November 14, 2017
Los Angeles, California
Kelvin, Michael, Steven Hodel circa 1944 Dorothy Huston Hodel (Man Ray 1944)
One of my strongest childhood memory’s remains a song that our mother sang to us at bedtime. Not exactly your traditional lullaby, it was a love story, complete with Cowboys and Indians. I expect very few today are familiar with or have ever heard it sung. Even back then in the 1940s, it had almost become a lost ballad. It was called–BILLY VENERO.
Several versions can be found on YouTube, with changing lyrics, but the rendition that is most true to what I remember of mother’s song is performed by “Yodeling Slim Clark.” Without exaggeration, I would estimate that mother sang this ballad to us on an average of once a week during our “formative years.” I loved it so much that in her final days at age 75, I had mother write the song out from memory so that I could preserve it and pass it on to my children. (Sadly, I never learned to sing and was constantly reminded by my more talented brothers, Mike and Kelvin, “Steve, you couldn’t carry a tune in a wheelbarrow.”) Here’s the ballad of Billy Venero with the lyrics almost exactly as mom sang it to us at five, six, and seven years of age. Check it out.
The Ballad of Billy Venero
Memory No. 2 (A close second to Billy Venero)