Posts Tagged ‘Bert Kaempfert’

Wandering Around

May 31, 2017

Originally posted June 17, 2009

Wandering the upper levels of the cable offerings last evening, I happened upon a boxing match on one of the premium channels. I’ve never watched a lot of boxing, but when I come across it by accident, I sometimes watch for a few minutes. I did so last evening, and I got to thinking about a time when boxing was on network television on a regular basis.

The program I recall was The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, airing Friday evenings in the late 1950s and early 1960s, or so my memory told me. I didn’t really watch the show, but I sure remembered the theme song. Here’s a long instrumental version of the theme song that’s been used – for some reason – as a background for video of penguins. Here’s the theme – titled “Look Sharp – Be Sharp (Gillette March)” – as recorded in 1954 by the Boston Pops:

So, thinking about The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, I wandered over to Wikipedia, where I read that the show had run on Friday evenings into 1960 on NBC and had then moved to ABC. That made sense: I have vague memories of the show on NBC, but I also remember seeing prime-time boxing on KMSP, which was at the time ABC’s affiliate in the Twin Cities. (Watching shows on KMSP was sometimes an iffy proposition, as the station distinguished itself during the years of roof-top antennas by having the weakest signal of all four commercial stations in the Twin Cities.)

Wandering further into the topic, I checked the 1960-61 prime time TV schedule at Wikipedia and found no listing on ABC for The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports. Digging around a bit, I learned that ABC moved the show to Saturdays and renamed it Fight of the Week. Having resolved that, I spent some time looking at the prime time television schedules for 1959-60 and 1960-61.

And I found that fascinating, a real memory trip: National Velvet, The Red Skelton Show, Sugarfoot, Hong Kong, 77 Sunset Strip, Law of the Plainsman, Hawaiian Eye and on and on. I don’t recall watching them all, but I remember the titles. Of course, I did see some of those shows. One of my favorites was 77 Sunset Strip, a show about two detectives in Los Angeles that starred, among others, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who went on to star later in the 1960s and 1970s in The F.B.I., and Ed Byrnes, whose hair-combing character, Kookie, inspired the 1959 hit, “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb),” which Byrnes recorded with Connie Stevens. The record went to No. 4. Here are Byrnes and Stevens during an appearance on the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show from April 4, 1959 (not American Bandstand, as I originally guessed).

We’ve wandered a little afield here. I’m sure I didn’t see that particular performance, nor did I hear the record until many years later. My interest at the time was the drama – such as it was – on 77 Sunset Strip, which ran from 1958 into 1964. Here’s a version of the theme from the show (I think it’s the original, but I’m not at all certain):

“77 Sunset Strip” written by Mack David and Jerry Livingston [1958]

And then, here’s a selection from 1960, which is the year that The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports moved from NBC to ABC:

A Six-Pack from 1960
“New Orleans” by Gary U.S. Bonds, Legrand 1003 [Peak: No. 6]
“Wonderland by Night” by Bert Kaempfert, Decca 31141 [Peak: No. 1 in 1961]
“Walking to New Orleans” by Fats Domino, Imperial 5675 [Peak: No. 6]
“Theme from ‘The Apartment’” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists 231 [Peak: No. 10]
“Save the Last Dance For Me” by the Drifters, Atlantic 2071 [Peak: No. 1]
“Last Date” by Floyd Cramer, RCA 7775 [Peak: No. 2]

Bonus Track
“A Fool In Love” by Ike & Tina Turner, Sue 730 [No. 20]

Well, throw in some Everly Brothers, a Johnny Horton tune, a Frankie Avalon tune, some Dion & The Belmonts, then add Elvis, Percy Faith and Connie Francis, and you’d have a pretty good idea of how 1960 sounded.

When I pulled the first six tracks to share today, I didn’t realize that all of them were Top Ten records. That tells me that radio listening might not have been as bad in 1960 as I tend to think it was. (I certainly don’t remember what pop radio sounded like in 1960; I turned seven that year, and I don’t recall listening to much of anything at all. So anything I know about music in 1960 – except for piano exercises by John W. Schaum – comes from learning about it long after the fact.) On the other hand, the year also provided listeners with “Running Bear” by Johnny Preston, “Teen Angel” by Mark Dining and “Mr. Custer” by Larry Verne, all of which went to No. 1. So call it a mixed bag.

Revised slightly on archival posting.

‘Going Down The Stoney End . . .’

February 20, 2015

The Texas Gal and I were killing time between television shows the other night. She played a game on her laptop while I read a copy of Rolling Stone as the Seventies channel on the TV provided the soundtrack. There was a flourish of drums followed by a ringing piano introduction, and Barbra Streisand sang:

I was born from love and my poor mother worked the mines
I was raised on the good book Jesus
Till I read between the lines
Now I don’t believe I wanna see the morning

And as I listened to Streisand deliver “Stoney End,” one of Laura Nyro’s (perhaps) less cryptic songs, I wondered who played piano on the track, as the piano intro and the later piano fills are two of the things that make me like the record more than I like a lot of Streisand’s work. So when the song ended, I went to the stacks to check out the Stoney End album jacket, but it turns out I don’t have the vinyl of the 1971 album. All I have is a digital copy scavenged from somewhere, and the album credits I find online list several keyboard players, so I don’t know who to thank for that chiming intro on “Stoney End.”

At that point, this post could have gone several different ways. I could assess Streisand’s work in detail, but I gave a brief assessment of my reaction to her work in a 2010 post about a drive-in movie date gone wrong, and nothing has changed my view that Streisand’s career went off the rails – artistically, at least – in 1977 with the ego-trip film A Star Is Born. (The Texas Gal dates the artistic derailment a bit later, with the 1983 release of Yentl. We both agree that early in her career – the 1960s – Streisand was a great interpreter of songs from Broadway and the Great American Songbook.)

And I didn’t really want to turn my interest in Streisand’s “Stoney End” into a post on the late Laura Nyro’s music. You’ve heard folks say about Bob Dylan, “A great songwriter, but man, I cannot stand to listen to him sing,” right? I feel a little bit like that about Laura Nyro: I love her songs, as inscrutable as they may sometimes be, but on too many of her recordings, she sounds shrill to me, so even though I have a little of her work around, I rarely listen to it. Happily enough for today’s exercise, Nyro’s take on “Stoney End” – found on the 1967 album More Than A New Discovery – is one of her better performances, and I quite like it.

So, with both of those versions of “Stoney End” echoing in my ears, I wondered about other versions of the song. And in the past few days, I’ve found nine other covers of the Nyro song, almost all of them jammed between the years 1967 – when Nyro released her version – and 1972, when Bert Kaempfert released, on his album 6 Plus 6, the only easy listening version of the tune I’ve found. (Maynard Ferguson also released an instrumental version of the tune, his coming on his self-titled 1971 album, but being a typically bold and brassy Maynard Ferguson track, one can’t classify it as easy listening.)

From what I find online, the first to cover “Stoney End” were the Blossoms, an R&B backing group with a massive list of credits but perhaps best known for having Darlene Love as one of its members and for being the actual performers on a couple of Phil Spector productions that were credited to the Crystals. The Blossoms recorded “Stoney End” in 1967 for the Ode label. Sharp-eared listeners will note that Love did not take the lead vocal; one of the comments at YouTube notes that in her autobiography (My Name Is Love), Love wrote, “Some of the chorus parts were too high for me, so Jean [Thomas] took the lead.”

Actress and singer Peggy Lipton – whose musical career I examined in a post last summer – recorded the tune in 1968, also for the Ode label, and one doesn’t need to have very sharp ears at all to realize that producer Lou Adler laid Lipton’s vocals over pretty much the same backing track as he’d put together for the Blossoms a year earlier. Lipton’s single release of “Stoney End” was the first one to tickle the Billboard charts, bubbling under the Hot 100 at No. 121. (Streisand’s 1970 single release is the only other version of the song to chart; it went to No. 6 on the Hot 100 and to No. 2 on what was then called the Easy Listening chart.)

A few more covers came along as the 1960s waned and the 1970s dawned: Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys recorded the song for their 1968 album Linda Ronstadt, The Stone Poneys & Friends, Vol. III, Diana Ross recorded the song during the sessions for her self-titled 1970 album, but the track didn’t see the light until 2002, when it showed up as a bonus track, and jazz singer Selena Jones laid down her take on the tune on her 1971 album, Platinum.

And a couple of singers in recent years have recorded the song for tribute albums: Beth Nielsen Chapman added her idiosyncratic take on “Stoney End” to the multi-artist album Time And Love – The Music Of Laura Nyro in 1997, and Broadway singer Judy Kuhn included “Stoney End” on her own tribute album, Serious Playground – The Songs of Laura Nyro, released in 2007.

Of the covers noted in those last two paragraphs, only one stands out to me: The 1968 version by Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys. (And many thanks to reader and pal Yah Shure for providing the mp3 to make the video below.)

Saturday Singles No. 30 & 31

May 10, 2011

Originally posted September 15, 2007

People – well, most people, I think – tend to accumulate stuff. Some do so more than others, I guess.

I’m a packrat. To a little lesser extent, so is the Texas Gal. As I mentioned a little more than a week ago, one of the projects we had in mind for her week off was to clear our closets and the garage of things that we no longer need. Well, we got a good start on it, anyway. The closets in the apartment are a little less full and a whole lot neater than they were at the beginning of that week.

There are still a few boxes in the large bedroom closet that we look at, wondering, “What the heck is in those: videotapes or cookbooks? Or maybe more photo albums?” But at least they’re stacked neatly, not shoved into the closet higgledy-piggledy.

The garage is still to be finished. We spent last Saturday morning pulling boxes down from the pile on the back wall and sorting through them. Whatever we found, it went into one of three piles, depending on its destination: Back into a box, off to the Goodwill store or across the parking lot to the dumpster. We got about halfway done last week and the Goodwill and dumpster piles were about equal, and it seemed as if we were keeping about the same amount as was leaving the garage. Not bad.

And today, pretty much as soon as I post this, we’re heading out to the garage to finish. This week’s work on the back wall should go more rapidly, as we know pretty much what’s in the boxes that are left: A couple of them are Christmas decorations; there are several boxes filled with my tabletop baseball league notebooks; at the bottom of the pile reside a couple of toolboxes filled with things that came from my father’s workbench; and four or five of the boxes are filled with my parents’ collection of National Geographic magazine, from the 1950s up into the 1990s, I would guess.

I imagine that such a collection is extraordinarily common, certainly among the parents of our generation. When I was a kid, when the next month’s National Geographic came, the preceding month’s edition went onto the shelf, next to the others. And when the shelf got full, the oldest year’s worth on the shelf was boxed and stored. The magazines were just too good – doorways to distant places and fascinating information, with some of the best photography one could find anywhere – to just throw them out! So year after year, the magazines went onto the shelf and from the shelf into the box, until the first box was joined by a second, then a third and on and on.

So what to do with them, with maybe six boxes of the magazines, dating back to 1950 or so? (I think the first few years’ worth were salvaged by my father from the library at what was then St. Cloud Teachers College during the early years of his employment there; following those 1950s magazines, there is a gap of about ten years, and then the collection picks up again in the mid-1960s, when I recall my father beginning a subscription for my sister and me.) There is no market to sell them: They are too readily available. The public library has no need of them. (I checked about four years ago, when we were cleaning out Mom and Dad’s place after he died.) They are too old to be of any real use for an assisted living facility or a veterans’ home, some place that otherwise might welcome new reading material.

We could, I suppose, just verify what’s in the boxes and put them back into the stack against the wall, deferring a sad decision for another time. I don’t think we’ll do that, though. But I keep thinking about how much I learned from those magazines; they took me places I’d never been and taught me things about our world and how we fit into it. The prospect of putting them into the pile for the dumpster saddens me.

One of the boxes from Mom and Dad’s house that I went through about four years ago was filled with my schoolwork from over the years: art projects, book reports, tests and classroom exercises dating from kindergarten through senior year. Even as I marveled at my parents’ desire to save so much of my life, I determined that I needed to keep very little of it. I wasn’t nearly as unhappy about throwing away, say, my fifth-grade report on cats as I am about the likely fate of the National Geographic magazines.

I imagine that if we had the prospect of grandchildren who would someday page through those magazines, our decision might be different. But there will be no grandchildren to do that. So I know where those National Geographic magazines will go.

As a result, I have two Saturday singles today. The first is “Midnight in Moscow” by Bert Kaempfert, in honor of all the places that those magazines took me, a few of which I was lucky enough to see in person but most of which I will only ever see vicariously through the pages of those yellow-bound volumes. It comes from Kaempfert’s 1965 album, The Magic Music of Far Away Places. The second single, which should need no explanation, is “Junk” from Paul McCartney’s 1970 solo album, McCartney.

Bert Kaempfert – “Midnight in Moscow” [1965]

Paul McCartney – “Junk” [1970]