Friday, September 24, 2010

A Classical Act






My brother, the internationally infamous banjo player, is fond of saying that he has studied all the masters of classical music.


“Beethoven,  Mozart . . .  umm . . .  Gucci  . . .  Rimsky-Korsakov . . .  umm. . .  Black & Decker, Briggs and Stratton . . . all the greats.”


Of course, some people prefer their classical music played by a full orchestra, instead of on a banjo.


Go figure.


Since there’s no accounting for taste . . . and I do try to be inclusive in this blog  . . .  today I’ve a repository of  classical music freely available for you to download for your own listening pleasure.


I’m currently downloading my favorite symphony, Rimsky-Korsakov’s  Scheherazade which I plan to save to my beloved iPod Touch.


But that just scratches the surface of this collection, made available by the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University.


I’ll let their Website describe the offerings.



Peabody Orchestras

The orchestral division of the Peabody Conservatory is comprised of two full symphonic orchestras.

The Peabody Symphony Orchestra draws its members primarily from graduate and upper-division students of the highest level of musicianship, and performs six to seven public concert programs each season.

The Peabody Concert Orchestra, whose members are drawn mainly from undergraduate students, performs six public concert programs per season.



The individual recordings are simply too numerous to list, but for 6 full seasons of the PSO (Peabody Symphony Orchestra) recordings, follow this link.


And for six seasons of the PCO (Peabody Concert Orchestra) efforts, follow this link.


These are live concert recordings, not pristine studio sessions.  But they are of high quality, well performed, and would make the basis for a fine collection of classical music.


Whether your interests run to Tchaikovsky’s Nut Cracker, or to Stravinsky's Firebird, or Handel’s Messiah   . . .  I’m sure you’ll find a lot here to download and enjoy.

Another Lucky Strike Extra





Two years ago, when I began this blog, my second entry was called 'Twas Rock & Roll That Killed Your Hit Parade, which looked back at the Lucky Strike Hit Parade show of the early 1950's.


Shortly thereafter I received a very kind email from Andrew Lee Fielding, whose mother Sue Bennett was one of the early stars of television, and a regular on Your Hit Parade.


We exchanged several emails, and Andrew told me about a book he had written about his mother's career and early television. He was nice enough to send me a copy.


I wrote a full review of The Lucky Strike Papers in And Now, A Lucky Strike Extra . . .

Andrew also has his own blog, which you’ll find linked on my sidebar.


About once a year I mention this highly entertaining and informative book since I believe it would make a worthy addition to anyone's library.


Especially since I figure some of my newer readers may not have read the original review buried 150 blogs in the past.


With the Holidays upcoming, this would be a terrific gift for anyone with a love of nostalgia.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An Evening With George Burns





A couple of years ago I invited my readers to Spend `An Evening With Groucho Marx', a little over an hour of songs and reminiscences which was recorded in 1972 when Groucho was 81 years of age.


Today, in that same tradition, we’ve the legendary George Burns in 1974 - at the age of 78 - doing a one man show at the Shubert Theater.


There’s an affectionate introduction by his best friend Jack Benny, but after that, it’s just pretty much just George and his musical accompaniment  (and briefly guest pianist/composer Randy Newman).


Jack Benny, sadly, would die later that year from pancreatic cancer.


George, at an age when most entertainers are thinking about retirement, was on the verge of huge resurgence in popularity and his greatest show business success.


In 1975, just a year after this performance,  Burns won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in The Sunshine Boys.  He replaced an ailing Jack Benny, who was originally slated for the role.


He would follow that success up in 1977 with the hugely popular `Oh God!’  followed by eight more movies over the next 20 years.


But all of that success still lay before George when this show was taped.  Here he tells stories of his life and career with Gracie in Vaudeville, sings obscure songs, and tells funny stories about his show business friends.


A more complete history of George Burns and Gracie Allen will wait for a later blog when I’ll feature their TV and radio careers.


For now, simply enjoy An Evening With George Burns.


Tennessee Bill’s OTR has his one-man performance available as either a single file  or in 19 short chapters.

Index of /otr/Evening With George Burns



There are a few blips in the audio recording, but the show is well worth listening to. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A `Procedural’ Western






`Procedural’ cop shows are a staple of television, movies, and books these days . . . but prior to the mid-1940s they really didn’t exist.


Detective yarns were basically `whodunits’,  and cops were usually portrayed as the clumsy foils of smarter private detectives like Sherlock Holmes, `Flash’ Casey, or Boston Blackie.


After World War II a number of directors decided to make more `realistic’ movies, depicting actual police cases, and often filmed on location.  Movies like The Naked City (1948), T-Men (1947), and Border Incident (1949) were dubbed semi-documentaries by the critics, but found wide audience acceptance.


One such film, He Walked By Night (1948), featured a radio actor named Jack Webb as a crime lab technician. 

Webb had played private detectives (Johnny Modero, Jeff Regan) and even done zany comedy (see You Really Don't Know Jack) – but the success of this procedural detective story inspired him to create the most famous cop show of them all -  Dragnet.


Since then, procedural cop shows have ruled.  A few of the hundreds of shows include:


CSI (Las Vegas, NY, Miami)

Criminal Minds




Highway Patrol

Law & Order (all flavors)

Naked City


In 1950, an unusual melding of the new procedural cop show format, and the Western genre, produced one of the best detective radio shows of all time.


Tales Of The Texas Rangers starring Joel McCrea as Texas Ranger Jase Pearson ran only 2 years (although it was reincarnated as a Saturday Morning TV show for kids in the late 1950s), but it is remembered today as being the `Dragnet’ of Westerns.


Dramatizing actual cases from the files of the Texas Rangers – and set in contemporary Texas of the 1930s and 1940s – these 30 minute shows have an unusual degree of authenticity to them.


Helped, no doubt, by the technical consultant for the show, Captain Manuel T. "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas, a Ranger of more than 30 years.


Despite being set in `modern times’, Joel McCrea often had occasion to mount his faithful horse, Charcoal, in pursuit of a fleeing fugitive.


At the end of each show – just like in Dragnet – the conviction and jail sentence of the guilty is recited, followed by a bit of Texas Ranger Lore.


This is a `Western’ that even people who don’t think they like Westerns will probably enjoy.   Of course, if you don’t like westerns and procedural police dramas, you might want to give it a pass.


Individual episodes of Tales of the Texas Rangers are available on several OTR sites.


For those who can handle Real Audio files , the OTR.Network Library has 70 episodes available HERE.


Old Radio World has roughly 90 episodes in MP3 format available HERE


And to download a full CD of Shows, the Internet Archive has a 600 megabyte zipped collection HERE.


Try an episode or two on for size, and if you like the show, download the entire CD.


Joel McCrea was one of the biggest stars of the 1930s and 1940s, having started out as an extra and a stuntman in the late 1920s at MGM.    He moved to RKO in the early 30s and appeared in such films as Bird of Paradise and The Most Dangerous Game (see Four Variations On A Theme).


He could play light comedy, action adventure, or drama but it is perhaps the Western for which he is best remembered.   In the 1930s he starred in Wells Fargo (1937) and Cecil B. DeMille's Union Pacific (1939). 


In the 1940s, he alternated between Westerns, light romantic comedies (Sullivan's Travels (1941), and The Palm Beach Story (1942)), and Hitchcock thrillers.


In 1946, after the success of The Virginian,  McCrea pretty much stuck with Westerns. Although he would continue to act in movies (sparingly) until the mid 1970s, McCrea’s last `big’ westerns was In  Ride the High Country (1962).


McCrea passed away in 1990, leaving behind a legacy of over 90 films, a short-lived 1959 TV series (Wichita Town), and his radio series for the world to enjoy.



Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another Graphic Post





In May of 2009 I wrote about the repository of comic books on the Internet Archive, and in various other places around the web (see Warning: A Graphic Post).


As I explained back then, I gave up my comic book collection at the age of 11, because I’d discovered more . . . ahem, `adult’ reading material.   

With great regret, I must admit that I gave away (and threw away) a small fortune in collectable comics in 1965.


Today, graphic novels are all the rage  . . . and while generally of considerably higher quality than the 10 cent Dell comics of my youth . . . they owe a good deal of their pedigree to the `Classic Comics’ and TV & Movie spin off comics of the 1950s.


So today, a look back at some more of those movie-connection comics that were part of practically every major theatrical release’s publicity campaign.


This first collection runs the gamut from 1950’s The Eagle and the Hawk to Indiana Jones in the 1980’s.


Comic Books Based on Movies

1. The Eagle and the Hawk - John Payne
2. Captain China - John Payne
3. Riding High - Bing Crosby
4. Fancy Pants - Bob Hope and Lucille Ball
5. Star Trek - The Motion Picture
6. Raiders of the Lost Ark
7. Conan the Barbarian




Comic Books Based on the Movies 2

1. Last of the Fast Guns - Jock Mahoney # 925
2. Last Train From Gun Hill - Kirk Douglas # 1012
3. Light In the Forest - Fess Parker # 891
4. Rio Bravo - John Wayne # 1018
5. Santiago - Alan Ladd # 723
6. The Big Country - Gregory Peck # 946
7. The Big Land - Alan Ladd # 812
8. The Buccaneer - Yul Brynner # 148


Comic Books Based on the Movies 3

1. The Conqueror - John Wayne # 690
2. The Great Locomotive Chase - Fess Parker # 712
3. The Last Hunt - Robert Taylor # 678
4. The Left Handed Gun - Paul Newman # 913
5. The Searchers - John Wayne # 709
6. Tonka - Sal Mineo # 966
7. Yellowstone Kelly - Clint Walker # 1056


(There’s a pretty good chance that this last comic is better than the movie was.  Of course, that wouldn’t be hard!)

Two searches on the Internet Archive  will bring up most of the comic books they have.  One on the .cbz format, and one on .cbr format.


In order to view/read these files you’ll need to install a special reader.  A page with readers for a variety of operating systems can be found at:


On the Internet Archive you’ll find the download links on the upper left side of each page delivered by your search, listed as All Files: HTTP


There are other Internet sites with FREELY available comic books, including  The Comic Books Archive, which has over 900 (mostly Dell) comics available.


Whether reliving your childhood, or introducing a young person to some classic movies (and TV shows) of the past, these comics reek of nostalgia and 1950’s Americana.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Retro Five-0






In just over 3 weeks CBS will debut a retooled version of the 1968-1980 classic police drama, Hawaii Five-0 . . .  only this time, they’ll substitute a zero for the `0’ in the title.


I’m sure I’ll give this new series a try out, and I wish them the best of luck . . .  but it is going to be tough to replace the original in my mind.


Retro Five-0 became a big hit when I was at just the right age, 14 . . . and remained on top of the ratings until I was in my mid-20s.


It became such an iconic show and part of our collective culture that police departments and reporters on the mainland had been known to try to call `Five-0’ for information . . . not realizing that it was a fictitious police unit.


Even today, in urban slang, 5-0 means the `cops’, although many who use that term may not know why.


Incredibly, a New York Times article this week claims that 70% of people under the age of 35 say they are not familiar with the original show (although most knew the theme song).


Excuse me while I feel very, very old  for a minute or two.  Sigh.

Okay, back.


The show was the brainchild of TV writer/producer Leonard Freeman, and was his most successful series.  Prior to Five-0, Freeman produced episodes of Naked City, Mr. Novak, and The Untouchables and in 1968 he’d hit big with the Clint Eastwood revenge Western  Hang ‘Em High.


Jack Lord was an accomplished and regularly employed actor prior to Five-0, but not exactly a `star’.


He starred as rodeo bronco-buster Stoney Burke in the 1963 series of the same name, and during the mid-60’s appeared in numerous guest shots on dramatic series.


He played James Bond’s CIA friend, Felix Leiter in 1962’s Dr. No, but was not asked to reprise the role in Goldfinger (supposedly because they feared his portrayal would overshadow the role of Bond).

He’d even been considered for the role of Captain Kirk in Star Trek, but reportedly he demanded to be a co-producer and a percentage of the series – so Gene Roddenberry & Desilu studios looked elsewhere.

He struck gold in 1968 with Hawaii Five-0, and indelibly identified himself with the role of Steve McGarrett from that point forward.


Youthful looking James McArthur (adoptive son of Helen Hayes) had a successful TV and movie career that went back to the mid-1950s.  He’d received terrific notices in live TV dramatic productions and in the John Frankenheimer movie The Young Stranger (1957).


In 1960 he appeared in two classic Disney movies,  Kidnapped and Swiss Family Robinson.  In addition to copious TV work, McArthur appeared in the movies  The Interns (1962), Spencer's Mountain (1963), The Truth About Spring (1965), and Hang ‘Em High (1968).


Although not cast in the pilot movie, Leonard Freeman (who remembered him from Hang ‘Em High') replaced the original actor (Tim O'Kelley) who didn’t `test’ well in a New York preview.

Also in the cast were Kam Fong Chun, Gilbert Lani Kauhi "Zulu", Herman Wedemeyer, and Richard Denning.


FANCAST has 38 episodes from the 2nd & 3rd seasons of the series available for you to watch online.


You can watch them at THIS LINK. 


Since these shows sometimes get removed after awhile, if you want to see these classic episodes, best to watch them soon.