Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Today in Music History ~ 10/6

• 1820 ~ Jenny (Johanna) Lind, Swedish coloratura soprano, "The Swedish Nightengale". Her first major performance was in 1838 in the role of Agathe in Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz. She made her American debut on September 11, 1850 at the Castle Garden Theatre in New York City.

• 1882 ~ Karol Szymanowski, Polish composer

• 1917 ~ A new word cropped up in the American lexicon: Jazz. The Literary Digest described jazz as music that caused people to, "shake, jump and writhe in ways to suggest a return to the medieval jumping mania."

• 1927 ~ Paul Badura-Skoda, Austrian pianist and music editor

• 1927 ~ "Mammy, how I love you, how I love you, my dear old mammy!" It was Al Jolson in blackface, singing in the first full-length talking picture, The Jazz Singer, as it opened in New York City. In reality, The Jazz Singer was not a true talkie. There were only 291 spoken words in the landmark film; however, it was the first to integrate sound and this small amount of dialogue into a story through the Vitaphone disk process; and the first to entertain a large audience. The talking part was mostly singing, and it was Al Jolson who made the flick a success, proving to the critics that an all-talking film could work. (Because he didn’t think the pioneer of talkies would be all the rage, George Jessel actually turned down the starring role; as did Eddie Cantor.) A silent version of the film was released to movie theaters who had not yet popped for the $20,000 or so that it cost to rewire their venue. The audience was thrilled with Jolson’s sound performance as a cantor’s son, Jake Rabinowitz, rejecting the world he came from to become a singer of popular music, changing his name to Jack Robin in the process. Although not jazz as we know it, the songs Jolson sang became part of American music culture: Toot Toot Tootsie (Goodbye), Blue Skies, Waiting for the Robert E. Lee and, of course, My Mammy. For those truly with a need to know, Neil Diamond did not audition for Jolson’s part when finding out that Jessel had turned it down. Diamond performed in a remake of The Jazz Singer in 1980. As Jolson said, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!" Maybe, through the wonders of modern technology, we could hear Jolson and Diamond together, in concert. That would be the Mammy of all jazz singin’.

• 1941 ~ Claude Thornhill and his orchestra recorded Autumn Serenade on Columbia Records.

• 1946 ~ Millie Small (Smith), Singer, known as ‘The Blue Beat Girl’ in her native Jamaica

• 1949 ~ Bobby Farrell, Singer

• 1950 ~ Thomas McClary, Guitarist with The Commodores

• 1951 ~ Kevin Cronin, Singer with REO Speedwagon

• 1960 ~ Steve Lawrence and partner, Eydie Gorme, starred at the new Lotus Club in Washington, DC.

• 1962 ~ Robert Goulet stepped out of the role of Sir Lancelot after singing/acting the part since 1960. The fabulously successful Broadway musical, Camelot, also starred Richard Burton as King Arthur and Julie Andrews as Queen Guenevere.

• 1964 ~ Matthew Sweet, Guitarist, singer, songwriter

• 1973 ~ Gene Krupa (1909) passed away

• 1985 ~ Nelson Riddle, Grammy Award-winning orchestra leader passed away

• 2001 ~ Blues singer Mamie "Galore" Davis died of a stroke. She was 61. Davis was born Sept. 24, 1940, in Erwin, where she started singing the blues. She graduated from O'Bannon High School and joined a local band. She performed with such musicians as Little Johnny Burton, Buddy Hicks, Little Milton and the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Her first solo recording, Special Agent 34-24-38, was recorded on the St. Lawrence label in 1965. Under her first producer, Monk Higgins, she recorded two more singles for St. Lawrence, including her biggest hit, It Ain't Necessary, in 1966.

• 2003 ~ Victor Buelow, who made it into the record books as the longest-serving community band director, died of an apparent heart attack. He was 94. Buelow directed the Jefferson American Legion Band for 72 years, from 1931 through the 2002 band season. Guinness World Records declared him the longest-serving director anywhere after he retired. Buelow stayed with the band even in retirement, playing the alto horn this summer.

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