Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More on Don Raye

At the present time, I am involved in record master licensing in Japan. This month, I have been working on a previously unreleased recording by former Gene Krupa "boy singer," Bill Black. He was not only the longest --- 18 months --- in the lineage of same, but also the very last. The great Krupa bop band closed down in the Spring of 1950, and Bill turned out the lights. He died in '85. This recording is problematic in that it is an entire guitar-bass session, but as of now I do not yet know identity of either player. I would hate to use the"unk." word.

Yesterday morning I played the 1958 recording for the great jazz guitarist Al Viola. "I could send you a copy," I said. He replied, "Nah. Just play it over the phone."And I did. It was just like being back in high school.

His response, in brief, was: "At first it sounded a bit like me, but I think I would remember." After a few more bars, he was certain that it wasn't. He added: "Besides myself, there were only two other guitarists that I know of who were playing and soloing extensively in that blocked chord style at the time, Barney Kessel and Howard Roberts. It really is an attempt to copy the sound of the first Julie London album, isn't it? I tend to think it sounds more like Howard than Barney."

The key to the identity of the musicians, I have discovered -- a longgggggstory, is the great lyricist, Don Raye, who died in 1985. My research on Raye prompted me write a blog entry about him here a few days ago.

I have made many phone calls the past few days regarding Don Raye to even some who I would consider "insider" Hollywood music scene types, but you would be surprised how many times I've been the recipient from the other end of the line of, "Don who?" (Don Ho).

Raye might not have been America's greatest song lyricist---I wouldn't swear on a stack o bibles to that---but surely he was the most versatile. Were even the vaunted likes of Porter, Berlin and Ira Gerswin capable of such diverse lyrics as the hepsmokeareefer "Mister Five by Five," contrasted with the sensitive "I'll Remember April." Or "Cow Cow Boogie" AND "You Don't Know What Love Is."

Ah well! While Raye may have fallen through the cracks of music history, his legatees are having the last laugh; probably being compensated for this culturally criminal oversight to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars a year (if not more).

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