Sunday, November 25, 2012

Leftovers (Elected Officials): Governor Al Smith

Uncle Dave Macon: Governor Al Smith

[purchase Uncle Dave Macon: The Very Best of]

A topical song recorded by Uncle Dave Macon in Chicago on July 26, 1928, “Governor Al Smith” starts off with an exclamatory, “Gettin' right now! Al Smith nominated for president, My vote to him I'm a-gonna present, darlin.” Today, we have political action committees spending millions to try to influence elections. Back in the 1920s, it was just a banjo-picker (along with guitarist Sam McGee) singing his advocacy to the tune of an old folk melody.

Uncle Dave’s endorsement of Smith in the 1928 U.S. Presidential election was a rather amazing thing given that Smith was both a northerner and a Catholic. Uncle Dave’s support was largely related to Smith’s platform promise to repeal Prohibition, and he sings “Smith wants everything to be just right, darlin.” Nearly every verse in the song deals with alcohol. Uncle Dave clearly wants a real drink, probably a little rum (to go with his little camphor gum) … and not any of that poison moonshine that was being transported and sold by bootleggers.

Four-time Governor of New York Alfred E. Smith (12/30/1873 – 10/4/1944) ran for U.S. President in 1928 against Herbert Hoover, who had served as Secretary of Commerce for the Calvin Coolidge. Our country had experienced a great economic boom, but that would all end with the stock market crash of 1929. The nation's prosperity in ‘28, along with anti-Catholic sentiments towards Smith, pretty much ensured Hoover’s general election win.

Macon would later refer to Smith's defeat in a song called "Nashville" in which he sings, “Herbert Hoover was elected and Al Smith he was rejected, but he is highly respected in Nashville….If you want to get a drink, give the Democrats a wink, You'll get it quicker than you think in Nashville.” Those who follow politics will also note that Smith’s legacy lives on even today, and both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spoke at an “Alfred E. Smith dinner” during their recent campaigning in 2012.

Here’s some interesting silent film from the presidential election of 1928, featuring the Democratic Party's ticket, Alfred E. Smith and Joseph T. Robinson. From Arkansas, Robinson was then Senate Minority Leader.

Also, here's some newsreel footage of Al Smith commenting on the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933. Besides Smith, I’m sure that Uncle Dave Macon was also pleased at the sight of those huge shipments of gin being made with the approval of the Feds for the first time in thirteen years.

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