TV Show Draft – Round 4 – Columbo

Welcome to my fourth round pick in the Hanspostcard TV Draft. Last round I chose Perry Mason, which was the ultimate court room “whodunit!” You never knew who committed the crime until the end of the episode. I thought it appropriate to choose Columbo for this round, because it is almost the exact opposite of Perry Mason, in that you know who the killer is right from the get go. It was called a murder mystery where the murder was no mystery.

The show pioneered the “inverted mystery” technique/format. Almost every show begins with a crime and the audience knows who the culprit is. Then enter the LAPD’s Lieutenant Columbo who spends the remainder of the show looking for clues, pestering the criminal, and eventually solving the case. The show was not a “whodunit” like Perry Mason, but rather it has been described as a “how’s he gonna catch him?”

The first season of Columbo began in September of 1971. I know that most of the shows being picked by others in the draft ran on a weekly basis. Columbo did not. Most episodes were featured as part of the NBC Mystery Movie rotation. It ran for 35 years with a total of 69 episodes.

The show was created by schoolmates Richard Levinson and William Link. The character first appeared in 1960 on The Chevy Mystery Show in an episode called “Enough Rope.” That episode was then adapted for a stage play entitled Prescription: Murder, which was then adapted for television in 1968. Columbo was played by Bert Freed in Enough Rope and by Thomas Mitchell in the stage version in 1962.

The writers of the show had originally wanted Lee J. Cobb to play Columbo, but he was unavailable. They next approached Bing Crosby, who turned down the role because it would take away from his time on the golf course. Peter Falk came across the script for Prescription: Murder and contacted Levinson and Link and said, “I’d kill to play that cop!”

Peter Falk and Gene Berry

They weren’t really sure about Peter Falk, who was only 39 at the time. They envisioned the character as being older. He won the role, and he plays him as a much straighter, cleaner, and firmer Columbo in the first episode. It was a huge hit! The Columbo quirks and mannerisms that fans came to know and love would develop as he continued to play the role.

Peter Falk really threw himself into the role. He wore his own clothes. The suit was one that he had dyed brown, because he felt that looked better. He wore his own shoes. The world famous raincoat was one that he purchased in New York City while caught in a rainstorm. It cost him a mere $15. One difference between Peter and Columbo – Columbo preferred cigars, while Falk enjoyed cigarettes.

I am currently reading a fantastic book on the show written by David Koenig.

Columbo is like no other cop. Koenig says, “There was nobody or nothing like Columbo at all before him. All the detectives were these hardboiled, emotionless, tough guys. And he was the opposite of that in every way. He hated guns and violence.” He describes the show this way, “Columbo wasn’t really a cop show. It was a drawing-room mystery done backwards with a cop as the lead. It was an anti-cop show.”

During the first few seasons of Columbo, it really set the standard for what some refer to as “event television.” There were some fabulous guest stars who played the murderer. Those stars included Gene Berry, Jack Cassidy, William Shatner, Dick Van Dyke, Ruth Gordon, Robert Vaughn, Anne Baxter, Janet Leigh, Robert Culp, Donald Pleasence, Eddie Albert, Leonard Nimoy, Johnny Cash, and Patrick McGoohan – just to name a few!!

After the murder, when Columbo finally shows up, his genius is hidden by his often confused look. It is also hidden by the way he is dressed and by his friendly demeanor. He is looked upon as a stupid fool. The killer has no idea what a brilliant man Columbo is and they are lured into a false sense of security. The killer becomes even more arrogant and dismisses Columbo as a dope, only to be caught in the end.

One of the things that certainly added to the character was his little idiosyncrasies like fumbling through his pockets for a piece of evidence, asking to borrow a pencil, or being distracted by something in the room in the middle of a conversation. Falk adlibbed those moments on camera while film was rolling as a way to keep the other actors off-balance. He felt that it really helped to make their confused and impatient reactions to Columbo more genuine. It really truly worked.

On the show, the murderer is often some famous person, or someone who is cultured or from high society. Either that, or some sort of successful professional (surgeon, psychologist, etc…). Paired up against Columbo, it is gold! The interactions between the two become such a marvelous part of the show and brings out Columbo’s character and cunning genius!

In those conversations Columbo is often confused. He doesn’t know anything about classical music, chess, fine wines, photography or pieces of art. One article on the show stated that his “ignorance” will often “allow him to draw in the murderer with a cunning humility that belies his understanding of human behavior and the criminal mind.”

The last episode of Columbo aired in 2003 and was entitled “Columbo Likes the Nightlife.” Falk had planned for one final episode. It was to be called “Columbo’s Last Case” which was to begin at his retirement party. There was a lack of network interest and with his age and failing health, the episode was never to be.

Columbo remains as popular as ever. It was one of the most watched shows on streaming platforms during the pandemic. Author David Koenig says about the show, “It has stood the test of time for 50-plus years now. That character is still vibrant and alive, appealing to people. People love that central character, that basic format, the fact that it’s not political, it’s not violent, it’s not all the things television shows are today, it’s something different. And that is charm. That’s what people love about it.”

Columbo Facts:

  • Steven Spielberg directed the first episode of Season 1 – Murder by the Book.
  • Peter Falk won 4 Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Columbo (1972, 1975, 1976, and 1990)
  • He also won a Golden Globe Award for the role.
  • Patrick McGoohan played a murderer more times than any other actor – 4 times. Jack Cassidy and Robert Culp each had 3 times, William Shatner and George Hamilton each played a killer twice.
  • Columbo’s name is never revealed – although a close up of his badge in the first season says it is ‘Frank.’ The creators of the show have stated that his first name was never known, so take that however you want to.
  • Columbo drives a 1960 Peugeot 403 convertible.
  • Columbo’s favorite food is chili and black coffee is his drink of choice.
  • In the 1972 episode entitled, “Etude in Black,” Columbo rescued a basset hound from the dog pound. The dog could be seen in many other episodes, and was as close to a sidekick/partner as Columbo ever got.
  • In 1997, the episode Murder by the Book was ranked #16 in TV Guide’s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” list.
  • In 1999, Lieutenant Columbo was ranked #7 on TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time.”
  • There is a bronze statue of Columbo (and his dog) in Budapest, Hungary. It was unveiled in 2017. Peter Falk is rumored to be a distant relative of the well-known Hungarian politician Miksa Falk (1828-1908).
Columbo Statue in Budapest, Hungary

I thought I would close with little treat for you. In one of the Dean Celebrity Roasts, Frank Sinatra was the Man of the Hour. Now, these roasts were often edited down to make sure all the best stuff was shown on TV. In Lee Hale’s book, he stated that there was only one performance that was shown in its entirety – Peter Falk’s appearance during the Sinatra roast.

Falk appears from the audience – as Lt. Columbo. The entire 11 minute bit is just priceless. It is a must see. Enjoy:

Spaghetti? I Was Just Dreaming About That …

Today is National Spaghetti Day here in the United States. I didn’t know that until a friend of mine posted it on Facebook earlier today. I also didn’t know it was National Trivia Day in the United States. The same friend posted that, too. So before I tell my story … how about a tidbit of spaghetti trivia?

Did you know that the word spaghetti is plural for the Italian word spaghetto, which is a diminutive of spago, meaning “thin  string” or “twine?” You do now!

Dean Martin eating spaghetti

It is probably a total coincidence that I had a dream about spaghetti last night. Usually when I have a dream that I am trying to figure out, I wake up and email myself what I remember. Nine times out of ten, it is a bunch of misspelled words that I have to wonder just what I was trying to type.

So my dream, I admit, doesn’t make much sense at all. Although it was almost like there should have been a message in it or something. So, here is (to my best recollection) the dream:

There is a mixture of humans and cartoon characters in it. I don’t really understand it, but that is like most dreams I suppose. The family from Bluey is in it (probably because my daughter and I were watching it before bed).

The Heelers from Bluey

At first I think I am at some sort of spaghetti dinner, like a fund raiser or something. Then I realize that this event is some sort of celebration or ceremony. It has something to do with the children – and the number of meatballs on the child’s plate. It was sort of like a karate/kung fu belt ceremony.

Each child walks through the line with a plate of spaghetti and when the reach the appropriate server, he plops a certain number of meatballs on the plate and explains what it means. No meatballs meant they were newcomers, one meatball was a novice, two meatballs meant they were intermediate, three meatballs signified above average, and four meatballs was a pro/master.

Anyone who got four meatballs got a huge round of applause from the crowd. It was almost like some sort of Jewish Bar Mitzvah or something, “Congratulations! Four meatballs! You are now a man!” I stood there puzzled by the whole thing and then I realized that I am in line, holding a plate of spaghetti. The server drops three meatballs on my plate and tells me to move on.

I am stumped. I am confused. Why do I not have four? What exactly are you a pro at if you DO get four meatballs? I don’t even know!

I walk away staring at these three meatballs and Bluey’s dad, Bandit, comes up to me and says, “Only three, huh? That’s they way it goes sometimes, Mate.”

Then I wake up.

Weird. Weird. Weird.

Oh, and the guy dishing out the meatballs? Frank Sinatra!

Christmas Memories – Frank Sinatra

On my way home yesterday I happened to catch this holiday song by Frank Sinatra. I’ve probably heard it 50 times over the last 5 years. I have the Sinatra Christmas album it is on, but never really seemed to play this song as a “favorite.” Yesterday, however, the lyrics hit me like I was hearing it for the first time.

I’m not sure whether it is because of the way I’m feeling this year, or that I’ve reached the age where it hits home a little more. I just now that as I listened to it, I came to appreciate it more than I ever have.

The song was written by Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Don Costa. Costa was a conductor and producer who worked with Frank on a many of his hit albums, including My Way. Frank recorded this song in October of 1975 for his label, Reprise Records.

The song begins with a beautiful string arrangement. As Frank begins to sing, you can hear he is older. His voice is tender, but a bit weaker than his older hits. To me, this makes the song even more enjoyable. Here is an older man, looking back on the memories of Christmas and experiencing all the nostalgic feelings that come with them.

As the singers sing the bridge of the song, I picture Frank sitting in a chair, lost in thought and smiling at the various memories that fill his head. Maybe they bring tears or maybe a smile. As Frank begins to sing again, he elaborates on what I am already picturing. He closes his eyes and he is flooded with the memories of every Christmas he has lived through.

The song is short, coming in at just over 2 minutes. There are four simple verses. Yet so many emotions are conveyed by the wonderful arrangement and Sinatra’s perfect vocal interpretation.

It is not a song that you will hear on your local “Christmas station,” and that is a shame. It is certainly one of my favorites and will remain that way for a very long time. I just know that it will mean more with each passing year.

Christmas Memories – Frank Sinatra

Singing carols, stringing popcorn
Making footprints in the snow
Memories, Christmas memories
They’re the sweetest ones I know

Cookies baking in the kitchen
Cards and ribbons everywhere
Frosty, Christmas memories
Float like snowflakes in the air

And, oh, the joy of waking Christmas mornings
The family round the tree
We had a way of making Christmas morning
As merry as can be

I close my eyes and see shiny faces
Of all the children who now have children of their own
Funny, but comes December
And I remember every Christmas I’ve known

Song Draft 2021 – Round 10 – Final Pick – Superstition – Stevie Wonder

We have reached the final round of the 2021 Song Draft hosted by Hanspostcard. I want to thank Hans for allowing me to be a part of it, and also thank the other participants who welcomed me into the draft. I have truly enjoyed being a part of this!

Prior to the draft, I made a list of possible song choices. As the draft continued, each round I would look at my list (and at the songs picked by the others) and decide which one would be my next choice. Some of the picks were easy, while others were more difficult. A few of them were spur of the moment picks that weren’t on the original list.

As I looked at that list in preparation for my last pick, I see many artists that I’d love to have featured: Aretha Franklin, The Honeydrippers, Big Joe Turner, Bob Seger, The Go-Go’s, Bill Withers, Johnny Lang, Queen, Buster Brown, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Guy, Neil Diamond, Mel Torme’ and so many more! I stared at my list for a long time and thought about it. Since I began the draft with a Michigan artist, I should wrap up with a Michigan artist. So my final pick for the draft is – Superstition by Stevie Wonder.

Stevie was born a little over 100 miles north of Detroit in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950. He would forever be associated with Detroit and Motown records. In a 1990 Detroit appearance at Tiger Stadium, Nelson Mandella said, “It is motor town that gave the world a great singer – Steve Wonder!”

In 1963, when he was known as “Little” Stevie Wonder, he had his first #1 song with a cut called Fingertips Part 2. Personally, I could never stand that song. It was in a heavy rotation at the first radio station I worked at, and I found it annoying. It would be 10 years before he received his next #1 song – Superstition.

The song was released on his fifteenth studio album, Talking Book.

Guitarist Jeff Beck was a fan of Stevie’s music and Stevie heard about this just before recording the Talking Book sessions. Though at this point he was playing virtually all of the instruments on his songs by himself, Stevie preferred to let other guitarists play on his records, and he liked the idea of a collaboration with Beck. An agreement was quickly made for Beck to become involved in the sessions that became the Talking Book album, in return for Wonder writing him a song.

According to legend, between the album sessions, Beck came up with the opening drum beat. Stevie told Jeff to keep playing while he improvised over the top of it. He improvised most of the song, including the funky riff. They wound up creating a rough demo of the song that day.

After finishing the song, Wonder decided that he would allow Beck to record “Superstition” as part of their agreement. Originally, the plan was for Beck to release his version of the song first, with his newly formed power trio Beck, Bogert, and Appice. Their album’s release, however, was delayed.

From Songfacts.com: When Stevie turned 21, he was no longer obligated to Motown Records, and used his clout to sign a deal with the label giving him unprecedented control of his music. He got a large share of royalties and publishing rights, and Motown was not allowed to alter the albums once they were delivered. One thing Motown did control, however, were what songs they released as singles. Knowing Jeff Beck was about to record his version, Motown head Berry Gordy made sure this was the first single and released it before Beck could get his out.

This was recorded at Electric Lady Studios, which is where Jimi Hendrix recorded. The studios stayed active after Hendrix’ death, with artists like Miles Davis and Deep Purple also recording there.

At the time, Wonder would keep the studio booked so he could record when inspiration hit. Stevie’s bass player at the time, Scott Edwards, told Songfacts this was not always convenient for his band. “Because he does not have sight, he’s not controlled by daylight,” said Edwards. “So he may begin his night at midnight. Which is bad, because if they want you to come do an overdub or something, he may call you at 4 a.m. and say, ‘Come on in.'”

I always loved the funky feel of this song, and I always played it when I was DJing Halloween parties.

Aside of Jeff Beck’s version, many others have covered this song. None made much of an impact until Stevie Ray Vaughan released a live version as a single in 1986 on his album Live Alive. His version still gets radio airplay today on many Classic Rock stations.

In 1974, the song earned Stevie his first Grammy Award.

Superstition – Lyrics

Very superstitious,
Writing’s on the wall,
Very superstitious,
Ladders bout’ to fall,
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass
Seven years of bad luck,
The good things in your past

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition aint the way

Hey

Very superstitious,
Wash your face and hands,
Rid me of the problem,
Do all that you can,
Keep me in a daydream,
Keep me goin’ strong,
You don’t wanna save me,
Sad is the soul

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way,
Yeh, yeh

Very superstitious,
Nothin’ more to say,
Very superstitious,
The devil’s on his way,
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass,
Seven years of bad luck,
Good things in your past

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way,
No, no, no

As a bonus – here is the official video of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s cover….watch for a cool cameo at the end ….

My “Go to” Karaoke Song(s)

It has been some time since a “Daily Writing Prompt” moved me enough to use it as a blog idea. Today’s though, was definitely one I could use. The Prompt? “What is your ‘go to’ karaoke song?”

I have to admit, I have sung a lot of karaoke. I did this mainly when I was in my mid 20’s to early 30’s. My friends and I had a couple places that we’d go and sing at. Looking back at it, I have to laugh because they were all dive bars.

I started singing karaoke with my old morning show partner, who actually COULD sing. He had a great voice and often sang ballads from the Great American Song Book. It was always funny because you’d have these people up there singing Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Queen, and Prince. Then he would get up and sing something from Robert Goulet!

At one point, between radio jobs, I actually hosted karaoke, which I thought would be fun, but it really wasn’t. It was then that I realized there were plenty of people who “thought” they could sing, but couldn’t. They come up to you with requests like, “Put some reverb on my voice” or “Pitch the song up or down” or “Give me more volume on my microphone” … It was crazy! These people are up there thinking their Shania Twain or John Lennon or something.

I have never claimed to be a good singer. I have a handful of songs that I can sing and sing them well. I know which songs my voice will never be able to handle. I stick with the ones I know I can do without embarrassing myself. In my repertoire were songs like: The Wonder of You (the Elvis version), Bad Bad Leroy Brown, Bad Case of Loving You (Robert Palmer), The Lady is a Tramp (Sinatra) , Mack The Knife (Bobby Darin), And I Love You So (lol – yes! The Perry Como song!), and That’s Amore (Gotta do some Dean Martin!).

If I had to pick the 3 karaoke songs that people would associate with me, they would be:

#3 – Tutti Fruiti by Little Richard

The reason for this is that back in the day, I used to change the lyrics to this. The lyrics were … well, not clean. People always laughed when I did this, however, today, I couldn’t do that any more. It’s just not who I am. I actually kind of cringe when I think of some of the lyrics I sang.

#2 Delilah – Tom Jones

I’m not going to lie, this was always a hard song to sing. Tom has such a great and powerful voice. The end of this song is tough. The night is fairly high – and you have to hold it for some time. That high and long note was nothing for my old morning show partner. He used to do this song a lot. I am not sure how or why I started singing it, but it became one I was always asked to sing.

#1 – Secret Agent Man – Johnny Rivers

By far, one of my favorite songs to sing, and hence, my “go to” karaoke song. It was always a favorite of mine growing up. The Johnny Rivers single was recorded live (I think at the Whiskey A Go Go). I probably heard my dad play this hundreds of times on his guitar. It has such a great intro and awesome solo. I remember one time I brought a fedora and a trench coat to the place we were singing so I could wear them when I sang this. Yeah, I was quite the dork in my 20’s!

While I loved singing karaoke, eventually it got old. I felt like I was going out and wasting money on alcohol, and being forced to sing the same things every time. There were plenty of other songs I would have loved to try, but the people I was with always made me sing the ones they wanted to hear (“It’s my birthday! You HAVE to sing Bad Case of Loving You!” etc…) The karaoke “scene” just wasn’t were I wanted to be anymore.

If there was karaoke at a work party or back yard BBQ, would I get up and sing today? Yeah, probably, but I would leave the fedora at home!

Happy 79th to Capitol Records

On this day in 1942, Johnny Mercer and Glenn Wallichs launched Capitol Records in the United States. Wallichs was the man who invented the art of record promotion by sending copies of new releases to disc jockeys. It wasn’t until 13 years later, in 1955, that the now famous Capitol Records building was built.

The first artist to record at Capitol was Martha Tilton in April of 1942. She recorded the song “Moon Dreams”

Capitol Records was home to some of the biggest musical artists in history! Here are just a few:

Nat King Cole –

(Mona Lisa, A Blossom Fell, Answer Me My Love, Unforgettable)

Louis Prima and Keely Smith –

(Just a Gigolo, Old Black Magic, Jump Jive & Wail, What is This Thing Called Love)

Peggy Lee –

(‘Deed I Do, Fever, Big Spender)

Dean Martin –

(That’s Amore, Return To Me, On An Evening in Roma)

Frank Sinatra –

(One For My Baby, I Get a Kick Out of You, Love & Marriage, All The Way, Young At Heart)

The Beach Boys –

(Help Me Rhonda, Fun Fun Fun, Surfin’ USA)

The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney –

(TOO many to list!)

Stan Freberg

St. George and the Dragonet, Yellow Rose of Texas, Heartbreak Hotel, The Great Pretender)

The Bee Gees, Garth Brooks, The Letterman, Jerry Lewis, Heart, Al Martino, Johnny Mercer, The Steve Miller Band, Katy Perry, Sammy Davis Jr., Tennessee Ernie Ford, Gene Vincent, Bob Seger …. The list goes on and on!

So many amazing singers and talents sang in the Capitol Records studios. Happy Birthday!!

Nice Lids!

I rarely post two blogs in one day, however, my last post made me think about something – hats. The reason for this is the first line of the song “On the Sunny Side of the Street” (Grab your coat and get your hat ….)

I guess I have always appreciated a good hat. I wish that people would dress up like they used to. It seems like there was a time when folks would wear a nice suit and tie and always had a good hat to complete the ensemble. My dad had some pretty cool hats growing up…

My dad and cousin Diane.
My dad and grandpa looking swell! Dig that hat!

When I watch an old movie I always am impressed by the way some of the actors dressed. In the Rat Pack film “Robin and the Seven Hoods,” there is a scene where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bing Crosby sang a song called “Style.” Frank and Dean are singing about how Bing needs to dress better.

Anyway, there is a line in the song that says, “A hat’s not a hat till it’s tilted.” As I thought more on this, so many of the great actors wore hats and they always tilted them. I love that look! I always wanted to find a hat that I could wear titled and have it make me look good! The fedora seemed to be the choice of many stars ….

Cary Grant was always looking suave –

Cary Grant

Bogey and Cagney knew how to wear a hat!

James Cagney – Humphrey Bogart

Classic Gangster – Edward G. Robinson was almost always wearing a hat….

Edward G. Robinson

Al Pacino looked great in a fedora …

Al Pacino

Harrison Ford brought the fedora back to the screen as Indian Jones..

Even the great Curly Howard from the Three Stooges looks amazing in a hat!

Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra often recorded songs with their hats on …

Speaking of Dean Martin, the first line of his song “Bummin’ Around” says, “Got an old slouch hat ….” I wasn’t aware what a slouch hat was. I looked it up online and it was a sort of military hat. Google said, A slouch hat is a wide-brimmed felt or cloth hat most commonly worn as part of a military uniform, often, although not always, with a chinstrap. This picture came up.

slouch hat

I thought it was just a floppy hat, like Curly wore in Stooges films.

Curly

…or like Cagney wore ….

Cagney

Come to find out, those hats are called “newsboy hats.” The newsboy cap or newsie cap is a casual-wear cap similar in style to the flat cap. This is the hat that I always wear in the winter. Most people call it my “old man hat.” LOL

My daughter LOVES my hat!!

Wearing Daddy’s hat!

Maybe it is just the nostalgia lover in me, but I wish that I could pull off a nice suit, tie and hat and look as good as so many of the actors from the movies ….

Sunny Side of the Street

“The Sunny Side of the Street”

One of my favorite commercials on TV right now is the “Spring Into Action” commercial from Kohl’s. There is something about the smile of the little girl as people “hop” by that tugs at the heart strings. It is a wonderful “feel good” commercial. If you haven’t seen it – take 30 seconds and enjoy:

Kohl’s Spring Into Action

While walking the neighborhood with Ella last week, I noticed a few chalk Hopscotch games on the sidewalk. Rest assured, if the child who had drawn it was out on the porch, I would have hopped along just like the folks in the commercial.

The ad itself is wonderful. I love the song choice in it, as well. The Sunny Side of the Street is a song that is over 90 years old! It was written in 1930 by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields (although, some say it was written by blues legend Fats Waller). It made its debut on Broadway in the show International Review. The song is considered a jazz/pop standard now and is part of the “Great American Songbook.” It has been recorded by Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Count Basie, The Pied Pipers, Doris Day, Keely Smith, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Tony Bennett, and so many more.

As I thought about this song, I thought about my life. This was me! It wasn’t until Sam and I got together that I began to walk on the Sunny Side of the Street! I crossed over from the “dark and shady” side. I have always loved this song – it’s one of my favorite cuts from Willie Nelson’s Stardust album. If I had to pick a favorite version it would probably be Willie’s version. It’s just so laid back and smooth….

If you want a more “swinging” version of it – try Keely Smith on for size….

Lyrics

Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worries on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
On the sunny side of the street

Can’t you hear the pitter pat?
And that happy tune is your step
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street

I used to walk in the shade
With those blues on parade
But I’m not afraid
This rover crossed over

And if I never had a cent
I’d be rich as Rockefeller
Gold dust at my feet
On the sunny side of the street

I used to walk in the shade
With those blues on parade
But I’m not afraid
This rover crossed over

And if I never had a cent
I’d be rich as Rockefeller
Gold dust at my feet
On the sunny side of the street

Life Lesson

When life has you down, take a stroll on the sunny side of the street!

A Holiday Dozen

I mentioned to my friend Max that I had hoped to post a Christmas song every day from December 1st through Christmas Day. When it comes to holiday tunes, I could probably post a favorite Christmas song for every day of the year …

At any rate, rather than spend the time to do that, I was asked by a friend to pick my Top 10 favorite Christmas Albums. How can I do that? I have so many! I could easily pick my Top 10 Christmas albums for each genre – pop, country, classical, jazz, etc… So here is what I decided to do. I took a piece of paper and jotted down the 10 albums I felt were “must have” albums for me every year. I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10, so I made it 12.

In no particular order, here is the Holiday Dozen I came up with:

Ok, you gotta have Bing! He was often referred to as “The Voice of Christmas,” and for good reason! It was an album that often accompanied us while we opened gifts.

A great album of great songs – Brenda Lee, Bobby Helms, Stevie Wonder, Roy Orbison, The Drifters, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin are all represented in this amazing collection!

When Charles Schulz was asked to write a Christmas Special, he said he would on one condition – it had to include the story of Christ’s birth. When he chose the soundtrack for the special, he wanted something that he felt could relate to everyone – so he picked Jazz. Vince Guaraldi’s songs are synonymous with Christmas for me.

Growing up, I always disliked The Christmas Song. I guess I couldn’t relate to it as a kid. As I grew up, it became more and more meaningful to me. This album is full of many other fantastic cuts that never get played on the radio.

This one represents the “novelty” side of Christmas! Yes, it includes the Chipmunks, but it also includes some classic novelty songs from Allan Sherman, Bob & Doug McKenzie, Cheech & Chong, and Weird Al Yankovic. It is also one of the few places you can find Stan Freberg’s Christmas Dragnet. Oh, yeah, and that dumb Hippopotamus song is on here, too (but I skip that one).

This is one that a friend told me about. The story goes that a couple of members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra were sitting around talking one day. They asked each other what they thought Glenn would be doing if he were still around. One of them said “Probably working on a Christmas album.” The idea was born. They contacted former members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra and they recorded this one. It is truly a great album and tribute to Miller.

Bing Crosby may have been called the “Voice of Christmas,” but Frank Sinatra was THE VOICE. This collection includes one of my favorites: Whatever Happened to Christmas. You also get his amazing version of Have Yourself a Marry Little Christmas and other classics.

Some great songs from Al Martino, Jo Stafford, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, and other pop singers of the 40’s and 50’s.

I have talked about this one before. It is just an amazing album with something for everyone. I love listening to Doc and the Tonight Show Band jamming on songs like Winter Wonderland, Let It Snow, and my favorite version of Jingle Bells! You’ll also love the Children’s Choir and Bell Choir on other numbers.

Mel, of course, wrote The Christmas Song, and I just love to hear his version of it. Nat King Cole’s version doesn’t include Mel’s extra lyric: “Love and joy come to you, and a Merry Christmas, too. And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year.” Known as “The Velvet Fog,” Mel’s voice is perfect on Christmas Time Is Here, The Christmas Medley, Sleigh Ride, and a Christmas version of The Glow Worm.

I have so many favorite Elvis Christmas songs that aren’t on this album, but I love how they have added the orchestra to his classics on this album. Santa Claus is Back in Town sounds so much fuller with them. I only wish that they had done If Every Day Was Like Christmas for this album.

Before both of his Christmas albums were made available, they took tracks from both his “Winter Romance” album and “The Dean Martin Christmas Album” and combined them for this collection. I have both of those albums now, but for one collection – I pick this one. Marshmallow World is one of my favorite cuts!

How about you? What’s your Holiday Dozen??

Son of a … Mitch!

Sirius XM Radio has a few holiday music channels. They each kind of fall into a category – Country Christmas, Uptempo Holiday favorites, etc… I often find myself listening to the channel they call Holiday Traditions. This channel focuses on songs and artists from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. I hear a lot of my favorite artists on there like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, etc… They also play instrumental favorites, too.

On my way into work this week I noticed they will often play Christmas songs from the Ray Conniff Singers. As kids, I think my folks had two Christmas albums from them. I don’t really recall being a fan of them.

Listening to their version of Frosty the Snowman, I began to think. I wondered why they play so much Ray Conniff, but never play any Christmas songs by another singing group we had on LP – Mitch Miller.

Among the many Christmas albums we had (Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Bing Crosby), the above Mitch Miller album got a TON of play at our house. If memory serves me right, this album was one that my dad put on when we opened Christmas gifts. Mitch Miller had a TV show in the 1960’s where his singers sang songs and the lyrics were on the screen so viewers could sing along. He had many albums, too. I’m not sure just how many holiday albums, but I know we had that one!

Must Be Santa

Of all the holiday songs on the album, there is one that really stands out from my childhood – Must Be Santa. This song was not on any of the other holiday albums we owned. It was not a song that you ever heard on the radio. It was, in a sense, a Mitch Miller exclusive! As a matter of fact, Mitch was the first to record it, as far as I can tell. He released it in November of 1960.

The song is based on a German drinking song (the Schnitzelbank song) and is a “call and response” song. The lead singer sings a question and the singers answer back (Full Lyrics below).

I remember as kids loving this song. We often sang along with the “answer back” lines. As I grew older and heard the song, I remember noticing something I hadn’t really before. There was one voice that screamed through as they sang “Must be Santa” and it was awful!

It was a piercing voice. It almost sounds like a kid whose voice is changing. I cringe when I hear it now. It always seemed like that voice always sang a second longer that every other voice. Plus It was almost like some sort of fake vibrato in that voice. Give the song a listen in the YouTube video and see if you can’t hear the voice….

Now that I think about it …. maybe that voice is why they don’t play more Mitch Miller on the radio ….

Who’s got a beard that’s long and white?
Santa’s got a beard that’s long and white
Who comes around on a special night?
Santa comes around on a special night

Special Night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who wears boots and a suit of red?
Santa wears boots and a suit of red

Who wears a long cap on his head?
Santa wears a long cap on his head

Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who’s got a big red cherry nose?
Santa’s got a big red cherry nose

Who laughs this way: “HO HO HO”?
Santa laughs this way: “HO HO HO”

HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who very soon will come our way?
Santa very soon will come our way

Eight little reindeer pull his sleigh?
Santa’s little reindeer pull his sleigh

Reindeer sleigh, come our way
HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen

Reindeer sleigh, come our way
HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus