This Week's Classics & Curios Show:
"Echoes of Songs and Laughter"
IT'S A CLASSICS & CURIOS DOUBLE HEADER: GREAT SONGWRITERS & "STRIKE UP THE BAND"
SHOW # 1: EDDIE HUBBARD & GREAT SONGWRITERS SPOTLIGHTING JOHNNY MERCER
This episode showcases again one of the very best Eddie Hubbard DJ shows, the first in a series that highlighted great songwriters. This show, with edited “Liner Notes,” features Johnny Mercer while other shows in the series focused on Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, and George Gerschwin. Mercer, as Eddie points out, was one of the most loved and greatest lyricists of American music, and his songs remain among the best in the Great American Songbook.
Songs with Mercer's lyrics that Eddie chose to feature on this show from June 18, 1989, are among his best and include "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," "In the Cool, Cool ,Cool of the Evening," "Moon River," "Charade," "Days of Wine and Roses," "The Aitchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe," "GI Jive," and "I'm Old Fashioned." Five of the songs are among my favorite songs by any composer, namely, "Accentuate the Positive," "Dream," "Blues in the Night," "And the Angels Sing," and "Glow Worm." Johnny's new lyrics to "Glow Worm" are simply the work of a wordplay/wordsmith genius, and the lyrics of these favorites and others rank among the most brilliant ever written while enhancing the brilliance of the music by composers like Jerome Kern, Henry Mancini, Harry Warren, Barry Manilow, Harold Arlen, and Ziggy Elman.
Artists who perform the songs include Hoagy Carmichael, Rosemary Clooney, Andy Williams, Dinah Shore, the Mills Brothers, Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman, and Woody Herman.
Eddie had less than an hour to focus on Johnny's songs, so countless tunes had to be left out, like "Lazybones," "I'm an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande," "That Old Black Magic," "Wings Over the Navy," "Satin Doll," "The Summer Wind," "My Shining Hour," "Jeepers Creepers," "Goody Goody," "Autumn Leaves," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Something's Gotta Give," "Hooray for Hollywood," and "P.S. I Love You."
From Wikipedia: "Mercer wrote the lyrics to more than fifteen hundred songs, including compositions for movies and Broadway shows. He received nineteen Academy Award nominations, and won four.Well regarded also as a singer, with a folksy quality, Mercer was a natural for his own songs such as "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive", "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe", "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)", and "Lazybones". He was considered a first-rate performer of his own work. [Concerning] “When October Goes”, a melancholy remembrance of lost love. [Barry] Manilow applied his own melody to the lyric and issued it as a single in 1984, when it became a top 10 Adult Contemporary hit in the United States. The song has since become a jazz standard, with notable recordings by Rosemary Clooney, Nancy Wilson, and Megon McDonough, among other performers. For the occasion of Mercer's 100th birthday in 2009 Clint Eastwood produced a [television] documentary film on Johnny Mercer's life and work called The Dream's on Me (Turner Classic Movies)."
Mercer's own lyrics found in the title of a song composed by his friend Richard Whiting best describe the man himself and the work of this gifted performer, producer, and lyricist: "Too Marvelous for Words."
Johnny opened his "Johnny Mercer Music Shop" on the Armed Forces Radio Service in 1944 with these words -- words fitting to start Eddie's tribute to Johnny who still makes listeners "feel tip-top:"
"Hi there fellows, won't you feel tip-top?
This is Johnny Mercer and his Music Shop
All you soldiers, sailors, and Marines out there
All you gals in the service, we're on the air."
SHOW # 2: A LUX RADIO THEATER MUSICAL: “STRIKE UP THE BAND” STARRING JUDY GARLAND & MICKEY ROONEY
George and Ira Gershwin “Strike Up the Band” as more songs by great songwriters continue in the 1940 film of the same name, presented in three acts on CBS’ Lux Radio Theater from October 28, 1940, with stars Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney reprising their original movie roles. At the time of the film version Mickey was the top box office movie star. Of course, nothing on radio could reproduce the boundless energy of the movie dance scenes with whirlwind Mickey leading the way and eighteen-year-old Judy contributing her usual remarkable performance, but this Lux presentation is fun and offers songs by both stars. Director of the film was Busby Berkeley, whose name alone indicates the quality of the movie’s creative integration of camera, music, and dance scenes. Needless to say that I enthusiastically recommend watching the film on DVD after you listen to this Lux radio reproduction.
Many songs in the film, including 10 great songs played as background music, are not included in the radio performance. Judy, as Mary Holden, does sing “I Ain’t Got Nobody [and Nobody’s Got Me]” and “Drummer Boy,” and Mickey joins her on “Our Love Affair,” a song written especially for Judy and that was nominated for an academy award. Mickey, as energetic and ambitious high school drummer, piainist, and bandleader Jimmy Conners, wins Paul Whiteman’s band competition and eventually our hearts by his unselfishness and as he recognizes that his mother is truly a “queen” who helped him realize what is important in life.
It was my good fortune to meet Mickey in person in Branson where he performed one time in his late 80’s with the same amazing energy, as he danced and sang and played with youthful passion on the piano and drums. He was extremely gracious and shared his genuine love and respect for Judy and the joy she gave him in their performances.