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!!

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

Tune Tuesday – Autumn Leaves

It’s been sometime since I’ve posted something for Tune Tuesday. With today being the first official day of Autumn, I wanted to post one of my favorite “seasonal” songs – Autumn Leaves. There have been many versions of the song, but I just love the way Nat King Cole does it. Nat released his vocal version of it in 1955 – the same year that pianist Roger Williams had an instrumental hit with the song.

I have written about Nat in the past. His voice is one of the most unique in all of pop music. The song is so beautiful, and yet so sad. The orchestral arrangement is hauntingly beautiful and Nat’s vocal compliments it perfectly.

Autumn Leaves

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Saturday Songs

This is the first of at least two blogs today.  I chose to write this one first.  Amidst all of the chaos in the world, I was reminded of a song that I often turned to when things in my life were less than stellar.  Michael Buble’ has been doing video messages on his Instagram page.  In one, he began to sing this song … and I felt that it was, indeed, a perfect song for today.

Smile – Nat King Cole

I may have posted this song once before in a blog about Nat King Cole.  The song is based on an instrumental melody written by Charlie Chaplin (loosely based on Puccini’s “Tosca”) for his 1936 movie Modern Times.  Lyrics were added in 1954 and they were based on lines from the film.

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You know what’s difficult to do in difficult times?  Smiling.  Try it.  It’s pretty damn hard.  While you and I are sitting in quarantine, knowing what’s going on outside, try smiling.  Not the easiest thing, but it is possible.  That’s what the song is all about. It tells you to cheer up, tomorrow will be better if you just smile.

You have probably heard that it takes more muscles and it takes more work to frown than it does to smile.  So, why work so hard?  Smile.  Give it a listen:

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What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

This song is from 1967.  There are some conflicting stories about who was originally offered the song first.  Some say that Tony Bennett was offered the song, but refused.  Others say that the song was written specifically for Louis Armstrong, whom the writer of the song was inspired by as he felt Louis was good at bringing people of various race and color together.

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I first came to know this song because of the film “Good Morning Vietnam” starring Robin Williams.  It is interesting to note that the song was actually recorded 2 years after the film takes place (Williams’ character, a DJ, plays it on the radio).  What made me think about this song was the scene from the movie in which it was played.  While it plays, we see soldiers marching, bombs exploding, fighting and chaos in the streets, and more.

The contrast of the music of the song over these scenes are etched in my memory.  When I thought about the craziness in the world today, I couldn’t help but think of how, despite all of this, we truly live in a wonderful world.  One could easily play this song over scenes from what is going on in the world today.  It is important to find the happiness among the sadness.  It is important to notice the blue skies, green trees, white clouds, and red roses that are there to enjoy.

The only line that doesn’t fit today – is the line about shaking hands.

 

I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people going by
I see friends shaking hands
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying
“I love you”

I hear babies cry
I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more
Than I’ll never know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Oh yeah

 

 

Tune Tuesday – Nat King Cole

 

nat_king_cole-studio_bw_4-c_capitol_photo_archives_0While driving into work this week, I heard part of a special on Sirius XM honoring Nat King Cole in honor of his 100th birthday.  The part that I heard was from a special done on WNEW radio in New York.  It was some DJ interviewing Nat, having him sing songs and play piano.  For Tune Tuesday, since his 100th birthday would have been March 17th, I thought I would share a few of my favorite Nat King Cole songs. I guess this blog should be titled Tune(s) Tuesday.

Before I post my favorites, let me say that Nat King Cole was truly one of the great voices in American music.  He was first known for being a jazz pianist (he had some classical training), and then began singing with the Nat King Cole Trio. His dad was a Baptist pastor and one of Nat’s early hits “Straighten Up and Fly Right” was inspired by one of his dad’s sermons.

In the 1950’s he became a solo performer and had many pop hits.  When Rock and Roll music came on the scene in the mid-1950’s, his career began to dwindle, but not for long.  He, like many, poked fun of Rock and Roll and often did a song in his live act called “Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll”.  In the 60’s he reached the charts again with a couple hits.

He was the first African American performer to host his own TV Variety show in 1956. He had many stars on the show, but the lack of a national sponsor led to the demise of the show.  He appeared in movies Istanbul, China Gate, St. Louis Blues (playing blues legend WC Handy), and Cat Ballou (with Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin).

Nat was a very heavy smoker.  He often credited smoking for giving his voice the unique baritone sound that it had.  He even mentioned in the special I heard on Sirius XM how important it was to smoke, and even told the host that if smoked more, it would improve his singing voice.  Sadly, smoking is what led to his early death.  In 1964, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  It was only a few months after the diagnosis that he succumbed to the disease (February 15, 1965) at the very young age of 45.

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Route 66 

With the Nat King Cole Trio – probably my favorite version of this song.

Answer Me My Love

Beautiful song about a guy who has lost his one and only.

Mona Lisa

Yes, it’s about the painting.

When I Fall In Love

WOW!  One of his best right here.  I could listen to this over and over

Autumn Leaves

One of those songs from Nat that you rarely get to hear.  It is really a wonderful arrangement and pretty song.

A Blossom Fell

My great uncle actually recorded this song when I was a kid at some local recording studio.  That was how I was introduced to this song.  I often think of him when I hear this song.

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

This one always reminds me of my days at Honey Radio.  We often played summer songs when the season changed and this was one of those songs.  It’s a feel good song – gotta love the banjo!

Smile 

A song that was written by the great Charlie Chaplin, this is one of those perfect songs.  Many have recorded this song, but Nat’s version remains the one that remains my favorite version.

L-O-V-E

Nat’s last recording.  It can be heard in many movie soundtracks and one of his best!

Nat had so many wonderful songs.  He was a talent that was taken from us much too soon.  Give a listen to his other hits Orange Colored Sky, Ramblin’ Rose, The Very Thought of You, I Love You for Sentimental Reasons, Unforgettable, and, of course, The Christmas Song.

Happy 100th Birthday, Nat!  Thanks for the music and melodies!