Monday, April 11, 2005

Norma Tanega: Still Walkin' Her Cat Named Dog



It wasn't exclusively folk and it certainly wasn't puerile pop. When the tune Walkin' My Cat Named Dog graced radio airwaves in the burgeoning Flower Power-era of 1966, California-born vocalist Norma Tanega was singing more about attitude than the actual routine of pet-rearing.

Born January 30, 1939, in Vallejo, California, of Filipino heritage, this acquisitive Aquarian had the good fortune of parents who encouraged her leaning toward music and artistry. Seeking work as a graphic artist, Tanega moved to New York City during the early '60s. A self-taught guitarist, Tanega found herself attracted to the poetic and activist musings of folk music and struck up friendships with youthful folksingers Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton, who encouraged her to continue her won songwriting and performing.

Tanega was not necessarily seeking a Billboard hit record when she signed to the fledgling New Voice recording label but when Walkin' My Cat Named Dog reached a respectable #22 on the national top 100 (and in the United Kingdom as well) she found herself cast by critics in the same obscure Folk-Pop mold as single success artists Shelby Flint, and Bob Lind. In fact, in most music historian circles, Tanega is regarded under the cliche moniker of a "one-hit-wonder" artist in light of the fact that her feline/canine tune was her only chart entry.

WALKIN' MY CAT NAMED DOG

I'm walkin' all around the town
Singin' all the people down
Talkin' around, talkin' around

Me and my cat named Dog
Are walkin' high against the fog
Singin' the sun
Singin' the sun

Happy, sad and crazy wonder
Chokin' up my mind
With perpetual dreamin'

Driftin' up and down the street
(Driftin' up and down the street)
Searchin' for the sound of people
(Searchin' for the sound of people)
Swingin' their feet, swingin' their feet

Dog is a good old cat (dog is a good old cat)
People what you think of that
(People what you think of that)
That's where I'm at, that's where I'm at

Happy, sad and crazy wonder
Chokin' up my mind
With perpetual dreamin'

---- Instrumental Interlude ----

Dog is a good old cat
People what you think of that
That's where I'm at,
That's where I'm at, that's where I'm at

All but disappearing from the field of commercial music following her promising 1966 hit debut, Tanega attracted minor kudos for the hit record's B-Side, I'm The Sky, as well as her 1977 "comeback" record I Don't Think It Will Hurt (accompanied by an RCA LP of the same name).

Tanega appeared as a commentator in the 1999 TV documentary Definitely Dusty, a film biopic of superstar singer Dusty Springfield. Film director Serena Cross (who also produced and directed the Jeff Buckley music biopic Jeff Buckley: Everybody Here Wants You) included Tanega in Dusty's movie because of her close, lengthy friendship with the late Springfield. Tanega co-wrote Morning Lyrics, with musicians Nana Cayammi, and Gilberto Gil, for Springfield.

COME FOR A DREAM

Come for a dream,
come and love in the sun,
come and stay just as long as you may.
We're in love for today.
Sunny love may not stay.
Love may be glowing fantasy but love is free.
Come for a smile,
making love in the sun
my kaleidoscope rainbow begun.
Sunny love making fun,
sunny love making one.
Magic sensation in the sun, come for a while.
Run away from sorrow,
run away tomorrow.
One special day,
warm and dazzling we climb a tree,
making love in the sea.
Sunny love, come and be,
sunny love, you and me.
Imagination is the key, sing me away.
Run away from sorrow,
run away tomorrow.
Come for a dream,
come and love in the sun,
come and stay just as long as you may.
We're in love for today.
Sunny love may not stay.
Love may be glowing fantasy but love is free.

In 1996 Tanega served as co-performer (and drummer) on an LP, with musician Mike Henderson, called Hybrid Vigor which can be found on the website of five-member progressive rock band Djam Karet.

Hybrid Vigor (track list):

1. Samba For Lucca (6.46)
2. Sheltering Sky (4.43)
3. hybridVigor (2.51)
4. Sticks And Stones (3.34)
5. Secrets Of The Old (5.25)
6. Chuck-A-Bo (4.54)
7. Men Who Tread on The Tiger's Tail (4.25)
8. Rain (4.34)
9. Salamanca (4.05)
10. Wild Meditation (7.28)
11. Salad Bowl Blues (3.55)

27 Comments:

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Blogger patty o. furniture said...

Just discovered Norma Tanega's music, she's wonderful and was way ahead of her time, anyone who likes Sandy Denny, Tim Buckley or some of the great unusual music on the K music label out of Olympia, WA would like her music, thanks for your great blog!

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Blogger kathy said...

I find myself singing the words "walkin my cat named dog" when I'm walking my cat. Also there's a cat NAMED dog in my neighborhood we always bump into. I remembered this song from my childhood, but couldn't remember the lyrics. I hadn't heard it since my childhood either. So I decided to google it & found it! and the lyrics! I just sang it to my son. I will have to get the CD so I can hear it again. I used to love this song.

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Blogger Peter said...

"Walkin' My Cat Named Dog" is one of the greatest pop tunes of the pre-psychedelic era. It's unpretentious, freewheeling, goofy, and poetic. 1966 was a great year to be a teenager, and this song playing frequently in the background helped make it so.

Years later I wanted to hear it again so bad I searched down a copy of the LP and slaked my thirst!

I would put this song in the same category of semi-obscure pre-psychedelic gems as Lyme & Cybelle's marvellous "Follow Me," which sounded the "clarion call" to an eager young generation.

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Blogger Benowen said...

Norma, I haven't heard this song for forty years and I still call it one of my favourites! Where can I buy a copy of "Walkin' My Cat Named Dog" and also "At 6AM I'm Lookin' For a Street That Rhymes"?

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Blogger the whoboy said...

It's amazing to think that I first heard this song over 40 years ago in the UK, and managed to find the 45rpm single, which I've damn near worn out. It's a great song and I still love it as much now as I did then.

And, I still listen to it as I found it is one of the tracks on a CD here called "Best sixties summer party ever!" and benowen, you can get it fairly cheaply on amazon.co.uk

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Blogger kismet said...

At age 11 I had a feeling this wasn't really so much about a cat named dog...Something reminded me of this happy folky-meets-girl-group song today and I found her performing it on YouTube. What a delight! and I have to say, my cat loved it too!

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Blogger John said...

When I first heard Norma on Sirius-XM she reminded me very much of the female voices I had heard in the Islands. There is a very soothing Hawaiian lilt to her voice. When I discovered that she was from California but was of Filipino descent, that perhaps explained her comforting Islander quality.

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