Well, what have we here then… On first glance, I thought it sounds quite poetic: ‘Whispering Grass’. Something Wordsworth might have written about on one of his Lakeland walks…
Whispering Grass, by Windsor Davies & Don Estelle (their 1st and only #1)
3 weeks, from 1st – 22nd June 1975
I’m going to have to split this review into two parts. Part I is what I make of the song, Part II will be what the hell this record actually is. Here goes. It’s quite nice – a lilting piano and some nice harmonies – and very old-fashioned. This must be a cover of an oldie, from the twenties or thirties.
The two vocalists, I am unsure which one is Davies and which is Estelle, are contrasting. One has a deep, Welsh baritone, and does a spoken intro and outro, and some backing bum-bum-bums. The other does most of the actual singing: Why do you whisper, Green grass…? Whispering grass, The trees don’t have to know….
So it’s a bit of a pun: grass as in the green stuff growing from the ground, and grass as in a tell-tale. It’s cute. Don’t you tell it to the trees, Or she will tell it to the birds and bees… the Welshman intones. It’s a novelty, that much is clear, but it’s not an offensively annoying one. This is quite a listenable record. But… I give up. Time for Part II. Help me, Google…
OK, so I half-knew that this was a spin-off single from a popular sitcom, ‘It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum’, set among an army theatre troop in British India in the Second World War. Windsor Davies and Don Estelle are performing it in character: Davies as Sgt Major Williams and Estelle as Gunner ‘Lofty’ Sugden. It was quite the popular show, running for eight series until 1981.
But, as pleasant as this record is, I can’t help feeling a bit left out. It’s clearly some kind of in-joke that you would have got had you been alive in 1975, and a fan of the programme. At this far of a remove it’s little more than a shrug and move along moment. I have never seen ‘It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum’, as it doesn’t get repeated very often. (A ‘70s sitcom, set in the colonies, with white actors playing Indians, featuring lots of men in theatre drag… You can imagine it being deemed ‘problematic’ nowadays. Having never seen it, I will defer judgement.)
‘Whispering Grass’ was indeed a hit from the ‘40s – 1940 to be precise – for The Ink Spots. What’s clear from this and the previous #1 – ‘Stand By Your Man’ – is that the grown-ups had momentarily wrested control of the top spot from the young ‘uns. You can imagine this record being bought by mums and dads, grannies and grandads, in their droves. While the kids, and the bloggers writing about the song forty-five years later, look slightly bemused, and then move on.