Sunday, May 6, 2012


Music lovers are soaking up the vibes this week of music legends at the Empire Polo Club.

Radiohead, Jimmy Cliff and Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg are there this weekend for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Steve Martin, Kenny Rogers, Roy Clark and Ralph Stanley will appear next weekend at Stagecoach: California's Country Music Festival.

But music legends have been coming to this desert long before Goldenvoice started importing them. Following is a list of some music legends with landmarks reflecting their desert roots...

AL JOLSON: Old-timers call him the greatest entertainer ever. He was chosen to say the first words in talking pictures in 1927's “The Jazz Singer.” He began coming to Palm Springs in the 1930s and lived at 570 Via Corta for parts of four years before his death in 1950. His style is perpetuated today by artists such as Liza Minnelli, whose mother, Judy Garland, imitated Jolson as a kid.

GENE AUSTIN: This Texas native invented the soft style of singing known as crooning partly as an alternative to Jolson's aggressive vocal style. Austin, whose biggest hit was “My Blue Heaven,” sold more records than any other RCA Victor artist until Elvis Presley in the 1950s. He spent his last days at 1440 S. Driftwood in Palm Springs before dying at Desert Regional Medical Center in 1972.

RUDY VALLEE: This preppy favorite became the first singer to incite women to tear off a performer's clothes in the late '20s. He went on to popularize the variety show format with a radio program that was near the top of the national ratings throughout the '30s. His house in Las Palmas has been razed, but there are still remnants of the Palm Springs Racquet Club, which he helped popularize by playing there regularly. He also has a spot on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars at 123 N. Palm Canyon Drive.

BING CROSBY: This crooner was Tin Pan Alley's first-call vocalist in the '30s. Consequently, he had more top-10 hits than any artist in history. He also won a Best Actor Oscar for his role in “Going My Way” in 1944. Sadly, Bing Crosby's restaurant in Rancho Mirage closed and his two Coachella Valley houses are in gated communities. But you can take a photo of yourself at the gate of the Blue Skies Village mobile home park at 70-260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage, which Crosby helped design in 1955.

GENE AUTRY: He may be best known today as the founder of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but Autry also was an immensely popular film and recording star as Hollywood's original singing cowboy. He also was quite a presence in the valley and his widow still lives in Palm Springs. His hotel where they lived is now The Parker. A building at Eisenhower Medical Center is named after him. But the best place for an Autry-themed photograph is the statue of him at the corner of Ramon Road and Gene Autry Trail in — coincidentally — Gene Autry Plaza.

FRANK SINATRA: When the McCallum Theatre's Mitch Gershenfeld was recently asked if Sinatra's popularity had waned since his death in 1998, he just laughed. Sinatra is the one pop singer whose popularity is not likely to wane. He also remains ubiquitous in the valley. The Palm Springs Desert Resort Communities Convention and Visitors Authority can you give you a self-guided tour of places associated with him, including his homes in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage. But the coolest place to feel his presence is at his grave site at Desert Memorial Park, 31-705 Da Vall Drive, Cathedral City, near a pack of friends and family including his parents, songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen and friend Jilly Rizzo.


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