Monday, May 27, 2013

Claude Thornhill 1965 WGN TV

I mentioned some time ago that I had an original 16mm print of the complete WGN-TV appearance of The Claude Thornhill Orchestra performing on THE BIG BANDS series.

Recently I had it professionally converted to DVD and am offering this sample selection with the hope that some will be interested in spending $10 to purchase the entire 26:30 program to help me defray the cost of duplication.

This, to my knowledge, is the last appearance of Claude before he died July 1, 1965. The band is likely a pickup unit of fine Chicago musicians plus the excellent Joe Eich singers which he refers to as the "Snowflakes" several times.

Several of the selections are stock arrangements by Glen Osser including "Little Girl" and "Old Piano Roll Blues," but they are excellently played and include some typical Thornhill piano accompaniment that gives them some extra shine.

If you'd like a copy of the complete show, please contact me at

Here's a sample from the show: There's a Small Hotel

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Harry James with the Andrews Sisters

Here's a short clip from the Universal feature "Private Buckaroo." IMDB describes it as "A Universal Army enlistment promotion, produced as a musical showcase for Harry James, the Andrews Sisters, Joe E. Lewis, and Donald O'Connor & Peggy Ryan. The film's thin plot has James drafted, and joining him is the band's lead vocalist Lon Prentice (Dick Foran), who doesn't believe that Army training and regulations are necessary for anyone of his skill and fame. Shemp Howard steals the film whenever James and the Andrews aren't performing. As Sgt. Snavely, he's effectively teamed with Mary Wickes as his shrewish fiancée, trying desperately to keep her away from the attentions of nightclub comic and USO performer Lancelot Pringle McBiff (Joe E. Lewis). Shemp also has the opportunity to clown onstage with the Andrews Sisters during a musical finale, as they perform Don't Sit Under the Appletree."

The film is fun to see as a memory of pre-WWII America and this segment is particularly enjoyable.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Woody Herman Orchestra - 1938

Here's a little "gem" from Woody in his early days of leading the band that once was Isham Jones outfit. It's not the Woody we all remember from the "herds", but an interesting piece of nostalgia that echoes back to the days when bands were often featured at big city movie palaces along with the feature films.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Count Basie Orchestra at Disneyland - June 1984

When Basie died in April of 1984 the band continued under the leadership of Thad Jones. Here's an excerpt from the appearance at Disneyland in June of that year.

April in Paris

It would be wonderful if Disney released this entire series on DVD, but the odds of that happening are slim. I'm glad I recorded the shows on vhs when they originally aired.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Your Hit Parade - Complete NBC broadcast 1951

Here's a real nostalgia trip for anyone who had TV in the early 1950's. The Lucky Strike Hit Parade was a Saturday night ritual at our house. Quite a few kinescope recordings of this live TV show survive. This one from 1951 includes hit songs like "Shrimp Boats", "Tell Me Why", "Garden in the Rain" and the number one song of the week......sorry, you'll have to watch to find out. 

Dorothy Collins was a featured performer throughout most of the 9 year run of the show. This broadcast also feature Eileen Wilson. And who can forget Snooky Lanson? 

Many talented people worked behind the scenes to make this show a hit. Raymond Scott directed the orchestra. Norman Jewison was one of the directors. Bob Fosse was a featured dancer and did choreography. I believe it is him dancing to a Lucky Strike Extra - "Dinah" in this broadcast.

The cigarette commercials are intact on this broadcast. Settle back, relax, and enjoy this show. But, please don't light up a Lucky.

"So long for awhile, that's all the songs for awhile...."

Friday, February 1, 2013

It's time to get back to radio broadcasts again after a number of film posts.
Here's a complete Coca-Cola Spotlight Band broadcast from Saturday night February 28, 1942. Broadcast live from the legendary Paramount Theater. You'll hear Alvino receive a "silver platter" (not gold) for his record sales. Several of the songs are second rate but, in the case of "Cash for Your Trash" it's a relic of the war effort. Alvino also receives a tribute from the State of Texas and responds with "On the Alamo" followed by his hit record "Deep in the Heart of Texas."

When the Roses Bloom Again - The King Sisters
Cash for Your Trash - Bonnie King
Marine Tribute
The Marines Hymn
If I Could Only Play a Concertina - King Sisters
On The Alamo
Deep in the Heart of Texas
Closing Theme

Alvin McBurney, known to swing era fans as Alvino Rey, is often credited as the father of the pedal steel guitar. His first instrument was banjo and he performed on that instrument in the Phil Spittalney and Horace Heidt bands. It was with Heidt that he met the King Sisters and soon married Louise. The story goes that in 1938 the Heidt's band was hired at the Baltimore Hotel in NYC. Heidt was angry that the sponsor signed them up because they were impressed by Alyce King's vocals. He took the first opportunity to fire her - when she dropped her microphone and it hit an audience member. The other Sisters immediately resigned, followed by Alvino, and then saxophonist Frank DeVol.

Here's what Wikipedia says about what followed:

Rey formed his own group with the King Sisters (as lead singers) and Frank DeVol, heading for LA. The band was the Mutual Broadcasting network  houseband for three years, and through the band passed such musicians as Johnny Mandel, Skeets Herfurt, Neil Hefti, Dave Tough, Mel Lewis, Don Lamond, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims  and others. Arrangers for the band included Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Ray Conniff and Frank DeVol.

Soon afterward, they became one of the most popular acts in the country, while recording top ten hits and making appearances in Hollywood films. In 1942 Rey re-organized the orchestra, expanding the brass section. Although very popular, the AFM recording ban of 1943 put an end to their recordings.

In 1965, ABC aired a special featuring the King family, which grew into a series. Rey was musical director for the show, simultaneously producing a series of record albums featuring the cast of the program. He also continued performing well into his eighties, leading a band that played Disneyland each year from the theme park's opening in 1955.

I had the opportunity to provide the backup band for a performance by The King Cousins back in the early 70s. They were as beautiful and talented as their mothers were during the swing era.

You can always comment to me at 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Benny Goodman - Three tunes from "Sweet & Lowdown" 

Here's a short sequence from Benny's 1944 starring feature - "Sweet & Lowdown."
"Jersey Bounce" - "Hey Bud!" - "No Love, No Nothin'"

Bill Harris is actually playing the trombone for actor James Cardwell. You'll also see the fabulous Pied Pipers. 

A very complete overview of this film is posted on TCM's website.
And the complete movie is available on dvd. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Si Zentner & his Orchestra (1965)

This is another of the great WGN-TV broadcasts of big bands that were recorded live in their studios in '65. 
I had the pleasure of seeing this band live at a local night spot in 1966. it was a great orchestra at a time when most bands were barely surviving.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about him.

Simon Hugh "Si" Zentner (June 13, 1917, New York City - January 31, 2000, Las VegasNevada) was an American trombonist and jazz big-band leader.
Zentner played violin from age four and picked up trombone a few years later. As a teenager, he was awarded the Guggenheim Foundation Philharmonic Scholarship. He attended college for music and had intended to pursue a career in classical music, but became more interested in pop music after recording with Andre Kostelanetz. Zentner played in the bands of Les BrownHarry James, and Jimmy Dorsey in the 1940s, then moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a studio musician. He also landed a job with MGMfrom 1949 to the mid-50s, and was involved in the music for films such as Singin' in the Rain and A Star Is Born.
In the late 1950s Zentner put together his own studio big band and signed with Bel Canto Records. The Zentner band began recording for Liberty Records in 1959 releasing numerous successful pop/jazz albums during the 1960s and touring steadily with a large well-rehearsed outfit. He also briefly recorded for RCA Victor. Zentner was a tireless promoter and claimed to have played 178 consecutive one-night performances when the band was at its peak. His ensemble was voted "Best Big Band" for 13 straight years by Down Beat, and Zentner himself was voted Best Trombonist in Playboy Jazz Reader's Poll.[1] Zentner was known for his bold, brash and bright playing with great breath control and distinctive vibrato. In 1962, his album Up a Lazy River (Big Band Plays the Big Hits, Vol. 2)(arranged by Bob Florence) won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.[2]
Zentner's success was thoroughly unusual; he had a thriving big band going at a time when big band music was, for the most part, on the wane. The general downturn in interest eventually caught up to him, and by mid-decade the orchestra performed only on a limited basis despite recording through the late 1960s. He then moved to Las Vegas and accompanied Mel Torme at the Blue Room of The Tropicana Hotel. In 1968 he became musical director of the long-running Vegas show Folies Bergere. It wasn't until the 1990s that Zentner returned to big band performance, assembling a new group and releasing several more albums. He suffered from leukemia late in life, though he continued performing into 1999; he died of the disease in early 2000.

Theme (Lazy River)
Sentimental Journey
Puddle Jumpin'
Without a Song
Lazy River (Complete)
Closing theme (Lazy River)
Harry James 1965 

Here's Harry swingin' up a storm on WGN-TV in 1965. 
The band includes Buddy Rich on drums and 
Corky Corcoran, tenor sax. Vocalist is Cathy Carter. 

Theme - Ciribiribin (faster than I've ever heard it)
Shiny Stockings
Come Rain or Come Shine (Cathy Carter)
Green Onions
I'm Beginning to See the Light (Cathy Carter)
Take the "A" Train
That's All (Corky Corcoran)
Caravan (Buddy Rich)
Rainbow Kiss 

WGN-TV featured most of the bands that were still active during this series of broadcasts. As I recall they were broadcast Saturday night at 6:30 pm. 

Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra on film (3)

Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra Vitaphone Short

From 1938 comes this short Warner Brothers Vitaphone film featuring Jimmy and his orchestra performing "Parade of the Milk Bottle Caps", "It's the Dreamer in Me" and "I Love You in Technicolor" sung by Evelyn Oaks. The short closes with "Dusk in Upper Sandusky."

A second Dorsey short is from 1940 and features Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell. This is from a Youtube post by another collector and shared for your enjoyment. Tunes include: Bebe, Rubber Dolly (introducing Helen), Only a Rose with Bob, and Long John Silver.

And from 1948 this Universal short featuring Jimmy, the Mello-Larks, Bill Lawrence and Dottie O'Brien. This is about 15 minutes of post-war Jimmy and includes the familiar Contrasts theme, Quien Sabe,  Am I Blue, We Hate Cowboy Songs, Jamboree Jones, Lover. Staging is corny, but the band sounds great.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ozzie Nelson Orchestra with Harriet Hilliard (excerpt from "Honeymoon Lodge" movie)

Long before "Ozzie & Harriet" on radio and TV was the Ozzie Nelson Orchestra featuring Harriet Hilliard. 

According to Wikipedia: "From 1930 through the 1940s, Nelson's band recorded prolifically—first on Brunswick (1930–1933), then Vocalion (1933–1934), then back to Brunswick (1934–1936), Bluebird (1937–1941), Victor (1941) and finally back to Bluebird (1941-through the 1940s). 

Nelson's records were consistently popular and in 1934 Nelson enjoyed success with his hit song, "Over Somebody Else's Shoulder" which he introduced. Nelson was their primary vocalist and (from August 1932) featured in duets with his other star vocalist, Harriet Hilliard. Nelson's calm, easy vocal style was popular on records and radio and Harriet's perky vocals added to the band's popularity.

Ozzie Nelson appeared with his band in several feature films and short subjects of the1940s, and often played speaking parts, displaying a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. He shrewdly promoted the band by agreeing to appear in soundies, three-minute musical movies shown in "film jukeboxes" of the 1940s.

In the 1940's Ozzie began to look for a way to spend more time with his family, especially his growing sons. Besides band appearances, he and Harriet had been regulars on Red Skelton’s radio show. He developed and produced his own radio series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The show went on the air in 1944, with the sons played by actors until 1949, and in 1952 it moved over to television.

While not a "great" orchestra, he featured some fine musicians and did well in the popularityy polls of the late 30s and early 40s. 

Here' is another musical scene from this film - "I'm Through with Love" featuring Bob Eberly.

 And here's "Why Don't You Fall in Love with Me? an Ozzie & Harriet duet. 

Bob Chester & His Orchestra (1940)

Here's a rare film featuring the Bob Chester Orchestra from 1940. For those who aren't familiar with him, Chester began his career as a sideman for Irving Aaaronson, Ben Bernie and Ben Pollack.  He formed his own group in Detroit  in 1939 in the style of Glenn Miller, but it wasn't very successful. I can't vouch for the accuracy of this story, but I've read somewhere that Chester was taken under the wing of Tommy Dorsey who wanted to dilute the popularity of Glenn Miller. Dorsey hired David Rose to write new arrangements for Chester's band and succeeded in getting him a contract with Bluebird for recordings.  His "Octave Jump" is included on this film. Chester's group, was billed as "The New Sensation of the Nation."  Chester's orchestra included trumpet player Alec Fila, Nick Travis and the legendary Conrad Gozzo. Peanuts Hucko and Ted Nash were in the sax section and Bill Harris played one of the trombone books. I believe Jasmine has released a disc of a dozen or more Chester recordings for Bluebird. I don't have it, but I presume it's still available.

Also on this YouTube upload are a number of other "soundies" featuring some bands and musicians you'll find fun to see. Remember, the soundies are reversed because they were rear projected.

PS: I'm working on the 2nd half of the Artie Shaw "Time is All We've Got" and hope to post that in the next few days as time allows.


Monday, January 21, 2013

The Don Redman Orchestra filmed for Warner Brothers in 1934.

In addition to my collection of big band remotes, I have a good supply of "soundies" and musical shorts by many of the name bands who filmed for Warner, Universal and MGM.
Here's one that I think you'll enjoy.

Don Redman had a wonderful band  between 1931 and 1934...when he disbanded this band. He had been a member of Fletcher Henderson's legendary 20's Orchestra and in 1928 Redman took over as leader and musical director of McKinney's Cotton Pickers.

The 1920's arrangements that influenced everybody at that time was by Don Redman. He could be credited with the classic big band sound of horns and reeds within the framework of the 3 minute hot jazz arrangement. This is Redman's only short and it also showcases Harlan Lattimore, his band vocalist.known as "The Colored Bing Crosby." Harold Arlen's follow-up to "Stormy Weather", "Ill Wind" is featured on this short.

I'm still searching for the Claude Thornhill WGN TV show I have on 16mm. I transferred it to video years ago, but apparently filed it too well. Watch for it soon.