Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
Every year I post a Father’s Day feature on this weekly blog to not only pay tribute to a great man I lost when I was only in my 20’s but also to demonstrate that the music he appreciated was really quite good.
Having served in the Army during WWII Dad was fond of the big bands. But that era would end, and Dad caught on with whatever was popular, including Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, the Ames Brothers, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme, the Ink Spots, Peter Duchin, Victor Borge, Henry Mancini, Sammy Davis Jr., Kate Smith, Nat King Cole, Liberace, and yes, even rock and roll.
Some of Dad’s favorites this week. Enjoy, and don’t poke fun at your father’s music. If you haven’t already you’ll realize it’s not all that bad.
Before we begin it must be said that my father was cool, in many ways, and that included his musical taste. Whenever he liked the same songs on the radio that I did it gave me a charge, made me happy.
Let’s start with an instrumental made famous in the 60’s that had an undeniably perfect sound for the decade, and excellent lyrics to match. The Bob Crewe Generation did it first in 1966 and a year later Andy Williams, whose weekly TV variety show our family never missed, recorded the tune with lyrics. It climbed to #15 on the Billboard chart. In 1999 Williams was still cool.
After a successful career spanning more than 70 years Williams died in 2012. He was 84.
While Dad was at work one day in 1974 (it was summer and I was off school) Mom stunned me when she said she was going to a nearby travel agent we knew to possibly book a family vacation in Hawaii.
She always wanted to go and knew Dad really wanted to go. Most of all this would be a great surprise for Dad. No, he had no idea, none that Mom was even thinking about it. I tagged along and the trip did get booked. So many wonderful memories.
Here’s a classic Hawaiian tune that originated in the 60’s and is most associated with Don Ho, performed here by Billy Vaughn and his Orchestra in Japan. Dad had Vaughn albums in his collection. Best known for his alto saxophone work Vaughn plays the marimba here.
Pearly Shells, from the ocean
Shining in the sun, covering the shore
When I see them my heart tells me that I love you
More than all the little pearly shells
For every grain of sand upon the beach I got a kiss for you
And I’ve got more left over for each star that twinkles in the blue
Let’s stay with our 50th state.
This is truly amazing. Elvis was the first solo entertainer to hold a live concert broadcast internationally via satellite in 1973. More than a billion people from more than 40 countries across Asia and Europe tuned in to watch “Aloha from Hawaii.”
Audience tickets for the January 14 concert and its January 12 pre-broadcast rehearsal show carried no price. Each audience member was asked to pay whatever he or she could afford. The performance and concert merchandise sales raised $75,000 for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund in Hawaii.
Dana Suzuki-Culbertson from Kaneohe, Oahu was at the concert, just 17 at the time. She told NPR, “The night I went to see Elvis, I went with my mother. And I remember sitting up, and the moment I saw him with my binoculars, I was in such awe that I stopped and I was just staring at my mom, saying ‘Oh, my God. Oh, my God.’ And she told me ‘Stop looking at me and look at the stage and watch.’
“You know, I was in my own world, swooning and wanting all that too. I just loved him.”
We had the concert album in our house, and Dad, who didn’t love Elvis like I did but still liked and enjoyed him, always stopped what he was doing when it came time for this song that was a big hit for country star Jim Reeves.
” He really can sing that song,” Dad would say.
From the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, verses 7-8:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you
Elvis loved Hawaii and Hawaii loved the King. He made three movies in the state and held a benefit show for the USS Arizona Memorial, the ship destroyed at Pearl Harbor.
This next performer was born in London and was trained as a glider pilot in the Royal Air Force during World War II. After the war he formed his own band that played in local clubs and dance halls.
In 1959 at the age of 36 he accepted an entry-level job at EMI Recording Studios on Abbey Road in London. When he was the engineer on duty one day in 1962, four long-haired guys walked into the studios for their very first sound test. Since he was the engineer on the scene when that happened, company policy dictated he would stay engineering the group as long as it was at EMI.
This engineer wasn’t impressed initially.
“I mean, ‘Here comes another scrappy group.’ But I must say that I was taken with their hairdos because we hadn’t seen anything quite like them,” he said in an interview.
But he went on to engineer every Beatle song through early 1966.
When legendary producer George Martin left EMI in 1966, he was Martin’s successor. His true love, though, was songwriting.
So he wrote songs. But he couldn’t find anyone to record them. So Norman Smith decided to go in to the studio and sing himself.
He changed his stage name to Hurricane Smith and had a Top Five hit in 1972.
“The melody was happy and simple,’ said Smith “It was the producer in me that designed the lyric to recapture the era I grew up in. It’s almost a true story of my life. I would go to a ballroom, but I was so shy I couldn’t even ask someone to dance. I’d walk home imagining a romance when I’d never even reached first base. ‘Oh, Babe’ was about those fantasies.”
Dad absolutely loved this song.
When Smith appeared on “American Band” the song was at #15, but then quickly climbed to #3.
Smith died in 2008. He was 85.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
Near the end of 1968 the jazz-rock band “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” released their self-titled album that was a monster. Three singles all went to #2. The album stayed at #1 for seven straight weeks, sold four million copies, and won a Grammy for Album of the Year (beating out the Beatles and “Abbey Road”).
And yes, Dad had a favorite, and just like the Elvis concert album when it came on, he stopped everything.
The band performed it in front of 400,000 people.