He then began seeking out Kyser recordings and memorabilia, and now boasts a personal collection which includes Kay's own script (with his handwritten notes in the margins) from the very first NBC "College of Musical Knowledge" radio show broadcast March 30th, 1938 and privately-recorded gag records given only to members of Kyser's band.
"I'm still fascinated by Kay Kyser," Beasley affirmed in a blog on MySpace recently. "His achievements in radio, film, records, dances, concerts, and early TV must be admired if for nothing other than covering so many bases!"
Admittedly, this attractive book is not a full-blown effort with, for example, footnotes and cross-references and a list of works cited. But it is very successful as an honest and sincere attempt to rescue Kyser from being forgotten, even though he was unquestionably one of the biggest stars of the late '30s and early '40s. There's a lot of valuable and interesting information which Beasley has gathered, and I can't imagine anyone outside Kyser's family spending all the time that he did learning and researching Kyser, then going to as much trouble to get such a book published (some of which he recounts in a couple places).
Beasley tries to explain the seemingly-at odds parts of Kyser's personality: the side which allowed him to be a popular and energetic performer in front of the public, and the side which cast him as a beloved husband and father who prized decorum and privacy for his family.
In later years, Kyser went on to help bring public television to North Carolina and made appearances speaking on behalf of Christian Science, much to the disappointment of nostalgic fans who hoped for his return to music.
In fact, after Kyser disbanded around 1950, he hardly ever reminisced about his past days, even to his wife or daughters. One of the rare times was in 1974, when he brought his family on "The Mike Douglas Show" for a single guest appearance on a an episode of "The Mike Douglas Show," celebrating Douglas' 15th anniversary as a talk-show host. (Of course, prior to his TV career, Douglas had been one of Kyser's featured vocalists.)
The book contains images of lots of Kyser memorabilia, including movie posters and song sheets, as well as numerous photographs of Kyser, his family, and his band members.
Although there have been a number of Kyser CDs released during the last few years, the discography of his music which Beasley includes doesn't seem to have grown to any significant degree, compared to Charles Garrod and Bill Korst's volume of Kyser (Zephyrhills, FL: Joyce Music, 1986). I suppose it is handy to have it within the covers of this book.
Potentially, with The Kay Kyser Collection now processed and available at The University of North Carolina, someone may someday write a more scholarly-type biography of Kyser. Yet regardless if that happens or whether Kay's widow, Georgia, completes her memoir, or if one of Kyser's daughters, Amanda, finishes a film project about her father, there is still room for Beasley's tribute.
Besides covering Kyser's life and career, Beasley also offers appreciation to various stars of Kyser's band, including his widow, Georgia, who was at one point a vocalist with the band; Harry Babbitt; Ish Kabibble; Sully Mason; and Ginny Simms, several of whom became friends along the way.
I have no doubt that Kyser's fans will enjoy this book, which may be ordered from Richland Creek Publishing of Northridge, CA.
Big Band Library rating: GOOD
"It's not the first Armstrong biography, but it's the first one to tell Satchmo's story accurately," he comments. "I based it in part on hundreds of private, after-hours recordings made by Armstrong himself, candid tapes in which he tells the amazing tale of his ascent to stardom in blunt, plainspoken language." I'm the first biographer to have had access to those tapes. Read Pops and you'll learn the facts about his 1930 marijuana arrest, his life-threatening run-in with the gangsters of Chicago, his triumphant Broadway and Hollywood debuts, his complicated love life, and much, much more."
Teachout's book is an interesting read - well-written, fully indexed, and includes source notes.
Big Band Library rating: EXCELLENT
SNEAK PREVIEW BOOK REPORTS
A revised edition of Brian Rust's American Dance Band Discography, done by Richard Johnson, is supposed to be ready for sale this month. Previously 2,066 pages in two volumes when published by Arlington House in Jan. 1975, it now totals 4,800 pages over five volumes. The price is expected to be $125 per volume or $500 for the set.
Stan Kenton bio-discographer Michael Sparke has prepared Stan Kenton: This Is An Orchestra!, scheduled for publication this Spring by the University of North Texas Press. A “companion” 2-CD set of previously unissued recordings is also in preparation for release by the Tantara label.
Big band expert and regular contributor to The Glenn Miller Society's Moonlight Serenader journal, Tony Eaton, advises that Hunton Downs' The Glenn Miller Conspiracy: The never-before-told true story of his life - and death will be offered in a hardcover edition starting early this year.
It was thought that the volume 2 of Don Rayno's exhaustive Paul Whiteman bio-discography would be ready this month - but, unfortunately, that's not the case. According to the Scarecrow Press Publishers Services Department, "there is a volume 2 in the works, but it will not be for some time yet. The manuscript is due in January 2011, unless the author extends the deadline again. The book will not be available until at least Fall of 2011 or later".
ALSO IN-PRINT AND / OR ONLINE
Joe Carlton. "Interview with the Crew Chief," The Great Escape! / dixieswing.com,
Issue No. 17 January / February 2010, p.1+ [ 1990s interview with Lynn Allison, who
played saxophone with Krupa '43 and was a member of the Crew Chiefs vocal group
with the Miller AAF band '43-'45 ].
Don Heckman. "Ed Shaughnessy: One More Thing to Get Right," JazzTimes, Jan./Feb.
2010 [ Shaughnessy ( Byrne '48; Ventura '48-'50; Millinder '51-52 ) recently had
knee-replacement surgery but remains upbeat ].
Vincent M. Mallozzi, "Behind the Lens, Continuing a Legacy," New York Times, Jan. 10,
2010 [ James Kriegsmann Jr., like his father, is a photographer of entertainers ].
James M. Manheim. "Louie Bellson," in Contemporary Musicians: Profiles of the People
in Music, Volume 66 (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2010), pp.9-11.
Tom Nolan. "Hip to the Harpsichord: Artie Shaw's 1940 'Summit Ridge Drive' is seductive
swing," Wall Street Journal / wsj.com, Jan. 9, 2010.
Sue Doe Nym [ sic ], "A Jazzman by Any Other Name Quiz," The Great Escape! /
dixieswing.com, Issue No. 17 January / February 2010, p.3+ [ assumed names used on
recordings by famous jazz men ].
"O'Brien and Glenn Miller Orchestra Keep Miller Songs Alive," [ Glenn Miller Birthplace
Society ] Miller Notes, Jan. 2010 / No.129, p.2.
Nigel Powlson. "It's Miller Time for Ray in the city where it all began," Derby [ England ]
Evening Telegraph, Jan. 15, 2010 [ Ray McVay, who leads the official UK Glenn Miller
Orchestra, remarks that there's no reason to tinker with the band's success: "I don't see
why I should try and change it . . . What we play is his original music. I'm in a very fortunate
position that I have access to all Glenn's original music. It's a privilege to be able to have
any that I want to play." ].
Paul E. Robinson. "The 'Duke' Gets His Due in Austin - the 'Live Music Capital of the
World,'" scena.org, Jan. 7, 2010 [ commentary about a recent appearance by the
Ellington Orchestra directed by Barry Lee Hall (rather than Paul Ellington) in Austin, TX ].
Dick Parker. "Artie Shaw's Gramercy Five," The Great Escape! / dixieswing.com,
Issue No. 17 January / February 2010, p.2.
Kareem Sanjaghi. "Dick Johnson: jazz great led by example," [ Hyannis, MA ] Barnstable
Patriot / barnstable.com, Jan. 15, 2010 [ Sanjaghi, a drummer and a junior at Boston
College, states, "In all the times I spoke with Dick I never once heard him make a negative
comment about another musician or person. He was a terrific leader and it was great to
watch him organize and lead a band. Whether leading a band or working as a sideman,
he always gave 100 percent in his playing. The best way of describing Dick as a
musician is that he made the players around him better." ].
Charles Sengstock. "CFM Bits and Pieces: Don Roth's Blackhawk Restaurant in Wheeling
Closes," [ Chicago Federation of Musicians Local 10-208 ] Intermezzo, Jan. 2010, p.3
[ excellent summary of the importance of Chicago's Blackhawk Restaurant and its
suburban Wheeling, IL location ].
"Still Smiling and Swinging at 92," [ Glenn Miller Birthplace Society ] Miller Notes, Jan.
2010 / No.129, p.10 [ re-print of portion of story about former Miller bassist Trigger
Alpert from the Jul. 12, 2009 Florida Times-Union ].
TOP BANDS IN-PERSON
Tex Beneke Orchestra directed by Jim Snodgrass: Jan. 17, Civic Arts Plaza, Thousand
Oaks, CA [ with Connie Stevens, Peter Marshall, DeMarche Sisters ].
Les Brown's Band of Renown directed by Les Brown Jr.: Jan. 13-16, Busch Gardens,
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Buddy Morrow: Jan. 27-30, Busch Gardens,
Tampa, FL; Jan. 31, Bentley Village, Naples, FL.
Les Elgart Orchestra directed by Russ Dorsey: Jan. 9, private party, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Jan Garber Orchestra directed by Howard Schneider: Jan.12, Las Palmas Grand, Mesa,
AZ; Jan. 13, Madera Clubhouse (Quail Creek), Green Valley, AZ; Jan. 16, Sun Dial
Recreation Center, Sun City, AZ; Jan. 22, Sun Dial Recreation Center, Sun City, AZ;
Jan. 24, Arizona Opry Dinner-Dance, Mesa, AZ.
Woody Herman's Thundering Herd directed by Frank Tiberi: Jan. 17, Cerritos Center for
the Performing Arts, Cerritos, CA.
Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke: Jan. 17, Harlingen, TX.
Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians directed by Al Pierson: Jan. 19-20, Erie H. Meyer Civic
Center, Gulf Shores, FL; Jan. 21, Newberry Opera House, Newberry, SC.
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien: Jan. 9, The Parker Playhouse, Ft.
Lauderdale, FL; Jan. 16, Lake Mary High School, Lake Mary, FL; Jan. 17, Lely High
School, Naples, FL; Jan. 18, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, FL; Jan. 19, Van Wezel
Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, FL; Jan. 21, Florida Community College, Jacksonville,
FL; Jan. 23, Grove Park Inn & Resort, Asheville, NC; Jan. 24, Clayton State University,
Morrow, GA; Jan. 29, Seelbach Hotel, Louisville, KY; Jan. 30, Centre College, Danville,
KY; Jan. 31, private dance, Greenville, SC.
CONGRATULATIONS ARE IN ORDER
A man who performed with some of the legendary big bands will be celebrated as part of the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards this month. Trumpeter Clark Terry, 89, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy. At various times, he was a former member of bands headed by Lionel Hampton, Charlie Barnet, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington.
Meanwhile, pioneering jazz record producer George Avakian, 90, was singled out for jazz advocacy at the annual National Endowmen for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters Awards Ceremony. Avakian commented that "the biggest disappointment" of his career came in 1956 when plans fell through for Louis Armstrong to record with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Also named as one of this year's NEA Jazz Masters was composer and tenor saxophonist Bill Holman, 82, who played with Charlie Barnet's band in 1951 and then joined Stan Kenton in 1952. Holman later wrote arrangements for, variously, Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, and Louie Bellson.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU
Bucky Pizzarelli, guitarist, b.Jan. 9, 1926. With Monroe '43 / '46-'52; Goodman '67 / '69
Reader's Digest / '70 / '71 / '72 / '73 / '74 / '75 / '77 / '79 / '80 / '81 / '85.
Ray Anthony, trumpeter, b. Jan. 20, 1922. With A. Donahue '40; Miller '40-'41; J. Dorsey
'42. Own band '46- .
Benny Golson, tenor saxophonist, b. Jan. 25, 1929. With Gillespie '56-'58.
Dick Nash, trombonist, b.Jan. 26, 1928. With S. Donahue '47; G. Gray '49; Beneke '50;
Ed [ "Eddie" ] Shaughnessy, drummer, b.Jan. 29, 1929. With Byrne '48; Ventura '48-'50;
Dick Johnson, 84, clarinetist ( leader of Shaw Orch. '83-'06 ) and alto saxophonist ( Spivak
'52-'53; Morrow '56-'57 ), d.Jan. 10, 2010, "after a brief illness."
Jayne Walton, 92, vocalist ( Welk '40-'45 ), d.Jan. 10, 2010.
Sid Robinson, 85, brother-in-law of Tex Beneke, d.Jan. 13, 2010.
Ed Thigpen, 79, drummer ( Cootie Williams '50 ), d.Jan. 13, 2010, "after being ill for a
long period of time."
Jimmy Wyble, 87, guitar ( Norvo '57-'58 / '62; Goodman '59-'60 / '61 / '63; Norvo ),
d.Jan. 16, 2010, heart failure.