Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Friends ~

Because this is Thanksgiving week I am not going to look beyond my backyard for wonderful musicians. I am, instead, going to tell you about the ones I personally know right here locally. The names I am using are not "real names" as I have not asked for permission from my friends.

Sam, a funny, talented man who was a Marine Band trumpet player. He plays upbeat happy music and adds a lot of improv ala trumpet style. He can sit and play from memory, or read music. He has a wife and extended family and like most of us, they come first.

Avis, like many of us, a widow who began taking lessons from a pro, but when she heard of the Lowrey program, she changed over. She is dedicated to keep improving, likes a challenge in her choice of music. She is unassuming and genteel and her music reflects her beautiful personality.

Gloria, a former dancer, puts energy into her music with pedals, and chooses a lot pieces which have a strong beat. Her choice of music is, to me, quite opposite of her quiet demeanor. She was thrilled - yes, she really was - to be able to upgrade her instrument. She holds a full time job and still makes time for us one day a week. A valuable message to people who "think" they don't have time to put into music. Or some other hobby they would enjoy.

From time to time, being a group of seniors, we lose someone very dear to us. There was Susan. She loved organ. She would select a song, work on sounds and chords on an organ which, while high end in its day, was old and "different" from the current models. She seldom complained that she couldn't get the sounds she wanted. She was a willing contributor to events and could be the life of the party at lunch. She came in one day and announced that she had cancer, and would fight it and beat it. But, alas, it was not to be. To the end, she felt "Thy will be done ----". Once she said,
"I said, 'if there is a plan to this, God, I am not getting it.'" It was so typical of her. She had a good marriage and a loving family. She also had a loving group of music friends. We don't forget.

There is Carl. Carl has health issues but in spite of them, he is a vital part of our group. Always willing to help, goes the limit to make things work, loves his music especially country. This man bought an organ some time ago. When we needed an organ to take around to outside venues to play, he bought a cargo van, adapted his car to haul it, put handles and wheels on the organ, took off the pedals so they wouldn't get broken, and willingly totes it around in good weather so we can entertain others. This is a very special man.

Look at Ruby. She has never had music, loves it. Came in to the program at the beginning and has made steady improvement. But - she is never happy with her progress so she is always talking of "starting over again." She plays with her whole body, heart and soul, and tries to hard to get perfect sounds. Unfortunately, most of us have different organs than the one at the studio where we have "playing for friends". Ruby, most of all, laments the difference between her instrument and the studio model. She is determined, a bit dramatic and comedic which adds another dimension to our group.

Paul has the smallest Lowrey organ of all of us. How he gets the beautiful arrangements and emotional nuances into his music is a mystery to me, but it proves that even a small organ can be used as a practice instrument. Paul drives an hour or more to come to our Thursday "class" and "playing for friends". He is an asset to our group with his quiet sensitivity. He has a delightful wife who sometimes joins us just to listen. It is always nice to get to know the "other half." The group as a whole would like to see Paul get a bigger organ with more options, but hats off to him! he makes the one he has work and translates his arrangements to the studio model beautifully.

Grace is one of those people who claims not to play well, not to read music, not to be ready. Yet she comes in with a book, plays a well practiced piece with sometimes embellished fingering. I should be so competent. She has a husband who joins her occasionally at the studio. They are "big band" devotees and he can tell you who play what with which band and probably what year and where. It's great to have that kind of memory for detail is a great asset.

Carol is a recent widow. She, like many of us in that situation, turns to music often in quiet times at home. She is a multi-talented person who has many interests and a lovely family but she finds time to put into arrangements. Her preferences are - well, I'm not sure she has any. She plays many different styles and works at getting them right. Like everything she does, she is particular in detail. Thoughtful, sensitive and generous, Carol is a strong supporter of the program and "gets it" when it comes to making it work. Her input on improvement is sound and practical. And her playing reflects her personality.

There is a man in our group, I'll call him Frank. He is a retired service man, with his wife has raised a nice family. He came into the program with absolutely no music in his background, but the organ fascinated him. Today's organs are fascinating instruments. Frank is a technician. I find his style interesting because it has evolved before my eyes. The first time I heard him play at a "graduation" I thought he would probably drop out before another session was over. Like his neat organized lifestyle, his music is uncluttered; the tune is always evident; his playing is what I would call precise. But - he constantly improves and reconstructs his arrangements of previously performed pieces. And, he admits to wanting to add "frills" to his playing. Frank is dedicated to keeping the group together and promoting the program in order to bring in new people to that end. He has a mid-sized organ and longs to be in a position to upgrade. He has a great sense of humor, a quick tongue, and a willing heart.

A ninety year old lady had been a piano player. She came in to the program, spry and energetic, transferred her piano talent to the organ, and delighted us all with a rendition of Autumn Leaves, piano run and all. She also played Clarinet Polka for memory, a feat I cannot play with music in front of me. Like most of us, there were pluses and minuses in her life; a grown son with developmental disabilities in institutional care; an important friend who passed away leaving her sad and lonely. He death made her more financially safe, but caused her to lose her subsidized housing, which forced her to move from a neighborhood she was well settled in. But that legacy also allowed her to have an organ. This wonderful lady had to give up coming in because at nearly 96, she became unsure of how well she was driving, and gave it up. She would be an inspiration to any one who thinks they are "too old" to begin something.

I met another 90+ year old one day and said, "I don't see you a the organ lessons anymore. How come?" and she said, "Well, I might come back later, but I have been playing golf on nice days. Have to do that, you know , while we can. We can play the organ on rainy days. But we can't play golf!" She did add that she still played and hoped to come back. She did not, and I saw her death in the paper several months later.

No so local there is a man who played accordion, and maybe other instruments I am not sure. He took to the organ around the time he retired and in my opinion, there is no man I know who enjoys the experience like this man. He is always exploring possibilities on the organ, always coming up with great arrangements and shares them willingly. He wants to be a "total organist" so is working on full pedal accomplishment (with the tutelage of his talented organist wife). He watches and learns from pros and is not shy about asking questions of them. That's the reason he is so really, really good and so really, really interesting. He's no in my backyard, but I count him as valuable friend in music.

The people who play hobby music are special, each and every one of them. Getting out with others makes people "keep themselves up" and "keep their minds sharp." No one knows what tomorrow will hold. No one can be sure the people they are with today will be with them a week from now. But if you find a group of people who share something you love it will improve your life immeasurably. You cannot be unhappy and be involved in music, and when you are a senior you don't have to prove anything, you don't have to have someone telling you to practice, you don't have to have someone saying you aren't playing it the way it was written. Especially with hobby organ, you are the maestro. Play it your way and let the "musicians" in the organ follow you. Lead them wildly into a polka or quietly into a lullaby. Play a romantic piece while you reminisce a long ago dance; play a march and watch the drummers swing their sticks and the trombones pump their slides.
Sing along, add your own fills, pause and play it another way. Enjoy to the max.

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing.
(That's getting a bit trite. I might be changing this blog in the New Year. Any suggestions?)

Janice (if you don't want to blog)

Monday, November 22, 2010

The beat is the thing `

it does seem sometimes as though individual musicians in a big band get diminished by the overall picture. IF you look at typical big band, the drummer is not the focal point. But without the drummer, the band would have no beat - little pizzaz - not much oomph.
In a marching band the drums set the pace and become "showcase" elements. Those Scotch drummers and base drummers who do fancy things with their sticks - you've seen them. But the swing bands and today's stage bands, whatever the type of music, don't always give the drummer a "break" to show what they can do. And to many people, those "drum breaks" (where only the drummer is performing on his whole kit) sound like a lot of noise. The next time you have a chance to hear and observe a drummer taking his 8 bars, listen carefully. There are tones and sounds of as many as four side drums of various sizes, and cymbals and wood blocks, and that base giving it all depth. Then if there is time, or if you can multi-task, watch the hands and feet, the body and the face. It takes a lot of stamina and strength; and real talent; not to mention emotion. Then if you are listening to a symphony orchestra, pay attention to the big copper timpani in the back. IF you concentrate your listening, it is possible to hear them very clearly. They are tuned for different pitches - yes they are tuned and the tuning is very important to get the varied sounds to match the rest of the orchestra.

SO - today I am thinking about drummers. The ones who came to my mind immediately were Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. Drummers I admired. I wanted to find out who the drummers of note are today and only found one reference that impressed me. Now don't go all nuts over that - you may know a wonderful drummer in a great band, but I only found one that struck me as outstanding.

Gene Krupa: Born in Chicago in 1909, Gene was the youngest of nine children. His father died when Gene was very young; his mother worked as a milliner to support the family. He brother Pete got a job at Brown Music Company and Gene, age 11, was hired as a chore boy. He had started playing sax in grade school, but took up drums also at age 11.
Big changes for him at that point. He said he used to look through instrument catalogs, he didn't care what the instrument was, he wanted to own one. Drums were the cheapest - a Japanese kit for "sixteen beans." A big bass, a snare, wood block and brass cymbal.
HIs religious parents had been grooming Gene for the priesthood, enrolling him in parochial schools. When he entered high school he connected with other musicians, and began formal drum studies. He was advised to join the musicians' union. The union official said, "Make roll." Gene did, and the man said, " That's it. Give us $50. O.K. You're in."

Big influences in Gene's development as a first class drummer were: Zutty Singleton, a New Orleans who, after serving in the US Navy in WWI, played with such well known bands as Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton. He had a stroke and died in 1970 in New York City. <<<>>> Tubby Hall, also from Louisiana, played in many marching bands but moved to Chicago at the age of 22. He joined the US Army for two years, and then returned to pursue his music career. He was famous for being able to work with all parts of the bands to get the best effects, and for his expertise in using sticks and brushes, woodblocks, cymbals and rims. Hall played with Armstrong, and worked with Armstrong in the Betty Boop movies. Both Hall and Armstrong got their faces transposed with those of racially stereotyped "jungle natives in the cartoon. :::

NOW, back to Krupa. Gene was behind the development of the modern drum kit. He convinced the Slingerland company to make tunable tom-toms. And he was consulted by Zildjian to help develop the modern cymbal kit. Krupa always backed both products.
He was the first drummer to record using a bass drum and tom-toms. It was for Okeh records in Chicago. Rockwell, of Okeh Records said he was afraid those drums "would knock the needle off the wax and into the street." Glen Miller, Benny Goodman and Krupa were part of the pit band for Gershwin's "Strike Up The Band." He played with Russ Columbo, then Benny Goodman. Goodman put together a group with Krupa on drums with the promise that he would give Krupa a chance to showcase his talent at a performance at Carnegie Hall. Gene's performance on "SingSingSing" has been acclaimed as the first extended drum solo in Jazz. After that, audiences were demanding to hear more of Krupa; Goodman didn't want to lose his spotlight to a sideman, and Gene left in 1938. He formed his own orchestra, and was an instant hit. He hired on black musicians determined to bring them into the jazz scene and worked to see that they were treated fairly. He challenged a restaurant owner who refused to serve trumpeter Roy Eldridge with the rest of the band. He was at an engagement in San Francisco when the local police decided they needed a high profile name for publicity in their "clean city" drive against marijuana. Gene was accused of possession,tried and jailed. In actuality, the marijuana belonged to a band boy with a long history of delinquency, but he wasn't a celebrity. Gene did the time, 84 days of a 90 day sentence, which put him out of business at the peak of his career. Roy Eldridge tried to keep the band together but had to let it go. Gene returned to the music scene with Goodman and Tommy Dorsey, eventually forming his own band once more. He was among the first acts to be booked by Norman Granz for the "Jazz At The Philharmonic" concerts from which came the "Drum Battles" with Buddy Rich. Recordings of the "All Star" jams at the Philharmonic were made, another first. A film of Gene Krupa's life, factually very loose, was made in 1959 with Sal Mineo as Krupa. He formed a drum school, took tympani lesson, coached a baseball team. He was married twice. In 1973 Gene Krupa died of a heart attack, although he had been suffering from leukemia and emphysema for some time. He is a legend in the annals of drumming.

Buddy Rich: Born in 1917 in Brooklyn to vaudevillian parents, he could keep a steady beat with spoons by the age of one. His parents introduced him on a set of drums in vaudeville when he was 18 months old, billed as "Traps the Drum Wonder." He was reportedly the second highest-paid child entertainer, after Jackie Coogan.
At age 11 he had his own band, (note the similarity to Krupa's childhood), he never learned to read music. He admired Krupa, Chick Webb, Dave Tough and Jo Jones as well as many others.

Rich played with his first major group in 1937. But in 1938 he joined Bunny Berigan, and in 1939 he joined Artie Shaw. While working with Artie Shaw, Buddy instructed 14 year old Mel Brooks in drumming. He made a recording with Vic Schoen Orchestra ( which backed the Andrews Sisters) and was hired by the Tommy Dorsey orchestra where he met Frank Sinatra. In 1944 Rich joined the US Marine Corps for two years. After a two year run with Dorsey again, he left and formed his own band with financial support from Sinatra. His career went up and down in spite of Sinatra's backing, During his career he worked with Benny Carter, Harry James, Les Brown, Charlie Ventura and "Jazz At the Philharmonic." As a drummer he had dexterity and speed that was acclaimed as phenomenal by those in the business. He had great showmanship doing a lot of arm cross-overs, one stick rolls (with either hand!), and fancy stick tricks that kept the audience fascinated. He used contrasting techniques, explosive busts, and quiet brush work just to keep things interesting. Buddy Rich had the reputation of an unpleasant personality. He threatened to fire members of the band, but seldom did. Surreptitiously, some recordings were made of Rich's tantrums. They have been bootlegged, but are not available commercially. Some of the quotes have been used by Seinfeld. He was allegedly slapped by Dusty Springfield after several days of "putting up with his insults."
He threatened to fire a trombonist for wearing a beard. He held a black belt in karate, reportedly disliked Country and Western music, was a fan of Donny Osmond. At the end of his life he asked Mel Torme who was writing his authorized biography, to play the tapes of his tantrums for him. He died of a heart attack following brain tumor surgery in 1987. His friend and colleague said, "Rich had a soft heart underneath it all. His favorite song was "It's Not Easy Being Green."

VIC FIRTH: Maine has it's own percussion celebrity. Vic Firth was born in Massachusetts, but was raised in Maine. His father, Everett Firth was a high school band leader, and as it happens was the leader of Kennebunk HIgh School Band, which is the band I participated in as member of the drum section. (There were about 350 kids in the high school, and over 100 participated in band, including the majorettes.) Anyway, Vic Firth started playing cornet at the age of four. He turned to drums at an older age, but meanwhile learned piano, vibraphone, trombone,clarinet, timpani.
By age 18 he had formed his own 18 piece band. Firth performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for twelve years and became their premiere percussionist. He realized symphonic music needed a higher quality of stick than was on the market. Deciding to design his own sticks, he hand whittled the first ones himself, from the bulkier market sticks. He sent these prototypes to a wood turner in Montreal. They were the first of many drum sticks bearing the Vic Firth name.

Today Firth's company manufactures 12 million sticks a year, and has added other items to the product line including mallets, salt and pepper mills and rolling pins. The Vic Firth products are made in Maine. Vic Firth is 80 years young.

ADAM DEITCH. This is the very modern drummer I chose to "discuss" because he seems to be THE drummer today that ranks with Krupa and Rich. Adam is the son of two drummers; his father's uncle was a "famous drummer in the Big Band era" and his mother's grandfather was a also a drummer. So, if things like drumming can be transmitted genetically, Adam came quite naturally by his talent. But he has not rested on family name at all. He did not divulge in his interview with someone, his parents names or those of the other family members. I read carefully what I could find, and it is my thought that he might be the grandson of Buddy Rich, who did at one time have his own radio program.

Adam grew up in a home that had a music studio complete with drum set, key board, and ping pong table. A boy's dream. His parents made music look like fun so he was quite naturally attracted to it. Adam is going on into technology and production. He has created start-up companies and has been involved with several groups. He is too new and too young to know where his career will lead, but he is considered to be a premiere drummer. If you go to his website you can listen in on a "session." He's good, no doubt about that.

I am sure there are many many good drummers in our very vast musical field of performers today. But for smooth jazz, dance bands and easy listening Krupa and Rich are the obvious best. For symphony, Vic Firth is hard to beat (no pun intended) and probably for modern music Adam Deitch makdes the top of the list.

An African quote: 'He who cannot dance will say "The drum is bad."

"If thine enemy wrongs thee, buy each of his children a drum." (Chinese quote)

I bought a grandson a small but nice drum set once and his parents made me keep it at my house.

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing.

From Scarborough, Jan Major

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


It strikes me as strange that a young musician would choose a "goodbye" song as a theme song. But perhaps it was not so much intentional as situational. I have a friend who as a young trombone player became associated with "Stardust" because he played it well and with great feeling. When he formed a band and went pro it became his theme song. More incidental than intentional, he mentioned recently.

Gaetano Lombardo was born in London, Ontario in 1902, one of five sons(Carmen, Lebert , Victor and Joseph) of a tailor who was also an amateur vocalist, and a stay-at-home but musical mom. There were also at least two girls, Elaine and Rose-Marie. Three boys were taught an instrument so they could play for their father. Joe was the dissenter - he had no interest in music but was interested in art and eventually became an interior decorator. In grade school, Guy had already become the leader - without challenge, apparently - of the Lombardo Quartet. Guy and Carmen performed for the first time at a lawn party in 1914. In 1919 the quartet had a summer engagement at a dance pavillion at Grand Bend, Ont. and expanded the group to include a saxophonist, drummer, tuba, guitar and trombone. UP to that point, the brothers had doubled in several slots including vocal. This larger orchestra got an engagement at the Winter Garden in London, and at Port Stanley, Ont. in the summer. Following those seasons they moved to Cleveland. America became their home thereafter, although they toured Canada in later years.

By 1924 the orchestra, known as "Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians" became the resident orchestra at the Claremont Tent, a Cleveland nightclub.
A coach, Louis Bleet, slowed their tempo, lowered their volume and introduced the popular medley of songs requested by patrons of the club. The slow romantic dance style of the Lombardo orchestra became hugely popular. Smooth sax led by Carmen's alto, the use of a tuba instead of double bass, the quiet, barely audible drumming (except to the other musicians) contributed to the sweet harmonic rather than rhythmic style. Carmen was also an emotional vocalist, often satirized and mocked for his precise pronunciation. The magazine Downbeat, whose readers were mostly of the swing and jazz audience, referred to Lombardo as the "King of Corn."

In 1924 the band made their first recording in a studio in Indiana. And they also arranged to play an unsponsored radio program , which gave them the opportunity to gather a following, and thus engagements in the area. In 1927 the band moved to Chicago where they got an engagement at the Granada Cafe. Guy realized early on that radio was the tool for publicity and with the aid of Jules Stein, convinced the owner of the cafe to put in a wire and broadcast the show.
They split the cost three ways.

The first broadcast was New Year's Eve at 9:00 p.m. The program began with an almost empty cafe, but by closing there was a packed house. From that night, Lombardo's popularity soared. And the Granada Cafe kept the "wire" in place, and the cafe became the second most popular place in Chicago, right behind the Blackhawk Restaurant.

The man who facilitated a lot of Guy's Chicago success was named Quadrach. When Lombardo felt he was ready to move on to New York he found out - Chicago style - that he was not as much in charge as he had thought. He was delayed several months disentangling himself from commitments Quadrach had made in his name. Accordng to what I could find, some of the stories did not come out until many years later. It was suggested that some of the people involved "were not the kind you would want to aggravate."

The Royal Canadians moved into the Roosevelt Hotel in in New York 1929 which turned into a very long engagement. Except for the occasional hiatus when Lombardo chose to play elsewhere or take time off, that engagement lasted until the Roosevelt Grille closed in the late 1960's. Meanwhile, Decca began recording and The Royal Canadians were among the first to sign on. This resulted in a long list of best selling recordings including at least four which reached the million mark.
Some original compositions were "Boo Hoo", "Powder Your Face With Sunshine",
"Seems Like Old Times", "Coquette" and "Sweethearts on Parade." Guy Lombardo and The Royal Canadians closed out every year, for years, on radio and eventually television, with his "Auld Lang Syne" signature piece.

Guy had another interest - quite unrelated and quite perilous. He was an avid speed boat racer who won the 1946 Gold Cup race on the Detroit River in a boat he called Tempo VI. The boat had an old hull and a new motor. It was said he had "a good rhythm and conducted to a fine crescendo, rather like as if he were directng Ravel's Bolero." Racing rules changed and boats became much faster in '47 and '48, and he did not win those races. However, he did break a world record in Miami in 1948.

His goal was to break a speed record of 141.74 mph set in 1939.
He said he needed a new boat and a suitable body of water.

He was performing in Glens Falls, and he and his brothers and some members of the band as well as some of his racing crew went to Lake George to see if it was a good place to break the record. Seeing that it was, Guy began making contacts for the boat and the organization of a race. Henry Kaiser, who built fast ships for WWII, was going to pay for a new boat for Lombardo. Another character entered the picture, big in the racing world- the owner of Ventnor Boat Building, which had built Guy's Tempo VI. He said he wanted the record to be broken at Lake Placid where he had a summer home. Guy said he would use Tempo VI if it were going to be at Lake Placid, in deference to Ventnor's owner. Caused some publicity for both Lombardo, Ventnor and the racing community as it was seen as a conflict among the "big players." Lombardo left, and never returned. It was later implied that the whole "dust-up" over the location was a publicity stunt for Lake Placid and possibly for Guy Lombardo.

There was a Lombardo Museum in London, Ontario, Canada. It was established and managed by Doug Flood who was dedicated to preserving the Lombardo relics. The TEMPO VI was found and restored. and a building was built especially to accommodate it. It became too much for Flood to handle, and he tried to make a deal with the city of London to take it over. The city of London apparently did not want to support it, and Flood could not continue it on it's merits alone. Thus, it has closed permanently, as far as I could find out.

Flood, who owned the relics, took them out of the museum to his home. He commented, "My house is not longer a home, it's a warehouse." A few items have been donated to the Museum London, such as an award given Lombardo by the City of London. Other items may be donated to archives in the locality, but the manager of London City Services has said the items belong to Flood and he has the right to do with what he chooses with no influence by the city.

This was one of the most interesting and most difficult items I have attempted. There is a great deal written in many sites on the band and the Lombardos.
Guy won the Ford Memorial competition in 1948; the President's Cup and Silver Cup in 1992; Was reigning US National Champ from 1946 to 1949; won every trophy in the sport before his retirement in the late '50s. In 2002 he was inducted into the Motorsport Hall of Fame.

In later years Guy Lombardo lived in Freeport, L.I. NY, where he invested in "Liota's East Point House, a seafood restaurant, which later became known as "Guy Lombardo's East Point House." He became promoter and musical director of Jones Beach Marine Theater which was built by Robert Moses especially with Guy in mind.
Rose-Marie sang with the band, and by her own admission she wasn't a great singer.
Elaine Lombardo urged Guy to hire Kenny Gardner after seeing him in another night club. Guy did listen to him, and hire him, and Elaine married him.
Victor died in Bocca Raton of a heart attack in 1994. He left a wife, two sons and a step-daughter.
Carmen died in 1971 of Cancer. I could not find any reference to family.
Lebert died in 1993. His son Billy attempted unsuccessfully to keep the band together.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Margaret Whiting

Margaret Whiting- as I mentioned, I asked my fellow high school drummer, Greg who he thought was the best singer of the time, and he said Margaret Whiting without hesitation.

He told me she was the daughter of Richard Whiting, which proved that he was a lot more up on musicians than I was. I didn't know who Richard Whiting was. Richard wrote "On The Good Ship Lollipop", "The Japanese Sandman" and "Ain't We Got Fun?", "Breezin' Along With The Breeze", and "She's Funny That Way." There are many more but his isn't about Richard. Nor is it about Eleanor Young Whiting, her mother who was a homemaker and manager of Margaret Young* and Sophie Tucker.

And then there was Barbara Whiting, Margaret's actress/singer sister. *And she also had an aunt who was a singer/recording artist in the '20's named Margaret Young. It could be said she inherited her talent if indeed we can inherit a gene for musical talent.

At the age of seven Johnny Mercer noticed that she had a true talent, and by age 18 she was signed to Capitol Records which Mercer owned. Margaret Whiting was Capitol's first "label" artist. Whiting served as President of the Johnny Mercer Foundation, and continued in the '40's to record and perform. At 15 she appeared in the Lucky Strike "Your Hit Parade", but was fired because the owner of the company said she could not dance to her songs.

Mercer continued to guide and mentor her, and once told her to "grow up and learn to sing." She had plenty of opportunity to just that as she was in the frequent company of her father's and Mercer's collaborators, Harold Arlen, Mel Torme, Judy Garland and others.

Margaret married Hubbell Robinson, a writer, producer and television executive. The marriage lasted about eight nonths.
She married Lou usch, a ragtime pianist known as "Joe ' Fingers' Carr". They had one daughter in 1951, but the marriage also ended in divorce. In 1958 she married Richard Moore, a founder of Panavision, again a marriage which did not last.

In 1994 Margaret married Jack Wrangler (ne' John Stillman. He died in 2009. Wrangler, 20 years her junior, was gay. Margaret was attending one of Wrangler's one-man erotic shows in New York. He later said, "....when I looked over at Margaret, who was surrounded by five guys in a booth.....I thought, 'Boy, now that's New York! that's glamor!" I had to meet her." When they were first introduced Wrangler told her he was gay and her response was "...only around the edges, dear." Wrangler commented of himself, "I'm not bisexual and I'm not straight. I'm gay but I could never live a gay lifestyle because I'm much too competitive. When I was with a guy I would always want to be better than him; what we were accomplishing, what we were wearing - anything. With a woman you compete like crazy, but coming from different points of view, and as far as I'm concerned, that was doable." SO - now you know, I guess why some straight and gay couples seem be happy.

Margaret Whiting's "A Tree In The Meadow" in 1948 made #1; and in 1949 she did it again with "Slippin' Around" with Jimmy Wakely. She appeared on stage in "Dreams" . There is a reference to "using her own name" but I could find no reference of any other name she recorded or performed with.

You can listen to the recordings of most of the artists I profile by going to putting them names in your search engine. It's fun and it gives you a good idea of what some of the old songs should sound like if you are playing them.

MIchigan John has suggested I look up Guy Lombardo. That will be my next project.

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing. It's good for your soul.


Friday again, and a lovely one it turned out to be. Started out rainy and windy; hard trip to do my radio program in Standish. But this afternoon it is clearing, the patio thermometer says somewhere between 50 and 55. And I am looking forward to a nice trip to Kennebunk tomorrow to join friends for an organ get-together.

Last week I think I said I would do Jane Morgan, and then I forgot. I began researching Margaret Whiting, my friend Greg's favorite 50's vocalist. SO, if you are up to reading about two important vocalists, I will tell you about both of them.

Jane Currier (Morgan) is of particular interest to me because her brother Robert Currier established a very well known summer theater in Kennbunkport.

She was born in Newton, Mass.(Florence Currier, 1924) the daughter of two very accomplished musicians. Her father, from Munich, played in the Boston Symphony, and her mother was a graduate of New England Conservatory of Music. Both were composers, teachers and operated a family music school in Newton. (Bertram Currier was a collateral relative of the famous lithographer of Currier and Ives.) Jane was taught to sing, play piano and violin and dance. Her career as a performer began with roles in Robert Currier's Kenenbunkport Playhouse in summer theater. Her father died when she was only 13 and her mother moved the children to Daytona Beach Florida. After high school Jane attended Juliard School of Music to study opera. Studying by day, she performed in night clubs and at parties, Bar Mitzvahs and small restaurants to earn money to continue her education.
She was hired to sing in the Roseland Ballroom, six nights a week for $25 per week.
While still at Juliard, Art Mooney heard her perform and hired her. It was he who changed her name to Morgan by taking the first name of one of his vocalists, Janie Ford, and the last of another, Marian Morgan.

Because her mother had taught her flawless French, the impressario Bernard Hilda hired her to accompany him to Paris to sing in a nightclub he planned to open near the Eiffel Tower. She appeared regularly in the Club Des Champs Elysees, twice nightly, mostly to French audiences. Her songs were those of Cole Porter,George Gershwin, French songs, and standards of the century, all in correct French. She was a sensation there, and Hilda (and his gypsy violin) became a celebrity. Subsequently, she worked seven days a week touring all over Europe, Italy,Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and England. She was not by any means getting wealthy, but many fine designers of the day were eager to provide her with their creations. Remarkable hats, elegant gowns, style-setting wardrobes; she became a "continental chanteuse", but was hardly known in the US.

In 1952 Morgan went to Canada,opened at the Ritz as a soloist with a bilingual act, but returned to New York with performances in upscale nightclubs. She got her own radio program with NBC, backed by the 500-piece Symphony Orchestra. Then back to England in 1954.

In 1962 she married Larry Stith. I could not turn up any additional information on Stith.
They divorced in 1965, and shortly after Morgan married Jerry Weintraub, her agent. Her agent/husband was responsible for booking her into US venues which led to her appearing in many radio programs and eventually on television.

Many years ago the Kennebunkport Playhouse burned beyond salvaging. But to this day the Weintraubs maintain a lovely old farm home near that site which is known as Blueberry Hill. Florence Currier, the little girl who started in Kennebunkport Playhouse as a child performer, evolved into the lovely Jane Morgan who has credits to her name like Bells Are Ringing, Marry Me, Marry Me, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Anniversary Waltz, Affairs of State, Kiss Me Kate, and Mame She has appeared with Andy Williams, Burt Bachrach, with Gary Cooper in Love In the Afternoon, Chet Atkins (country/western? Yes!), Ed Sullivan, and Hollywood Palace. Her last appearances were with Johnny Cash (she did an answer to A Boy Named Sue titled A Girl Named Johnny Cash), and the Merv Griffin Show in 1971.

Jane and Jerry Weintrab adopted three children, Julie, Jamie and Jodie.

In all of these profiles of musicians I learn new things, and I only pass on those facts which I think are most interesting. I use Wikipedia and books which I have on hand.
Some performers have their own website which gives yet another side - their side - of their stories. IF you have a favorite performer, or a show or song you would like to to research, please let me know. If you don't want to use the "blogspot" to remark, just drop me a line at, but please be sure to mark "blog" in the subject line, because if I don't recognize your URL or name I probably won't open the message.
I get a lot of offers for jobs from the UK to handle accounts in the US for sales made over there; almost daily I get a chance to win $50,000,000 from Africa; or inherit part of an estate in Australia from an unknown distant relative who just knew I would put it to good use and deserved to have it --if I would just send them $10,000 to assure the safe and prompt transfer. Yeah, sure.
Check the second post for today on Margaret Whiting.

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing. It's good for the soul. jem