The Soundtrack For The Baby Boomer Generation

Step back to a time when singers were as bright as the stars in the heavens
and the music they sang was really swingin'. Stacks of wax to fit every occasion!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Switchblade Kid

Artist: Sal Mineo
Song: Party Time (a-side) (b-side is The Words That I Whisper)
Label: Epic 5-9246
Number: ZSP 42434
Songwriters: J. Sheldon - H. Lane
Time: 2:09
Released: 1957

And now for today's second post featuring Hollywood actors who sing. Sal Mineo also began his formal musical/recording career in 1957, but instead of attempting calypso, he chose (or his managers did) the relatively new genre of rock and roll. It seems to have suited him well, for he had what appears to have been at least three songs that charted.
Everyone knows about his short life and tragic death, (born on January 10th, 1939 – murdered on February 12th, 1976), and his greatest achievements, that of an actor in such memorable films as Rebel Without A Cause (1955), Giant (1956), the Disney adventure Tonka (1958), A Private Affair (1959), The Gene Krupa Story (1959), Exodus (1960), The Longest Day (1962 - also a film in which our other featured artist Robert Mitchum was in), Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965), Krakatoa, East Of Java (1969), 80 Steps To Jonah (1969), and Escape From The Planet Of The Apes (1971), but what many don't know, he had a short stint as a pop idol, in the late-1950's.
Sal already had a solid acting career when he started putting out records. Before he released his first single, he had appeared in several major productions on Broadway and in films. When he turned to rock roll, his first efforts were equally as successful. In 1957, he released the singles, Start Movin' (In My Direction) and Lasting Love. The former broke into the Top Ten and remained in the Top 40 for more than three months, while the latter hit number 27. He proceeded to release an album through Epic in the U.S. and Philips in Great Britain. His other singles included You Shouldn't Do That, Little Pigeon, Love Affair, and today's song, Party Time.
Now, I'm not saying he had a voice that rivalled Elvis, or the ability to write classic songs such as Buddy Holly, but he did possess a fair amount of likability in his style of singing, and catchy songs seem to have been picked especially for him. You can't help but get into groove of Party Time as he sings about inviting a girlfriend over one night "to play records" at his house while his mother is away. So, if you like early rock and roll and catchy beats, you're sure to enjoy Party Time by Sal Mineo. Start movin' (in the direction) of the handy download link I've provided and make this single part of your lasting collection!

The Ballad Of Robert Mitchum

Artist: Robert Mitchum
Song: What Is This Generation Coming To? (a-side) (b-side is Mama Looka Boo Boo)
Label: Capitol Promotional Debut Record F3672
Number: 45-16598
Songwriters: Don Raye - Joseph Burke
Time: 2:41
Released: March 20th, 1957

Today's post is the first of two in a Hollywood-related theme. Both feature iconoclastic actors from Tinseltown's 1950's, when both performers took up recording for the first time. The first one features tough guy Robert Mitchum doing calypso. Calypso? Yes, you heard correctly! A little on the man himself first.
Robert Mitchum was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on August 6th, 1917. His father, James, was crushed to death in a railyard accident in Charleston, South Caroline, in February 1919, when Robert was less than 2 years old. Throughout his childhood, he was known as a prankster, often involved in fistfights and mischief. After being expelled from high school, he travelled throughout the country on railroad cars, taking a number of jobs including one as a ditch-digger for the Civilian Conservation Corps and as a professional boxer. He experienced numerous adventures during his years as one of the Depression era's "wild boys of the road." He arrived in Long Beach, California, in 1936, and during this time he worked as a ghostwriter for the astrologer Carroll Righter. It was sister Julie who convinced Robert to join the local theater guild with her. In his years with the Player's Guild of Long Beach, he made a living as a stagehand and occasional bit player in plays. He also wrote several short pieces which were performed by the guild. After securing work as an extra in movies, he found steady work in the Hopalong Cassidy series of B-westerns. From this humble beginning, he graduated into bigger and more important roles until finally landing onscreen during the height of the Film Noir era. Here, his star shown brightly and he came into his own. He rode this wave of popularity into the 1960's, where his career was marked by a number of lesser films and missed opportunities. Some of his more memorable motion pictures include The Locket (1946), Out Of The Past (1947), Rachel And The Stranger (1948), The Big Steal (1949), Where Danger Lives (1950), My Forbidden Past (1951), His Kind Of Woman (1951), The Racket (1951), Macao (1952), One Minute To Zero (1952), Angel Face (1952), River Of No Return (1954), The Night Of The Hunter (1955), Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), Thunder Road (1958), The Sundowners (1960), Cape Fear (1962), The Longest Day (1962), El Dorado (1966), 5 Card Stud (1968), The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973), Farewell, My Lovely (1975), Midway (1976), The Big Sleep (1978), and many, many others. I'm sure readers of this blog will have seen about as many of these as I have - I've always been such a big fan of his movies!
Which brings us to one of the lesser known aspects of Mitchum's career - and that was his forays into music, both as a singer and composer. After hearing traditional calypso music while filming Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison in the Caribbean island of Tobago, he recorded Calypso - Is Like So... in March 1957. On this album, which the song in today's post hails from, he emulates the calypso sound and style, even adopting the style's unique pronunciations and slang. In 1958, he wrote and recorded a song for his film Thunder Road, entitled The Ballad Of Thunder Road, and it reached a respectable #69 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart. He waited until 1967 to record another album, but the resulting follow-up, That Man, Robert Mitchum, Sings, produced a #9 Country hit called Little Old Wine Drinker Me. It's follow-up, You Deserve Each Other, also charted on the Billboard Country Singles Chart.
Robert Mitchum, the 20th Century Renaissance Man, died on July 1st, 1997, but not before being regarded by critics as one of the finest actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood. This post seems to have turned out a bit longer than normal, so I'll wind it all up by saying get Robert Mitchum doing calypso music as he sings about modern teenagers in What Is This Generation Coming To? I assure you, you won't be disappointed in it!

15 Minutes Of Fame - Or Tragedy?

Artist: Joan Weber
Song: Let Me Go, Lover (a-side) (b-side is Marionette)
Label: Columbia 4-40366
Number: ZSP 34068
Songwriters: Al Hill - Jenny Lou Carson
Time: 2:21
Released: 1954

Today's post is one I've been meaning to upload for a long time, but it's such a sad story when you know what happened behind the scenes, that I found it hard. Joan Weber was only 18 years old when she recorded this song and it was to be her only hit. Poor Joan didn't even get any part of her 15 minutes of fame.
She was born on December 12th, 1935, in Paulsboro, New Jersey, and she was just 18 when manager Eddie Joy escorted her to New York City's legendary Brill Building to audition for RCA Records. Only a few months before this, she had been happily singing weekend dates with her husband's dance band in and around her home town of Paulsboro (pop. 7,842). After recording a demo of the song Marionette, it somehow found the ear of Columbia Records A&R man Mitch Miller, who quickly signed her to a contract. Although Joan and her bandleader husband were due to give birth to their first child in late 1954, Miller nevertheless ushered her into the studio to record Let Me Go, Lover, a rewrite of Jenny Lou Carson and Al Hill's anti-alcohol screed Let Me Go, Demon. On November 15th, 1954, a visibly pregnant Weber performed the song on the television showcase Studio One, and it emerged as an overnight hit. A prescient Miller made sure Let Me Go, Lover was stocked in record stores across the U.S. prior to Weber's TV appearance, and the disc sold over 100,000 copies in it's first week of release. It eventually found it's way to the top of the Billboard pop chart in January 1955, where it spent 4 weeks at the number one spot. Here's where the story takes a horrible twist.
The birth of their daughter Terry Lynn nevertheless forced Weber onto the sidelines just as the single peaked and her fame was at it's highest apex and here she was, unable to promote her career through public appearances. Consequently, the song was the only recording of hers to chart, and she was dropped from Columbia's roster soon after. She released only a handful of follow-up efforts before abandoning her music career altogether. From that point on in her life, I couldn't locate any facts about her life, except one. Joan Weber died on May 13th, 1981, of heart failure while confined to an Ancora, New Jersey mental institution - she was just 45 years old. What a sad ending for a woman whose career had such a brilliant beginning. One can only assume that depression set in soon after the events surrounding Let Me Go, Lover unfolded and it led to her confinement in a mental home.
In spite of all that, please download and listen to this song. She has an impassioned style of delivery that really makes me believe she wants the man in the song to release her:

"Oh, let me go, let me go, let me go, lover,
Let me be, set me free from your spell."

Let Me Go, Lover was an immensely popular song and inspired many cover versions by such artists as Patti Page, Teresa Brewer, Peggy Lee and Sunny Gale. It was such a huge hit in early 1955, that Lucille Ball even did a few bars of it on her television program I Love Lucy, on March 18th. But, this is the original version, and as far as I'm concerned, the best. With all the tragedy that surrounded the singer's life and this particular song, how could you not want to hear her plaintive cry for release as Joan Weber pleads Let Me Go, Lover? Listen to this song and then remember a sad, young lady whose fate it was to leave the world too soon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Der Other Bingle

Artist: Gary Crosby
Song: Cheatin' On Me (b-side) (a-side is Judy, Judy)
Label: Verve Black and Silver Label V-10153x45 B
Number: 22,494-12
Songwriters: Pollack - Yellen
Time: 2:07
Released: 1958

Yes, today's post is by, not Bing Crosby, but his son Gary. Born Gary Evan Crosby on June 27th, 1933, he was the oldest son of Bing Crosby and actress Dixie Lee. The stocky-framed, lookalike son of singing legend Crosby had that same bemused, forlorn look, fair hair and jug ears. Gary and his three brothers' childhood was an intensely troubled one with all four trying to follow in their father's incredibly large footsteps as singers and actors. As youngsters, they briefly appeared with Bing as themselves in the motion pictures Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) and Duffy's Tavern (1945). Gary proved to be the most successful of the four, albeit a minor one. As a teen, he dueted on two songs with his famous dad, Sam's Song and Play A Simple Melody, which became the first double-sided gold record in history. He and his brothers also formed their own harmony singing group "The Crosby Boys" in subsequent years but their success was fleeting.
In the late 1950's, Gary concentrated on a solo acting career and appeared pleasantly, if unobtrusively, in such breezy, lightweight fare as Mardi Gras (1958), Holiday For Lovers (1959), A Private's Affair (1959), Battle At Bloody Beach (1961) (perhaps his best role), Operation Bikini (1963), and Girl Happy (1965) with Elvis Presley. Making little leeway, he turned to TV series work. The Bill Dana Show (1963) and Adam-12 (1968) as Officer Ed Wells kept him occasionally busy in the '60's and early '70's, also guesting on such shows as The Twilight Zone (1959), The Rockford Files (twice, 1977 and 1979), and Matlock (1986).
In 1983, Gary published a "Daddy Dearest" autobiography entitled Going My Own Way, an exacting account of the severe physical and emotional abuse he and his brothers experienced at the hands of his overly stern and distant father, who had died in 1977. The tell-all book estranged Gary from the rest of his immediate family and did nothing to rejuvenate his stalled career. Two of his brothers, Dennis and Lindsey, later committed suicide. Gary was divorced from his third wife and was about to marry a fourth when he learned he had lung cancer. He died on August 24th, 1995, two months after the diagnosis. At the time of his death, Gary was working on an album in which he would be paired electronically with his late father, Bing, in much the same way Natalie Cole did with her father, Nat 'King' Cole, on her Unforgettable album.
After hearing today's song, you'll see that all comparisons between Gary and his more famous father Bing, are only minor. Gary had a singing style all his own, and he showed it with much verve and peruasion on Cheatin' On Me. It's a catchy little number with just a hint of rock and roll guitar during the solo that you'll be glad you downloaded. Here is Gary Crosby crooning Cheatin' On Me, doing it in his own way. It's a shame that he came along at the beginning of the rock and roll era, or he could have had an even bigger singing career.

Another One From My Julie

Artist: Julie London
Song: Evenin' (b-side) (a-side is Send For Me)
Label: Liberty Audition Record F-55300
Number: LB-1177
Songwriters: Parish - White
Time: 2:40
Released: 1961

Well, regular readers of this blog will note that Julie London is one of my favorite female singers of all time. Is it any wonder I've posted more of her songs than anybody else here on Music For Every Mood? Needless to say, here is another great one! This song was originally featured on the album Send For Me, which was released the year I was born, in 1961.
Today's track is a mid-tempo tune by the name of Evenin'. Listen to her mournful delivery and look at those sultry eyes in the picture below. Is there any wonder to know that guys used to regularly fall in love with that face? Include me among them. Here's another great song by the first lady of torch singing, Julie London as she performs Evenin'. Julie passed away in 2000, but I still have a crush on her.

Patti Page Time

Artist: Patti Page
Song: The Wall (b-side) (a-side is A Poor Man's Roses)
Label: Mercury Records 71059X45
Number: YW14652
Songwriters: Diamond - Owens - Dreyer
Time: 1:52
Released: February 4th, 1957

What else can I say about Patti Page but that she's incomparable? Born Clara Ann Fowler, she is known by her professional name and is one of the best-known female artists in traditional pop music. She was the best-selling female artist of the 1950s, and has sold over 100 million records to date. Her signature song, Tennessee Waltz, recorded in 1950, was one of the biggest-selling singles of the twentieth century, and spent 13 weeks atop the Billboard magazine's Best-Sellers List in 1950. Today, the song has come close to selling fifteen million copies.
Patti was born on November 8, 1927 in Claremore, Oklahoma, and became a featured singer on a 15-minute radio program on radio station KTUL, Tulsa, Oklahoma at age 18. Page toured with the Jimmy Joy Band throughout the country in the mid-1940s. The band eventually ended up in Chicago, Illinois in 1947. In Chicago, she sang with a small group led by popular orchestra leader, Benny Goodman. This helped her gain her first recording contract with Mercury Records the same year. Page became Mercury Records' "girl singer."
After her popularity began to decline in the 1960's, she left Columbia Records and returned to her old label, Mercury Records and shifted her career towards country music, in 1970. She achieved success in this field, also, singing with the likes of Tom T. Hall, on her #14 Billboard Country Chart hit Hello, We're Lonely, from 1973.
Now in her 80's, Page continues to tour, performing 50 select concerts a year across the United States and Canada. I'd say that if you get a chance to hear her, don't miss it!
Today's record is a catchy little upbeat number entitled The Wall. Patti sings about the developing space between two people in her own unique and inimitable style, so you have to check this one out. Here is the great Patti Page singing The Wall. Not to be confused with the Pink Floyd album of the same name.

He's Back....

Well, I'm back. After a short hiatus to deal with my new novel being published, I'm ready to upload more records. My record player had a slight speed problem which needed to be fixed, but now it's up and rarin' to go. Not only will I continue to post the great artists and songs like I have in the past, I have some theme posts coming up as well. These will consist of multiple posts at a time and include such themes as Hollywood actors who sing, sister acts, songs with Hawaiian themes, sibling acts, the Space Age, and things like that. It promises to be loads of fun for me, so I hope my regulars will enjoy it too! And as always, keep those cards and letters coming - you can always post a comment if there's something you liked or would like to hear. Plus, some of the artists are a little obscure, so if you happen to know something about them that I don't, please don't hesitate to post it in the comment section. I'm sure my other regular readers would like to know it too! Well, that's all for now - I have to post some more great records!