Posts Tagged ‘Tommy Dorsey’

Four At Random

April 10, 2015

I’m going to fire up the RealPlayer this morning and let it do the work for me.

Right off the top we get some easy listening: “Emmanuelle” by Italian sax player Fausto Papetti, which turns out to be an instrumental version of the theme to the 1974 soft-core film Emmanuelle. The film was the first of seven chronicling the adventures of the character created in 1959 by French writer Emmanuelle Arsan (a pseudonym for Thai-born Marayat Bibidh Krasaesin Rollet-Andriane) and portrayed in four of the films by Sylvia Kristel. (All of that according to Wikpedia.) The song and the soundtrack for the first film were written by Pierre Bachelet. Papetti, who passed on in 1999, was known, Wikipedia says, for both his saxophone work and the covers of his albums, many of which featured attractive women in little or no clothing. Papetti’s 1977 version of the theme came to me in a 2009 collection titled 100 Hits Romantic Saxophone.

And then we head back to 1944 for “Opus One” by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra. The fox trot – as it’s described on the Victor label – was written by Sy Oliver, who became, says Wikipedia, “one of the first African Americans with a prominent role in a white band” when he joined Dorsey’s band in 1939. It’s not my favorite track from Dorsey; that would be his theme song, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” from 1935. As it happens, any of the 1930s and 1940s big band tunes remind me of the summer of 1991, when I was reporting and writing a lengthy piece about life in Columbia, Missouri, during World War II. On a lot of evenings at home that summer, as I sat at my desk and planned my next day’s work, I stacked some big bands – Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and more – on the stereo and tried to get my head at least a little into an era that I never knew.

From there, it’s another dip into the easy listening pool with Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” as filtered through the sound of Frank Chacksfield & His Orchestra. The late Chacksfield was an English composer and conductor who is estimated, Wikipedia says, to have sold more than 20 million albums world-wide. Two of those albums reached the Billboard 200: Ebb Tide went to No. 36 in 1961 and The New Ebb Tide went to No. 120 in late 1964 or early 1965. Chacksfield and his orchestra had one single reach the magazine’s charts: “On The Beach,” the title song to the 1959 film, went to No. 47 in early 1961. Chacksfield’s take on Simon’s tune was a track on a 1970 album titled Chacksfield Plays Simon & Garfunkel & Jim Webb. It came to me in a 2005 collection titled The Lounge Legends Play Simon & Garfunkel.

Then up pop the Bee Gees with “Sun in My Morning” from 1969. The not terribly interesting track was the B-side to the group’s single “Tomorrow, Tomorrow,” which doesn’t make my list of vital Bee Gees’ tunes, either, even if it went to No. 54. There’s not a lot more to say as the tune plays itself out and this post limps to an end.

And there we see clearly the risk of letting random chance decide things.

Fifty-Five Years & Counting

May 8, 2012

I do not remember much about the spring of 1957, the first spring my family spent on Kilian Boulevard. I have vague memories of a tree being removed from the side yard, leaving a large stump that sat there for a few years more. I think I watched as my folks cleaned flower beds and planted their own perennials and annuals around the birdbath and along the south side of the house.

I do, however, clearly remember watching two boys about my age peddling their tricycles across the intersection of Kilian and Eighth Street. They stopped to talk to me as I stood in the yard north of the house. They were heading, they told me, to Wyvell’s store, just another half-block down Eighth Street and around the corner. After a few minutes of kid talk, they peddled on their way to Wyvell’s and its candy counter, and I made my way – I imagine – to the back yard.

That was my first meeting with Rick and Rob, the start of two friendships that have been central portions of my life for the past fifty-five years. From those preschool days on through high school, young adulthood and on, those friendships have endured, vibrant and – I think – essential to my life. (The fact that those friendships have also provided numerous tales to fill the white spaces in this blog is a bonus.)

And as I thought this morning of the ways we spent our time together in the earliest years of our friendships, I thought of our basement, which my friends and I used as a rudimentary playroom during the years before Dad changed it into a wood-paneled rec room. Among its attractions was a battered 78 rpm record player and our small collection of children’s records: I recall “The Muffin Man,” “Three Little Fishies In An Itty-Bitty Pool,” and a few more. The one that came to mind this morning was a recording of “The Music Goes ’Round and ’Round,” a tune that went to No. 1 for five weeks in early 1936 for Tommy Dorsey and His Clambake Seven, according to Joel Whitburn’s A Century of Pop Music.

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Dorsey’s version we listened to in the basement, but that hit version – with a vocal by Edythe Wright – is a pretty good version to listen to as I ponder the way friendships go ’round and ’round and end up still strong fifty-five years later.

Edited slightly after posting.

Saturday Single No. 27

May 6, 2011

Originally posted August 25, 2007

One more indication of the passage of time: I used to see my friends at weddings, and then at baptisms. And now, we meet at funerals.

I talked Tuesday to both Rick and Rob, my childhood friends. Their mother, 91, was not doing well. After a few days in the hospital, she’d been moved to a hospice, and it was just a matter of time, Rob told me. But she was alert and comfortable, he said.

The inevitable call came the next morning. And so did the memories.

In every neighborhood full of children, there is, I imagine, one home where the kids congregate. In our neighborhood, it was Rick and Rob’s house. They and their three sisters filled the house with friends, and their mom welcomed all of us with a smile and a great tolerance for juvenile noise and mischief. From the time I was three until my last visit about a month ago, that smile was constant every time I walked through the door.

I’m sure there were times when we tried her patience, those of us who were her children’s friends and found her home a good place to gather. I recall times when there had to be at least twelve or more visiting kids in the house, as friends of all five of her children gathered on a rainy day or perhaps in the cold of winter. It could get noisy, whether that noise was the pounding of footsteps up and down the stairs, the sounds of a cap gun battle in the wilds of the basement, the beat of pop and rock music coming from a portable record player or two, or the raucous din of eight teens of various ages playing the card game Pit at the kitchen table.

The Soviet Union used to award a medal called the Hero Mother Award or something like that. Rick and Rob’s mom deserved whatever equivalent we could come up with. Not just for welcoming all those friends for all those years, although a smile in the face of twenty or more years of rambunctious children and teens is heroic enough. There were other, more serious challenges she faced through the years.

She was widowed thirty-five years ago, with three of her children yet to graduate from high school. In the past twenty or so years, she faced challenge after challenge to her health: a heart attack, open-heart surgery, breast cancer and lung cancer. And every time, she dealt with it, got back up and went on, living her life in her long-time home – which she shared with one of her daughters – and sitting late into the night in her favorite chair by the window, reading book after book.

At the same time, her home remained a haven, a safe and kind place to visit for the four who had moved away, for their spouses, and for her eleven grandchildren. Just as it was a haven for at least one of those kids who grew up in the neighborhood, one who now wishes he’d visited a lot more often than he did.

Her family and friends said goodbye to her today, laying her to rest next to the husband she lost so long ago. There were – as there should be at all such occasions – tears and laughter both. As we waited to go into the church, I had a chance to ask Rob if he knew what some of his mom’s favorite popular music was. He called over his youngest sister, who lived with their mom. She said their mom liked Frank Sinatra. So for Rick and Rob, and for their three sisters, and most of all, for their mom, here is Frank Sinatra backed by the Tommy Dorsey Band in 1940 performing “I’ll Be Seeing You,” today’s Saturday Single.

Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Band –
“I’ll Be Seeing You” [Victor 26539, 1940]

A Few Tunes From An Earlier Time

April 1, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, I figured it was time to make sure that my family and I knew the names of all the folks in all the pictures my dad took over the years. So I went to the storage unit where we keep all the stuff Mom couldn’t fit into her apartment and found a cardboard box full of slides. Mom and I have been spending a couple of afternoons each week, looking at slides, identifying who was pictured and jotting all the information into a notebook. (Luckily, Dad wrote the date and place on most slides over the years; that information would be more difficult to figure out.)

I’m (slowly) entering the information into a database – one spreadsheet for each large box of slides – and just as slowly converting the slides to digital images. The boxes we’re looking at right now hold slides from the late 1950s and the early and mid-1960s, so we’ve seen some terrific pictures of friends and relatives long gone. And there have been a few laughs, as well. (I may post one or two of the images here, if they seem to help illustrate a post.)

As well as finding the first of the boxes of slides at the storage unit, I also found a box marked CDs. So I dug into it, and I found some CDs that Dad bought in – I would guess – the early 1990s. There were a few that intrigued me, collections of music from the time of World War II and the years that bracketed that war. So for the last week, when I haven’t been looking at slides or working on the photo project, my spare time has been filled with ripping those CDs and then digging for original release data about the tunes. (The CD sets have poor, if any, notes. The best source for that information has been the Online Discographical Project and its associated search site.)

And I got to thinking as I was listening to the music of my father’s youth and young adulthood: what if I’d pushed the starting date for the Ultimate Jukebox back ten years, starting in the late 1930s instead of the late 1940s? Don’t worry. I’m not going to do that. But wondered for a few minutes about what recordings might have been contenders.

Here’s the first one I thought of: Tommy Dorsey’s version of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” with vocals from a young Frank Sinatra. It was recorded, I believe, on February 26, 1940, in New York City.

Next, I thought of something by Benny Goodman, and after dithering for a while, I settled on the studio version of “Sing, Sing, Sing,” with the amazing Gene Krupa on drums. (The version from Goodman’s famous 1938 Carnegie Hall concert is great, as well.) The studio version in the video below was recorded, as far as I can tell, on July 6, 1937, in Hollywood.

The third song I thought about – and this is as far as I went – was one for my Dad. We were talking once years ago about his time in the Army and the Army Air Corps – he enlisted sometime in the late 1930s, before World War II, and served through the war’s end in 1945 – and I asked him where he’d traveled during those years. He told me a few tales about his wartime service in India and China, but he said he’d also been to a few more pleasant places. One that he recalled with a smile was Trinidad, an island in the Caribbean just off the coast of Venezuela.

He was there during the early months of 1941 for a military air show, and he said that one of his favorite memories of Trinidad was sitting in a waterfront establishment, drinking the local favorite: rum and Coca-Cola. “Just like in the song,” he said. The Andrews Sisters’ song, titled simply “Rum and Coca-Cola,” was a hit in 1945 and evidently provided my dad with good memories. So here it is, recorded – I think – on October 23, 1944.

Song ticker replaced June 13, 2011, with a video that I hope has the right recording.