REVIEWS – Musicians: Gene Krupa & Anita O’day; Album: Christmas with the Lennon Sisters


by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records, Part 6.

A chance encounter during the summer of 1962 led to a consuming fascination with classical music that still prevails today. I came into the living room late one warm August afternoon where I found Mom in conversation with a door-to-door salesman. Somehow the talk turned to books, which still didn’t grab my attention – my interest in collecting and intensive reading was sparked later in eighth grade, but then he commented on having some nice records as well. By 11, I was interested in records in general and enjoyed pawing through people’s collections, when given permission.

The gentleman was Leslie Davis; he invited me to his house that night, which is still located directly across the street from the East Vassalboro Grange Hall; he had recently moved there from North Carolina with his wife, Annette, who was a native of here and whose parents had owned and lived in the house several years earlier before they both passed away; and he then owned about 125 classical LPs, to my mind a humongous collection. We began a friendship of 20 years, ending with his death in 1982, at 66.

He opened my ears and heart to many beautiful symphonies and concertos, via his Motorola monaural console, but disliked opera because it contained, in his own words, “too much screeching.” I used to put his records in order very often and for free because I loved the covers, titles and labels- red seal Victors, Angels, Capitols, Columbia Masterworks, etc.

Even though I went away for periods of a few years, I always gravitated to the Davis home for spirited talk about books, records and other subjects, and a few shared meals. Annette died in 2005 and willed the records to Vassalboro Historical Society, who, in turn, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Thus the coming full circle!

Gene Krupa – How High the Moon; Tea for Two

with singer Anita O’Day; Columbia, 38345, ten-inch shellac 78, recorded 1945.

Gene Krupa

Drummer Gene Krupa (1909-1973) gave the instrument new depths of musical expression with his extended solo in Benny Goodman’s megahit Sing Sing Sing! during a big band era tenure with the clarinettist. By the early ‘40s, he had his own orchestra and hooked up with Anita O’Day (1919-2006), with whom he would record 44 sides.

Her rendition of Tea for Two is intelligently sung, nuanced but still swinging, a true classic which straddles the fence between big band and post-World War II bop. The purely instrumental How High the Moon is one pulsating beauty.

Anita O’Day

Although both Krupa and O’Day were musically very accomplished and popular with their fan base, they had their own individually private struggles with alcohol and drugs. Coincidentally on separate occasions, they were each arrested for marijuana possession and sentenced to 90 days in the lockup.

Christmas with the Lennon Sisters

Dot DLP 25343, 12-inch vinyl stereo LP, recorded 1961.

The Lennon Sisters were talented, whatever one’s individual opinion might be, and their performances of the 14 carols contained herein are consistent in quality with the girls’ records elsewhere. Although I am not their biggest fan, I do enjoy them in small doses, and find their singing here of Adestes Fideles beautifully arranged and nuanced, thanks to the conductor, Milt Rogers.

Unfortunately, I was only able to hear six songs complete, two abridged but missed out on the other six due to a large piece of the record missing.


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