Classic Radio; Orson Welles, Danny Kaye, Air Force Band, and more

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Orson Welles radio shows from 1937 and 1938
Orson Welles radio shows from 1937 and 1938

Orson Welles guest starring on Danny Kaye Show March 1, 1946 presented by Pabst Blue Ribbon

George Gershwin at piano
George Gershwin at piano

George Gershwin’s “Of thee I sing, Baby” Due to copyright restrictions, only 30 second excerpts from this item are available. (Standard Restriction)

Of thee I sing, baby —
Summer, autumn, winter, spring, baby.

By George and Ira Gershwin, “Of Thee I Sing” was the musical centerpiece for the 1931 Pulitzer Prize-winning production of the same name. Scripted by George S. Kaufmanand Morrie Ryskind, Of Thee I Sing opened on Broadway’s Music Box Theatre on December 26, 1931 and ran for 441 performances.

Ira Gershwin Al Hirshfield artist 1946
Ira Gershwin Al Hirshfield artist 1946

The production Of Thee I Sing, which featured William Gaxton and Victor Moore, helped to further that genre known as the American musical with its clever integration of story, dialog, action, music and songs. It was one of the first Broadway productions to deal with the serious subject of the American political scene, satirizing inept politicians with limited vision and the voters who elected them.

The plot revolves around a bachelor presidential candidate who, to embody his campaign slogan “Put Love in the White House,” makes the choice of marrying a beauty contest winner, but instead falls in love with and weds one of his campaign workers. He wins the presidency but the jilted beauty queen claims French descent and the French government nearly declares war over her honor. All is resolved when the president poses to the Supreme Court the legal question, “Which is more important – justice or corn muffins?” The Court decides for muffins, the president marries his love, and the vice president marries the beauty queen. Much of the script’s humor hinges on the vice-presidential character who is unrecognizable to even the inner circle of his party – a comment on the office’s wasted potential, a conversational topic of the day.

The first line of the title song “Of thee I sing, baby –” caused concern during rehearsal. Ira Gershwin wrote, “When we first played this sentimental political campaign song for those connected with the show, there were one or two strong objectors who thought that juxtaposing the dignified ‘Of Thee I Sing’ with a slang ‘baby’ was going a bit too far. Our response (a frequent one over the years) was that, naturally, we’d replace it with something else if the paying audience didn’t take to it. This was one time we were pretty sure that they would; and they did. Opening night, even weeks later, one could hear a continuous ‘Of thee I sing, Baby!’ when friends and acquaintances greeted one another in the lobby at intermission time.” The line proved its worth and became a catch phrase of the early 1930’s.

“Recovery, recovery, of thee I sing”

FDR of thee I sing 1933 Clifford Kennedy Berryman, Library of Congress
FDR of thee I sing 1933 Clifford Kennedy Berryman, Library of Congress

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sings “Recovery, recovery, of thee I sing,” a reference to the popular “Of Thee I Sing” in this cartoon. His sheet music credits him as author of the “words and music.” Dame Democracy plays the piano while an old opponent for the Democratic nomination, Al Smith, sits glumly aside. By midsummer 1933, the first year of Roosevelt’s presidency, Congress had passed a record amount of New Deal legislation.

United States Air Force Band – December 1993, Washington, D.C.
Ruffles and Flourishes

The Star Spangled Banner performed by Anna Case – 1917

My Country, Tis of Thee – by unidentified band in 1914 recording

It’s a Long Way to Berlin, but we’ll Get There! – American Quartet 1917

Danny Kaye Show with Dick Powell, March 22, 1946 – also starring Georgia Gibbs

Go Way Back and Sit Down – 1901 Silas Leachman (language alert)

Texas Rangers 1942 – John A. Lomax of Alpine, Texas

Don't Cry Little Girl, Don't Cry by Maceo PinkardComposer Maceo Pinkard was born in Bluefield, West Virginia, in 1897. After his “Oh, You Darktown Regimental Band” was published in 1920 by the first black-owned music publishing company, Pace and Handy, Pinkard went on to write music for the shows Bon Bon Buddy, Jr. (1922), Liza (1922), and Broadway Rastus (1925 edition). He also composed several blues songs as well as the hits “Gimme a Little Kiss, Will Ya, Huh?,” “Sugar,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” and “Them There Eyes.” In 1926 he became one of the first black composers to join the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Pinkard died in New York City in 1962.



Swing Along by Will Marion Cook – 1902

The Two Real Coons

George Walker - "The Two Real Coons"
George Walker – “The Two Real Coons”

George Walker was born in 1873 in Lawrence, Kansas. His first acting job took him to San Francisco where he met Bert Williams in 1893. As a team, their big break came in 1896 in Victor Herbert’s musical Gold Bug. The musical flopped, but the songs performed by Williams and Walker were audience hits. They began playing Koster and Bial’s in New York City in 1897, billing themselves as the “Tabasco Senegambians” or sometimes as the “Two Real Coons.” About this billing Walker said:

How to get before the public and prove that ability we might possess was a hard problem for us to solve. We thought that as there seemed to be a great demand for blackfaces on the stage, we would do all we could to get what we felt belonged to us by the laws of nature. We finally decided that as white men with black faces were billing themselves ‘coons,’ Williams and Walker would do well to bill themselves as ‘The Two Real Coons’ and so we did. Our bills attracted the attention of managers, and gradually we made our way in.

Williams and Walker quickly became “the standard against which other comedy acts were compared.” They reversed their initial roles; Walker took the part of the straight man to Williams’ con man. Walker also was known as the “darky dandy”–he usually performed in tailored suit, spats, high hat, monocle, gloves, and cane. His signature song was “Bon Bon Buddy,” written by Will Marion Cook and Alex Rogers. Besides being an extraordinary dancer, Walker was also the primary creator and idea man for the Williams and Walker shows and musicals.

George Walker produced and starred in a number of hit shows with Bert Williams. These shows included Segegambian Carnival (1897), The Policy Players (1899), The Sons of Ham (1900), their biggest hit, In Dahomey (1902)–which also played in London the following year, Abyssinia (1906), and Bandana Land (1907). Williams and Walker performed a 16th anniversary show at the Majestic Theatre on April 2, 1908. Shortly thereafter, Walker retired from show business.

George Walker died on January 6, 1911. Lester Walton, in the New York Age of January 12, 1911, said, “George Walker was a talented artist, a fact which cannot be overlooked . . . Yet, the man was a dominating force in the theatrical world more because of the service he rendered the colored members of the profession, more because of the opportunities he created than for the types he originated. It was George Walker’s chief aim to elevate the colored theatrical profession, and the race as well. It was his desire to give us elaborate productions as the white shows and play the best theatres.”

Anchors Aweigh – United States Marine Band / The President’s Own 1998; –  Taken from “The Bicentennial Collection: Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of ‘The President’s Own’ United States Marine Band,” disc 2.-  Originally released by Victor; Cat. 18817-A, B-25572-2, recorded September 26, 1921.

TitleMax Morath interview with Betty Auman and Loras Schissel, 2005-10-05, Contributor Names
Morath, Max (interviewee)Auman, Elizabeth H. (interviewer)Schissel, Loras J. (interviewer)Created / PublishedLibrary of Congress, Washington, DC, 2005-10-05

John Brown’s Body Lies A-Moldering  in the Grave – by the James Weldon Norris Chorale (Copyright)

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored . . .

“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” went through a number of versions in the years immediately before the Civil War. Its tune and its early lyrics were written by William Steffe about 1856. Its first verse and refrain were:

Say brothers, will you meet us?
Say brothers, will you meet us?
Say brothers, will you meet us?
On Canaan’s happy shore?

Glory, glory hallelujah!
Glory, glory hallelujah!
Glory, glory hallelujah!
For ever, evermore!

The song first gained popularity around Charleston, South Carolina, where it was sung as a Methodist Camp Meeting song, particularly in churches belonging to free Blacks. By contrast, it was also used early on as a marching song on army posts.

The song gathered new verses following the insurrection at Harper’s Ferry, led by John Brown and carried out by a cadre of nineteen men on October 16, 1859. Brown’s actions, trial and subsequent execution made him a martyr to Abolitionists and African-Americans and prompted some people to add the following lines to Steffe’s by then popular song.

John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
His soul is marching on!

Some have also theorized that the new verses were written about an inept Army sergeant named John Brown, thus giving the lyrics a kind of humorous double entendre.

By the time of the Civil War “John Brown’s Body” had become a very popular marching song with Union Army regiments, particularly among the Colored troops. The Twelfth Massachusetts Regiment, in particular, has been credited with spreading the song’s fame on their march to the South, where Confederate soldiers then inverted the meaning of their words and sang, “John Brown’s a-hanging on a sour apple tree.” The war’s rivalry continued to be carried on in music as the northerners then sang in turn, “They will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree.”

Title; Bon-bon buddy, Contributor Names; Cook, Will Marion (composer)Murray, Billy with orchestra (performer)Created / Published; Victor, [1908].

The Thin Man movie poster

The THIN MAN from Old Time Radio

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