Friday, August 29, 2008

There's Something About a Hammond

Thanks to the grand and very special friend who has learned the joy of giving, my office/den/ antique gallery/Bettie Page Shrine now sports a Hammond Organ as well as the Antique Zenith radio over which I am seen peering geriatrically in the profile. Those 60 year old Hammonds are still treasured today,whether playing a corny skating rink tune, rockin' gospel, cool jazz or screaming rock. They do it all. No, mine's not a legendary B-3. Paired with a Leslie Speaker, a nice Hammond B-3 can bring up to $10,000 these days. Mine is an M-3. I saw one like it in the thrift store for sixty bucks. It's the first Hammond tone wheel model to be put in a spinet cabinet for those who did not have the cash or the room for one of the big boys. I only play schmaltzy theatrical style but I guess my M-3 could rock pretty good if I knew how to do it. Lots of rock groups use it. Right over the console there's a big wall hanging of Nurse Bettie,as well as the painting you see in the previous post,and a big poster in her undies. And there's a 1930 Packard that hangs over the '41 Zenith radio. We old boys must have our toys. I wrote about that on one of my other blogs, appropriately named Farting Around

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Perfect Pitch Puzzle

Charlotte Harris, only female member of Lawrence Welk's TV orchestra, was interviewed at the close of last night's old Welk show on PBS TV. She said her entire family of six all had perfect pitch. I think she referred to herself, three siblings and both parents. How rare is that? Has it happened before? Has anyone done a family study about it? There is a fellow who advertises in the musician's magazine and on the net, claiming he can teach us to develop perfect pitch. Most scientists who are into psycho acoustics say you're either born with it or you're not. Does anybody really understand the phenomenon?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Days of Our Lives retro

Days of Our Lives has gone into a hilarious black and white, 1940's story line, complete with period sets, costumes, dialogue and even cigarettes dangling from their mouths. I am totally cracked up. I imagine the cast rolling on the floor in hysterics after they taped it. It's high camp.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What rhymes with "Saskatchewan"??

It must be 60 or more years ago that I heard a goofy song that I never forgot. It had wild, wacky rhymes for that Western Canadian Province that still make me laugh out loud. I probably heard it on that very popular CBC show, "The Happy Gang." That's the kind of fun material they did. That's where I first heard "When Yuba plays the rhumba on the tuba down in Cuba." Now there's a witty ditty. Many thanks to the Saskatoon Public Library for sending me the words to the Saskatchewan song. They tell me I need to put the copyright stuff at the bottom. I don't want the RCMP, headed up by Sergeant Preston and Yukon King, riding into town, carting me off to the Provincial Pokey. Here's the song:
What a de-light when I think of the night that I met you on, in
Sas-ka-toon, SAS-KATCH-E-WAN;
Oh, what a thrill was the spill down the hill I upset you on, in
Swift as the breeze was the race on the skiis I would bet you on - in
Sas-ka-toon, SAS-KATCH-E-WAN;
I'd walk a-head while you rode on the sled that I'd fetch you on, in
We might have been in the Alps,
Just like you see in the pa-pers,
Risk-in a cou-ple of scalps,
And cut-ting Ca-nad-i-an Ca-pers;
It's gon-na be nice to come back to the ice that I'd sketch you on, in
Sas-ka-toon, SAS-KATCH-E-WAN;
I'll char-ter a plane or a hon-ey-moon train that I'll get you on, in
And tho' it's ten be-low, when you're in love, you feel as tho its
nine-ty-eight a-bove and so, a-way you go, a-cross a Par-a-dise of ice and
I ask you, is Canada a great country or what?

----Words and Music by Irving Ceasar, Sammy Lerner and Gerald Marks." The
sheet music for this song that we have in our collection was copyrighted by
Paramount Music - "Copyright MCMXXXVI by Paramount Music Corporation, 1619
Broadway Avenue, New York, NY. International Copyright Secured."

Monday, August 11, 2008


A woman I know just turned 35. That’s still pretty young these days. She showed no signs of birthday trauma. I remember when 35 was middle age, especially for women. If a lady did not have a man and a picket fence by the time she hit the big three-five, she was on a downhill slide into spinsterhood.
I told my friend to ask her grandmother, who loved radio soap operas when she was young, if she remembered “The Romance of Helen Trent.” Nowhere in the pop culture of that era was the plight of a woman over 35 more dramatically portrayed than in radio’s longest running daytime serial. For over 7,000 episodes, from 1933 to 1960, harried housewives all over America sat at their kitchen tables with a small radio and a big bottle of Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound for “female complaint, “ as the announcer introduced the program.
“And now, The Romance of Helen Trent, the real-life drama of Helen Trent, who, when life mocks her, breaks her hopes, dashes her against the rocks of despair, fights back bravely, successfully, to prove what so many women long to prove, that because a woman is 35, or more, romance in life need not be over, that romance can begin at 35.”
The “true-life drama” of Helen Trent was grand fiction, turned out by radio’s most prolific writers, Frank and Anne Hummert. They wrote over a hundred shows, including “Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons,”, “Jack Armstrong the all American Boy” and the one we all loved, “Ma Perkins.” But there really was a
Lydia Pinkham. Nobody could make up such a perfect name for a patent medicine. It beats the fictitious “Betty Crocker” all to pieces. Lydia started out concocting home remedies that she gave away, and eventually turned her most famous elixir into a goldmine. It contained a fair amount of alcohol, so perhaps it helped in more ways than one.
The Pinkham product was not Helen’s radio sponsor, but she could have used a lifetime supply of it. In 1933 she was a 35 year old dressmaker who fought her way to the top to become a big time costume designer in Hollywood., victimized by high powered movie moguls and attracting the wrong men along the way. But there was one great love. If you ask his name from some folks who were around during radio’s great days , you will be surprised at how many will reply, “Why, it was Gil Whitney, of course!” The Hummert writing team gave Gil his own set of dramatic soap opera problems. Once a “brilliant and prominent attorney,” he was a secret government agent for a time and at one point was paralyzed in a train wreck. The cruelest blow of all for poor Helen came when Gil married someone else.
I listened to a Helen Trent episode online. I don’t know what year it was from, but I’m guessing it was sometime in the 40’s. The commercial featured a pint of AeroWax for your floors for just 29 cents. In this one, Helen is lured to an apartment by a fake message that she thinks is from Gil Whitney. She comes upon the dead body of a movie bigshot, and of course she is accused of doing the dirty deed. I dare not say more. My heart is racing and I’m getting much too excited for an old guy, wondering how poor Helen will get out of this latest predicament.
That story line might look like something you can see any night on TV. But there is a difference. Radio made us use something that you don’t need much of when you watch television. It’s called imagination. We drew our own mental pictures of Helen and Gil and all the enemies Helen made on her climb to success. That’s why old time radio is often called Theater of the Mind.
In one of the great moments of radio drama, the final episode had Helen on a balcony, waiting for Gil to finally come to her with a declaration of love. The balcony collapses with a terrible crash, followed by silence. Then we hear Gil Whitney’s voice. The last words to be spoken on of one radio’s great daytime serials: Helen? … Helen … it’s Gil … Helen!”
Helen Trent was still 35 when she went to soap opera heaven in 1960. All over the country, the Lydia Pinkham’s was diluted with tears. It still makes me teary because radio’s golden era died with Helen Trent.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rent Radio City

You say you've got an idea for a really big show? You can rent the Radio City Music Hall for $118,000. Theater organist Jack Moelmann took those big bucks out of his personal bank account for a concert featuring him and other lovers of the Mighty Wurlitzer. The theater pipe organ hobby might not be the world's best known diversion, but its addicts love it with a passion seldom seen.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Great song lyrics

If you like to read "old standard" song lyrics, take a peek at Relative Esoterica's grand listing of songs recorded by Jo Stafford. Gershwin's "But not for me" always makes me smile at the last line that is not often heard. I don't know if Jo Stafford used it. "When every happy plot ends with a marriage knot, and there's no knot for me." I suppose it's a pun that doesn't play well unless you see it in print and maybe that's why it isn't often sung.