Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Early TV, and the Big Bands

An important part of my book about early TV is its focus on singers (including, of course, my mother).

There are a number of singers interviewed in the book. Many of them—such as Eileen Wilson, Dorothy Collins, Snooky Lanson, Merv Griffin, and Jack Leonard—were vocalists from the big band period, who then became a part of the new medium of television.

The book, indeed, is primarily about television’s early years. Yet it also concerns this concurrent time: the last years of the big band era.

Some of the early TV programs on which my mother sang, between 1949 and 1952, were built around bandleaders: Kay Kyser’s show, Freddy Martin’s show. Your Hit Parade starred a cast of vocalists—yet it also featured, prominently, The Lucky Strike Orchestra, led by musician Raymond Scott; Scott had achieved great success as a bandleader in the 1930s and 1940s.

Such TV shows, therefore, were not simply part of the new, emerging medium. They were also part of (or had roots in) the band era, yet it was an era which was receding. A new musical period was coming into view: one in which individual vocalists were supplanting the big bands, in popularity—vocalists such as Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Dinah Shore, and Patti Page (all of whom starred on their own TV shows during the 1950s).