Radio Nostalgia

Cropped screenshot of Edgar Bergen with Charle...
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I recently discovered a website that offers an unbelievably comprehensive catalog of Old Time Radio shows. These are available as streaming broadcasts, downloads, or on CD with multiple episodes bundled as collections in MP3 format. The Old Time Radio Catalog at http://www.otrcat.com/index.php is a huge storehouse of classics from the heydays of music, comedy and drama on the radio.

Yeah, I know that this is, ostensibly, a music blog but I am crazy about all kinds of good old stuff, and the days of lying in the floor listening to The Shadow or Fred Allen are near and dear to my old heart. This is before TV, if you you youngsters can imagine such a thing. We had a huge cabinet-style radio, about 3/4 the size of a good refrigerator. It was all tubes, had the greatest of sound and could pull in a station from 5-600 miles away if the station had enough power. When the atmosphere was right we could get WLS in Chicago; WOWO in Ft. Wayne, IN; WSM in Nashville and something out of Louisiana whose call letters I can’t remember. All this in addition to local stations within 75 miles or so of Danville, KY where I was living at the time.

We would listen to Wait Hoyt broadcast the Cincinnati Reds (or “the Redlegs” as they were still called back then). “There goes one into Burger-ville,” was Wait’s call for a home run, giving a nod to his sponsor, Burger Beer.

Gunsmoke, Dragnet and  The Lone Ranger were just a few of the radio shows that eventually migrated to TV and enjoyed great success there, too. Music, of course, was huge, along with variety shows with the likes of Edgar Bergen & Charley McCarthy, and George Burns & Gracie Allen. The Old Time Radio Catalog appears to have it all. Check out this excellent, and well-organized website.

Old Time Radio Catalog website

Old Time Radio Catalog website

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Another good movie soundtrack

You've Got Mail album cover
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As soon as I put up the post about the soundtrack for Sleepless In Seattle, another Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie came to mind. That is the romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail. The movie is clever and fun. Tom Hanks is always easy to watch and Meg Ryan is pretty cute in this part. there are some great people in the supporting cast. Look for Dave Chapelle in what, I am pretty sure, was his first movie role as Tom’s assistant at Fox Books.

The musical selections are terrific and, again, they really feed the story. Once more, like Sleepless In Seattle, the movie climaxes with the incomparable Jimmy Durante setting the mood with You Made Me Love You. It can’t get any better than that.

Listen to this lineup of performers: Harry Nilsson, Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, Roy Orbison, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Billy Williams and Jimmy Durante. Also included, but maybe not as familiar, The Cranberries and Bobby Day (with Rockin’ Robin). Harry Nilsson is featured on three tracks and, if you have not given him a listen in recent years, by all means do so. He does The Puppy Song (cute), Remember (very pretty song) and one of the three best versions of Over the Rainbow you will ever hear. (The other two are, obviously, Judy Garland’s original from the movie, and Jane Monheit.

Jane Monheit, btw, is one of the best of today’s jazz, cabaret, ballad, swing & showtune performers. She tours with her own excellent band led by her husband, Rick Montalbano, and featuring his excellent custom arrangements. If you get a chance to see them live, especially in one of the small, intimate venues they prefer. her website has some good samplings from her impressive album catalog . Here is the link: http://janemonheitonline.com/ A Jane Monheit CD is always a safe investment.

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Movies that Use Good Music

Louis Daniel Armstrong ( August 4, 1901 Armstr...
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One thing that always enhances any movie, in my opinion, is the use of good music in the soundtrack. Especially if that music fits in with, and enhances, the story. While there is plenty of excellent music being composed and scored for the movies (e.g. anything by Dave Grusin), my favorite soundtracks are those that employ the best songs from Classical, Oldies, Pop and Big Band music.

One that I encountered just recently is Love Actually, a very cute romantic comedy with a terrific ensemble cast including High Grant, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley and  Liam Neeson. The music is mostly Rock & Pop, with stuff from The Beach Boys, Mariah Carey, Eva Cassidy etc. But all the music really works with the story. Surprisingly, the best song of all is from Kelly Clarkson, the first American Idol winner, if you can believe it.  The song she does is called  Trouble With Love Is. Hunt this one down on Amazon, or somewhere, and give it a listen. The lyrics say something, the arrangement and orchestration are very good and she really belts it out. Given the right song, this young lady can sing.

One of the best movies for music is Sleepless In Seattle, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. While it has some newbies like Carly Simon, Harry Connick, Jr., Rickie Lee Jones and Celine Dion on the soundtrack, it features the Nat ‘King’ Cole version of Stardust, Gene Autry‘s Back in the Saddle Again, Louis Armstrong with A Kiss to Build a Dream On and two songs by the incomparable Jimmy Durante. How is that for going back in time?

I love Jimmy Durante. Not a great voice, but nobody can quite sell a song like ole Jimmy does. I was a fan of his TV show when I was a kid. Do you remember how he would stroll, dressed in an ovcercoat and hat,  from spotlight to spotlight, singing Make Someone Happy at the end of the show? It was the best sign-off I have ever seen.

Jimmy bookends the soundtrack of Sleepless In Seattle, performing As Time Goes By during the opening credits and Make Someone Happy at the end. Perfect!

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