Thursday, January 31, 2008


I'm happy to report that my good friend, John Wood, who I met through these pages, now has three of his wonderful albums available again at CD Baby. I have written a fair amount about John hereabouts. Not only is he a great musician, but he has many perceptive things to say about today's social-political-cultural climate. He's done such a fine job as the President of the Society for the Rehumanization of American Music, I think I'll write HIM in next Tuesday.

Here are a couple of sound samples of John: "Guillermo's Ants" and "Summertime" (Pardon the sonic interruptus.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Beverly Kenney

My liner notes for the 2006 Japanese SSJ Records release, "Snuggled on Your Shoulder":

Beverly Kenney was born in Harrison, New Jersey on January 29, 1932 and began her professional singing career in Miami Beach in 1953. The following year she joined the Dorsey Brothers band, but only remained with them for a few months before going solo again. And by 1955 she was well on her way.

In 1955 alone she recorded three albums accompanied by the likes of Ralph Burns, Johnny Smith and a small group contingent from the Basie band for the small but prestigious Roost label. And there were appearances in a number of top clubs, like Chicago's Mister Kelly's and on major national TV shows, such as Steve Allen's. In 1957 she signed with a major label, Decca. But by 1960 it was all over. Beset by changing mass tastes in music (Kenney once wrote a song entitled "I Hate Rock and Roll"), suffering money woes, and complicated most likely by undiagnosed manic depression, on April 13th of that year she committed suicide.

It is somehow fitting that the issue of this previously unreleased vocal-piano set, the first "new" material by Beverly Kenney in nearly a half-century, should occur in Japan where critics and fans have long continued to revere and appreciate her.

In addition to the ten duet sides, included is a bonus track that Kenney made early iu her career as part of a tap dance instruction recording. Labeled on the original 78 rpm as "Gay Chicks," the song is in fact a pop tune based on an old African-American saying, "A Chicken Ain't Nothin' But a Bird."
--- Bill Reed

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Chacun a son gout

How could I have gone for 13 years without being aware of this extraordinary album by the---they are to be forgiven--- Christian vocal group, Glad? A masterpiece!

(Update) To which a reader later replied:

Ah yes, good ol' Glad. They will go down in history as one of the
first sugar-coated male vocal groups to closet themselves for nearly two decades. They literally have two identities; one as hymn singing upstanding christians, and the male peacocks of a cappella.

For that reason alone I cannot stomach them. That, and the fact that they tend to wear off after about two listens. But that's me.

I saw them attempt something Live in the early 90's and it fell flat, but that's true w/ most any "studio group" w/ the exception of the Hi-Lo's.

I'm glad you're glad. = ) Thanks for sending just the same.

Oh, well, I guess that's what makes horse races, chocolate and vanilla, ummm, diff'rent strokes, etc.

Happy Birthday Will Marion Cook

Part 1 of "Soundtrack for a Documentary Based on the Life of Will Marion Cook"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

No one will ever guess. . .

. . .who's singing this:

1. Nope, it's not Stephanie Powers

Sunday, January 20, 2008

That. . .FACE?

The death last week of my friend songwriter Lou Spence couldn't help but awaken in me memories of the one occasion when I met Marilyn Bergman, one-half of the lyric-writing duo of, well. . . The Bergmans. The twosome were erstwhile writing partners of Lew, and to note that there was not a lot of love lost between Spence and the couple is more than an understatement; something to do with the not-uncommon show biz issues of money and credits. So what else is nu?

To read Marilyn Bergman's rather patronizing posthumous remarks about Lew in the L.A. Times' Spence obit should give one a sense of why this was, perhaps, ultimately a bad professional pairing. Saying something to the effect that poor dear Lew should have become so much more famous than he was (and as "we ARE" was the implication). To which I can only respond with EEEEEEEK! But I digress as is my wont. The subject at hand is my (mercifully) one-and-only meeting with Marilyn Bergman.

Twenty-some years ago I was at a Michel Legrand scoring session. I no longer recall the name of the movie but the date was here in Hollywood. Also present was my friend Nat Shapiro, Michel's manager (though Legrand tended to refer to Nat as "my brother" rather than "my manager"). The session took place only a couple of days after I had interviewed Jo Stafford and Paul Weston for the paper, "The L.A. Reader." And, lo and behold, who should be seated directly next to me, in the control booth, but Marilyn Bergman who was there not for professional reasons but had just dropped by to say hello to Legrand. Since I come from the "old school" and happen to know how to make rudimentary conversational sallies (mind you, Bergman was seated directly to one side of me), and inasmuch as I was aware that Jo Stafford and Marilyn were friends, I thought that my proximity to the latter that day was not without its small-worldish aspects. And so I turned to her and introduced myself, adding that I happened to have just interviewed "a good friend of yours." I then waited for the inevitable:
"Oh?" OR:
"Who?" OR even a nice, salty:
"How should I know who you're talking about?", etc.

The kind of things that they teach you in Basic Conversationalese 101. But nothing was forthcoming other than a most horrifying, withering look that was as if to say:

"Who gave you permisson to approach the throne?"

Now I knew just how Margaret O'Brien felt in "Meet Me in St. Louis" when she knocked on the old crone's door.

Perhaps I should have cut my losses and just got up and walked away. . .certainly that would have been no ruder than Bergman's behavior. But basic civility got the better of me. Surely, I thought, if I am able to spit out the name of Bergman's friend, that will clear the air and allow her to appear as something other than the harridan that she was rapidly becoming in my eyes. And so. . .I muddled on with my conversational gambit and stammered "J-j-jo S-s-stafford." Surely Bergman would at least muster up the politesse to respond with something along the lines of:
"Oh, yes, dear Jo. How is she?" OR:
"Isn't she great?" OR:
"Seems like I've known her forever." OR:
"Wonderful singer." OR:
"Great!" OR:
"That reminds me, I should give her a call." OR:
"How did the interview go?" OR:
"I didn't know they were back from Tahoe." OR:
"How's her hangnail?" OR:
. . .well, you catch my drift.

But there was no reaction whatsoever. In the immortal words of Lenny Bruce, "Nada, zip, Mount Rushmore, nothing!" Perhaps just the faintest hint crossed her face, as if to say: "If you wanna talk with me, buster, you're gonna have to do better than that." She just turned away. I felt as if I had just STEPPED on the proverbial ping-pong ball.

Okay, so maybe Lew didn't end up as famous as the Bregmans, but at least he managed to hang onto his soul and a sense of basic human decency. He was the exception to the C.B. DeMille axiom in "Sunset Boulevard" that proves the rule that "a dozen press agents working overtime can do horrible things to the human spirit."

Lew's sister says that the first song her brother ever wrote, while still an adolescent, was entitled "Daddy's Home 'Cause the Toilet Seat's Up." Let's see the Bergmans try and top that!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Doc's Poetry Corner

"I Hate Rock and Roll"
music: Ray Passman
lyrics: Beverly Kenney

I'm growing weary of teenage hoods
Motorbikes, blue jeans and Natalie Woods
I'm tired of rebels without a cause
Say, whatever happened to Santa Claus
Rules of the road and Baby Ruth?
I for one must tell the truth

I don't care who knows it
I hate rock and roll
I don't care who knows it
I hate rock and roll

I want to say I love you
In the natural way
Don't want to say
I luh-uh-love you
No, not that way
I don't care who knows it
I hate rock and roll

Young luh-ove, true luh-ove is over-rated
And blue suede shoes
They should be confiscated
What is the answer to a teenage prayer?
Frankly speaking I don't care, I don't care

I don't care who knows it
I hate rock and roll
I don't care who knows it
I swear that I hate rock and roll

I don't want to swing a hip
Or swing a guitar
Or anything to do with that ver-nac-u-lar
I don't care who knows
So I'm last on the hit record polls
Cause I hate rock and roll
(4 bar scat)
Cause I hate rock and roll

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Think peace

On the listserve Songbirds, a recent thread deals with the kind of rent-paying swill that a lot of otherwise perfectly fine singers were increasingly saddled with in the 1950s. One title in particular cropped up, a little something called "Pepper Hot Baby." In fact, the lyrics happened to be by an otherwise fine vocalist of the day, Jaye P. Morgan, who actually had a hit with this thing.

Singer Dick Noel, whose great '79 standards album has just been re-released in Japan, only had one significant hit on his own (not counting a couple with bandleader Ray Anthony), entitled "Hot Dog, That Made Her Mad." I've yet to hear it and I don't think I want to.

Jo Stafford was the only known singer (perhaps not even Crosby?) at a major label who did not have to pay for their sessions; thus, she once told me, she felt impelled to record just about anything that Columbia (make that Mitch Miller) threw at her. Therefore, she might have had a higher percentage of real schlaggers than any other great singer of that era, i.e. (early---and not their finest---Bacharach and David) "Underneath the Overpass," "Chow Willy" (!), "Someone's Been Reading My Mail," "The Temple of an Understanding Heart," etc. In retrospect she seemed to me not so much amused by this set of circumstances, as she was, a touch, bitter.

The singer with the lowest percentage of garbage in her discography is most likely Lena Horne. There might not be a single out-and-out clunker. Sinatra didn't do a lot of junk either, but took a disproportionate amount of flak for the immortal "Mama Will Bark" enacted under the aegis of (again) Mitch Miller, of whom the late jounalist and record producer Joel E. Siegel once wrote, was where American pop paused on its way down in the 1950s, long enough for rock and roll to get its foot in the door, or words to that effect.

Tony Bennett doesn't have a lot of love for his big (here's that man again) Mitch Miller-produced hit, "In the Middle of an Island," But, in retrospect, it doesn't strike me as alllll that dreadful. And Rosemary Clooney finally made her peace with the career-defining, "Come on-a My House," which the bearded one (M.M.)insisted she record. . .or else.

Compared to what's going down musically today, both songs strike one as compositions of near-Cole Porterian proportions.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Contest winner (see below)

"We have a winner in the balcony, Doctor, who correctly guessed 'Brazil's Dick Haymes---Dick Farney.'" One might also deem him "Brazil's Stan Kenton" or "Brazil's Oscar Peterson." A triple threat artist if there ever was one. Farney also attempted to get a career going North of the Border as long ago as the mid-1940s, but never had much success. As recently as the 1960s he had a long run playing and singing at the Waldorf in NYC. If you also guessed that I'm a fan of his, you're right on the money.

There were other entries with the correct answer, but they arrived after the winning one.

For more on Farney, visit this Brazilian site: . This will yield more than a dozen Farney albums. Only today, they've added a 17-minute docu on him. In Portuguese mostly, but. . .hey!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Mystery Singer Contest #14

Guess this Mystery Singer (mp3 link for a limited time only) and win a free copy of a recent SSJ Records (Japan) release. Deadline for entries 10 am Monday. First person with correct answer wins. Those 8-years-old or younger not eligible. email your answer to . One entry per email address. No employees of Landfill Productions or their relatives are eligible. Void where prohibited by law. We'll be right back after this message from Liquid Prell.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lew Spence R.I.P.

Nice 'n' Easy sung by Pinky Winters, music: Lew Spence; lyrics: Lew Spence, M.& A. Bergman