This Week’s Theme: 100th Birthday- Born in 1922
I’ll be the first to admit that a playlist consisting entirely of artists born one hundred years ago may not sound like something everyone wants to hear, but the amazing thing is how many decades of music I ended up including. There is clearly an emphasis on the music of the forties and fifties since those would be the prime artistic years for someone born in 1922, but the diversity of type of artist I was able to include allowed me to create what I believe to be an extremely interesting show.
I started curating this show with a list of almost two hundred entertainers born a century ago. I obviously had to leave out a lot of artists in order to get the length down to two hours. The first decision I made was to leave off almost all of the composers, many from other countries. This made the list much more manageable. The next decision I made was to focus on artists who I assume are better known than most on the original list. That isn’t to say that these are all well-known artists, but I’ve at least heard of most of them. Once I whittled the list down like this, I ended up with about seventy artists and was able to include almost fifty of them. The final show is a diverse list of entertainers, including club owners, announcers, producers, actors, comedians, vocalists, session musicians, primary recording artists, and even a few legends.
This week’s artists were all born in 1922 into a world that pre-dated talking pictures, radio, and television. Record players were owned by very few people, and the world of entertainment was still dominated by live performance. By the time they were adults, Hollywood films, national radio broadcasts, and recorded music was common in every town of the U.S. That is an incredible change in the worlds of these people in such a short time, but it is also the reason that all of them can now be included in a playlist of recorded entertainment.
Happy 100th Birthday
Johnny Costa “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”: Costa was a jazz pianist and, most importantly, the musical director of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Hoyt Curtin “The Flintstones Theme” by Dominik Hauser and Hoyt Curtin: Curtin was the composer of much of the music for the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
Eddie Calvert “Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)”: Calvert was a British trumpeter who had seven instrumental hits on the British charts in the ’50s, including his #1 version of this song that Perez Prado made famous.
Mongo Santamaria “Watermelon Man”: Santamaria was one of the most important Cuban percussionists. This version of Herbie Hancock’s 1962 jazz standard was a Top 10 hit.
Toots Thielemans “Bluesette”: Thielemans was a multi-instrumentalist who will always be best remembered for his virtuosic whistling on this 1961 tune. He was also a master guitarist, as shown on this song, and one of the most influential jazz harmonica players.
Al Hirt “Java”: Hirt was a Louisiana trumpeter and bandleader whose biggest hit was this classic version of Allen Toussaint’s standard. He won a Grammy for this recording, and received twenty other Grammy nominations during his career. He was known as “Jumbo,” “The Round Mound of Sound,” and “The King,” and is one of the most beloved instrumental musicians of his era. His version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Ann Margaret in 1964 is still one of the best.
Les Baxter “Jungalero”: Baxter was one of the creators of the music known as Exotica. He and Martin Denny pioneered this classic style of easy listening music in the ’50s. Baxter composed the song “Quiet Village” in 1951, the song that spawned the Exotica movement. He also scored over one hundred films.
Yma Sumac “Gopher Mambo”: Sumac was a Peruvian coloratura soprano who could sing in five octaves and was The Queen of Exotica. No one else sings like Yma Sumac – she was one-of-a-kind.
Gloria Lasso “Tout ca”: Lasso was a French and Spanish pop singer from Catalonia.
Andrzej Koszewski “Gry: No. 2, Entliczek” by Collegium Cantorum: Koszewski was a Polish choral and orchestral composer and musicologist.
Jean-Pierre Rampal “The Four Seasons – Concerto No. 1 in E-Major”: Rampal was a virtuosic French flautist, and one of the greatest performers of the instrument to ever live. His genius on the flute returned it to prominence in Classical music after over a century of it being relegated to second-tier status behind the violin and piano.
Dilip Kumar “Ghunghat Ke Pat Khol” by Geeta Dutt: Kumar is the greatest actor of the golden era of Bollywood cinema. He is known as The Tragedy King and The First Khan of Bollywood, and was the first method actor in cinema, pre-dating American method actors such as Marlon Brando and Paul Newman by almost ten years. He won eight Indian cinema best actor awards, including the first one in Bollywood history. This song is from his 1950 breakthrough film, Jogan, and was a massive hit in India at the time.
Bhimsen Joshi “Murali Dwaniya”: Joshi was an Indian classical singer, best known for his performances in the khayal form of singing. He was one of the greatest Indian vocalists of the 20th century.
Abbey Simon “Chopin Op. 10: No. 2 in A-Minor”: Simon was a virtuoso pianist, a prolific performer, and a renowned music educator.
Charles Brown “Black Night”: Before he composed the holiday classic “Please Come Home For Christmas,” Brown was a successful and influential West Coast blues pianist. He charted a number of fabulous R&B hits in the late ’40s and early ’50s, and this song has always been my favorite.
Seymour “Cy” Leslie “Ain’t That Fine” by Ray Charles: Leslie was the founder of Pickwick Records. Before K-Tel and Ronco, there were several great labels that allowed a music lover to purchase budget albums of a variety of music. Pickwick was one of the best of them, and anyone who goes out searching for old vinyl of music by artists such as Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, or any other popular artist from the ’50s and ’60s is sure to find a Pickwick compilation during their quest. I especially enjoy the collections of music by those artists from before they were successful, such as this great Ray Charles song from his pre-Atlantic years on a Pickwick Grand Prix Series album called Take 10 With Ray Charles. Leslie was also the first president and founder of MGM/UA Home Entertainment, one of the first companies to produce home videos.
Charles M. Schulz “Oh, Good Grief” by The Vince Guaraldi Trio: Schulz was the creator of Peanuts, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the comic strip’s characters. Nothing is more recognizable as pertaining to Charlie Brown then the music of jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi and his trio.
Charles Mingus, Jaki Byard, and Bob Thiele “II B.S.”: Mingus was one of the most important jazz composers of the 20th century. If you don’t know if you like jazz, go listen to the album Mingus Ah Um and realize that you do. Byard was a prolific jazz multi-instrumentalist, and was the pianist on a dozen Mingus albums. Thiele was a jazz and blues producer on hundreds of recordings, including some of the greatest ever released by Signature, Decca, Coral, Impulse!, and Bluesway. Thiele is best known for his work on Impulse! with John Coltrane, but he also produced the album Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus, from which this song was taken. In addition, Thiele co-wrote the song “What A Wonderful World” and produced the original Louis Armstrong version in 1967. As a trio, the world of jazz would not sound the same without the work of these three musicians.
Enrico Banducci “The Steve Allen Show” bit by Lenny Bruce: Banducci was the owner of the hungry i nightclub in San Francisco. This club launched the careers of The Kingston Trio, Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Bill Cosby, Jonathan Winters, and Barbra Streisand. This is also the club that created the brick wall background that is now the basic set for standup comedy.
Carl Reiner “Fabiola” with Mel Brooks: Reiner was a comedy writer, director, and producer. His credits include The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Jerk, and The 2,000 Year Old Man. He is one of the funniest human beings who ever lived.
Jimmie Lloyd “I Got A Rocket In My Pocket”: Lloyd was a rockabilly performer best known for this classic of the era.
Ernie Freeman “Raunchy”: Freeman was a producer of pop and R&B records who found most of his success in the ’50s and ’60s. He was also a performer, and his biggest hit was this 1957 cover of the Bill Justis song.
Alan Freed “Call of the Wild” by Tiny Grimes and His Rocking Highlanders: Freed was the disc jockey who popularized rock and roll in the early ’50s. Based out of Cleveland’s WJW, his radio, television, and film appearances were integral in spreading this new music across the country. On March 21, 1952, Freed organized The Moondog Coronation Ball, the first major rock and roll concert. The crowd grew so out of control that the show was shut down and Freed became one of the most important proponents of this new music for the ’50s young generation. Tiny Grimes and His Rocking Highlanders were one of the concert’s headliners. The importance of Freed in breaking down the racial barriers inherent in the popularizing of rock and roll in the early ’50s can’t be understated, and he is as important as Bill Haley and Elvis Presley in the future of pop music after the birth of rock and roll.
Murray The K “Do You Want To Know A Secret” by The Beatles: Murray The K was a deejay who got his break while working at New York’s WINS radio station in 1958. This is the station where Alan Freed was the main star when Freed was indicted for tax evasion during the payola scandal. Murray The K moved into Freed’s vacant primetime spot and became one of the most popular deejays in the city, if not the nation. This led to him becoming the first deejay to highly promote the new music of a band from Liverpool, England called The Beatles. He was such a proponent of the band that they invited him into their close circle when they visited the U.S. in 1964. They allowed him to air them live from their hotel room and then invited him to accompany them to Washington D.C. for their first U.S. concert, brought him to their famed Ed Sullivan Show appearance, and had him room with George Harrison while in Miami so that he could continue to air his radio program from Harrison’s hotel room. Sorry Stu Sutcliffe, Billy Preston, and Yoko Ono, but Murray The K was the true Fifth Beatle (actually George Martin is probably the Fifth Beatle, but no one ever says so because that is too boring).
Neal Hefti “Batman Theme”: Hefti was a trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He wrote the most recognizable superhero theme ever written – sixty years later and everyone from the age of 3 to 93 still knows the tune. He also wrote or arranged dozens of great songs (including Woody Herman’s “Woodchopper’s Ball” and “The Odd Couple Theme”), was a prolific film scorer, and worked with a who’s who of 20th century musicians. But, 500 years from now, people will still be singing “da da da da da da da da, da da da da da da da da, Batman” after the rest of his accomplishments have faded away.
Stan Lee “Spiderman Theme Song” by some TV theme song cover band: Stan Lee was the creative force behind Marvel Comics from the ’60s until his death. He changed the importance of comics to such an extent that no one impacted the current world of entertainment more profoundly than arguably any other person of the last sixty years. Most people have a favorite superhero – mine has been Spiderman since before I could read.
Frank Wess “Liz”: Wess was a jazz flautist, probably the coolest jazz instrument that isn’t in the rhythm section, although baritone sax is a close second.
Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis “Four”: Davis was a jazz saxophonist.
Jean Ritchie “Use Of A Pick”: Ritchie was a now-forgotten mid-century folk singer/songwriter and master Appalachian dulcimer player. This excerpt explains how to play the dulcimer, one of the most beautiful folk instruments. Ritchie’s beautiful vocals are a pure example of Appalachian folk singing.
J.D. “Jay” Miller “I’m A King Bee” by Slim Harpo: Miller was a producer and record company entrepreneur. He began his career producing cajun artists on his Fais Do Do and Feature Records labels. In the early ’50s he shifted to recording swamp blues artists, and then hit it big in 1952 when he wrote and recorded the #1 country song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” with Kitty Wells. His most important swamp blues recording was “I’m A King Bee” by Slim Harpo, a classic of the genre which was later covered by The Rolling Stones.
Kay Starr “The Rock And Roll Waltz”: Starr was a pop vocalist who found much success from the late ’40s through the mid-60s. In the Faux Household she is truly loved for her holiday recording of “(Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With The Bag,” possibly the greatest holiday recording ever made.
Gale Storm “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”: Storm was a ’50s pop star who also found success in both film and television. Her list of films, tv shows, and recordings from 1940 to 1960 is impressive, and she continued to act into the 1980s.
Doris Day “I Only Have Eyes For You”: If you don’t know who Doris Day was then you should Google her. She was arguably the most popular actress of her time. She was a symbol of ’50s America – it is subjective as to whether that is a good or bad thing. No matter your stance on her, her films, or her music, she had a distinctive singing voice – clear, bright, and beautiful. This 1950 album from early in her career shows that she could swing with the best of them, although it was not her most common style.
Kai Winding “Singin’ In The Rain”: Winding was a jazz trombonist from the easy listening era.
Tommy Edwards “It’s All In The Game”: Edwards enjoyed a brief career as a Top 40 artist in the late ’50s, but he will always be best remembered for this song. This song was a #1 hit on the Billboard Top 40 for six weeks in 1958, thus making Edwards the first black artist to hit #1 on the Billboard Top 40 charts. The song is now a pop standard and has been recorded hundreds of times throughout the decades since. The song itself is interesting in that the lyrics were written in 1951 by Carl Sigman, but it was originally an instrumental melody composed in 1911 by Charles G. Dawes as “Melody in A Major.” Dawes later became Vice President of The United States under Calvin Coolidge and won the Nobel Peace Prize. As such, this is the only #1 single written by a U.S. Vice President or a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Elmer Bernstein “Overture (The March From Stripes)”: Bernstein was one of the most prolific and renowned composers of film scores in Hollywood history. If you ever have to answer a trivia question about who composed a film score, you would be wise to guess either John Williams or Elmer Bernstein.
Ray Goulding “Matinee With (meeting of a railroad track)” comedy skit by Bob and Ray: Bob and Ray were a comedy duo who presented sketches (mostly on radio) centered around “man-on-the-street” interviews and other fake news broadcasts. They were hilarious. Bob Elliott was the father of Chris Elliott.
Dan Rowan and Dick Martin “Introduction; Adagio; Allegro”: Rowan and Martin were a comedy duo who turned their schtick of Rowan as the high class intelligentsia and Martin as the promiscuous buffoon into the television show Laugh-In. It was groundbreaking television and, along with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, paved the way for SNL less than ten years later.
Norman Lear “The Jeffersons Theme” by some TV theme song cover band: Norman Lear is The Father of the Modern American Sit-Com. He was the first person to show that television can be thoughtful, progressive, edgy, confrontational, hilarious, and heartfelt all at the same time. The shows he created include All In The Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, One Day At A Time, Sanford & Son, and Good Times. If you think that Leave It To Beaver and The Brady Bunch are the best that a sit-com has to offer then Norman Lear shows are not for you. If you understand that the world is difficult in ways you may not be able to imagine and that corporate, conservative America doesn’t give a shit about you if you are different from them then Norman Lear has had your back for over fifty years.
Bea Arthur and Betty White “The Golden Girls Theme” by unknown: Bea Arthur was an award-winning stage actress before becoming one of the most celebrated television actresses of the ’70s and ’80s. She starred as Maude in both All In The Family and Maude, and played Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls. Betty White was an even more celebrated television actress. She was the First Lady of Gameshows in the ’60s and ’70s, and was Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls, and Elka Ostrovsky on Hot In Cleveland. She enjoyed a renaissance in her 90s as a comedy legend with beloved appearances on Saturday Night Love. Both of these women were groundbreaking performers, winners of almost every award available to them, and always provided the highest level of comedy possible.
Redd Foxx “Kiss Urass Goodbye”: Foxx will always be best remembered as Fred Sanford on Sanford & Son, but he was also a groundbreaking stand-up comic. His raunchy comedy albums from the ’50s and ’60s opened the door for comics of all races to express themselves in ways not always accepted by mainstream society. Lenny Bruce showed that comedy could be thought-provoking and radical. Redd Foxx expanded on that blueprint and also showed that it is okay to say four-letter words and still be f-ing hilarious.
Illinois Jacquet (and Lorraine Gordon) “Jumpin’ At The Woodside (Live At The Village Vanguard)”: Lorraine Gordon was a jazz music advocate and owner of the Village Vanguard. She began her jazz advocacy while married to Alfred Lion, the co-founder of Blue Note Records. She and her husband recorded artists such as Sidney Bechet and Thelonious Monk in the ’40s, and propelled the Blue Note label into becoming the most important jazz label of the 20th century. In 1949 she married Max Gordon, owner of the Village Vanguard club in New York and served as artistic director. During her tenure at the club, she began the now famous practice of recording live jazz at the club. Illinois Jacquet was one of the most celebrated jazz saxophonists of the 20th century. He worked with all of the greats, and led his own orchestra for decades. Most famously, when he was only nineteen he recorded a sax solo on the tune “Flying Home” in 1942 for Lionel Hampton’s band. This was the first recorded saxophone solo in R&B history. Although they went at it in very different ways, both Gordon and Jacquet were instrumental in helping develop the sounds of jazz, R&B, and rock and roll.
Dorothy Donegan “After You’ve Gone”: Donegan was an extremely talented pianist who recorded a handful of jazz albums in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. She played a form of jazz piano called stride, as well as boogie-woogie. She also performed classical piano and was the first black person, male or female, to perform at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall with a concert that included Rachmaninoff and jazz performances. She was a protégé of Art Tatum, but her recordings were ignored for almost fifty years. She was a woman playing in a man’s world, she demanded equal pay for her work, she was black – in other words, she didn’t stand a chance at being treated fairly or equally. She was a groundbreaking pioneer who was lost to history for half a century, but now you can listen to streaming reissues of her recordings and live performances and see just how amazing she was as a performer and musician. She is my favorite discovery of this week’s show.
Joe Dodge “Lover” by The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Joe Dodge was the drummer for Brubeck’s group from 1953-56. His driving style was emblematic of the cool jazz sound developed by Brubeck in the early ’50s.
Judy Garland “Over The Rainbow (live at Carnegie Hall)”: Judy Garland was a legend. If you don’t know who she is or how important she was, go watch The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me In St. Louis, and then listen to this live album from 1961.
Al Dvorin “Closing Vamp aka Elvis Has Left The Building”: It seems hard to believe that the phrase “Elvis has left the building” was an actual phrase spoken at the end of Elvis concerts and not just an apocryphal fairy tale, but it really was. The first person to use the phrase was Horace Logan in 1956. He used the phrase to get the audience to quiet down so that the next performer could come on stage. The actual statement made by Logan was All right, all right, Elvis has left the building. I’ve told you absolutely straight up to this point. You know that. He has left the building. He left the stage and went out the back with the policemen and he is now gone from the building. The phrase was used sporadically during the ’60s, but in the ’70s it became a standard line spoken at the end of every concert by Al Dvorin. Dvorin was Presley’s agent early in his career, and then the booker for opening acts at Presley concerts, and finally the announcer for those concerts throughout the ’70s. What better way to end this week’s show than with those famous words.
Artist of the Week: Norman Lear
Norman Lear is one hundred years old and counting! The last time I saw him on tv, he was presenting a reworking of some of his old sitcom episodes with new actors in a live setting and he was still sharp as a tack and funny as hell.
Thanks for listening (and reading)!
|1||Johnny Costa||Won’t You Be My Neighbor|
|2||Dominik Hauser||The Flintstones Theme|
|3||Eddie Calvert||Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White|
|4||Mongo Santamaria||Watermelon Man|
|8||Yma Sumac||Gopher Mambo|
|9||Gloria Lasso||Tout Ca|
|10||Collegium Cantorum||Gry: No. 2, Entliczek|
|11||Jean-Pierre Rampal||The Four Seasons – Concerto No. 1 in E Major|
|12||Geeta Dutt||Ghunghat Ke Pat Khol|
|13||Bhimsen Joshi||Murali Dwaniya|
|14||Abbey Simon||12 Etudes, Op. 10: No. 2 in A Minor|
|15||Charles Brown||Black Night|
|16||Ray Charles||Ain’t That Fine|
|17||Vince Guaraldi Trio||Oh, Good Grief|
|18||Charles Mingus||II B.S.|
|19||Lenny Bruce (not available on Spotify)||The Steve Allen Show|
|20||Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner (not available on Spotify)||Fabiola|
|21||Jimmy Lloyd||I Got A Rocket In My Pocket|
|23||Tiny Grimes and His Rocking Highlanders||Call Of The Wild|
|24||Beatles, The||Do You Want To Know A Secret|
|25||Neal Hefti||Batman Theme|
|26||TV Theme Band||Spiderman Theme|
|28||Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis||Four|
|29||Jean Ritchie||Use Of A Pick|
|30||Slim Harpo||I’m A King Bee|
|31||Kay Starr||The Rock and Roll Waltz|
|32||Gale Storm||Why Do Fools Fall In Love|
|33||Doris Day||I Only Have Eyes For You|
|34||Kai Winding||Singin’ In The Rain|
|35||Tommy Edwards||It’s All In The Game|
|36||Elmer Bernstein||Overture (The March from Stripes)|
|37||Bob & Ray||Matinee With (Joining of Two Tracks)|
|38||Rowan & Martin||Indroduction; Adagio; Allegro|
|39||Tinseltown Singers||Jeffersons Theme|
|40||TV Theme Band||The Golden Girls Theme|
|41||Redd Foxx||Kiss Urass Goodbye|
|42||Illinois Jacquet||Jumpin’ at the Woodside (Live at the Village Vanguard)|
|43||Dorothy Donegan||After You’ve Gone|
|44||Dave Brubeck Quartet||Lover|
|45||Judy Garland||Over the Rainbow (Live at Carnegie Hall)|
|46||Elvis Presley||Closing Vamp (“Elvis Has Left The Building” – Al Dvorin)|