Harry Chapin’s Mr. Tanner

Harry Chapin wrote a song, “Mr. Tanner” about a Midwest cleaner who dreamed of being a professional singer. We learned to identify with someone pursuing the desire of becoming famous beyond a meager existence. Only to have those dreams dashed by a NY Times critic’s review. The sweetest solace is the last verse.

Music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
And it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.

As it turns out Connecticut and Mr. Tanner have quite the bond. The song was recorded in   Bridgeport at Paul Leka‘s Connecticut Recording studio in 1973. On Saturday night , 11/12 at the Quick Center on the Fairfield University campus three related events intersected with Harry Chapin’s “Mr. Tanner”.

  1. The real Mr. Tanner and the inspiration for the song, Martin Turbidy is discovered  living in Weston, CT.  He is invited to attend The Chapin Family concert as their special guest.
  2. He joined The Chapin Family on stage to sing, “Mr. Tanner” which validated the real person featured in the song from 1974 performing the song live.

3. There will be a children’s book, Mr. Tanner, based on Harry Chapin’s song with a                        happy ending :). The author, Bryan Langdo and book company representative, Rod                  Broder  of Ripple Grove Press were in attendance in the lobby, promoting the future                book with preliminary copies on  display  and  taking pre-orders.

Harry Chapin – Short Stories – Daily Post 2011 #9

Short Stories (Harry Chapin album)
Image via Wikipedia

It’s such a comfort being back in touch with the musical spirit of Harry Chapin. I received his CD, Short Stories this past week. This was Harry’s third recording, following Heads & Tales and Sniper and other Love Songs. It was the first of four recordings produced by Paul Leka (Paul was Harry’s producer from 1974-1976) at Connecticut Recording Studios in Bridgeport. Connecticut.


Short Stories is just that, a collection of 10 short story songs written by master story-teller Harry Chapin. The recordings are backed up by Harry’s band at the time, Ron Palmer on guitar. John Wallace on bass and Michael Masters on cello. Paul Leka played all keyboards.  There are various other session musicians that were involved and they are listed here.

I played this album many times during my FM college days at WHNU-FM and WVOF-FM from 1974-1978.

My favorite tracks on Short Stories are W.O.L.D., naturally. I especially love the three songs in succession, “They Call Her Easy”, “Mr. Tanner” and “Mail Order Annie”. Theses tracks flow together with an effortless charm.

The first sentence in this stanza expresses how music will always feel to me. 🙂

But music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.

Mr. Tanner by Harry Chapin. Copyright 1973 by ChapinMusic.

“Old College Avenue” hearkens as my latest favorite as I wax nostalgic envisioning the imagery of walking around a campus university. There is just something about academia that fills my consciousness with dreams of youth and times gone by…

Expect more posts about Harry Chapin as the year progresses 😉