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:

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!

Guest Blogger: Beatles Songs Covered (Max – Part 2)

Making his triumphant return this week to my blog is my pal Max. His blog can be found here:

https://powerpop.blog/

Last week, he presented a blog of his favorite Beatles songs that were cover songs (songs originally done by other artists). This week, he looks at the other side of the coin. Here now, is his presentation of great covers of Beatles songs by other artists. I hope you enjoy it! Take it away, Max…

Beatle Songs By Others …

Hello everyone welcome back this week for the conclusion of the Beatlefest on Keith’s site. Today I’m going to list my favorite Beatle covers. Although I like these a lot…I usually still go with the Beatles version. There is one that I do like better than the original…and that is…well you will just have to read on. I did include some live versions of songs. 

I added two at the bottom as runner ups but they just as well could have been in this list. Many songs could have been…depending on which day I was deciding. . I never thought about how many covers there were out there until Hanspostcard started to have a series on Beatle covers…there are a bunch! (KEITH: Hans posted some rare ones that I have never heard before!)

10: Aerosmith – Come Together...Aerosmith did a good job on this song. They didn’t stray too far at all from the original off of Abbey Road. This song was the one good thing about the movie Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band…there weren’t very many bright spots. Peter Frampton fighting Steven Tyler on film was also a keeper. (KEITH: I certainly love this one – but their cover of “I’m Down” is my favorite!)

9: Chris Cornell  – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away – Chris’s voice is incredible in this and it’s the way he phrases that I like so much…it’s a lot of depth and feel in his version. Eddie Vedder also has a good version. (KEITH: Great song, but I tend to lean toward the original)

8: Fats Domino – Lady Madonna – This song sounds like it was written just for Fats Domino. He did a great job. He did a wonderful job every  time he covered the Beatles. (KEITH: Fats was one of the great influences of Beatles music. I would tend to agree that this really sounds more like a Fats song)

7: Emmylou Harris – For No One – I can listen to anything she sings but on this she re-worked the song in her own way and it works great. I was told about this cover by Aphoristical a year or so ago and ever since…I’ve wore it out. It puts a new light on the song. (KEITH: I have a buddy, Ken, who just loves Emmylou. Because of our many conversations about her, I stumbled on this one. Great voice.)

6: Stevie Wonder – We Can Work It Out – Stevie puts his incredible spin on this song and lifts it up. (KEITH: Love that Stevie really made this on his own!)

5: While My Guitar Gently Weeps – At the 2004 Hall of Fame Inductions you had Tom Petty, Dhani Harrison, Jeff Lynn, Steve Winwood, and Prince. Prince stole this performance with his amazing solo…you could tell Dhani (George Harrison’s son) was really enjoying it. (KEITH: When I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a year or so ago, they played the video of this amazing song. Prince – WOW!)

4: Al Green – I Want To Hold Your Hand – I would have never put these two together but Al Green turns his version of I Want To Hold Your Hand into an Al Green song. (KEITH: How can you co wrong with Al Green + The Beatles?!)

3: Johnny Cash – In My Life – This version is heartbreaking to listen to knowing that Cash was looking hard at his own mortality. (KEITH: That was my thoughts exactly when I heard this cut. Johnny is VERY reflective in his vocal…)

2: Wilson Pickett – Hey Jude – Duane Allman was a studio musician at Muscle Shoals when he brought this up as a single to Wilson Pickett. The Beatles version was still on the charts at the time. No one wanted to do it but Wilson agreed when he heard Duane’s version.  They re-worked it and it worked. After Eric Clapton heard this version he wanted to know who the guitar player was at the end of the song. That is how Eric found out about Duane Allman. (KEITH: The Wicked Mr. Pickett! This one has been a favorite of mine for some time. )

1: Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends – This is the one cover that I like better than the Beatles original. He turned the song into a show stopper. (KEITH: A Cocker Classic! I agree, Max. Such a powerful cut!)

Runner Ups

Larkin and Poe – In My Life – Christian at christiansmusicmusings turned me on to. This one is a lovely version of In My Life. (KEITH: Have never heard this one before – but I like it!)

Aretha Franklin – Eleanor Rigby – She is the one and only Queen of Soul. My favorite female singer of all time. She turns this into a soul song. (KEITH: Everything she touched was gold! She was amazing! Great cut. I would say that Ray Charles version is equally as good!)

THANKS, MAX!

I want to take a moment and thank Max for taking the time to write for my blog. I guess I need to write my Beatles Blog now.

The Big O

Roy Orbison 1

Roy Orbison is a rock and roll legend.  I refuse to debate this.  It is a fact.  The Beatles and Elvis Presley (both legends in their own right) had stated on record that Roy was a major influence on their music.  Roy’s music was different – it had it’s own style and a certain darkness to it.  My first exposure to Roy Orbison was when I was about 4 or 5 years old.

I remember my dad had an album of Roy’s Greatest Hits.  My favorite song as a kid was Dream Baby.  I didn’t know that was the name of it.  I know this because when I asked him to play it, I would ask for it by singing the opening bass line: “Daddy, play ‘boom boom boom, bum bum boom.'”  I remember the first song on the album was Candy Man, which started with a harmonica.  That is the instrument Roy asked for as a kid.

When asked hey wanted for his sixth birthday, Roy told his parents he wanted a harmonica.  Luckily for the music industry, his father bought him a guitar instead.  While some stories differ, most biographies claim that Roy learned how to play from his father Orbie Lee Orbison.  Some sources say that he learned from his Uncle Charlie, Orbie’s brother.

He wrote his first song in 1944, and entered a talent show in 1946.  He and another act tied for first place and the first prize of $15 was split between Roy and the other winner.  How much of a class act was Roy?  He gave half of his $7.50 to the friend of his who carried his guitar to the contest!

He formed a band while in Wink, Texas called the Wink Westerners and that band played some high school dances.  While in college, two friends of his had written a song called “Ooby Dooby.” They began playing that in their shows and because of their success, they got their own radio show on station KMID. In 1955, the band got their own TV show and artists came to play and sing on it.  Among them, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

Roy pulled Johnny aside and asked for advice.  He wanted to know how to get a record released on the radio.  Johnny suggested that he call Sam Phillips over at Sun Records in Memphis.  Johnny gave Roy the number and sure enough Roy called.  I am sure he was not expecting what happened.  Sam Phillips answered the phone and after a brief conversation, Sam hung up on him, but not before telling Roy, “Johnny Cash doesn’t run my record company!”

Roy eventually found a place to record and recorded “Ooby Dooby” with his band, now called the Teen Kings.  The song was released in 1956 and Roy took it to a well known record dealer named Cecil “Poppa” Hollifield. He heard the song and immediately called a “connection” he had in Memphis and played him the record over the phone.  His connection asked for a copy of the record, and three days later he called Poppa up to tell him he wanted the Teen Kings in Memphis in three days to record in his studio.  That connection was none other than Sam Phillips of Sun Records!

That deal got him out on tour with Johnny Cash, Faron Young, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Horton among others.  In 1958, Roy was asked to tour with the Everly Brothers.  During the tour, the Everly Brothers told Roy they needed a new single and asked if he had any songs.  He picked up his guitar and sang the song Claudette.  They liked it, and asked him to write down the words and chords.  The song was the B-side of All I Have To Do Is Dream.  Roy had some of his other songs recorded by artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, and even Ricky Nelson.

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In 1959, Roy was signed to an independent label called Monument.  It was at this label that so many of Roy’s big hits came, starting with Uptown.  That was followed by Only The Lonely (which reached #2), Blue Angel, and I’m Hurtin’. What followed was Roy’s first #1 song, Running Scared.

Roy had hoped to change up the “pop” sound and try something different.  They recorded the song twice and he was disappointed with the two takes, so they cut it again.  Instead of using a falsetto voice, Roy sang the high natural A and nailed it.  The accompanying musicians were awestruck and had never heard anything like it.  Producer Fred Foster said “Nobody had ever hear anything like it before!”

What followed was four solid years of top 40 hits.  Those hits included Crying, Candy Man, Dream Baby, Working for the Man, In Dreams, Pretty Paper, Leah, Blue Bayou, Mean Woman Blues, and Its Over. His success got him a spot opening up for some concerts in England. He was the opening act for a few guys who were known as The Beatles (they had yet to become a big thing in the US).  The tour sold out in minutes, and on the first night of the show, they say that Roy played 14 encores before the Beatles ever got on stage!

In 1964, Roy recorded what is probably his biggest hit, Oh Pretty Woman.  It would be his last big hit while at Monument records.  Touring hurt his personal life, and his wife Claudette began having an affair.  One day while writing with songwriter Bill Dees, Claudette entered the room and said that she was going to Nashville.  Roy asked her if she had any money, and Dee’s replied, “A pretty woman never needs any money.” With that phrase, and about 40 minutes, they wrote Oh, Pretty Woman, which went to number 1 in almost every country in the world.

In 1966, Claudette was killed when a pickup truck pulled out in front of her and she hit the door.  She died instantly.  Two years later, Roy was on a tour in England and he received a call that his home had burned down.  As if that wasn’t enough bad news, he was also told that his two oldest sons were killed in the fire.  He tried to cope by keeping himself busy with work.  He starred in the film The Fastest Guitar Alive, which ended up being his only lead role.

Roy changed labels a few times after this and eventually re-signed with Monument.  In 1987, Roy Orbison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Bruce Springsteen was there to do the honors.  A TV special followed.  Roy had always wanted to do one and this special included some powerful special guests:  Elvis Costello, k.d.Lang, Tom Waits, Bonny Raitt, Jennifer Warrens, Jackson Brown, and Bruce Springsteen.  The special was called Roy Orbison and Friends – A Black and White Night Live. It was aired on cable and released on video and became one of Roy’s great concerts.

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Jeff Lynne of ELO was busy producing George Harrison’s Cloud Nine album, and was working on Tom Petty’s and Roy’s albums at the same time.  This led to them all getting together with Bob Dylan for the Traveling Wilburys project which was a huge success! Handle With Care was a big hit from the album.  A song that was supposed to be a group song on the album was You’re Not Alone Anymore.  It was decided that there was really only one voice that could do the song justice, and that was Roy.  It is an amazing vocal and an amazing song!

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In late 1988, Roy put the finishing touches on the Mystery Girl album.  It was set for release in 1989.  There would be a world tour to support the project.  The album would include the smash hit “You Got It”.  On December 6, 1988, Roy was complaining of chest pains.  Just before midnight, he had a heart attack and collapsed at his mother’s home.  Roy Orbison died at the young age of 52.

I was still a senior in high school and I was going to WKSG to rip news and type up stories for the news director.  I would stay till 6am and then head to school.  I remember going to the AP wire and seeing the URGENT breaking news that Roy had died.  We were an oldies station and this was big news.  I remember when we broke the news.  It is one of those moments I will never forget.

You Got It was released after Roy’s death and reached the top 10.  One of the coolest tributes to Roy was when the Traveling Wilburys released the song End of the Line.  In the video, the group is on a train singing.  When Roy’s vocal comes on, the camera is on a rocking chair in which Roy’s guitar is sitting.  Next to it, is a framed photo of Roy.  Powerful!

Roy Orbison is a legend.  His music was like no one else.  His style was like no one else.  His vocals were indescribably beautiful, haunting, and amazing.  Heaven’s choir is blessed to have him in their baritone section.  Happy Birthday, Roy!