Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas...

Christmas songs, below, from two remarkable singers:

The first recording is of a 1944 radio performance by Judy Garland, singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  The song is from the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis, which starred Ms. Garland (and in which she, famously, sang the song).


The second recording is of Nat King Cole, singing  "The Christmas Song" (often referred to as--and often subtitled--"Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"). Mr. Cole released multiple recordings of the song, over time.  The version below was made in 1953; the orchestra, for this recording, was conducted by Nelson Riddle.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Dylan Thomas

There are a lot of books in the apartment that I haven't read. One I've been meaning to read for years is Dylan Thomas's Quite Early One Morning.  As the back cover notes, the book contains short stories, autobiographical sketches and essays. Some poems also appear, within some of the prose pieces. Thomas died in 1953; the book was published by New Directions in 1954.

I picked up the book tonight, from a stack of books in the bedroom.  The first piece is titled "Reminiscences of Childhood," and is dated 1943 and 1953.  I was taken by the first sentence:

"I like very much people telling me about their childhood, but they'll have to be quick or else I'll be telling them about mine."

Friday, December 7, 2018

Pearl Harbor anniversary, and George H. W. Bush

Today, of course, is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  In addition to remembering, and commemorating, what took place at Pearl Harbor in 1941, the anniversary can also, one thinks, provide an additional reminder of the World War Two military service, and heroism, of President Bush, whose funeral services took place this week. Mr. Bush was seventeen years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked; he enlisted in the Navy six months later, on his eighteenth birthday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Photograph of Chicago TV show, 1949

This is a photograph from the cover of a May of 1949 issue of Chicago's TV Forecast, which was a TV Guide-type of magazine.  The picture was of a local Chicago TV show (I don't know what show it was)--either as it was being telecast, or during a rehearsal.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Kay Kyser recording, 1950

From the website archive.org:  a January, 1950 recording, on the Columbia label, of the song "Tootsie, Darlin' Angel, Honey. Baby," by Kay Kyser and his Orchestra; my mother is the vocalist.  The recording was made during the time she was a featured singer on Kay Kyser's NBC-TV program, the College of Musical Knowledge.

For your reference:  when going to the archive.org page, at the link below, several links to the song appear; you can simply click on the first one, highlighted in blue, to hear the recording.


Friday, October 19, 2018

Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick

Making note--belatedly--of the death, in early October, of Geoff Emerick, the prominent recording engineer.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"Nikki Haley just pulled a George Costanza"

As one who continues to enjoy Seinfeld repeats (twenty years after the program ended its first-run broadcasts), I'm amused by the Seinfeld comparison, in Chris Cillizza's CNN.com story, below.  Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-Large, appears regularly on the network. 


Friday, October 5, 2018

Juan Romero

Earlier this year, in this space (on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert Kennedy), I wrote of Juan Romero, the seventeen-year-old high school student working as a busboy at Los Angeles's Ambassador Hotel, the night Senator Kennedy was shot there.  Romero and Kennedy had just shaken hands, in the hotel's kitchen, when the shooting occurred. The grim, haunting photographs of Romero, crouched next to Kennedy, attending to him, are certainly, for millions of people, the images most associated with the assassination.

Mr. Romero, I was saddened to learn, died on Monday in California.  He was 68.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention

The annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, in Hunt Valley, Maryland--also known as MANC--opened this morning, and continues through Saturday. 

I've been to the convention several times in the past, and regret being unable to attend this year; it is always enjoyable.



Tuesday, September 11, 2018

September 11th

At some point--I am hopeful it will be sooner, rather than later--I would very much like to visit the Flight 93 National Memorial, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  The Memorial, of course, honors the passengers and crew members of United Flight 93, who lost their lives on September 11th.

There were many acts of great courage, of profound heroism, on September 11th--in New York, at the Pentagon, and on Flight 93.  The effort to retake Flight 93--to disrupt the plans of the terrorists who had hijacked the plane--remains one of the most moving stories in our country's history.

Here is the National Park Service's website, for the Flight 93 National Memorial:


Friday, September 7, 2018

The Raymond Scott Festival, on Saturday

Tomorrow (September 8th), the renowned musician-composer-orchestra leader--inventor--electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott (1908-1994) will be the focus of symposia and musical performances, in California.  "Scott Works: The Raymond Scott Festival" will take place throughout the day, and evening, at the Colony Theater in Burbank.

The festival is being produced by Reckless Night Music. The company, formed in 2012, oversees and licenses Scott's work, and is run by members of Scott's family. 


Two of those in charge of Saturday's event are writer and educator Deborah Scott Studebaker, one of the daughters of Scott and the well-known and very talented singer and actress Dorothy Collins (1926-1994); and filmmaker Stan Warnow, Scott's son from his first marriage, to Pearl Zimney. 

In 2010, Stan Warnow released a very fine documentary about his father, which he directed and produced: Deconstructing Dad (please see: www.scottdoc.com).

Incidentally, the phrase "Reckless Night"--referred to above--was part of the title of one of Scott's 1930s compositions, "Reckless Night on Board an Ocean Liner."

The phrase (or, the plural version of the phrase) was also used in the 1990s, in the title of a collection released by Sony Music: "The Music of Raymond Scott: Reckless Nights & Turkish Twilights."

Here is the 1937 Columbia recording of "Reckless Night on Board an Ocean Liner," by the Raymond Scott Quintette (although on the Columbia label, as seen in the link below, it is spelled "Quintet" ):


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Senator McCain

John McCain was a courageous and extraordinary man.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Aretha Franklin

Her singing was beautiful, stirring, singular.

Here is a video of Ms. Franklin performing "I Say a Little Prayer," her exquisite 1968 cover version of Dionne Warwick's wonderful hit song from 1967, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  The video, according to the YouTube description, is from a 1970 broadcast of a Cliff Richard TV show.


And, here is the recording of the song from the album Aretha Now, which was released in June of 1968:


One of the (many) things I enjoy about Ms. Franklin's version of "I Say a Little Prayer" is that, for more than the first half of the song, she doesn't sing the word "prayer." 

She sings, repeatedly: "I say a little..."

And then, her background singers finish the lyric:  "...prayer for you."

The vocals by the background singers are also, notably, quite beautiful. And--in the above live performance--the choreography performed by them (the minimal, elegant movements) is terrific.  I note, with particular pleasure/enjoyment, the recurring moments in the performance, during which the three singers tilt their heads--briefly, minimally--up and down. I don't know who came up with that, but I think it's fantastic.

Lastly, here is a live version of another of my favorite songs by Ms. Franklin (a song which was co-written by her): 1968's "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone."  According to YouTube, the performance took place in Amsterdam.


And, here is the original recording of the song:


Sunday, August 12, 2018


Like so many others, I have, during the past year, thought about Charlottesville, Virginia a great deal.  The events of August, 2017--a year ago today--were, are, heartrending. (I lived in Charlottesville--a vibrant and beautiful city--from the spring of 1995 until the start of 2001.)

Last week, PBS's Frontline program featured a very good documentary about Charlottesville--and about the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who descended upon the city.

The PBS report, a joint effort by Frontline and the journalistic organization ProPublica, was titled Documenting Hate: Charlottesville.  Unlike other Frontline programs I have seen, over time--programs presided over by an unseen narrator--the Charlottesville documentary featured an on-camera correspondent, ProPublica's A.C. Thompson.  Mr. Thompson also served as one of the program's producers.

The program can be seen at this link:


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ted Williams, cont'd

The Ted Williams documentary, referred to in the prior post (Ted Williams: "The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived"), aired on Monday, on PBS stations; it was superb.

The review below, by Chad Finn of The Boston Globe, appeared in the paper the day before the film aired.  Finn is the Globe's sports media columnist.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Ted Williams's last game, Fenway Park, 1960

On Monday evening (July 23rd), PBS's American Masters series will focus on baseball's Ted Williams.

Included in the documentary is color film of Williams's last game, in 1960, made at Fenway Park by a college student in Boston, Bill Murphy; this is the first time the film has been seen publicly.

As is well-known, Williams hit a home run (his 521st) in his final at-bat. Compressed/edited views of his four plate appearances, in the game (including, indeed, the home run at-bat), can be seen in Mr. Murphy's footage.

This week, in advance of the PBS program, a piece about Murphy, and the striking color film he took, appeared in The New York Times; the footage can be viewed within the article.


I don't know if all PBS stations will be carrying the Ted Williams documentary on the same evening; please check your area's television listings.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Keith Textor, of The Honeydreamers (1921-2018)

I was very saddened to learn, recently, of the death of singer, arranger and composer Keith Textor.   He died in California in February, two weeks after falling, and suffering a head injury.  He was 96.  His wife, singer Sylvia Textor, died in 2014, at age 89.

Mr. Textor was the leader of, and a founder of, the five-singer vocal group The Honeydreamers (also known, over time, by the three-word name, The Honey Dreamers). The group was formed in 1946, at Minnesota's St. Olaf College.

Textor had studied music at the school, graduating in 1943. After serving in the Navy, he returned to St. Olaf, to earn an additional music degree. In 1946, when The Honeydreamers was founded, Sylvia Textor (known, then, as Sylvia Mikelson) became one of its singers. She was, at the time, a student at St. Olaf, studying music, and performing in the school's widely-known choir. She and Keith Textor would marry in 1949.

Early in the The Honeydreamers' career, the group performed in Minneapolis, and later relocated to Chicago.  In 1949, the group joined Dave Garroway's Chicago-based NBC television show Garroway at Large. In December of 1949, when bandleader Kay Kyser brought his longtime radio program, the College of Musical Knowledge, to NBC-TV (broadcasting from Manhattan's International Theatre), The Honeydreamers became part of the cast.

The Honeydreamers, at International Theatre, for Kay Kyser show;
Sylvia Textor and Keith Textor are in the foreground.

The group, at the time, featured Keith Textor, Sylvia Textor (she was known on Kay Kyser's program as Sylvia Michaels), singers Bob Davis and Marion Bye (also married to one another), and Lew Anderson. Anderson later became well-known for playing Clarabell the Clown, on the Howdy Doody TV show; he portrayed Clarabell from 1954 until 1960, when the program left the air.

The Honeydreamers left the Kay Kyser Show after its first season, and in the fall of 1950, Keith and Sylvia Textor left the group. They soon became a singing duo on Fred Waring's TV show on CBS.  In 1954, they were featured on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, for the last several months the program was on the air.

In a 1981 interview for my book about early television, Keith Textor said the following, about the era, and its fundamental live component.

"You took a risk when you went on live," he said. "Something was bound to happen of an accidental nature nearly every show."  He recalled that Max Liebman, the producer of Your Show of Shows, "used to say, if you drop your hat, or you drop a handkerchief, that becomes the star of the number right there, 'cause people's eyes focus right on that thing."

Keith and Sylvia Textor, in 1951 television magazine

In the late 1950s, the Textors, with two other partners, founded what became a highly successful production company, best-known for creating and recording commercial jingles. With the two partners, Keith Textor had, several years earlier, written one of TV's most famous theme songs: "Smile, You're on Candid Camera."  In the 1960s and 1970s, Textor also released several albums featuring his own Keith Textor Singers.

Textor also worked in the 1970s with Jim Henson. During the second season of Sesame Street, in 1970, music written by Textor was featured in a number of short films produced by Henson for the television program.  Textor also served as musical arranger and conductor for a Muppets special--The Muppets Valentine Show--which aired in 1974 on ABC. The special was the first of two pilot shows for what would, in 1976, become The Muppet Show.


Here is a video of The Honeydreamers--performing a song on NBC's Colgate Comedy Hour, in September of 1950; the group's number begins at approximately 42:30, in the video.


The Colgate Comedy Hour featured rotating hosts; the episode, above, starred Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis; it was their first appearance as hosts of the program. The show (like Kay Kyser's show) aired from New York's International Theatre. The Honeydreamers (and the Comedy Hour's other performers, that week, including guest star Marilyn Maxwell), were listed in the scrolling credits, at the show's start--as were the Martin & Lewis program's three writers, which included the writing team of Ed Simmons and Norman Lear.  Simmons and Lear had come to television during the summer of 1950. They wrote, for a brief period, for Jack Haley's Ford Star Revue, on NBC; the Ford Star Revue was the summer replacement, in 1950, for Kay Kyser's program.

Top photograph: The Honeydreamers, from 1949 or 1950, during their time on Kay Kyser's television show. From the top of the photo, clockwise: Lew Anderson, Marion Bye, Keith Textor, Sylvia Textor, and Bob Davis (NBC-TV photo).  Photo, above, of Keith and Sylvia Textor, from TV Digest, weekly television guide, 1951.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Robert Kennedy, and Juan Romero

After Robert Kennedy was shot, fifty years ago this week, a seventeen-year-old busboy who worked at Los Angeles's Ambassador Hotel, Juan Romero, knelt beside Kennedy, and attended to him, comforted him, briefly. Kennedy and Romero had shaken hands, a moment before the shooting.

"Is everybody OK?" Kennedy, who would die the next day, asked. Romero told him yes.  Kennedy then turned his head toward his right, Romero recalled, in a newspaper interview which appeared earlier this week. "Everything will be OK," Romero heard him say.

Shortly after, Romero placed a rosary, which he had in one of his pockets, around one of Kennedy's hands.

Juan Romero with Robert Kennedy (Photo: Boris Yaro/ Los Angeles Times)

Here is a brief interview with Mr. Romero, now 67, which aired on National Public Radio last week.


Here, too, is a story from June 2nd's Daily News, in New York:


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

John Prine, on CBS's "Late Show"

There was a wonderful segment, recently--April 12th, to be precise--on Stephen Colbert's CBS program.  

The segment featured singer/musician/songwriter John Prine.  He performed "Summer's End," a song from his new album, The Tree of Forgiveness. The performers Sturgill Simpson and Brandi Carlile joined him, on the program.

I have watched the video of the appearance many times, since then. 

The song; Prine's quiet, unadorned, lovely vocal performance of it, on CBS; and the performances of the accompanying singers and musicians:  they were/are deeply moving, and very beautiful.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Writer Lorrie Moore

The terrific novelist and short story writer Lorrie Moore (Self-Help; Birds of America; a number of other works) has brought out a collection of non-fiction.  I was reading about the new book, and then did some browsing online about Ms. Moore.

I came across an enjoyable interview with her from New York magazine, 2005.  Said Ms. Moore (b. 1957):

"I grew up with Life magazine on the coffee table, Life cereal on the breakfast table, and the game of Life on the card table. People were just so happy to be alive, I guess."

I also enjoyed this, in the interview:  

"I do a very reverential Billie Holiday imitation that’s a complete room-emptier."


Here, too, is the amazon link for Ms. Moore's new non-fiction collection, See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary (Knopf):


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Five years ago today: terrorism at the Boston Marathon

As The Boston Globe reported, today:

"On the fifth anniversary of the day bombs placed near the Boston Marathon finish line left three dead and more than 260 wounded, Governor Charlie Baker reflected on the resilience of survivors, both those injured in the terror attack and those who lost loved ones on that indelible day."

On Sunday, the Globe's weekly magazine carried an essay by Denise Richard.  Her son Martin died in the bombing; he was eight years old.  Her daughter Jane, at the time six years old, lost a leg.  Her husband Bill was injured; she was blinded in one eye.

In the Globe essay, Mrs. Richard writes  "Five years ago, our own City of Boston was the recipient of the world’s love, compassion, and generosity when two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing my son, Martin, along with Lingzi Lu and Krystle Campbell and injuring our family as well as hundreds of others. In turn, we, the families of the deceased and injured, were treated with the utmost care and empathy. Our families were embraced by the spirit of goodness and the determination of a community willing to help."

She writes, in the essay, about the work of the Martin Richard Foundation; she is the Foundation's acting Executive Director. As noted on its website, the Foundation "helps young people to learn, grow and lead through volunteerism and community engagement. We look to advance sportsmanship, inclusion, kindness and peace."

Here, too, is a 2014 story from The Globe about the Richard family; it appeared a year after the Marathon catastrophe:

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dr. King's last speech

This is a film of the very powerful (and haunting) conclusion of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last speech, delivered on April 3, 1968.  He was, of course, killed the next day, at age 39.  It is hard to fathom that it has been fifty years since his death.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Fred Rogers, and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"

Fred Rogers is one of the great figures in television history. His remarkable children's program--a gentle, meaningful and beautiful show--began airing nationally fifty years ago.

On March 23rd, the United States Postal Service will be releasing a "Mister Rogers" stamp.  It is a much-deserved honor.

A ceremony will be held by the Postal Service, on the 23rd, at Pittsburgh public station WQED-TV, the station from which, for decades, the show originated. 

The last first-run episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
were taped at the end of 2000, and broadcast in 2001. The program continued to air on PBS for several more years. It is still aired by some PBS stations; some of the stations carry the show on weekends.

Fred Rogers died in 2003--fifteen years ago, last month--at age 74.

Here is a New York Times story about the stamp, from February:


Monday, March 12, 2018

"Neuromancer," by William Gibson

For some time I've had a copy of William Gibson's 1984 science fiction work Neuromancer, but haven't read it.  I recently took it off the shelf, and loved its opening sentence:

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

"The Sue Bennett Show," 1950s, WBZ-TV, Boston

These are rehearsal and publicity photographs from The Sue Bennett Show, a weekly musical program on Boston station WBZ-TV (Channel 4).  The show aired in 1954 and 1955, and featured my mother and the vocal group The Freddy Guerra Trio.

As was true of a number of early television's musical shows (one thinks of network programs starring Perry Como, Dinah Shore, and Roberta Quinlan), The Sue Bennett Show was fifteen minutes long.

The first picture, above, is from a 1954 Boston Sunday Globe story. The photo (cropped, at the bottom, because of damage to it) shows my mother rehearsing a song; the bass player is to the right of the table.  The Freddy Guerra Trio is at the left.

The next three photos are also from 1954.  In the picture below, The Freddy Guerra Trio rehearses before the television cameras (the singers are dressed, for the particular number, in western outfits); my mother watches, near the center/rear of the picture.

In the third photo, my mother is seated to the left; musicians from the show can be seen, off-camera, to the right.

The next photo is a portrait of The Freddy Guerra Trio. From the top to the bottom are: Charles Bean, Freddy Guerra, and Joe McPherson.

Though he performed as a vocalist on the show, Freddy Guerra was best known as a musician, and bandleader.  He is familiar to Glenn Miller fans for having played saxophone with Miller's Army Air Force Band during World War Two. After the war, Guerra played both saxophone and clarinet with The Glenn Miller Orchestra, now led--due to Miller's death, during the war--by vocalist and saxophonist Tex Beneke.  Guerra later led his own orchestra, for many years, in the Boston area.

The final photograph is from a 1955 story from The Boston Sunday Post; my mother is sitting on a piano, during a rehearsal for the show.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Vic Damone, singing on "The Morey Amsterdam Show," 1949

The fine singer Vic Damone died on February 11th.  He was 89.

The following is a video/kinescope of Mr. Damone, from YouTube.  It is from an April of 1949 telecast of the DuMont Network's Morey Amsterdam Show.

Vic Damone, on The Morey Amsterdam Show, 1949

Morey Amsterdam's program, a variety show, made its debut on CBS-TV in December of 1948.  Its setting was the fictional "Golden Goose Cafe," and its cast included Art Carney (who played Charlie, the cafe's doorman).   

The show was cancelled by CBS in March of 1949, and reappeared the next month, on the DuMont Network  Its setting became the (also fictional) "Silver Swan Cafe"; Art Carney now portrayed "Newton the Waiter."  The show aired until 1950.

The appearance by Vic Damone took place on the show's debut broadcast on the DuMont Network. He sang with The Johnny Guarnieri Orchestra, which was featured on both the CBS and DuMont versions of Morey Amsterdam's program. 

The website IMDB.com lists no television appearances by Mr. Damone prior to his 1949 appearance with Morey Amsterdam. It is therefore possible that this was his first television appearance.

Here is the New York Times's obituary of Mr. Damone:

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, in The New York Times Magazine

There's an interesting retrospective piece about Rodney Dangerfield, in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

Writer AlexThe one-liners were impeccable, unimprovable. Dangerfield spent years on them; he once told an interviewer that it took him three months to work up six minutes of material for a talk-show appearance."


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin

Last Monday (January 22nd), the prominent and influential novelist Ursula K. Le Guin died, at age 88. 

A few days later, I was looking through a 1998 book about television, CBS: The First 50 Years, by Tony Chiu (General Publishing Group).  The book's epigraph is a quote from Ms. Le Guin: 

"There's a good deal in common between the mind's eye and the TV screen, and though the TV set has all too often been the boobtube, it could be, it can be, the box of dreams."

The quote is from a 1980 magazine piece by Ms. Le Guin; the piece then appeared in her 1989 nonfiction collection, Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places (Grove Press).

Here is the New York Times obituary about Ms. Le Guin:


Friday, January 19, 2018

Dion, 1968 Smothers Brothers TV appearance

On Wednesday (two days after the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday), I came upon the following video, on YouTube:  it is from a November 17, 1968 episode of the Smothers Brothers program, on CBS. 

The video is of the singer Dion, performing the exquisite song "Abraham, Martin and John," which had been released in August of that year.  The song was written (by Dick Holler) in the aftermath of the assassinations of Dr. King, and Robert Kennedy. 

Dion's performance of the song, on the TV show (as on his original recording of it) is extremely beautiful--both his singing, and his guitar playing.  

I don't remember being aware, prior to watching the video, that it was Dion who played the guitar on the record itself.

The Wikipedia page about the song notes: "Dion felt during post production that the song needed more depth and added a track featuring him playing classical guitar notably at the bridge, lead ins and the close."

The record had first appeared on the Cashbox music chart near the end of October, 1968 (and on Billboard's chart the following week).  A little over a month after the Smothers Brothers appearance, the song reached #2 on the Cashbox list. It would also reach #4 in the Billboard ranking (and became a #1 record in Canada).

Here is the video of Dion's television performance: