REVIEW POTPOURRI: Vivid memories of our first TV

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Vivid memories of our first TV

I have vivid 1950s memories of some very engaging shows that were syndicated to the five channels that came in on the television sets in East Vassalboro (I should add that we were the last family in the village to get a TV set – a bulky used Philco which my grandmother Annabelle Ingraham Cates purchased for $30 from our local repairman, Richard Dowe, who was based in South China, and it arrived in early November 1959. For myself, it was the equivalent of the Second Coming, heaven on earth.).

Upon arrival, the usual sibling spat; I wanted us to watch the Three Stooges, then part of the nightly Mighty 90 show, hosted by Maine country and western singer Ken McKenzie, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., on the Portland CBS affiliate WGAN, channel 13 Mondays through Fridays. The others were screaming for Popeye on the Portland NBC affiliate WCSH, channel 6. For some very mysterious reason, I got my way and the other siblings, previously unacquainted with the Three Stooges, were roaring with laughter and forgot all about Popeye.

In addition to the Three Stooges’ 20 minute episodes, the show would feature other 1930s-40s Columbia Screen Gems shorts starring such comedians as Hugh Herbert, Leon Errol, Andy Clyde. etc., each evening, interspersed with Cowboy Ken chatting with the children gathered in the studio.

Around Christmas, Santa Claus would answer letters from kids around the state; I wrote one and heard my name mentioned on the air, which led to feeling on cloud nine for at least a week.

One of the sponsors of the show was our own Farrington’s Clothing Outlet right here in South China and a very busy store during those years.

The last half hour was given over to an action show, one of five such series rotating weekly. They included the following: The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, starring British actor William Russell. The Adventures of Casey Jones, with Alan Hale Jr., later better known as the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island.

The Rough Riders, with Kent Taylor, Jan Merlin and Peter Whitney, itself a very gripping western dealing with three men who rode throughout the post-Civil War West dispensing justice to outlaws. I remember one episode in which Highway Patrol star Broderick Crawford did a guest appearance as a very evil murderer. Ivanhoe, starring Roger Moore, later, of course, 007 (James Bond) after Sean Connery.

The Buccaneers with Robert Shaw, who would later achieve even greater fame during the early ‘70s in the film classics, The Sting and Jaws.

Some more memories in the following weeks.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – U.S. President: Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Martin Van Buren

When I was in third grade, an aunt gave me a calendar with paintings and photos of all the presidents from George Washington to Dwight D. Eisenhower. I remember being fascinated by these names and faces: Washington’s implacable dignity, John Adams’ cherubic candor, Jefferson’s humane inscrutability, etc.

Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) with his bald head and wavy hair similar to that of the Three Stooges Larry Fine, had a good-natured congeniality and aura of approachability.

Reading up on his career in New York state politics and his subsequent rise to national clout, I now see how the term used to describe him, “sly fox”, was an apt one.

A few examples:

Van Buren was sympathetic to the farmers but also allied himself with the insidious Tammany Hall party machine which would influence so much of what went on in New York.

He supported state Governor Dewitt Clinton’s spearheading of the building of the Erie Canal but then threw his weight behind Clinton’s opponent in a re-election campaign.

He believed in the expansion of voting rights but opposed universal suffrage.

He opposed the annexation of Texas as a slave state but was otherwise silent, seeing the abolition of slavery as a threat to national unity (in 1848, he would speak out against slavery as the chosen candidate for the short-lived Free Soil party, a coalition of anti-slavery Democrats, Whigs and abolitionists.).

His skills as a mediator and good listener were highly conducive to building some bridges between political foes, as was his occasional support of policies anathema to his allies.

Van Buren’s wife Hannah died at 35 of tuberculosis in 1819. In 1838, their son Abraham married Angelica Singleton (1818-1877), a second cousin of former First Lady Dolly Madison who finagled the match. During the remaining two years of Van Buren’s presidency, she served as her father-in-law’s hostess with consummate elegance.

Van Buren outlived presidents Harrison, Tyler, Polk and Taylor and witnessed the election of the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. Being born to Dutch-speaking parents, Van Buren learned English as a second language.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Sir Malcolm Sargent

Jacqueline Du Pré

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Sir Malcolm Sargent

Sir Malcolm Sargent

Sir Malcolm Sargent (1895-1967) conducted a huge number of fine recordings from the 1930s to not long before he died in 1967.

Ones that particularly stand out are a 78 set of a Vieuxtemps 5th Violin Concerto with Jascha Heifetz from the early 1930s and their stereo remake in 1961 coupled with one very beautiful performance of Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, itself highly recommended as a piece for newcomers to classical music.

Sargent also conducted violinist Ruggiero Ricci in two different and very distinguished recordings of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, one in 1951 and a stereo remake ten years later.

He collaborated with violinist Albert Sammons in a wonderful 1940s 78 set of Frederick Delius’s evocative Violin Concerto and, during the 1960s, with the renowned Jacqueline Du Pré (1945-1987) in the same composer’s Cello Concerto.

Sargent recorded the complete Handel’s Messiah 4 times – in 1946 for Columbia, in 1955 and 1959 for Angel and in 1965 for Reader’s Digest. He conducted live performances annually for decades. In addition to the four different sets, I have his 1932 Victor 78 of two choruses from the oratorio .

Sargent was gifted as a conductor of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas such as HMS Pinafore and the Mikado. His 1930s set of all five Beethoven Piano Concertos with Artur Schnabel (1882-1951) was the first complete one with that pianist’s interpretive wizardry as a performance standard difficult to equal.

Sir Malcolm became popular as the conductor of the annual London Proms concerts, replacing Sir Henry Wood (1869-1944) in 1947 until his own death in 1967, when he was suéceeded by Sir Colin Davis (1927-2013).

Sir Thomas Beecham

Sargent and his good friend, the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961), would often meet for lunch and ex­changed gossip about their romantic escapades; because of Sargent’s taste for expensive clothes, Beecham referred to him as Flash Harry.

Although singers and soloists enjoyed working with him, orchestral players had issues with Sargent’s arrogance and general disregard for their well-being, especially with tenure. Several friends considered him a “cad” and “bounder ” while his own son was estranged from him for years.

Because of the earlier-mentioned philandering, one woman warned her friends never to take a cab with the Maestro.

Sargent’s health declined during his last years due to pancreatic cancer but he did a successful guest concert with the Chicago Symphony a few months before his death.

Many of Sargent’s recordings and broadcasts can be heard via YouTube.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Film: A Kiss Before Dying

Robert Wagner

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

A Kiss Before Dying

Recently I viewed a 1956 film noir, A Kiss Before Dying, starring Robert Wagner and Joanne Woodward, both still living at 92; Virginia Leith (1925-2019) and Jeffrey Hunter (1925-1969).

From the visual perspective, it was a very good United Artists technicolor experience. The wide shots of the college campus, the small city downtown and the magnificent desert cliffs of the four corners horseback riding trails of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona were skillfully done.

The movie was based on a 1953 novel of the same name by Ira Levin (1929-2007) whose Rosemary’s Baby and Stepford Wives were also transformed into successful films.

The plot concerns a college student, Bud Corliss (Wagner), who is pursuing a gold-digging courtship of a wealthy heiress, Dorey (Woodward), and she becomes pregnant. She is also madly in love with Corliss and desires marriage even if her father were to disown her, but a lack of reciprocation leads Corliss to planning a murder.

He forges her signature and mails a suicide note to Dorey’s father. Then, under pretense of taking her to the City Hall marriage bureau on the 12th floor (knowing that that office is closed during lunch hour), he suggests that the two of them, while waiting for the office to re-open, walk up to the rooftop balcony to enjoy the view, upon which he pushes her off the roof.

For “lack of any real evidence” – admittedly a point which stretches credulity, the murder is ruled a suicide by the authorities.

A few months elapse during which Corliss worms his way into the affection of Dorey’s sister Ellen (Leith) without her at first knowing of his connection with Dorey, but the plot thickens and I will leave off here.

I have generally found Robert Wagner’s acting to be overrated and his portrayal of Corliss does little to change my mind. The gifted Joanne Woodward considered Dorey her worst role but I found it a convincing, sympathetic depiction.

Virginia Leith

Virginia Leith was also very good at conveying charisma in sister Ellen’s personality, while Jeffrey Hunter as a tutor at the college who was working with Dorey, Mary Astor (1906-1987) as Bud’s mother and George Macready (1899-1973) as Dorey and Ellen’s father all did very good work.

Hunter was superb as John Wayne’s co-star in the 1956 John Ford classic The Searchers and the 1960 Hell to Eternity in which he portrayed the World War II Marine soldier Guy Gabaldon (1926-2006) who talked over 1,300 Japanese soldiers and civilians into surrendering during key battles in two of the Pacific Islands.

Mary Astor’s most famous role may have been as the murderess in Humphrey Bogart’s 1941 The Maltese Falcon.

Macready frequently portrayed either polished villains or temperamental men of wealth.

Berlin-born Director Gerd Oswald (1919-1989 and, as far as I know, no relation to John F. Kennedy’s assassin) did generally good work, except for the bland Wagner, and was most renowned for episodes of such TV shows as Perry Mason, The Outer Limits, Bonanza, The Fugitive and Gentle Ben.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Andrew Jackson

The seventh former President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) has drawn much controversy during the more than 180 years since his years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue from 1829 to 1837. His stand against the abolition of slavery, his being a wealthy plantation owner with slaves at his large Tennessee mansion known as the Hermitage, his signing into law the forced removal of native Americans from their ancestral lands in Georgia and Alabama to the Oklahoma Indian Territory (resulting in so many deaths from disease and malnutrition on the Trail of Tears) and his abrasive uncouth personality alienated many of the more socially refined ladies and gentlemen during his lifetime.

However, his list of accomplishments include a few milestones. As general of the American forces stationed in the Gulf Coast during the War of 1812, he drove the British out of that area during the 1814 Battle of New Orleans, itself becoming the title of a 1958 Columbia Records megahit 45 by the late Johnny Horton (1922-1960) which many kids in East Vassalboro, including myself, owned and played constantly, much to the annoyance of our parents.

As President, Jackson fought and won against the establishment of a National Bank which he rightfully saw as benefiting only the wealthy. He was also the only president to pay off the national debt during his administration. Needless to say, he resonated with the common folks.

When he first arrived at the White House, he threw open the doors to large crowds outside and got more than he bargained for. The inside partygoers busted every window in the White House, Jackson himself narrowly escaping through a kitchen window.

Only when the servants brought food and kegs of beer outside to the Rose Garden did the melee subside.

Interestingly by some weird twist of fate, Jackson’s vice-president was also South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun who stayed on in the job after former sixth President John Quincy Adams was defeated in his own re-election bid, but Jackson and Calhoun would have a falling out and Jackson would appoint Secretary of State and future eighth President Martin Van Buren as Veep for the second term.

Rachel Jackson

Andrew Jackson’s wife Rachel (1767-1828) died one month before Jackson moved into the White House. She had been married previously for several years to an abusive man and, trying to escape from that relationship, had moved back to her mother’s home. That husband filed for divorce, after which she and Jackson got married in 1791, only to find out that Hubby One had been mistaken when he told Rachel the divorce had been granted without confirmation from the court.

When the divorce finally came through, the Jacksons had a second ceremony in 1794.

When Jackson ran for president, his political enemies viciously slandered the couple as big amiss and the distress caused Rachel much suffering and depression and may have led to her death at the age of 61.

As did her predecessor, Elizabeth Monroe, Rachel disliked political life but was supportive of her husband when he was a Senator from Tennessee, much preferring life at the Hermitage. She once commented that she would much prefer to be a doorkeeper in the heavenly house of the Lord to living in the White House palace.

A niece Emily Donelson (1807-1836) served as hostess for most of her Uncle Andy’s years in the White House until her early death from tuberculosis.

On June 8, 1845, Andrew Jackson died from heart failure at the Hermitage. He was 78.

A closing detail — Jackson fought for the removal of the Electoral College.

Emily Donelson

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Pianist: Marcelle Meyer

Marcelle Meyer

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Marcelle Meyer

Pianist Marcelle Meyer (1897-1958) was one of a superbly gifted group of pianists born between 1880 and the beginning of World War I, among whom other personal favorites include Artur Schnabel, Artur Rubinstein, Wilhelm Backhaus, Wilhelm Kempff, Edwin Fischer, Eduard Erdmann, Robert and Gaby Casadesus, Walter Gieseking, Rudolf Serkin, Shura Cherkassky, Oscar Levant, Dame Myra Hess, Sir Clifford Curzon, Sviatoslav Richter, Clara Haskil, Monique Haas, Claudio Arrau, Wanda Landowska, Friedrich Wuehrer, Cutner Solomon, Vladimir Horowitz, Cyril Smith.

The reason for this shopping list is to provide names of keyboard artists whose recordings can be found on Youtube so that the hopefully curious can indulge themselves and lead others, thus increasing the market for classical music which has shrunk to even lower levels (down from roughly 30 percent in previous decades to two per cent in this age of attention deficit disorder ignorance).

Born in France, Meyer started lessons at the age of five with her older sister Germaine and entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of 11 for further studies with the legendary pianists Alfred Cortot and Marguerite Long.

She drew the attention of composers Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy, who coached her in the interpretation of his Preludes just before he died in 1918.

Meyer championed the works of several other 20th century composers both in France and elsewhere in Europe.

But her finest legacy might lie in her revival of interest in a handful of baroque and 18th century composers such as Bach, Scarlatti, Couperin, Rameau, Haydn and Mozart when she began recording their music during the 1940s.

I have been recently listening to a 17 CD set of Marcelle Meyer, Complete Studio Recordings 1925-1957 (Documents 600209) which can be bought inexpensively from online vendors. It features her playing of the above mentioned composers along with Emannuel Chabrier, Rossini, Schubert, Spanish composers Oscar Espla, Isaac Albeniz and Manuel de Falla, Richard Strauss, Darius Milhaud, and Francis Poulenc.

She played with the most extraordinary emotional warmth, delicacy and inspired one on one connection with the listener. Some of her most beautiful playing was found in the records of Bach, Scarlatti and Rameau where an undercurrent of melodic line was conveyed which eluded other pianists.

On November 17, 1958, Marcelle Meyer died suddenly, at the much too young age of 61, of a heart attack while playing piano at her sister Germaine’s apartment.

Youtube contains a 1956 broadcast of her phenomenal rendition of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with the underrated Volkmar Andrae conducting the Suisse Romande Orchestra in Geneva, Switzerland.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: First Lady Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams and John Adams

Louisa Adams

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Louisa Adams

The sixth former First Lady, Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams (1775-1852) was born in London, England, and was one of only two first ladies not born in the U.S., the other being Melania Trump who entered the world in 1970 in Yugoslavia.

Louisa was also born illegitimately; her mother was referred to by her grandson, the noted historian and cynic Henry Adams (1838-1918), as “one of the deeper mysteries of metaphysical theology.”

In America’s First Ladies, Christine Sadler describes Louisa as having “the delightful chore of making a parlor out of the vast East Room of the White House in which her mother-in-law had strung the family wash to dry 24 years earlier.”

Like Dolly Madison, she was quite the gracious hostess (although not the very bubbly social butterfly that Dolly was) and married to a president who preferred to be left alone in his study, more about his personality coming soon.

At first Louisa was not accepted by her mother-in-law Abigail Adams, but the older woman soon found they both had a lot in common, especially having very strong opinions which the gentlemen around them found at times unbearable, and they got along quite well.

Unlike her mother-in-law, Louisa was prone to depression and suffered from frail health.

J. Quincy Adams

I now shift the focus to Louisa’s husband John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) who served one term as president from 1825 to 1829.

By many scholars, including his detractors, Quincy Adams is considered one of the smartest to hold office with a very high IQ. Several of his predecessors recognized these qualities and he served at diplomatic posts in England, France, the Nether­lands, Prussia and Russia. In addition he was fluent in Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Russian.

Socially, he could be a stiff arrogant prig and really did not enjoy being with most people, much like James Madison .

Interestingly, after leaving the White House, Q was elected by his home state of Massachusetts to the House of Representatives where his popularity was far greater than as chief executive. His arguably finest moment, as one of the handful of leaders unwaveringly opposed to slavery, was giving a speech defending the slaves who took over the Amistad ship transporting them from Africa to the United States and getting them acquitted and allowed to return to their homeland.

He served in Congress for the remainder of his life where in 1848, at the age of 81, he suffered a stroke while giving a speech in the chamber.

Q was carried into his private office where he died in the presence of his wife and others, including the Illinois Representative Abraham Lincoln.

Louisa outlived her husband by four years and died of a heart attack in 1852 at the age of 77.

A few other facts:

Q and Louisa were believed to have married on the rebound, as both had suffered broken hearts in a previous relationship.

Q amassed a collection of different translations of the Bible.

While president, he bathed naked every morning at 5 a.m. in the Potomac River no matter what season of the year.

The above-mentioned grandson recounts an incident in his autobiography The Education of Henry Adams when, in sixth grade, he told his mother that he didn’t feel like going to school; whereupon grandfather, who was referred to by all his grandchildren as the President, took the lad firmly by the hand, walked him two miles to the schoolhouse never saying a word, escorted him into the classroom and sat him down at his desk.

The President then returned in the afternoon and repeated the procedure. Grandson never complained again.

Ironically, Quincy’s vice-president was South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) who was an unwavering supporter of slavery and a “White South.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Conductors Bruno Walter and George Szell

Bruno Walter, left. George Szell, right.

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Back during eighth grade in 1964, I was hungrily eager to hear every record of classical music that I could beg, borrow, buy, barter for; and one neighbor was kind enough to loan the Arturo Toscanini/NBC Symphony RCA Victor Red Seal LP of Beethoven’s 5th and 8th symphonies, that I auditioned on another neighbor’s hi-fi which was quite superior in sound to the $32 manually operated phonograph I owned.

I was already quite familiar with the 5th Symphony via an old Columbia Masterworks set of five 12-inch 78s, conducted by Bruno Walter (1876-1962) with the New York Philharmonic.

I remember the black and white photo of Walter raising his arms in the air and conveying, in his stern eyes, that he meant business; Leonard Bernstein called him one of the great saints of music with a sweet gentle spirit and wearing silk gloves but beneath those silk gloves was an iron fist and a sneaky snakiness in Walter’s ability to look out for number one.

But Walter was a truly great conductor on the same level as his close friend Toscanini (1867-1957) and his recording of the 5th had a combination of dramatic power and nicely contrasting poetry while Toscanini’s performance had the excitingly riveting volatility of a sledgehammer.

Back to my first encounter with the 8th Symphony. Toscanini and his players tore into the first movement and fully communicated its growling jubilation, Beethoven being a 100 percent manic depressive.

This symphony had its first performance in 1812 in Linz, Austria, where the composer was visiting his brother Johann, enjoying his hospitality and, at the same time, trying to break up a relationship Johann was having with a woman whom Beethoven considered a lowlife. The situation and how it was resolved makes for hilarious reading.

The second movement is a perky dance with the bassoon taking center stage with its staccato notes.

The third movement is labeled as a Menuet but its beauty is a passionate outpouring of the heart, as opposed to a graceful elegant dance, with some very eloquent, almost heavenly writing for the strings.

The final movement is a vivacious highly spirited romp for the entire orchestra.

A similarly exciting performance of the 8th was an early 1960s one conducted by the arch perfectionist, SOB, taskmaster George Szell (1897-1970) with the Cleveland Orchestra while another one from 1957 with Andre Cluytens (1905-1967) conducting the Berlin Philharmonic has a more relaxed sedate quality that works beautifully, this Maestro being one who was quite underrated during his own lifetime.

While the 7th Symphony is a colossal masterpiece with the much shorter 8th seeming to a number of listeners anticlimactic, Beethoven himself considered the 8th immensely superior to the 7th.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: First Lady Elizabeth Monroe

Elizabeth Monroe

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

First Lady Elizabeth Monroe

Former 5th First Lady Elizabeth Kortright Monroe (1768-1830) was one of the most anti-social FLs to live at the White House during her eight years (1817-1825) while her husband James Monroe (1758-1831) ushered in what was known as the Era of Good Feelings, that period of “happiness” sometimes referred to by cynical misanthropes as the Era of Good Stealings, that story for another week.

One of the most lively chapters in Christine Sadler’s 1963 America’s First Ladies concerns the quiet Mrs. Monroe:

“She was forty-eight years of age when her husband became president and she had lived in Washington as a Cabinet wife for seven years without, it was said, making neither friends nor enemies. ‘The Monroes are perfect strangers, ‘ wailed Margaret Bayard Smith, the capital city’s most ardent note taker during the period and the one most often quoted, ‘not only to me but to all the citizens.

“The story of Elizabeth is almost entirely the story of her husband, on whom she was unusually dependent. It was an arrangement which apparently suited him perfectly and which he perhaps had fostered. She was only seventeen when he married her in New York City on February 16, 1786, while he was a member of the Continental Congress. He was twenty-seven and a veteran of the Revolutionary War, with a scar to prove it, and had studied law under his idol and mentor, Thomas Jefferson. One of his Virginia colleagues in the Congress described Elizabeth as ‘the smiling little Venus’ when she and her tall husband departed for a week-long honeymoon on the outer reaches of Long Island. ”

Pres. James Monroe

One very noble deed of Mrs. Monroe occurred when her husband was George Washington’s Minister to France in 1794. Adrienne Lafayette, wife of the Marquis who had provided much help with French troops during the last years of the American Revolution, was in prison with her two daughters and awaiting execution by the guillotine (She had already lost her mother, grandmother and sister to the blade.).

All Americans in France were under strict orders to maintain strict neutrality, even though Washington himself cherished Lafayette like a son. The Monroes decided otherwise and devised a plan.

Dressing in the finest apparel and the carriage decorated in full U.S. insignia, Elizabeth arrived at the prison with her entourage in all innocence to pay a visit to her dear friend and so charmed those powers that be that Madame Lafayette and her daughters were released from prison within a few days and given passports out of the country.

Upon the Monroes replacing the Madisons in the White House, they lived a very quiet life and pretty well shunned most Washington society, entertaining very small groups of family and friends.

Their older daughter Eliza and her husband George Hay (He was the prosecutor in the trial of Thomas Jefferson’s former vice-president Aaron Burr for treason) came to live with them at the White House and, with her mother’s blessing, she assumed most of the responsibilities for the limited social calendar in a most unfortunately arrogant manner. Furthermore, the First Lady was suffering from poor health.

Meanwhile the President had expensive tastes for finely crafted furniture from France and was granted $30,000 from Congress to decorate the newly-rebuilt White House. He also sought the most costly linen, china and silverware, running up the kind of bills which caused a previously supportive Congress to take notice.

After leaving the White House when Monroe’s Secretary of State John Quincy Adams assumed office in 1825, they retired to their country estate, Oak Hill, near Leesburg, Virginia, where Elizabeth Monroe died in 1830 at the age of 62 followed a year later by her husband at 73.

A couple of footnotes:

Elizabeth Monroe’s father served as a captain for the British during the American Revolution, a fact slyly concealed by Monroe from his family and friends.

In 1814, Monroe was riding on horseback near Baltimore Harbor when he saw several thousand British troops arriving by ship but, since nobody believed they would invade, it was too late for any advanced warning.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Five LPs from my youth

Arlo Guthrie

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Arlo Guthrie

During my senior year at Kent’s Hill boarding school the spring of 1969, I lived in Wesleyan Hall dormitory and was acquainted with a fellow whose father was a wholesale record distributor.

He provided me with five LPs for sale at $2 each and gave me several days to audition them.

They were as follows:

Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant devoted an entire side one to his satirical account of an environmental incident which, for purposes of space, will not be recounted here, while the flip side had five songs of very minor charm.

His father was folk singer Woody Guthrie whose most famous song was This Land Is Your Land.

It was also the basis for a movie.

In recent years, Guthrie announced that he was retiring, at 74, from performing and touring, aptly stating that it was time to hang up the “Gone fishing” sign.

He also scored a hit with the beautiful Steve Goodman folk ballad The City of New Orleans 50 years ago.

Rod McKuen

Rod McKuen

The second LP was one by singer/poet songwriter Rod McKuen (1933-2015) whose recordings and books sold hundreds of millions of copies. His singing was not exactly beautiful after he all but des­troyed his vocal chords as a much younger man working in night clubs.

His most famous songs are Seasons in the Sun which was a hit for the Kingston Trio; Love’s Been Good to Me covered by Frank Sinatra who devoted his LP, A Man Alone, to McKuen; and the English lyrics for Jacques Brel’s If You Go Away.

I am particularly fond of If You Go Away while my father enjoyed Stanyan Street. Glenn Yarborough of the Limelighters devoted several albums to McKuen .

McKuen lived in a large Spanish-style house on Southern California’s Pacific coast and owned a humongous record collection.

Burt Bacharach

Burt Bacharach

Number three was the original Broadway cast recording of Burt Bacharach’s Promises Promises. Jerry Ohrbach and Jill O’Hara did top notch starring and singing roles, Ohrbach with She Likes Basketball, A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing and the title song which was a megahit for Dionne Warwick while Jill O’Hara’s Knowing When to Leave was and remains to this day a show stopper.

Bacharach recently celebrated his 94th birthday.

Ray Coniff

Ray Coniff

The 4th album was one of the Ray Conniff (1916-2002) Singers performing mid ‘60s hits such as My Cup Runneth Over and Winchester Cathedral.

Conniff was one of the finest jazz trombonists during the ‘30s and ‘40s and can be heard in quite a number of old recordings of small combos from those years, especially with clarinetist Artie Shaw.

During the 1950s, Conniff worked side by side with Mitch Miller at Columbia records producing numerous discs by such singers as Tony Bennett, Marty Robbins, and Johnny Mathis.

Along about then, he formed the Ray Conniff Singers as a means of providing sophisticated easy listening albums for its huge market, as did Andre Kostelanetz, Percy Faith, Paul Weston, Nelson Riddle, Hugo Winterhalter, etcs.

And he utilized a number of the same men who were part of Mitch’s Sing Along Gang because every one of them could sight read music.

Mary Hopkins

Mary Hopkins

The last album was a solo LP featuring the wonderful Mary Hopkin singing her classic Those Were the Days and covers of other vintage hits-examples being Ray Noble’s Love is the Sweetest Thing, Inch Worm and There’s No Business Like Show Business. It was released on the Beatles’ own label, Apple records. She is still living at 74.

My friend was one happy camper when I handed him a $10 bill.