Jimmie's Band in the early seventies as the keyboard player, musical director and singing an occasional backup. Sometimes I was his opening act singing and playing my own compositions. On the road Jimmie could be fun, all business and at times eccentric. That dude took his music very seriously...always jotting down ideas and running to his guitar to try out melodies that were cascading through his brain.
We did more than a few cross-country tours. San Francisco, Oklahoma, Austin, New York, New York and Boston were some of the highlights. One day when we were on a trek to the east coast Jimmie told me he was going to record another album soon and asked me if I would contribute a song. How could I say no? Jimmie almost never did anyone else's material. I thought about it and came up with a unique concept. Jimmie, who in my eyes was kind of a crooner-in-the-mist type performer needed to expand his range a little, and so I came up with a song where he actually had to move around a bit. I envisioned him gliding around the stage dancing and interacting with the audience. The song I wrote was called The Original Tap Dancing Kid. While on the road Jimmie added this song to his repertoire. He performed it every time he went on stage and graciously introduced me as the writer.
My own brother was the inspiration for the song. He was the type of kid that was walking at six months and riding his tricycle off the back yard embankment at age two. Even as a toddler my brother was a daredevil. When my brother turned five he made an appearance on the newly minted Betty White Show. He was cute. Oh Yeah! First he did a card trick that was kind of a 52 card pickup thing. Cards were scattered all over the stage in a few seconds flat.
Then Betty asked him what he was going to do for an encore. My brother said, "Sing and tap dance.
"Okay go to it, Betty said.
My brother looked at her incredulously and retorted, I can't sing or dance without accompaniment. Wheres the band?"
At that point Betty, the stagehands and anyone else witnessing the proceedings almost fell over laughing.
Okay, Betty said. Tell the band what you're going to do.
"I'm going to sing Kiss Of Fire.
He turned to the band as they went into an intro. All of a sudden coming out of that five year old's mouth was: You touch my lips and all at once the sparks go flying. Those devil lips that know so well the art of lying. And though I see the danger still the flames go higher, I know I must surrender to your kiss of fire...
Everyone on the show was hysterical when he finished his little song and dance. When I say dance, I mean it very loosely, because he had never tap danced a day prior to that moment. I wish I could say a star was born that day, but when you listen to the song, you'll know what happened.
Jimmie loved the song. We recorded with Felix Cavaliere producing. The song did in fact expand Jimmie's repertoire and it became the title cut on the album called The Original Tap Dancing Kid.
© 2010 Jane Getz. Used by permission. All rights reserved.