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.


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.