Monday, May 04, 2009
Merv for Monday--23 Starlets, Banned in Boston, Buzzword, more!
I haven't featured nearly enough Merv so far for 2009--time to make up for that deficit. The late, great Merv Griffin's music is not only welcome at this blog, it helps define what we're all about here. The Merv part, anyway.
I can't put into words how much I love Griffin's records, except to note how hard it is to put it into words. And I even had the opportunity, not all that long ago, to share some of Merv's music with... Merv himself! From my post of July 26, 2007:
"Believe it or not, I've had the pleasure of sharing two CD-Rs' worth of early-Merv material with the man himself! Honest. A super-nice lady named Stace Bass, who does PR work for a number of folks, including Griffin and Michael Andrew, wanted to hear some of my vintage Griffin material, and I sent her an hour's worth. Which she, in turn, forwarded to Merv as a belated Birthday gift. She heard back from Merv, who said, 'I played the old records and roared laughing at some of them. I don't have any copies other than what you sent, so a BIG thank you.'
It made my day, and Stace's. There's nothing like the opportunity to give back to an entertainer."
I still feel a glow from that. Collecting Merv has been one of THE highlights of my record-hunting career, and to have gotten the chance to repay him in some way--priceless.
He's often portrayed as a celebrity who happened to make some records, but Merv was a professional singer and then some. After stints as a radio singer (mid to late '40s) and as star vocalist for the great Freddy Martin Orchestra (at Freddy's insistence), Merv had a solo career that included sides at RCA, Columbia, Decca, Mercury, Carlton, Cameo, and MGM. In fact, two years prior to his band-singer career, he had cut an album of songs for a label called Panda, which he co-owned.
And, unknown to many, he had hits, his biggest being 1949's I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts (with Martin). Other Merv hits included Twenty-Three Starlets, by Tom (On Top of Spaghetti) Glazer (1951); and Banned in Boston (1961). We'll be hearing those last two.
We even have a vintage Burt Bacharach-Hal David number recorded by Merv in 1961--Along Came Joe. Like many a perfectly decent record, it went nowhere on the charts. Ditto for Introduce Me to the Gal and You're the Prettiest Thing, two 1958 Decca numbers that constitute two of the singer's three attempts at rock'n'roll! They could have come out a lot worse, and I've yet to hear a Sy Oliver arrangement I don't like.
Tracks 11-14 are game show themes from the 1986 Merv LP, Themes I've Dreamed. I wish I had more info for the material, but it's a pretty minimally-packaged affair. Great sound, though, for the nearly thirteen minutes of music contained on the 12-inch, long-playing disc. It's not like they had to pinch the dynamic range....
To the Merv: Merv for Monday.
PLAYLIST--MERV FOR MONDAY
TWENTY-THREE STARLETS (AND ME) (Tom Glazer)--With Hugo Winterhalter, 1951.
THE 3RD MAN THEME--With Freddy Martin Orch., 1950.
ALONG CAME JOE (Bacharach-David)--With Sid Bass Orch., Chorus, 1961.
THE WORLD WE LOVE IN--Same.
INTRODUCE ME TO THE GAL--With The Spellbinders and Sy Oliver, 1958.
YOU'RE THE PRETTIEST THING--Same.
DON'T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE--Same.
BANNED IN BOSTON--Same.
YOU'VE COME A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS--Same.
THE CHARANGA (David-Rizo)--Same.
HELLO, HELLO (Opening theme from Merv Griffin)--Unknown musicians, 1986.
BUZZWORD (Theme from Buzzword)--Same.
LIVING BY THE BEAT--Same.
SAMBA DE LA NOCHE (From Headline Chasers)--Same.
MY LITTLE GRASS SHACK (IN KEALAKEKUA, HAWAII)--With Sid Bass Orch., Cho., 1961.