Friday, December 27, 2019

Tony Charmoli, early television, and the memoir "Stars in My Eyes"

Note about a correction, appended
The picture, below (from the television program Your Hit Parade), appears in the 2016 book Stars in My Eyes, by Tony Charmoli.  I had not seen the picture (a picture I like a great deal) prior to reading Mr. Charmoli's book.

The book, about Mr. Charmoli's life and work, covers his career in entertainment from the 1940s until the 1990s (including his extensive work as both a choreographer and director for television). Today, Mr. Charmoli is 98, and lives (as he has lived for years) in California.

Photograph by Roy Schatt, 1952, from 2016's Stars in My Eyes, by Tony Charmoli

The above picture is seen in the chapter of Stars in My Eyes about Charmoli's work in early television.  He first gained notice, in early TV, as choreographer for the ABC program Stop the Music; he became the show's choreographer in 1949, while dancing in a Broadway show.  In 1950, he joined the new NBC show Your Hit Parade, as choreographer, and remained with the program for several years.  

Charmoli, however, was not only the Hit Parade's choreographer. He was also--as noted, here, in previous posts--the show's stager.  The songs on the Hit Parade, each week, were not simply sung, in a straightforward manner; they were dramatized. It was Charmoli who--in addition to choreographing the program's dance routines--staged all of the show's song dramatizations; he staged the movements of the featured singers and supporting performers, whether the numbers contained dance routines or not. 

Charmoli received a 1956 Emmy Award, for his choreography during the show's 1955 season.  In the 1970s, he received two additional Emmy Awards for choreography, for specials starring Shirley MacLaine (1976), and Mitzi Gaynor (1974).  From the 1950s until the 1990s, he received a number of other Emmy nominations, for his work both as a choreographer and director.  Singer Snooky Lanson, who starred on Your Hit Parade from 1950 until 1957, told me, in a late-1970s interview, that Charmoli was "one of the greatest talents I believe I ever knew."

The 1952 Hit Parade picture, above, is not captioned, in Charmoli's book. It features (from left-to-right, front row), singer Eileen Wilson; a pianist whose name I do not know; my mother (singer Sue Bennett); singer Dorothy Collins; and the show's director, Clark Jones. Charmoli is seated behind the pianist. I don't know the identity of the man standing next to Charmoli, in the back row.

The singers and the pianist (as can be seen by the sheet music on the piano's music stand) are rehearsing the song "A Guy is a Guy," which was a hit, in 1952, for Doris Day. There is also, one notes, what looks like a folder, on the table in front of Dorothy Collins and Clark Jones. The name Bob Kitsis is printed on it; Mr. Kitsis, at this time (and for much of the 1950s), was the pianist on the Hit Parade telecasts, as part of the Lucky Strike Orchestra, led by Raymond Scott. The pianist in the photograph, however, is not Bob Kitsis.  

In that the setting of the photograph does not appear to be that of a standard rehearsal studio, I am guessing the photo was taken at Manhattan's Hotel Woodstock, where some of the Hit Parade's rehearsals were held each week, during this period.

Stars in My Eyes is published by TurningPointPress, of Teaneck, New Jersey.  Paul Manchester edited and designed the book, and is a friend of Mr. Charmoli; it was Mr. Manchester, Charmoli writes in the book's acknowledgements, "who insisted this book should be written, then took it upon himself to persuade me to get a computer at the age of 90 and start typing out my memories."  Mr. Manchester kindly provided me with a high-resolution file of the above photograph.

The picture, from Mr. Charmoli's photo archives, was taken by Roy Schatt, who worked on the Hit Parade as a still photographer.  (Mr. Schatt later became particularly well-known for photographs he took of the actor James Dean.)

Here is the page for Stars in My Eyes:

Below, too, is additional information about Mr. Charmoli's television career, at the website (Near the end of the IMDB page, in a section titled "Other Works," under the "Personal Details" category, some of Mr. Charmoli's work on Broadway is also listed.) 

Paul Manchester, editor (as referred to above) of Tony Charmoli's 2016 memoir--and a two decades-long friend of Mr. Charmoli--has told me that despite online references to the contrary, Mr. Charmoli is 98 years old, not 97, as I had written.  My thanks to Mr. Manchester; the post has been corrected.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Holidays

Happy Chanukah (which began this evening), Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays...

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Softcover & hardcover copies, 2019 Revised Edition, "The Lucky Strike Papers"

A reminder that the 2019 Revised Edition of my book about early TV (the softcover version) is available via my website.

The list price of the book is $24.95; the book can be purchased at the website for $22.95, which includes Media Mail shipping. 

Please see:

(hardcover edition)
In addition, I have, on hand, a couple of hardcover copies of the Revised Edition of the book.

The list price of the hardcover is $34.95, but it is being offered here for $28.95 (which also includes Media Mail shipping).

If you'd like one of the hardcover copies, please write to, and put "Hardcover" in the subject field.  I'll put the copies aside for the first couple of people who get in touch, and will send an e-mail reply with information about payment (via paypal).

For your reference:  both the softcover and hardcover versions can only be shipped to the U.S., and just to the lower forty-eight states. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Blogger, and friend, Steve Albin

For years, I've taken pleasure in reading a particular blog--the "Geezer Music Club," written by Steve Albin, who, on the blog, went by the name BG (a/k/a "Big Geez").  

He wrote, in an enjoyable, easygoing manner, about music and music history--about songs, singers, musicians, songwriters, music groups.  He also wrote about other nostalgia-related subjects.  

In 2015, he stepped away from the blog, taking what he called "an indefinite hiatus." Later the same year, he released a book, derived from the blog, called Memories & Music.  

In the book's preface, he wrote:  

"As you might guess from the name [of the blog] it was music-oriented, but it was always intended to have a lot of nostalgia as part of its content. After all those years of writing it, I finally came to realize that it included a treasure trove of nostalgia of a specific kind – personal memories that reach back to my childhood and paint a picture of middle America in the second half of the twentieth century. That being the case, I thought I might be able to use those blog posts as the basis for a memoir that might offer readers a little more than just being about me.

"So I've now taken many of those blog entries and transformed them into chapters. Since the GMC was a music blog there is still a lot of that type of content, but I have edited the original posts so that the emphasis is definitely on nostalgia. (Of course, you might find the stuff about music interesting if you give it a chance.)"

During his hiatus from the blog, there were occasional brief posts, to touch base with his readers.  In late 2017, the hiatus ended; he resumed posting regularly.  Several months later, however, due to a heart attack, and then heart surgery, he took a leave of a few months. He then returned to the blog for a time, yet other serious health issues arose, necessitating another leave.  By April of 2019, he was again posting often; his last post appeared on September 19th.  

On October 8th, his family let his community of readers know that he had died the week before.  At his death, on October 3rd, he was 75.  

Steve, who lived in Indiana (he grew up in the Terre Haute area), was born in 1943, in Illinois; tomorrow, November 23rd, would have been his 76th birthday. His full name was Stephen Foster Albin; his father, he had noted on the blog, named him after the 19th century songwriter, often referred to as the "father of American music."  

In 2008, I sent Steve a copy of my book about early television, and he subsequently wrote a kind review of it.  Later, we became friends--communicating, over time (warmly, enjoyably), via e-mail.  

I'm very saddened by his death.  And (as I am sure is the case with his many readers) I'll miss encountering, on the blog, his ongoing reflections, enthusiasms, reminiscences, and good cheer.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Kay Kyser's television show, NBC, 1949-1950

I recently acquired the above 1949 photograph, of three of the performers from bandleader Kay Kyser's television show, the College of Musical Knowledge. 

The picture shows (left to right) my mother (singer Sue Bennett), comedian and musician Merwyn Bogue (better known by his stage name, Ish Kabibble), and singer Liza Palmer. 

Kay Kyser's TV program began airing on NBC at the start of December, 1949.  Ms. Palmer left the show in March of 1950; the show was telecast until the end of December, 1950.

The photograph appeared in an article in TeleVision Guide magazine, at the start of 1950.  Mr. Kyser appeared on the magazine's cover that week.  Images from the issue appear below.

Kay Kyser, TeleVision Guide, Jan. 1950
Kay Kyser, Sue Bennett, TeleVision Guide
Top right, Kay Kyser and Liza Palmer 

(Photo at top, and photos from TeleVision Guide, © NBC Studios, Inc.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Robert Freeman, and "Meet the Beatles!"

Photographer Robert Freeman, who took the legendary picture which appeared on the cover of Meet The Beatles!, died on November 8th, at 82.  Mr. Freeman also took the photographs for the covers of other Beatles albums, including Rubber Soul.

Meet The Beatles! was released in the United States in January of 1964, on Capitol Records.

The photograph by Mr. Freeman had previously been used--absent the blue tint seen on Meet the Beatles!--on the cover of the UK album With the Beatles, which had come out, on the Parlophone label, a couple of months prior to Meet the Beatles!  (I had never known until today, while reading about With the Beatles, that the album had been released in the UK on November 22, 1963, the day of the Kennedy assassination.)

With the Beatles featured a number of the songs which would later be heard on Meet the Beatles!, but also included several cover recordings (such as "Roll Over Beethoven," and "You Really Got a Hold on Me") which would appear on the April, 1964 American release, The Beatles' Second Album.

Although the cover of Meet the Beatles! asserts that it is "The First Album by England's Phenomenal Pop Combo," it was, technically (though just barely), the second album released in America by the Fab Four;  Introducing the Beatles, on Vee-Jay Records, was brought out in the U.S. ten days prior to the release of Meet the Beatles!  (In addition, the group's first studio album, Please Please Me, had been released in the UK, by Parlophone, in March of 1963.)

Here is an obituary of Robert Freeman, from the New York Times:

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Richard Tourangeau, and "The Morgan Show," WBZ NewsRadio, Boston

Richard "Dixie" Tourangeau is a regular guest of talk host Morgan White, Jr., on The Morgan Show (weekend overnights, Boston's WBZ-AM, 1030 AM); you'll perhaps recall that I've written about The Morgan Show, in this space, on a number of occasions.  

The weekend shows begin at midnight, and Tourangeau, tonight, is appearing on the program from midnight until 2 a.m. The discussion, at least in part, will concern the recently-concluded World Series.

Tourangeau--an enjoyable and knowledgeable radio guest--is a baseball researcher and historian. He's a longtime member of the Society for American Baseball Research.   

A 2007 article about Tourangeau, in the Worcester (MA) Telegram, included the following: "He seems to know everything there is to know about every baseball player who ever wore a Major League uniform..."

In his appearances on The Morgan Show, Tourangeau (whom I've come to know, due to my own affiliation with Morgan's program) also discusses, periodically, the subject of National Parks. For nearly three decades, he worked, in Boston, for the National Park Service. For the last fourteen years of his NPS career, he was a ranger, at Boston National Historic Park (which includes Charlestown's Bunker Hill Monument). While now retired from the NPS, he continues, on a volunteer basis, to lead tours of the USS Cassin Young, at the Charlestown Navy Yard (which is also part of Boston National Historic Park); the warship was built, and first deployed, during World War II. (By the way: the last tours of the season, for the ship, take place this Monday, Veterans Day.)

Tourangeau, one therefore notes, is well-versed regarding two types of parks: national parks, and baseball parks.  To date, he told me in an e-mail, he has visited about half of the some 420 National Park Service sites in the United States.  He has also visited all of the current parks of Major League Baseball.