Tony Terran, Trumpeter For The Wrecking Crew And Desi Arnaz

Intro Solo on “Granada” on I Love Lucy – Watch on YouTube

Tony Terran was one of those musicians who you might not know by name, but who you’ve probably heard on countless albums. As part of the famed “Wrecking Crew,” a group of L.A. session musicians that included Glenn Campbell, Leon Russell, Hal Ashby and Carol Kaye, Terran shows up on tracks for everyone from Sinatra to The Monkees.

Terran got an early break from bandleader Desi Arnaz, with whom he worked in the orchestra for Bob Hope’s radio showLater, when Arnaz and his wife Lucille Ball were starring in I Love Lucy, Terran was part of the show’s Ricky Ricardo Orchestra.

Terran would be a go-to trumpeter for other bandleaders, too, including Lalo Schiflin, Henry Mancini and Nelson Riddle.

Anthony “Tony” Terran, May 30, 1926-March 20, 2017

“I’ve Got A Crush On You,” trumpet solo with Linda Ronstadt and The Nelson Riddle Orchestra – Watch on YouTube


Bobby Freeman, Wrote And Sang “Do You Wanna Dance”

“Do You Wanna Dance” on Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show (1958)–Watch on YouTube*

I read Bobby Freeman’s obituary right after this year’s Grammy Awards. It made me wonder: would any of the songs that were up for 2017’s “Song of the Year” endure in the way that Freeman’s 1958 classic “Do You Want To Dance?” has?

Freeman’s song, written and recorded while he was still a teenager, would go on to be covered by The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, John Lennon, The Ramones and Bette Midler. You can accuse me of Baby Boomer fuddy-duddyism, but it’s hard to imagine Adele, Beyoncé and all the pop machine behind them producing a tune still worth humming 60 years from now.

“Do You Want To Dance” didn’t win at the 1st Annual Grammy Award Show in 1959, the year it would have been eligible. It wasn’t even nominated. The honor that year went to “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)” by Domenico Modugno.

Freeman (June 13, 1940-January 23, 2017) is considered San Francisco’s first rock-and-roll star. His 1964 hit “C’Mon and Swim” was written and produced by then-19-year-old Sylvester Stewart (aka Sly Stone).

*This rather strange video begins with host Dick Clark talking to actor Tony Randall, apparently on leave from the Navy.

“Do You Wanna Dance” Original & Covers–Listen on Spotify


Al Jarreau, Won Grammys In 3 Categories

“Spain” at Live Under the Sky, 1990–Watch on YouTube

Al Jarreau is the only vocalist to win a Grammy in the Jazz, R&B and Pop categories. He won Best Jazz Vocal Performance in 1977 and 1978; Best Pop and Jazz Vocal Performance, Male, in 1982; and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, in 1993; and Best Traditional Vocal R&B Vocal Performance in 2007. (Oh, and add a Best Recording for Children Grammy in 1981 for work he did with other artists on a Sesame Street album.)

My friend Mark, a saxophonist, credits Jarreau with teaching him the value of circular breathing, a technique used to produce a continuous tone without interruption. Mark’s memories of Jarreau include a concert at Minneapolis’s State Theater in which Jarreau picked out then-Minneapolitan Bobby McFerrin in the crowd. He invited McFerrin on stage and gave him a mic; the two then entered into a “battle of the scat.”

I was amused to learn that Jarreau was a graduate of Ripon College in small Ripon, WI, birthplace of the Republican Party. Seems like an unlikely place for a jazz and R&B artist. Apparently, Jarreau’s singing career really didn’t take off until he’d relocated to California.

“[Round, Round, Round] Blue Rondo a la Turk–on Spotify

Buddy Greco, “The Ultimate Lounge Singer”

“The Lady Is A Tramp”–Watch on YouTube

Buddy Greco (August 14, 1926-January 10, 2017) was a jazz singer and pianist, long associated with Las Vegas, lounge acts and a Rat Pack-sensibility. Although he never achieved the fame of Rat Pack stalwarts Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He recorded over 70 albums and performed relentlessly. “The Lady Is A Tramp” was the closest he had to a hit, and even that did not crack the Top 40.

Reviewers were generally not kind:

“…a strangely empty, unfocused act…” -New York Times critic John S. Wilson (1977)

“Frank Sinatra  Jr. Is Worth Six Buddy Grecos” -GQ (1994)

“…the epitome of a certain kind of saloon performer.” -Chicago Tribune critic Larry Cart (1985)

Greco’s first love was jazz and piano. He played with the Benny Goodman Orchestra for four years beginning in 1948 and can be heard soloing on Goodman’s album Undercurrent Blues, a brief detour for Goodman from swing into bebop.

Greco was inducted into the Las Vegas Entertainers Hall of Fame in November.

“Like Young” on Spotify

Sources: The Washington Post, Billboard, JazzWax


Kay Starr, Pop Singer Who Mixed Jazz, Country and Blues

On The Colgate Comedy Hour (1952)–Watch on YouTube

For decades Kay Starr was a jukebox favorite, racking up millions of record sales. When RCA-Victor lured her away from Capitol in 1955, they guaranteed her $250,000 a year, a stunning sum at the time. Her popularity was based on her ability to ebb and flow with musical tastes and trends, from swing to country to blues and even to the edge of rock and roll.

She started with big bands, making her first recording while a teenager with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. She replaced Lena Horne in Charlie Barnet’s swing orchestra and played with the Capitol International Jazzmen (including Coleman Hawkins and Nat King Cole). In the late 1940s, she went and scored big hits with songs like “Bonaparte’s Retreat” and “Wheel of Fortune.”

Starr (July 21, 1922-November 3, 2016) was a favorite of Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley, according to her obituary in The Washington Post. She performed at the inauguration of Harry Tuman.


“Wheel of Fortune” on Spotify

Georges Jouvin, the Man with the Golden Trumpet

“Les Enfants du Pirée,” 1960-Watch on YouTube

Between the 1950s and 1990s, Georges Jouvin recorded no less than 70 albums, selling 25 million records along the way. Classically trained, he was happy to cross genres, from jazz to pop and dance.

Nicknamed “Golden Trumpet,” Jouvin (June 19, 1923-October 24, 2016) studied at the Conservatoire de Rennes and Paris Conservatory. In 1950 he recorded with an orchestra in Paris led by Maurice Mouflard and featuring a guest appearance by Charlie Parker.

In 1994 Jouvin was appointed Knight of the Legion of Honor (Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur). First given by Napoleon Bonaparte, it is the highest honorary decoration awarded in France.

“Ton sourire est dans mon coeur” on Spotify

Eddy Christiani, Europe’s First Electric Guitarist?

“Lorento Rag”–Watch on YouTube

I don’t have much to substantiate the claim that Christiani (April 21, 1918-October 24, 2016) was Europe’s first electric guitarist (does 1 Tweet count?), but I did hear it repeated by Toto’s Steve Lukather, the 2010 recipient of the Eddy Christiani Award. (Like me, Lukather acknowledged that he’d merely heard the claim.)

Be that as it may, Christiani was certainly early to electrify, as he was playing in jazz bands in the 1930s. His first electric was an Epiphone Electar Model M, which he got in 1939.

Early influences on Christiani were Django Reinhardt and American guitarist Eddy Lang, from whom the young Eduard presumably borrowed his nickname. And if the above video reminds hints at the influence of Chet Atkins, perhaps it’s because Christiani is playing a 1958 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins Nashville. Christiani met Atkins in person in 1961.

For a full accounting of Christiani’s career, check out this excellent Dutch blog. Even if you can’t translate it from the Dutch, it gives a clear visual timeline of Christiani’s career, showing many good photos of the artist, his guitars, recordings and other performance paraphernalia. (I especially like the covers of Tuney Tunes magazine.)


Later in his career, Christiani turned to vocals, recording hits like “Daar Bij Der Waterkant” (“Down by the Riverside”). But there are still great instrumentals, as in the track below from 1963.

“Wild Geese” on Spotify

Bobby Vee, Teen Idol Who Gave Dylan His First Big Gig

“The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” (1962)–Watch on YouTube

Teen Idol: The Bobby Vee Story, is a musical currently at the History Theatre in St. Paul through October 30. It’s an original production, produced with the collaboration of Vee’s sons Jeff and Tommy.

Vee’s story is certainly worthy of the stage. Born Robert Velline, his career took off at the age of 15 when he quickly filled in for a concert promoter in Moorehead, MN. The scheduled performers–Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper–had tragically died the night before in a plane crash near Clear Lake, IA.* While Vee and his band, The Shadows, weren’t paid for that gig, it did lead them to record “Suzie Baby,” their first single, in Minneapolis.

Vee (April 30, 1943-October 24, 2016) went on to record a #1 single, “Take Good Care of My Baby,” written by the Brill Building duo Carole King and Gerry Goffin. He had 38 Top 100 hits overall. One of Vee’s major claims to fame is giving a young pianist his first gig with a recording artist. The artist was Elston Gunn (aka Bobby Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan). The Minneapolis Star Tribune says the future Nobel Laureate called Vee “the most meaningful person I’ve ever been on stage with.”

“Suzie Baby” on Spotify

*The Surf Ballroom, where Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper last performed, still looks pretty much as it did on that fateful day in 1959.

Don Ciccone, Guitarist and Vocalist for The Critters

“Younger Girl” from 1966–Watch on YouTube

Don Ciccone was a founding member of The Critters, one of a surge of American counterattacks to the British Invasion. The group offered up soft, “nice boy” vocals backed by the standard lineup of two guitars, bass, keyboards and drums.

The Critters were relatively short-lived (1964-1967), succumbing to the college and military careers of its members. But in that time they had several hits, including a cover of John Sebastian’s “Younger Girl” and their own oddly-titled single “Mr. Dieingly Sad,” which Ciccone wrote. (When Ciccone formed a new version of The Critters decades later, the title was slightly changed to “Mr. Dyingly Sad.”)

After The Critters, Ciccone was vocalist, guitarist and bassist for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. He was the original vocal for their hit “Who Loves You” until record exec Mike Curb insisted Valli front the song. Ciccone (February 28, 1946-October 8, 2016) was later bassist for Tommy James and the Shondells. According to his website, Ciccone participated in the production of 40 hits, representing over 100 million in record sales.

“Mr. Dieingly Sad” on Spotify

Joan Marie Johnson of The Dixie Cups

“Chapel of Love”–Watch on YouTube

The group that would bump The Beatles off Billboard’s Top 100 was made up of three young teenagers, Joan Marie Johnson and her cousins Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins. The trio joined up to compete in a talent show in their hometown of New Orleans. While they didn’t win the contest, they did catch the eye of Joe Jones, a talent scout and producer who was in the audience.

He took the girls to New York and got them a contract with Red Bird Records. Legendary producer Phil Spector co-wrote “Chapel of Love” with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. The song became a million-seller and  toppled The Beatles “Love Me Do”to land at #1. “Chapel of Love” was covered by the Beach Boys and appears on the soundtracks of Full Metal Jacket and Father of the Bride.

The Dixie Cups had a few followup hits, but gave it up in 1966. While the Hawkins sisters eventually started performing and touring again, Johnson did not join them, although they would occasionally reunite for special occasions.

“Iko Iko” on Spotify