BELIEVE IT, BELOVED

If you’ve ever experienced watching something happen that you found hard to believe was happening — like the shock of seeing the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers burn and collapse as one plane, then another, exploded into them on 9/11 — you get the idea of what many felt watching voting results unfold on election night into the wee hours of 11/9.

True — heavily-favored Hillary was a flawed candidate whose baggage was picked apart and mega-magnified by Trumped-up claims….and we who aren’t blind Clinton partisans realized that (for all her political experience) she was not a ‘natural’ as a campaigner, nor was she judicious enough to avoid making “deplorable” mistakes that left us wondering how someone so seasoned could make them. But we thought those shortcomings and errors paled in comparison to the narcissistic, knowledge-challenged, scorched-earth shamelessness of P.T. Barnum the Second, aka Donald Trump. Wrong. Disaffected voters sought a savior, and voted their anger, emotions and perceptions…. and now we face four years of BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, beginning January 20, Inauguration Day. It should be interesting.

Meanwhile, back at the rant, I remember Republicans after the 2008 election vowing to do everything they could to make Obama a failed President. Contrast that with Obama at the White House yesterday saying he hopes Trump (who until recently claimed Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. & shouldn’t even be President) will be a success because “we’re Americans first,” not Republicans or Democrats. But enough about the election and wishful thinking. It’s over, and I’m looking at the bright side:
No more political robocalls ad infinitum.
No more political commercials on TV ad absurdum.
No more mailbox stuffed with political spin ad nauseam.
No more political campaign speeches which seem to go on ad vitam.
Need I ad etcetera?

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DO YOU HATE “OUT OF DATE?”

If you answered “yes” to the title question, this is not for you. This is going to be a post I’ll write almost entirely for my own enjoyment, about a musical artist you’ve never heard of, whose era and style have been out of fashion since the day she died on this date in 1956. But I love the music and I love the artist and it’s my blog, so there!

The artist in question is Una Mae Carlisle (12/26/15 – 11/7/56), a local (Cincinnati) area gal born in nearby Xenia, Ohio, who played as a pianist in Cincinnati while still a youngster. As it happens, Fats Waller, who was the staff pianist/organist at radio station WLW in Cincinnati in the early 1930s, was in New York to make records, concluding with a session with Billy Banks Rhythmakers on July 26, 1932. Fats’ son, Maurice, picks up the story from there in his bio titled simply FATS WALLER:

In Dad’s last recording session before coming [back] to Cincinnati, Una Mae Carlisle had done the vocals on “Mean Old Bed Bug Blues.” Una Mae, an exceptionally gifted pianist, was in New York during her summer vacation when she cut that record. I don’t know why she was picked to sing if she was a pianist, but she must have made a lasting impression on my father, because he remembered her in December [when he invited her to Cincinnati to perform with him on radio].

My own speculation is that Fats already knew, or at least knew of, Una Mae, and was instrumental in getting her the “Mean Old Bedbug Blues” gig, on which Fats was the pianist and Una Mae shared the vocals with Billy Banks. Fats, after all, had been the organist in 1931-32 on “Moon River,” a popular radio program on Cincinnati’s WLW (not WWL, as Maurice erroneously states in his book). How else could an unknown 16 year old Ohio high school girl on vacation in NYC have gotten such a gig? Whatever the case, here is that recording (Billy Banks takes the first chorus, Una Mae the second):

Continuing from son Maurice Waller’s book: Una Mae lived with her family in Xenia, Ohio. Dad knew that she was still attending school, so he waited until Christmas vacation to invite her to Cincinnati to appear on his holiday-week shows. Her parents were reluctant to let her go, but eventually they gave in. In short order Una Mae became Dad’s shadow. Everywhere he was, she was close behind. Pop taught her to drink and stay up late and party. Their relationship soon went far beyond the protege-master level.

You’ll have to buy the book to learn how that turned out. Suffice it for my purposes to close with an audio of an Una Mae/Fats duet, followed by a video of Una solo:

SOUNDIES — THE SEQUEL

For those who watched the Jukebox Saturday Night clip in my first SOUNDIES post and may not be familiar with The Ink Spots (the great 1930s-40s vocal quartet which was so humorously spoofed by the Modernaires in that clip), here is a clip of “the real thing”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvwfLe6sLis

When the previously mentioned James Roosevelt became a commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1941, Tin Pan Alley great Sam Coslow (composer of many 1930s-40s hit songs) took charge of Soundies operations. As Coslow tells it in his autobiography COCKTAILS FOR TWO:

“Panoram was a glorified juke box that ran films instead of records. Roosevelt decided to find someone who could produce a regular program of short musical films [and] decided that my background was right for the post. I had twelve years experience with musicals, writing songs and special material, recording and scoring, and, more recently, producing a feature film.”
“Jimmy’s office was down the hall from mine in the Goldwyn studios, and we had a number of talks. He finally arranged for me to fly to Chicago to meet with [the] president of the Mills outfit. We agreed to set up a new production company called Roosevelt, Coslow and Mills, Inc., later shortened to R.C.M., Inc.”
“I was named as production head….to turn out three shorts a week in Hollywood, plus another three a week at a studio in New York. One of the first things we did was a series with Louis Armstrong. At first I played it safe by using established musical names who happened to be around Hollywood or New York. Besides Armstrong, I hired Duke Ellington & his Orchestra, Spike Jones, and bands like Les Brown’s and Stan Kenton’s.”
“What was more notable about the talent used in the Soundies, however, was an array of great performers who were destined to become top names in the entertainment world.  Like Doris Day, for instance….Nat King Cole….Cyd Charisse….Dorothy Dandridge….Gale Storm….Ricardo Montalban….Liberace.”
“The concept of seeing as well as hearing popular performers had great novelty value for audiences of the day. Television was still in its experimental stage, and Soundies had the same kind of exotic appeal. The machine even makes a gag appearance in a Hollywood feature film, Hi Diddle Diddle (1943).”
“But the machine was no joke to movie theater owners. People were spending their dimes in the Panoram, not at the box office. Theater operators banded together to combat the movie-machine menace. Several states proposed severe licensing and taxation measures to discourage the proliferation of film jukeboxes. Fortunately for Panoram owners, the proposed legislation was tabled upon the outbreak of World War II.”

I could of course go on “Soundie-ing off,” but I need to wrap this up sooner or later, and found a clip that does so nicely:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeSlF2VDck8

 

A HEALTHY DOSE OF FATS / INTERNATIONAL JAZZ DAY

May 24th is International Jazz Day, a fitting day to wind up our four-part series and documentary of the “Living In A Great Big Way” jazz legend, Fats Waller….and live in a great big way, he definetly did:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnGd6Gns4Is

They say all good things must come to an end. Though there is much more that could be said of Fats, there is admittedly much less interest in hearing much more (judging by the few views this series has generated)….and so we yield to the reality of generational evolution. Enough. Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die. Fats did and died –much too young, but if he had it to do over, would he change his life-shortening ways? As Fats himself famously observed, One never knows, do one?

And so we wind down to Documentary Part 4,  the last (and shortest) of the series:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stHswJ3L98U

A HEALTHY DOSE OF FATS (PART THREE)

In a comment to Part Two of this series, Don Frankel spoke of the lucky day he saw the Tony Award-winning musical AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, a joyous celebration of the world and music of Fats Waller. I replied that I am lucky enough to own the Original Broadway Cast album. From the cover notes to that album come this quote:
The portrait of the man that emerges from the show is as complete as any fully drawn character in a play. We come to know Fats’ philosophy of life, the world that produced him and his artistry, and the source of the clown mask he used so effectively. Indeed, in the show’s most affecting moment, near the end of the evening, the jiving stops for a brief middle-of-the-night instant, the clown mask falls, and the entire cast sings Fats’ haunting Black and Blue.
The song’s composers were Waller and Harry Brooks, with lyrics by Andy Razaf:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwxbgfgc0KA

We close with Part Three of the Fats Waller Documentary narrated by his son:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSZUZ6rpleA

A HEALTHY DOSE OF FATS (PART TWO)

Once in a great while the jazz world produces an artist who is able to achieve wide commercial success while operating on a high musical level. Such a man was Thomas “Fats” Waller, pianist, singer, composer and humorist. –Mike Lipshin, Harlem Stride Pianist, music director and documentary producer

If one thing could be said to stand out above all else in the performances of Fats Waller, it was the joy in him, the pure joy of being alive despite having to abide the overt racism of his time. He was both amusing and an amused observer, laughing at the mores of the world and at himself laughing at the world. When it came to love songs, he had fun not only with banal, but often with superior, love songs. Not for nothing was Fats called The Clown Prince of Jazz.

We stride on now with Part Two of the Fats Waller Documentary, narrated by his son, Maurice:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91kj5zp5IrA

 

A HEALTHY DOSE OF FATS

His brio was contagious. His exuberance was infectious. His genius was serious. Yet he was better for your health than a fistful of vitamins. His name was Thomas “Fats” Waller. Today is his birthday.

Waller was born in NYC on May 21, 1904. By the time this multi-talented jazzman/entertainer died tragically young in 1943, he had become one of the music world’s most popular personalities and song writers. Among his many compositions are such standards as Ain’t Misbehavin’, Honeysuckle Rose, and I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling. Some of my personal Waller favorites may not be standards, but deserve to be: Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now, How Can You Face Me, My Heart’s At Ease, Ain’tcha Glad — dozens more.

Simply put, I love this guy….and I would not only like to celebrate his birthday with something to remember him by on this day, but on each day until International Jazz Day on May 24. Give a look/listen — The Joint is Jumpin’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwxWYyTlmIo