Monday, December 19, 2011


Here is a video of the very impressive British singer Adele, performing her hit song "Rolling in the Deep," at a radio station (I believe in the Netherlands).

Adele has received six Grammy nominations for 2012, including two for "Rolling in the Deep": Record of the Year, and Song of the Year.  The awards will be televised February 12th on CBS.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

1959 photograph

I recently bought this photograph, on ebay. It's of singer Snooky Lanson, with his wife Florence.  The photo is dated 1959, which was two years after Lanson's tenure as one of the stars of Your Hit Parade ended.

It's a nice photo of the Lansons. I also like the television set, in the background, which I think looks something like a microwave.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Recommended Reading

I've written about Ricky Riccardi in previous posts. He is the Archivist at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, New York, and earlier this year Pantheon brought out his book about Armstrong: What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years. The book, which I recently read (in advance of interviewing him about it, on "Radio Once More"), is terrific, and can be found at the following amazon link:

Here, too, is the link for Ricky Riccardi's popular Armstrong-related blog:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Doris Day CD

A new CD by Doris Day is being released. While the CD’s release date in the US has been reported as being December 2nd, it will be available on on December 6th (and on the Barnes & Noble site,, a week later). (A shorter version of the CD appeared in the UK in September; the US version contains an additional song.)

Of the thirteen recordings on the CD, most were recorded in the mid-1980s (and were produced by Ms. Day’s late son, Terry Melcher), but were never released. (A few of the songs, the UK-based website “Discovering Doris Day” notes, were aired on Ms. Day’s 1980s TV show, “Doris Day’s Best Friends.”) Another of the recordings was made for a 1970s Doris Day TV special, and a few others are previously-released Day songs. The UK website also notes: “All proceeds from the American release of the album will go to Ms. Day’s animal welfare organisation, the Doris Day Animal Foundation (DDAF).”

Terry Melcher, Ms. Day's son, passed away in 2004. He is perhaps best known for his work with the 1960s group The Byrds; he produced the group’s early recordings, including “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

Here are two stories about the new Doris Day CD, from the “Discovering Doris Day” website:

The CD’s link is:

In addition, here is the web page of the Doris Day Animal Foundation:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Raymond Scott Orchestrette, @ Lincoln Center

The New York-based group, formed by Irwin Chusid (Raymond Scott archivist, and producer of Raymond Scott CDs), is appearing at New York's Lincoln Center on Thursday (December 1st).  Admission to the performance is free.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tom Wicker

Journalist Tom Wicker has died, at age 85.

Here is the obituary from The New York Times, the paper for which he wrote for many years.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Van Camp's Little Show," NBC, 1950-1951

The advertisement, below, is for Van Camp's foods, and appeared in the magazine Woman's Day, either in 1950 or 1951.  The ad refers to the television program sponsored by the Stokely-Van Camp company, Van Camp's Little Show, which starred the singer and actor John Conte (the program was also known as John Conte's Little Show).  The musical program, fifteen minutes long, aired Tuesday and Thursday evenings on NBC, from 1950-1951.  My mother was a regular guest vocalist on the program, in 1951.

In the close-up image, one can see the phrase "Look-Listen-Enjoy" (it is used in reference to the television show); the phrase is a variant of the slogan which was employed by the company at the time:  "Heat-Eat-Enjoy." The "Heat-Eat-Enjoy" slogan also appears in the advertisement, above the box of "Tenderoni."

Carly Simon, three videos

Here are a few terrific performances by the enormously talented Carly Simon; the first two are from a concert in Central Park, and broadcast by ABC, in the early 1970s.  The first song is "Anticipation," written by Simon.  The second song, written with her frequent songwriting partner Jacob Brackman, is "That's The Way I Always Heard It Should Be"; I think it is one of the more beautiful songs which came out of the rock era, and this live performance, by Simon, is particularly beautiful.

The last video is from a live performance by Simon in 1995, in New York's Grand Central Station.  It is of the song "Haven't Got Time for the Pain," also written by Simon and Jacob Brackman.

(First two videos: copyright Ron Delsner. Third video: copyright Milding Inc.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jack Benny and Gisele MacKenzie

During my weekly radio program tonight (on the Internet station "Radio Once More"), a listener from Canada mentioned (on the station's Facebook page) Canadian singer (and Hit Parade star) Gisele MacKenzie, and her well-known appearance on Jack Benny's television show in the 1950s. (I unfortunately don't know the year of the appearance.)  The listener later posted a YouTube link featuring the performance, in which Benny and MacKenzie played a violin duet of the song "Getting To Know You." The performance is very funny, very charming, and quite wonderful. 

Here is the link:

"Someday, Someway," by Marshall Crenshaw

This is a video from the David Letterman program, NBC, 1982.  It is of Marshall Crenshaw singing his terrific song "Someday, Someway."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jackie Wilson on "The Ed Sullivan Show"

Here's a nice video of the great singer/entertainer Jackie Wilson, from 1962, on Ed Sullivan's program.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Martin Grams's most recent book

Here's the amazon link for the latest book by Martin Grams, Jr.; the book concerns the 1955-1957 television series Science Fiction Theatre.

Martin was a guest, tonight, on my weekly "Radio Once More" program.  The show airs from 9 p.m.-midnight, Eastern time, on Thursdays.

The address of Martin's web site is:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Norman Corwin

He was often referred to as the "poet laureate of radio." Norman Corwin—writer, director, producer—died yesterday, at 101.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Snooky Lanson & Gisele MacKenzie, on 1974 "Mike Douglas Show"

The following is a segment of The Mike Douglas Show, from May of 1974. The guests are Your Hit Parade singers Snooky Lanson (who starred on the TV show from 1950-1957), and Gisele MacKenzie (who starred on the program from 1953-1957). The video comes from a Gisele MacKenzie-related YouTube channel.

During the segment, Lanson describes a mistake which occurred during his singing of “O Holy Night,” on the Hit Parade’s 1954 Christmas broadcast. The YouTube video includes (at 3:23) a kinescope segment; the kinescope footage (not part of the 1974 Mike Douglas broadcast) includes the error Lanson was describing:

Here, too, is the link for the Gisele MacKenzie YouTube channel:

Snooky Lanson passed away in 1990, at age 76. Gisele MacKenzie passed away in 2003, also at 76.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Recently published Kay Kyser biography

I’ve referred, in previous posts, to a biography of bandleader Kay Kyser, brought out in April by BearManor Media.

The book, Thinking of You—The Story of Kay Kyser, is by the late Raymond D. Hair, and by Jürgen Wölfer. kyser&product_id=241

I’ve only had the chance to read a handful of sections of the book, but wanted to mention a fascinating detail which appears in one of the book’s chapters.

The detail occurs in a part of the book which concerns the end of Kay Kyser’s television program (which aired on NBC in 1949 and 1950), and Kyser’s imminent retirement from show business.

By way of preface: in my own book about early television—a significant portion of which concerns Kay Kyser’s TV show—I noted that the orchestra which played on the New York-based television program was not made up of Kay Kyser’s longtime musicians; members of the New York musicians’ union were hired to play in the TV show’s orchestra. Popular Kay Kyser saxophonist Jack Martin and cornetist and comedian Merwyn Bogue (a/k/a Ish Kabibble) were the only longtime band members to become part of the television show (in addition to Carl Hoff, who had been musical director of the band, earlier in the 1940s; he led the orchestra on the TV program).

The new Kay Kyser book indicates (via an interview with trombonist Joe Howard, who was not part of the television show’s orchestra, but who had been part of Kay Kyser’s band in the 1940s) that there was regular turnover in the television band’s personnel—that band members were hired for only brief periods of time, and new musicians then joined the program. I was not aware of this; my impression was that there had been continuity in the TV band’s personnel.

The book also makes this contention: that the musicians who were hired to play in the television program’s orchestra were not especially enamored of Kay Kyser's talent.

“The musicians hired for the show in New York did not know Kyser,” the authors write. During the period of the TV show, the authors say, Kyser “wished to spend all the time he could with his family. He was at home every night. This was far different than it was during the days of the radio show when he was traveling across the country entertaining troops.”

The authors continue: “The New York musicians were not aware of what Kyser had done. They only knew what they saw while playing on the TV show. Due to that they didn’t recognize his abilities and felt he was overrated. Kay knew their feelings, but said nothing about it.”

I have no knowledge of the preceding paragraph’s details, regarding the musicians on the television show—yet the statements (e.g., the musicians “felt [Kyser] was overrated”) sound rather sweeping to me. I am a bit perplexed, too, by the suggestion that the TV show’s musicians would have been unaware “of what Kyser had done.” In 1949 and 1950, despite the decline of the big band era, Mr. Kyser was still regarded as a major figure in American entertainment.

Nonetheless: there is another detail in the book, concerning the end of Kay Kyser’s TV show (and the end of his show business career), which I find compelling.

The authors write:

The cancelation [of the television show] did not concern Kyser. He had long wished to leave the stress and physical demands of show business. This was a good chance for him to return to his beloved Chapel Hill. As soon as he finished his business in New York, he headed south.

Merwyn Bogue recalled, “It was Christmas day of 1950 that Kay sent us all a letter saying he didn’t want to talk to any of us down at his office in New York, and not to try to contract (sic) him about anything. He was retiring - goodbye - and like that. I went down to his office in New York…and he looked surprised when I came in the office.

According to Bogue, as reported in the new book, the following exchange occurred between the two:

He [Kyser] said, ‘I thought I said not to try to contact me’, and I said yes you did, but here I am.

It is, indeed, a distinctly chilly, and certainly arresting detail: I thought I said not to try to contact me.

The authors add:

Knowing how the New York musicians felt about him, Kyser had no desire to see any of them. Ish had been with Kay for 20 years, so Kyser decided to talk with him.

Even this concluding sentence, by the authors, is suggestive of a chilliness—suggesting what appears to have been a grudging decision, by Kay Kyser, to talk.

I had written, in my 2007 book, about an estrangement between Kay Kyser and Merwyn Bogue. The estrangement had begun—according to Merwyn Bogue, via an interview I conducted with him in 1979—in the mid-1940s.

Yet the estrangement had something of a one-sided quality to it, as described to me by Bogue in 1979 (Bogue passed away in 1994).

The following exchange appears in my book. I was speaking with Bogue about Kay Kyser’s television show, and his relationship with Kyser.

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.

(As noted previously, in this space, my description of the estrangement—indeed, the simple fact of the estrangement—was challenged last year, belligerently, by another Kay Kyser biographer, who pronounced the story not credible.)

In fact, the remarks by Merwyn Bogue, contained in the new Kay Kyser book, are—in their tone—very similar to the remarks Bogue made to me, in 1979. In the newly published remarks, and in his remarks to me, Merwyn Bogue told of efforts to communicate with Kay Kyser, despite the distance Kyser clearly wished to keep.

From my book:  Well, I spoke to him, but he didn’t answer me.

From the new book:  He said, ‘I thought I said not to try to contact me’, and I said yes you did, but here I am.


Here, as well, is the brief section from my book which concerns the genesis of the estrangement between Kay Kyser and Merwyn Bogue:

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.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Oscar Handlin

The distinguished historian Oscar Handlin recently passed away, at 95.

Here is an obituary, from The New York Times:

Here, too, is an amazon link to for his well-known book about immigration, The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People. The book received the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for history.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

James M. Cannon, journalist, biographer, and presidential advisor

Between 1992 and 1994, I was a periodic fill-in host for a talk show on a Philadelphia NPR station. (At the time I was also host of my own weekday talk show, on a radio station in Bucks County, PA.)

In 1994, on the NPR station, I interviewed James M. Cannon. He had been a political reporter and war correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, was later a writer for Time magazine, and was subsequently National Affairs Editor at Newsweek. Following his journalism career, he became a political advisor to Governor Nelson Rockefeller, was an advisor to Gerald Ford, during Mr. Ford’s presidency, and later served as Chief of Staff to Senator Howard Baker. I interviewed him in 1994 because of a biography of President Ford he had written, Time and Chance: Gerald Ford’s Appointment with History.

I have worked in radio on and off since the mid-1980s, and my interview with Mr. Cannon remains one of the conversations I have most enjoyed.

Time and Chance, his biography of President Ford, was a fine book, and I found Mr. Cannon to be a thoughtful and incisive guest. He grew up in Alabama, and I recall that there was, about him, a gracious, warm and dignified southern manner.

Mr. Cannon recently passed away, at age 93.

Here are two obituaries; they are from The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Parts of the past couple of weeks have been, to me, rather interesting. Surgery (and that which both precedes it, and follows it) can be an oddly intriguing experience.

I am grateful for the fine medical care I have received. Yet various parts of the experience have nonetheless been quite difficult. Having a ruptured appendix (and recovering from the surgery for it) has not been a lot of fun.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention

The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention is taking place this week in Hunt Valley, Maryland. The convention will open with a film presentation Wednesday night, and beginning Thursday morning will feature three days of events and presentations. This is the convention's sixth year.

The convention, run by Martin and Michelle Grams, will include appearances by Patty Duke, Michael Constantine, Karen Valentine, Davy Jones, and others. There will also be presentations about such subjects as “The History of Zorro,” “Lady Aviators in Real Life and Popular Fiction,” and “The History of Buck Rogers.”

On Sunday, the convention was the subject of an on-line New York Times piece:

My friends at the Internet radio station “Radio Once More” ( will be broadcasting from the convention Wednesday night, and throughout the daytime hours on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

On Thursday, Neal Ellis, who founded and runs the station, and who appears four nights each week as host of the station’s talk and entertainment program, The Live Show, will be conducting an on-stage interview at the convention with actors Tony Dow, Billy Gray and Lauren Chapin. The next day, his Live Show co-host, Ken Stockinger, will be conducting an on-stage interview with Patty Duke.

Incidentally, Martin Grams’s latest book was recently released. It concerns the 1950s television show Science Fiction Theatre. Here is the amazon link for the book:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Tenth Anniversary

(Photo, circa 1978, courtesy of artist Jenny Lynn)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

"The Mike Douglas Show," Cleveland, 1962

Here are two pictures of my mother and Mike Douglas, taken from a copy of a 1962 videotape.  They are singing a duet of the song “Exactly Like You,” on Douglas’s Cleveland TV talk show.  

In 1962, my father, an obstetrician & gynecologist, was scheduled to be interviewed on Douglas’s program; he had co-written (with my aunt, who was, at the time, a journalist) a book about childbirth. When Douglas learned about his upcoming appearance, he asked that my mother appear on the program as well.

On the 1962 broadcast, my mother sang two additional songs: “Makin’ Whoopie,” and “It’s All Right with Me,” and she and Douglas reminisced about the period when they had performed together, with bandleader Kay Kyser.  

Douglas’s program began airing nationally in 1963, and during the 1960s my parents made periodic joint appearances on the program; my mother sang, on the shows, and my father discussed medical matters.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tonight's program...

Re: the broadcast referred to in the post below.  Bad weather, I regret to say, caused my DSL to go out four or five times tonight, throwing the program off the air each time (the show is fed, via Skype, to the Maryland-based station). The last two times the DSL went out occurred during the playing of the pre-recorded interview with author Mike Sowell.  The program was then scrapped; the interview with Mike Sowell will be played in its entirety next week.  Also on next week's program:  writer Denis Ledoux, author of a book about memoir writing, "Turning Memories Into Memoirs."

"Radio Once More"

I've written, in previous posts, about the Internet radio station "Radio Once More"; the station features Old-Time Radio and nostalgia-themed programming (please see:  I've appeared regularly on the station this year, as a guest, as a guest co-host, and (for the past few months) as a weekly host.  The show I'm hosting is called, simply, the "Thursday Live Show," and it airs Thursday nights from 9 to midnight; the program focuses largely on nostalgia-oriented subjects (but focuses, too, on other matters--such as history-related subjects which are not nostalgia-related).

On tonight's program, one of the topics will be the 1920 death of Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman, after he was hit by a pitch thrown by New York Yankees star Carl Mays.  The guest will be Mike Sowell, author of the book The Pitch That Killed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

New York benefit show, 1952

In December of 1952, shortly before my mother’s New York television career ended, she appeared in a benefit show; it was for the War Wounded Christmas Fund of the New York Journal-American newspaper. At the time, she was singing on Morey Amsterdam’s local TV program, Breakfast with Music; the program aired weekday mornings on New York station WNBT (later renamed WNBC), and also starred musician (and bandleader) Milton DeLugg.

The benefit took place at Skouras’ Academy of Music in New York, and included appearances by Dagmar, Gene Rayburn, Skitch Henderson, Faye Emerson, Clifton Webb, Morey Amsterdam, Herb Sheldon, Jackie Robinson, Marguerite Piazza, and Ben Grauer, who served as the show’s MC.

The above Journal-American picture (rather wrinkled, unfortunately) appeared in the paper the week before the benefit, and featured Herb Sheldon, my mother, and Morey Amsterdam. The picture below (a Xeroxed image, which, one also notes, has accumulated scrapes and other imperfections, over time) was part of a feature in the newspaper after the show took place.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse was an immensely talented, and soulful, singer.

Here are two videos of live performances she gave;  both are of her superb song, "Rehab."

The second performance is a more intimate, and more minimal, version of the song; she is accompanied by only two musicians.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kay Kyser photograph on ebay

There's a publicity photograph of bandleader Kay Kyser which is currently on sale on the auction site ebay.  The auction page includes an image of the reverse side of the photograph, on which a date is stamped:  December 1, 1949.  This is the day that Kay Kyser's weekly television program (a program profiled at length in my book about early TV) made its debut on NBC Television.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July, 1951

I was recently listening (via YouTube) to Louis Armstrong’s beautiful recording of “A Kiss To Build A Dream on,” made with Sy Oliver’s orchestra.

The song (as noted in the accompanying YouTube information) was recorded on July 24, 1951 (sixty years ago this month).  

This was during the time period with which my book is concerned (the late 1940s and early 1950s; the early years of television, but also, as well, the closing years of the big band period).  And so, because of my own particular focus upon the era (or more precisely, perhaps, my fixation upon it, and my mother’s relationship to it), I make note of the following:

The musicians who played on the Louis Armstrong recording are listed, on the YouTube page.  The bass player on the record, for example, was Sandy Block.  In 1949, Block had been the bassist on the Dumont Network TV show Teen Time Tunes, a weeknight program which featured my mother and The Alan Logan Trio.  In addition to Sandy Block, the Trio featured pianist/Trio leader Alan Logan, and guitarist Al Chernet.

Also playing on “A Kiss To Build A Dream On”: clarinetist/alto saxophonist Milt Yaner.  Nearly two weeks prior to this, on July 12, 1951 (according to the music publication DownBeat), Yaner played saxophone in a session with the George Siravo Orchestra. (Siravo is best remembered, today, as an arranger for Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Doris Day, and others.) 

During the session with the George Siravo Orchestra—sixty years ago this week—three recordings were made.  Two of them were released as a 78 on the Mercury label:  an instrumental version of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and, on the reverse side, “Farewell, Farewell to Love”; the latter song (co-written by George Siravo) featured my mother as vocalist.  A week later, Frank Sinatra recorded another version of “Farewell, Farewell to Love”, arranged by Siravo, and performed with Harry James’ orchestra. It was released on Columbia Records. 

I never knew about the record my mother made with George Siravo until after she died, in 2001.  Some months later, I came upon the record, at my parents’ apartment.  It has become one of my favorite records that she made.

Here is a segment of the recording:

One more note, about music, and television, and my mother’s career, during this period:

On July 12th of 1951, the day my mother recorded “Farewell, Farewell To Love” with George Siravo’s orchestra, bandleader Freddy Martin’s new weekly TV show made its debut on NBC.  The show starred Martin and his orchestra, and featured singer Merv Griffin, pianist Murray Arnold, and the vocal group The Martin Men.  Each week, a guest female vocalist appeared on the show.  On July 12th, for the debut program, the guest vocalist was Mary Mayo.  The next week, my mother was the guest singer.  Freddy Martin’s show was telecast through the summer, and then continued into the fall;  my mother appeared as a regular guest on the show.  The show went off the air at the end of November of that year. 

(Video images, above, made from a kinescope of Freddy Martin’s NBC-TV program. Both images are of a song performance, from a September of 1951 telecast:  Freddy Martin, on a telephone, sings to Merv Griffin, Sue Bennett, and Murray Arnold; they sing, in response, via another telephone.  Pictures used by permission of NBC Studios, Inc.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Betty Ford (1918-2011)

I always thought she was a remarkable, courageous, genuine (and wonderfully forthright) individual.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Morgan White, Jr., and WBZ Radio

I spent an enjoyable hour tonight as the guest of Morgan White, Jr., on Boston's WBZ Radio.  Morgan has for years been a regular guest host on WBZ (, and he's been filling in this week for the station's overnight host, Steve LeVeille.  (I've appeared as Morgan's guest a number of times in the past few years.)

We spoke about a particular television topic: police shows (in particular, police detective shows), over time.  Much time was spent talking about the incomparable Columbo program, which starred Peter Falk.  Falk, of course, recently passed away, at 83.

I meant to mention one thing, during the conversation:  that the writer and producer William Link, who with the late Richard Levinson created Columbo (along with many other notable television programs), released a book last year; it features new Columbo-related short stories.  I have not yet gotten the book, but expect to do so soon.

Here is the book's amazon link:

And here, too, is Morgan White, Jr.'s website:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book cover, "The Shadow," by Martin Grams, Jr.

I like the covers of the books referred to in the previous two posts:  the book about Kay Kyser, brought out recently by BearManor Media, and the cover of Ricky Riccardi's new book about Louis Armstrong.  I also like the cover, to the left, very much: it's the cover of Martin Grams, Jr.'s latest book (his radio-related and television-related books have been referred to in previous posts).  The book (which I recently got, but have not yet read) is The Shadow:  The History and Mystery of the Radio Program, 1930-1954.

Here is the link for the book:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

New York Times interview with Ricky Riccardi

An interview with Ricky Riccardi, author of What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years (published last week by Pantheon, and the subject of a recent post, below), appeared in Sunday's New York Times. (The piece was posted on the newspaper's website a couple of days before.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Kay Kyser biography

My publisher, BearManor Media, recently brought out a biography of bandleader Kay Kyser. The book, Thinking of You--The Story of Kay Kyser, is by the late Raymond D. Hair, and by Jürgen Wölfer. 

I'll have a bit more to say about the book in the near future, in a follow-up post.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"What a Wonderful World," by Ricky Riccardi

I’ve written previously, here, about Ricky Riccardi, who is the Project Archivist at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, and who writes a Louis Armstrong-related blog, titled "The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong."


Riccardi’s book about Armstrong, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, is about to be published. Originally scheduled to be brought out last year, it is being released by Pantheon Books on June 21st.

Terry Teachout, author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, says this, of Riccardi’s book:  “The story of Louis Armstrong’s later years is the great untold tale of postwar jazz. Now Ricky Riccardi has told it to perfection. What a Wonderful World is a unique and indispensable landmark in Armstrong scholarship, a weathervane that will point the way to all future writings on his life and work.” 

Here is one of my previous posts about Riccardi, and Louis Armstrong:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Scott Pelley, and "The CBS Evening News"

I’m a longtime CBS News-watcher, and enjoyed Katie Couric’s tenure as anchor of The CBS Evening News.  Yet I’m also quite pleased that with Couric’s departure, Scott Pelley has taken her place.

Pelley is a fine reporter and anchor, and I very much enjoyed his debut broadcast, on Monday.  He is straightforward, serious, and likeable.

Here are two examples of Pelley’s excellent reporting; both reports were featured on 60 Minutes

The first piece, from May 1, 2011, is an interview with another terrific reporter, Lara Logan—who describes, very courageously, how she was brutally sexually assaulted and beaten by a mob in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, following the resignation of Hosni Mubarak.

The second report is a superb piece about children experiencing homelessness in America. It aired on March 6, 2011.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Neal Ellis and Ken Stockinger

Congratulations to my friends Neal Ellis and Ken Stockinger, from “Radio Once More,” the Internet radio station which broadcasts Old-Time Radio and nostalgia-themed programming. (I have written previously in this space about the station, which was founded by, and is run by, Neal Ellis—and on which Ellis and Stockinger both appear, as hosts.) 

They received a significant honor, at the 25th annual Cincinnati Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention, which took place May 13-14 (and from which they conducted day-long broadcasts).

They were the co-recipients, at the convention, of the Stone/Waterman Award, named for radio's Ezra Stone (most famous for playing the character Henry Aldrich, on The Aldrich Family) and Willard Waterman (who played The Great Gildersleeve, after the show's original star, Harold Peary, left the program).

The award, given to Ellis and Stockinger for their “outstanding contribution(s) to the Preservation of Old-Time Radio," was presented by Bob Burchett, who runs the yearly convention.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dick Van Dyke: "My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business"

One of the most talented performers in show business history—Dick Van Dyke—has released a memoir, called My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business. I’m looking forward to reading it.

There is no one quite like Dick Van Dyke. He is a wonderfully enjoyable and likeable singer, actor, and dancer. (He has always had a beautiful sense of movement—both when he is dancing, and when he is not.)

Here is Van Dyke, with Janet Leigh, in a scene from the 1963 film Bye Bye Birdie.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Singer Ellie Goulding

I had not known of British singer Ellie Goulding, until seeing her last weekend on Saturday Night Live.

She performed her version of Elton John's "Your Song"; her rendition, I think, is lovely.

Here is the song's video:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden was a profoundly evil individual.  He was driven by ruthlessness, hate, and cruelty; he clearly took great pleasure in committing (and promoting) mass murder.

As President Obama said, on Monday:  “Our country has kept its commitment to see that justice is done. The world is safer, it is a better place, because of the death of Osama bin Laden.”

Friday, April 29, 2011

"Your Hit Parade"

I have a book, from a series published in the 1990s by Warner Books, called You Must Remember This; the edition I have focuses on 1956, the year I was born. The book was a gift from a friend, in 1995.

She did not realize, when she gave it to me, that the picture on the book’s inside cover was of the stars of TV’s Your Hit Parade, shown celebrating the new year of 1956. From the top, clockwise, are Snooky Lanson, Gisele MacKenzie, Russell Arms, and Dorothy Collins.  

Of the various singers who appeared on the television version of the Hit Parade, Lanson, MacKenzie, Arms, and Collins remain, today, the singers who are most identified with the program.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kay Kyser

A nice picture of Kay Kyser, holding an NBC Radio microphone, was up for auction this week on ebay.  The picture was taken by photographer Elmer Holloway.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boston's WNAC-TV, "Cinema 7"

For a few years (the late 1950s, into the start of the 1960s), my mother was the host of a Sunday afternoon movie program on Boston's WNAC-TV (Channel 7).  The show was called Cinema 7

Another photo, 1954, "The Sue Bennett Show"

A 1954 rehearsal photograph, from my mother's 1954-1955 weekly musical show on Boston's WBZ-TV (Channel 4).  She can be seen in the distance, near the center of the photograph.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"The Sue Bennett Show," Boston's WBZ-TV

Years ago, local television stations routinely aired a great deal of local programming: talk shows, children’s shows, entertainment programs.

Here are a couple of pictures from my mother’s 1954-1955 television program, The Sue Bennett Show, a program I have referred to previously in this space. The show aired weekly on Boston's WBZ-TV, and featured my mother’s singing, and the singing of a vocal group, The Freddy Guerra Trio.

The pictures here are rehearsal photographs, from 1954. The first shows The Freddy Guerra Trio, at the left of the picture (singers Joe McPherson, Freddy Guerra, and Charles Bean); my mother stands nearby.  The second picture gives a closer view of the trio.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

She was, of course, an extremely talented actress.

Yet my heavens she was beautiful...

(Photo:  CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Songwriter Hugh Martin

The composer and lyricist Hugh Martin passed away on Friday, at 96.  Two of the standards for which he remains well-known are the wonderful "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and "The Trolley Song," both from the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis.

Here, from the film, is Judy Garland singing "The Trolley Song," with choral accompaniment:

Here, as well, are two stories about Hugh Martin:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Upcoming books, by Martin Grams, Jr. and Laura Wagner

A book by Martin Grams, Jr. (about whom I've written previously in this space), is being published in the next few weeks;  the book is about the radio program The Shadow.  Information about it can be found at the following links:

And a book about Anne Francis, by author Laura Wagner, will be appearing at the end of May:

Monday, February 28, 2011

Jane Russell

Jane Russell, the well-known actress (who also sang with Kay Kyser's orchestra, for part of 1947), has passed away.  She was 89.

(Photo:  Keystone Features/Getty Images)

Friday, February 25, 2011

"Radio Once More"

Since mid-January, I’ve appeared several times on the Internet radio station “Radio Once More,” as both a guest, and guest co-host (on the station’s four-times-per-week talk and entertainment program, The Live Show). The station features Old-Time Radio and nostalgia-oriented programming.

The hosts of The Live Show (as I’ve noted previously) are Neal Ellis and Ken Stockinger. The program airs Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 p.m. to midnight, and is heard on Sundays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Featured on tonight’s program:  a conversation with Laura Leff, the president of the International Jack Benny Fan Club. The program can be heard at

The S.S. United States's new owners

I’m very pleased to note that the S.S. United States, the legendary ocean liner, is now owned by the S.S. United States Conservancy, the organization which has, for some time, led a campaign on behalf of the ship’s preservation.  The Conservancy acquired the title to the ocean liner at the beginning of February.

The ship, which has not been in use since 1969, has been docked, since 1996, on the Philadelphia waterfront. I wrote in a post last year that the fate of the ship (which had been owned since 2003 by the Norwegian Cruise Line company) was in doubt. The cruise line, it had been reported, was considering bids, for the ship, from scrap companies.

In 2010, the S.S. United States Conservancy received a $5.8 million gift from H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest, the Philadelphia philanthropist. The money provided by Mr. Lenfest paid for the purchase of the ship—the cost was $3 million—as well as providing for 20 months of maintenance fees.

The Conservancy said, on its website: “Owners Norwegian Cruise Line/Genting Hong Kong entered an exclusive purchase option with the Conservancy last year, graciously declining a bid twice as high from a vessel scrapper, in order to support the Conservancy’s efforts. The Conservancy is deeply grateful to both Gerry Lenfest and Norwegian/Genting for their support.” (Genting is one of the parent companies of NCL.)

As I have noted previously in this space (and as I wrote in my book), the final telecast of the 1951-1952 season of Your Hit Parade, on NBC, took place on the ship, five days before its maiden voyage.

Here is additional information about the purchase of the ship. The last link is to a New York Post piece by Dan McSweeney, the S.S. United States Conservancy’s executive director.

(Above: cover of the 1953 children's book The Superliner United States, published by Rand McNally & Company.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lady Gaga, and "Your Hit Parade"

Lady Gaga (who is, I think, a terrific singer, and performer) will be interviewed on tonight’s telecast of CBS's 60 Minutes. She will also be appearing on tonight's Grammy Awards, also airing on CBS.

Here are a few thoughts about her—and about the Hit Parade TV show from the 1950s. (I am going to try, here, to briefly establish a connection between Lady Gaga, and the TV show.)

First, Your Hit Parade:

There was a difference in intent, between the Hit Parade radio show, which made its debut in 1935, and the TV show, which appeared in 1950.

The radio show (which notably, for a time, starred Frank Sinatra) featured vocal and orchestral performances of each week’s hit songs. The television show, on the other hand, featured not simply music, but dramatizations of the songs.

Hit songs routinely appeared on the Hit Parade for weeks at a time. The TV show’s producers, in creating the television version of the program, decided that song dramatizations—storytelling treatments, which changed from week to week—could serve to attract, and maintain, the interest of viewers.

In 1981, I spoke with Ted Fetter, one of the television show’s creators, and one of its producers in its early years; the interview with him appears in my book. He told me (as noted in the book) that while viewers of the TV show might enjoy learning which song was the number one song each week,

the greater appeal of the TV show, for viewers—“the point of the show,” Fetter said—was the stories themselves, and viewer curiosity regarding how the same songs—appearing week after week—would be presented; what the stories, the fictional treatments, would be.

And now, to Lady Gaga.

I like her singing a great deal, she dances/moves nicely on stage, and is a fine musician (she not infrequently accompanies herself, on piano).

She is also (as has often been noted by others) very theatrically-oriented: she often seems engaged, on-stage, in a kind of performance art.

Which perhaps explained, to some degree, the outfit, made of meat, that she wore to last year's  MTV Video Music Awards. While she offered, indeed,  a socio/political explanation of the outfit, I think there were probably a lot of people (I would include myself in that group) who thought the idea of it was pretty unpleasant.

(She explains, here, her motivation for wearing the outfit: )

Yet, nevertheless: I think  Lady Gaga is extremely talented. One of the things I particularly like about her is the changing nature of her performances.

The staging of her songs often changes, from one performance to another. Sometimes it is more minimal, straightforward; at other times, it is elaborate, spectacle-like.

In the first YouTube video, below (from a 2009 MTV performance of“Paparazzi"), Lady Gaga emerges from a volcano-like construct; the pieces of the volcano move, and shift, during the song (the people operating the pieces, from behind, are occasionally visible).

In the second video, below, also from 2009, Gaga performs “Paparazzi" by herself, at a piano in a radio station studio—what she calls her acoustic version of the song.

As the presentations of her songs regularly change, so, too, frequently, does Lady Gaga change, in a physical sense. There is, I think, something of a chameleon-like quality to her; she often looks markedly different, from one appearance to another—because of hair style, say, or costuming, or makeup. Her look can change, too, within the same performance, as she removes, say, a mask covering part of her face (also part of the first video, above). She puts me in mind (to some degree) of photographer Cindy Sherman, and how (in Sherman’s “film stills” series) her physical appearance regularly changes.

There are, certainly, great differences in tone and style between Lady Gaga and Your Hit Parade. The Hit Parade was part of a dramatically different era; the TV show did not, for example, contain anything approaching the sexuality which has been a part of Lady Gaga’s performances.

Yet there is nonetheless, it seems to me, this commonality: that in a manner similar to the Hit Parade, in which the dramatizations of songs changed from week to week, and viewers tuned in to see how the song productions would change, Lady Gaga pays heed to the idea of variation, on stage—altering, with regularity, how she presents a song to audiences, how a song is staged, choreographed, performed. She thus avoids, in this way, a sense of pre-conception: her audiences are not sure what to expect.

Here are two videos of Lady Gaga performing her 2009 song “Bad Romance.” The first is from Ellen DeGeneres’s TV show. The second is from the British TV series, The X Factor. (In the second video, the performance of the song begins at approx. 1: 15.)

(Photo above:  Lady Gaga performing "Paparazzi" on MTV, via YouTube)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly died on February 3, 1959, 52 years ago today, in an Iowa plane crash. He was twenty-two.

Here is a video of Holly from December of 1957, singing “Peggy Sue.” The appearance took place on NBC’s dance-oriented show, The Arthur Murray Party.

He and The Crickets are introduced by the show’s host, Kathryn Murray. Kathryn Murray was married to Arthur Murray.

Here, too, is Holly's recording of "Everyday":

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cliff Edwards

In 2004, around the time I began re-writing my book about early television (when originally completed, in 1984, it did not reach publication), I made a trip to Washington, DC, to the Library of Congress.

The Library had, available for viewing, two kinescopes of Kay Kyser’s 1949-1950 NBC-TV show.  (There were one or two other telecasts of the program in the Library's collection, yet they had not been transferred to videotape.)

One kinescope I watched was incomplete—it was the first half of the program’s debut broadcast, in December of 1949. The second was a full program, from November of 1950.

In the November, 1950 broadcast, several guest stars appeared. They included Bob Hope, singer Carlos Ramirez, comedian Carl Ballantine, and Cliff Edwards; Edwards made a brief cameo/walk-on appearance.

Cliff Edwards, who was also known as “Ukulele Ike,“ was for years a hugely popular performer—on radio, records, and in films.  In 1949, he had a three-times-a-week television show on CBS.

Edwards, who died in 1971, is no doubt best remembered, today, for providing the voice of Jiminy Cricket, in the 1940 Walt Disney film Pinocchio. He sang the movie’s famous song, “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Here are two YouTube recordings of Edwards singing the song.

The first recording is from the Pinocchio soundtrack. His vocal on the record (which includes his striking and lovely falsetto) is gentle, moving, and beautiful.

I do not know the date of the second recording, but it is also very beautiful.

(Photo above:  Cliff Edwards)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Georgia Carroll Kyser

Georgia Carroll Kyser has passed away, at age 91.  Here is the story from The New York Times:

Georgia Carroll was a well-known model, who then became an actress, and a singer with Kay Kyser's orchestra.  She and Mr. Kyser married in 1944.

Mr. Kyser passed away in 1985. Mrs. Kyser is survived by daughters Kimberly and Amanda, and five grandchildren.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

TV news reports, and Dr. King

Here is a proposal: that it is time to change one of the ways we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The observance of Dr. King’s January 15th birthday honors one of America’s most magnificent leaders. His “I Have a Dream” speech, from 1963, remains one of the most luminous, most remarkable speeches ever delivered.

Yet the speech, I believe, is in danger of losing its potency. Not because it is in actuality any less powerful, today—but because parts of it, for years, have been relied upon, too reflexively, in news coverage of Dr. King's life.

Whether it has been each January (at the time of the King holiday), or on other occasions over time, news reports about Dr. King (I am thinking largely of television broadcasts) have routinely played brief segments of—usually, certain sentences from—his 1963 address.

Such as, part of the address’s conclusion—in which King looked to the day when “black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

Such words are intensely moving, and meaningful. Yet I am guessing that these, and other segments of the speech, have become the only words of King’s with which many Americans—in particular, younger Americans—are familiar.

In general, as regards history, the notion of repetition has enormous value, reminding us of that which is crucial and profound: the words, facts, images and emotions of the past.

Repetition, of course, can also be used with beauty and power, in the art of rhetoric—as in the recurring “I have a dream” phrase in King’s 1963 address.

Yet repetition—when employed without sufficient care—can also achieve the following: it can help to transform that which is meaningful, or beautiful, or painful, or momentous, into that which we begin, over time (perhaps less than consciously), to take for granted. I believe we have begun taking King’s 1963 speech for granted.

I recently watched various videos of Dr. King on YouTube—interviews from the 1960s, for example, on Meet the Press, The Mike Douglas Show, and other programs. Another well-known video I watched—widely regarded as another of King’s greatest speeches—is the haunting address he delivered the night before his death. (“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now…”)

In these different videos, King’s moral force, and his rhetorical force, are gripping. Yet we do not see these other videos often enough.

Through the years, journalistic coverage of Dr. King has, most certainly, been impelled by the best of intentions. Yet the regular reliance upon brief parts of his best-known speech has, I believe, provided a constricted view of his life, and legacy. A new effort to capture a more expansive sense of Dr. King would be a meaningful way to remember one of America’s finest, most vital, and most heroic citizens.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Anne Francis

The talented (and beautiful) Anne Francis, who passed away this week (at age 80), was probably best known for her 1965-1966 private-eye television series Honey West.

(Certain childhood memories can be so elusive, indistinct. I watched Honey West, at ages nine/ten, yet recall, in essence, nothing about it—other than remembering that I liked Anne Francis.)

Many will also recall Francis’s enjoyable lead performance in an episode of The Twilight Zone (the story concerned department store mannequins). I’ve never seen the well-known 1956 science fiction movie in which she co-starred, Forbidden Planet, though she had a key role in one of my favorite 1950s films, Blackboard Jungle.

(The film, released in 1955, had as its primary stars Vic Morrow , Glenn Ford, and Sidney Poitier, and is remembered in part for the song used at the start of the film, and used elsewhere in it, as well: “Rock Around the Clock.” The record had been released the year before, but did not achieve huge popularity until it was used in the film. After the release of the movie, it became the first number one rock & roll record on the Billboard pop music charts. Blackboard Jungle, one can therefore argue, played a not-insignificant part in the rise of rock & roll.)

The following is a story about Anne Francis, from The Los Angeles Times:

My publisher, incidentally, has a book out about Honey West; it is by author John C. Fredriksen:

(Photo above:  Anne Francis, from Honey West)