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“O.B.S.” (Fiddle Players' National Anthem)

CMT managing editor Calvin Gilbert shared with readers a favorite quote about Vassar Clements – from MARTY STUART one of the featured commentators on “PBS Ken Burns Country Music.” Marty was speaking at the time of Vassar Clements' death, age 77, of lung cancer (2005) and recalled the first time he heard Clements playing on a recording:
“It was the most lonesome, scary sound coming out of a fiddle I’d ever heard. I played the mandolin, and once I heard this music, I ditched everything I ever knew and went back and tried to play mandolin like Vassar played fiddle. Years later, I played the Opry, and I saw this man playing fiddle. He stood straight, with his eyes closed and he was playing the prettiest music you could ever imagine. It froze me on the spot. This man is probably my favorite fiddle player on earth.”
So what's the fuss about the late Vassar Clements? If you can spare five-and-one-half-minutes, this video featuring an 'orchestra' of the world's greatest fiddlers, will tell you all you need to know about “The Isaac Stern of Fiddlers” (as he was dubbed by a classical music critic).
From an April night at the Opry in 2003. Every living fiddle great on stage with him – with subtitles introducing each by name – including a young Alison Krauss – as well as a fiddler I'd just been wondering about this week -- featured in the PBS Country Music (2019) video – Stuart Duncan – in the all-star band accompanying Hank's grand daughter Holly on “I'M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY.” At the 2:55 mark (after Ricky Scaggs' "Kentucky Thunder" fiddler Andy Leftwich) comes Mr. Duncan (not then associated with any band – just another great 'Nashville Cat' sessions musician). Each fiddler takes barely 15 seconds or less to contribute some signature licks of their own. Be advised: As this progresses you may experience waves of goosebumps.
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Mr. Blackburn (call me Mark ?) . . . thank you for pointing me to this series of videos by Mr. McCartney (call me Sir ?) . . . I didn't know this existed, and it's an amazing get together of some very

BARBARA MORRISON - Don't Go to Strangers

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My favorite Tony Bennett song -- written by Tony: I love singers who appreciate the art of lyrics enough to pen new words to an old melody you may not have heard of. I'm thinking of Tony Bennett. His wonderful words for a gorgeous melody by one of my guitar heroes – the Belgian Gypsy jazz giant, Django Reinhardt. I like to think that Tony was painting (one of his lovely little paintings that are instantly worth upwards of 50 thousand dollars) and was listening for the umpteenth time to an instrumental version (practically the only kind that ever existed) of “Nuages” (clouds). And suddenly Tony, with a big smile, puts down his brush and writes – a lyric!

I singled out his achievement in a review for Amazon.com for my favorite of his latter-day recordings – ART OF ROMANCE. “Nuages” turned into “All For You” – whose song title finally appears in the final stanza: . . . every moment that I live, my whole life through, now I'll look into your eyes and live for YOU. All for you. One of those songs whose lyrics reserve to the last words the song title. The ideal of course is the very opposite: Make the opening words the ones that always come to mind whenever we think of your song. In this case: “When you turned around and looked into my eyes.” Tony would have known (and sung?) a Leslie Bricusse song with nearly the same title. So that (I like to imagine) when he took up his paintbrush again, the world's greatest living singer said to himself: “All for You” (will have to do).


For guitarists out there, the gorgeous tone and lovely licks are from Gray Sargent (on his own signature model Yamaha). Concerning whom, Wiki says Gray Sargent (guitar). Gray Sargent has, to the best of our knowledge, played with Mr. Bennett longer than other members of the current quartet. Gray was a member of the Ralph Sharon Quartet (along with Clayton Cameron and Paul Langosch) and has played with Ruby Braff. He is a recognized jazz and swing guitarist.

[Amazon left my review in the spotlight. Don'tcha love it when they do that?]


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Once a year (just for me) Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio plays THESE FOOLISH THINGS – Rick Astley's latter-day (2005) recording – my favorite version of this ballad from long ago 1938 (Apart from our favorite singer's studio version for his "Point of No Return" album (1962).

When my youngest son Ben was little, he had a single Rick Astley cassette tape to play on his portable stereo – his first such 'purchase.' I remember listening with him and admiring Rick Astley's appealing, deep baritone voice – and his employment of a very good guitarist – as Rick does once again on THESE FOOLISH THINGS, played this morning by Siriusly Sinatra radio. A small jazz band arrangement that for the first minute is just Rick alone together with an acoustic guitar: one of the reasons this version remains my favorite. From an album “Portrait” that Rick Astley recorded 14 summers ago. His substantial Wiki entry reminds readers of Rick's significance in pop music history:

Richard Paul Astley (born 6 February 1966) is an English singer, songwriter and radio personality. His 1987 song "Never Gonna Give You Up" was a number 1 hit single in 25 countries and won the 1988 Brit Award for Best British Single.[1][2] By the time of his retirement in 1993, Astley had sold approximately 40 million records worldwide.[3][4][5] Astley made a comeback in 2007, becoming an Internet phenomenon when the music video for "Never Gonna Give You Up" became integral to the meme known as "rickrolling".[6] Astley was voted "Best Act Ever" by Internet users at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2008,[7] and his 2016 album 50 debuted in the UK at No. 1. Thanks "official Rick Astley" for sharing this one.   


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Glad To Be Unhappy 

At this hour Siriusly Sinatra is playing GLAD TO BE UNHAPPY -- a favorite song from Sinatra's landmark 'In The Wee Small Hours' album (some of us consider it the greatest 'theme album' of all time). Whenever I hear those opening words of the song's main chorus “fools rush in” I think of the song of the same title by Johnny Mercer: And always mean to look up which “fools rush in” song reference came first – this one, by my favorite composer Dick Rodgers, lyric by Larry Hart – or the song of the same name by Johnny Mercer. Turns out it's this one – from a 1936 Rodgers & Hart Broadway show. It wasn't a hit. Whereas . . .

Johnny Mercer composed “Fools Rush In” with Rube Bloom in 1940. I'm guessing that the unpopularity of the Rodgers & Hart song prompted Johnny to use the phrase as a hook for what turned out to be one of his biggest popular hits – from Sinatra to Ricky Nelson, everyone it seems recorded Fools Rush In. Johnny and Larry Hart borrowed the line from an 18th century English poet – “where angels fear to tread.” And included the simpler varient: “where wise men never go” (“but wise men never fall in love! so how are they to know?)

Wiki reminds us: “The line [that] “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” was first written by Alexander Pope in his 1711 poem An Essay on Criticism. The phrase alludes to inexperienced or rash people attempting things that more experienced people avoid.

But for Frank Sinatra in 1955, “Glad to Be Unhappy” might have disappeared without a trace. (Wiki note below)



"Glad to Be Unhappy" is a popular song composed by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Lorenz Hart.[1] It was introduced in their 1936 musical On Your Toes by Doris Carson and David Morris,[2] although it was not popular at the time, as there was only one 1936 recording of the tune . . .

The song still had to wait another decade beyond Sinatra's recording till 'The Mamas & The Papas' made it their last major studio recording:

The Mamas & the Papas – Glad to Be Unhappy:
Originally recorded for their appearance on 'Rodgers and Hart Today,' an episode of ABC Stage 67, the song was released as a single at the end of 1967, reaching #26 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[4] It was issued in an effort to keep the group in the charts, while awaiting the completion of what would be their fourth album, The Papas & The Mamas. The song does not appear on that album: it is instead used to promote the group's second Greatest Hits package, entitled Golden Era, Volume 2.

It is the last of the Mamas & the Papas singles produced in a professional studio, as subsequent singles were made in the studio constructed within John and Michelle Phillip's home at the time, once owned by actress Jeanette MacDonald.
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TONY BENNETT & BILL EVANS -- Make Someone Happy

"Fame, if you win it, comes and goes in a minute: Where's the REAL stuff of life to cling to?
Love is the answer -- someone to love is the answer . . . Make someone happy, just ONE someone happy -- and you will be happy too!"


My favorite living “Best Actor” Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins was invited to speak to a crowd of nearly 500 high school and college students at the annual Leadership, Excellence and Accelerating Your Potential conference (LEAP). And he shared with them the dangers of conforming to the world.

“If you chase the money, it’s not gonna work. And if you chase success, it’s not gonna work,” he said.

In fact, in a separate interview, Anthony opened up about how unfulfilling success alone is.

“You know, I meet young people, and they want to act and they want to be famous,” the acclaimed actor explained. “And I tell them, when you get to the top of the tree, there's nothing up there. Most of this is nonsense, most of this is a lie. Accept life as it is. Just be grateful to be alive."

Reminded of my favorite line (above) from any Jule Styne song, and my all-time favorite rendition of it -- recorded circa 1975 when the song was only 15 years old.

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A link with that song title was sent my way a moment ago by Tony Bennett's Facebook page: This link -- to a song I haven't heard in half a century. I remember loving the melody -- and today I search to see “who had a hit with it?” – and what year? "The Sandpipers" - 1970. One of two hit melodies that year from the late Fred Karlin, a Hollywood film and television theme composer; the other was FOR ALL WE KNOW – not the 30's standard – the OTHER “For All We Know” which Karen Carpenter turned into a million seller (and which won the “Best Original Song” Oscar in '71).

Yes, I remember loving the melody and the rendition by “The Sandpipers” of COME SATURDAY MORNING. But couldn't remember anything of the lyric
which is sort of impressionistic, almost to the point of non-existence. Written by Dory Previn whose Wiki entry is professionally impressive and personally poignant (flecked with so much sadness).

Yes, one of those songs that Tony Bennett singled out that year for his “Tony Bennett Something” (1970) album. Tony ordained a lovely symphonic treatment by . . . some great arranger I can't spot immediately. (Help, Wise Men.) Another reminder to his fans that Tony could “sing the phone book” and we'd listen till he chose to stop!




Edited by Mark Blackburn
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When I was 21 (it was a very good year) I got to see Gordon Lightfoot perform this lovely ballad at a high school auditorium in my hometown of Ottawa Canada. A sell out crowd of 600 (correct) where his previous performance at a coffee house had attracted 50 per night. His star was rising and his second album -- with SONG FOR A WINTER'S NIGHT (and Canadian Railroad Trilogy) had just been released. We called him GORD (as if we'd known him personally) and . . . oh, the magic of his live performances. We must have looked like this audience, faces almost sombre in solemn appreciation of the beauty unfolding before us. They categorized him as "folk" music but you listen to a ballad like this one (especially loved by guitar giant Jerry Reed) and your realize that Gord transcended musical categories.

A rare video from the early days of color TV in Canada. What a time capsule treat! Still gives me goose bumps, for reasons I can't put in words. Lightfoot's artless words remind us   there are "Tell me" song lyrics and "Show Me" -- the latter are rarer and usually better. Case in point.

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim / The shades of night are lifting / The mornin' light steals across my windowpane Where webs of snow are drifting / If I could only have you near, to breathe a sigh or two -- I would be happy just to hold the hands I love / On this winter's night with you



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THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT -- my favorite Sinatra swing tune (yours too?)

Some random thoughts (all of them good!) after enjoying this video appreciation of my all-time favorite Sinatra swing tune, THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT – sent my way a moment ago, via the shuffle play miracle that is YouTube circa 2019. I'd publicly appreciated an earlier  "I-Just-Discovered-Frank-Sinatra!"  video, from this same enthusiastic young listener (who looks to be at least 20) named "TwinsthenewTrend" Loved his concluding words:

“I know by now,” he says, “we all know about Frank . . . a shout-out to you, Man, I mean to HIM, man – Rest in Peace! And, to [all of you] for all the great support you've been showing – Peace & Love!”


If you're pressed for time, skip ahead please, to the around the 5:22 mark – where his reaction reaches a crescendo of sorts, as this perfect recording nears its end. Love the look on that joyful young face, and the body language of someone who suddenly appreciates Sinatra as much as the rest of us -- even if he doesn't know (yet) names like Nelson Riddle (one of his best swing arrangements) or Dorothy Fields – the gifted Lady who wrote the words to this Jerome Kern tune (that won the 'Best Original Song' Oscar in 1936).

The stationary camera angle permits superimposition, screen-right, of a small black & white, mid-Fifties photo of a Frank-in-fedora (a 55 T-Bird convertible; red, I'm guessing). Our attention is otherwise drawn to an unmade bed, whose sheets are missing: 'wash day Monday,' I wonder? [Back when this song was composed, Monday was universally “wash day” throughout North America; your Grandmother could explain WHY that was. Do you know?]

All of this prompted by TwinsTheNewTrend's video: thanks for sharing!

Some well-informed comments below the video include this one, posted earlier this week:

Tintinesk5 3 days ago (edited)

Cool that you can appreciate Golden music, that is Sinatra, shows your good taste ! Have you ever seen the pictures with Frank and orchestra in the sound studio in the 50s and 60s? He’s standing there with sheet music on a stand, cool clothes, hat on, concentrating, the orchestra there, behind him sometimes a bunch of invited people, who had the private privilege of hearing and seeing him record these classics (they had to stay quiet LOL) live in the studio.

Not like today, they did take after take, live, no effects nor manipulations, and everybody including Frank had to do the best job possible. He could do a great job vocally, but if a musician messed up during the song, or if his voice cracked slightly, they just started the song over...

Being a perfectionist, this could be dozens of times. Or just one or two takes, all in service of the song, the performance. No matter the cost (musicians and studio time): Elvis and Frank were two examples of old-school artists that liked to do it the old-fashioned way. Live-in-the-studio with eye contact with their musicians, coaching them along between takes and with hand gestures, like conductors.

They heard EVERYTHING. Many stories of for ex Frank quietly going over to like a trombone player or flutist, whisper something, a mistake he heard from him in the previous take, in his ear (as to not embarrass him in front of his colleagues), and the problem would be solved with dignity the next take. In the rare case they couldn’t make it through a take as a full and perfect master recording, the producer would splice parts of takes or insert something at the front or something, to deliver the master take, otherwise: what you heard, what they played, is what you got.
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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Calabria Foti Playing Favorites 2.0

Early in the history of "Playing Favorites" on Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio my favorite living singer CALABRIA FOTI recorded one of my favorite shows; it featured a live phone interview with her good friend, the dean of living arrangers, Johnny Mandel. Alas, it is the one show I loved that is 'gone with the wind' -- vanished without a trace. Imagine my delight receiving an email today that,

“Calabria Foti guests on Siriusly Sinatra “Playing Favorites” Dec. 9-14 playing her favorite songs and debuting a BRAND NEW SINGLE! Tune in next week." Musician Tom Hammett writes (this day): “I know of no other singer of popular music in the same league. What a sweetheart! And [her] hubby's trombone is equally expressive and technically accurate!” [Fellow admirer] Steve Gray writes: "She is amazing...one of her first albums 'A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening' - spectacular - her husband Bob McChesney a famous trombonist and LA studio musician ...."

Mr. Gray singles out my favorite album by ANY living singer: “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening” although Calabria's most recent album, PRELUDE TO A KISS is just as beautiful in a new way – featuring lush orchestral arrangements by all my favorite living arrangers – Jeremy Lubbock, Roger Kellaway, Jorge Calandrelli and (94 years young) Johnny Mandel.

To my friends here:  If you buy “Prelude” and don't love it, I'll pay for your copy!  Calabria's latest also features a delightful duet with John Pizzarelli -- “It's the Mood I'm In.” Wish it were at YouTube. There IS this one track (hope soon there'll be more) at Spotify. “The Man With the Horn” co-written by the great Eddie De Lange. The celestial string arrangement? Jorge Calandrelli (who has arranged a dozen of Tony Bennett's latter day recordings). Mr. Calandrelli agrees, Calabria is in a league of her own.

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Calabria Foti -- my favorite living singer, my favorite "Playing Favorites"

My friends here know my feelings about Calabria Foti -- I'm just crazy about her way with a great song (and loved her previous "Playing Favorites" show several years ago that somehow got 'lost'). Her latest program on Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio this night exceeded all expectations. Not least for LUSH LIFE -- the way Nelson Riddle conceived it, 61 years ago, given its first full reading by Calabria Foti. AND all thanks to Frank Sinatra Jr. [!]

As her show neared its end Calabria prepared listeners to hear the full arrangement, the way Nelson Riddle intended it to be recorded that night in 1958 – when Felix Slatkin conducted the orchestra, in the absence of Mr. Riddle who was accompanying Nat Cole on tour -- in Alberta Canada! (but you knew that, right?). As Calabria recalled:

“Sinatra's 'Sings For Only the Lonely' was one of his greatest records, mentioned in every Sinatra biography and Nelson's autobiography, and LUSH LIFE was intended for the album but was tragically omitted. It's a very interesting and haunting arrangement by Nelson Riddle, depicting someone doing their best to get over the heartache of a break-up.

“There's been a lot of speculation about why the song never got completed. Nelson wasn't on the podium that night; they had finished seven songs in that one session and as a musician I can tell you that's a lot of songs – and it was late at night. Several takes were attempted, but they were tired, and they just abandoned the recording. Now Nelson was really disappointed that the song did not make it onto the album. Some bootlegs have slipped out where you can hear Mr. Sinatra running through the song.

Now, fast forward several years. This is the personal part of the story: because of the friendship my husband and I had with Sinatra Jr, he gave me the arrangement to record. We'd also planned that he would conduct the orchestra when we recorded it. But – he sadly passed before the session took place.

“Now before I play you my recording of the complete arrangement, I'd like to take you back to 1958 and play you a little of the original outtake. Here is Mr. Sinatra.”

Frank sings a portion of the opening verse: “I used to visit all the very gay places . . . from jazz and cocktails . . . then you came along . . . ” Frank interrupts to say, “Hold it: It's hard enough to sing it the way it is but he's got some (clydes?clams?) in there!” (apparent reference to musicians hitting a wrong note) before: “Let's put it aside for about a year!”

Wow, says Calabria: “Well. I'm no Frank Sinatra, but here is my recording of the complete arrangement by Nelson Riddle of LUSH LIFE – intended for Frank Sinatra in 1958, being heard for the very first time.”

What follows is gorgeous – surely one of the most creatively beautiful arrangements – opening with some Fats Waller style up-tempo stride piano soloing before the huge orchestra breaks into a delightful, three-quarter-time, 'symphonic arrangement that sparkles!

A key change marks the start of the main chorus -- with those familiar words we longed to hear Frank sing:

“Life is lonely again, and only last year, everything seemed so sure. Now life is awful again, a truffle of hearts can only be a bore! A week in Paris should ease the bite of it, all I care is to smile in spite of it . . . I'll forget you, I will, and yet you are still burning inside my brain. Romance is mush – stifling those who strive: I'll live a love life in some small dive, and there I'll be while I rot with the rest of those whose lives are lonely too.”  
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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That magic moment "alone with Sinatra"

At show's end, and after playing her gorgeous LUSH LIFE, Calabria Foti closed with an anecdote dear to all our hearts: Her one moment alone with Sinatra!


“As a young violinist in an orchestra, I got to share a stage with Sinatra – just once! It was at a hotel in Beverly Hills: You could FEEL the electricity in the air – all the musicians were really 'edgy' because . . . it was SINATRA's show! And I was really nervous, to know that HE was somewhere backstage: that I just HAD to find him, and say Hello!

I knew it was a little crazy but . . . it was my only chance to say Hi!

So, about twenty minutes before the show started, I went backstage, and I approached the area where he was getting ready. And I sort of jiggled the curtain a little, and I said: “Hi!” Sort of shyly.

He was fixing his bow tie and he did a little half-turn and looked – and he said: “Hi, Kid! How ya doin' ?”

I grinned and I said, “I'm SO happy to be here!”

He just nodded and smiled!

It was the most magical evening playing for the greatest entertainer in show business.

I'd like to close this show with this song – that Mr. Sinatra did on a few occasions. This is my favorite version, from 1958, arranged by Nelson Riddle. And I know that this is one of Tina Sinatra's favorite songs too.

But before I sign off, I'd like to thank the Sinatra family – the late Frank Sinatra Junior, Charles Pignone, Lou Simon and Brian DeNicola for their kindness and support. And I'd like to wish YOU Happy Holidays! Thank you so much for listening, and God bless!

This is Frank Sinatra singing All My Tomorrows.”

Edited by Mark Blackburn
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As I type this Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing my favorite four-part-harmony version of THESE FOOLISH THINGS -- a lovely reminder that sometimes a sentimental favorite (and no standard was ever more sentimental than this one) is best conveyed by four male voices in perfect, unsurpassed harmony. Best such vocal arrangement EVER?

Favorite lines:  A tinkling piano in the next apartment . . . a telephone that rings, but who's to answer? A fairground's painted swings, these foolish things remind me of you.
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Linda Ronstadt -- Playing Favorites on Frank's Birthday (December 12)

As I pulled up in my driveway a moment ago Linda Ronstadt was sharing my favorite of her recollections -- the back story on how she had "longed for years" to record with Nelson Riddle her own version of her all-time favorite ballad recording -- on the "Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely" album (1958)  -- GUESS I'LL HANG MY TEARS OUT TO DRY. I get goosebumps every time I hear the opening gut-string guitar solo accompaniment -- thinking of the story Nancy's co-producer Charles Granata shared with readers in his masterwork on Sinatra's Studio Recordings -- about how that guitar was acquired earlier the same day in a pawn shop (if memory serves).  Yes, there is Linda Ronstadt recalling how, in the early '80's, she had just acquired her first Sony Walkman and was listening to that very song . . . and thinking to herself, "I'd just die if I can't record that some day, and I'd die if I couldn't record it with Nelson Riddle -- even though my version could never compare to this one." (Linda's wish came true, with a trio of black vinyl albums recorded with Nelson, just before his death. Her series of albums with Riddle sold 6 million copies. 

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Laughing at blue diamond rings

“I'm not the guy who cared about love, and I'm not the guy who cared about fortunes and such – never cared much: Oh! Look at me now!”

A simple lyric – by John DeVries who never had another big hit (and kept his day job as a distinguished NYC interior designer) and a haunting melody composed by Joe Buskin – a distinguished pianist/arranger who wrote the tune while employed by Tommy Dorsey: “Sinatra's second hit,” says Wikipedia, “after Polka Dots and Moonbeams.” Wiki also notes that Bushkin died, age 87, in Santa Barbara California in 2004. "He had always hoped to live to 88, as a piano had 88 keys."


Every time I hear it played on Sirius Radio I'm hooked at the intriguing opening notes by Nelson Riddle – the 'one-two-three, one-two-three' counter melody; I always have the same thought: 'Maybe my favorite swing tune arrangement by Nelson' (yours too?)

Just listened on Spotify to the original, arranged in 1941 by Sy Oliver with The Dorsey Orchestra and and the Pied Pipers; then back to Nelson Riddle's gem of an arrangement in 1957 for “A Swingin' Affair!” (Also my favorite track on the splendid Sinatra "'57 concert" recording engineered by the king of 'remote' recordings the late Wally Heider).

This version, posted five years ago at YouTube, features my favorite Sinatra slide show, and an informed note:


“This recording represents the epitome of the recording career of Frank Sinatra, the greatest male singer of the Twentieth Century. "Oh! Look at Me Now," written by Joe Bushkin and John DeVries in 1941 and first recorded by Frank Sinatra that same year with Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra, is from Frank Sinatra’s greatest swing album - A Swingin' Affair! released by Capitol Records in 1957. The track was recorded on November 28, 1956 with Nelson Riddle's excellent arrangement and orchestration.The album is available on CD on Capitol.”
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Favorite (right this minute) live duet on TV -- Trisha Yearwood / Aaron Neville

Left a note of appreciation at Trisha Yearwood's Facebook page (a moment ago). Since her 'Town Hall' with Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio programmer Jersey Lou Simon, celebrating her Sinatra tribute album recorded in Hollywood at the start of this year, I've been Trisha's occasional "Top Fan"!


Watching the Kennedy Center Honors right now – the moment that brought honoree Linda Ronstadt to tears -- as Trisha Yearwood performed “two of Linda's Grammy-winners" – (Baby) You're No Good, followed by Trisha introducing her duet partner: “Ladies and Gentlemen: Mr. Aaron Neville.”

Your breathtaking harmonizing with Aaron Neville -- on 'I Don't Know Much (But I Know I Love You) -- gave my wife Irene and I goosebumps-in-unison:  you know the feeling magic moments like these can evoke in your fans!  Irene has loved Aaron Neville 'forever'. Minutes earlier she had just told me to “turn down the volume two notches.” You came on and it was “Turn it UP!!!!”

Loved the immediate audience close ups – of "Mr. Trisha Yearwood," fighting back tears of pride & joy, and Mrs. Tom Hanks singing along to your merely perfect cover of 'You're No Good.' Yes, magic's the word for one of our favorite moments EVER at the Kennedy Center Honors show. [From Aaron & Linda's 'live' television performance of almost 30 years ago.]


Four million views and this comment (with 892 thumbs up) that speaks for millions of us:

Jared Miller (3 years ago)

"Back when artists didn't need a studio to make them sound good...my god they are amazing!"
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The Bells of Christmas -- favorite late 20th century carol

Siriusly Sinatra just played Sammy Cahn's THE BELLS OF CHRISTMAS – its best-ever recording from half a century ago, by the Sinatra Family. One of five seasonal songs Sammy composed as lyricist -- but not so famous as “Let it Snow” – which my seven-year-old grandson Luke just learned at school – both in English and in French (who knew?)

But this one, set to the ancient melody “Greensleeves” is one of Sammy's best:

Ring out! Let the tale be told . . . that inspires the dreams of the young and old.
Love! Love! Let your hearts unfold, for the bells of Christmas are ringing!

Enter the words “What Child is This?” and “Wikipedia” and be directed to the German edition (quoting from the Lutheran hymn book) “translate into English?” The entry in its entirety:

What Child is This? – a popular Christmas song written in 1865 . At the age of 29, the English writer William Chatterton Dix was struck by an unexpected illness that nearly cost him his life. He went to bed for months and went into a deep depression . [2] [3] Even after his near-death experience , Dix wrote many hymns , including "What Child Is This?" Which was later added to the traditional British tune " Greensleeves ".

[Included are three stanzas of Mr. Dix's 160 year-old lyric, concluding with these words]

Raise, raise the song on high!
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy! joy! for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary!


We take great recording engineering for granted, but the placement of mics for “The Bells of Christmas” – the recording and the 'mixing' by the sound engineer (wonder who it was?) – is perfect: We hear the distinctive differences in the voices of Frank, Frank Jr and Nancy on the parts they sing in unison. And what a fine vocal chorus! – especially that warm, rich bass voice, singing two-octaves-lower-than-everyone else, on the final, C-minor note. Wonder who that singer is/was? – his name – as well as the rest of the chorus (and whether they worked on previous Sinatra recording sessions). I can think of two wise guys without whom we might never know. (Thanks in advance, sincerely yours etc.)


The Bells of Christmas is one of five (count 'em) seasonal songs with lyrics composed by Sammy Cahn. Can you name the others? The most obscure is one he wrote about the true meaning of Christmas –composed for a Bing Crosby movie – with 'best-ever' recording from Ella's Christmas album. I can't think of its name!

Anyway – here's the one played by Siriusly Sinatra this hour – one of my Christmas favorites, arranged I believe by Nelson Riddle:

Edited by Mark Blackburn
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Should old acquaintance be forgot . . .

Listening just now to Christmas songs --  a living room fire blazing against the minus 30 windchill outside, and thinking: We've got our love to keep us warm! Came here to share a reminiscence about an arranger you may not have heard of, who specialized in Christmas music. Just learned that “Bob Krogstad” a brilliant, lesser-known composer/arranger I had admired for decades, died four years ago in a Springfield Missouri hospital, age 64. An online bio (no Wiki entry) brought back memories that,

"Mr. Krogstad served for a time as musical director for both Natalie Cole and Mel Torme" [and conducted Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra musicians on Mel's final concert appearance in our city.] He's listed in liner notes as arranger on Natalie Cole's second Christmas album for Hallmark Cards which has always employed London Symphony/Philharmonic musicians (arguably the best available for recordings) by the world's greatest singers.

The shuffle play miracle that is YouTube sent this one my way today: Natalie & Nat Cole with their studio-engineered 'duet' of Mel Torme's “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts Roasting).


Since you can Google for anything now and get instant answers, my question of a moment ago: “Who arranged those London Symphony musicians?” – which led right back to “Bob Krogstad” and his short obituary.

Listen to the joyous outburst in three-quarter-time that Mr. Krogstad creates as an instrumental bridge supplementing the early Nelson Riddle arrangement of Nat's first (orchestral) version, circa 1961. So uplifting!

[His Missouri obit reads in part]


Bob Krogstad passed away on April 10, 2015 in Cox South Hospital in Springfield Missouri. He was 64.

Bob studied piano and music composition at MSU. He was a well-respected figure in the music business as a composer, arranger and conductor, both in sacred and secular music. He was known as "Mr. Christmas" because of his beautiful arrangements of Christmas music.

'He served as musical director for both Natalie Cole and Mel Torme, for whom he has conducted over thirty symphony orchestras across North America and Europe, including those of Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta, San Francisco, Winnipeg, Detroit and Houston, as well as the National Symphony, the Utah Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Orchestre Suisse Romande (Geneva). When he wasn't touring, he enjoyed writing his latest compositions in the warm, sunny climate of Scottsdale, Arizona.
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Arranger Bob Krogstad's finest hour

Siriusly Sinatra is playing Natalie Cole's “The Christmas Waltz” – the “other Christmas classic” by Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne – and one of Bob Krogstad's elegant arrangements for Natalie's second Christmas CD; “released in time for Christmas 1999” and “including tracks that had been introduced in a 1998 Hallmark Christmas CD.”

Today the album has an expanded Wiki entry with a track listing (that wasn't there the last time I looked). And a personnel list that includes the 'Dean' of recording engineers, Al Schmitt; a favorite jazz pianist Terry Trotter plays a tasteful keyboard on most of the tracks. Terry now has a brief Wiki entry (below).

My second-favorite version of The Christmas Waltz! Nothing, of course, can top Frank's orchestra and chorus rendition – slowed down the way composer Jule Styne loved it: its waltz time nearly out of tempo. 'Rubato,' as the Latins say. One of Bob Krogstad's very best arrangements. Natalie thought so. You too?


Natalie Cole - vocals
London Symphony Orchestra - instruments performed by
Christopher Argent - organ played by (1-4, 7)[1]
Nat King Cole - vocals (1)
Toby Foster - recording engineer, audio mixing
Bob Krogstad - musical arrangement, orchestra conductor
Robert MacGimsey - musical arrangement (track 4)
Fred Salem - producer
Al Schmitt - audio mixing
Terry Trotter - piano
Peter J. Wilhousky - musical arrangement (track 9)


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Terry Trotter is a studio pianist living in Los Angeles. He has recorded with such notable artists as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Natalie Cole, Celine Dion, Larry Carlton, and many others.[1] Trotter composed the theme music to the television show Everybody Loves Raymond.[2]
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Michael Feinstein -- SECRET OF CHRISTMAS

Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio's NANCY FOR FRANK Show 493 Christmas 2019" included a version I've not heard of THE SECRET OF CHRISTMAS -- the rarely-recorded (fifth) seasonal song for which Sammy Cahn wrote the poignant words:  It takes little more than a minute to sing it, but oh, what a lasting effect on the human heart each time we hear these few words:

It's not the glow you feel when snow appears. It's not the Christmas cards you've sent for years; not the joyful sound when sleigh bells ring, not the merry songs children sing.
The little gift you send on Christmas Day will not bring back the friend you've turned away. So may I suggest – the secret of Christmas is not the things you do at Christmas time, but the Christmas things you do, all year through.

Self-accompanied solo piano by Michael Feinstein. Is it at YouTube? Yes! A live 'intimate setting' performance complete with introduction. Would never have enjoyed this Christmas gift if Nancy and Chuck hadn't included among today's 95 (count 'em) tracks.


The shuffle play miracle that is YouTube Christmas 2019 sent our way an orchestral/vocal rendition -- that Sammy C. & Jimmy Van would have loved: -- "The Portland Choir and Orchestra" 'live' performance. Tears of joy.

Edited by Mark Blackburn
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On a clear (Christmas) day . . .

“The best Christmas gift” Tony Bennett ever received was a live performance by a choir -- sent his way by Duke Ellington” at a moment Tony described as “the lowest point of my life.”


A personal aside: It's Christmas Eve and (if I didn't know better, I'd say “What a coincidence!”) I was looking just now at Tony's inscription in my copy of his autobiography THE GOOD LIFE: “To Mark – Thank you very much – Tony Bennett” and I opened the book to these words:

“Although my career was at a high, my private life was falling apart. Christmas of 1965 was the lowest point in my life . . .

“I was alone in my hotel room and feeling sorry for myself, when I heard music. I thought I'd left the TV on, but it was off. Then I thought it was my portable tape recorder, but that was off too. I finally realized the music was coming from the hallway and when I opened the door, a choir was singing – the Burton Lane – Alan Jay Lerner song On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever).

“Duke Ellington was giving a concert of sacred music at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and he'd heard from his drummer Louis Bellson I was in a bad way, so he sent the choir over to cheer me up. It was his Christmas gift to me, the most beautiful that I have ever received. It was a moment that made me believe in people, no matter how difficult things might become for me.”

Five years later Tony would record his own splendid rendition of that song from the musical of the same name. [Shared by Tony at YouTube. Most recent comment speaks for so many of us:]

BOB BYERS 2 weeks ago
This song and its lyrics are very sublime. The great Tony Bennett really nails it here (he always does!). He communicates with every ounce of his soul exactly what is special about this particular song

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She needn't waken -- I'll fix the eggs and bacon . . .

“I'm Kate Flannery playing some of my favorites on Siriusly Sinatra. A saloon-owner's daughter who loves Sinatra's saloon songs.” At this moment she's introducing “One For My Baby.” Minutes earlier, Kate introduced a song she says “both my boyfriend and I love” as it expresses so well “our favorite day of the week” (for sleeping late and breakfast in bed?) – IT'S SUNDAY” – Frank's studio recording 'alone together' with nylon-string guitar virtuoso Tony Mottola.


I can recall only one other Playing Favorites host ever including this wonderful late-in-life studio recording! Along with George Benson, Tony Mottola gets my vote as the greatest-ever 'flat-pick (plectrum, as opposed to finger-picking) guitar giant who got to record a few songs with Sinatra. Just had to come here and say Thanks for including this one, Kate – along with your delightful personal anecdote!

The song is the last great melody composed by the late Jule (Time After Time) Styne to words by Broadway lyricist Susan Birkenhead (still with us, age 69). The best lyric – artless and memorable:

Drowsy morning sunlight, gentle kisses for my love
It's Sunday, it's Sunday
She needn't waken, I'll fix the eggs and bacon her way
While she just dozes
Lately I've taken to bringing her a flower on her tray
She's fond of roses . . .

We'll talk away the morning, read the papers, misbehave
Enjoying each other
The world is ours to play in, we'll take a walk or stay in
Long and lazy hours to have and hide away in for one day
Thank goodness, it's Sunday!


Uploaded to YouTube 10 years ago – with 53 thousand 'views' and this comment from a kindred spirit:

Joseph Bellamy (5 years ago)
Who ever uploaded this song is truly a Frank Sinatra Fan! The average joe don't listen to this level of material. This song takes me back to my short spent youth...when I was young and in love with my own Ava Gardner.
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My Mom, My Dad -- and Don McLean

When I was little, my Mom would sing me to sleep with one lullaby after another. To my young mind, I may have thought she'd made these songs up. She did write a few good songs (words & music) and won a few national contests here in Canada -- back when the winners were asked “In 50 words or less, tell us why you like Swift's 'Brown and Serve' Sausages.” (Her winning poem for that one supplied our home with every major appliance, including a dishwasher -- back when almost no home in Ottawa Canada had one! Alas for Mom, we sold it (needed the cash) so . . . Mom continued to do dishes by hand.

Decades later I would realize that her lullaby selections ranged from Brahm's most famous (“Lullaby and goodnight”) to Harry Woods' “Try a little tenderness” [ ! ] One of my favorites included a refrain about “ . . . where the mountains of Morin [sp?] roll down to the sea.” Just googled to learn that the mountains are hills in Northern Ireland's famous County Down. And the 'MORE-inn' I heard my Mom sing, is spelled Mourne. [A word (below) about the song's genesis a hundred years ago.]

In my mind's eye, I can see my Mom, finishing up dishes in the kitchen, and drying her hands, as she came into my bedroom to sing those words. In my mind's ear, I hear the perfect timbre of her lovely, comforting voice singing,

Oh Mary! This London's a wonderful sight! With the people all working by day and by night. They don't plant potatoes nor barley, nor wheat – but there's gangs of them digging for gold in the street. At least, when I asked them, that's what I was told. So I took a hand in this digging for gold, but for all that I found there, I might as well be, where the mountains of 'MOR-inn' roll down to the sea.

On my own Facebook page yesterday I'd been singing the praises of Don (American Pie) McLean and how proud he was when his last “adult contemporary” No. 1 record in Canada and the U.S. “composed with Fred Astaire in mind” received its best cover version by . . . Fred Astaire! Remember “Wonderful Baby”? If I didn't know better I'd say What a coincidence!

A friend sent me this link – Don McLean and the only recording I have ever heard (and not until this hour, 70 years on) of “Mountains of Mourne.” Need I say? “My favorite version” -- since Mom's. My Dad used to say “That song included some other stanzas and one about a policeman on 'The Strand' (in London) who “held up the traffic with a wave of his hand.” Sure enough . . .

Most recent comments below the video from kindred souls, sharing tears of joy

Norma Cosby
9 months ago
My late dad's favourite, we played it at his funeral, i live in Belfast but find it very emotional going to Newcastle, the view of the mournes as you drive in is beautiful, my dad loved it and always sang this song, we spent our last holiday together in the Burrendale hotel in Newcastle.

john crawford
1 year ago
Wiki entry from England concerning the lyricist of this (almost) forgotten song:

William Percy French (1 May 1854 – 24 January 1920) was one of Ireland's foremost songwriters and entertainers in his day . . .

French was renowned for composing and singing comic songs and gained considerable distinction with his songs [including] The Mountains of Mourne (this last was one of several written with his friend, stage partner and fellow composer, Houston Collisson).[3]

The Mourne Mountains of the title are located in County Down in Northern Ireland. The song is a whimsical look at the styles, attitudes and fashions of late nineteenth-century London as seen from the point of view of an emigrant labourer from a village near the Mountains of Mourne.
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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Posted (edited)

Should old acquaintance be forgot -- toasting the losers too!

One of our favorite singer's lesser-known recordings, HERE'S TO THE LOSERS is playing on Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio – most appropriately for New Year's Eve, as its wonderful lyrics (by Jack Seagel) include a final stanza – brilliant, poignant words, alluding to some of our favorite Biblical verses: that it is “better to give than to receive” and the mysterious 'Beatitude' assurance that 'The Meek shall inherit the earth.'

“Here's the last toast of the evening, here's to those who still believe
all the losers will be winners, all the givers shall receive!
Here's to trouble-free tomorrows; may your sorrows all be small.
Here's to the Losers! (Bless 'em all.)

Sinatra's singing on this track (played by Sirius every month or two) always perks up my ears – gives me goosebumps. (Did it again, just now.) The power in the 1964 voice is unsurpassed – captured by a recording engineer (wonder who?) with just the perfect 'reverb' setting to give that powerful vocal a delightful edge. The up-tempo arrangement is gorgeous – one of only two orchestrations for Sinatra by the great Marty Paich, who left us 25 years ago, age 70. I'm sure he and Sinatra wished they had gotten together in the studio more often that just for this – and a beautiful ballad, “Love Isn't Just For the Young” – both included on a 1964 album (with four other great arrangers) “Softly As I Leave You”:


Wikipedia has a recently-expanded entry for Marty Paich (who left us 25 years ago) reminding readers that in his half-century career, he worked with Ray Charles, Glen Campbell, Neil Diamond, Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Rita Moss, Aretha Franklin, Stan Getz, Michael Jackson, Jack Jones, Stan Kenton, Art Pepper, Linda Ronstadt, Frank Sinatra, Spirit, Barbra Streisand, Mel Tormé, Johnny Rivers, and Sarah Vaughan.

“From the late 1960s into the mid-1970s, Paich was the studio orchestra leader for such television variety shows as The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (where he replaced Nelson Riddle), and The Sonny and Cher Show. He also scored such television programs as Ironside, for which he won an Emmy Award. At this time, he began serving as teacher and lifelong mentor to his son, David Paich, soon to make his own reputation with the band Toto, and to become a distinguished musician in his own right.”
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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Posted (edited)

ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL -- The Riddle arrangement with the Hammond B-3

Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio just played a great live performance of what Frank declares (at song's end): “Nelson Riddle's marvelous arrangement of All or Nothing at All ! Isn't that a great chart?” The large orchestra and a perfect 'remote' recording is magic to hear. Wonder which stage show it was from?

THIS (the original studio recording) will have to do, “until the 'real thing' (live) comes along.”

Most-seen version uploaded to YouTube. With 999 “helpful” votes. (How could I resist being the one thousandth 'satisfied customer'?) As the most recent comment below the video asked rhetorically, “Does it get any better than this?”


A kindred soul answered that question -- citing the 'seldom-heard' Sinatra recording that I just praised here.  If I didn't know better I'd say, What a coincidence!

2 months ago
"Here's to the Losers" maybe... I'm conflicted which one of these two like the most :)


Edited by Mark Blackburn
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“I'm not afraid of Autumn, and her sorrows . . .

" . . . for I'll remember April – and YOU!'"

At this moment, Siriusly Sinatra is playing I'LL REMEMBER APRIL from the Point of No Return album – Sinatra's last album with his first great arranger, Axel Stordahl whose beautifully evocative arrangement has never been equalled. This is the retire the trophy version. Listen to those opening notes of maybe my favorite of Mr. Stordahl's most subtle arrangements.

The brief Wikipedia entry is made longer by a list of 50 artists who recorded it:

"I'll Remember April" is a popular song and jazz standard about a romantic relationship ending. The lyric uses the seasons of the year metaphorically to illustrate the growth and death of a romance. The lyric also uses the ideas of the hours in a day and the flames of a fire to illustrate a relationship growing stronger and subsequently losing strength. The song has been described as a song that makes use of nostalgia[1], with music written by Gene de Paul, and lyrics by Patricia Johnston and Don Raye. It made its debut in the 1942 Abbott and Costello comedy Ride 'Em Cowboy, being sung by Dick Foran.
Since then, dozens upon dozens of artists have covered the song as listed below. One of the most notable live renditions of the song is a radio performance by Judy Garland, on a broadcast of Lux Radio Theatre. Frank Sinatra - included in his album Point of No Return (1962).

Most viewed version uploaded to YouTube with an informed note (below):


"I'll Remember April" -- written by Gene de Paul, Patricia Johnston and Don Raye for the 1942 comedy film Ride 'Em Cowboy was arranged and conducted by Axel Stordahl, for Frank Sinatra’s final Capitol LP, Point Of No Return released in March 1962. The track was recorded on September 12, 1961 at Studio A of the Capitol Tower in Hollywood. Point Of No Return reunited Sinatra and Stordahl, who had arranged and conducted most of Sinatra’s Columbia sessions in the 1940s and early 1950s and Frank’s first Capitol session on April 2, 1953. The album is available on CD on Capitol.
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