Sunday, April 19, 2009

GREAT SCOTT! HAVE I GONE LOONEY?


I awoke the other night thinking about how Hammond Organs work. Now I know there are worse things I could be thinking about. But I am so old that I can't remember what they are. In the circuitous way that can only be understood by characters who are addicted to endless web searches for obscure information, I found myself reading about Mr. Raymond Scott. I once owned his 78 rpm waxings (that's what we used to call records) of "The Toy Trumpet" and "In an Eighteenth Century Drawing Room." And there was his weird song that I played on my deejay show, "Yesterday's Ice Cubes." That was sung by Dorothy Collins, Scott's wife. She was a singer and he was the orchestra leader on the famous radio show, "Your Hit Parade." But that was not his strangest title. How about "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals." What, you might ask, does all this have to do with electro-mechanical music machines like my Hammond Organ? (I put that "electro-mechanical" in there for the Hammond Purists who would have picky fits if I called it electronic) Thank you for asking. Like guitarist and inventor Les Paul, the Wizard of Waukesha, Raymond Scott was a brilliant musician and equally adept at inventing new ways of making music. He was pretty eccentric, too. Put the brain of a musician and inventor in the same head and the thin line between creativity and nuttiness gets erased. The Clavivox was one of his many inventions. The one hundredth anniversary of his birth has been observed with a collectible figurine of him with the Clavivox. His Circle machine had some things in common with the innards that spin around in my vintage Hammond. You have heard Raymond's Scott's music if you ever watched a Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies or Looney Tunes Cartoon. What is accidental and fortuitous about that is that he never wrote a note for the cartoons. His cute tunes and experimental jazz just lent itself so well to that medium that Carl Stalling, Warner's music director, bought the rights to Scott's whole catalog of music for his cartoons. Scott's music is still heard on TV, from soap operas and dramas to the most popular contemporary cartoon shows. Enter "Raymond Scott" in google for many hours of smiles from his tricky tunes and quirky titles. Now I must wonder what interesting places tonight's late night/early morning thoughts will take me to. Will Bugs and Elmer, Sylvester and Tweety, Roadrunner and Taz and Porky and all the Cartoon characters be "Dancing over head on the ceiling near my bed?" Raymond Scott didn't write that song. Lionel Ritchie didn't, either. Not the one I love. It's Rodgers and Hart. Lorenz Hart penned possibly the cleverest line in the history of songwriting when he wrote, "I love my ceiling more since it is a dancing floor." Maybe those cartoon friends will be joined up there by my favorite Muppet, the dangerously voluptuous Miss Piggy. Did the Muppets ever use Raymond Scott's music? They should have if they didn't. Best of all possibilities, perhaps the late Miss Bettie Page will be up there on my ceiling, intent upon showing me that I'm not totally over the hill. She can do it if anyone can. Bettie was not a great dancer but it didn't seem to matter. I think I just told myself a lovely, looney bedtime story.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Big Show

I did a Lenten Presentation for a local church, telling stories of great hymns and inspirational songs. Before we closed by singing "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You," I told them that Meredith Willson, whose greatest claim to fame, "The Music Man," came along much later, wrote the song for the closing theme of the last big network radio show. Hosted by Tallulah Bankhead, it had everythng, including all the stars. Here are Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Bob Hope, Louis Armstrong with Meredith Willson behind him, Frankie Lane, Tallulah Bankhead and Deborah Kerr.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

South Pacific Old Time Radio?

I wonder if the producers of that Carnegie Hall "Concert" version of South Pacific came from the old time radio era, or did I read that into it? Came across to me a whole lot like a big network radio production. Big orchestra, live audience, stars dressed in dresses and tuxes, walking up to microphones, reading from scripts. turning to costumes and dances for a couple numbers that seemed to call for it, like the memorable "Honey Bun." Maybe it was Reader's Theater. Whatever it was, I loved it. Maybe more than the fully staged version.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lust



Have I forsaken Bettie Page now that she has gone to that special corner of heaven (or hell if that is your belief) reserved for former pin-up girls? According to Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame, who spoke at her funeral service, she smiles down upon those in attendance and thanks them for coming. Have I forgot bodacious Bettie and immediately started lusting for the outrageously cute little old Southern girl, Reba McIntire? No, no! I have added a photo taken at Bettie's funeral to my shrine. I also found some police mug shots taken when she was arrested after having a breakdown and doing dreadful things. I shall not display those. Too painful. I shall look lovingly upon the several poses that grace my Bettie Shrine, including this treasured get-well drawing from Grand Rapids, Michigan artist friend Jack Snider.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Reba


I have the hots for Reba McIntire. She is just about the cutest thing this side of a big old bowl of grits. I watched, for the second time, her concert performance as Nellie Forbush in the PBS Great Performance series presentation of South Pacific. I am charmed.