Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kay Starr (Kathryn LaVerne Starks)

Kay Starr is the wonderful, born American Indian,who had the commanding voice on such recordings as "Rock and Roll Waltz" and "Wheel of Fortune," as well as a few earlier recordings with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, with Glenn himself, when he hired her to take the place of Marion Hutton when she was ill. The two recordings were "Love with a Capitol You" and "Baby Me"which I played in my old Mercedes back in 1979 while I was on my way to meet Kay for the first time. She was performing live at the Harry Chapin Theater in Huntington, New York. Her voice was sweet and soft, not like the voice she wound up with after singing for years with Charlie Barnet, who kept telling her to "keep going," no matter how it eventually ruined her voice and she had to start learning to sing all over again.It is now 2013 and Kay is 91 and dealing with dementia. But when I called her this day, July 25th, she somehow remembered me as I reminded her, after our interview, but before the show, that my son, Jimmy and I walked down to the nearby Burger King and brought her a few hamburgers. Who, even with dementia, who could forget that occasion. She was very hungry and those burgers revived her.Kay was also famous for "Bonaparte's Retreat " and  "Side by Side, every one a hit. "Wheel of Fortune" sold 5 million, and still sells today. Kay always says this about singing: "A good singer tells a story to music as people like to hear things they can identify with, and that's the story." It was just a pleasure talking with Kay Starr on her birthday. This child of the great depression had dreams and they were fulfilled. She sang with the Mills Brothers, and Helen O'Connell, Rosemary Clooney, and Margaret Whiting as one of Four Girls Four. Pick up one of her recorded albums and sit back and enjoy the music of Kay Starr.   


Saturday, May 25, 2013

DR. GRUDENS, at last

Today, May 25, the Five Towns Music College conferred the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters upon Richard Grudens attested to by the Trustees of the College, its Chairman,President and Provost and Dean. So it's Dr. Grudens from now on.  Hey that's me! So, if it wasn't for those hundreds of interviews, fourteen books and myriads of magazine articles, this event today would never have happened. My wonderful wife, Madeline, was there to cheer me on and snap a few photos. This was a day of days. Without Madeline's fine editing and formatting, and books cover designs, those books would probably have remained unpublished. It's true that you can tell a book by its cover. So I thank Five Towns College President Stanley G. Cohen for his generosity and belief in my works. Hopefully those students who read them will be enriched by their content. 5

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Well, time marches on-it has been said. The loss of both Fran Warren and Patty Andrews proves that to be true. Not too long ago I would be sitting and talking with these two icons more than a number of times over the years.   Fran and I snacked on some fast food backstage in the Glen Cove Theater on Long Island one evening before she hit the stage singing one of her favorites-"Mame." Of course, Fran is most famous for her rendition of "A Sunday Kind of Love" recorded originally with the Claude Thornhill orchestra a long time ago. She performed on Broadway in Mame, Pajama Game and Frank Loesser's  Broadway masterpiece Guys and Dolls, as well as many other gigs, as they say in the trade. Fran and I were both members of the Society of Singers, an organization of other singers who helped down and out singers. That's where we first met. Fran was also a member of the Friars Club. This Bronx, New York girl,  Fran Warren,  was a very peppy singer and she loved the music business. She was 87.
Patty Andrews and I were another story. This terrific singer, the lead singer of the iconic Andrews Sisters, was indeed a great friend. After our intitial meeting back in the early eighties, Patty asked me to write up her promotionals when she became a single and was working gigs in California with the Tex Beneke Orchestra and other bands. I also worked with her when she signed with Storyville Records, a European studio, collecting and issuing only her singles. When fellow singer Rosemary Clooney passed away, Patty wrote me in despair, fearful of her own mortality, to which I replied: " You will outlast them all," Sez I, and she did. Patty was to be 95 just before she passed on. My pals Lee Hale and Van Alexander kept an eye on her and after their traditional lunch get togethers, would stop at Patty's place in Northridge, California to check up on her. The Andrews Sisters have surpassed both Elvis and the Beatles combined with more records made and more charted hits than any other singer or group of singers.  I'm certain Father God will be glad to add her to his favorite singers list. I will miss her, and Madeline and I now have no flowers to send her on her birthday, but like millions of her fans, we will never forget her great musical moments which we still can enjoy.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

While watching Bing and Bob's film "Road to Morocco" on Turner Movies  today, January 24, 2013, I recall back in 2001 when Universal Studios called and asked me to come to their  L.A. studios to record my participation in their reissuance of The Tribute Collection featuring of most of the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope Road pictures. They wanted me to preview the introduction of each film with background material of both Bob and Bing. I had written both Bob Hope's and Bing Crosby' biographical books. I explained that due to personal problems that it would not be practical at the time, so they sent a crew to me to film the previews. They filmed it in a studio in Hampton Bays out on Long Island. They sat me down before a fireplace and filmed the required features. I also had recommened Ann Jillian and Phyllis Diller to participate in the previews which were filmed in L.A. Phyllis, of course, was always appearing with Bob, and Ann Jillian toured with Bob Hope during the War in Vietnam to entertain American troops. So, when you purchase Universal's Tribute Collection of the Road pictures of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby-- look for the three of us:  Ann Jillian, Phyllis Diller and Me talking about our favorite entertainers. We'll be seeing you.