Always Let Your Conscience be Your Guide

safety first

Sound advice from Jiminy Cricket, kids. And while he may have tapped his way into our hearts with “Always Let Your Conscience be Your Guide” in Pinnochio, the earlier persona of Cliff Edwards, Ukelele Ike, had other things on his mind in this 1933 recording.

bannedEdwards himself struggled with his conscience, squandering the money from a series of hit records, filing for bankruptcy three times. After three failed marriages and a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse, the voice of Jiminy Cricket passed away penniless in the care of the state.

One of the most enduring influences of Edwards’ career, which began on the vaudeville stage, has been the popularity of the ukelele. Multi-instrumentalist (sometimes called “the Wizard of the Strings”) Roy Smeck may have done more to establish the instrument’s ubiquity, but it was Edwards, as Ukelele Ike, who forever fused it with novelty music — a tradition carried on by Arthur Godfrey and Tiny Tim on television, and by Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole in every goddamn movie that came out in the 90s.

A pair of Edwards’ off-color tunes from the 30s were collected by jazz historian Brian Rust on Banned, a compilation of songs you could probably play on the air today, but couldn’t at the time. The folks at Disney would probably prefer you remember Jiminy Cricket for his steadfast support of a little puppet who dreamed of becoming a real boy…

 

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