Friday, September 04, 2015

IT'S TOMMY WOLF'S BIRTHDAY (1925-1979)



As hard as I try to avoid doing so, it seems pert nigh impossible not to append that hoary adjectival overkill LEGENDARY to his name. Among Tommy Wolf's other co-creations with lyricist Fran Landesman are two bonafide somewhat late-blooming additions to the classics section of the Great American Songbook, "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," [HEAR HERE]and "All the Sad Young Men." And there dozens of lesser known ones from the duo that are just as memorable: "You Smell So Good," "Listen Little Girl," "Season in the Sun," etc. many of which have been covered by the equally, uh, well, ummm, legendary performing duo of Jackie and Roy. And on the Bill Black CD that I produced for Japan, there is a Wolfsong (with lyrics by the elusive Wayne Arnold rarity "So It's Spring." Wolf was nearly as gifted a lyricist (on the rare occasions when he acted in that capacity); also a fine pianist and vocalist. In 2003 I played a part in overseeing the reissue of singer Bobbi Rogers' albu, "Tommy Wolf Can Really Hang You Up the Most."At the very last minute, when Wolf's widow/publisher couldn't (make that "wouldn't) supply the songs' lyrics for the CD booklet, I copied them while auditing the recording. At first, it proved a bit slow-going and tedious, but finally, when I realized just how good (was there ever any doubt?) Wolf's music and Fran Landesman's lyrics are, I realllly got into the process of playing lines over and over again to get it just right (they really hold up even under the closest of scrutiny).

Thursday, September 03, 2015

WAYYYYY BENEATH RADAR

I've been known to be called The Diva Detective due to my ability to track down salient facts regarding female (and male, too) jazz singers. Who why what where & when kind of info. And, in fact, I've only been totally stumped once, i.e. whatever happened to Kay Penton?; did she run off into the wilds with Rafael Trujillo or not? Somewhat curiously, the chanteuse in question, Claudia Thompson, seems to've been L.A.-based. At least that is where her one (1) album was recorded. Also making her total un-Googleability (except for multitudinous net entries to the LP) a bit perplexing are the pedigrees of the players, i.e. Barney Kessel, Benny Carter, Joe Mondragon, Alvy Stoller, Dick Nash, Red Mitchell et al. Topping off the curious lack of remembrance of Thompson is the absolute wonderfulness of the singing AND the songs (a nice mix of the well-known, i.e Body and Soul - and the unknown: Sam Coslow's The Morning After).Every year or so I get bitten in the behind by the riddle and I become (to mix metaphors) like a dog with a bone (digging thru old Billboards and L.A, Times, etc.) Thompson is so low-keyed on most of the tracks she almost makes Julie London, in comparison, sound, like Sophie Tucker. Thompson just sings the song and goes home. Anyone out there in Great American Songbookland have any thoughts re: this riddle?

Monday, August 31, 2015

The real FACE IN THE CROWD

It's Arthur Godfrey birthday time on 8/31. He'd be 107. Why do we still remember him? Because overnight on November 19, 1953 Godfrey managed the extraordinary feat of going overnight from being the most beloved figure in show biz to, in all likelihood, the most reviled. Read all about it here: www.juliuslarosa.com/julie'sstory.html
From this blog of a while ago:
Such a bastard, in fact, was Godfrey that his wife of 40-some~odd years divorced him on her deathbed in 1983. Talk about having the last word!

Maybe Gertrude Stein never really replied, “What is the question?” to Alice B. Toklas’ “What is the answer“?“ And perhaps it's not true that jazz drummer Buddy Rich, when asked by a doctor, “ls there anything you’re allergic to?” replied “Yes, county and western music.“ One would like to think, though, that these are not apocryphal true stories.

And it's also "nice" to think that, according to singer Julius LaRosa, when Godfrey was on HIS deathbed and a nurse inquired, “Is there anything we can get you, sir?” “Yes,” he is said to have answered. “Get me some friends.”
LaRosa told me that one a while back in an e-mail, He also wrote to me at the time: “And another display of the man‘s personality/character, which recollection still stuns me. It‘s a Thursday afternoon, he's just flown me and [singer] Ian Davis to his farm in Virginia, At the airport, his wife and son, I guess 9 or 10 years old, are there to greet him. As the "Old Man" steps off the ladder his son comes up, extends his hand and says, “How do you do, Sir?" To his father!! An image which still astonishes mel”

Sunday, August 30, 2015

DRAMATIS PERSONAE OF: THE LEONARD REED STORY: BRAINS AS WELL AS FEET 

Eddie “Rochester” Anderson Joe Louis   Tallulah Bankhead   Molly Picon Joe Louis Tiger Woods Jack Benny Ruth Brown Willie Bryant Walter Winchell Dusty Fletcher Florenz Ziegfeld Duke Ellington Ethel Waters Abbey Lincoln Lester Young Peg Leg Bates Moms Mabley Nina Simone Dinah Washington Carl Van Vechten Bessie Smith Bill “Bojangles” Robinson Edith Piaf Sunshine Sammy Fayard Nicholas Sammy Davis Ted Rhodes Tony Martin Cyd Charisse Louis Armstrong Lloyd Mangrum John Garfield Charlie Mingus Rae Dawn Chong Oscar Micheaux Olsen and Johnson Lena Horne Sam Snead Herb Jeffries Molly Picon Princess Wee Wee James Brown Roy Hamilton Diahann Carroll Butterbeans and Susie Fats Waller David Merrick Gene Krupa Ella Fitzgerald Al Capone Will Marion Cook Pigmeat Markham Bille Holiday Laura Bowman Bunny Briggs King Rastus Brown Thomas E. Dewey Earl Fatha Hines Nora Ray Holt Whitman Sisters Mary Lou Williams Sarah Vaughan Ben Hogan Sophie Tucker Ethel Barrymore Ink Spots Louis Armstrong Van Dyke Parks Mills Brothers Frank Rich Johnny Otis Valaida Snow Max Schmeling Harold Nicholas Frankie Lymon et al.