Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Monday, October 05, 2009
But for the meantime, Smith had talent and beauty to spare and was able maintain a highly active career, especially in nightclubs and on TV shows such as the Hollywood Palace, and Ozzie and Harriet. Later on, she also was featured with another fine singer Frankie Randall in much of the national advertising for 1968 Chevrolet Motor Cars, appearing in TV commercials and print ads for the vehicles for several months.
In the early 1960s, Jennie would find safe harbor in the protectorate of U.S. TV star Steve Allen, who had also, earlier on, taken up the cause of such burgeoning young singers as Andy Williams, Steve Lawrence, and Eydie Gorme. Smith made her first guest appearance on Allen’s popular Sunday night primetime TV variety show in 1957 and would eventually join his five-times-a-week series in 1963. After the Allen Show went off the air the following year, Smith continued with her career for a time, appearing at such popular spots as New York’s Michael’s Pub and on TV’s Johnny Carson Show.
Much like Jo Stafford who packed it in around the mid-1960s, Smith also realized that she could not continue to buck popular music trends forever, and so she too, in the latter part of that decade, departed show business in favor of marriage and home life. Not yet thirty, she had had a remarkable run of 15 years as a professional. Quite a feat for one who was still so young and in control of her musical powers. For nearly thirty years she was also part of the business world. Retired now, she is still happily married and living in Southern California.
The new cover of this (originally) 1963 Canadian-American album, Nightly Yours on the Steve Allen Show, features a photo supplied to SSJ Records by Smith herself.
* This issue also contains a bonus track of one of the singer's single for Can-Am, "As I Love You."
MORT GARSON (ARR)
- Stephen Holden, The New York Times
“... a natural swinger who understands lyrics, is blessed with a smooth baritone voice, and has the musical sensitivity to find approaches to each song that make his versions of even the most frequently performed standards sound fresh...”
- Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz
“... a dazzling new singer... I have not been broadsided by a voice this way in many years... words fail to adequately describe the thrill of hearing someone with this much talent and class.”
- Rex Reed
“… one of the most dynamic vocal debuts of the past decade…”
- Christopher Loudon
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Final version of notes for upcoming Jane Harvey October 21, 2009 issue on SSJ Records:
"This album is Atlantic's Record's 1988 The Other Side of Sondheim, by Jane Harvey, as it was originally envisioned. The recording took place in New York City with the Mike Renzi Trio, but was overdubbed by the Ray Ellis Orchestra in Los Angeles by the label. To release this authentic version has long been Jane's dream.
Jane Harvey was born Phyllis Taff in Jersey City, NJ. In the mid-1940s, she auditioned and got a job at Cafe Society, owned by Barney Josephson. Know as "Phyllis" or "Taffy" growing up, she changed her name to Jane Harvey in honor of Barney's favorite scotch, Harvey's.
Hearing Jane in the club in 1944, John Hammond was so impressed that he did not miss the chance to bring Benny Goodman to the spot. Jane immediately became Goodman's band singer and made several recordings with the outfit.
In 1945, she sang at the Blue Angel with the legendary Ellis Larkins at the piano. [Then] Latin bandleader Desi Arnaz heard her there in 1946 and asked her to go to the west coast to appear on the Bob Hope radio show. How could she refuse?
In Los Angeles, Jane appeared on the Hope show four times, sang at Ciro's longer than initially contracted, and signed with both RCA and 20th Century-Fox.
As time went on, her singing career took a back seat to marriage, motherhood and other interests.
Jane fell in love with the music of Stephen Sondheim and held a tribute to him in a jazz vein at Freddy's in NYC in 1986. Her concerts were so sensational that Sondheim himself showed up one night. She had never met him before, but after the show Sondheim was very compimentary and they talked and exchanged ideas. That night was the inspiration for this album."
Aside from being available in its original small group format for the first time, two other things differentiate this version from its original release: the addition of four never released tracks AND a new 2009 recording by Jane of "Send In the Clowns" to replace the original one that she feels was sonically inferior. Her voice sounds unchanged on this, her first recording in more than two decades.
Although I had no participation in this particular SSJ Records release, nevertheless its issue resulted in my fortuitously having lunch with Jane Harvey twice over the past few weeks. I came away from both occasions with the sense that she is --- as they say ---one really one sharp cookie. It feels/seems to me as though she has never forgotten anything she ever once learned, experienced or knew.
It turns out that she and I are both major fans of James Gavin's recent bio of Lena Horne, Stormy Weather. So much so that she has been going around to stores requesting they display the book prominently. . .if it is not being done so already. In passing, I said to Jane over coffee, "It is not so much a biography as it is an adventure novel." That is to say, put the book in the hands of just about any halfway literate person and it becomes a real page turner. The trick, of course, is how to direct their maws to it in the first place.
For the record, Jane IS NOT retired. She is still very much interested in performing. Something quite wonderful in that regard might happen very soon. Stay tuned and when and if it comes to pass, you'll "hear" about it right here. 10/11/09 Update here.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
INTRODUCTION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
Two Print Premieres
Chapter 1. The Good Girl: Lucille Bremer and the
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Golden Age of MGM. . . . . .5
Chapter 2. Joe Louis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Chapter 3. Spike Jones: The Prince of Parody . . . . . . 83
Chapter 4. Lord Buckley: Lord of the Hepcats. . . . . . 97
Chapter 5. Sally Marr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . .. .. 113
The Music Men
Chapter 6. Walter Shenson and the Beatles. . . . . . . . . 126
Chapter 7 Sam Phillips . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
Chapter 8. Tommy and Al . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140
Chaper 9. Alan Livingston . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
Chapter 10. Joel Dorn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .168
About the author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .184
Initially, "The Good Girl: Lucille Bremer and the Golden Age of MGM,” was intended to be one chapter in a volume about Hollywood movie moguls and their alleged (in some instances) mistresses that my good friend and constant traveling companion, David Ehrenstein and I were planning to write. Other chapters would have been devoted the likes of Darryl F. Zanuck, who made a veritable cottage industry of starlet-mistresses and, perhaps, William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies. (Although that one has probably been anthologized, analyzed and, retrospected to death enough already!)
But the linchpin of the book would have been the rather well-known affair between Herbert J. Yates, head of Republic Pictures and Consolidated Film Laboratories, and former Czech figure skater, turned actress (of sorts) Vera Hruba Ralston). It is somewhat amusing and ironic that Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, which was supposed to be a film à clef of Davies and Hearst was much closer to the saga of Yates and Ralston. For while hardly anyone ever questioned the acting abilities of Davies, in Welles' masterpiece, Kane's opera singer, “Susan Alexander” was endlessly derided, much like Ralston, for the questionable talent that they brought, respectively, to the opera stage and the movie screen.
At the beginning of Yates and Ralston's affair, he was already married. Eventually, he divorced his first wife for Ralston, and the two lived happily ever after. . .or at least until his death in 1966. This, despite the fact the twenty-six mostly expensive and mostly flops the actress made for Yates played a major part in the eventual demise of Republic in 1958.
Why this whiplash inducing digression right out of the Introductory starting gate?, you might well ask. Simply because, whenever David and I, in verbal pitches to agents and editors, got to the part about Ralston, invariably the response was, “Vera Hruba. . . WHO?” Ah, well, as the great Lenny Bruce once remarked of something or someone in one or another of his routines, “Ah, how quickly we forget!” For it seems as if it was only yesterday that V.H.R. was burning up the silver screen in her last Republic potboiler, 1958's The Notorious Mr. Monks (“A hapless hitchhiker takes a ride with a drunk driver who takes him to his house. There he meets the driver's wife [Ralston] and murder ensues. “) In other words, for purposes of David's and my book, any reference to the actress, who died in 2003, proved to be, as they say, just a skosh too hip for the house.
As far as potential editors and publishers were concerned, that also seemed to be the case with most of the other biographical personae contained herein. At one time,not so long ago, the three most famous “people” in the world were considered to Mickey Mouse, Albert Einstein, and Joe Louis (also profiled herein). But, alas, when it came to the latter, even his name drew mostly black stares from book pub types. Again. . .“Ah, how quickly we forget.” And, as for 1940s recording superstar, Spike Jones---also contained herein---fuhgedaboutit!
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Here's a comment I posted yesterday on the L.A. Weekly web site where I first came across the story:
Aeons ago, I worked with Evil Slime Letch (a close enough anagram) in a ticket booth at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Hey. . .a girl's gotta eat!) Even then, his on-the-make modus operandi made Anne Baxter in "All About Eve" seem positively altruistic by comparison. He wanted IT in the worst possible way. Now, it looks like he might have to give a whole bunch of moolah back; but at least he made a lot of bread in exchange for all his trouble. Even his heroine, Pauline Kael, probably didn't make THAT much!
I once asked him if his birth name was "Elvis." He changed the subject mighty quickly.