Mad About Music: My Life in Records Mad About Music: My Life in Records

Part 12: The Conclusion

My relationship with Sally Cruikshank finally came to an end in 1982. I won't lie: It hit me pretty hard at the time, and for some years after. But in hindsight it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me, even if it was hard medicine. I got a couple of interesting jobs almost immediately. The first was in Los Angeles working for the movie director Paul Bartel doing a comic book version of a movie he'd just directed and starred in called Eating Raoul. He was a good guy and we remained friends until his untimely death about ten-or-so years ago. Right on the heels of that I went to North Carolina and became the art director of ArtBoro films. This was a fledgling movie company started by Brian Yuzna who has subsequently done pretty well making movies in L. A. and elsewhere.

A big personal step forward for me occurred in North Carolina while working for Brian. I joined Alcoholics Anonymous and quit drinking. That happened in 1983 and I haven't had a drink since. This laid a solid foundation for me to otherwise improve myself, to learn how to be more generally focused, to work harder, and to finally grow up a little. It was only when I started doing all of that that I began to realize how bloody immature I really was!

I started getting into physical fitness in a big way too, and that gave me more energy to get things done. It's an odd thing. I have never really been athletic, but I always did have, to some extent, the work-out bug. I don't know where it came from. No one else in my family had ever really been so inclined, but even in my Berkeley period, when I still wasn't really living right, I ran about a mile a day. Well now I was routinely running six miles a day and spending about two hours working out every day. And I used that gained energy to fuel a lot of artwork. If this wasn't mainly about records, I'd tell you a whole lot more about all of that. I allude to it briefly here just to give all of this some context.

When my job with Brian ended I continued to sublet my old Berkeley apartment and lived for a couple of years in Los Angeles, sacred land of my birth. I got to know many interesting people there and got to know some of the relatives on my Jewish side better before they all died out. At a certain point, I went to visit an art collector friend of mine in a backwater town in Virginia. Well, I thought it was a visit, but I ended up staying there for three years!  Erwin R. Bergdoll gave me a studio to work in, saw that I ate regular, and encouraged me to stick around. He's a good guy and we are still friends. Basically, for the next three years there I turned that studio into a one man comics boot camp. I really started pouring it on both in terms of art and physical fitness. I was working harder and at a higher level than I ever dreamed possible. In some ways it was a lonely grind, but I'd kicked myself into high gear and that was exhilarating! I finally felt as though I was actually producing at something close to my actual potential. I felt that if I could just get a few other things going right, I would have it made.

One thing I was missing in Virginia was all my records. I found a catalogue that sold mostly old time radio shows but they also sold tapes of 78s. Each series of tapes would contain sides by different recording artists in the order they were made. I got a little cassette player and started buying some of these. Some of the record careers I began to follow in this way were those of Louis Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, Bing Crosby, Russ Columbo, Ray Noble and Gene Austin. There were others but those were the ones I got into the most deeply.

I'd like to take some time to talk about that last one because Gene Austin's career was quite interesting. He was a chubby affable looking guy. I'd put him in a group of early 20th century performers that I think of as hip southerners: good old boys who knew there way around the block musically and were hip enough to get with developing modern trends in music as they happened. Others I would also site as belonging in this group would be Art Gillham, Willard Robison and, a little later, Pinky Tomlin. All are interesting, somewhat overlooked today, and worthy of further study.

I think Gene Austin is of particular interest as his music arc starts with country stuff. Then he becomes something of a founding father of the pop crooner era and finally ends up being a pretty credible jazz performer. The initial incident that planted him in my mind for further investigation occurred in 1957.

My father had bought one of the early color TVs, a big old Westinghouse model. Well one Sunday night in 1957 there was a live TV special in color, The Gene Austin Story. It was kind of like all those musical bio pics that were coming out (they all seemed to have started with the Jolson Story in '46) except this one was on live TV.

But who was this guy? Nobody I knew seemed to know except for my father, who made a few dismissive remarks about him. Nevertheless, there was our whole family in prime time on Sunday night watching The Gene Austin Story. Gene was up in his fifties at this time and did not play himself. However, he did do all of the singing, and it was promised that at the end of the show Gene would appear and sing both sides of a new record he'd just made. The show was no barnburner, but it did have its points of interest and there was one scene in it that I never forgot. This was supposed to be a scene early in Gene's recording career, the acoustic era when everyone was still singing into a big horn. Young Gene has just showed up to make his sides, but all is in chaos and consternation at the studio. They have been trying to make a record of some old black country blues singer. But this guy sings so rough and gritty that they haven't been able to get a usable take out of him. Gene stands there taking all this in and then says, "Wait a minute. Let me take a try at that". Modulating just a bit and with the black guy still playing guitar, Gene does an impersonation of the guy. They get their take which is issued under the black guy's name and all is well. My old man laughed and said, "I wonder how often a thing like that happened?"

Yeah! It seemed like an all-too quirky and specific story to have been made up entirely out of whole cloth. So I guess that that was one little mystery I was hoping perhaps to solve by ordering the complete recorded works of Gene Austin on cassette tape. There was one further rather intriguing thing about the show that I want to mention. At the end, when Gene himself showed up to sing, he did what so many performers did in those days: He sat at a piano and lip synced both sides of his new 45 RPM record. But the back up singers sounded rather familiar to me! I later found out that they were the Jordanaires, the same guys who were backing up Elvis at that time.

That was the first big clue to a curious mystery. The rest of it, to make a long story short, was this: Austin was being managed at this time by Col Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's flamboyant manager. Usually in those days if Elvis was asked who his fave singers were, he'd site Crosby, Como and Dean Martin, but now he was occasionally tacking the name of Gene Austin onto that list. Was Elvis really a Gene Austin fan? I wonder. Well, one thing I did know for sure: I did not find any sides of Austin doubling for old black blues singers the complete recordings cassettes. But to follow his creative musical arc was still quite fascinating. Most of his early country stuff was slow and lugubrious but still interesting to hear for context. He starts to really take off when he begins to move into pop stuff. The real corner turner was a late acoustic recording of a tune I think Gene had a hand in writing called "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street." (1925)

It is a fascinating side. It starts with a popular girl singer of the day, Aileen Stanley, singing the verse and first chorus. Then Billy Uke Carpenter routines the thing with a Cliff Edwards type scat chorus, and only then does Gene come on and bring the whole thing home. And he just nails it! He sounds great, as if to say, look out world, here I come. And it does seem to launch him into his greatest era, the mid to late 20's. He started making Victor sides in collaboration with Nat Schildkret, Victor's great orchestra leader and A & R man. Austin's record of "My Blue Heaven" during this period was a million seller, a thing fairly unheard of in those days. Two stone classics that I love are "Lonesome Road" (written by Austin in collaboration with Schildkret) and "Muddy Water".

By around 1930 though, Austin was starting to fade as a major record star. He lost his Victor contract and started recording on cheaper labels; but it was around this time that he founded a jazz trio. Gene on piano and vocals, a guy named Candy Candito on string bass and a fantastic guitar player named Coco. I don't even know what Coco's last name was but he was a guitar wizard! You can see a particularly great example of these guys at their best in a 1934 Joan Crawford movie called Sadie McKee. In a nightclub scene they do a version of "After You've Gone" that is on fire!

Some other cassettes that I acquired around this time I found when I made a visit to my old Berkeley apartment (I was still subletting it) and found a lot of old cassette tapes that Sally and I had made for picnics, and stuff from our 78 collection. Among these were tapes Sally had made of her Chick Bullock sides. Now wouldn't you think a lot of records of a crooner I really wasn't all that keen on in the first place would be just about the last thing I would want to hear now? Bad memories and all that? Well, it was the strangest thing! All of a sudden, Chick finally kicked in for me! He didn't have the world's strongest set of pipes. He had a narrow vocal range, and often had to really reach for the high notes, but he had much versatility and sang with great feeling. In a way he kind of reminds me of a pop version of the opera singer Tito Schippa. Both men had obvious limitations and both, at the end of the day, were great singers in spite of it.

So anyway, one thing led to another and I eventually ended up rooming with my brother Simon in White Plains New York. We collaborated on material that eventually ended up being a book called The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams and also came up with a popular feature that ran for years in Nickelodeon Magazine called Southern Fried Fugitives. I started dating again and had some nice girlfriends.

At a certain point I heard that a friend of mine, the art director of Screw, had broken up with his girlfriend, a girl named Pam Butler. I'd known Pam a few years and we'd always kind of hit it off in a casual sort of way. When I heard she was available, I went right into action and asked her out on a date. When I called for her in late 1994 for our first date, it was rather interesting, to put it mildly! First of all, she looked great. I remembered her as being nice looking but I hadn't seen her in a while and I wasn't quite prepared for the classy looking girl who answered the door. Playing in the background was a record I recognized instantly, and a most esoteric record it was, too. It was a 1931 Ted Lewis side of "Crazy 'Bout My Baby". If it wasn't the first vocal Fats Waller had made after nearly a decade of recording, it was certainly among the first.

I complemented her on her taste and asked her what I was hearing -- a record? tape? radio? She told me it was a tape of a Sunday night radio show she listened to called The Big Broadcast. It was and is a show run by a guy named Rich Conaty on WFUV featuring jazz and pop from the '20s and '30s. I was floored. "Do you like that kind of music?" I said somewhat nervously. Could God be being this kind to me or was it all just the beginning of an elaborate cruel joke? "Yes," she said, "but I don't know a lot about it," This really had me going. This charming, pretty girl, twenty years younger than me who wasn't just listening to the same tired old stagnant rock 'n roll music that every schmuck in the universe seems to listen to. Well it just seemed like a damn miracle, that's all. A rather strong conviction was growing within me that this was it. And it was, too!

Pam and I have now been together for about 17 years now, 11 of them married. She is the light of my life, and no mistake! I still have most of my old 78s in storage. I keep the acoustic ones here in our pad and even occasionally spin a few. I still have that old crank up talking machine that Al Dodge traded me, too. But mostly these days I get my jazz and pop music fix from Conaty's Big Broadcast show that I have been taping religiously now for all 17 years that Pam and I have been together.

Rich keeps on collecting, and that show of his just keeps on getting better! Recently I got to know a rather bright young guy named Josh Frankel who is just now getting into collecting and listening to the old sides. He likes Bing, Cab Calloway, and even Chick! But unlike a lot of other people I know in that category, he also has some appreciation for the old opera sides. So recently I have been dusting off the old Victrola and spinning him some of my favorites in that category.

At a certain point I did get beyond liking just the male tenors in opera. And one old time singer I like quite a bit is a female named Amelita Galli Curci. She wasn't a very physically attractive woman, and had been kicking around the opera boondocks a good ten years before she made her first sides in 1916. It is said that Galli Curci actually sounded better on records than she did in person. It might be true. In any event it is still easy to see why her initial records were such a sensation. They are amazing musical experiences and they are still capable of making the walls shake in an almost supernaturally sonic way when you put one on. Recently I played a particular favorite of mine for Josh. It is the mad scene from Donizetti's opera Lucia De La Moor, "Il Dolce Suono".

You know, it's just amazing. A thing like that, recorded in 1916, getting pretty damn close to a hundred years ago. You put the needle on it and it just takes over the room for four vibrantly alive minutes! Astonishing!

The End


80 Responses to Part 12: The Conclusion

  1. patrick ford says:

    Kim, That whole clip of “After You’ve Gone” is great. Not only the wonderful live performance, but the recording, the acting, the film editing, and the way the song and it’s performance also add humor to the scene with the request for a slow ballad and the drunken patron dozing off only to request, “Now play something hot” when he is briefly roused from his stoopor.

    Film was still featuring music as a major selling point in 1934, although not to the extent it had a bit earlier at the dawn of the sound era.

    This is perfect example of live music as a set-piece, almost an insert for variety, but here you see the musical act being blended with the storytelling in a seamless fashion.

    Love the fact that the musicians are given little spotlights at just the moments most appropriate (Coco’s solo for example), and the few close-ups of the actors faces are all that are needed to tell the story.

  2. Louis Armstrong always mentioned Galli Curci as a favorite.

    Thanks for all the terrific articles, Kim. Sorry to see them end, but grateful that

    you wrote them.

  3. kim deitch says:

    Patrick. Yeah. I just about fell out of my chair the first time I saw that movie. And I agree with everything you said about the clip 100 percent. Thanks for all your great comments during the course of this series.

  4. kim deitch says:

    It’s not surprising. One of the things I came to see at a certain point was that there are a lot of connections between jazz and opera. Caruso died in 1921 when there were not yet very many jazz records, but he had started collect them. He thought they were funny, but I think he meant it in a good way. By the way, there are a lot of extra music links to go with this and the last post on my facebook page. Thanks for you comment. I am exceedingly greatful to Dan Nadel for giving me this opportunity. And you to Mark for your comment.

  5. patrick ford says:

    Kim, It’s been a pleasure reading your posts. One reason is I can relate to your aesthetic concerns.
    It seems to me we live in a commercial culture increasingly dominated by artifice and adornment.
    What is popular today, the things which are popularly seen as modern are really a rejection of what was once
    the modern ideal streamlined forms and concise reduction were seen as sophisticated:
    but that’s all been replaced by a kind of new age Decadent Rococo style
    which values layers of ornament in design, word, and image:
    Things have become so different that what once was seen as sophisticated design is now seen as primitive by many comics fans:
    Ornate almost Victorian decoration has become the modern mainstream comic book look.

  6. kim deitch says:

    I think you have put yourfinger on WHY I went into comics as opposed to some other kind of art, Patrick. I wanted an outlaw genre where I might stand a chance of making my own experiments my own way. What amazes me the most is how it all kind of worked out! I will carefully look at all your links later when I get off work.

  7. Mike Rhode says:

    This series would make a great Rhino records (or Fantagraphics natch ) boxed set with the commentary booklet. Absolutely fun and fascinating, Mr. Deitch.

  8. kim deitch says:

    Yeah, that’s the thing. I just LOVE having the record and film links. a book version without them just would not be the same.

  9. Tony Solomun says:

    Hello Kim,a beautiful conclusion,very profound,ive learned so much about music I’ve never heard before,thank you for writing these,I look forward to similar work in future,all the best,

  10. R. Fiore says:

    Something of this nature already exists in Allen Lowe’s exhaustive compilations. The first was American Pop: An Audio History – From Minstrels To Mojo: On Record, 1893-1946, a nine-CD set that is unfortunately now a pricey collector’s item. Anyway, exhaustive as that was Lowe was just getting warmed up, and he followed it with FOUR 9-CD sets with the blanket title That Devilin’ Tune: A Jazz History. These are still in print, and I’ve started on the second set, which runs from 1927-1934 and compiles Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong side-by-side with Paul Whiteman (and Bing Crosby), Sophie Tucker and Ukelele Ike. And just last year he started with the first 9-CD set of a project called Really the Blues. The revelation for me on American Pop was “Seldom the Sun” by Alec Wilder:

    And Kim — I’m really sorry to see this end. Don’t be a stranger around here, please.

  11. kim deitch says:

    Bob. I have come to enjoy the site beyond my own efforts, so I’ll be around. I think Tim Hodler and Dan Nadel have done a great job. Thanks for YOUR interest too. I’ll check out the stuff by Allen Lowe too. I guess it’s time for me to knuckle down and finish my next book, but I have already written one more stand alone piece for the journal about my friend, Roger Brand. Dan has been after me to do that one for awhile and after giving me this stellar opportunity to vent my musical spleen, well, I figured it was time to do it.

  12. kim deitch says:

    I’ve always found music to be the most mystical and metaphysical of the basic arts. It’s so etherial, just wafting through the ozone as it does, so thank you, Tony for indulging me by weighing through it all. I will indeed be doing future things for theJournal.

  13. kim deitch says:

    My whole thrust as a young adult was to get away from the aggressive modernism I grew up around; Eames chairs, Picasso and all the rest of it; good old youthful rebellion, but in a somewhat unusual direction. This did however give me a head start on an excellent, albeit biased cultural education. In my work I have never overtly looked for a style, but to some extent it had have been a reaction to all that. Chalk it all up to predictable human/animal behavior. We’re such funny critters no matter how seriously we try to take ourselves. I enjoyed the illustrations to your post.

  14. patrick ford says:

    Kim, To be more explicit it’s the ornament for the sake of ornament aspect of many modern films, music, comics, etc. which don’t appeal to me.
    Using again the video you posted from “Sadie McKee” as an example. It’s simple, the band is three pieces, the number of shots, and the way they are edited together is refined, the actors are still speaking volumes with their faces. Contrast this to current film where there are layers of information goosing the viewer. It’s a video/audio blitz which doesn’t seem to trust the viewer.
    And things can be highly complex where necessary.
    What doesn’t work for me is piles of flashy ornamentation which serve no clear purpose. Compare Coco’s guitar solo, to some dreadful tedious 70’s guitar solo where the whole point seems to be posing.

  15. kim deitch says:

    Best Gluyas Williams drawing ever!! I heartily recommend that link to anyone else who may be reading this. As for Coco, well, he’s special. He doubles for Mae West allegedly playing guitar in the opening scenes of Belle of The Yukon, another film in which the Gene Austin Trio appears. That appearance is not as impressive as that scene in sadie McKee though. That is a particularly choice musical scene. There was a shorter version on youtube that just cuts to the chase of the boys singing, but I chose to use the longer one because it IS a nice sequence. In fact it is a relatively superior Joan Crawford movie. I think it’s Clarence Brown. Gene went on to make a singing cowboy western too in 37. It’s not so hot but Coco is still on deck.

  16. patrick ford says:

    Looking for a better link to that cartoon I found a nice blog post by Shaenon Garrity who writes for TCJ on occasion.

  17. kim deitch says:

    Shaenon Garrity’s post on Gluyas Williams IS interesting. I was yet another geek who read Robert Benchley in Junior high , when I could maybe actually understand about half of it. That early fascination is something of a mystery tome now. Maybe it had something to do with the , always entertaining, Williams illustations.

  18. Mike Hunter says:

    A couple of old TCJ message board threads (thanks for letting them stay available, folks!) on Gluyas Williams, with lots of his art:

  19. kim deitch says:

    “The Benchley Roundup, another anthology, was the first place I encountered Benchley on the printed page.

  20. Paul Karasik says:

    As with everything you have done, I have enjoyed this romp from start to finish.

    …and I would urge others to tune into The Big Broadcast with Rich Conaty every Sunday night on WFUV.


  21. kim deitch says:

    An excellent point, Brother Karasik. I hope that in some small way I have helped to broaden the musical conversation a little bit from the the same old, depressingly predictable things. My feeling is why carp about it. Why not try to take a more positive approach and try rather to improve things?

  22. Daniel C. Parmenter says:

    This particular drawing, which I mentioned in one of the archived TCJ message board threads that Mike H. kindly provided links for, remains a favorite:

    As one commenter noted, you can practically see the figures moving! The little interactions between characters are wonderful. Like a movie in one panel.

  23. kim deitch says:

    Daniel. It was a surprise to me. I hadn’t really given much thought to Gluyas Williams in years.

  24. David Simpson says:


    The Comics Reporter highly recommended this series of posts, so I thought I’d have a look.
    I read all twelve chapters over the weekend, and thought the whole thing was fascinating.
    Thanks for sharing these memories with the rest of us.

  25. kim deitch says:

    David. My thanks to the Comics Reporter. and to you too for your encouraging words. check out our Facebook wall. I have all kinds of extra music posts over there.

  26. Tom Stein says:

    I’m so looking forward to your tribute to the artist, Roger Brand! He was one of the few that made a success in three venues of comic art. Early fandom, the comics underground, and the mainstream magazines. Anything you write about him will be most welcome, and I look forward to reading your recollections of this overlooked and underated artist. Many thanks!

  27. kim deitch says:

    Tom. Yeah. Dan Nadel finally squeezed it our of me.. I’ve been meaning to write something about him ever since he died. He made a big impression and was a good friend.

  28. patrick ford says:

    Obviously just about everyone would love to see you do another series of posts on comics following the same chronology as the music posts. The only part of that which gives me pause is I hate seeing you take time away from creating new comics. Pictorama, and the Deitch issue of TCJ were the books of that year.

    I’d stand in line in the rain for your next book.

  29. Jeet Heer says:

    Just to echo Patrick Ford — these blog posts have been fantastic and I’d love to see more autobiographical essays from Kim Deitch. The only thing that might give me pause about them is if they kept Kim from the drawing board, since he’s one of best cartoonists around.

  30. R. Fiore says:

    The testimonials to Rich Conaty make me wonder — were you ever aware of Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins? His radio show was really one of the seminal influences on me when it was on late nights on KFI in Los Angeles at the end of the 60s, through which I was exposed to things like old time radio and all manner of off-brand music. He worked out of the east coast before that, and I’m pretty sure he was on the air in the Bay Area after the KFI period (actually, you might have been able hear him in the Bay Area back then, because KFI was and is a clear channel station).

    A book you might want to look into if you have time for reading is How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n Roll by Elijah Wald. The title is misleading, because what it’s mostly about is the buried history of the development of popular music, which includes a lot of the material you’ve been writing about here.

  31. kim deitch says:

    Patrick. I’ve been kicking around an idea for a sort of fake memoir; a group of fictional stories kind of along the lines of that Cop on the Beat story I did in Pictorama. Right now I’mgoing to just try to get my next book finishedas early into next year as I can.

  32. kim deitch says:

    I am greatful to Dan Nadel for indulging me in a project as off topic as this one was. I’d love to do something like this twice as long as this about movies and possibly will one of these time in my own blog on a website of my own. Also something about books other than comics; something having to do with serial literature from Dickens forward through dime novels and into the pulp era and finally the move from pulp fiction into comics. But right now as mentioned above, it’s time to finish the book I have been working on the last handful of years and get the next one properly kicked off. Thanks for reading Jeet.

  33. kim deitch says:

    Robert. My introduction to Jazzbaux Collins came in the 50′ when my old man brought home a 78 of him telling two fairy tales writtten in Bop talk that were written by Steve Allen. As a young adult I used to listen to him on various radio shows he wafted in and out of and once even spot to him when I won a radio call in contest on KMPX. I forget what the question was. I heard somewhere that Paul McCartney owns the rights to a lot of important tin pan alley songs going all the way back to the Rudy Vallee era. I would not have wasted my time writing this particular series, except thatI just get tired of the way music seems to have been boxed up into about 5 or 6 neat predictable categories yov’ve got your rock, your country, jazz, the blues, oh yeah and before that there was Frank Sinatra Everything all tied up neat, tidy, and boring. Even a term like , Think out of the box, is now in reality just another empty, hoary cliche. I get tired of everything being always all the same. If that is not absolutely true, it often truly seems that way to me.

  34. Bruce Simon says:

    Al “Jazzbeaux’ Collins was always on one radio station after another while I was growing up in LA in the 60’s and around 1970, he even had a afternoon TV talk show on this rinky-dink little UHF station that supposedly was hailing from Fontana, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. I found out that he was actually broadcasting from right in town and he said that anyone was welcome to come down and watch the show, so one day after school. I was probably in 11th Grade then, I hopped a bus to this location near downtown LA. I had an address, but no one seemed to be there. I went around to the back of the building which had a detached garage and the garage door was open. There I see Al behind this desk with one tiny Norelco TV camera trained on him just rambling away. I had brought my copy of MAD #31 with the article on Al with those classic Wally Wood illustrations. I held it up where he could see it, his eyes lit up and he waved me in. We had a nice on air chat about MAD, Wood, his memories of New York Radio and his imaginary undersea grotto. I wish I had a tape of that show, but I’m sure it just floated away into the ether, never to be seen again.

  35. kim deitch says:

    He never contradicted anyone on his call in shows. You could say you were from the Venusian mind police looking for a new passage through the fourth dimension and he’d play right along. On the bop talk fairy tales 78. It was material written by Steve Allen and I found a 78 of Steve Allen doing some of it himself, bought it and played it for my old man. “No good,” said my old man. “Steve Allen’s voice lacks that dreamy quality Collins has.. Steve Allen may have written it, but Jazzbo, [I think he was still using the more straight ahead spelling then,] puts it over.”

  36. R. Fiore says:

    Hell, I forgot the recognition sign: “I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”

  37. kim deitch says:

    Right! So had I until you mentioned it.

  38. Fred Dortort says:

    Kim–Interesting comments about Gene Austin. There’s a great Decca mid 30s recording of him doing China Boy with Candy and Coco, they sort of rewrite the tune but in a good way. I also saw a short some years ago with him in a Western movie setting, playing piano on the back of a wagon. He is underrated although his 20s 78s show up all the time. I was listening to a Harmony record of Annette Hanshaw singing “A Precious Litle Thing Called Love” the other night. She sings it just great, not surprisingly, but quite mature sounding (considering she was probably about 20 at the time).
    Maybe I’ll see if our singer, Kathy, might want to do it. She has a real affinity for 20s material–we do “I’m a Dreamer, Aren’t We All” and a few other numbers that Annette Hanshaw did. Maybe for our next CD.
    It’s fun reading about some of the old times, where I was sort of a peripheral participant from time to time. What ever happened to “Evil Avenue?” I think I still have the story boarded script for it–sort of a prototype graphic novel.
    I still have some of your 78s and old films (on nitrate stock–what to do about that?). We’ll have to make it out to NYC one of these days and hang out–Gael had a good time when she was there a few months ago.

  39. kim deitch says:

    The fine group that Fred Refers to here is Dodge’s Sundodgers; clear proof that great music lives on and is still being performed. And I agree, their singer Kathy should indeed sing, A Precious Little Thing Called love on their next CD. That is something I want to hear. Fred. Can a websitte for the group be found online? I’m glad Fred brought up Annette Hanshaw. Not mentioning her was another serious omission of this series. She was a great singer who always performed with all star groups; nearly always with the nucleus of Eddie Lang and the Dorseys. They must have liked Annette since they always sound especially brilliant on her sides. Tommy double on trumpet on many of them. Incidentally Fred turned me onto another rather interesting singer, Jo Stafford, who started out with Tommy Dorsey. I have started posting some things with her over on our facebook wall. PS. Fred, don’t worry, ALL 16mm film is on safety film stock. I’ll have to reread Evil Avenue which is something Fred and I collaborated on. The hero was based on the late B. N.Duncan and the girl in it later got transposed as the main character of my first book, Hollywoodland.

  40. Doug Skinner says:

    Thanks for this fascinating series! I’m intrigued by your interest in opera. All too often, Americans reject it as elitist; when in Italy, it was long simply popular music, where you went to hear good tunes. I thought you might enjoy this cartoon by Giuseppe Novello, showing how Italians listen to opera:

    For me, the opera-jazz connection is most obvious in the small Italian-American combos of Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Adrian Rollini, Frank Signorelli, and other like souls: amazing stuff!

    Given your deep interest in music, have you played anything yourself? Cheers!

  41. kim deitch says:

    Doug! That is a great cartoon! thanks for posting it. I totally agree with your remarks. Joe Venuti. Adrian Rollini. Frank Signorelli, and especially Eddie Lang. they are musical Gods and I worship at their shrines. As for me. I took violin in grade school but made a mess of it. I can carry a tune on a harmonica but am strictly a rank amateur. My biggest regret along those lines is that I didn’t take piano lessons as a kid. Thus I am strictly a fan.

  42. Fred Dortort says:

    Yes, we have a website, also a couple of quite crudely done things on You Tube from a couple of years ago–the first with zero preparation time (it reminds me of a sort of occupational therapy group in a mental hospital) and the second which we spent perhaps as much as five minutes preparing. Unfortunately, Kathy had a miserable cold that night and so she didn’t sing, though Zac Salem does a fine job on the vocal. We encouraged Kathy to look bored and sulky to improve her diva mystique, but that kind of behavior is so out of keeping with her personality that I don’t think it shows. The videos might be worth checking out for laughs if nothing else.

  43. kim deitch says:

    I’m DEFINITELY gonna check that out tonight. I say it’s time for Dodge’s Sundodgers to their place IN the sun.

  44. Fred Dortort says:

    Your mentioning Red Nichols on your Facebook page reminds me that on the CD, on “Night Owl,” Al is playing orchestra bells that originally belonged to the percussion man in the Red Nichols’ orchestra. The kind of trivia that would interest very few people, but those to whom it would be of interest (including, I would expect, you) would enjoy just the thought of it, continuity of a kind still going after 80 years.

  45. kim deitch says:

    What percussion man? you’re right. It does interest me. Have you caught up with that GREAT 1929 Red Nichols Vitaphone short yet with Eddies Condon? It is just called Red Nichols and his Five Pennies. I know it’s on youtube because I posted it on my facebook wall. Speaking of percussionists, There’s a DVD set that features a huge theater orchestra from 1928, Walt Roesner and the Capitolians which has among its many jazz stars, Vic Berton with just about the fanciest, most elaborate drum kit I ever saw.

  46. R. Fiore says:

    As long as we’re not letting go of this, here’s something I heard on the Devilin’ Tune box set, “Changes” by Paul Whiteman, with Crosby and Beiderbecke:

    It gets wild when the vocals kick in around the middle. Whiteman certainly doesn’t look like a revolutionary, and the “King of Jazz” thing made him the whipping boy for cultural misappropriation, but he did commission “Rhapsody in Blue.” There’s a great story told by a musician whose name escapes me who played second cornet in a recreation of Whiteman’s music. They were using photocopies of the original arrangements, and about six bars away from the first cornet’s solo he sees a handwritten note his earliest predecessor had made: “Wake up Bix.”

    Another thing I heard on the Devilin’ box is a very different version of “Sam, the Old Accordion Man” by George Olsen:

  47. kim deitch says:

    I have alway particularly like the Paul Whiteman record of Changes. It has everything you’re looking for in a good Whiteman side of that era. Great arrangement by Bill Challis, great cornet break by Bix and some nice singing by Bing. I should have posted it and I’m glad you did. Paul Whiteman was not the King Of Jazz and that catch phrase was unfortunate, but he ran a great dance band that could do a lot of things very well. He made a lot of great records, jazz and otherwise. It’s kind of like the Stan Lee situation. He didn’t write all the stories he got credit for, but he was a great editor. The fault, in both cases, is more about the designation.

  48. Doug Skinner says:

    Since this is a comics site, I can’t resist linking to Whiteman’s duet with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit:

    He could have just put out commercial dance tunes, and done very well, but he always went further: commissioning work from Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, and Gershwin; commissioning a ukulele concerto from May Singhi Breen; promoting the young Hoagy Carmichael; cutting sides with Paul Robeson and Billie Holiday… He made great records, and gave work to a lot of fine musicians. An exemplary career, King or not, eh?

  49. kim deitch says:

    The Whiteman conroversy is an interesting one in jazz circles. And for those who are interested, I am going to post some other essential Whiteman sides over on my facebook wall today. We used to watch him on his Sunday TV show when I was a kid. My old man told me Whiteman was a bullshit phony. But then, he doesn’t like Rhapsody in Blue either. In reality Whiteman gave blacks plenty of credit. He bought arrangements from Don Redman and I don’t doubt that he would have put blacks on his band stand if such a thing was possible in those days which it was not. Actually many black future jazz greats, [Jimmy Lunceford for one,] studied music theory with Whiteman’s Father earlier in the 20th century.

  50. kim deitch says:

    Doug! Thanks for posting that wonderful piece of animation history! And your comments about Whiteman are right on the money.

  51. R. Fiore says:

    Whiteman was not so much a jazz musician as a sophisticated pop musician. His assumption was that jazz was a kind of primitive folk music that needed to be elevated, a wrongheaded idea but one that was natural for the times. Obviously the approach of a Duke Ellington won out in a big way, and what made Whiteman more accessible for his contemporary audience actually makes him less accessible to today’s. I think it’s pretty obvious that he hired the best musicians that were available, and you can bet that he would have booted Beiderbecke to the second chair in favor of Louis Armstrong in a hot minute if he could have. Which actually would have been the worse outcome artistically speaking. When the color line came down in baseball the black ballplayers were shut out of the big leagues, but when it was applied to jazz it was the white players who were locked out of the big leagues, artistically speaking.

  52. patrick ford says:

    Here is another musical moment in comics history which is of interest.

  53. kim deitch says:

    I just posted Felix The Cat by Paul Whiteman, [with a Bix solo,] on my Facebook wall. Great minds think alike!

  54. patrick ford says:

    White musicians were well respected by other musicians.

    There is a book in my library edited by Leonard Feather called “The Encyclopedia Yearbook of Jazz” (Horizon,1956).

    Contained in it is a fascinating Musicians poll tabulating a the selection of “all time greats” as selected by 110 musicians. The list of participating musicians includes Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, and Duke Elligton.

    The results of the poll are progressive enough that Gillespie placed ahead of Louis Armstrong on trumpet.

    For example, Benny Goodman was one of the highest vote getters in the poll being selected on clarinet by; Chet Baker, Count Bassie, Miles Davis, Duke Elligton, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Holman (who also selected Gillespie and Davis, over Armstrong on Trumpet), Oscar Peterson, and Lester Young.

  55. kim deitch says:

    Continuing your baseball metaphor, I have always considered Whiteman to be kind of like The New York Yankees of 20’s dance bands. He had the dough to get the best guys he could get.

  56. kim deitch says:

    Well that’s your Leonard Feather influence. He’s the man who coined the term moldy fig as a put down of traditional jazz fans. [The trads took it for a badge of honor and embraced it.] An interesting book in MY library is, [from about the same period,] Record Collecting for The Millions, by Paul Whiteman. It is a guide to buying records and, not surprisingly, he does not restrict himself to just jazz records. The great highlight of the book is a description of what it was like to record an acoustical record in 1920. There is also a chapter entirely devoted to Joe Franklyn, then a young record collector who Paul, who had none of his own records, considered to be the go to guy when he wanted to hear one of his own sides.

  57. patrick ford says:

    Kim, I thought it interesting that Goodman was named by so many young musicians in 1956.

    I had thought the “moldy fig” label applied to fans of old time New Orleans Jazz (Dixieland).

    If King Oliver was seen as old hat by people like Feather you would think he’s have an even lower opinion of big band style jazz which might be seen as white “square dance” music. Yet Goodman wrote a long introduction for the Feather book, and in it Goodman celebrated the fact that jazz was becoming accepted as music to listen to rather than being seen as dance music. He pointed out jazz was moving from the dance halls to the concert halls.

    Feather echoed this in his text, leading to a scornful dismissal of rock (this is 1956).

    “…very rarely music, a passing fad which the parents of America need hardly concern themselves with.”

    One odd thing about the poll I mentioned is Louis Armstrong didn’t make a choice for clarinet, but selected Jimmy Dorsey on alto sax, Bing Crosby for male singer, but voted the Art Tatum trio as his favorite combo.

  58. kim deitch says:

    All interesting. Moldy fig does refer to New Orleans style revival jazz specifically. I think you could say that Goodman straddled the middle of the road more. He had Charlie Christian for instance who was heading more in a progressive direction; probably would have been a bop fellow traveler if he’d lived. Bird liked Goodman. He actually made acetates of himself playing along on Goodman trio records. Parker liked Jimmy Dorsey too. Was watching him on TV when he died. I’m particularly interested in what you said about Armstrong not listing a clarinet fave and then listing Jimmy Dorsey on alto. Jimmy Doubled on clarinet like crazy, really half the time. Really, I think of him more as a reed man than as a sax or clarinet player, so perhaps we can make an educated guess that he was kind of naming Dorsey on reeds in general. One thing I strongly feel. Jimmy Dorsey is WAY underrated, a thing I think will change over time. As far as I am concerned, he is one of the true giants of jazz and popular music. I don’t base this on his big band leader years, but more on everything that went before; his sideman days. If there was abetter all around sideman than Jimmy Dorsey, well, I think you’d have to be looking at Eddie Lang perhaps, [who only played withJimmy and Tommy Dorsey all the time] I think those three were the nucleus of more good sides than anyone else I can think of off hand.

  59. patrick ford says:

    Armstrong’s picks:

    Trumpet: Bunny Berigan

    Trombone: Teagarden

    Alto Sax: J. Dorsey

    Tennor: Eddie Miller

    Clarinet: (none)

    Flute: (none)

    Piano: Billy Kyle

    Guitar: Floyd Smith

    Bass: Milt Hinton

    Drums: Cozy Cole

    Male Singer: Crosby

    Female Singer: Ella

    Big Band: Basie

    Combo: Art Tatum Trio

    Jimmy Dorsey:

    Trumpet: Berigan

    Trombone: Teagarden

    Alto Sax: Charlie Parker

    Tennor: Coleman Hawkins

    Clarinet: Buddy DeFranco

    Flute: Frank Wess

    Piano: Tatum

    Guitar: Barney Kessel

    Bass: Milt Hinton

    Drums: Louis Bellson

    Male Singer: Sinatra

    Female Singer: Ella

    Big Band: Basie

    Combo: Oscar Peterson 3

  60. R. Fiore says:

    And Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson and Rube Foster were well respected by other ballplayers. The fact remains that the orchestras of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Chick Webb and their ilk represented a higher level of artistic expression than Glen Miller, Benny Goodman or Tommy Dorsey. A major factor, and perhaps the decisive factor, is that the black audience has always accepted and rewarded a harder edge to their music than the white audience. A Louis Armstrong who played for Paul Whiteman or Guy Lombardo would have had to conform his talent to the tastes of the audience they appealed to.

  61. kim deitch says:

    I think Armstrong finally DID make some sides with Lombardo, which was a life long desire of his. They’re probably of no consequence except for the fact that it happened. Armstrong referred to Guy and Carmen Lombardo as his inspirators.

  62. kim deitch says:

    Patrick. thanks for posting those fascinating lists. I have been posting sides by various singers that feature the Dorseys and Lang on my facebook wall today. And I will post more as other titles occur to me. Interesting that they both chose Ella. Bing Crosby said, man or woman, Ella was, hands down, his favorite singer. On Jimmy’s choice of Charlie Parker, I read an interesting story about that in a biography I read of Tommy Dorsey. Somebody took Jimmy Dorsey over to Birdland in the 40’s to hear Parker. Jimmy was kind of tight and at a certain point he left in a noisy drunken huff. But, the experience stayed with him and a few days later he came back and from that point on was a Charlie Parker fan.

  63. patrick ford says:

    Kim, Your story about Dorsey seeing Parker for the first time reminded me of this story by John Fahey.

    “Praise God I’m Satisfied” by Blind Willie Johnson. “We played it and I had this visceral reaction,” Fahey recalls. “I almost threw up. I said, ‘Please put on some Bill Monroe records so I can get back to normal.’ But here’s the trick: by the end of the Bill Monroe record the Blind Willie Johnson thing was still going through my head, and I had to hear it again. This time when I heard it I started crying. I couldn’t stop it. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. (Long pause.) That’s really strange, isn’t it?

    Most of us who play guitar follow a pretty similar path.

    But there are a few who come along who just can’t or won’t fit any of the existing molds and have to construct new ones. These are the visionaries, the men and women who change not only the way guitar is played but how it is percieved. They are the founders of styles and schools, the Christopher Columbi of the guitar world. They’re usually a little weird, often tragic, most likely self-centered, and always brilliant. They’re larger-than-life characters who leave strong impressions on everyone they meet and live lives stranger than any movie. They’re people with the brains, strength, vision, drive, and sense of self to travel new roads and discover new places.”

  64. kim deitch says:

    Well said.

  65. kim deitch says:

    Bob. Black bands have a higher level of expression than their white counterparts? Possibly so. My old man certainly agree with you. But in my heart I don’t really believe it is that simple. I love Chick Webb and I love Guy Lombardo, and a lot of crazy stuff inbetween. Which is better? I don’t know. I just don’t think like that.

  66. peter kaprelian says:

    Kim, 1983, the year you put down the glass , I had my first drag on a joint as opposed to but partly inspired by a dreg off a bottle, Alley-cahawl being the true first and last for me. In ’95 I took a break from it, the year I believe I met you at a group book-signing @ uptown NYC Shakespeare & Company, you, Art Speigelman and I think Charles Burns. My opening line was “Does Fowlton Means exist?” ( You said ” I made him up” , and now I think come on, it’s Simon Deitch! )

  67. peter kaprelian says:

    I guess that same year you appeared on my favorite radio-station, WFMU, playing your 78’s. I taped most of the show, have since lost half of it ( Louis Armstrong”s Stardust Memories was on the other half) , but like 17 years later I still have the first forty mins of the show on tape, except for what I assume was Bing’s version of Street of Dreams, but I arrived late when you played a female singer doing it. I’ve played it a few times recently,there was Hawaiian influenced stuff, by Saul Hoopi and Roy Smek. Of Saul Hoopi’s side ” Hilo ” ( I don’t know what names I’m spelling right or rong ) you said ” If I was ever pinned down , that would be the one”. The status of trumpet player Bubba Miley was a mystery to you. Personally, last week I was living in Gene Austin’s Muddy Water cuz it’s on the tape , but especially ” I’m only Guessing by Waring’s Pennsylvanians, with a vocal by The Three Girlfiends. There so many little parts to it you’d think they were part of a longer piece .

  68. Peter Kaprelian says:

    Anyway it was fantastic to hear the music behind the art, that the art is so evocative of. As for my other ” art supplies” , withthehelpofahigherpowerandthisprogram , ah ain’t had a drink or drug since Sprung o’ 08. I can honestly say your musical taste got me through a lot of stuff .

  69. kim deitch says:

    Simon Deitch is not Folwton Means. I’m afraid the true identity of Fowlton Means is yours truly. I was inspired by Spain’s use of the non de plume, Algernon Backwash on many of his strips.

  70. kim deitch says:

    Well, you can find Bing’s Street Of Dreams as a link in one of the chapters in this series. Waring’s I’m only Guessing, may be my all time favorite Waring side. What seems to be missing from what you have of that show,, among other things is Henry Burr’s, I’m all Alone In A Palace Of Stone, and which I cannot find on Youtube. There’s another nice Gene Autry though, without Roy Smeck, The Death Of Mother Jones, in chapter 2 of this series.

  71. kim deitch says:

    I’m glad to hear it. Keep combing through youtube. I continue to be astounded by what, in the way of sides, can be found there. Also check the link in this episode to , The Big Broadcast, radio show. It’s like that show I did that time only WAY better and it happens every week! Between it and youtube, you will be loaded for bear and no mistake.

  72. patrick ford says:

    You tube is an amazing resource. I’ve been a huge fan of Jimmie Rodgers for 30 years. Back in the early 80’s I read Nolan Porterfield’s biography of Rodgers which mentioned Rodger’s had made a short film called The Singing Brakeman”

    So for years I badly wanted to see the three songs Rodgers performed in the short, but thought most likely I’d never see them, or if I did, it would be an edit in some PBS style documentary where a narrator taked over top of the edited snip. When I first got online around three years ago almost the very first thing I did was look up that short.

  73. kim deitch says:

    Patrick. It’s funny you mentioning the Jimmy Rogers short. Somebody just posted it on my facebook wall in response to MY posting Rogers 1930 record, Blue Yodel number nine, which has trumpet accompaniment by Louis Armstrong, [in his roaring prime.] In response to that somebody posted a clip from a 1970 Johnny Cash TV show where Armstrong and Cash recreated the side, and, kind of amazingly, did it rather well. So Yeah! Youtube is great . You can have conversations and swap sides, [virtual ones] with people you feel like you know but don’t actually know; except of course, virtually. But it is somehow rather fun and satisfying.

  74. patrick ford says:

    Kim, I assume you know, but it’s Armstrong’s wife Lil Hardin on piano with Rodgers and Louis on Blue Yodel #9.

    One thing I love about Rodgers is despite the fact he never had his own band, he recorded with an amazing number of different musicians who were associated with a wide variety of styles and he always managed to fit in effortlessly.

  75. kim deitch says:

    Yes. you’re right. Lil Hardin for a fact and, yes, one of the fascinations of Rogers discography is indeed the variety of musical accompaniments on his disks. I’ve heard Hawiian guitar and straight ahead Nat Shilkret style orchestrations just to name two other styles. On the clip of the 1970 Johnny Cash show where he discusses and recreates the Rogers side, he says that he had Jimmy Rogers had been friends for some time before that record was made in 1930

  76. kim deitch says:

    Point Richmond REALLY was this Bay area back water poor relation. I found that out first hand in 1974. Things had gotten just a little too weird and Hoity toity over at Arcade to suit me. Bill Griffith and Art called everyone over to a meeting. Even Crumb was there and they wanted us to start boycotting Denis Kitchen’s Marvel underground, Comix Book. Comix Book was paying a hundred a page too, twice what Arcade was paying $50.00 but I was okay with that and ready to work for both of them. Then here’s Arcade saying no. we’ve got to boycott these Marvel fat cats. It just seemed like so much Bullshit I could hardly believe it. I got so sickened and upset by all this that I decided to quit comics and go back to being a working man. I registered at the Local Manpower and was soon being sent out on day labor jobs all over the Bay Area. One time I got sent out to some factory in Point Richmond. I think they were canning oil products and I spent the next few days on the fastest moving assembly line I was ever on and I’ve been on a few. It was the turning point to my returning to comics. I went back to Arcade, did a nice 12 pager and told them I’d only give Comix Book reprints for a while. I thought that was kind of weak kneed of me. I don’t know where that would have gone because soon Marvell pulled the plug on Comix Book. It was a hollow victory for Arcade though. a few issues later, they hit the wall too.

  77. Tom Parmenter says:

    I know you like the fine-grained stuff.

    1 – I don’t know about Elvis and Gene Austin, but back in the first days of teen-idoldom, one of the teen mags did a roundup of Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Tommy Sands, etc. and Elvis, just listings of favorite, food, favorite color, that stuff. For favorite singer, these lads listed dutifully listed Frank Sinatra, Bing, Dean Martin, but Elvis said his favorite was ARTHUR CRUDUP!

    2 – Saw and lost the reference, but at least one writer contends that the term “jazz” was derived from “jazzbo”, not the other way around. Supposedly, a common character in 19th c. drama was the “chasse beaux”, a charmer who won the ladies by chasing their beaus away. The musical style was named by back formation, presumably the kind of music they liked.

    3 – Can’t stop now. The “ten-gallon hat” got its name not from its supposed fluid capacity, but from the kind of hat worn in Mexican 19th c. theater by their equivalent character, the “gallant”, who wore a “sombrero tan galan” or “hat so gallant”. That means that it is the snappy hats worn by all cowboy good guys and not the towering sidekick hat that was the original ten-gallon hat.

    This has been a wonderful series, very eye-opening, and wide-ranging, so I don’t think this is *too* off-topic.

  78. kim deitch says:

    Tom. I had a ball talking about Wanda Jackson yesterday and it’s a blessed relief to be talking about something other than Roger Brand over here for a change. It’s kind of amazing the way Elvis has become such a connecting link to so many aspects of music. On the subject of Tommy Sands, after hearing about Let Me Go Lover and how the early TV show, Studio One was used to catapult that song into the top 40, I remember a similar situation with Tommy Sands when the Kraft Television put on a live TV drama called, The Singing Idol, around 1957 that introduced the Sands song, They Call Me The Teenage Crush and almost instantly it was on the charts. I now see they were following the Let Me Go Lover precedent. [And if any of you all don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the interesting music that goes with this yarn over on my facebook page.] I never could see Fabian to save my life; or Frankie Avalon. But Avalon’s cameo appearance in the movie, Grease, years later was kind of interesting. I still wasn’t all that keen about him, but his growth as a singer in quality from his Hey day was marked and surprising.

  79. Tom Parmenter says:

    Fabian had a song written for him by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, “Turn Me Loose”, and it was a 12-bar blues!

    Avalon was a kind of small-time show biz guy, dance a little sing a little played the trumpet.

  80. kim deitch says:

    That whole Dick clark sponsored Philadelphia contingent left me cold.. Curiously enough though, Dick Clark. Bobby Rydel and , I think, Frankie Avalon were introduced to show biz in a teen oriented show that Paul Whiteman produced in the early 1950’s. Dick was the MC. I remember Turn Me Loose. My childhood Pal had it and all the rest of Fabian’s records and played them all the time. Like A Tiger and all the Rest, but it was a big no sale as far as I was concerned.

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