Norm Burns was one of the many people employed as a studio musician by labels that recorded and released song-poems. Song poems were written by random citizens that for whatever reason would like to see their (often insane) lyrics put to music and performed by “professionals.” This often included lush and cheesy 30-piece orchestras and any one of the vocalists who recorded under a variety of assumed names. Sometimes the producers of these songs would pump out as many as 12 per hour (for a modest fee of course). Since these songs were produced primarily for the people who wrote them, they have become some of the most obscure and sought-after record oddities available. Also, because the companies received most of their income from the “poets” who submitted work to them, they were willing to put damn near anything to a musical accompaniment. The results are sometimes ludicrous and disturbing, but always fascinating.
Penned by Lew and Shirley Tobin (who owned the Sterling label that originally released this single), “Our Thanksgiving Blessings Are Great” would just recently have been viewed as kitchy and amusing, much like teen-scare films such as “Reefer Madness.” Life during wartime changes all of this. The fundamentalist patriotism pushed to comical extremes here suddenly sounds kind of familiar. Norm Burns’ voice – a piercing hybrid of Johnny Cash and Billy Graham – is produced with a slight delay, which sounds strange when he sings and outright frightening during his spoken interludes. Reinforcing his enraptured delusions, a disciplined regiment of snares, piano, and guitar march in tight circles behind Burns’ earnest recitations. Here, enlivened by song, is the mythology of Midwest: pilgrims, freedom, and saintly generosity – the magnanimous offspring of our manifest destiny. With stomach now wedged securely between table and chair, pools of gravy solidifying on our plates, we now have a new anthem to celebrate our gluttony as we cautiously shovel in a third piece of luke-warm apple pie. Count your blessings.