Posts Tagged ‘Ferrante & Teicher’

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.

More ‘More’ Than You’ve Ever Heard Before

June 28, 2013

Originally posted May 26, 2009

The movie, an Italian flick, was supposed to be dark, depraved and disturbing. It might have been so in 1962. Now, forty-seven years later, it’s mostly slow and dull.

The title? Mondo Cane, which translates from the Italian as something like A Dog’s World.

Supposedly a documentary that detailed the oddities, cruelties and perversities of life, Mondo Cane was intended to be controversial, and some of its contents likely were shocking in 1962. I spent a couple hours looking at it over the holiday weekend, and it’s not very shocking at all from the vantage point of 2009.

The movie spent a lot of time in the Pacific, examining what might best be called non-industrial island cultures. While the film purported to be a true reflection of life in those societies, the winking narration – as when a cluster of bare-breasted island girls chase one young man around the island and into the sea, and in a few other instances – left me wondering about the truth of the visuals as well as the truth of the narration.

The broad-brush contrasts the film points out between so-called primitive cultures and Western culture were so ham-handed that I chuckled. Yeah, I know that in some areas of the world snakes and dogs are dinner; and in 1962, one could go to a restaurant in New York City and spend $20 for plate of fried ants, bug larvae and butterfly eggs. The film shows those young island women chasing men into the sea, and a little later shows a cadre of young Australian women running into the sea and pulling men back onto the sand (during lifeguard practice). After seeing footage of dogs in Asia waiting in cages to become dinner, the film takes us to a pet cemetery in southern California, showing the gravestones of pets owned by celebrities of the time, including Vivan Vance (Lucille Ball’s sidekick), Jack Warner, Jr., of Warner Brothers and Julie London.

I think I knew about Mondo Cane when it came out. I would have been nine, and – as I’ve noted before – was even then aware of current events and news that troubled adults. It’s quite likely, I realized this weekend, that my awareness of the film was helped along by parodies of its approach in MAD magazine, which was one of my favorites at the time. It’s not a significant film in any way, but it is interesting. There are, by current standards, several troubling images involving cruelty to animals, but beyond that, little is truly surprising. As a historical document of what Western culture found depraved in 1962, however, it’s an interesting way to spend a couple of hours.

The movie did, however, provide one long-lasting piece of popular culture: Its theme, better known these days as “More (Theme to Mondo Cane).” The song, written by Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero, was used in the movie as an instrumental under the title “Ti Guarderò Nel Cuore.” Italian lyrics were added by Marcello Ciorciolini, and later, the English lyrics were written by Norman Newell, giving us the song “More (Theme From Mondo Cane)” as we know it.

I would guess that “More” is one of the most covered songs of all time. All-Music Guide lists 1,325 CDs on which there is a recording of a song titled “More.” Some of those would be other compositions, but I’m certain that the vast majority of those recordings are of the song by Ortolani and Oliviero. So let’s take a walk though the garden of “More.”

First, here’s the original:

“Theme from Mondo Cane” by Riz Ortolani & Nino Oliviero [1962]

One version of the song made the Top 40 in the U.S., an instrumental version by a Kai Winding, a composer and bandleader who was born in Denmark but grew up in the U.S. His version of “More” went to No. 8 in the summer of 1963.

“More” by Kai Winding, Verve 10295 [1963]

And then came the flood (though not all covers were titled exactly the same):

“More” by Ferrante & Teicher from Concert for Lovers [1963]

“Theme from Mondo Cane (More)” by Jack Nitschze from The Lonely Surfer [1963]

“More” by John Gary from Catch A Rising Star [1963]

“More” by Vic Dana from More [1963]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by Frank Sinatra & Count Basie from It Might As Well Be Swing [1964]

“More” by Billy Vaughn from Blue Velvet [1964]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by Liberace from Golden Themes From Hollywood [1964]

“More” by Mantovani from The Incomparable Mantovani and his Orchestra [1964]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by Nat King Cole from L-O-V-E [1965]

“More” by Julie London from Our Fair Lady [1965]

“More” by Steve Lawrence, Columbia 42795 [1963]

“More” by Roger Williams from I’ll Remember You [1967]

“More (Theme from Mondo Cane)” by the Ray Conniff Singers from Ray Conniff’s World Of Hits [1967]

“More” by Jerry Vale from The Impossible Dream [1967]

“More” by Andy Williams from The Academy Award Winning “Call Me Irresponsible” [1970]

“More” by Jackie Gleason from Today’s Romantic Hits – For Lovers Only [1963]

“More” by Harry Connick, Jr., from Only You [2004]

(I’ve pulled these from various sources; some are mine, some I found elsewhere. Of those I found elsewhere, I’m reasonably sure that the performers are identified correctly. And after spending several hours digging, I’m also reasonably sure that the original release album titles and dates are correct. I have a suspicion that the version by the Ray Conniff singers might have been released on an earlier album, but I can’t verify that.)

Edited slightly and Jackie Gleason release and date verified June 28, 2013. Steve Lawrence release and date verified March 5, 2014.

In The Light Of A Rainy Day

March 25, 2012

Originally posted March 23, 2009

As I look out the window this morning, I’m consoled by the thought that it could be worse: The temperature could be fifteen degrees cooler and it could be snowing.

As it is, the rain is expected to hang around here all day. That makes the view from the study window distinctly unappealing. Luckily, I have no need to go out into the rain, save for a quick trip across the street to the mailbox sometime this afternoon. And as I sit here pondering the rain, I’m struck for some reason by the contrast between the brightly lighted interior and the gloom – bare black oaks against a gray sky – I see outside.

It puts me in mind of rainy days in elementary school, days when the fluorescent ceiling lights were reflected in the large window that lined one wall of our classroom at Lincoln School. The splash and streak of raindrops on the outside window would grip my attention more firmly than could arithmetic or social studies, and I’d get lost in the ever-changing pattern on the glass.

In the cloakroom, yellow slickers and black boots would shed water all morning, leaving puddles on the brown tile floor. On some very wet or bitterly cold days, I’d eat lunch at school, but most days, just before noon, I’d head home for lunch, walking in the winter and riding my Schwinn Typhoon in the autumn and the spring, even on days of light rain. Somewhere there is a picture of an eight-year old whiteray in his yellow slicker with the matching cap, about to head off to school. I wore that slicker – or another one like it – for several years, making my way to and from school amid the drizzle and the drops.

I don’t recall if I ever heard music playing from the radio in the kitchen at lunch time. I would have been far more interested in eating my Campbell’s Scotch Broth or my Chef Boy-Ar-Dee ravioli and then heading back out in the damp for another few hours of school.

If there had been music during lunch, I would at best have heard two, maybe three, of the following songs:

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, March 23, 1963)
“South Street” by the Orlons, Cameo 243 (No. 7)
“Walk Right In” by the Rooftop Singers, Vanguard 35017 (No. 22)
“Can’t Get Used To Losing You” by Andy Williams, Columbia 42674 (No. 31)
“Hitch Hike” by Marvin Gaye, Tamla 54075 (No. 54)
“Mecca” by Gene Pitney, Musicor 1028 (No. 81)
“Theme from ‘Lawrence of Arabia’” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists 563 (No. 88)

The Orlons don’t seem to be much remembered these days, and I’m not sure why. The Philadelphia quartet managed five Top 40 singles between June 1962 and October 1963, which is a pretty good run. Three of those hit the Top Ten: “The Wah Watusi” (No. 2), “Don’t Hang Up” (No 4), and ‘South Street,” which peaked at No. 3. If any of those get any airplay on oldies stations these days, it’s “The Wah Watusi,” which is probably third-best of the three Top Ten hits.

The Rooftop Singers’ version of “Walk Right In” was on its way back down the chart in March 1963, having spent two weeks at No. 1 as January turned into February. The song has a long history, having first been recorded by Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1929. According to the Billboard Book of Number One Hits, banjo player Erik Darling – who’d been a member of the Weavers, a legendary folk group – heard the Gus Cannon recording of the song, changed a line or two (the book says, for example, “a two way woman” became “a new way of walking”) and found a couple of friends to record the song with him. The hit “was a windfall” for Cannon, “who was living in a little house by the railroad tracks in Memphis.” Cannon had hocked his banjo for $20 worth of coal to keep from freezing the previous winter; after “Walk Right In” was a hit, Cannon not only earned royalties but gained a recording contract with Stax Records.

“Can’t Get Used To Losing You” went to No. 2 in the spring of 1963, Andy William’s seventh Top Ten hit. He would wait another eight years for his eighth and last Top Ten single, “(Where Do I Begin) Love Story,” which went to No. 9 in early 1971. “Losing You” is sweet but, I think, insignificant. More appealing is the flipside, “The Days of Wine And Roses,” which also charted, making it to No. 26. That single, of course, was the theme song from the film that starred Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. Williams did well with movie themes; he also charted in late 1964 with “Dear Heart” and in the spring of 1972 with “Love Theme from ‘The Godfather’ (Speak Softly Love).”

“Hitch Hike” is a nice slice of early 1960s R&B, drawing a little bit, I think, from Ray Charles. My blogging colleague, Any Major Dude, will appreciate the flute break that starts 1:15 into the song (with the flute recurring at moments after that). The single, which went to No. 30, is notable as Gaye’s first Top 40 hit. As nifty a single as “Hitch Hike” is, one wonders if anyone around Gaye could see the brilliance waiting to take wing.

“Mecca” is an odd single, with its Arabian/North African opening riff, its tale of seemingly forbidden love and its chorus of “Mecca (Mecca, Mecca).” I doubt if the song would get released these days, as the cultural uproar – valid or not – wouldn’t be worth the trouble. The single peaked at No. 12.

I’ve thrown singles by Ferrante & Teicher on the logpile a couple of times. The duo’s twin-piano sound was, to me, one of the defining sounds of the early 1960s. Ferrante & Teicher had only five Top 40 hits, but four of them – all from movies or musicals – came in 1960 and 1961, and I know heard them somewhere, and fairly frequently at that. (Their fifth hit, another movie theme, was “Midnight Cowboy” in late 1969 and early 1970.) The single offered here, “Theme from ‘Lawrence of Arabia’,” bounced around in the lower reaches of the Hot 100 for twelve weeks, never getting any higher than No. 84.

(The songs that would have gotten airplay on any station we listened to on Kilian Boulevard? The Andy Williams, the Ferrante & Teicher, and maybe the Rooftop Singers.)

Chart Digging: November 1969

September 26, 2011

Originally posted November 10, 2008

Not much energy for writing today – busy weekends tend to drain me a little – but I thought I’d dig into the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1969 and see if I have any obscure nuggets to pass along.

(Given the plethora of CD reissues in the past few years, there are certainly fewer obscurities than there used to be. One can question whether all the oddities that have surfaced might have deserved to remain obscure, and I imagine that in some cases the answer would be “yes.” But one person’s obscure displeasure is another one’s gem. Or, as the mistranslation from the French goes: Everyone has his goo.)

Sitting at No. 78 in the Hot 100 of November 8, 1969, was the first release from Dozier-Holland & Dozier’s Invictus Records, “Crumbs Off The Table” by the Glass House. In reality, the Glass House was a set of vocalists put together by the producers in a mix-and-match approach, according to All-Music Guide. Sherrie Payne, sister of Freda Payne (“Band of Gold”) was the lead singer, with Pearl Jones, Tyrone Hunter and Larry Mitchell joining her. The record peaked at No. 59.

 “Crumbs Off The Table” by the Glass House, Invictus 9071 [1969]

A little but further down in the November 8, 1969, Hot 100 is an instrumental that eventually peaked in the Top Ten: Ferrante & Teicher’s version of the theme from the film Midnight Cowboy. The record was at No. 87 and eventually rose to No. 10, giving the dual piano duo a fourth and final Top Ten hit. (“Theme from The Apartment,” “Exodus” and “Tonight” were the others.) Despite its Top Ten heritage, “Midnight Cowboy” strikes me as a record one rarely hears on the oldies stations. I should note that Louis Teicher passed on in August at the age of eighty-three; his partner, Arthur Ferrante, survives.

“Midnight Cowboy” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists 50554 [1969]

A Baker’s Dozen from 1962

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 28, 2007

I’ve been staring at the songs included in today’s Baker’s Dozen for a few minutes now, trying to think of what to say about 1962. I have a few vague memories of the year, but the only thing I clearly remember was that President John Kennedy was scheduled to visit St. Cloud that October. His visit was planned in support of a local Democrat who was running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The president canceled. I recall being disappointed, but I don’t remember what forced the cancellation (although I do have vague memories of snow on the ground that day). I found an answer this morning. According to a page at the American Presidency Project, an archive at the University of California, Santa Barbara that has a seemingly extensive online presence, Kennedy’s October 7 trip to St. Cloud was canceled due to inclement weather. Instead, the president spoke by telephone from Minneapolis to a Democratic rally in St. Cloud.

As that’s not a lot to support any kind of discussion of 1962, let’s go the library and find out what people were listening to that year. Here’s a list of the No. 1 hits from the year:

“Peppermint Twist – Part 1” by Joey Dee & the Starliters
“Duke of Earl” by Gene Chandler
“Hey Baby” by Bruce Channel
“Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You” by Connie Francis
“Johnny Angel” by Shelley Fabares
“Good Luck Charm” by Elvis Presley
“Soldier Boy” by the Shirelles
“Stranger on the Shore” by Mr. Acker Bilk
“I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles
“The Stripper” by David Rose from the film The Stripper
“Roses Are Red (My Love)” by Bobby Vinton
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva
“Sheila” by Tommy Roe
“Sherry” by the Four Seasons
“Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers
“He’s A Rebel” by the Crystals
“Big Girls Don’t Cry” by the Four Seasons
“Telstar” by the Tornadoes

That’s not an entirely awful list. In fact, it’s a lot better than I thought it would be when I began paging through the year’s entries in The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Still, any year in which Shelly Fabares, Connie Francis and Bobby Vinton can all reach the top of the chart . . . well, that’s not a very good year.

Leaving aside the novelty of “Monster Mash,” the oddest entry on the list has to be “Stranger on the Shore,” the lilting clarinet instrumental by Britain’s Mr. Acker Bilk. But then, the occasional odd instrumental – “The Stripper” falls there, too – is almost a tradition on the Top 40 chart. I think of 1972’s “Popcorn” by Hot Butter (No. 9), “Keem-O-Sabe” by the Electric Indian in 1969 (No. 16), 1962’s own “Midnight In Moscow” by Kenny Ball (No. 2) and Ferrante & Teicher’s 1969 release of the theme to the film Midnight Cowboy (No. 10). And those are just the ones that came quickly to mind.

That list of No. 1 songs make it very clear that 1962 was a far different musical world. But, even when keeping in mind that pop and rock music was still clearly a singles medium, the list of 1962’s top albums gives one pause:

Holiday Sing Along With Mitch by Mitch Miller & the Gang
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Henry Mancini
West Side Story soundtrack
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music by Ray Charles
Peter, Paul & Mary by Peter, Paul & Mary
My Son, The Folksinger by Allan Sherman
The First Family by Vaughn Meader

If the singles from 1962 show a different world, then the albums – with the exception of the Ray Charles and, I guess, the Peter, Paul & Mary – show an entirely different universe. But two events that took place on September 15, 1962, however, showed that the universe was about to change:

On that day, the Billboard chart showed the first appearance on the Top 40 of the Beach Boys, with “Surfin’ Safari,” a single that peaked at No. 14. On the same day, the British label Parlophone signed to a recording contract a Liverpool quartet called the Beatles.

As to the world at large, there were also hints of changes to come. On July 10, AT&T’s Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite, went into orbit, and thirteen days later, it relayed the first live trans-Atlantic television signal.

And that’s where we’ll begin our songs from 1962, with “Telstar,” which turned out to be the last No. 1 single of the year.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1962
“Telstar” by the Tornadoes, London single 9561

“House of the Risin’ Sun” by Bob Dylan from Bob Dylan

“Oh, Lonesome Me” by Ray Charles from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (Vol. Two)

“The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” by Bobby Vee, Liberty single 55521

“The One Who Really Loves You” by Mary Wells, Motown single 1024

“Stone Crazy” by Buddy Guy, Chess single 1812

“Smile” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists single 431

“You’ll Never Change” by Bettye LaVette, Atlantic single 2198

“Blue Guitar” by Earl Hooker, Age single 29106

“That’s No Way To Do” by Pink Anderson, from Carolina Medicine Show Hokum and Blues with Baby Tate

“What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)” by Timi Yuro, Liberty single 55469

“I Found A Love” by the Falcons, LuPine single 1003

“The Stripper” by David Rose, MGM 13064, from the soundtrack to The Stripper

A few notes on some of the songs and performers:

“Oh Lonesome Me” comes from the second of Ray Charles’ two volumes of country and western music. Backing country songs with horns, strings and a background choir that sounds pretty saccharine today was revolutionary in 1962, and – I think – was the beginning of a trend that today finds the difference between country and pop pretty well gone except for the occasional insertion of a fiddle break. Even without their historical significance, the two Modern Sounds . . . albums are worth finding simply for Brother Ray’s extraordinary vocals.

“The Night Has A Thousand Eyes,” which went to No. 3, is one of the better records by Bobby Vee, who reached the Top 40 fourteen times between 1960 and 1968. Vee’s career is intriguing for a couple of reasons. First, he got his first big break in February of 1959, after Buddy Holly’s plane crashed just outside of Clear Lake, Iowa. Holly’s place on the tour’s next stop – Fargo, North Dakota – was filled by what Wikipedia terms “a hastily-assembled band” called Bobby Vee and the Shadows. The other intriguing thing to me is Vee’s 1972 album, a pretty good singer-songwriter/folky release called Nothing Like A Sunny Day that he released under his birth name of Robert Velline. (As he lives in the St. Cloud area, I’ve been tempted for a while to look Vee up and see if he’ll autograph my copy for me.)

Ferrante & Teicher’s version of “Smile” barely reached the charts, hitting No. 93 in a two-week stay on the Cash Box charts. The song’s melody was written by Charlie Chaplin and used as the romance theme for his film Modern Times in 1936. (The film marked the last appearance of Chaplin’s Little Tramp character.) In 1954, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added lyrics to Chaplin’s composition and gave the song its title.

Earl Hooker was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1929 and was a cousin of blues legend John Lee Hooker. After “Blue Guitar” was released as a single by Age records in 1962, Muddy Waters used it as the backing for his recording of “You Shook Me,” making Earl Hooker the only slide guitarist besides Waters to ever appear on a Muddy Waters record. (Water’s record was released as Chess 1827.)

Carolina blues performer Pink Anderson is one-half of the answer to one of rock’s great trivia questions: How did Pink Floyd get its name? According to several sources, Syd Barrett noticed the names of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council in the liner notes of a 1962 Blind Boy Fuller album.

When you listen to “What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You),” pay attention to the drums. When the producer for Yuro’s session bailed for some reason, Phil Spector was brought in. And the drums sound like the work of Hal Blaine to me.