Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Monday, January 29, 2007

"We Just Got A Little Mixed Up There": The Way It Was, 29 January

1945---The Mutual Coast to Coast program presents fifteen minutes worth of a vigorous performance by Count Basie and His Orchestra from the Hotel Lincoln Blue Room in New York City.

Earle Warren, a Basie saxophonist who also sang with the band here and there, gets the first feature with "Just After Awhile"---or does he? The band must not have heard the Mutual announcer, because they kicked into "Together," and the vocal was Basie mainstay Jimmy Rushing, preluded by a creamy round of trombones leading the first chorus over knitted reeds and (muted) trumpets and a clarinet solo backed by floating (on Basie’s earthy terms, anyway) saxophones.

Rushing’s exuberantly pleading reading acquits the somewhat trite lyric, but this number isn't exactly one of the blues in which Rushing specialised. He yields to a closing chorus that begins with one of Basie’s signature minimalistic piano statements, hands off to a holler of horns, hands back to Basie for a couple of bars, and back to the horns to close.

"Aw, thank you, Jimmy Rushing---we just got a little mixed up there on that opening," says announcer Jack Scanlan sheepishly. (Listen carefully and, somewhere in the middle of the opening instrumental round, you can hear Scanlan's slightly astonished realisation that it's Rushing and not Warren stepping up to the lead microphone.)

Then comes "Just After Awhile," with Warren resting his saxophone and opening his mouth, and if he isn’t exactly the most distinguished balladeer on a jazz bandstand his earnest delivery isn’t exactly a liability, and he gets empathetic support from the Basie horns. But this band came to swing, first and foremost, and "On the Upbeat" does exactly that. You have a good idea of how acute 1945 radios weren't for picking up the full ensemble in a crowded ballroom, however, but Basie’s brass swing so relentlessly---even in the quiet passage that sends nearly punctuative saxophones behind a husky muted trumpet solo---that you almost don’t miss being able to hear the nonpareil rhythm section anchored by guitarist Freddie Greene and drummer Jo Jones until Basie’s brief solo punching.

The treat: the brief tenor saxophone solo, apparently by Lester Young, that telegraphs the full brass finale. A titan of the tenor saxophone, who prevailed to show jazz there was more than Coleman Hawkins's full-throated sound to be drawn from the instrument, Young here is actually playing slightly past his customary moody style during a time when he has returned to the Basie band for a brief period. His short but sassy line suggests something of what he's been learning on 52nd Street and elsewhere, moonlighting among the original bebop experimenters.

The broadcast portion of the band’s evening finishes off with "One O’Clock Jump." (You'd prefer to think the broadcast was timed to go for the absolute final fifteen minutes of Basie's evening; you'd hate to think it isolated fifteen minutes in the middle, compelling Basie to interject his theme a little earlier than customary and leaving you feeling as if you'd been teased a little unfairly.)

It isn’t one of the better versions of their customary theme but it isn’t bad, either. Basie’s introductory, sometimes teasing piano passages start almost in the far background before rolling forward, calmly but affirmatively, to hand it to his men for a few choruses of blues in which the trombone solo and Basie’s second piano solo (he manages, if this is possible, to make his first sound like a stream-of-consciousness schpritz) are the obvious highlights.

If only the network hadn’t employed a fadeaway finish, because the beginning of the high-note trumpet turn that begins to ride the song’s theme riff suggests a bristling, hunger-for-more finish.


1944: OLD CLAWFOOT AGAIN--- in "The City of the Dead," the first serial in the series, as San Francisco investigators Bart Friday and Skip Turner continue helping their fathers---the mayor and the town's most prominent doctor---fight a continuing grave-robbing epidemic, on tonight's episode of Adventures by Morse. (Syndicated.) Stars: Elliott Lewis, David Ellis, Russell Thorson. Writer: Carlton E. Morse (also renowned as the creator-writer of One Man's Family).

1951: SPEAKING OF ONE FELLA'S FAMILY---Sorry, Bob & Ray, couldn't resist. But it just so happens that it's time for Book LXXXII, Chapter XXI, of the real thing. And the new Harper and Barbour real estate partnership's experiencing growing pains, with Harper (Marvin Miller) questioning Clifford's (Barton Yarborough) drive until Henry (J. Anthony Smythe)---whom Harper's thinking of selling his half the business---cautions Harper not to mistake Clifford's casual style for business listlessness, while Clifford has misgivings about a successful deal, on tonight's chapter of One Man's Family. (NBC.) Writer: Carlton E. Morse.


1874---Owen Gibson (writer, The Gibson Family, Pulitzer Prize Plays), Portland, Maine.
1880---W.C. Fields (William Claude Dukenfield; comedian-actor: frequent guest, The Chase and Sanborn Hour/The Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy Show), Philadelphia.
1902---Florence Rinard (panelist: Twenty Questions), unknown.
1915---Victor Mature (actor: Hollywood Star Playhouse), Louisville, Kentucky
1916---Bill Lawrence (reporter: ABC), Lincoln, Nebraska.
1917---Lloyd Perryman (singer: The Sons of the Pioneers, The Roy Rogers Show), Ruth, Arkansas; John Raitt (actor-singer: MGM Musical Comedy Theater), Santa Ana, California.
1918---John Forsythe (actor: NBC Star Playhouse), Penns Grove, New Jersey.
1923---Paddy Chayevsky (writer: Theater Guild On the Air), Bronx, New York; Martin Ragaway (writer: The Abbott and Costello Show, The Milton Berle Show), unknown.


Blogger Gene Bach said...

Hey there! What an awesome collection of classic radio links you have. I just listened to "Who's On First" and was rolling laughing. I grew up watching Abbott and Costello and just loved them. I believe the comics back then were a better breed than what we have today.

I added a link to your blog on mine as I believe a visit here is well worth people's time.


7:46 PM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Gene---You just made my night! I watched reruns of The Abbott & Costello Show on television when I was growing up but having now heard a bulk of their radio work, I can't help thinking that there's a little more comic magic in their radio work.

We have a few good comics today. And they may improve dramatically as soon as they come out of the bathroom.

Thank you!

8:23 PM  

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