Thursday, December 30, 2010

Billy Taylor - 1921-2010

The jazz and musical world lost a great friend two days ago when Dr. Billy Taylor died at the age of 89 in Manhattan.

Taylor was born in Greenville, North Carolina and had his first piano lesson at the age of seven. His family later moved to Washington D.C. and attended Virginia State College for Negroes (now known as Virginia State University) where he studied music.

After graduation in 1946, Billy moved to New York City at a time when jazz and bebop was about to explode onto the music scene. Within two days of his arrival, he began working with noted jazz musician Ben Webster and later became the house pianist at the famous Birdland Jazz Club.

He formed his own jazz combo in 1951, toured all across the United States, and even put his music degree to good use; lecturing at schools on jazz, writing extensive articles for DownBeat magazine, and even had a long tenure of concerts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Taylor's diverse resume deepened with stints on television (musical director of the 1958 NBC show called "The Subject is Jazz") and on radio (several positions as DJ and program director on NYC radio throughout the 1960s).

In 1969, Taylor was asked to become his musical director of "The David Frost Show" - going head to head with Johnny Carson. It was a good four year run from 1969 to 1972 and even spawned a full-fledged Christmas album:

After the show ended, Taylor went back to school and received a Doctorate in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts in 1975. The doctor did house calls: teaching gigs at Long Island University, the Manhattan School of Music, and then back to UMass.

Dr. Taylor has a long career at National Public Radio, first as the host of "Jazz Alive" in the late 1970s and then "Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center" from 1994 to 2002 (Taylor was the artistic director for jazz at the JFK Center for many years).

Early risers on Sunday mornings knew Taylor as a correspondent on "CBS News Sunday Morning", profiling nearly 250 interviews with jazz musicians. His work garnered him an Emmy.

The list of accomplishments can go on and on - his absence will be sorely felt.

I was fortunate to find a copy of his Christmas album sealed at at a record show earlier this year. This was one of the first albums I transferred using my Stanton T.92 USB turntable.

To honor the memory of Billy, I'm posting the Christmas album for a limited time:

Merry Christmas From David Frost & Billy Taylor - Bell Records - 6053 (1970)

Rest in peace, Dr. Taylor.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Christmas Yuleblog Sampler - 2010

Merry Christmas!

Usually at this downloading season, I would be posting new Christmas albums that I would have rummaged for at thrift stores, haggled for at record shows, and sniped at the last minute on eBay.

Several things prevented me in doing that this year - I could bore you with the details but I'll refrain. I did want to continue the tradition that I started five Christmases ago - the annual Yuleblog Sampler.

Normally, this would have been posted on Christmas Day - my present to you. But I decided to move the release date up by 10 days since I don't have anything else to post this season.

I'm excited about this release for two reasons: 1.) Many of the 45s and 78s I found for the sampler were nowhere to be found in my 22,000+ Christmas song library. 2.) These singles were the first vinyl transferred on my new Stanton T.92 USB turntable and captured to digital on my new Dell PC.

None of the vinyl I've transferred before has sounded better than this. Welcome to the 21st century Capt.

Your 2010 Christmas Yuleblog sampler:

Track 1 - Franklin MacCormack - I Like Christmas
Chicago Federal Savings Promo - ZTSC-9044-1A - 195?

MacCormack was a longtime Chicago radio host who helped to pioneer the spoken word album back in the 1950s.

Open a Christmas club account, get this record - sweet!

Track 2 - Dick Roman - Christmas Village
Harmon Records - 1011 (NO7W-0796-2) - 1962

"Pretty song about a dream of childhood days is sung with much feeling by the lad, while the ork lends good support. Could grab spins". - - Billboard Magazine, 12/1/62

I agree!

Track 3 - The Di Mara Sisters - Santa's Italian Wife
Pip Records - 100X-A - 1971

Did you that wife that Santa comes from Italy? And your presents on Christmas morning could have a very cheesy smell? Every Italian stereotype is thrown in good measure on this song - eh cumpari!

Track 4 - Johnny Long & His Orchestra (Vocal by Francey Lane and the Ensemble) - Winter Wonderland
Signature Records - 15150-B (SRC-434) - 1947

Found this 78 at a local thrift store - I've since discovered this came from a larger set of Christmas 78s that featured other artists. Keep watching...

Track 5 - Frank and Jack - Twas The Night Before Christmas (Breaking Through The Sound Barrier)
Bergen Records - 100A - 1957

Taking a cue from Buchanan & Goodman, two radio guys decided to have some fun in the radio studio. Instead of break-ins with Elvis and Fabian, they chose sound F/X and celebrities. Strange...

Track 6 - Hank Crawford - Merry Christmas Baby
Atlantic Records - 45-5032 (A-8326) - 1964

Crawford has a long career in the R&B/jazz world and was astounded to find this at a garage sale for a dime.

If you want some Christmas sax this holiday, look no further than this.

Track 7 - David Hill (with Ray Martin & His Orchestra) - Christmas Bride
RCA Victor - 47-7430 (H2PW-7812) - 1958

I've never heard of a song that combines wedding proposals and Christmas before. Not exactly rock-n-roll, not exactly pop... love the sax solo.

Track 8 - Red Buttons - Bow-Wow Wants A Boy For Christmas
Columbia Records - 40384 (CO 52652) - 1954

I won a promo 45 of this record several years ago on eBay. Found this 78 RPM earlier this year - one of the first 78s on the new turntable.

I think the songwriter on this is Steve Allen - can anyone confirm that?

Track 9 - The Gus De Wert Trio (with Gay LaComb) - Space Age Santa Claus
Ross Records - WW1004-B (SJW-3524) - 196?

This one has floated around cyberspace for a long time with Jeannie Jay listed as the singer.

Jay was the credited singer on side two ("When Christmas Bells Are Ringing"), LaComb on side one. Hope this clears up any confusion.

Track 10 - Monica Lewis (with Ray Bloch & His Orchestra) - The Christmas Song
Signature Records - 15151-B (SRC-540) - 1947

This was the other 78 RPM I found (see track four above). The third 78 in this set was Ray Bloch & His Orchestra doing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and "Let It Snow x 3".

Artwork anyone?

Track 11 - Judy Storey - Christmas Cheer From Heaven
Breaking Records - IRDA 576-A - 1979

A Christmas song from a dead wife singing to her husband from heaven.

Who gave the green light to this one? Truly inexplicable.

Track 12 - Consuela & Luisa Valdez - This Xmas Day
Mosaic Records - 210419A - 1970

Mother/daughter duo who self-produced and wrote this tribute to a family member at Christmas.

Found at Wooden Nickel Records in Fort Wayne (thanks Tim!).

Track 13 - The De John Sisters - The Only Thing I Want For Christmas (Is To Keep The Things That I've Got)
Epic Records - 5-9133 (ZSP 37226) - 1955

The second 45 to feature a sister singing act. This is yet another song I'd nominate to get more radio airplay at this time of year.

Track 14 - Joel Grey - Santa's Little Sleigh Bells
Majar Records - 137-X45 - 1954

Recorded at the beginning of his career, Grey was primarily known as an comic actor/dancer. His comic sensibilities are showcased in this silly song about a rogue sleigh bell.

Track 15 - Mona Abboud - I Should Have Left The Light On For Santa
Mona Records (Phonograph Records) - 100180-B - 1980

The flipside (listen to audio, ignore video) of this song was considered for "The FPT Christmas Revue". Spoke to Ms. Abboud who gave me her blessing to use the song (theater rejected it). Her voice hasn't aged a day - thanks Mona!

Track 16 - Lois Lynn - Every Christmas We Know
Concept Records - 45-896 - 1956

Purchased at a record show, this is either a haunting Christmas song or a bizarre experiment gone wrong.

Think I'm kidding? Check out this Billboard ad...

Track 17 - Heavy Duck - A Wonderful Christmas
Derrick Records - 45-DRC-113A - 1976

Okay, so Rick Dees scores big with "Disco Duck" in late 1976 which obviously prompted this Christmas single trying to cash in on its popularity several months later...

Things can never be explained...

Track 18 - Prof. Anonymous & The Marshalls - Christmas Elf
Isabelle Records - IS 0003-A - 1986

On nights when I can't sleep, I'll surf eBay for hours. While half-asleep one night, I purchased this. It was the sleeve I tell ya...

Later included on a cassette-only Christmas compilation with lots of other Boston Christmas garage rock - wow!

Track 19 - Dick Haymes & The Song Spinners Choir (with Jesse Crawford at the Organ) - Joy To The World
Decca Records - 24120A (73992) - 1948

Frank Sinatra made it big after he left Tommy Dorsey's band in 1942. His replacement was Dick Haymes. Haymes tried mightily (radio, records, movies) but never gained Sinatra's popularity - great voice on this 78 RPM, just not "The Voice".

Track 20 - The De Castro Sisters - Snowbound For Christmas
Abbott Records - 3012-A - 1955

The third 45 to feature a sister act (new record).

Lush, beautiful, wintry ballad - the sisters De Castro do a very nice job with this one.

Track 21 - Ken Griffin (Sung by Karen Ford & Bill Snary) - Our Christmas Waltz
Rondo Records - R-206-A (UB-9-1142-R) - 1949

Say what? When I was handed this 78 and noticed Ken Griffin, the king of the roller rink organists, had VOCALS?

And nice vocals they are - thanks to my wife's family for this one!

Track 22 - Eddy Howard & His Orchestra - Dearest Santa
Majestic Records - 1173 (T-1289) - 1947

Another amazing 78 from Mr. Howard and his band.

Dedicated to Dian B. Brown of Scottsdale, AZ. Type in "Eddy Howard Dearest Santa" into Google and her request for this song is the first thing to come up. Glad I could help!

Track 23 - Joe Walega & His Happy Hearts - Request To Santa Claus
Chicago Polka - 512-B - 19??

The flipside ("Christmas Without Daddy") is everywhere to download on the Internet. But this B-side isn't...

Sweet mother of God, what evil have I just unleashed?

Track 24 - George Bowers - Lonely Christmas
Nashville Talking Machine - M-001 A (PRP 34272) - 1971

Ernie (not Bert) shared out side A of this song a few hundred shares ago - he's mad, MAD I tell ya! But in a good way...

Here's side B - recorded in MONO just as the label states!

Track 25 - Lucho Gatica (con Los Cuatro Soles y la Orquesta de Jose Sabre Marroquin) - Noche De Paz (Silent Night)
Capitol Records - F71060 (45-X41854) - 19??

A foreign 45 in scratchy condition that I paid peanuts for at a thrift store - I can't find a thing about this one anywhere.

Pretty version in Spanish - a testament to the new turntable and computer how this one cleaned up.

Track 26 - Franklin MacCormack - My New Year's Wish For You
Chicago Federal Savings Promo - ZTSC-9043-1B - 19??

We come full circle with Side B from Mr. MacCormack.

What he wishes for New Year for you goes for me too.

Two not-so-secret Bonus Tracks

You knew these were coming... don't play coy!

A Christmas Yuleblog Sampler - 2010

UPDATE: 12/22/11

Next month will mark the fifth anniversary of this blog. The occasion will not be marked by a retrospective, a self-congratulatory pat on the back, or anything else special. In the five years we've been online, I've probably have two years' worth of material.

I started this as a way for me to keep track of the new additions to my Christmas music collection. It mushroomed into a Christmas review blog, a sharity site, and home to Christmas videos and advertisements. It's been fun, harrowing, time-consuming, and one of the best things I've done in my life.

There's so much that I want to upgrade here. I want to continue to post Christmas ads, videos, and Christmas music reviews. I want to remaster all of the shares I have here - I finally have the equipment and the understanding of that equipment to do that.

Sitting down in front of the computer to do anything is, for me, a challenge.

Every school day for the past year, I drop the kids off at school and then head to the gym. I like this routine and it has served me well - I've lost weight and kept it off. My cholesterol is low, my back is finally pain free, and I'm eating healthy and sensibly.

An unfortunate by-product of this lifestyle change is the fact that I can seldom sit longer for one hour behind the computer. I'm too active to allow myself to do more than that - I take walks, run errands, volunteer my time with my best buddy Joel and his theater activities, anything to stay away from the desk where I used to sit for hours on end; snacking, typing, drinking soda after soda, typing, eating...

As my children have grown from day-care tots to the precocious kids they are now, school activities like scouting, cheerleading, and basketball stretch my time tighter and harder than Joan Rivers' face.

I re-read my notes from last year's Sampler:

I realize I'm in a Catch-22 situation: I can continue to lose weight by being away from the computer but can only work on all these projects if I'm in front of the computer. I have to to find a balance inbetween somehow...

When I find the balance in 2011, I will post an entry here. It won't be as bad as the drought this year - 2010 was a learning year. I'm hoping to put some of that knowledge into practice with the aforementioned projects I want to complete for the blog.

Rob Martinez
aka CaptainOT

Sunday, December 12, 2010

To my family and friends:
Still haven't found the playlist? First time receiving the CD?

If so, click here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vintage Christmas Ads Pt. 22 - LIFE Magazine / December 5, 1949 (43 Christmas Ads!)

Several years ago, I started a feature on this blog that showcased selections from my vintage Christmas ad collection.

In years past, my collection of ads had come from antique malls and flea markets.  Vendors would take old magazines of LIFE, TIME, Look, Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Newsweek, Ladies Home Journal, and dozens of older vintage magazines and rip the ads out one by one to sell individually.

The profit margins were substantial and a huge market began. Many people still sell ads on eBay, the antique stores and flea markets still peddle them. Then someone noticed the effect it had on the used magazine market - old magazines that normally sold for $5 or less were now $20 or more. Thanks to the continued shredding of older magazines, finding complete magazines are getting more scarce in the marketplace.

I began to look at the ads I had collected and noticed the uneven cuts out of the magazine with a box cutter. The quality of many of the ads were good but could have been better. I had no system of organizing my ads and it was a nightmare dealing with them.

Early in 2009, I began purchasing the December issues of vintage magazines.  Full, complete issues in excellent to mint condition that have sat untouched on a shelf, preserving the ads inside.  

By the end of this year, I have well over 100 magazines, each containing on average 50 - 60 ads in each issue.  When a new magazine comes in, I take a trip over to my local FedEx Store (formerly Kinko's) and make color copies of each full page, half page, and page length ads in each issue.  The smaller column ads are scanned in later at my home.

My most recent acquisition was:

The late 1940s and 1950s was the peak in regards to magazine advertising.  Newspapers, radio, or (if you could afford one) television were all in black & white.  Many issues from this period were overflowing with advertising:  this issue contains 171 pages.  
A typical issue of LIFE in 1939 or 1959 would have been 100-120 pages.

Normally in the past, I would post one strange or unusual ad here.  However, since the cataloging or these magazines have been all I've been doing for the better part of this year, I've decided to post ALL of the ads I scanned out of this issue:

I was able to upgrade my PhotoShop software this year and I'm now able to finally stitch together double page ads that have eluded me for a long time:

You may notice that there are no "Click on image to enlarge" captions under any of the images like before. In the past, I would post the high-resolution ads, allowing you to download the images free of watermarks so Christmas enthusiasts and collectors would appreciate them.

However, many people have been appropriating my ads for their own without crediting the source (me). If you choose to use these ads, just give the blog a little shout-out and I'll be cool with it, k?

I'm still offering high-res images - each ad is between 3 to 6 MB each (300 dpi) so I didn't include all of them into one big ZIP file - it would be over 200 MB and you'd be downloading for almost 90 minutes.  So...

LIFE Magazine - December 5, 1949 Pt. 1
LIFE Magazine - December 5, 1949 Pt. 2

And in the past, I've asked people to leave a funny comment or remark and I'd post it. That part of the feature will return at some point, just not now.

Hoping the Christmas clip art contained within will decorate hundreds of Christmas CD covers everywhere... what do you think?