It was quite an education in the mechanics of licensing a song when I recorded my first children’s album and all I can say is “Shame on the Sham!” The “Sham” I am referring to is Sam The Sham who wrote the classic rock & roll tune called “Wooly Bully.” Why the shame? Well one day I was inspired by a 4-year-old preschool student who had come in from the play yard filled with excitement because a roly poly (aka “potato bug”) had just climbed on his arm! In a magical moment of improvisation, I began singing about the adventures of this gentle little bug and right there in that classroom a song was born called “Roly Poly.” The lyrics happened to fit perfectly to the tune of “Wooly Bully” and the teachers were amused since they recognized it and the kids were very thrilled to bop out to a rock and roll tune about the sow bugs they just experienced outside. I thought it all very wonderful and was sure that this fun little song would be included on my first album! It even became the theme song for the school’s earth day celebration and it was quite a site having over 80 kids sang their hearts out, rolling their arms singing “ROLY POLY” in one be voice to the Roly Poly song!
I was excited and recorded the song and had my 7 year old help me with the vocals since it was an echo song. But alas getting the license to permit me to use this song was a different story. To license a song the best place to begin is with the Harry Fox agency out of New York. They manage licenses and royalties for millions of songs. They have a very simple song search tool called Songfile that makes it easy to find and license a song, but only if they manage 100 percent of it. If they do, then it’s a piece of cake. But if they don’t, then you have to go directly to the publisher. “Wooly Bully” had 2 publishers and it took some searching the internet to find them. The first publisher, who owned 25 percent of the song rights, agreed to grant me a license, but only if the second publisher, who owned the remaining 75 percent, agreed. Well after many emails and some calls to pinpoint the appropriate person at this company, they sadly declined my request for the license. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that Sam the Sham or those associated with the “Sham” wouldn’t grant the use of this song for children — I mean this was for kids and it was GREEN too! Shame on the Sham!
I’ve considered putting the song out there and wonder if the publisher would even care because after all I am just a small potato.