Friday, April 26, 2019
Officially on a big time 20th century music bent on Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, this blogmeister has been binge-listening to the innovative and incomparable guitar-slinger, guitar builder and recording technology innovator Les Paul, the only musician also in the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum.
Having made his name first as a country-western guitarist, then as a band member in Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians and ultimately with his own trio, Les was hired by Bing Crosby.
Clearly, Les was extremely adept at accompanying vocalists even early on in his recording career.
After further success as an ace accompanist with The Andrews Sisters and as a last-minute sub for Oscar Moore in the first Jazz At The Philharmonic concert, Les Paul would join forces with talented vocalist, fellow guitar-slinger and wife-to-be Mary Ford.
The duo soon became one of Capitol Records' top selling recording artists. On radio, Les and Mary co-starred in the 15-minute Les Paul Show.
The Les Paul & Mary Ford records, including 16 top 10 hits between 1950-1954, sold millions.
The duo were the biggest recording artists in the business until the emergence of Elvis Presley.
Les, always a builder and tinkerer, figured out how to add more recording heads to tape machines, utilize multiple tape recorders and create multi-track recordings.
Using a makeshift recording studio in their garage, Les Paul and Mary Ford created hit records for Capitol Records in which Les' guitar and Mary's voice became an orchestra.
The musical couple hosted their own syndicated TV show in 1954-1955.
Celebrated by guitarists from Pat Martino to Steve Miller to Jimmy Page: Les Paul's innovations and inventions in building electric guitars.
Les retired from performing in 1964 and dropped out of sight to concentrate on new guitar designs for Gibson.
He ended said retirement by recording two albums with his pal and fellow "string king" Chet Atkins, Guitar Monsters and Chester & Lester.
Les was among the few luminaries from the swing and bop eras to live long enough to carry that blazing musical brilliance into the 21st century. He held forth weekly at New York City's Iridium Club - and look who showed up to pay tribute.
Les Paul & Mary Ford - here's to you!
Thanks a million for the great sounds! For more, see the official Les Paul website.
Sunday, April 21, 2019
While we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog missed the TCM Classic Film Fest and shall, having found ourselves increasingly and seriously homesick as our March-April CA trip progressed, also miss the epic 2019 San Francisco Silent Film Festival (and drive all the blog's cinephile readers away by covering other totally unrelated 20th century pop culture topics), we never miss a favorite song.
At the top of the list of ridiculously catchy tunes from the halcyon days of 1960's AM radio (KFRC, KYA and KDIA where I grew up), even higher than Mother-In-Law by Ernie K. Doe and Quarter To Three by Gary U.S. Bonds: the one, the only Gene Chandler's 1962 hit The Duke of Earl.
It's a great tune and Gene's snazzy getup tops Bela Lugosi, Liberace and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
Gene Chandler sang this hit with pleasure for 50+ years!
Amazingly enough, The Duke of Earl made it into the late 20th century.
In 1991, the Latino American hip hop group Cypress Hill sampled it 29 years after The Duke Of Earl topped the charts.
What do the kings of doo-wop and hip-hop have in common? Well. . . in this writer's estimation, a certain goofy, tongue-in-cheek sensibility and humor underlying a strong desire to entertain and give the audience their money's worth, not unlike the aforementioned Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
Lyrically, Cypress Hill's (would-be) macho tough guy anthem Hand On The Pump is more akin to Elton John's Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting than Gene Chandler's doo-wop masterpiece, even though one suspects neither the glam pop star Englishman nor the very thoroughly 420-ed Cypress Hill in actuality administered "beat-downs" ever.
Few recording artists had the temerity to actually cover The Duke of Earl. One musician who did was Alex Chilton.
Alex Chilton, as he did with many 1960's tunes, rearranged Gene Chandler's classic as a rock n' roll song, gave it his all and had fun in the process!
The fact that Alex Chilton, the uncrowned king of covers throughout his solo career and even in his concerts with Big Star and The Box Tops, tackled The Duke Of Earl should be no big surprise. Alex covered one of this blogger's favorite 1967 hits, Brenton Wood's classic "The Oogum Boogum Song."
As far as this blogger knows, Alex did not cover Brenton Wood's second big 1967 hit, Gimme Little Sign. Possibly he did and it was never recorded; didn't call Alex Chilton the uncrowned king of covers for nothing!
Meanwhile, here's Brenton Wood performing Gimme Little Sign on Top Of The Pops - and sounding great as usual.
While asking just how I might wrap up this post, the notion arises that some readers of Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog might want to sing The Duke of Earl at home. Why not? Here are the lyrics - have fun!
Thursday, April 11, 2019
At Savanna Jazz in beautiful downtown San Carlos tonight at 7:30: rip-roaring and inventive sounds courtesy of Jeff Sanford's Cartoon Jazz Octet. In tonight's program, amazing music from the 1930's will be rocking the house in 2019.
The intrepid ensemble - Jeff and Hal Richards on reeds & flutes, Mark Rosengarden on drums, Zachariah Spellman on Tuba, Simon Planting on acoustic bass, Andy Ostwald on piano, Eric Wayne on trumpets, and Randy Johnson on guitar, banjo and vocals - will tackle the epic music of John Kirby & His Sextet, Raymond Scott, Jelly Roll Morton and more.
Today is the birthday of Cartoon Jazz Orchestra composer-in-residence Lenny Carlson, so tonight's repertoire shall include several new original tunes by Mr. Carlson, which sfall be included on the group's upcoming CD release "Nothing Wrong."
There will be eccentric, wonderful and very challenging-to-play songs by American composer Raymond Scott.
We shall also hear great tunes by Raymond Scott collaborator (and member of Jazz At The Philharmonic and the mighty Verve Records house band) Charlie Shavers, the brilliant trumpeter, composer and arranger who “jazzed the classics” for the John Kirby Sextet.
The Date: Thursday April 11, 2019
Showtime: 7:30 p.m.
The Place: Savanna Jazz Club
1189 Laurel Street
San Carlos, CA 94070
RESERVATIONS: (415) 624-4549
Club: (650) 453-3683
For more info and musical coolness, see the Cartoon Jazz Orchestra official website.
Saturday, April 06, 2019
Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, obsessed with vintage print and TV advertisements from the mid-20th century, did a post in August 2017 about celebrities plugging alcoholic beverages, featuring everyone from Lucille Ball to Orson Welles to Dan Duryea. Makes me think of this Red Skelton routine. . .
So, before Pinterest makes searching online for ads either obsolete or expensive, let's kick off this post about comics selling alcoholic beverages with Ernie Kovacs. It comes as no surprise that Ernie Kovacs appeared in this campaign for Hueblein ready-made martinis, although it does surprise me that I could not find even one ad featuring Ernie's martini-lovin' Percy Dovetonsils character.
Hard to think of a better spokesperson for "cocktails in a bottle."
Can one imagine Ernie and Edie Adams performing Spike Jones' Cocktails For Two? Yes!
Far and away, the king of print advertisements featuring comedians plugging BOOOOOOOOOZE would be Smirnoff Vodka, owned by. . . G.F. Heublein & Brothers. None less than the King of Late Night, Johnny Carson of The Tonight Show, appeared with a St. Bernard to promote a Smirnoff + Fresca cocktail. . . to which we say, don't knock it unless you've tried it - and, PLEASE, don't skimp on the vodka.
A frequent guest on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson was comedian Buddy Hackett, who portrayed a fireman with a mission to save dull, boring, floundering parties with plenty of social lubricant Smirnoff vodka in this ad.
Wally Cox, star of Mr. Peepers and Underdog, as well as the comedian who waxed the novelty record There Is A Tavern In The Town, also liked his Smirnoff!
There was a successful campaign plugging the use of Smirnoff Vodka in a cocktail called The Moscow Mule. While the always glamorous Julie Newmar was in many of the ads for The Moscow Mule, quite a few of them featured comedy greats. None other than Woody Allen - see 10 Classic Celebrity Booze Endorsements for more - starred in several "get blasted as Sputnik at a Smirnoff Mule party" print advertisements.
We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog mostly remember The Moscow Mule as a gag (at 2:49) in the classic Tex Avery MGM cartoon Symphony In Slang (1951).
Another celebrity generally not associated with heavy drinking who appeared in ads for alcoholic beverages was Groucho Marx - but, in demand for endorsements, did this one for Smirnoff.
Not to be outdone, Harpo also did Smirnoff ads.
Although Chico would definitely have needed the money and fit nicely in a Smirnoff print ad, he had passed away in 1961. Zeppo and Gummo of The Marx Brothers did not endorse Smirnoff, even if they drank the stuff.
It is rather difficult to believe that were not A LOT more print ads with movie stars and cinematic luminaries of the 1920's and 1930's plugging BOOOOOOOOOZE! W.C. Fields! John Barrymore! Errol Flynn! Joan Crawford! John Ford! Walt Disney and his crew of hard-partying animators at The Mouse Factory! Charley Chase!
Well, at least one ad featured silver screen icon Buster Keaton, who, by the time in his life that appeared in this ad was not guzzling fifths of Smirnoff Vodka daily. . . as he may well have been when he co-starred in What! No Beer? with the shy, retiring and low key Jimmy Durante.
George Burns, the great comedian (and All-Star straight man in Burns & Allen) was headlong into his successful second career as a solo act when he did this ad from Black Velvet Imported Canadian Whisky.
We close today's post with another guy who also headlined print ads for Canadian whiskey. While he's not somebody who would be regarded as a comedian per se, these ads, seen 40 years later, are definitely funny (as are his golden throats record albums). That would be the one, the only Telly Savalas, not only the star of Kojak and the macho action flick The Dirty Dozen, but the unfortunate victim of evil killer doll "Talky Tina" in a memorable, unsettling and creepy episode of The Twilight Zone. "Feel the Velvet, baby!"
For more, see Vintage Ad Browser and Retro Musings.