REVIEW POTPOURRI: Music of Richard Strauss, Maurice Ravel, and more…

Peter Catesby Peter Cates


of Richard Strauss (1864-1949), Maurice Ravel (1874-1937), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791); Elisabeth Soderstrom (1927-2009), soprano, with various conductors and orchestras; BBC Legends ­– BBCL 4153-2, CD, from 1960, 1971 and 1976 broadcast concerts.

Nicolai Gedda

Like her compatriot, the great tenor Nicolai Gedda (1925-2017), Swedish-born soprano Elisabeth Soderstrom sang in several languages, and possessed one of the most beautiful, disciplined voices to be found anywhere.

The above CD contains three live broadcast performances from the BBC – Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs with the Royal Philharmonic conducted by the late, phenomenally great Antal Dorati (1906-1988), from October 3, 1976; Ravel’s Sheherazade with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez (1925-2016), from August 3, 1971; and two arias from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Sir John Pritchard (1921-1989), from August 20, 1960.

Richard Strauss wrote his final work, the Four Last Songs, in 1948, one that has generated a number of very good recordings. The words are pre-occupied with the confrontation with, and acceptance of, one’s mortality. After a lifetime of composing some of the most exciting music that display the full expressive and technical range of the modern orchestra – including the crazy, brilliant tone poems, Don Juan, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Death and Transfiguration, A Hero’s Life, etc., and the awesomely violent operas, Salome (with its Dance of the Seven Veils and Final Scene, in which the deranged Salome sings of her love for John the Baptist to his head on a platter) and Elektra – as well as a batch of rather dull pieces, Strauss presented music of the deepest, most eloquent serenity. Soderstrom and Dorati did a very satisfying performance that holds its own with other singers and conductors.

The composer was married for more than 50 years to his wife, Pauline; he once described her as ” very complex, perverse, coquettish, at every minute different from how she had been a moment before,” and often screaming at him, “Richard, we are low on cash – go write something!,” even though they were quite wealthy! But he reportedly considered their marriage a very happy one.

The Ravel Sheherazade and the Mozart Figaro arias are also given exemplary performances, consistent with Soderstrom’s unusually gifted reputation for adapting her beautiful voice to the exacting style and sound of different composers. For lovers of true vocal art, this cd is especially recommended!

Hymns Triumphant
Volume 2

arranged and conducted by Lee Holdridge; Birdwing BWC 2058, cassette, recorded 1984.

Lee Holdridge

The very talented composer, conductor and arranger, Lee Holdridge (1944-), has assembled and ar­rang­ed approximately 30 hymns and conducts the Amen Choir of the Van Nuys, Cali­fornia, First Baptist Church and England’s National Philharmonic Orchestra in performances that lack the sentimentality of previous similar glee clubby albums. Holdridge has arranged for numerous singers, the most prominent being Neil Diamond, while both men collaborated on the soundtrack for Jonathan Livingston Seagull. He has also composed a fine Violin Concerto and music for various films and TV shows, which are listed in his wiki biography.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Pianist: Paul Baumgartner; TV Series: Cold Justice

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Paul Baumgartner

Piano Recital
recorded February 17, 1964; Ermitage-ERM 200-2 ADD, CD.

Paul Baumgartner

Swiss-born Paul Baumgartner (1903-1976) was most definitely below-the-radar, when compared to Rubinstein, Brendel, Ashkenazy or Horowitz, but he was highly revered by connoisseurs of really fine piano recordings. This CD preserves a live concert of the following works – Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and An­dante Favori, the Brahms Opus 117 3 Intermezzi, Debussy’s 1st Images and Masques, Schubert’s 6th Moment Musical and Chopin’s 4th Ballade and 3rd Waltz of Op. 70.

Baumgartner’s artistry was splendid but of the quieter mode, rather than of cheap, virtuosic self-indulgence. Instead he used virtuosity, of which he possessed infinite amounts, scholarship, exquisitely honed dynamics, passion and soul-filled intelligence to convey the particular beauty of each selection in the program, whether it be the muscularity of Beethoven, the nobility and reserved sentiment of Brahms, the dew drops of Debussy, the lyricism of Schubert or the captivating, grace of Chopin. My favorite performance, by a tiny margin over the others, is of the lesser known but very engaging Beethoven Andante Favori in which Baumgartner pours out his soul in each note, one of the most moving performances I have heard in a long time!

Most, if not all, of this recital is accessible via individual yts !

Cold Justice

featuring Kelly Siegler and Yolanda McClary; produced by Dick Wolf; premiered 2013, each episode one hour, accessible via Netflix

Kelly Siegler

For the last two or three weeks, I have been viewing one or two episodes of this investigative program most evenings and am on the second season. It follows former Hous­ton prosecutor Kelly Siegler and her colleague, retired Las Vegas homicide investigator Yolanda McClary, as they travel around the country investigating cold cases of murder that are languishing in local police department files. According to the pronouncements at the beginning of each episode, a murder is committed in the US about every 36 minutes and there are over 200,000 unsolved homicides since 1980.

Yolanda McClary

What I find most engaging and endearing about the show is the absence of melodramatics, especially eerie music and the use of actors in staged re-enactments. Also, the 2 women’s warm personalities; their very caring interactions with families of the victims; their very personable working relationships with colleagues; and finally their comprehensive knowledge of investigative science contribute immeasurably to the well paced unfolding of each story.

Not to mention the remarkable advances in DNA processing just in the last ten years. These innovations alone led to the apprehension of a rapist/murderer of a young 25 year old Pocatello, Idaho, woman; ten years earlier, his hand print had been found on the outside of the victim’s back door. But, his priors were a few burglaries, he had no known connection to the victim and he left no other implicating marks, while the police had two other major suspects and scratched him off their list! With new techniques, the investigators were able to find new, more incriminating DNA within the existing DNA and to figure out the hand print came from within the house rather than outside!

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Musician: Sidney Bechet; Albums: Charlie Daniels Band; Opera: Bellini

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Sidney Bechet

The Blue Bechet
RCA Victor LPV-535, LP reissue of 78 originals, released 1966.

Sidney Bechet

To call Sidney Bechet (1897-1959) an ornery cuss would be an understatement. He was COLD – willfully mean, self-centered, and capricious in his cruelty to others. One night, he was drinking tiny glasses of booze, one after another, while listening to a performer he didn’t like in a club. As he emptied each glass, he would throw it at the player.

He was also one supremely talented performer on the clarinet and soprano sax. His playing had an expressive beauty that was uniquely his own. There is not a single selection among the 16 on the above record that is less than good.

Charlie Daniels Band

In America; Blue Skies
Epic- 9-50888, stereo 45, recorded 1979.

Charlie Daniels

Now 81, Charlie Daniels and his band have carved out a significant niche in what could best be described as country rock, tinged with blues. He formed the group in 1955, shortly after high school graduation, but it didn’t hit pay dirt until the mid-’70s, later escalating in 1979 with The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

In America was a patriotic reaction to the Iran hostage crisis and a good example of the six member group’s thoroughly drilled ensemble. Still, for my money, the B side, Blue Star, is an even stronger number in musical content and precision teamwork. Yet it is not listed in the otherwise thorough discography of the band on Wiki, despite the band’s success since 1979,

Daniels’s health has suffered at various times – from an arm severely broken in three places by a spinning auger, prostate cancer, pneumonia, a stroke and the installation of a pacemaker. In 2011, tragedy struck when the band’s longtime keyboardist, Taz DiGregorio, died in an automobile accident at 67.

But Daniels stays busy touring and has been honored for his musical contributions by official membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame.


Sonnambula- Ah! Non Credea Mirarti (Could I Believe), from Act 3
Alma Gluck, soprano, with Walter B. Rogers conducting; Victrola-74263, acoustic 12-inch 78, recorded 1911.

Vincenzo Bellini

Although I do have several operas of Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) on my shelves, I have not ever connected with them on the deepest level, as I have with ones by Rossini, Donizetti, Ponchielli, Verdi and Puccini – these being the most representative composers/geniuses in the Italian tradition. This disc of the great Alma Gluck (1884-1938) may change my attitude.

First, some context on the opera – it was a hit from the beginning and, inevitably, been used as a vehicle for singers with high notes of steel and beauty; the most famous interpreters are probably Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, whose recordings are readily available.

The aria is most often referred to as the Sleepwalking Scene in which the heartbroken heroine is, naturally, walking in a deep sleep along a precipice. There are exquisite, separate obliggatos for the oboe and cello in which they blend with the singer. Some good news – the lady does not jump or fall, except in her lover’s arms and happily ever after.

For sheer beauty of phrasing and sustained line, Gluck rose so eloquently to the occasion. Her other Victor records, no matter whether opera arias or hymns, were consistently enjoyable. A shellac from the mid 1900s of Carry Me Back to Old Virginny was the first record by a classical artist to sell a million copies!

Finally, she was the mom of actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Conductor: Paul Kletzki; Musical: Wonderful Town; Violin Concerto: Walton

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7

Paul Kletzki conducting the Czech Philharmonic; Quintessence PMC-7216; stereo LP, 1983 reissue of 1967 Supraphon original LP.

Paul Kletzki

Paul Kletzki, who died in 1973, was one of six truly great conductors – the others being Jascha Horenstein, Karel Ancerl, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Otto Klemperer and Istvan Kertesz. From what I have gleaned through listening to the recordings on my shelves, Kletzki had a knack for the rhythmic spirit in a work and sustaining this rhythm throughout a performance with slowish tempos that almost drag. His conducting of the 7th is both powerful and beautifully played as a result – in the wonderful climax of the first movement, he suddenly slows down the leisurely tempo to a crawl but the sustaining rhythms seethe with life. The record also contains a gripping performance of the exciting Leonore Overture #3.

Kletzki was studying in Berlin from the ‘20s to 1933 but wisely left due to his Jewish ancestry. He resided in Italy for a spell, then exited for the 1930s Soviet Union due to Mussolini’s growing closeness to Hitler. From the Soviet Union, he migrated to Switzerland where he lived out most of his life!

Meanwhile the Nazis murdered several members of Kletzki’s parents and a sister.

Wonderful Town

A musical by Leonard Bernstein, starring Rosalind Russell, etc.; Sony Broadway SK 48021, 1991 cd reissue from original Columbia Masterworks stereo lp recorded November 16, 1958.

Rosalind Russell

This is a recording of the 1958 TV production for CBS, not the 1953 original Broadway production, and is loaded with wonderful songs and performances, none of which became a hit, unlike the later 1957 West Side Story. The story centers around two sisters from Columbus, Ohio, who move to New York City to pursue their dreams- one a writer, the other an actress !


Violin Concerto played by Dong-Suk Kang; and Cello Concerto, played by Tim Hugh; Paul Daniel conducting both works with the English Northern Philharmonia; Naxos 8.554325, CD, recorded 1997.

Dong-Suk Kang

These two expessively tart, spunky works of Sir William Walton (1902-1983) are given exciting performances by the talent featured here. Walton achieved success before World War II with such musical creations as the blisteringly exciting 1931 Bel shazzar’s Feast, the most colorful choral romp ever composed, and the graceful 1939 Violin Concerto commissioned by Jascha Heifetz; after the war, his music didn’t generate much excitement because of changing times. But his 1956 Cello Concerto, commissioned by cellist Grigor Piatigorsky, is also eloquent and beautifully performed.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Singer/Songwriter: John Prine; Album: Ralph Towner/Gary Burton; Movie: Angel and the Badman

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

John Prine

John Prine

The first time I heard singer/songwriter John Prine, now 71, was at the Gorham gym, of what is now the University of Southern Maine, during the spring of 1972. He was the opening act for Lighthouse, was totally new to me and failed to make any impression .

Even his incredible fame over the 47 years that have elapsed since then never stirred my curiosity – that is until just over two weeks ago. While surfing YouTube, I chanced upon a 2011 post featuring him singing a duet with Iris Dement, who has been a favorite singer of mine for at least 25 years.

The song was In Spite of Ourselves with these opening lines; “She don’t like her eggs all runny/She thinks crossin’ her legs is funny/She looks down her nose at money/She gets it on like the Easter Bunny/She’s my baby/I’m her honey/I’m never gonna let her go.”

I won’t quote further because the lyrics go a bit over the top but they are a celebration of true love between a couple who each have two verses to “extol” each other. And, yes, the song was written by Prine and featured on a 1999 album as the title one. He had Dement in mind for the duet. His wife called the singer to tease her about the lyrics, while Dement took a period to gather the courage to record it.

The song became a much requested hit; there are numerous YouTubes from over the last 19 years in which Prine sings with Dement, Emmy Lou Harris and others, not to mention other couples.

Ralph Towner/Gary Burton

Matchbook; ECM records, ECM-1056, stereo LP, recorded 1975.

This very exquisite, delectable album is a collaboration between two very gifted players – guitarist Ralph Towner, now 78, and the presently 75-year-old vibraphonist, Gary Burton. It assembles some of the most captivating “soft” jazz to be heard anywhere, yet not in the superficial, commercialized mode of a few other performers, especially from the ‘70s when such muzak really thrived.

The nine selections include seven original Towner compositions, the Adolf Comden, Betty Green and Leonard Bernstein, Some Other Time, and Charlie Mingus’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. The album is one I shall return to.

Often during the past 47 years, I would confuse Burton, with another Gary who was also a wonderful vibraphonist, was born the same year, 1943, as Burton, but died very tragically at the age of 38 in 1971 – namely, Gary MacFarlane !

Angel and the Badman

starring John Wayne, Gail Russell, Harry Carey, Sr., Bruce Cabot, Tom Powers, etc.; directed by James Edward Grant; Republic Pictures, 1947, 100 minutes, VHS cassette.

John Wayne

John Wayne is a gunslinger who served as Wyatt Earp’s deputy at OK Corral but is running from an otherwise questionable past. Gail Russell portrays the Quaker maiden who falls in love with him. The very engaging actor, Harry Carey, Sr., is the sheriff in pursuit of Wayne while Bruce Cabot appears as another outlaw also gunning for JW. Due to space, all I can say is that I love this film for its plotting, pacing, character development, phenomenal performances from every cast member and the most splendid concluding confrontation scene and aftermath. Finally, there are moments when Carey comes very close to stealing the show; his death within a year was a major blow to cinema!

John Wayne was a very caring friend to Gail Russell, who was an extremely shy, vulnerable woman and who would succumb to alcoholism at the age of 36 in 1961, despite Wayne’s very caring and frequent help and support.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Conversations about Bernstein

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Conversations about Bernstein
William Westbrook Burton, editor
Oxford Univ. Press, 1995, 198 pages.

Conversations is a volume of interviews with various individuals who knew and worked with the composer, conductor, pianist, author, TV personality extraordinaire, Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), who was arguably the most famous man involved in classical music during the last 60 years. I have read bios by David Ewen, Joan Peyser, and Schuyler Chapin, each of whom has provided their own pieces of the fascinating puzzle comprising this genius.

As composer, he gave us the Broadway masterwork, West Side Story and other works, including at least 4 more musicals, assorted pieces for the theater and cinema and classical writings consisting of three symphonies, etc. As conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1958-1969 and guesting with other orchestras, he recorded dozens of performances covering the well known repertoire and interesting, generally unknown pieces. As pianist, he did exciting records of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue; the Mozart Piano Concertos 15, 17, 18, and 25; and the Beethoven 1st, while conducting from the keyboard. As author, he wrote the insightful Infinite Variety of Music. And finally as TV personality, he produced the Young People’s Concerts.

The book features talks with composers Lucas Foss and David Diamond, record producer Paul Myers, the late anti-Bernstein New York Times critic Harold C. Schonberg, and performers such as cellist Slava Rostropovich and singers Christa Ludwig and Frederica von Stade, all of whom share valuable insights.

Leonard Bernstein

But the crowning, most searingly eloquent and fascinatingly memorable interview was with singer Carol Lawrence, the Maria of the original Broadway production of West Side Story, which opened in 1957. According to her, Bernstein was very agreeable and supportive to work with but he ceded most responsibility for the staging to the brilliant perfectionist choreographer Jerome Robbins, who was one blankety-blank SOB for all of the cast to work with, especially Lawrence. He singled her out for the bulk of his scathing, judgmental, around- the-clock pitchers of acid. But, as with any production he worked on, he achieved the most phenomenal results, laying the groundwork as much as the composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim for the musical’s unimpeachably classic status!

One song in the show, the hit I Feel Pretty, was originally marked for destruction by “Jerry” Robbins but was left in and made its own contribution to the show’s success, as conveyed now in Lawrence’s own account:

“But the most wonderful part, told to me afterwards, was that after the show, as Oscar Hammerstein was walking up the aisle, he came over to Jerry and Lenny, who were at the top, watching from the back row and said: ‘Congratulations to both of you. This is an incredible milestone in the theatre.’ And he raved and raved about every aspect of the show. And then, turning to Jerry, he said: ‘But my favorite moment in the entire show came with the spontaneity of I Feel Pretty. I don’t know how you did it, but you encapsulated the joy of a young woman in love. And you are to be congratulated.’ And Jerry said, ‘Thank you.’ “

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Mendelssohn and Bruch Violin Concertos

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Alfredo Campoli, violin, with Eduard Van Beinum conducting the London Philharmonic (Mendelssohn) and Royalton Kisch, the New Symphony (Bruch); London LL 966, mono LP, recorded 1954.

Felix Mendelssohn

I own a number of duplicate recordings in which the Mendelssohn is coupled with either the Bruch or Tchaikovsky VCs; all three are central to the basic repertoire of concertos that listeners new to classical music gravitate to and rightfully so because they are very beautiful.

Alfredo Campoli

But this record is quite special on its own terms. Alfredo Campoli (1906-1991) had a gift for the most elegant phrasing and fussed over every note as if his life depended on it. Here, he is accompanied by two conductors who were noted for their collaborations with soloists both in concert and the recording studio.

Eduard Van Beinum

Eduard Van Beinum (1901-1959) probably never conducted a bad record during his entire tenure with London/Decca and Epic/Phillips , at least among the ones I own. The notorious Holy Terror perfectionist of a conductor, George Szell bought a copy of the Haydn Symphonies 96 and 97 that Beinum recorded and was so impressed he wrote a note to the latter expressing his deepest pleasure, something as rare as hen’s teeth with Szell. I also own it and love it. And in terms of disposition, Beinum got his results by treating his players with warmth and validation.

Max Bruch

Royalton Kisch (1920-1995) was one of the most talented English conductors to emerge after World War II but, after1964, left conducting because of a bad back. When his father, also a Royalton, died in 1967, the writer mistakenly reported him dead and the error was not corrected for years.

For those who would like to hear this record, they can easily access it on YouTube.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Few listen to old 78 records

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

The number of record collectors who listen to the dusty old 78s are few when one considers the general population but, if gathered in a convention hall from around the world, could fill it. The dealers hawking them on Ebay, popsike and other venues plus the Facebook pages testify to the interest, even, unbelievably, among young people born after Bush 41 assumed office!

Franz Schubert

Anyways time to end this banal introductory paragraph! I possess several thousand shellacs ranging from Woody Hermon and Caruso to the original Carousel and imported Telefunkens, Polydors and Deutsche Grammophons and love my sitdown sessions, interrupted every three to five minutes by getting up to change the disc. I play them on a Magnavox console I bought for ten bucks at an Augusta yard sale at least 11 years ago – this gift has kept on giving in the old-fashioned sense, like cars that were traded in mainly because their owners were tired of looking at them!

I would like to offer hopefully succinct comments on a few I own:

A record from 1940, on the Masterpiece label, has sides five and six featuring two-thirds of the slow movement of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony performed quite nicely by an unnamed orchestra. The New York Post spearheaded a series of record sets in the late ‘30s that contained Symphonies and other classical pieces that sold for a buck per set, instead of one or more dollars per record like Victor, Decca, Columbia, etc., but did not name the performers. Yet, because players and others, who were directly involved, talked, the story goes that there was a series of midnight recording sessions at Carnegie Hall with hand-picked free-lancers and conductors such as Eugene Ormandy, Fritz Reiner, Artur Rodzinski and Fritz Stiedry: names would be assigned to different works as more useful snitchings occurred. Thus, Ormandy was revealed as responsible for the Schubert!

An acoustic Victor from the World War I years features the Arthur Pryor Band doing a lively, charming first half of Rossini’s William Tell Overture, itself a very favorite classic of mine. Unfortunately, it is the last half that contains Heigh Ho Silver. I have previously covered another Pryor breakable in these most edifying pages so I will refer the newly curious to an informative Wiki bio on the bandleader’s illustrious life.

Arthur Pryor

Another acoustic from the same label and recording decade has one side devoted to the Victor Minstrel Company, a chorus/orchestra combo performing Alabama Minstrels, a feisty medley consisting of then current hit songs – Fly Fly Fly, My Rosie Rambler that is not to be confused with Nat King Cole’s Ramblin’ Rose of more than 40 years later, and Linda, definitely not the Buddy Clark hit of more than 30 years later! These quaint celebrations of life in the then pellagra, hookworm and lynching – infested Deep South utopia are similar to the 1930s Mills Brothers Decca hit 78, Is It True What They Say About Dixie? and, of course, the 1940s Al Jolsen record of George Gershwin’s Swanee River, itself unsurpassed to this day as a rendition of that song! Finally, Jolsen sang it blackface in the movies before these practices were politically corrected.

Side two contains, again, Pryor’s Band doing Old Heidelberg, A Trip Up the Rhine that incorporates the Sailor’s Chorus from Wagner’s sterling opera, The Flying Dutchman.

One more – a Columbia acoustic from the Columbia Operatic Sextette, a mixed group of fine voices, performs the Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor sextette, What from Vengeance, and Verdi’s Rigoletto quartet, Beauteous Daughter.

I might be pushing TMI here but I am certain somebody out there would like to know that all of the above selections are 12-inch discs.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Singer: Dick Haymes; Composer: Irving Berlin

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Dick Haymes Sings Irving Berlin

MCA, MCL 1773, LP, released 1983 and based on Decca 78 originals.

Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin (1888-1989), born Israel Baline, in Czarist Russia, came to America with his parents to escape the frequent bloody pogroms occurring there. He left home at the age of eight years, eking out a living as a newsboy. Other subsistent jobs would eventually lead to songwriting, begun with Marie from Sunny Italy, his first published song; the publisher misspelled his name as I. Berlin and Baline kept it for the rest of his very long life.

Within a few short years, the hits started with Alex­ander’s Rag­time Band, Play a Simple Melody, and Everybody’s Doin’ It.

Meanwhile, for more than 70 years, he created an avalanche of songs, of which at least 60 were megahits that still generate royalties for his estate. Dozens of singers covered them on record, especially Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Pat Boone, etc. George Gershwin considered him, “the greatest songwriter who ever lived;” Jerome Kern quipped, “Irving Berlin has no place in American music; he is American music.”

Dick Haymes

Tommy Dorsey

Many music lovers consider Dick Haymes (1918-1980) the finest singer among the sizable pool of talent to emerge during the ‘30s and ‘40s Big Band Era. The story has been verified that Haymes began writing songs as a means to earn a living, and submitted a few to bandleader Harry James. The trumpeter refused the songs but hired Haymes as a singer to replace then recently departed Frank Sinatra, who had meanwhile signed with Tommy Dorsey.

Haymes worked with Benny Goodman and then was introduced by Sinatra himself to Dorsey as a suggested replacement when Sinatra decided to pursue a solo career. Inevitably, Haymes too left Dorsey, became a success and signed with Decca records, scoring nine gold records. His popularity in films increased with 1945’s State Fair. And, even later when his career waned, all of his records would be treasured by collectors simply because he was a great singer and conveyed a sincerity and passion for singing right up to his last years before his death at 61 from lung cancer .

Benny Goodman

Finally, he was married six times, one of his wives being Rita Hayworth and this side of his life having considerable potential for a biographer.

The above reissue contains sixteen 78 sides devoted to Berlin, who was a special favorite of Haymes and includes The Girl That I Marry, Little Fish in a Big Pond, All Alone, Let’s Take an Old-Fashioned Walk, Say It With Music and my own personal favorite, You’re Just In Love, with Ethel Merman and the most exquisite, enchanting arrangement by Gordon Jenkins. A gem of an album!

REVIEW POTPOURRI – TV series: The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

starring Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky Nelson; ABC network, 435 episodes between Oct. 3, 1952 – April 23, 1966.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was one of the two or three longest running comedy shows in TV history. From 1944-54 – the last two years simultaneously on TV, it was a hugely successful radio program. In 1952, Ozzie (1906-1975) persuaded ABC to sign an unprecedented 10-year contract that paid the family, whether the show was cancelled or not, and then his perfectionist work ethic contributed to its rousing success on TV.

All four Nelsons played themselves but, otherwise, the stories had very little to do with their real lives, although, during the introduction, they stood in front of their actual house (the interior was painstakingly reproduced on the studio backlot where each episode was filmed). For me, the show’s enjoyment derived from the daily life family situations and the cleverly sketched humor naturally arising from those situations.

The Nelson Family, Front, Ozzie & Harriet; Back, David and Ricky

Examples included the following:

Don Defoe (1913-1993) played the intrusive but likable neighbor, Thorney, – perpetrator of mischief and misunderstandings. Later, Lyle Talbot (1902-1996) and Mary Jane Croft (1916-1993) portrayed Joe and Clara, whose involvement in back and forth antics between them and the Nelsons brought much comic relief.

Next, what fan could forget Rick’s giggling, bungling, free-loading friend, Wally Plumsted, who often provoked his long-suffering girlfriend, Ginger, who in turn so often referred to him as Fatso; both Skip Young (1930-1993) and Charlene Salerno (1938-1986) scored high points with their meticulously honed timing, delivery and vivid characterization – oddly, Salerno never appeared elsewhere on any TV show and film.

Finally, Ozzie himself could hold his own for unexpected, very funny facial expressions and movements. I lost track of the number of split seconds where he suddenly made a face at us viewers.

Harriet (1909-1994) was the sturdy assuring mother figure, David (1936-2011), the earnest good son and older brother, and Ricky (1940-1985) was endearing in his own constant desire to do what’s right, occasionally straying off the plantation with farcical moments of bad judgment. When he became a recording star, his father devoted the last five minutes of several episodes to him and his band performing a recent hit song.

Various video cassettes and DVDs have been released of episodes from the 14-year run but a complete set of all 435 episodes have been gathered and slated for DVD/Blue Ray release.