Monday, November 30, 2015

THE END OF THE RHYTHM BOYS

After leaving the Whiteman Orchestra in May of 1930 the Rhythm Boys began singing with the Gus Arnheim band at the Cocoanut Grove in the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Arnheim began pushing Bing to the forefront as a soloist, and on Jan. 19, 1931, Bing recorded what was to become his first credited solo hit, I Surrender Dear, written by Harry Barris and backed by the Arnheim Orchestra.

The Grove had its own broadcast equipment, and Bing's voice could be heard throughout California. Increasingly crowds came to the Grove to hear Bing solo, and the Rhythm Boys as a group receded to the background. As Bing's solo career began to rise, he began skipping performances at the Grove, and this behavior led the manager to dock his pay. Crosby walked out in protest, and took the Rhythm Boys with him. The manager persuaded the local musicians' union to ban the trio for breach of contract, and the Rhythm Boys dissolved.

The Rhythm Boys performed together only one more time, July 4, 1943, on an NBC radio broadcast hosted by Paul Whiteman., "Paul Whiteman Presents." A musical excerpt of this program was included on the MCA CD anthology Bing: His Legendary Years. The entire program is available from collectors...



ORIGINAL STORY BY STEVE LEWIS

Monday, November 23, 2015

35 YEARS AGO: BING'S DAUGHTER SHOT MARY MARTIN'S SON

NEW YORK (AP) — Thirty-five years ago viewers learned the truth.

They got the answer to the question that bedeviled them for months.

They found out who shot J.R. Ewing as 90 million of them massed in front of half the nation's TVs watching "Dallas" that evening of Nov. 21, 1980.

Not that it really mattered whodunit. What mattered was, the issue was settled. The mystery solved. "Dallas" fans could finally move on.

So could "Dallas," which, by the time the shooter's identity was disclosed, had rocketed from its prior status as a mere TV hit to the far reaches of cultural blockbuster-dom.

A saga of the Texas tycoon Ewings, "Dallas" was epic, ostentatious, outrageous and addictive, with its at-each-other's-throats clan ruled by J.R. Ewing, a charmingly loathsome oil baron. As embodied by Larry Hagman, J.R. was a bottomless well of corruption who deployed a Lone Star twang, cold hawk eyes and a wicked grin.

By the evening of March 21, 1980, "Dallas" devotees were already smitten with his villainy. But then, on that third-season finale, "Dallas" threw them a curve unlike anything witnessed before: J.R. was gunned down by an unknown assailant and left for dead on his office floor.

Thunderstruck fans were left with the awful possibility (and somehow it seemed like a possibility) that the series' leading man — its main attraction — might have been disposed of. And even more unsettling: They were left in the dark as to who pulled the trigger.

Obvious persons of interest included Sue Ellen Ewing (played by Linda Gray), J.R.'s long-suffering, cheated-upon wife, and his sniveling arch-enemy Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval).

Kristin Shepard, J.R.'s sexy scheming sister-in-law/mistress, was also an attractive candidate.

But "Dallas" producers, who had cooked up the "Who Shot J.R.?" twist as an effective way to satisfy a last-minute order by CBS for two extra episodes to close out Season 3, hadn't even settled on whodunit when they decided that the deed be done. Or, if they had, they weren't talking.


Mary Crosby says she had no idea. When she got the script, Crosby, who played Kristin, thought only, "What a great way to end the season. And J.R. certainly deserves it!"

To ensure the big secret stayed a secret to everyone, including the doer, everybody got a turn on-camera pulling the trigger.

"It was a really fun day," Crosby recalls. "The producers got to shoot J.R. The makeup artist got to shoot him. Larry got to shoot himself."

Then, after they wrapped, Hagman, ever the jokester, changed into a novelty-shop vest and toasted the company with a glass of Scotch. As he drank, liquid spouted from numerous "bullet holes" in his chest.

"There was never a dull moment with Larry," Crosby chuckles.

The mystery, unleashed on viewers in March, ran rampant much longer than intended: An actors strike would shut down all TV production and push the start of the networks' Fall 1980 season into November, imposing an extra three months for the nation's favorite guessing game to rage.

"It was extraordinary that people cared after all that time," says Crosby.

But care, they did! Viewers scarfed up Who Shot J.R.? merchandise including T-shirts, coffee cups and beer. They put money down betting on who the culprit would be. They devoured publicity about the stunt, including a sprawling Time magazine cover story whose headline, of course, posed: "WHODUNIT?"

Running for a second term, President Jimmy Carter reportedly joked at a Dallas fundraiser, "I came to Dallas to find out confidentially who shot J.R."

No luck. But in the new season's fourth episode, the answer was finally revealed to all — including Crosby, who only then discovered that she, as Kristin, was the guilty party.

"I knew when everybody else knew," she declares, and watching "Dallas" that fateful night "I was thrilled — and spooked. I knew that it would change things, and it did. I was certainly a more recognizable figure after that!"

Needless to say, J.R. would recover and resume his villainy. He lived even beyond the series' conclusion after 14 seasons in May 1991, when viewers were duped into suspecting that he had committed suicide...



SOURCE

Thursday, November 19, 2015

SPOTLIGHT ON LEO ROBIN

One of the songwriters that shaped the career of Bing Crosby the most in the early years was Leo Robin. Together with Ralph Rainger, Robin wrote some of the most memorable songs of the late 1930s.  Leo Robin was born on April 6, 1900 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He studied at the University of Pittsburgh Law School and Carnegie Tech’s drama school. After graduation, he worked as a publicity agent, a newspaper reporter and even as a social worker. However, his first ambition was to be a playwright and in the early 1920’s he moved to New York City to achieve this goal.

In New York, Robin began writing lyrics for songs by various composers. His first success came with the song “Looking Around”, with composer Richard Myers. Robin soon turned his attention to the Broadway stage and with composers like Vincent Youmans, produced Just Fancy, Alley Oop and Hit the Deck.

In 1930, Robin had another hit song featured in the Broadway revue Tattle Tales, entitled “I'll Take an Option on You”, composed by Ralph Rainger. This was the beginning of a great Robin and Rainger team. Under contract with Paramount Studios, Robin and Rainger moved to Hollywood and produced some of the most memorable film scores from the era, including She Done Him Wrong, She Loves Me Not, Shoot the Works, Here is My Heart, The Big Broadcast of 1937, The Big Broadcast of 1938, Waikiki Wedding, Give Me A Sailor and Paris Honeymoon. In 1939, Robin and Rainger left Paramount and signed with 20th Century Fox, where they continued to contribute songs to films.


Robin and Rainger wrote some of the greatest standards from the era, including “Please”, “I Have to Have You”, “Beyond the Blue Horizon”, “June in January”, “I Don’t Want to Make History, I Just Want to Make Love”, “A Rhyme for Love”, “Here Lies Love”, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Love”, “With Every Breath I Take”, “Here’s Love in Your Eye” and “Blue Hawaii.” In 1938, the pair received the Academy Award for Best Song for “Thanks For the Memory”.

After Rainger’s death in 1942, Robin worked with many other composers including Jerome Kern (“In Love In Vain,”), Arthur Schwartz (“A Gal in Calico,” “A Rainy Night in Rio,” “Oh But I Do”) Harry Warren (“The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat,” “Paducah,” “Zing A Little Zong,”), Harold Arlen (“Hooray for Love,” “For Every Man There’s a Woman”).


In 1949 Robin collaborated with July Styne writing the score for the Broadway Musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The production starred Carol Channing and included the songs “Bye Bye, Baby,” “A Little Girl from Little Rock,” and, of course, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” A few years later, Marilyn Monroe would reprise the role in the 1953 movie version.

In the 1950’s, Robin collaborated with Sigmund Romberg on the Broadway musical The Girl in Pink Tights. While in production, Romberg died and the musical was not completed until 1954. Robin’s final collaboration came in 1955 for the film musical My Sister Eileen, another collaboration with Jule Styne. After the score was completed, Robin entered retirement.

Leo Robin died in Woodland Hills, CA on December 29, 1984. He has been gone for over thirty years now but the songs that he had a hand in writing will live on forever...


Sunday, November 15, 2015

EUROPE'S BIGGEST COLLECTION OF BING MEMORABILIA

Europe’s biggest collection of Bing Crosby memorabilia and records will be presented at Taylor’s Auction Rooms in Montrose in early January.

The collection of Bing Crosby records and memorabilia belonged to the late Mr Frank Grant who fell in love with the sound of Bing Crosby and started collecting all things Bing at the young age of 16.

His family extended the family home to accommodate the Bing Crosby collection with a purpose built room.

Mr Grant met Bing Crosby many times. One photo from the collection shows Mr Grant with Bing on September 13, 1972 at St Andrew’s Golf Course.

Mr Grant holds one of his many albums which included news cuttings and photographs of Bing.

Taylors this week completed work increasing their floor space to a staggering 40,000 square feet by adding a level inside the main building.

This is to accommodate some of the Scotland’s largest collections of books for sale.

Ian Taylor said: “Our Auction rooms are one of the few places that are prepared to handle such large quantities of books.”

On November 16, a sale of 40,000 records all from the same collector, along with his vast collection of model train layouts will fill the rooms.

The Bing collection includes records, vinyls, reel to reel tapes, sheet music, photo albums and posters and will take place at Taylor’s Auction Rooms, Montrose on Saturday, January 9.

Full catalogues and images will be available at www.taylors-auctions.com...

Monday, November 9, 2015

GUEST REVIEWER: HERE COMES THE GROOM

Our guest reviewer Bruce Krogan is back with his usual excellent review. This time around it is the second pairing of Der Bingle and director Frank Capra in 1951's Here Comes The Groom...

Frank Capra in his autobiography called Bing Crosby, "the master of the cultured ad-lib." A lot of time Crosby would drop several ad-libs into a script and Capra kept them in. According to Capra they were better than what the screenwriter had written. Of course partnering with Bob Hope in several films and thousands of radio, television, and live shows Bing had to be quick on the uptake.

Capra wanted to do another of his populist films like Mr. Deeds etc., in the three picture deal he signed with Paramount. But after doing Riding High and doing it well with Bing Crosby, he wanted to do one of his type film. The Paramount brass said no, but since he was unhappy at Paramount they agreed to drop their last picture commitment on his contract for one more Crosby film. Just make a good one.

Capra was as good as his word. This film is entertainment plus and a lot of that has to do with the chemistry between Bing and Jane Wyman. Most of Crosby's leading ladies were nice women who just melted with the Crosby charm. Not so here. Ms. Wyman gives as good with the wisecracks as Crosby does and is no pushover. What she is here is a fiancé who's grown tired of waiting for her man who's out gallivanting all over the world as per his job as correspondent. When he finally does come back he has two French orphans in tow. But Jane's decided to marry millionaire Franchot Tone. Bing has to get her back or those kids will be deported. That's where the fun starts.


By now Paramount was giving Crosby vehicles some respectable budgets and that included letting Frank Capra hire a lot of his favorite supporting players. Those folks make a Capra film an enjoyable experience.

Franchot Tone does nicely as millionaire rival and critics were astounded at Alexis Smith who turned out to have a real flair for comedy. Funny parts she wasn't getting at Warner Brothers. She plays a "kissing" cousin of Franchot Tone and figures prominently in Bing's machinations.

They were also astounded at Jane Wyman who nobody realized could sing. Why they were is beyond me since she did start in musical choruses. The song In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer won an Oscar for best song and became one of Bing's million selling records, dueted with Jane Wyman on screen and on vinyl.


The rest of the score is by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans who were under contract to Paramount and for some reason or other never wrote another Crosby film score. Probably because Paramount didn't assign them because many years later they scored and arranged a whole album of duets with Bing and Rosemary Clooney called That Traveling Two Beat Time. And Bing did pretty good with a song written for his friend Bob Hope by them called Silver Bells.

One of the Livingston-Evans songs was a patented philosophical number called Your Own Little House. A nice song on record, on screen it's a great impromptu style number that so many of Crosby's seemed to be. Sung with a group of kids who are French war orphans, Bing does some gentle kidding of fellow entertainers Jimmy Durante and Maurice Chevalier.

This is one of Bing's best and great entertainment...

BRUCE'S RATING: 9 OUT OF 10
MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10


Monday, November 2, 2015

PAST OBITS: SKITCH HENDERSON

Here is the New York Times obituary for legendary conductor Skitch Henderson from November 3, 2015. He died ten years ago...

Skitch Henderson, the conductor, pianist and radio and television entertainer who provided music and repartee for the "Tonight" show in the 1950's and 60's and who founded and led the New York Pops, died on Tuesday at his home in New Milford, Conn. He was 87.

His death was announced by James M. Johnson, executive director of the Pops.

With his neatly trimmed Vandyke beard and friendly disposition, Mr. Henderson was a familiar personality to millions of Americans over a long career. He had shows of his own on radio and television, and made many guest appearances in the 1950's and 1960's on "To Tell the Truth" and other game shows.

He was also a mainstay of the "Tonight" show, conducting the studio band and swapping stories with Steve Allen beginning in 1954 and later with Johnny Carson. He devised the "Stump the Band" routine, in which members of the studio audience would suggest obscure song titles and challenge the band musicians to play the tunes.

Mr. Henderson liked to stretch his players when he could, using arrangements by distinguished writers like Neal Hefti and Ernie Wilkins. Among the sidemen in the Henderson band were the trumpeter Clark Terry and Doc Severinsen, who took over as leader in 1967.


Though he became as much a performer as a conductor-pianist, Mr. Henderson always maintained his musical presence. He once described himself as "a middlebrow musician who does quality show music," and critics over the years seemed to agree with that assessment.

Under Mr. Henderson's leadership, the New York Pops were born unofficially in the 1950's, with 70 members of the New York Philharmonic. It faded, but Mr. Henderson started it again, formalized its existence in 1983 and conducted it for many years, drawing musicians from the city's freelance pool.

Mr. Henderson was regarded as one of the best-traveled musicians on the scene. In addition to turns on the podium of the New York Philharmonic, he made appearances as a guest conductor of orchestras in San Diego, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Tulsa and Stamford, Conn., and of quality pops orchestras in Virginia, Florida and Kentucky. Abroad, he conducted the Royal Philharmonic and the London Symphony.


He received a 1963 Grammy Award for an album of selections from "Porgy and Bess," with the RCA Orchestra and Leontyne Price as the main soloist. "What's great about Skitch," Marvin Hamlisch, who performed with him often, once said, "is that he can move between any type of music. Now he does a lot of pop music, but he knows the repertoire of the classics as well as anyone. He's a consummate musician."

Lyle Russell Cedric Henderson was born on Jan. 27, 1918, in Birmingham, England. In interviews over the years he said that he took piano lessons when he was 6 from his mother, a church organist, and that he came to the United States when he was 14. By the time he turned 15, he said, he had decided to try to make his mark in music.

Mr. Henderson told reporters that when he was very young, "I ran away and played with a rinky-dink band." He was somewhere in the Midwest in the 1930's, playing a hotel, when he encountered Judy Garland. He stepped in when her regular accompanist became ill and later was a rehearsal accompanist for both Garland and Mickey Rooney.


In 1938 he played piano for "The Bob Hope Pepsodent Show" on radio. Two years later, Mr. Henderson enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. When the United States entered the war in 1941, he joined the Army Air Corps and became a fighter pilot.

After his discharge in 1945, he organized his own dance band and toured the United States. He worked with Bing Crosby on the radio and was also music director of Frank Sinatra's "Light-Up Time" radio show.

He was often asked where he got the name Skitch. He said it was given to him by Bing Crosby, who told him the public would never remember proper names like Harry Lillis Crosby but couldn't forget him once he became Bing. Crosby began to call him the Sketch Kid, because as a rehearsal pianist he made piano sketches for the orchestrator. From that came Skitch.

In 1998, he summarized his career for The Salt Lake Tribune. "I've never had goals," he said. "I have worked and been lucky enough. If one trolley broke down, I was able to get on another that was running. Goals are dreams but they are seldom realistic."