Steel Trappings

Tear Drop

A Steel Tear Drop

October 19, 2021 • Addison ChingEntertainment

A posting appeared on my Facebook feed announcing that Andy Volk and Volk Media Books have just released a transcription by Andy of "Tear Drop," the 1959 song released by Santo and Johnny (Farina) as a followup to their hit song "Sleep Walk."


Volk Media Tear Drop Transcription

"Tear Drop was written and recorded by brothers Santo & Johnny Farina in 1959 and was the follow-up single to their iconic tune "Sleepwalk." The song is a classic 1950s rock and roll ballad in 6/8 time in the somewhat unusual key of D# minor. My transcription is arranged for 6-string A6th tuning but is of course, playable on the 8-string version.

"Santo's sound may seem simple but try to reproduce it! His sound was so unique and beautiful that it still speaks to musicians more than 60 years after the song was recorded."

Andy Volk, Volk Media Books

D# minor translates to F# major but as a guitarist in a high-school era "surf" band, the key of F# was not a natural or popular key to play in, so our group dropped it down to F major which made the song much easier to play.

A discussion in the Steel Guitar Forum mentions that "Sleep Walk" was played using a C#m7 tuning, and speculates that when Santo changed from his triple-neck Fender Custom to a double-neck Fender Stringmaster he probably continued with that tuning. The thread, however, doesn't mention what key the song was played in.

Johnny Farina declined to comment when queried about the key the song was played in.

As with their other hit "Sleep Walk," "Tear Drop" was written by Santo and Johnny along with Ann Farina, Santo Farina's wife. Both song titles use the characteristic two-word format but both songs are often incorrectly referred to as the one-word titles "Sleepwalk" and "Teardrop."

A separate article addressed this. The format of the song's title "Sleep Walk" is obvious when the song's lyrics are studied:

Sleep walk
Instead of dreaming
I sleep walk

There are no known lyrics to "Tear Drop."

I often wondered if the recording in F# was actually a recording mistake. As with some records made in the day, I thought that perhaps the recording equipment may have not been calibrated correctly, resulting in a slower recording RPM and therefore a higher pitch when played back at the correct RPM.

Andy Volk says, "I was wondering about that as well." He continues, "I almost moved it to F but decided to go with what I heard. Sometimes a simple tune makes the strongest emotional impact."

Other comments in the Steel Guitar Forum provide some speculation about the key difference.

"The original studio recording was probable [sic] sped up a half step for the mix down? I know a few songs that were hits that got sped up in pitch for the mix down."
Jesse Pearson, San Diego, CA.

"Re the dichotomy between C and C# on the original version, I asked Johnny Farina about the recording being in C#, and he was clueless, saying they 'recorded it in C on the C#minor tuning.'

"The original tape might have been speeded up when it was mastered."

Herb Steiner, Cedar Valley, TX.

"Tear Drop" is not as well known as Santo and Johnny's blockbuster hit "Sleep Walk." But at least one well-known steel guitarist is familiar with the tune.

Bobby Ingano became familiar with the song when he played the flip side of his personal record of "Sleep Walk." In reality, his record was an oldies compilation reissue of Santo and Johnny's two hits on one record, which Eric Records released in the 1970s. The actual recordings were released on the Canadian-American label as separate records back in the late 1950s.

"I purchased the 45 rpm record of Sleep Walk in 1977 and never listened to the flipside until 1999!! My first thought was, 'Why was this never played on the radio?'" recalls Bobby. "It was like discovering a treasure of a ballad!! None of my friends ever heard about 'Tear Drop!!'"

Back in 2000 when Bobby appeared with George Kuo, Aaron Mahi and Martin Pahinui at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa, one lady in the audience requested that song. "But they [George, Aaron and Martin] never heard of 'Tear Drop,'" says Bobby.

At the 2017 Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Festival's Sunday brunch kanikapila at the Mauna Lani Resort (back in 2017 it was called the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows) Bobby somehow managed to bring that song up for discussion, perhaps after playing his signature version of "Sleep Walk." He commented how much he enjoyed that song.

Fantastic! That was one of the first mentions of that song I had experienced in a very long while. Not many people know about or recognize that song.

Dr. Kris Oka, another steel guitarist at the brunch, had just obtained a brand new MSA steel guitar and wanted Bobby to try it out to get his opinion about its sound and playability.

Finding out that I was familiar with the song, Bobby decided to try out that song on Kris' MSA. We then attempted it in F Major, with me playing the guitar backup. I had to make a few adjustments because of chording issues, but as Bobby recalls, "And you're the first one who actually played the chords to it!!"

"It was the first time Bobby played the MSA and I heard him play 'Tear Drop,'" said Kris. "It just blew me away. In fact I sent this video to Kyle Bennett who is the owner of MSA and he sent Bobby a custom 7 string MSA which I believe he takes on his tours."

Kris Oka recorded that "Tear Drop" moment on video.

The video can also be seen on YouTube.

Subsequent to that Mauna Lani experience we jammed that song after a workshop at the 2018 Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival. It was just as much fun then as it was at the Mauna Lani.

Since then, Bobby has taught the members of his Trio (Kaipo Asing and Adam Asing) the chords and will begin to include it in his performances to supplement his trademark version of "Sleep Walk."

Says Andy Volk, "I bet Bobby plays that tune beautifully. Hawaiian steelers play some beautiful versions of pop music."

"I just know it's goin' to catch on with musicians and the audience!" comments Bobby with a sense of confidence and pride.

This is a video of the original recording by Santo and Johnny of "Tear Drop."

The video can also be seen on YouTube.

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