Duane Keilstrup Broadcast Archives
August, 2015

Philco Radio Click to hear the Program of 8-2-15

This Week's Classics & Curios Show:

"Echoes of Songs and Laughter"

Episode 180

SHOWCASE SERIES PART 1: VAUGHN MONROE/JUNE HIETT

Here, beginning with this episode, is the first of my 3-PART Showcase Series featuring Vaughn Monroe and June Hiett Bratone. The series is together for the very first airing in sequence on Classics & Curios. In following weeks Episode 181 will feature Part 2, and Episode 182 will feature Part 3. Here, slightly edited, is the original description of this first Showcase show featuring Vaughn and June: Vaughn Monroe's band was considered extremely popular because of the singers, especially, of course, because of Vaughn himself, whose handsome appearance, baritone voice, and dynamic personality held highly romantic attractions for women. While Vaughn was considered the best singer among the singing band leaders, he had, however, earlier become a respectable trumpeter after lack of funds curtailed his ambitions to become an operatic performer. Music critic George T. Simon wrote that Vaughn was "the Rudy Vallee of his generation." (The Big Bands) Concerning Vaughn the person, "Metronome" writer Barbara Hodgkins wrote that he "was one of the most polite, pleasant, and peaceful citizens in the music business -- a very normal person in a very crazy world." Yet Vaughn readily understood the commercial side of the big bands, along with the importance of upgrading his group such as hiring trombonist and arranger Ray Conniff, but ultimately it was because of Vaughn's virile voice that the band first hit "the big time," which happened to occur in the Boston area.

While several instrumentally oriented bands faded toward the end of the big band era, singers such as Marylin Duke, the Lee Sisters, the Murphy Sisters, and saxophonist/comic vocalist Ziggy Talent helped keep the band's popularity alive. Vaughn wanted to record more jazz instrumentals, but Victor Recordings needed him to sing to sell records, and sing he did. In fact, according to band guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, he could sight-sing, and "when arrangers would bring their new arrangements on the job, and ... pass out the music, and we would play it, he would sing it like he'd been singing it forever." ("There, I've Said It Again," BigBandLibrary.com)

Vaughn became a huge hit on radio, especially by way of his Camel Cigarettes commercials and especially the "Camel Caravan" which was broadcast every Saturday night from a different university. And with the band's one-nighters each week, life, of course, could be stressful, as this sample booking schedule from 1947 suggests:

June 13, Geo. F. Pavilion, Johnson City, NY

June 14, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

June 15: Pleasure Beach, Bridgeport, CT

June 16: Scranton, PA

June 17: Berwick, PA

June 18: Dorney Park, Allentown, PA

June 19-25: Hippodrome Theatre, Baltimore, MD

June 26: recording session, RCA Victor, New York, NY

June 27-July 17: Strand Theatre, New York, NY

July 18: Worcester, MA

July 19: radio broadcast, New York, NY

In her interview June Hiett Bratone shares some one-nighter memories of Vaughn, the Moonmaids, and life with a big band. Composed of different girls between 1946 and 1953, the Moonmaids were at first to be called "The Moonbeams," but Kay Kyser had already used a group by that name, so they then were to be "The Moon Racers" but they finally became "The Moonmaids," a sweet set of young singers who raced with the moon in harmony along with Vaughn. Young Moonmaid Mary Jo Grogan related that "He was nice to us ... He protected us. We went to a Victor recording party ... and he was running around there getting lemonade for us, just to be sure nobody gave us anything stronger." (BigBandLibrary.com)

Vaughn, his band, and his Moonmaids gave me much joy through the years starting back during my early years in Nebraska. Imagine my surprise a few years ago to learn that one of the Moonmaids was living just a few blocks away from my home in Arlington, Texas. And it has been a blessing and privilege to have come to know her as a very dear friend. One of the delights of my life was when the Moonmaids were reunited at June's house, and they invited me over on my birthday to meet them and share our love of big band music. But an even more joyful turn took place that day: During our fun time together the amazing Maids surprised me by singing "Happy Birthday" to me in their wonderful angelic harmony. What a treat for a fat little kid (now a fat little codger) from a little town in the cornhusker state!

So it's only fitting that we feature June in an interview on this episode. June also tells about things like her early performing in Texas as a teenager and a typical day with the Monroe band. In addition she talks about the character of Vaughn himself, some of the band's most requested songs, her time with the Camel Caravan, special guests on the Caravan show, a typical recording routine, some funny moments while touring, a burning travel bus, and more. The interview was recorded in 2006 on YesterdayUSA with me and Walden Hughes as interviewers.

Leading up to the interview we'll go "Racing with the Moon" with Vaughn and his hit recording "There I Go," which spent 4 weeks at the top of "Your Hit Parade" in 1940-41 and a grand total of 19 weeks in the top 10. So, Vaughn and June, you're on!

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Philco Radio Click to hear the Program of 8-9-15
New programs added every Sunday

This Week's Classics & Curios Show:

"Echoes of Songs and Laughter"

Episode 181

SHOWCASING THE VAUGHN MONROE CAMEL CARAVAN "ON BROADWAY," FEATURING JUNE HIETT BRATONE, THE MOONMAIDS, & KITTY KALLEN

It's another Vaughn Monroe Showcase featuring the Moonmaids and vocalists June Hiett Bratone and Kitty Kallen. A previous Vaughn Moonroe Showcase focused on Vaughn and his Moonmaids, with a 2006 interview with June Hiett Bratone. On this show June starts us off on a radio transcription from station WFAA in Dallas in the year 1946 when as a teenager she sang with a group called "The Blue Notes." We'll hear an edited sampling of their song "Patience and Fortitude."

This Showcase also offers edited portions of Vaughn's popular radio show "Camel Caravan," highlighting songs from broadway musicals covering the period from 1920 to 1949-50. Vaughn opens the show with a song from the 1922 musical "Orange Blossom," "Just a Kiss in the Dark." Other broadway songs include "Embraceable You" from 1930's "Girl Crazy" and "So in Love" from "Kiss Me Kate" which opened in 1948. In 1949, four years after VE Day, Mary Martin sang a new song hit from the hugely popular "South Pacific" with the title "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy." June sings her marvelous version with Vaughn's orchestra and is also featured on "Someone to Watch Over Me" written for "Oh, Kay!" in 1926. Vaughn and the Moonmaids take the stage for "There's No Business Like Show Business" which was sung in the 1946 musical "Annie Get Your Gun."

The Moonmen join the Moonmaids to add choral effect in Vaughn's rendition of "Look for the Silver Lining" from the musical "Sally" in 1920. The Moonmen were added to the Monroe ensemble in 1948 after the success of the Moonmaids with their tight harmony. Their names are Johnny West, Walter Olsen, Bill Mustard, and Nace Bernert, who complimented the "Maids" to produce rich choral background for Vaughn's recordings, especially on western tunes like "Ghost Riders in the Sky" which often seemed to call for fuller voicing, coloring, and range than the usual popular ballad arrangements.

There are 3 Classics & Curios Extras in this episode with the Monroe orchestra. June sings 1950's "The Old Master Painter" and 1942's "I Had the Craziest Dream," and Kitty Kallen performs "I Can Dream, Can't I?" which was a big hit in 1938 and once again in 1949.

After Vaughn's band broke up in 1953 Vaughn continued to perform solo in concerts with local bands and on radio as well as in commercials, while the Moonmaids regrouped later under the name "The Moonmaids, Plus One." The "One" was Herrold Grogan, former vocalist with Sonny Dunham's "Sonny Siders" and Sonny's orchestra in 1946, and we'll hear the "Plus One" group do a swinging version of "Route 66" with the band "Second Generation," composed of talented offspring of the families of the Moonmaids.

The announcer on the Camel Caravan is Lee Vines, and Vaughn takes us to fade-out with an abbreviated "Racing with the Moon." I'll take you now to the show fade-in with a reminder from Moonmaid Mary Jo Grogan that although there may be some scratches that are like badges of honor on vintage records, "there are no wrinkles on talent." Thanks to the joyful blessing of recordings and the remastering magic of folks like Jerry Haendiges, the musical talent such as we hear on this show will remain "young" for "keenager" codgers like me and, hopefully, for each new generation.

So sit back and enjoy the therapeutic blessing of music, for, as German poet Goethe observed, "A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul." .

Philco Radio Click to hear the Program of 8-16-15

This Week's Classics & Curios Show:

"Echoes of Songs and Laughter"

Episode 182

THE CAMEL CARAVAN WITH VAUGHN MONROE SHOWCASE # 3 (REPRISE OF # 119, EDITED)

Here is Vaughn Monroe Showcase # 3 folowing back to back episodes of Showcase # 1 and Showcase # 2.

Popularsong.org has one of the best write-ups on Vaughn and his orchestra: "[Monroe] happened to be blessed with one of the most memorable singing voices in the history of recorded music [At the same time] he didn't possess the range of a Crosby or a Como, and certainly not the timing or styling of a Sinatra. Yet when that baritone hit the stage, it was magic. Imagine a pop vocalist who looked and sounded like a movie star. Imagine a tour full of musicians and a bevy of teenage Texas beauties singing back up. Imagine hit records rocketing to the top of the charts and you have the rather uneventful, wholesome touring group known as Vaughn Monroe and his orchestra. The young ladies were vocalists known as The Moonmaids, who doubled as babysitters for the band members' offspring. They sang about "racing with the moon," but were about as square ["straight"] as a group of musicians could be. And they happened to be just about the hottest big band of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

From 1940 to 1954, Monroe had close to 70 chart records, including many #1 hits: "There I Go;" "Racing with the Moon;" "When the Lights Go On Again All Over the World;" "Let it Snow;" "Ballerina;" "There, I've Said It Again;" "Red Roses for a Blue Lady;" "Someday (You'll Want Me to Want You);" and "Ghost Riders In the Sky." Three of those songs, "Let It Snow," "Ghost Riders," and "Ballerina" rank among the all-time top #1 songs, each dominating the Billboard charts for 10 weeks or more."

This Camel Caravan was recorded at New Jersey's Fort Monmouth Signal Corps Center on June 23, 1951, and illustrates Vaughn's "magic" and his impressive baritone in songs like "Too Young," "Sound Off," and "Over the Rainbow." Guest vocalist Eileen Barton performs "How High the Moon" and "Pretty-Eyed Baby." Included, of course, are Vaughn's theme song "Racing with the Moon" and his unique lead-in musical introductions to top rated songs from around the country: "Hello, nice people, from Maine to California, the Camel Caravan is here with thirty minutes of music for your pleasure " So sings Vaughn Monroe to introduce the Camel Caravan featuring top rated songs as reported in "Variety." Enjoy!

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Philco Radio Click to hear the Program of 8-23-15

This Week's Classics & Curios Show:

"Echoes of Songs and Laughter"

Episode 183

THE DANNY KAYE SHOW STARRING BURNS & ALLEN

Here's another Danny Kaye Show, this one from October 18, 1945, that aired while Danny was abroad entertaining the troops in the pacific.

Burns & Allen do their "thing," along with band leader Meredith Willson and announcer Bill Goodwin.

This show finds Gracie doing her best to convince George to buy her a new hat as she enlists the help of Bill and Meredith. Danny's car gets involved, complications arise, but, of course, Gracie manages to get her hat. Meredith and his orchestra provide the theme with "Say It with Music," followed by "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" and "If I Loved You."

It's a nostalgic episode before the age of social change and political correctness and a fine reminder of the comedy and loving relationship of one of Old Time Radio's most popular and beloved couples.

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Philco Radio Click to hear the Program of 8-30-15


This Week's Classics & Curios Show:

"Echoes of Songs and Laughter"

Episode 184

EDDIE HUBBARD & THE BROWSERS: "I SAID MY PAJAMAS AND PUT ON MY PRAYERS"

More great big band music and trivia fun from Eddie and the Browsers, this time from July 22, 1989. Featured performers are Art Van Damme and his Quintet, Vic Damone, Bunny Berigan, Margaret Whiting and Frank DeVol, Tommy Tucker, jazz guitarist Mary Osborne, and Harry James.

Some of the songs on the show are "Jeepers Creepers," "Cherry," "Deed I Do," "Soft Lights and Sweet Music," "i Love Paris," "I Said My Pajamas and Put on my Prayers," "It's All Over Now," "Penthouse Serenade," and "Where or When."

You can compete with the Browsers on trivia challenges, such as "name three vocalists who recorded "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You." Also, name performers with three names like Jerry Lee Lewis; name three performers named Victor; name the vocal groups with the bands of Bob Crosby, Charlie Spivak, and Gene Krupa; name song titles with the famous riff from "In the Mood" and the bands that recorded the songs (excluding the Glenn Miller group); and name the great vintage TV comedy star who played with the Charlie Spivak band (his photo is on the left as he appeared on "Your Show of Shows" with Imogene Coca from 1950-1954).

Not so well known, at least to me, was Mary Osborne, so I thought I'd include a bit of her bio by Richard S. Ginell at allmusic.com, revealing how remarkable she was: "Mary Osborne was a whiz of an electric guitarist and a forthright, madly swinging, inventive player in whom one can hear her original musical inspiration, Charlie Christian, as well as the grace notes and humor of Les Paul. In addition, she was one of only a handful of women in her day who were able to make a dent in jazz's gender barrier, although she did not achieve the recognition that ought to have been her due. Osborne was a versatile musician as a child, playing the violin in a school orchestra and performing on violin, guitar, bass, as well as singing and dancing, in a trio at age 15. Having heard Charlie Christian play with Al Trent's band in Bismarck, she decided to focus upon the electric guitar, on which she became one of jazz's earliest exponents. She toured with a laundry list full of bands -- Buddy Rogers, Dick Stabile, Terry Shand, Joe Venuti, and Russ Morgan among them -- and with the encouragement of producer/critic Leonard Feather, she recorded with Mary Lou Williams, the Beryl Booker Trio, Coleman Hawkins, Mercer Ellington, Ethel Waters, and Wynonie Harris. She was also featured on Jack Sterling's daily CBS radio program from 1952 to 1960. Sometime later, Osborne settled with her husband in Bakersfield, CA, where she continued to play gigs now and then. Yet she remained a formidable guitarist late in life; in an appearance with Lionel Hampton at the 1990 Playboy Jazz Festival, she virtually stole the show. She can be heard to good advantage on the Williams and Booker tracks of Bluebird's The Women: Classic Female Jazz Artists CD."

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