Saturday, May 19, 2018

An Artie Shaw Birthday Salute

Artie Shaw was born on May 23, 1910. He was an American clarinetist, composer, bandleader, and actor. Also an author, Shaw wrote both fiction and non-fiction. Widely regarded as "one of jazz's finest clarinetists, Shaw led one of the United States' most popular big bands in the late 1930s through the early 1940s. As I do every year I would like to remember Artie on his birthday but instead of playing many of his hits I am going to be playing some of his recordings that feature the many different vocalists that sang with his band. Starting way back in 1936 with Peg La Centra and going to the mid 1940's we'll hear a lot of different singers.

When I was a senior in high school I started listening to some of my father's records. I played clarinet in the band so I listed to Pete Fountain. But I pulled out a Benny Goodman greatest hits album that my dad had and was hooked. When I started college I was still seeking out Goodman albums in the local record stores when I read about Artie Shaw. The first album of Artie's I bought was one called "This IS Artie Shaw" from RCA Bluebird. I loved it from the first listening on.  I was taking saxophone and clarinet lessons at the local community college. Since they didn't have a full time instructor for that they hired a local instructor who also owned a music store. He sold records in his store and the first time I went there I noticed a bargain bin and in it was a big band lover's jackpot. He had marked down a series called "The Complete" for $2.00 each. In it was the complete Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw for RCA records. I snatched those up and still have them 40 years later.

If you are interested in learning about the life of Artie Shaw, there is a wonderful biography about him by Tom Nolan called, "Three Chords for Beauty Sake". I highly recommend it.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Will Bradley and His Orchestra

I have been a little lazy posting new items so I'm back again.  On this week's Big Band Bash I'll be focusing on the band of Will Bradley. Will Bradley along with drummer Ray McKinley led a very exciting band from 1939 to 1942. The Bradley band became well known for boogie-woogie, particularly its hit record, "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" In 1942, McKinley departed to form his own band. Bradley hired trumpeter Shorty Rogers and drummer Shelly Manne, but many members wound up in the military due to the draft, and the band dissolved.

He was born Wilbur Schwichtenberg on July 12, 1912  in Newton, New Jersey, Bradley was raised in Washington, New Jersey.

This was his obituary from the LA Times when he passed away in 1989:

Will Bradley, a handsome, urbane studio trombonist who emerged from those anonymous ranks to lead what briefly was one of the most celebrated Big Bands of the early and mid-1940s, has died.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Bradley, noted for such popular hits of the day as "Beat Me, Daddy, Eight to the Bar," "Celery Stalks at Midnight" and "Strange Cargo," died Saturday in Flemington, N.J. He was 78.

With drummer Ray McKinley, whom Bradley lured from Jimmy Dorsey, the Will Bradley Band was a mainstay of ballrooms and hotels during the wartime years of sentimental ballads, jive tunes and boogie-woogie.

Called by Glenn Miller "the best of all" the trombonists of his day, Wilbur Schwichtenberg had worked for years in recording studios before emerging to join the old Milt Shaw and Ray Noble bands (Miller was a fellow trombonist with Noble). In 1939 Schwichtenberg became Bradley and Wilbur became Will and he and McKinley (considered a co-leader although he sat at the back of the band) produced a series of sweet ballads and swing tunes for Columbia records.
With Freddie Slack at the piano the Bradley band recorded "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance," with Carlotta Dale on vocal, and "Old Doc Yak," with McKinley singing and playing drums.
Louise Tobin, then Harry James' wife, sang "Deed I Do" with Bradley shortly before the band switched emphasis from ballads to boogie.

Slack, later to form his own famous band, was the catalyst behind a white group of musicians playing what had been a black innovation.

In George T. Simons' book "The Big Bands," McKinley recounts how the musicians were experimenting with instrumental arrangements based on the blues with an eight-to-the-bar piano boogie beat.

"There was one point where I had a drum break and for some reason or other that night instead of playing the break, I sang out "Oh, beat me, daddy, eight to the bar!" After the set McKinley encouraged the writing of a song with that title and it became the biggest of the Bradley band's hits, selling more than 100,000 copies.

Bradley tried to chase that success with "Rock-a-Bye Boogie," "Scrub Me, Mama, With a Boogie Beat," "Fry Me, Cookie, With a Can of Lard" and others.

But he quickly became disenchanted with the band's new sound, preferring the more solid tunes of the day, and he and McKinley eventually split up, McKinley to form his own group in 1942.
Bradley brought new talent into his band after McKinley's departure, among them a young drummer named Shelley Manne and a trumpet player who called himself Shorty Rogers. These two were to become an integral part of modern jazz a few years later.

But the wartime military draft decimated the ranks of the younger players and Simon writes of one engagement in Detroit in which Bradley told him that six musicians moved from the bandstand to the recruiting station in a single week.

After that Bradley was forced to cancel many of his personal appearances and rely on studio musicians for recordings. Bradley himself soon returned to the studios where he had started.
He is survived by his wife, Joan, a son, a daughter and a grandson.

I hope you enjoy this look at a great trombonist who led  a very exciting band.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

1940's Christmas Traditions

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years everyone.

I have been a little lazy in posting new posts on the blog the last couple of months. As we wind up 2017, I thought I would catch up on the last couple of weeks. Last week, I started a two part show  that I call 1940's Christmas Traditions. Many of the ways we celebrate Christmas were started in the 1940's so I thought it would be interesting to learn how some of these traditions started. I am going to start the show with a segment from Franklyn D. Roosevelt's 1940 lighting of the Christmas tree speech and then we'll be into some big band holiday favorites. All the songs on Part 1 were recorded in the 1940's.

Today, we continue with  Part 2 of my 1940's Christmas Traditions show.  On the show today, I am going to be reading some Stocking Stuffers from the Associated Press. Stocking Stuffers is a series produced by the Associated Press that consists of about 50 segments on various holiday traditions. Each segment is about 10 to 15 sentences. It is very interesting and I hope you enjoy these segments as well as the music.  

I hope all the listeners and readers of this blog have a wonderful and safe holiday season. If you are in the Texarkana, Texas area remember to tune in Saturday nights at 10:00pm for Big Band Bash on KTXK Texarkana Fine Arts radio, 91.5 on the dial. Also, if you live in the Marion, Ohio area, Big Band Bash is broadcast Sunday mornings at 9:00am on WZMO radio.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Your Hit Parade

A few years ago I did a series of programs on the radio show Your Hit Parade. The songs came from a ten CD set that I have. Each CD features the songs from a certain year that were featured on Your Hit Parade. There were more songs on the CD than I could play in an show so I have decided to revisit this set and pick out different songs. Each show combines two years so today's show will feature songs from the years of 1940 and 1941. We'll also learn the history of the radio show as we listen to some great songs. I hope you'll join me for a potpourri of songs as we begin the series Your Hit Parade Part 1. 

Here is a little bit about the show from web site

It began in the mid-30s in New York, and was sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarettes in 1936. The catchy #1 tune concept was a "hit" of its own right from the start. "Goody Goody" was the first anniversary #1 tune…a perfect example of what a pop hit is. Al Goodman's orchestra played through the rest of the 1930s, with Mark Warnow's taking over in the 1940s. In July of 1941, the "Hut Sut Song" was a biggie. In July of '42, "Sleepy Lagoon." By this time, New York radio personality Martin Block took the host microphone, and introduced the singers and the songs.

A chorus called The Hit Paraders were always ready to backup the featured singers. At first the regulars were Barry Wood and Joan Edwards. In the spring of '43, a skinny New Jersey kid named Frank came on the show to stay for a while. Sinatra was probably the biggest draw that Lucky Strikes ever had! The bobbie-soxers had swooned over this guy, and listened avidly as he crooned the tunes. The show went on without
Frankie in 1945, with Lawrence Tibbett, then Dick Todd, and then Andy Russell doing the hits. Dinah Shore was on for a while, too. Then in 1947, Sinatra was back, and Beryl Davis took over the girl's part. Axel Stordahl and His Orchestra backed up. Sinatra fans will remember the wonderful records of Frankie made with Stordahl's arrangements and accompaniment. Many consider these among the very best, for it certainly was the most romantic and intimate of Sinatra's oeuvre. This collection of shows draws mainly from the 1940s, which was a very good time for this show, the heydays of the popular tune that drew on strong melodies and poetic lyrics…except for the occasional novelty tune like "The Woody Woodpecker Song."

Saturday, September 23, 2017

1941-1942 Time Life - The Swing Era Part 1

This week I going back to the past shows archive to play another program in the Time Life series. I am working on some new shows for the upcoming weeks and needed a little time to work on them. This week we highlight songs from the years of 1941 and 1942. These sets have been a listening favorite of mine since I discovered some of them at the library many years ago. The recreations were by the bands of Glenn Gray and Billy May with some of the original artists recreating their big hits. I thought it would be fun following the play order but instead of the recreations I am playing the originals if I could find it. I hope you enjoy this potpourri of songs from 1941-1942.

Here is the original cover from the vinyl set. 

Also, here is the set list from the 1941-1942 volume. I will be playing as many of the original recordings as I can

STL-346 - The Swing Era 1941-1942: Swing as a Way of Life - Billy May & His Orchestra/Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra [1972] A String of Pearls/Don't Sit under the Apple Tree/Warm Valley/Swing Low, Sweet Chariot/Flying Home//Jersey Bounce/I Cried for You/Basic Boogie/Charleston Alley/Air Mail Special//9:20 Special/The Man I Love/Summit Ridge Drive/Aidos/Golden Wedding//Beyond the Blue Horizon/Chattanooga Choo Choo/Autumn Nocturne/Benny Glides Again//The Mole/A Smo-o-th One/Blue Flame/Well, Git It!/Perdido//Song of the Volga Boatman/Contrasts/Strictly Instrumental/Dancing in the Dark/American Patrol

For a complete listing of all the volumes in the Swing Era sets go to

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Helen Forrest - A 100th Birthday Salute

She was one of the greatest singers of the big band era. She sang with three of the most popular big bands. Her name is Helen Forrest and she was born on April 12, 1917. I missed her birthday back in April so today we are going to be listening to some of the many sides that Helen recorded with Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and Harry James. When she left the James band Helen went on to a very successful solo career. She died in 1999. I hope you enjoy this birthday salute to the great Helen Forrest. Tune in tonight for Big Band Bash only on KTXK stereo 91.5 Texarkana Fine Arts Radio. Sign up for the Big Band Bash podcast on ITunes if you can't tune in or listen on line at
Thanks so much for listening.

Here is a short biography of Helen from

One of the more popular big-band-era singers, a performer that some might not consider a jazz vocalist, but one with exceptional ability to project lyrics and also an excellent interpreter. Forrest used several names early in her career, among them the Blue Lady and Bonnie Blue.
She began singing in her brother's band in Washington, D.C., then was featured in Artie Shaw's band after Billie Holiday left in 1938. Forrest joined Benny Goodman when Shaw disbanded in 1939, staying until 1941. She recorded with Nat King Cole's trio and Lionel Hampton in 1940, then began to score hits working with the Harry James orchestra. During the early '40s, she had string of successes. Later she teamed with Dick Haymes on his radio show and on six duets that were big hits. Forrest cut back her activity in the '50s, then sang with Tommy Dorsey's Orchestra led by Sam Donahue in the early '60s. She continued to work on the club circut in the '70s and '80s, making a new album for Stash in 1983. Forrest died July 11, 1999 at age 82.
 Go to for a more complete biography as well as a listing of charted singles.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Larry Elgart - A Tribute

We lost another Big Band leader a few weeks ago. Larry Elgart was 95 when he passed away at his home in Florida. Larry, who led a big band with his brother, was a fine alto saxophonist and composer. He had a big hit in 1982 with a medley of big band hits set to a disco beat. It was called Hooked On Swing, a companion piece to Hooked on Classics. I'll be playing one of these selections at the close of the show.

Here's a little background about Larry from his New York Times obituary:

Larry Elgart, a bandleader who, with his brother, Les, recorded the theme song for the long-running television dance show “American Bandstand,” and who later scored a surprise hit with “Hooked on Swing,” a medley of swing classics set to a disco beat, died on Tuesday in Sarasota Fla. He was 95.
The death was confirmed by his wife, Lynn Elgart.

After playing alto saxophone with Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey and other bands, Mr. Elgart teamed up with Les, his older brother, to record a series of successful albums for Columbia that brought swing music into the 1950s and beyond.

Taking advantage of advances in recording technology, he developed a distinctive “Elgart sound, which emphasized tight choreography between the silky-smooth saxophone section and the rich, brilliant horns, to which he added two bass trombones. He lightened up the rhythm section, replacing piano with guitar, and cut back on improvised solos.

“The end result was a conversation,” Mr. Elgart wrote in a memoir, “The Music Business & the Monkey Business” (2014), written with his wife. “The saxes spoke and the brass answered, then they all talked together. Having no doubles with clarinets, flutes, etc., in the reed section, the band had even more clarity.”

The album “Sophisticated Swing was released in 1953, with the band touted as “America’s College Prom Favorite.” The Les Elgart Orchestra, renamed the Les and Larry Elgart Orchestra two years later, found a lucrative niche performing at school dances, a role reflected in their albums “Prom Date” (1954) and “Campus Hop” (1954).

In 1954, while touring the country to promote their records, the brothers met Bob Horn, the host of “Bandstand,” a teenage dance show in Philadelphia. Les Elgart proposed that the brothers record a theme song. “Bandstand Boogie” was the result. Two years later, Dick Clark took over as host of the renamed “American Bandstand,” and ABC picked up the show for national broadcast. “Bandstand Boogie” became an anthem for generations of teenagers.

In 1982, Mr. Elgart rode the disco wave with “Hooked on Swing.” Heading an ensemble called the Manhattan Swing Orchestra, he blended “Cherokee,” “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “A String of Pearls” and other big-band standards into a tasty disco stew that cracked the Top 40.

“Many people tell me that they listen to it while running, walking or doing water aerobics,” he told The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., in 1999.

Lawrence Joseph Elgart was born on March 20, 1922, in New London, Conn., and spent most of his childhood in Pompton Lakes, N.J. His father, Arthur, and his mother, the former Bessie Aisman, worked a variety of jobs to make ends meet during the Depression.

Larry took up the clarinet at 9 and later taught himself to play the flute, but it was the alto saxophone that was his ticket to fame. After studying with Hymie Shertzer, the lead alto with Benny Goodman, he was hired at 17 by the bandleader Charlie Spivak.

In 1945 he and his brother, a trumpeter, formed their own ensemble, paying top-drawer talent like Nelson Riddle, Bill Finegan and Ralph Flanagan to write their arrangements. The band failed commercially, and after selling their arrangements to the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, the brothers returned to being sidemen.

While playing in the pit of the Broadway show “Top Banana” in 1951, Mr. Elgart met the composer and saxophonist Charles Albertine. The two collaborated on the experimental album “Impressions of Outer Space,” released by Brunswick in 1953.

 The brothers drifted apart and reunited several times over the years. “I never agreed with him musically,” Mr. Elgart told The Morning Call. “He was more trouble than anything else.”

In the early 1960s, however, they found a new formula for success by reworking pop hits on such albums as “Big Band Hootenanny” (1963), “Elgart au Go-Go” (1965) and “Girl Watchers” (1967). Les Elgart died in 1995.

Besides his wife, the former Lynn Walzer, Mr. Elgart, who lived in Longboat Key, Fla., is survived by two sons, Brock and Brad; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His first marriage ended in divorce.