Will Edwinson

Author & Storyteller

Big Bands and Good Music

Music  Notes

Image by Ventrilock/Freedigitalphotos.net

In my privious post I wrote about old movies, old song hits, and old radio and TV programs.  I’d like to expand on that a bit more in this post.  A while back I watched the Lawrence Welk show on PBS.  What a treat. It was a tribute to all the big dance bands of the thirties, forties, and fifties, and was originally broadcast live in 1960.

Among the bands featured were Paul Whiteman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Wayne King, Glenn Miller, Harry James, Guy Lombardo, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Russ Morgan, Les Brown and his band of renown, Louis (Sachmo) Armstorng, Duke Ellington, and Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians, just to name a few.

This broadcast brought back many memories for me. Listening to radio was a major form of entertainment when I was a kid growing up in Grace, Idaho, during the 1940s.  We listened to these bands along with the other radio fare of that era.  The radio line-up included other music shows during those days as well.  Frank Sinatra had a weekly program. Bob Crosby and his Bobcats, and Perry Como had fifteen minute shows two or three nights a week, as did Jack Smith.

My favorite singer of all time was Bing Crosby.  He was the singer to whom the term crooner was first attributed and the singer every other crooner wanted to sound like. He had a weekly thirty-minute program every Thursday night.  He was also a great innovator.  I don’t know how many people know this, but Bing was the first to use transcribed or pre-recorded broadcasts which eventually became common practice within the industry; first on radio, and eventually on television.

Bing liked to travel, and a great deal of that traveling was to Europe.  He especially loved Paris.  A weekly live radio broadcast put a crimp into his traveling, so he came up with the idea of recording several shows in front of live audiences in the radio studio to be played at later dates over the airwaves.  Thus, he could meet his contractual obligations for a show every week, and still be free to travel.

The Paul Whiteman segment of this Welk show reminded me of a story Bing wrote about in his autobiography, “Call Me Lucky.”  Bing always claimed he could not read music, nor did he play an instrument. (I don’t know if I believe the one about not reading music, his sense of timing was too good to be a music neophyte.)  Anyway, he said one of his early jobs was singing with the Paul Whiteman band.  He said Mr. Whiteman didn’t quite know what to do with him between his vocal numbers, because Bing didn’t play an instrument.   Bing jokingly suggested Mr. Whiteman provide him with a dummy violin with dead strings, and place him in the string section.  Mr. Whiteman liked the idea, so that’s what he did.

The youth of today don’t know what they have missed by not knowing the music of those years.  The big band era was a music style somewhat lighter than the heavier classical music of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; but was still high-class music.

Ah…yes, those were simpler days, and in many respects, I think better days.  I believe America had better taste back then also.  Profanity was not as widely tolerated throughout the population as it is today. Such language was never used in movies or on the radio.

We lived under government restrictions during World War II, but even those were less than what we live under today, and they were temporary.  We didn’t have the government mandating what kind of light bulbs we will use in our homes or what food to eat or what medical care we will seek or what kind of car we will drive. (I wonder how long it will be before the government “Clunker Police” come and take away from their owners, cars that are ten years old or older.)

If you’re a nostalgia buff, and enjoy reading about the “old days” why not jump over to upper right of this homepage and click on the “free download” button for your free copy(while they last) of the prologue and three complete adventures of Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. For a couple of hours or so, this little book takes you back into another era of simpler times and simpler living.


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Copyright 2013 Will Edwinson