Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kay Kyser, Buzz Kulik, & December 28, 1950

On December 28, 1950 (60 years ago today), Kay Kyser’s NBC show had its final telecast.

The guest stars for the last show included Ted Lewis, and Frances Faye.

After his show left television, Kay Kyser, forty-five years old, retired from show business. (He passed away in 1985, at age 80.)

After his TV show ended, Kyser returned with his family to his home state of North Carolina. He became involved in various community-oriented efforts—such as, playing a key role in bringing public television to the state.

In addition, Christian Science became an increasingly important part of his life. In time (using his given name, James K. Kyser), he became a Christian Science teacher, and a Christian Science practitioner (a practioner being another term for a Christian Science healer).

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Here is a ticket (its scuff marks and scratches more pronounced in the scan) from Kay Kyser’s last TV broadcast. I found it years ago, amidst other things my mother had saved from her career in New York (such as, scripts, recordings, photographs, newspaper and magazine stories, etc.).

Though it does not show up well in the scan, if you look to the right of the phrase “TELEVISION SHOW," you’ll see a name, written in pencil. It says “Kulik.” In that it is not my mother’s handwriting, I am guessing this means that the ticket had originally been put aside for (or, was put aside at the request of) Buzz Kulik, the show’s director, but that perhaps he ended up not needing it.

Later, Buzz Kulik became one of television’s best-known (and most accomplished) directors. In the 1950s, after directing Kay Kyser’s show, he directed such live television dramatic programs as Playhouse 90, Climax, and Lux Video Theatre. In the 1960s, he directed a number of episodes of The Twilight Zone, and worked on The Defenders, Have Gun, Will Travel, and many other programs.

He is perhaps best known for his direction of the landmark made-for-television film Brian’s Song, which aired in 1971. He also directed a number of feature films, including 1980’s The Hunter, which was Steve McQueen’s last film.

Though I did not know this when I interviewed him in 1981, Kulik also directed one of the TV productions I enjoyed most during childhood: a 1970 "Hallmark Hall of Fame" drama written by Rod Serling, A Storm in Summer, which starred Peter Ustinov.  Ustinov won an Emmy Award for his performance, the show itself was named "Outstanding Dramatic Program" (for 1969-1970), and Kulik received an Emmy nomination for his direction of the program.

Kulik (who passed away in 1999, at age 76) also received Emmy nominations for the 1984 mini-series George Washington, for the 1976 television film The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case, for a 1961 episode of Dr. Kildare, and for Brian’s Song.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

In 1949, Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released, and it became a hit (and classic) recording. In the next couple of years other singers (such as Bing Crosby, and Spike Jones) recorded the song.  It again became a Christmas-time hit in 1950, 1951, and 1952.

The song appeared as one of the top seven songs on Your Hit Parade for part of December of 1951, and continuing into the first week of January, 1952.

During one of those weeks, my mother sang the song with Snooky Lanson; on another telecast, she sang the song alone.

Above:  a rehearsal photograph of the performance with Snooky Lanson (it is a picture which does not appear in my book). Also in the photograph: the Hit Parade Dancers (including Dusty McCaffrey, far left, and Carmina Cansino, second from right).

(Copyright of photo held by Lost Gold Entertainment, Inc.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

“Larry King Live," and the Hit Parade

I haven’t watched Larry King’s program for a while, but his final show this past week was enjoyable.

One of the guests was the routinely entertaining Regis Philbin. During the segment Philbin mentioned that Larry King knew a lot of old songs, and loved to sing them.

Philbin began singing a particular song, and asked King to sing it with him. The song was “So Long For a While,” which was the closing theme of Your Hit Parade, on both radio and TV. Philbin changed some of the words, to suit the occasion of King’s last show.

King, however, did not sing along; he was obviously a bit thrown by Philbin’s invitation to do so, and explained that he didn’t know the song.

Here is a video of the exchange between Philbin and Larry King. The Hit Parade-related portion of the segment takes place during the first minute and twenty seconds of the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGaDr9oOmr8

Here, too, is an audio recording of “So Long For a While,” from a spring of 1951 television broadcast of Your Hit Parade. The first vocalist heard is Eileen Wilson; she is followed by Snooky Lanson and Dorothy Collins. The entire cast then joins in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnF5hKUd-WI&feature=youtu.be

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Deconstructing Dad"

I’d like to recommend a documentary (now available on DVD) that I wrote about in a recent post, and which I have now seen.

Deconstructing Dad is by filmmaker Stan Warnow, and is about his late father, the extraordinary Raymond Scott—orchestra leader, musician, composer, and electronics inventor/visionary.

The film is a finely-crafted, impressive work—an enjoyable, moving, and satisfying blend of biography, musicology, memoir, and family portrait.

As noted in my previous post, critic and historian Leonard Maltin has called the film a “fascinating look at a musical genius and the way he lived his life. Stan Warnow allows us to share his journey of discovery as he pieces together the story of his father. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Warnow is the film’s director and producer, as well as its narrator, and interviewer. The film’s co-producer is Jeff E. Winner (who created, and runs, the official Raymond Scott website:  http://raymondscott.com/).

To learn more about the film, please click on this link: http://www.scottdoc.com/

(Photo above: Stan Warnow, from the “Deconstructing Dad” website)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John Lennon

Here are three videos of John Lennon, with The Beatles.

The first, with Lennon as lead singer, is of a live performance of “Twist and Shout,” from 1964.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX1r6ggAqR4&feature=related

In the second, in a scene from the movie Help, Lennon sings the lead on “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLD5SVctBrw

Then, from 1964, The Beatles sing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” on Ed Sullivan’s show (live from Miami).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQC7ecXQIJg&feature=related

Lastly, the announcement by Howard Cosell, thirty years ago tonight, during a telecast of Monday Night Football, that Lennon had been killed in New York.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gcdz1IRVoM&feature=related

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sale price of book

The Lucky Strike Papers is currently being offered, via my website, for the discounted price of $19.95, which includes Media Mail shipping and Delivery Confirmation.

Please see this link:   http://luckystrikepapers.com/purchase.html

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Radio Once More," and Nov. 22nd

The Internet radio station "Radio Once More," about which I've previously written in this space, is, at the moment, in the midst of airing nine hours of radio coverage (both network and local) which took place on Nov. 22nd of 1963.

To listen to the station, please click on this link:  http://www.radiooncemore.com/

In addition, the station's Facebook link is:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Radio-Once-More/206726779589?ref=search&sid=100000036812392.1343272947..1#!/pages/Radio-Once-More/206726779589

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Boston radio program, 1953

My parents were married in Manhattan in 1949, several months after my mother’s New York television career had begun. My father, at the time, was in his medical residency.

At the start of 1953, his residency now completed, and having accepted a job with a Boston medical practice, my parents left New York, and moved to suburban Boston.

A couple of months later (her network career now ended), my mother began singing on a daily radio show on Boston station WEEI-AM. She was, at the time, pregnant with my brother. (I was born later, in 1956.)

The radio show, Beantown Varieties, was hosted by Boston personality Carl Moore, and she sang on the show with an orchestra. (I don’t know how many musicians the orchestra featured, yet I have long been struck by the fact that an orchestra would be part of a local radio show. It was, indeed, a different era.)

Here is a segment of a song she sang on the show: “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man,” from the musical Show Boat (music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II).

http://www.luckystrikepapers.com/images/Can_t_Help_Lovin_That_Man,_segment,_1953.wav

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"David Susskind: A Televised Life"

There is a brief interview in my book (conducted in 1984) with David Susskind.  During the 1949-1950 period Kay Kyser's TV show aired on NBC, Susskind was an agent and executive at the Music Corporation of America; he was also an assistant to M.C.A. senior executive (and noted agent) Sonny Werblin. M.C.A. was the agency that represented Kay Kyser, and Susskind was the agent for a number of the performers on Kay Kyser’s TV show (including my mother). 

Susskind, in 1984, remembered that he and Kay Kyser Show writers Eddie Lawrence and Bob Quigley picked contestants, from the audience of New York’s International Theatre, for future broadcasts of the TV show. Eddie Lawrence, who also performed in sketches on the Kay Kyser program, later became well-known (on television, and on records) for his comedy character “The Old Philosopher." Bob Quigley, who also appeared in sketches on Kay Kyser’s show, later achieved great success as a producer (with Merrill Heatter) of such game shows as The Hollywood Squares.

In later years, of course, David Susskind became a prominent television talk show host, and producer. A biography of Susskind—David Susskind: A Televised Life—was recently released.  The book is by Stephen Battaglio, and is published by St. Martin’s Press.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312382863/sr=1-1/qid=1287257690/

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ted Fetter, and "Taking a Chance on Love"

In a recent post, I mentioned Ted Fetter, who from 1950 until 1953 was one of the producers of the Hit Parade television show.

Fetter is interviewed in my book about the program (and about early television in general). In addition to his work as a television producer, on the Hit Parade and other shows (he also later worked as a television executive, at ABC), Fetter was a songwriter—and is remembered, today, for being one of the lyricists of the outstanding (and much-recorded) song “Taking a Chance on Love.” The song was written in 1939 (with lyricist John Latouche and composer Vernon Duke), and it became part of the 1940 Broadway show Cabin in the Sky.

Here are two versions of the song, via YouTube. The first is by Benny Goodman’s orchestra, with vocalist Helen Forrest. The second version is sung by June Christy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E65N6d_vBVw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haeq-2c-axg


Monday, November 8, 2010

Additional hostility

There have recently been a couple of further attacks on a particular part of my book, by Steven Beasley, author of a Kay Kyser biography, in posts left on the Geezer Music Club blog. As I’ve previously noted, the Geezer site, which I enjoy very much, reviewed my book favorably in 2008.

I had responded to Mr. Beasley’s previous ill-informed comments, in a post on my blog October 19th.

In his initial posting in September, Mr. Beasley called into question the section in my book in which I wrote of a several-years estrangement between Kay Kyser and his sidekick and cornet player Merwyn Bogue (a/k/a Ish Kabibble). Mr. Beasley, dismissing the story, wrote:

“Could be it was an isolated incident Miss Bennett remembers...”

My mother, Sue Bennett, was indeed familiar with the estrangement between Kay Kyser and Merwyn Bogue. She was a featured singer on Kay Kyser’s TV program the entire time it aired on NBC—from December of 1949 until December of 1950—and in 1950 she recorded a number of records with Mr. Kyser’s orchestra. During that time, she saw, up close, the nature of the relationship (or the lack of a relationship, at the time) between Mr. Kyser and Mr. Bogue.

Yet my mother was not cited in the book, concerning the relationship between Kay Kyser and Merwyn Bogue; Merwyn Bogue was, via an interview he gave me in 1979.

In additional comments on the Geezer site, on 10/28, Mr. Beasley asked—skeptically—why Mr. Bogue would have spoken to me about an estrangement with Kay Kyser, while not mentioning the estrangement to other interviewers.

That is not something I can answer. I’m guessing the radio interviewers Mr. Beasley referred to either did not know about the estrangement, or chose not to mention it. And while in our 1979 conversation Mr. Bogue did not bring up the story himself, he confirmed it—unhesitatingly—when I asked him about it. (I do think it is possible that because Mr. Bogue and my mother had worked together, he might have felt comfortable addressing the issue with me—but that is simply a guess.)

Why, Mr. Beasley asked, did Mr. Bogue not mention the estrangement in his autobiography?

Again, I cannot say. Perhaps, because Mr. Bogue’s book came out in 1989, and Mr. Kyser had passed away just four years earlier, Mr. Bogue decided not to address the subject—admittedly a sensitive one—out of deference to Mr. Kyser and Mr. Kyser’s family.

In his snide and reckless posts, Mr. Beasley seems to be suggesting that Merwyn Bogue did not in fact describe to me, in my interview with him in 1979, a several-years estrangement from Mr. Kyser.

Mr. Beasley can believe what he wishes to believe. He didn’t interview Merwyn Bogue; I did.

Mr. Bogue said what he said, in 1979 (and part of it was said, it seemed to me, with a kind of good humor). In addition, as noted in my previous post about the matter, Mr. Bogue also told me—importantly—that he and Mr. Kyser had, at the time we spoke, moved beyond their strained relationship, and were again in touch with one another.

Let me also note the following:

In June of 2008, six months after my book was published (and more than a year before his book came out), Mr. Beasley wrote a post on a Kay Kyser-oriented blog he had on MySpace.

He wrote this:  that “there are indications that [Kay Kyser] had a temper, and that he could and did hold a grudge at times."

Mr. Beasley then told a story about the relationship between Kay Kyser and one of his musicians, in the 1940s—a story which, incidentally, did not appear to involve a grudge, but I’ll leave to the side that first story he told.

He then continued: “Another example of Kay's holding a grudge regards his TV show, which ran 2 seasons on NBC in 1950. According to a book called 'The Lucky Strike Papers', the author's mother, Sue Bennett worked on Kyser's show as a vocalist (true enough) and noted that Kay and Ish Kabibble spoke to each other only on the show, and would not communicate directly offstage. This might be related to a rumor I heard a few years back where Ish felt he deserved a raise, Kyser denied him, and Ish felt forced to issue an ultimatum that he would not be present for the next TV show if the raise wasn't forthcoming. No dice. Sure enough, Ish wasn't there for the next show, and it was stated to me that Kay never forgave him.

“Now, while both these examples [the 2 stories Mr. Beasley told in his post] have not been proven to be 100 per cent accurate, all it proves is that Kyser, a very bright and personable man, had high standards, and was a normal guy, with foibles and faults like any of us.”

So: Mr. Beasley’s tone and stance have now changed, markedly.

While in his 2008 MySpace post he was perfectly willing to accept (in part via a “rumor” he heard) the possibility of an estrangement between Kay Kyser and Merwyn Bogue, during the time Mr. Kyser’s TV program aired on NBC, he now rejects the idea (“Could be it was an isolated incident Miss Bennett remembers...”). Indeed, he now lashes out, repeatedly, regarding the story I reported (a story, once again, told to me by Mr. Bogue): that the estrangement, in actuality, took place over several years.

There’s nothing I can do about Mr. Beasley’s insistent disbelief. Nor can I do anything about his self-righteousness, and his ugly and arrogant hostility.

To read the section in my book which concerns the several-years estrangement between Kay Kyser and Merwyn Bogue, please see my previous post:

http://andrewleefielding.blogspot.com/2010/10/response-to-angry-and-inaccurate.html

Here, too, is the link to the 2008 review of my book on the Geezer Music Club site; the posts left by Mr. Beasley appear after the review.

http://geezermusicclub.wordpress.com/2008/04/21/book-review-the-lucky-strike-papers-by-andrew-lee-fielding/

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Recent Presentation

I recently made a presentation about early television, to the “Pines Lake Seniors” group, located in northern New Jersey.

I had a wonderful time speaking with the group’s members (who welcomed me, I must say, with great kindness and hospitality).

There was, for me, a lovely surprise at the meeting. One of the event’s attendees, Muriel Wood, worked for several years on Your Hit Parade, beginning in 1951. (This was the same year my mother joined the program’s cast, although Ms. Wood and my mother, evidently, did not know one another.)

Ms. Wood worked for BBD&O, the Hit Parade’s advertising agency; she was secretary to the show’s producers, Dan Lounsbery and Ted Fetter, who also worked for the agency. (After Fetter left the program, in 1953, she continued to work for Lounsbery.) Bill Wood—whom she met at BBD&O, and whom she married later in the decade—also was closely involved with Your Hit Parade, working on the production of the show’s Lucky Strike commercials. Mr. Wood passed away in 1997.

It was a delight meeting her. She brought along a few Hit Parade-related mementos, thinking I might like to see them (which was indeed the case)—photographs, for example, of singers Russell Arms and June Valli. There was also a picture of Muriel and Bill Wood, taken at their 1956 wedding in New Jersey. The picture included the Hit Parade's Dorothy Collins, who sang at the wedding.

My thanks, again, to the Pines Lake members who attended the event—and my appreciation, too, to George Kick, one of the group’s officers, who extended, to me, the invitation to speak.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Musicians, singing

While in childhood, perhaps my early teens, my mother introduced me to an idea which interested me, and that stayed with me.  It was the notion of the “musician’s voice”: that there were certain musicians who, while they were not singers per se, nonetheless had singing voices which were very appealing.

I remember, for example, her enjoyment of composer and pianist Burt Bacharach’s singing, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In television appearances at the time, Bacharach sometimes sang his own songs (songs he had written with the lyricist Hal David).

Bacharach’s singing (then, and remaining so today) perhaps does not have the polish of other vocalists. His singing often has a near-fragile, whispery quality; words, phrasings, are not infrequently clipped, unsustained. Sometimes he appears as if he is having difficulty reaching certain notes. Yet all of this is part of the appeal of his very beautiful, expressive vocal style. It is a style informed by great feeling.

In retrospect, I think that my mother’s appreciation for Bacharach’s singing offered me a lesson of some significance: that categories do not necessarily apply. If you were not, officially (as was she), a singer, if you did not have the familiar skills of a singer, this did not mean that your singing did not warrant attention. One could have much affection for—great admiration for—the singing of someone who was not a singer.

I think, too, of a record I learned about, years ago. In 1979, I made a trip to Nashville to interview singer Snooky Lanson, who in the 1950s starred on Your Hit Parade (it is an interview which appears in my book). During that time, he had a weekly radio show, near Nashville (co-hosted by a disc jockey at the radio station), which featured records from the band era, and I went with him to the recording of one of the shows.

During the broadcast he played a song I had not known of: “Gotta Be This or That,” a 1945 hit by Benny Goodman’s orchestra.

There is a brief part of the song during which Goodman sings. While Burt Bacharach, over time, has sung with some regularity, I do not believe that Benny Goodman sang often. I don’t think that his singing, on “Gotta Be This or That,” is necessarily flawless, yet this does not matter. What stands out (at least for me) is the charm of the singing; there is a hip and likeable quality to it.  And (as is the case when one hears Burt Bacharach sing), one feels a kind of privilege: being allowed to hear a great musician venturing into another musical realm.

Here are a few videos of Burt Bacharach, singing songs he wrote with Hal David.

First, a brief video from 2008, of Bacharach singing “This Guy’s In Love”:


And here, from 2009, Bacharach performs “Alfie,” at the 92nd Street Y in New York. At the beginning of the video, he recalls the years he grew up in, and worked in, New York, and pays tribute to his songwriting collaborators, including Hal David. The introduction to “Alfie” begins at about 2:37.


A final Bacharach video (which, in places, is a more energetic vocal performance than the performances above), is from a 1967 broadcast of the TV show The Hollywood Palace, with host Herb Alpert. (Herb Alpert, of course, sang on the original recording of “This Guy’s In Love,” which became a big hit the following year. Alpert—another musician who had not been known as a singer—gave a very lovely vocal performance on the record.)

At around 1:08, not long before Bacharach begins singing, Herb Alpert asks him: Who would you say you sing like?

BB: (pause) Beethoven.

HA: Beethoven?

BB: Beethoven.

HA: Burt, Beethoven wasn’t a singer.

BB: That’s right.

He then sings a medley of Bacharach/David songs (continuing until about 4:05). Other performers then continue the medley—including Sergio Mendes and Brasil ‘66 (singing “The Look of Love”—a performance which, while lip-synched, is a reminder of how beautiful their version of the song was), guitarist Wes Montgomery, and Liza Minnelli. The end of the video features commercials from the broadcast. (My apologies, for the slightly low volume on the video.)


Lastly, here is Benny Goodman, with “Gotta Be This or That.” Goodman’s singing begins approximately fifty seconds into the song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WVrA7QqynI&feature=related

(Photo above, of Burt Bacharach, The Hollywood Palace, 1967, via YouTube)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Doris Day, interviewed by Jonathan Schwartz

Here's the link to a very enjoyable interview with Doris Day; the interview aired today on Jonathan Schwartz's Sunday Show, on the New York public radio station WNYC-FM.  (Mr. Schwartz is also heard on Saturdays, on WNYC; his programs on the station are also carried on Sirius XM Radio.)

During the interview, which lasts a little over an hour, Mr. Schwartz also played several recordings by Ms. Day.

http://culture.wnyc.org/articles/features/2010/oct/30/celebrating-hollywood-legend-doris-day/#comments

Friday, October 29, 2010

Likeable performers

I recently posted, on this blog, a video of Helen O’Connell, singing the song “Green Eyes,” from an early 1950s TV broadcast. Though I enjoyed her singing a great deal, in the video, I was also struck by this: how likeable Ms. O’Connell appeared. One becomes aware of this likeable quality the moment the video begins. She had a friendly and appealing demeanor, and looked to be enjoying herself, as she sang.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJbmE3J7s6k&feature=related

Here, too, are The Beatles, from the film A Hard Day’s Night, performing “I Should Have Known Better.” The Beatles routinely conveyed a sense of enjoyment, during their performances (as did, I think, Elvis Presley). It is an attractive quality, and one that not all performers share.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTYr2XtGGRk&feature=related

I think of a terrific singer/guitarist/songwriter performing today—KT Tunstall, who is from Scotland. She has a very likeable stage presence, and a very appealing vocal style.

Here is Tunstall singing “Suddenly I See,” on David Letterman’s show. The video is from 2006.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EU-OLy7MTgg&feature=related

Please note, in the above video, a signature feature of Tunstall’s performances: she employs foot pedals—known, evidently, as looping pedals. She uses them to record brief sections of her performances—such as, vocal phrases, or beats tapped out on her guitar—and then plays them back moments later, as accompaniment. The pedals are used, for vocal purposes, at the start of her performance on David Letterman’s program.

Here is another performance, also from David Letterman’s program, during a broadcast from Chicago. The video is of Al Green, who has regularly brought a very likeable quality, and, indeed, a sense of joy, to his performances. (I am not sure of the year of the video—though it is perhaps from 1998, when the CD referred to by Letterman, during his introduction of Green, was released.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QztIY43lPgI&feature=related

And concerning the subject of my book: there were many performers in early television, it seems to me, who had about them a noticeably likeable quality, a number of whom are a part of my book: singers such as Dorothy Collins, Snooky Lanson, Eileen Wilson, Russell Arms (all from the Hit Parade), bandleader Freddy Martin (who starred on his own network show in 1951, a show on which my mother appeared as a regular guest), bandleader Kay Kyser, and others.

I think it is probable that being likeable was an important attribute during early television. Americans were given, during the period of early TV, a new proximity to performers; they were now seen up close, in one’s home, one’s living room. I am guessing that being likeable, week after week, made the presence of such performers, within the home, that much more pleasing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Your Hit Parade," October of 1950

In the summer of 1950, on NBC, there were four experimental television broadcasts of the show Your Hit Parade. The Hit Parade had been heard on radio since 1935, and was now being tried on television. 

The experimental TV broadcasts were successful, and in October of 1950 (sixty years ago this month), the TV show began airing weekly. Its three singing stars were Snooky Lanson, Eileen Wilson, and Dorothy Collins. 

In February of 1951, my mother joined the program's cast. At first, she sang in the show's "extravaganza" commercials, for Lucky Strike cigarettes; the commercials were production numbers which featured singing and dancing.  She later became a featured vocalist on the program.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A response to a hostile--and inaccurate--comment left on a website

In 2008, a very kind review of my book was printed on the enjoyable “Geezer Music Club” website/blog.

http://geezermusicclub.wordpress.com/2008/04/21/book-review-the-lucky-strike-papers-by-andrew-lee-fielding/

This week I came upon a comment about the book review; it was left on the Geezer Music Club blog last month. The comment came from Steven Beasley, who came out with a biography of Kay Kyser in 2009.

Mr. Beasley, in his response to the book review, wrote about a section in my book in which I described the strained relationship between bandleader Kay Kyser and his comedy sidekick, Merwyn Bogue (better known as “Ish Kabibble”). Bogue, who was a cornetist in addition to being a comedian and sidekick, had been a part of Kyser's orchestra since the early 1930s.  The rupture in their relationship took place in the mid-1940s (several years before Kay Kyser's "College of Musical Knowledge" came to TV), and it continued for the remainder of their professional association. During this time, Kyser and Bogue were not on speaking terms.

Mr. Beasley wrote:

“I visited Kay Kyser’s widow (Georgia Carroll Kyser) recently, whom I have known for 15 years. I brought up the part in the LUCKY STRIKE PAPERS that says Kay and Ish werent on speaking terms offstage, and she completely poo-pooed the idea. 'Even our kids were friends', she said. That makes sense, as Kyser was a very organized and practical man, and would’ve cleared up any misunderstanding as opposed to acting childish and perhaps causing delays or pressure due to some unspoken feud. Could be it was an isolated incident Miss Bennett remembers, but NO, I dont think they excommunicated each other. My new book, ‘KAY KYSER-THE OL’ PROFESSOR OF SWING! AMERICA’S FORGOTTEN SUPERSTAR’ tells the whole story of Kyser and his gang. I have a 1980s interview w/ Ish, and he certainly didnt seem to diss Kyser in any way. People should check their ‘facts’ before printing them.”

Mr. Beasley suggested I check my “facts” before publishing them.  He should have actually taken the time to read the section in the book about Kyser and Merwyn Bogue, before criticizing it.

The rift between Kay Kyser and Merwyn Bogue was described to me by Merwyn Bogue himself, when I interviewed him in 1979.

Here is the section from the book:


I asked Merwyn Bogue—Ish Kabibble—about Kay Kyser. Kyser and Bogue were a team, on the air.

Off-the-air, however, the two did not speak with one another. Kyser used intermediaries to speak with Bogue, even when Bogue stood nearby.

AF: I had heard that you and Kyser had had a big rift.
Merwyn Bogue (1979): Oh, yes, we did.
AF: And you didn’t speak to each other much.
Bogue: That’s right. Well, I spoke to him, but he didn’t answer me.

Several years before [the TV show], while appearing on Kay Kyser’s radio program, Bogue had asked Kyser for more money. “I was getting I think $175 a week,” Bogue said in 1979, “which wasn’t much. And all the other comparable stooges, like Jerry Colonna with [Bob] Hope . . . all the stooges were getting a thousand a week. So I thought I ought to have a thousand a week. And I asked him for it, and he wouldn’t give it to me. So I said, Well, then, I quit. And he said Fine, so I quit. And after about three weeks he called me back, he said, O.K., I’ll pay it, and he did, but then he was so mad he wouldn’t speak to me. . . .‘Course I didn’t get wealthy on it because I got it for two weeks and then I got drafted in the Army. And I was gone for about a year.”

After the service, Bogue returned to Kyser’s radio program. Later, in 1949, he joined Kyser for his television program. Yet Kyser still did not speak to him.

AF: But you have corresponded with him in recent years.
Bogue (1979): Oh, yes. . . . No, we got over that. We correspond now.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Deconstructing Dad," a film by Stan Warnow

Filmmaker Stan Warnow has directed and produced a documentary which has received much attention. The film, Deconstructing Dad, is about his father, Raymond Scott—the musician, composer, and bandleader, who was also widely regarded as an electronics visionary. (Though I have not yet seen the film, I am planning on doing so soon.)

Warnow’s film has had screenings at many film festivals (as well as music-oriented festivals), and it is now available on DVD.

Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin calls the film a “fascinating look at a musical genius and the way he lived his life. Stan Warnow allows us to share his journey of discovery as he pieces together the story of his father. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

For more information about Deconstructing Dad, please see the film’s website:


Raymond Scott, as noted previously in this space, was the orchestra leader on the 1950s television show Your Hit Parade. He had been a very successful (and much admired) bandleader in the 1930s and 1940s.  In 1949, the orchestra leader on the Hit Parade radio show, Mark Warnow (Scott's brother), died, and Scott took his place on the program.  Scott continued as orchestra leader when the show came to television in 1950.

In the 1930s, Scott had played piano for (and contributed compositions to) the CBS Radio Orchestra, led by his brother. In order to avoid suggestions of nepotism, Scott (born Harry Warnow) changed his name. He found the name Raymond Scott in the phone book.

Stan Warnow was an editor and cameraman for the Academy Award-winnning film Woodstock, and has worked on many other films and television programs. Here is his biography, from the website for Deconstructing Dad:

http://scottdoc.com/about-the-filmaker/

To order a DVD of the film, please click on this link:

http://scottdoc.com/where-we-are-now/

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Live broadcasts

In the previous post, concerning tonight's live broadcast of 30 Rock, I neglected to mention certain programs which today are broadcast live:  the very popular talent competition shows, such as American Idol, and Dancing with the Stars.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"30 Rock," "Your Hit Parade," and Studio 8-H

Other than Saturday Night Live, and news and sports programs, live television programs are today rare. On Thursday, at 8:30 p.m. (EST), the NBC show 30 Rock will be broadcasting live, from NBC’s Studio 8-H, in Rockefeller Center. 

Three of the primary stars of 30 Rock—Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, and Alec Baldwin—are very familiar with the studio, which has been the home of Saturday Night Live since the show began airing in 1975. Fey and Morgan starred on Saturday Night Live, and Baldwin has been a frequent host on the program.

Before the television era, Studio 8-H had been famous for being the radio home of conductor Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra; Toscanini’s radio broadcasts had begun on NBC in the 1930s.

Near the start of 1951, when my mother joined the cast of Your Hit Parade, the show was broadcast from New York’s Center Theatre, near Rockefeller Center; the theatre had been converted to accomodate NBC television productions. In the spring of 1952, the Hit Parade left the Center Theatre, and moved to Studio 8-H.

In 1983, while doing research for my book, I spoke with the television and film director Paul Bogart. Bogart worked in early TV (and later became one of television's most prominent directors, of both drama and comedy; in the 1970s, he won an Emmy Award for his direction of the series All In The Family)He  remembered watching the Hit Parade at Studio 8-H, when the show moved there.

The following, about Bogart, is from my book:

He did not work on the [Hit Parade]; he was, at the time, a floor manager for other shows, yet he spent time at Studio 8-H and watched the show during rehearsals....

The Hit Parade, he said, “was a wonderful show. It came out of 8‑H, the big Toscanini studio in Radio City. It was the big studio, it had the big orchestra, it had lots of dancers, it had lots of singers. It was just plain fun. There were hundreds of people running around changing costumes all the time, it was like opening night of Broadway, you know, it was all that excitement. And I loved watching it. I used to hang around there all the time . . . .It had all that nice music going on, it was such sweet entertainment, so innocent. And lovely little bits of production.”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recommended Reading

The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present, a terrific encyclopedic work (referred to previously in this space), is by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, and is published by Ballantine Books.

It first appeared in 1979; there have been a number of editions since.

The 1979 edition was 849 pages long, and included information regarding 2500+ prime time network television shows. The most recent edition, from 2007, is more than 1800 pages long, and contains entries for 6500+ network and cable programs.

In preparing my book about early television, I consulted Brooks’ and Marsh’s richly detailed Directory often, over time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Arthur Penn

The distinguished film, television and stage director Arthur Penn, best known for films such as Bonnie and Clyde and Little Big Man, died on Tuesday, at age 88.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/30/movies/30penn.html?ref=obituaries

Before becoming a film director, Mr. Penn was a prominent director in live television (including directing the 1957 Playhouse 90 production of The Miracle Worker, which he also later directed on Broadway, and then as a feature film).  He was very kind, and gracious, when he spoke with me in 1981 about his television work. 

Here is a brief exchange with Mr. Penn, from my book:
     
AF: I spoke with [director] Buzz Kulik, and he said that he and some friends used to say that if you worked in live TV, you could work in any medium, that nothing could throw you.

Penn: I would agree. I’ve never run into anything as tough as that...It sort of raised [your] threshold of fearlessness. If you could do those damn things, you could do anything.

Monday, September 27, 2010

“The Artist’s Eye: Vernon P. Johnson’s Watercolors of 1950s Small Town America"

In the 1980s, when I was a radio talk host in Philadelphia, I interviewed journalist Janis Johnson on perhaps two or three occasions; at the time, she was writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer. During her years as a journalist Johnson was also on the staff of The Washington Post, was a correspondent for USA Today, and wrote for other major U.S. newspapers.

Last year, I came upon her website, and dropped her a note. She’s now a communications consultant, based in California. As her website indicates, her clients include “small and emerging businesses,” and she works often with non-profit organizations, such as colleges/universities (see the Johnson Consulting website: http://www.jjohnsoncommunication.com/).

In August, Johnson published a book, which (as one whose own book is a mixture of family history, and cultural history) looks to me to be very interesting.

The book, The Artist’s Eye, pays tribute to the 1950s artwork of her father, Vernon P. Johnson—and addresses, too, the American period the artwork depicts.

From the book’s website/blog:

The Artist’s Eye: Vernon P. Johnson’s Watercolors of 1950s Small Town America uses Mount Vernon, Ohio as the setting to document the enduring legacy of this transitional decade in which the first generation of Baby Boomers was born.

“In the 1950s, Mount Vernon in Knox County in central Ohio was an iconic example of small town America, animated by the tug between tradition and progress. Johnson was an accomplished watercolor artist and Ohio native who studied under influential artists of the popular ‘Cleveland School’ in the late 1930s and after serving in World War II, became a graphic design innovator in the burgeoning flexible packaging industry. He had a particular vision for small town America, which he illustrated in his paintings of Knox County.

“In a volume that is part memoir, author Janis Johnson, the artist’s daughter and a published journalist and writer, takes us back to the 1950s using extensive family memorabilia and her father’s paintings, drawings, journals and writings. She returned to her hometown of Mount Vernon, Ohio to capture the voices of those who knew the artist and own his works. In partnership with the Knox County Historical Society, ‘The Artist’s Eye’ translates the story of one community into the larger and more far-reaching story of the 1950s across America.”

For additional information about the book:
 
http://theartistseye.wordpress.com/

An e-mail address is provided on the website, to inquire about purchasing the book. The book is also available through the Knox County Historical Society, in Ohio:  

http://www.knoxhistory.org/index.html

Update, February 15, 2012:

The Artist’s Eye: Vernon P. Johnson’s Watercolors of 1950s Small Town America is now available on amazon.com.  Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Artists-Eye-Janis-Johnson/dp/B006U1LWNC/

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Doris Day

In August, on this blog, I inquired about the identity of a singer in a Wikipedia picture I posted. I was contacted by Howard Green of North Hollywood, California; he let me know that the singer was Helen O’Connell.

After Mr. Green wrote me, I learned that he has made many contributions to a website about Doris Day. The website, “The Films of Doris Day,” can be found at this address:

http://www.dorisday.net/Film_List/film_list.html

Mr. Green is also known as a collector of Doris Day audio recordings. His collection includes many rare recordings of her radio appearances.

I’ve enjoyed Doris Day’s work for years—her vocals, her acting. A favorite film of mine is Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, from 1956; it starred Day, and James Stewart. Her performance in the film (during which she sings “Que Sera, Sera”) is superb.

Here’s a segment of a Doris Day recording that I enjoy a great deal. It is from 1947, during the time she sang on the Hit Parade radio show. The recording was included on an album of Hit Parade performances, brought out many years ago by Sandy Hook Records, and released in the 1990s on CD (“Your Hit Parade, The Memorable Radio Years, 1938-1952.”). She is introduced by Frank Sinatra, and sings “The Lady from 29 Palms.”


In more recent years, of course, Day has become well-known for her advocacy on behalf of animals, through her important and wonderful organizations:  the Doris Day Animal League (http://www.ddal.org/), and the Doris Day Animal Foundation (http://www.ddaf.org/).  The Animal Foundation became independent from the Animal League a few years ago, when the latter organization, which is concerned with lobbying efforts, merged with The Humane Society of the United States.

(Above image:  Doris Day with Alfred Hitchcock, from the website “The Films of Doris Day.”)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention

Though tonight (Wednesday) there will be a screening of The Poet Laureate of Radio: An Interview with Norman Corwin, by filmmaker Michael James Kacey (the interview was conducted in 2004), the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention officially begins tomorrow morning, and continues through Saturday, at the Marriott Hotel in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

http://www.midatlanticnostalgiaconvention.com/

Actor Van Williams, from television’s Green Hornet, will not be attending as scheduled, because of illness. Yet other movie and television performers will be appearing—such as Roy Thinnes (The Invaders), Dawn Wells (Gilligan’s Island), and Ed Nelson, (Peyton Place, The Twilight Zone). There will also be a number of presentations—about Phil Harris & Alice Faye, about The Lone Ranger, and about The Green Hornet. Dr. Wesley Britton, author of The Encyclopedia of TV Spies, will be speaking, as will Jack French, author of Private Eyelashes: Radio's Lady Detectives.

Both of the above books were brought out by BearManor Media. Here are amazon links for them:

http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-TV-Spies-Wesley-Britton/dp/1593933258/

http://www.amazon.com/Private-Eyelashes-Radios-Lady-Detectives/dp/1593934505/

Please note, as well: The Internet radio station “Radio Once More,” about which I’ve previously written in this space, will be broadcasting live from the convention, beginning Thursday morning. Neal Ellis, from the station, will be on-scene at the convention; his co-host Ken Stockinger will be joining him from New Jersey.

http://www.radiooncemore.com/

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sale price of book

The cover price of The Lucky Strike Papers is $24.95.  The book (published in softcover) currently sells on amazon.com for $22.45.

To order a copy of the book, for the price of $21 (which includes Media Mail shipping, with Delivery Confirmation), please click on the following link, from my website.  Payment can be made either via paypal, or by check.

http://luckystrikepapers.com/purchase.html

Saturday, August 28, 2010

George David Weiss, addendum

An additional note about George David Weiss, whose death was noted in the prior post:

Another song co-written by Mr. Weiss was "Can't Help Falling in Love," written for the 1961 film Blue Hawaii, starring Elvis Presley.

Here is the scene in the film during which Elvis sings the song.  (The song begins about twenty seconds after the start of the video.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdYHivTvQCU&feature=related

"Can't Help Falling in Love" was written by Mr. Weiss, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore. Its melody was based on the French song from the late 1700s, "Plaisir d'amour," by composer Jean Paul Egide Martini.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Songwriter George David Weiss

In my post of August 22nd, I wrote of my mother's April, 1952 appearance as guest vocalist on the Hit Parade radio show, on NBC. This was during the time she was a featured singer on the Hit Parade television program.

The number one song on the Hit Parade that week was "Wheel of Fortune." The song was a hit, at the time, for the singer Kay Starr.

Songwriter George David Weiss, who co-wrote "Wheel of Fortune" (with Bennie Benjamin), died this week.  He was 89.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/24/arts/music/24weiss.html?_r=1&ref=obituaries

Among Mr. Weiss's other hits was the very beautiful 1960s Louis Armstrong song, "What a Wonderful World."  Mr. Weiss co-wrote the song with Bob Thiele. 

Some time ago, in this space, I posted a video of a lovely Louis Armstrong performance of "What a Wonderful World." Here is the video, again :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xotoDy5806Y

Here, too, is a brief audio segment of my mother singing "Wheel of Fortune," on the Hit Parade radio broadcast, in 1952.  The radio show starred bandleader Guy Lombardo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fyoo0iHx0jY&feature=youtu.be

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Edward Kean, from "The Howdy Doody Show"

Mr. Kean, who recently passed away at age 85, played a key role in the production of The Howdy Doody Show.

The program, originally known as Puppet Playhouse, began airing on television at the end of 1947.

As the New York Times obituary notes (see link, below), Mr. Kean was the show's chief writer, co-wrote (with star Buffalo Bob Smith) the lyrics to the program's famous theme song, and named such characters as Clarabell the Clown, and Princess Summerfall Winterspring.  The obituary also notes:  "He once said that he was probably best known for coining the word 'cowabunga' (originally spelled with a 'k') as a greeting for Chief Thunderthud, a character on the show."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/25/arts/25kean.html?adxnnl=1&ref=obituaries&adxnnlx=1282709396-k1oU0qF1yTg/Qk3obNZo9A

Sunday, August 22, 2010

More about Helen O'Connell (and Sue Bennett)

I found this nice video (actually, a video made from a kinescope) of Helen O’Connell on YouTube. Someone who left a post beneath the video says it is from 1953, and the CBS-TV show TV’s Top Tunes. The show, that year, also featured singer Bob Eberly (who appears in a longer version of the same video, also available on YouTube), and the Ray Anthony Orchestra.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJbmE3J7s6k&feature=related

And also this, about Helen O’Connell:

I noted in previous posts, below, that a Wikipedia photo of Ms. O’Connell was, evidently, from the 1951-1953 radio version of Your Hit Parade, which starred Guy Lombardo and his orchestra.

I don’t have the date of the photo of Helen O’Connell’s Hit Parade appearance. I do have a list of the vocalists who appeared on the radio program from September of 1951 until June of 1952 (each week, a guest female vocalist appeared as “Your Lucky Star of the Week”), and Ms. O’Connell appeared on the show on May 1, 1952. What I do not have is the list of singers who appeared on the show beginning in the fall of 1952, and continuing until the early part of 1953, when the program left the air. It is possible, therefore, that Ms. O’Connell also appeared on the show at some point during that latter period, and that the photo is from that time.

Yet (it interests me to note), O’Connell’s May, 1952 appearance on the radio show took place the week after my mother appeared on the program; my mother had also appeared as the show’s guest vocalist on a January, 1952 broadcast. Her April 24, 1952 appearance took place on the show’s 17th anniversary broadcast, which aired from the United States Naval Hospital, in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

Here is a page of the script from the end of the April, 1952 program—and it is noted (by Guy Lombardo, and announcer Kenny Delmar) that Helen O’Connell will be appearing on the show the following week, from Fort Monmouth, in New Jersey.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Helen O'Connell, on "Your Hit Parade" radio show

Howard Green, of North Hollywood, California, e-mailed me today about the previous blog entry. He told me that the singer in the Wikipedia picture was (to my surprise) the well-known vocalist Helen O’Connell.

I would not have figured this out. I had a different image, in my mind, of how O’Connell looked—probably from appearances she made on television much later in her career, in the 1970s.

Yet here is an additional picture of O’Connell, which shows that Mr. Green is clearly right.

The picture is of O’Connell with Stan Freberg and Bobby Troup.  The IMDB website says the picture is from a 1953 television appearance.

Helen O’Connell passed away in 1993, at 73.

My thanks to Mr. Green for his e-mail.

(Image copyright: mptvimages.com)


Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Your Hit Parade," on Wikipedia

As part of the Wikipedia entry for Your Hit Parade (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Your_Hit_Parade), there is a photograph (seen below) in which the singer who is pictured is identified as being Dorothy Collins.  The picture's caption says that Collins sang on the Hit Parade with Frank Sinatra in 1947. 

The caption is unfortunately not accurate (Dorothy Collins did not join the program until 1950, the year the show came to television), and the picture itself is not of Collins.  If you click on the picture, on the Wikipedia page, you are taken to another page; a new caption identifies the singer as Doris Day, who did sing on the Hit Parade radio show with Frank Sinatra.  But it certainly doesn't look like Doris Day, either.

Before 1950, the Hit Parade was solely a radio program. For a time, after the show came to television, the radio show continued, and the radio and television programs featured the same casts. (The shows were aired in a semi-simulcast.  The Hit Parade cast performed on the half-hour NBC radio show, Saturday nights at 9 p.m. At 10: 30 p.m., an hour after the radio program ended, the same cast members performed on the TV show.) 

In the fall of 1951, however, the radio and television shows became separate entities.  The TV show continued to air on Saturday nights, and a new version of the radio show, which starred bandleader Guy Lombardo and his orchestra, and which featured a guest female vocalist each week, was heard on Thursday nights. The Guy Lombardo version of the radio program aired until 1953.  The Wikipedia picture is evidently from this 1951-1953 version of the Hit Parade radio show; one can see Guy Lombardo, seated, to the right of the singer.

If anyone knows who the singer in the photo is, I'd be interested in finding out. Please e-mail me at lspapers@aol.com

Pictured below:  Hit Parade star Dorothy Collins, on the cover of the New York edition of TV Guide, in August of 1952.


(Postscript:  A reader later wrote to tell me that the Wikipedia photo, above, was of the vocalist Helen O'Connell.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bobby Thomson

In October of 1951, Bobby Thomson of The New York Giants hit one of the most dramatic home runs in baseball history.  He passed away on Monday, at 86.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/18/sports/baseball/18thomson.html?hp

Below is a YouTube video of Thomson's home run. (The audio recording accompanying the film, however, is actually from the radio.  It is the famous call by Russ Hodges, who was announcing the game on New York City radio station WMCA.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrI7dVj90zs

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention

Last August, I spoke about my book, as part of a panel at the annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, in Aberdeen, Maryland.

Though I won’t be speaking at the convention this year, I wanted to pass along the link to the convention’s website:

http://www.midatlanticnostalgiaconvention.com/

The convention is now in its fifth year, and will be taking place from September 23 – 25, in a new location—Hunt Valley, Maryland.

One of the actors who will be appearing is Van Williams, who starred in the 1960s television series The Green Hornet.

Martin Grams, Jr., one of the convention’s organizers, is (as previously mentioned in this space) the co-author (with Terry Salomonson) of the recently-published book, The Green Hornet (OTR Publishing).

http://www.amazon.com/GREEN-HORNET-History-Pictures-Television/dp/0982531109/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281927808&sr=1-1

Grams and Salomonson will be giving a presentation about The Green Hornet, on the second night of this year’s event.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Robert F. Boyle, film production designer

Though this is not a television-related story (aside from the fact that the well-known films Robert Boyle was a part of have been seen on TV for years), I wanted to make note of Mr. Boyle's passing.

From The New York Times:

"Robert F. Boyle, the eminent Hollywood production designer who created some of the most memorable scenes and images in cinematic history — Cary Grant clinging to Mount Rushmore in “North by Northwest,” the bird’s-eye view of the seagull attack in “The Birds,” the colorfully ramshackle shtetl for “Fiddler on the Roof” — died on Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 100."

As part of his work on "North By Northwest" (for which he received an Art Direction/Set Decoration Academy Award nomination), Boyle, notably, worked with director Alfred Hitchcock to design the "crop duster" scene, one of the great scenes in movie history:


Unfortunately, the above video ends prematurely.  One does not see the scene's conclusion: Cary Grant's character (Roger Thornhill) making off with the truck of one of the bystanders.

Here is the full New York Times obituary for Robert Boyle:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/movies/04boyle.html?ref=obituaries

(Above: Cary Grant, publicity photo, "North By Northwest")

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thomas A. DeLong

I was saddened, this week, to learn of the death of writer Thomas A. DeLong. He passed away July 12th, at 75.

I enjoyed reading Mr. DeLong’s work, over time—which included such books as Radio Stars (subtitled An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary of 953 Performers, 1920 through 1960), published in 1996 by McFarland & Company, and Quiz Craze—America’s Infatuation with Game Shows (Praeger, 1991). I had the pleasure of speaking with him, by phone, several months ago.

Mr. DeLong lived in both Florida, and Connecticut. Here is an obituary, from the Westport, Connecticut on-line publication WestportNow:


Here, too, is a amazon.com page which lists four of the ten books Mr. DeLong published during his writing career.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Louis Armstrong, "La Vie En Rose," Ricky Riccardi

There’s a nice commercial on TV for the iphone 4, directed by Sam Mendes. It features Louis Armstrong singing “When You’re Smiling.” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLrP8rCctgg

Previously, in this space, I wrote of Ricky Riccardi’s enjoyable blog, “The Wonderful World Of Louis Armstrong” (http://www.dippermouth.blogspot.com/). In November Riccardi wrote about “When You’re Smiling,” and had included in his posting an audio recording (one I had not been aware of before, and which I was therefore delighted to hear) of Armstrong performing the song on Kay Kyser’s NBC television show, in 1950: 

http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2009/11/when-youre-smiling-later-versions.html.

Riccardi, as noted in my previous post, is the Project Archivist for the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens (www.louisarmstronghouse.org/). He also lectures about Armstrong, and is the author of the forthcoming book What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years (Pantheon). The book was originally scheduled to be brought out this past spring, but now will appear in May of 2011. (The cover of the book, as currently seen on amazon—http://www.amazon.com/dp/0307378446?tag=rickricc-20&camp—appears above.)

In his 1950 appearance on Kay Kyser’s TV show, Louis Armstrong performed two songs: “When You’re Smiling,” and “La Vie En Rose.”

Riccardi, in his blog, recently wrote about “La Vie En Rose.” As was the case when he wrote about “When You’re Smiling,” he included in the recent post a recording of Armstrong’s performance of the song on Kay Kyser's TV program.  The recording appears at about the halfway point of the post:

http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2010/06/50-years-of-la-vie-en-rose.html

As I had not heard the performance of "When You're Smiling," from Kay Kyser's program, until coming upon it several months ago on Riccardi's blog, I had also not previously heard the performance of "La Vie En Rose," from the same telecast.  It was wonderful to be able to listen to it. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

JCC of Middlesex County, NJ

I had a thoroughly enjoyable time appearing at the Jewish Community Center in Edison, New Jersey last week. It was a great pleasure meeting with and speaking with the attendees—and hearing about their recollections of early television.

During the presentation, I showed some videotape, made from kinescopes of Your Hit Parade. One of the kinescope segments was of the end of a Hit Parade telecast from 1952, featuring the program’s singers and dancers; they sang the show’s closing theme song, “So Long for a While”:

So long for a while,

That’s all the songs, for a while,

So long to Your Hit Parade, and the tunes that you picked to be played.

So long…

As the video of the theme song played, a number of people in the JCC audience sang along with it. It was a very lovely moment—hearing the audience members sing the song, so many years after the program left the air.

Friday, July 2, 2010

An Event at the JCC, Middlesex County, NJ

On Tuesday (July 6th), I'll speaking about my book in Edison, New Jersey--at the Jewish Community Center of Middlesex County.  I'm very much looking forward to the presentation, which will begin at 1:30 p.m.

Here's the JCC's website:  http://www.jccmc.org/

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

1952 photograph, "Radio-TV Mirror"

Below:  a photograph from a 1952 issue of "Radio-TV Mirror" magazine.  In the photo are singer Dorothy Collins (far left), my mother (Sue Bennett), and Your Hit Parade choreographer Tony Charmoli.

Charmoli, however, was not only the program's choreographer.  He was also the show's stager. The songs on the Hit Parade, each week, were not simply sung; they were dramatized.  It was Charmoli who was in charge of the staging of all of the dramatizations, whether they contained dance routines or not.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Presentation about "Your Hit Parade," Madison, New Hampshire

I've recently been in touch with educator Calvin Knickerbocker, of Nashua, New Hampshire. Mr. Knickerbocker lectures regularly about Your Hit Parade—both the radio and television versions of the program.

On Thursday (June 17th), Mr. Knickerbocker will be giving a presentation about the Hit Parade at the Madison Library, in Madison, New Hampshire. The presentation—a program of the New Hampshire Humanities Council—will take place at 7 p.m.

The library is located at 1895 Village Rd. in Madison. Its phone number is (603) 367-8545.

The library’s web address is:  http://madisonlibrary-nh.org/WP/

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dr. Roy K. Marshall

In 1949 and 1950, scientist/astronomer Dr. Roy K. Marshall was featured in the live commercials for Ford automobiles, on Kay Kyser’s television show on NBC. On each program, Marshall explained the engineering/technology of Ford cars.

In a review of the first Kay Kyser telecast, in 1949, critic Harriet Van Horne (of the New York World-Telegram) wrote that Marshall’s Ford commercials “are a show in themselves. And a very good one.”

After Kay Kyser’s program went off the air, at the end of 1950, Marshall was featured in the Ford commercials of the program’s replacement, the Ford Star Revue, starring Jack Haley.

From 1948 until 1954, Marshall was the host of the NBC-TV science show, The Nature of Things. As Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh note—in their superb encyclopedia, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (Ballantine Books, several editions)—Marshall “was one of early TV’s favorite scientists.”

Seen above is the cover of a 1951 book Marshall wrote. The illustrator for the book, as the cover indicates, was Jon Gnagy—who was also a well-known personality in early television. His instructional show about art, You Are an Artist, began airing on NBC in 1946; its last network telecast was at the start of 1950.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ford Dealers weather brochure, April, 1950

Last year I found the item, below, on ebay.  It's a weather-related brochure, from 1950, and was published by “your friendly Ford Dealer.”

I am guessing different brochures were created for different parts of the country. This brochure was for Southern California, and included weather information for April of 1950. An article inside is by Gene Bollay, “Ex-Commander, U.S.N.” who, it is noted, served at the time as “Ford’s Weather Analyst.”  Broadcasts on which he appeared were noted, such as the Sunday evening program “Ford Weekly Weather Review and Forecast,” seen on California television station KNBH.

There is also an ad, in the brochure, for other Ford-related TV shows, including Kay Kyser’s. In 1949 and 1950, his College of Musical Knowledge, on NBC, was sponsored by the Ford Dealers of America. In 1950 the Ford Dealers also sponsored the Wednesday night telecast of the popular five-nights-per week show “Kukla, Fran & Ollie," which also aired on NBC.