Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Eddie Dunstedter, We Hardly Knew Ye...

Three years ago, The King of Jingaling at offered one of the greatest Christmas albums of all time. Two years ago, I downloaded not one but two fantastic albums from our friend Ernie (not Bert) (which were re-offered last year). These three albums were recorded by the late, great Eddie Dunstedter and I never reviewed these albums at the yuleblog.

I promised Ernie that these albums would be the first ones to get the yuleblog treatment after my return from acting. However... the almighty Google keeps referring to Ernie's posts when you enter the name of Eddie Dunstedter and there is surprisingly little about the man online for research.

The few online facts that I found? Dunstedter discovered the vocal group The Merry Macs back in 1926, was the musical director of several radio shows back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and has one movie credit to his name - the music score for the 1953 schlock horror movie "Donovan's Brain" (with future First Lady Nancy Davis nee Reagan in the cast).

He had a very long recording career either as a featured organ player or with albums of his own (spanning from the 1930s to the 1960s). In the late 1950s, Dunstedter was signed by Capitol Records and recorded several pipe organ albums ("Pipes And Power", "Where Dreams Come True", "Pipe Organ Favorites").

Throughout the summer of 1959, Dunstedter was entrenched in the famous Capitol Studios building in Hollywood to record his first Christmas album - "The Bells Of Christmas".

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We've had our fair share of Christmas organ and chime albums here at the yuleblog - some really great, some really awful. Most of the Christmas standards are covered on this album in a quiet, reverent way. At times Dunstedter's organ playing is so subtle, you hardly know it's there as the chimes take center stage.

Standout tracks include two medleys ("It Came Upon The Midnight Clear - O Little Town Of Bethlehem - Away In A Manger" and "Deck The Halls - Joy To The World"), a stand alone version of "Greensleeves", and "The March Of The Three Kings" takes on such a magnificence when heard on the mighty cathedral organ.

Released in both mono and "Full Dimensional Stereo" at Christmas, 1959, Dunstedter could have been content knowing his first Christmas album was a success. After several years of other releases, Capitol and Dunstedter thought the time was right for yet another Christmas album.

Throughout the summer of 1963, Dunstedter was yet again at the famous Capitol Studios building in Hollywood, busy arranging and recording his second Christmas album "The Bells Of Christmas Chime Again"

(Click on image to enlarge)

For this album, Eddie chose several standards and a few contemporary songs and gave it the same subtle approach as in the first "Bells Of Christmas" album. At times, it sounds like Dunstedter is playing a synthesizer rather than a huge cathedral organ.

Tracks of note on this album include "Angels We Have Heard On High", "Winter Wonderland", "Ring Christmas Bells" aka "Carol Of The Bells", "The Christmas Song", and "Happy Holiday" - all of which sound amazing on the cathedral organ. However, the standout track on this album is "In The Clock Store", a fabulously fun trip complete with clock noises that conjures up images of Santa's workshop.

Dunstedter had outdone the first album - a rare feat, especially in music. Capitol thought so too and was all set to push the album at Christmas, 1963. A month earlier, in Dallas, Texas, three shots rang out. The country's mood was so somber over the loss of President Kennedy that Christmas music was looked on as trivial.

Capitol went ahead and released the album. It sat on shelves untouched. Two months later (February, 1964), four lads from Liverpool came to America and the whole music landscape changed again. Dunstedter wanted one more chance at a Christmas album and spent the summer of 1965 recording "Christmas Candy".

(Click on image to enlarge)

If you read the liners on "Christmas Candy", it tells you that Dunstedter wanted to record jolly fare with this album. From the first track to the last, he gives you a sumptuous bossa nova feast of sounds that are indeed light but plenty filling to the ears.

If you've heard the "Christmas Cocktails" albums at all, you'll have heard several of these tracks before ("I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus - Jingle Bells Bossa Nova" and "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! - Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer").

Seek out the non-cocktails tracks like "Silver Bells", the title track "Christmas Candy", "I'll Be Home For Christmas", and "Winter Wonderland" for some real good sound!

This album is a must in any Christmas music enthusiasts collection.

Some time after the release of this album at Christmas, 1965, Eddie Dunstedter said goodbye to Hollywood and took a teaching position at The MacPhail Center of Music in Minneapolis. Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, he taught many a new organ player his special bag of tricks and sent them on their merry way before his death in 1974.

This yuleblog entry took some time because I wanted to hopefully do justice to Dunstedter's career. I tried to track down several books through my public library that had info on Eddie (which turned out to be very little) and even called the MacPhail Center of Music (it's called summer for a reason).

In any case, if anyone has additional info on the life and career of Dunstedter, please feel free to leave a comment and I'll be happy to post updates.



PDMan said...

Christmas Candy is simply a fantastic album that you never tire listening to. Thanks for the info about Dunstedter - it's appreciated!

Puckwheat said...

I love all three of these. Never knew much about Eddie until now. Thanks, Captain!

CaptainOT said...

PDMan & Puck - You could probably go an entire Christmas with just these three albums and it would sound as fresh as the day they were released!

Great stuff!


Danielle said...

'POP' is what I knew him as my entire life. Eddie Dunstedter is my great grandfather. My mother's grandfather. Pop's children are both still alive and living in California. They have it all! Every last bit.

Brandy said...

Well Well...Just as I think about him....So comes another Email from my Daughter Danielle(Pop's Greatgrandaughter) And I was serealy thinking how wonderful it is to know People still appreaciate him.....By the way....Christmas Candy came out when I was About 14 or so and the one song that is called Christmas Candy Has in one part of the song you can hear all the clocks chiming and the Coo-Coo Clock going and all those Clocks were my mothers Chime Clocks and in fact HER COO_COO CLOCK) there's a little tidbit no-body but all of us knew!!!!!!!! I have been at this sight and thought i had heard from the Editor of Yamaha Magazine......We all play music and Pop is Smiling down on us...I feel him Everday!!!!!!!!! Brandy (Pop's Very first Grandaughter who he taught to sing over those Pipe Organs!!!!!!LOL...I love sharing these memories...i know i gave Mother this sight??????

CaptainOT said...

Danielle & Brandy - Nice to hear from the descendants of Dunstedter! Eddie's music (especially his Christmas music) will live forever!

Thanks for sharing your special memories with us!


Anonymous said...

I am also a relative. Is it possible for me to get into contact with Danielle & Brandy. I would like to know more about my family.
Sorry to invade your blog

CaptainOT said...

Christy - Hope you can connect! Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Hello all, It looks like my mother and little sis have been here. Oh how I love hearing and seeing things about Eddie! Can't wait to finally meet my great grandfather whom my mother adored! ~Adam Watters

Anonymous said...

Oh I meant when I get to see him in Heaven!!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful review of Eddie Dunstedter's excellent Christmas albums. As I was reading this information, I was listening to an old radio transcription produced by Capitol Records back in 1965 called The Silver Platter Service. These were thirty minute programs hosted by Jack Wagner to promote new Capitol product through local radio stations. The program I was listening to featured two songs from the album Christmas Candy and an interview with Eddie. The interview and "catcy" music made me curious, so I decided to surf the net to see if I could find out a bit more about Eddie. This blog is the first thing that came up and, again, it was most insightful. Thank you for the great information.

CaptainOT said...

Anon - Thanks for sharing your comments with us - just wondering, was that interview related to the Christmas albums or other Eddie music?


Gil said...

The interview was related specifically to the album "Christmas Candy". It was noted that this album was a bit different from Eddie's previous offerings. It was a little more contemporary (according to 1965 standards) while still maintaining a traditional feel. During the interview, Eddie mentioned that he had been performing professionally since 1917. To be honest, Eddie must have been something of an interviewers nightmare in that he didn't say much. Jack Wagner seem to have hard time getting him to simply talk. The music, however, was very engaging even after some 43 years.

daydeef said...

Thanks for the Dunstedeter comments. I have been a fan for years; Bells, vol. 1 has been my favorite Christmas recording to this day, and probably my top 'desert island' disc as well. Never got to hear him live, but my mother did, and got me into his recordings. I have a few you may not be aware of. write back, and we can talk. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Eddie dunstedter was my Grandfather. We called him (Pop). Our Grandfather was a huge influence in our lives, he was a wise and very talented man.
Another Christmas has come and gone, but our traditions on Christmas day of listening to beautiful Christmas music, will lie in our hearts forever. We loved him so. Thank you for loving his music also.