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America Dances Program 19-07-1939

By | March 20th, 2012|Categories: Articles|Tags: , , , , , , |

On 19th of July, 1939, Frank Sinatra and Harry James‘s band had a broadcast, America Dances Program. And we are very grateful to have this 73 year old piece available to us.

Frank Sinatra Harry James America Dances Program

Frank Sinatra Harry James America Dances Program

 

 

The following paragraphs are taken from covers of America Dances disc.

Fine diamonds, vintage wines, classic cars, McKinley buttons. They all fit in the same category. Look under the column entitled “rare”. To a collector of recorded broadcast music, the Harry James band of 1939 would also belong under the heading.

One of the Golden Years in the era of the big bands, 1939 saw the opening of the New York World’s Fair, the start of World War II, and the advent of the James band. Harry, having made his mark with the great Benny Goodman aggregation, set out in January of that year to front his own group, one with a definate emphasis on swing and build quire understandably, around the leader’s horn. With his own band and arrangements tailored to his liking, Harry had more space in which to develop his solos, as opposed to playing jazz trumpet as a sideman and having to condense his ideas into 8 or 16 bar solo spot.

The band had a recording contract with Brunswick and held their first session in February. Out of the thirty five sides released that year, (sixteen on Brunswick and the rest on Columbia, which Harry joined in August) seventeen were instrumentals. Handling the vocals initially was Bernice Byers, who was succeeded by Connie Haines, heard here in this July broadcast. The first male vocalist (not including scat-singing trumpeter Jack Palmer) was a wavy-haired and thin-faced young man named Frank Sinatra. This may have something to do with the fact that these ’39 James are so rare, because this was Frank’s first job with a band.

The first selection here was broadcast from an engagement at New York’s famous Roseland Ballroom. Shorty George, a tune recorded by the Count Basie band the previous year, includes solos by Harry, Claude Lakey on tenor and Jumbo Jack Gardner on piano. It is interesting to note that Lakey, during his long association with the band, played tenor, alto, and used to double as the fourth man in the trumpet section at times.

To You, a hit ballad of the day, was recorded by Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. The James version was not recorded but is sung ably by Sinatra, who exhibits some of the fine qualities which made him one of the most celebrated in popular music in the ensuing years. On his early recordings, the voice quality is thinner due to the higher keys associated with youth, but note Frank’s unique pronunciation and good pitch. The great phrasing had not yet developed but was certainly adequate.

King Porter Stomp is a ave Matthews arrangement recorded earlier in the year and features Harry, Lakey, Gardner, and the afore mentioned Matthews on alto. Just six days before this broadcast, the band had recorded From The Bottom Of My Hear, the first record made by Sinatra, and one which will give you an idea of why that Brunswick recording is one of the rarest in existence. The version heard here features a full chorus solo by Harry which had been cut down to half on the recording so as to fit within the limits of the old 78’s. The spot of tenor is by Lakey.

Beer Barrel Polka is presented first as a straight-laced version, which moves into a bright swing following a drum break into the second chorus, and ends after a cut to half-time, all of which must have confused the dancers in the ballroom back in those days when they had a name for every step you did on the floor! Solos are by James, Lakey and Matthews.

Connie Haines sings the obscure White Sails, and does so in that cute “Litthe Girl” voice later heard with the Tommy Dorsey band.

In the penultimate item, the band gives the Lunceford opus Well Alright a typical 1939 treatment with the band singing and clapping behind Jack Palmer’s scat vocal. Lakey’s tenor is followed by a rousing James solo and later by a last chorus ensemble borrowed from King Porter.

The Two O’clock Jump, which became the tune most associated with James through the years, is the blues in F and Db. Originally done by the Count Basie band as the One O’Clock Jump, Harry added cascading triplets in the last chorus and moved the clock ahead an hour. This is the full arrangement, and includes whole sections out of the recording the band had made earlier in the year. Harry still carries the tune in the book and has recorded it many times, each time with some variations or additions.

Side 2 presents the band in 1940. Sinatra had already left to join Tommy Dorsey after the band’s engagement at Victor Hugo’s in Los Angeles at the end of 1939, and the singer following Frank was Fran Heines out of Canada. One day another young man made an appointment to sing some of his songs for Harry. James told the lad hi didn’t like the songs but he’d certainly like him to join the band as a singer. His name, Dick Haymes, soon to be recognized as the possessor of one of the fines voices ever. Dick replaced Heines and stayed with the band until late 1941, when he left to join Tommy Dorsey, ironically enough again to replace Frank Sinatra!

Harry had a new recording contract with U.S. Recording Co. which produced records on the Varsity label. The quality was poor and, as a result of 1940 band was never heard at its best on records. Although the selections heard on this broadcast are not representative of the great library of swinging instrumentals the band had acquired (Don Redman was contributing scores at the time), it does feature some of the tunes the band recorded.

Maybe, a Jack Matthias arrangement, features Dick Haymes with a voice matured well beyond his years. Very impressive is the resonance Dick always managed to achieve in the low register.

Concerto For Trumpet features Harry as the virtuoso that he is, playing the famous original composition which had been recorded in Los Angeles only the previous autumn. James did this often in the early years – mixing the technical with the classics, the ballads and the swing

Dick returns to sing “Too Romantic” a ballad featured that year in the movie The Road to Singapore, one of the early Hope-Crosby classics. The tenor sax solo in the first chorus is by Vido Musso, who joined the band earlier in the year. Vido had played in the  Goodman band with Harry a few years before.

The side closes with Feet Draggin’ Blues another James original recorded a year earlier and which was among Harry’s most popular arrangements. This too remained in the book a long time afterward.

The 1939-40 James band years are said by many to be the best and swinginist. In any case, these rare early boradcast are a welcomed addition to any Collection.

Bob Friedlander

Mr. Bob Friedlander is a professional arranger, composer, and conductor, and has arranged for such big bands as Harry James, Sam Donahue, Richard Maltby, Ralph Flanagan, Johnny Long. He provided music for Grace Kelly’s wedding in Monaco, and Mike Todd’s birthday party for Elizabeth Taylor. He was assistant arranger to George Williams on the Jackie Gleason show. Born in Balwin N.Y., Bob was a first hand spectator of the James band in the early 40’s.

Special thanks to Kate Peart, Peter Johnston, and Dan Mather for aid in the production of this album.

The part above is from the back of America Dances Program.

1939-07-19 Frank Sinatra Harry James America Dances Program LP

1939-07-19 Frank Sinatra Harry James America Dances Program LP

The first part of the America Dances disc, as mentioned, is from 19th July 1939. The other side of the America Dances disc is from 1940, with Dick Haymes as vocal instead of Frank Sinatra, as Sinatra had left Harry James’s band to join Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra.

2 songs of the America Dances Program includes Frank Sinatra, which are “To You” and “From The Bottom Of My Heart”. The other songs either has Dick Haymes, or no vocals, just orchestra. As known, most of the songs in the big band era are instrumental only, or they give very small part to vocal.

To You is a kind of song that makes you say. “Why don’t we have more songs of early Sinatra?” . The quality is quite nice despite it was recorded 73 years ago from a broadcast, and is very enjoyable. The phrasing is just as expected, and I especially love “I’ll be forever yours” and “Your smile made the clouds and the shadows on high take wings” parts, very lovely. Due to the quality, the band parts are better listened with low sound.

From The Bottom Of My Heart is the second and last song song that Sinatra sings in this album. I find every line very well phrased and the orchestration is wonderful. When listening, you can realize how wonderful the “If You’d Say I Love You” line is sang. Just to hear this line, I can listen to this recording again and again.

America Dances Program of Frank Sinatra with Harry James Orchestra is surely a must for all Sinatra fans who love his early years, as it has a historical value. Early recordings are hard to come by as Sinatra was not very popular those times, most of them are lost. With these recordings, we can understand Frank Sinatra better, and see how his voice changed and improved in time.

 

Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey Band

By | June 3rd, 2011|Categories: Articles|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

“See the singer guy? One day I’ll be sitting where he’s sitting.” That is what Frank Sinatra told his wife Nancy, when they went to see Tommy Dorsey’s band in 1937.

In my post about Frank Sinatra and Harry James I had mentioned that in Chicago, Frank Sinatra was offered to be the vocal of Tommy Dorsey’s band, and left the band of Harry James in January 1940. But unlike the times he worked with Harry James, now he wasn’t the only vocal in the band. There were four other people, also known as “Pied Pipers”: Chucky Lowry, Billy Wilson, John Huddleston and Jo Stafford. In February 1, they recorded “The Sky Fell Down” and “Too Romantic”.

Tommy Dorsey

“I was almost entirely unfamiliar with him. In fact I never laid eyes on him until he actually walked on stage for the first time. We were sitting on the stage when Dorsey introduced him. And he came on and sang “Stardust” and it was quite an experience. You knew after eight bars that you were hearing something just absolutely new and unique” says Jo Stafford about Frank Sinatra.

It is widely accepted that Frank Sinatra learned a lot from Tommy Dorsey, especially the technique of breathing. Frank was watching Tommy Dorsey playing the trombone and trying to figure out the way he was breathing. Later he discovered that Tommy had a sneak pinhole in the corner of his mouth which he was covering with his trombone and decided to use this technique while singing. He ran and swam a lot to improve his breathing and finally was able to make it. He could take a breath without breaking the note.

Frank Sinatra Tommy Dorsey Orchestra

Another thing Sinatra learned from Tommy Dorsey was focusing on the words. Dorsey told Frank “All that matters to Bing Crosby is the words, and that’s the only thing that should matter to you.” Maybe this is why he sings the “saloon songs” perfectly, like “Angel Eyes” or “One For My Baby”.

The first real hit of Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey orchestra was “I’ll never smile again”, on 23 May 1940. This was also the first recording Frank did with Pied Pipers. In July the song hit No 1 on the charts and stayed there for 12 weeks. He recorded this song in 1959 and 1965 as well, in his albums “When No One Cares” and “A Man and His Music”. On January 1941 they recorded 2 very nice songs, “Stardust” and “Oh Look at Me Now”.

It was the year 1941 when Sinatra became a lot more and more popular. Girls were crazy about him and people were coming to performances to see Frank Sinatra now. He wasn’t just a vocal of Tommy Dorsey anymore, he was Frank Sinatra. And he was quite aware of this fact too. Sooner or later he was going to quit, just like the former vocal of the band did. Those years, it was the band leaders that were popular and known in the bands, and though he was very popular and making $400 a week, still he was in the shadow of Tommy and this was not for him since he had to achieve more. Being in a band was only a step on the way of being the greatest ever.

Frank Sinatra Tommy Dorsey Band Stage

In January 1942, Sinatra made his first step and recorded these songs with an orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl, no Tommy Dorsey this time.

Night and Day
The Lamp Lighters Serenade
The Song Is You
The Night We Called A Day

Frank Sinatra: “When I went to leave, Tommy made it impossible. I remember that it was in the month of September, in Washington, Dc. I went into the dressing room and told Tommy that I wanted to leave the orchestra and he kind of smiled. What for? He said. You know you are doing great with the band we got a lot of arrangements for you. I said I understand that but I justto go out on my own. He said, I don’t think so. I said okay, but I’m going to leave. He said, you’ve got a contract. I said, I had a contract with Harry but Harry took the contract and tore it up and wished me luck. And I added, I’ll give you one year’s notice. This time next year I’m leaving.”

In 1942, Frank wanted to leave the band again but still the same obstacle, the contract Sinatra later named as “a ratty piece of paper.” In the contract, it was stated that if Frank Sinatra left the band, he would pay %43 of all the money he would earn throughout his career, to Tommy Dorsey and his agent. Dorsey first didn’t want to let Frank go. So Frank hired few lawyers and asked some friends to help him about this issue. Harry Jaffe threatened Tommy Dorsey about not broadcasting him on NBC.  After a while Tommy was persuaded and he accepted to take $75000.

Frank Sinatra: “Anyhow, that’s how I got out of Dorsey contract. No gangster called anyone. Sonofabitch, I’ve been with that thing for so many years..”

But this is not what Tommy Dorsey said, according to the book “Sinatra: The Life”. “Three guys from New York City by way of Boston and New Jersey approached me and said they would like to buy Sinatra’s contract. I said “Like hell you will”. And they pulled out a gun and said, “You wanna sign the contract?” And I did.” And before Tommy Dorsey died in 1956, he again said “I was visited by Willie Moretti and a couple of his boys. Willie fingered a gun and told me he was glad to hear that I was letting Frank out of my deal. I took the hint.”

In August 1943, Tommy Dorsey gave Sinatra his best wishes by saying “I hope you fall on your ass!” (not on the radio), and Frank finally owned himself.

When I think of Frank Sinatra’s years with Tommy Dorsey, I say thank god he was in that band. His voice was simply fascinating and he performed many nice songs. We can’t name the months of Sinatra with Harry James as rich, since they didn’t release many songs and we don’t have many recorded radio broadcasts survived till now. But Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey recorded lots of beautiful songs like “The Sky Fell Down, Too Romantic, I’ll Be Seeing You, Say It, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, Fools Rush In, April Played the Fiddle, Imagination, I’ll Never Smile Again, Stardust, Oh Look At Me Now, Without a Song, I Think of You, The Song Is You” and many others.

If you would like to listen more songs of Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey, you should definitely check “Frank Sinatra Tommy Dorsey Complete”, which consists of 5 CD’s. Lots of beautiful songs there…