In his childhood, Allan Sherman bounced around between several households based upon the needs and wants of his “flapper” mother. Because he kept moving, he attended 21 public schools in Chicago, Florida, and California, including Fairfax High School, in Los Angeles, where he wrote for the school paper, as well as writing school shows which starred his classmate Ricardo Montalban.
Sherman survived as a volunteer in World War II (in Camp Wolters, Texas, where he was discharged as medically unfit -- he claimed for an allergy to Brazil nuts). Then, while studying at the University of Illinois, he got expelled from for breaking into a campus sorority house.
Then he moved to New York, where for several years, he struggled as a free-lance $5-a-joke gag writer for nightclub comedians like Joe E. Lewis and Jackie Gleason. Later he wrote or produced television shows including the long-running primetime number-one hit "I've Got a Secret" (which he co-created).
During those years, just for fun, Sherman wrote and sang funny parody songs at his own parties, or, to quote him, “on the rare occasions when I was invited to someone else’s parties”. After a couple more years of unemployment, he got invited to a party at Harpo Marx’s house, where some of Harpo’s Hollywood friends suggested Sherman put out a record of his songs. Other party guests sent him to Warner Brothers Records which was struggling at that time. Sherman made a deal with Warners for a $1,500 advance, which after expenses, netted him just a few hundred dollars.
Then, on one fateful night, after picking up his unemployment check, he recorded an album of his parodies he called "My Son, the Folk Singer", which sold over one million copies, and became the fastest-selling album of all time.
A few of Sherman’s crazy songs soon outranked the Top Forty hits on rock’n’roll radio stations. President John F. Kennedy was even heard singing one of those songs, Sarah Jackman, a parody of Frere Jacques.
Sherman’s next two albums were also smash hits, making him the only artist ever to have three consecutive Billboard #1 Hit Albums. His third album, "My Son, the Nut" contained the top-ten hit "Hello, Muddah! Hello, Fadduh! - A Letter from Camp Granada" -- a summer camp anthem which is still loved 50+ years later.
He sang at Carnegie Hall - twice! And the Hollywood Bowl - twice! He made over 100 television appearances, including guest-hosting The Tonight Show. In addition to the U.S., he toured Canada, England, Germany, Australia, and South Africa. He performed with and conducted The Boston Pops (notable because he can't read music), entertained Presidents and Supreme Court Justices, and amused and delighted millions of regular folk.
The surprising popularity and overnight success of Sherman’s song parodies influenced generations, paving the way for new generations of comedians, including parodists like Weird Al Yankovic and Adam Sandler, as well as helping start Dr. Demento’s novelty song radio career.
Where to find Allan Sherman online
A Gift Of Laughter, The Autobiography Of Allan Sherman
by Allan Sherman
"A Gift of Laughter", the autobiography of 1960s comedian-singer-songwriter Allan Sherman, tells in his own words how he “became an overnight success in only 38 years.” After surviving World War II (in Camp Wolters, Texas, where he was discharged as medically unfit -- for an allergy to Brazil nuts), and then getting expelled from the University of Illinois for breaking into a campus sorority house
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