Let's Dance!

Discussion in 'Radio' started by CharlieH., Oct 18, 2006.

  1. CharlieH.

    CharlieH. One Too Many

    Messages:
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    Location:
    It used to be Detroit....
    Tonight I was pondering about the mysterious and explosive success of Benny Goodman and his orchestra, and therefore, the birth of the swing era.
    According to legend, Goodman's success only came until he reached the west coast on his ill-fated tour because his band didn't play on the Let's Dance programme until it was too late on the east coast (but was heard as early as 11 o'clock in California).
    However, I remember reading somewhere that the bands on the show actually alternated throughout the broadcast, thus Goodman's band was heard early enough on the east coast.
    Does anyone know exactly what went on there? and, do any "Let's Dance" shows still exist?
     
  2. Dismuke

    Dismuke One of the Regulars

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    Location:
    Fort Worth, Texas
    At least some of the broadcasts survive as I have a CD of the Benny Goodman band's performances from various Let's Dance broadcasts recorded between February and May 1935. The CD is on the Circle label, catalog number CCD-50.

    The liner notes on the CD are by Goodman's female vocalist at the time, Helen Ward. She said that the broadcasts were aired live three different times every Saturday night over 55 stations on the NBC Red Network plus two shortwave stations covering the Atlantic and Pacific ocean areas. The broadcast emanated from NBC's studio 8-H - which today is where Saturday Night Live is broadcast from. The first broadcast was held at 10:30 PM Eastern time and was also heard in the Central time zone at 9:30 PM. The second broadcast was done so that people in the Mountain time zone could hear the broadcast at 9:30 PM and then the third broadcast was done so that people in the Pacific time zone could also hear the broadcast at 9:30 PM.

    So while it was true that the band broadcast to the Pacific timezone at 12:30 AM Sunday New York time, they had already broadcast to the Eastern and Central timezones two hours earlier.

    The reason for the back-to-back repeat broadcasts, by the way, was NBC had a very strict policy against "canned" broadcasts well into the 1940s. Prerecorded or "transcribed" broadcasts were something that the network looked down on as being only worthy of small time independent stations. One of the things that enabled the fledgling ABC network (which had been previously been the old NBC Blue Network before it was forced to get rid of it due to anti-trust laws) to lure one of NBC's top stars, Bing Crosby, in the mid 1940s was the fact that it was willing to allow Crosby to prerecord his broadcasts using tape - a technology which had been developed in Germany and was brought back by Allied troops after the war. Crosby did not like the fact that live broadcasts required him to be at the studio at times which he did not always consider convenient. Tape enabled him to record the broadcasts at his convenience and did not have the quality concerns that were associated with the old transcription discs.

    So next time you watch Saturday Night Live and see all those slovenly and freakish looking people making obnoxious periodic vibrations that pass for "music" these days - just try and picture Benny Goodman and his band on that same stage 71 years ago playing those wonderful Fletcher Henderson arrangements that made him famous. Perhaps someday good taste and good music will return to our popular culture - and to Studio 8-H.
     
  3. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    The other two orchestras featured on the program were those of Kel Murray -- a straightforward sweet dance band -- and Xavier Cugat, who provided Latin rhythms. Each band played two half-hour sets in each three-hour program, rotating over the course of the evening.

    No complete programs survive -- the only recordings are fragmentary airchecks which have been collected and compiled from various sources for LP and CD reissues.
     
  4. CharlieH.

    CharlieH. One Too Many

    Messages:
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    Location:
    It used to be Detroit....
    Interesting info guys! Thanks. Although I still can't figure out why Goodman's band only succeeded (initially) on the west... I guess it must have been simply beacuse musical tastes over there were somewhat more exhuberant (According to Jess Stacy, they once had an audience of 18 in Michigan).


    And I always thought Studio 8H only housed the NBC Symphony Orchestra at the time.... Boy, has that room been desecrated, and how!

    And by the way, Dismuke- My eternal gratitude for the website.
     
  5. Your avatar picture intrigues me, CharlieH. It looks like a toupee'd Erich Von Stroheim with a drunk Raul Julia dummy.

    .
     
  6. CharlieH.

    CharlieH. One Too Many

    Messages:
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    Location:
    It used to be Detroit....
    Drunk Raul Julia.... now it is!
     
  7. Dismuke

    Dismuke One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    146
    Location:
    Fort Worth, Texas
    One of the things I have read about that probably helped Goodman to a very large degree at the Palomar Ballroom was the fact that Los Angeles radio personality Al Jarvis, who was one of the pioneer "disc jockeys," played the Goodman band's records over the air and spoke highly of them. That, combined with Uneeda Biscuit's Let's Dance broadcasts had created a local audience that was already very receptive to the band by the time it arrived in town.

    My understanding is the studio was specifically built for those NBC symphony broadcasts - and that it was, unfortunately, notorious for its bad acoustics.

    Indeed! Once today's post "counterculture" pop culture has finally been relegated to its proper place in the garbage dumpster of history and scruffy looking, unmannered, drugged out, mindless freaks are once again considered to be objects of ridicule and scorn and are not held up as alleged cultural icons, someone will undoubtedly need to send a cleaning crew into the studio with lots and lots of disinfectant. At least it still survives - unlike a lot of other famous rooms from that city's Golden Age.
     
  8. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    8-H was built for any large live audience broadcasts, as a replacement for the rooftop studio NBC had been leasing at the New Amsterdam Theatre. The NBC Symphony didn't yet exist when Radio City opened in 1933, and Toscanini's crew didn't move in until the end of 1937, so the primary occupant prior to this was Fred Allen -- whose weekly "Town Hall Tonight" comedy/variety program originated from the 8-H stage every Wednesday night.
     
  9. Dismuke

    Dismuke One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    146
    Location:
    Fort Worth, Texas

    Interesting. Thanks for the correction.
     
  10. max the cat

    max the cat Familiar Face

    Messages:
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    Location:
    midwest
    BG Let's dance

    I thought the Circle cd (w/note s by Helen ward) was comprised largely from Goodman's long standing engagement at the Congress in Chicago shortly after the Palomar . I wasnt aware of any extant "Let's Dance " programs ,although the programs for radio transcription -The Rhythm Makers- I think ,were done around the time of "Lets Dance "and feature similar personnel.
    goodman would return to this instrumentatiion and largely Henderson scores , with his last band, shortly before his death. It was something to see this band.

    max
     
  11. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    The existing "Let's Dance" excerpts pre-date the Congress Hotel airchecks by about a full year -- the earliest date to December 1934, and the last are from mid-January 1935. They were all recorded off WEAF by a New York studio hired by someone affiliated with the band, and some include announcer intros and even the occasional Uneeda Bakers commercial bit confirming their source.

    The excerpts first came out on a series of Sunbeam LP's in the '70s, and the modern CD versions all derive from that source. The original aircheck discs were owned at one time (and may still be owned) by a prominent New York 78rpm record dealer.
     
  12. max the cat

    max the cat Familiar Face

    Messages:
    84
    Location:
    midwest
    lets dance/Raleigh Kool

    Thanks for clarifying--(and easy to see why Goodman had so much nostalgia for this period.) I have heard portions of Dorsey Raleigh Kool shows(off topic?-but easily my favorite vintage radio) and recollect a release on Sunbeam but wonder if any of this has been reissued on cd-muchand hopefully w/speed /pitch correction. These broadcasts seem to feature TD and his primary soloists at their most inspired-anything beats a 10:00 am recording date- equally true of other bands on airchecks

    max
     
  13. Fletch

    Fletch I'll Lock Up

    What a great topic for a thread. I've enjoyed the Let's Dance material for many years, especially the Circle CD with its high fidelity airchecks. There is something somehow thrilling in hearing this music in full cry before it was even supposed to exist – before it even had a name.

    Now for a bit of "revisionist?" music history, if you will...Loren Schoenberg, a saxophonist-bandleader who put together BG's last orchestra in the 1980s, once addressed a meeting of IAJRC, the jazz collectors' society, on the topic of the Let's Dance broadcasts. Loren advanced the theory that BG's initial "unpopularity" was actually a myth, created to make the band's big hit on the Coast seem all the bigger.

    I forget the exact details, but Loren's basic thesis was that the Goodman band even at this early date was a highly media-savvy and commercially polished ensemble. Bands who laid eggs on high-paid radio shows didn't tend to hang around for weeks at a time as BG did. Besides those great Henderson, Murphy and other hot charts, they played many danceable ballads, quite a few featuring the requisite commercial "color doubles" such as baritone sax, bass clarinet and flute, which later disappeared from the band.

    The sidemen, also, were no green kids, but established New York freelancers who commanded good pay. I seem to recall that Toots Mondello, on lead sax, was working with BG, Ray Noble, and Joe Haymes all at this same time. Pee Wee Erwin, the hot trumpeter, recalled in his biography that he was so busy during the Let's Dance period he literally did not sleep many nights, going from one gig to another to another.

    Loren included in his talk an early aircheck version of King Porter where people just wouldn't stop applauding afterward – much longer than normal for a live audience program of the day. While I doubt the whole country was ready for swing music in 1935, the Eastern audiences, always the pacesetters, were quite accepting of BG's sound according to Loren.

    Finally...

    Someone somewhere apparently has an airchecked broadcast of the very first Goodman band playing from Billy Rose's Music Hall in the fall of 1934. Not surprisingly for anything so unlikely and unique, it's been kept securely away from curious ears so far. But brother, would I love to hear that.
     
  14. max the cat

    max the cat Familiar Face

    Messages:
    84
    Location:
    midwest
    music hall- archived broadcasts

    The Columbia (studio)recording of "Music Hall Rag "(BG) probably captures the (BRMusic Hall edition of Goodman's) band reasonably well-but as you imply really makes one wish for a live air check recording.
     
  15. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,682
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Dance Music

    I love this thread! :eusa_clap
     
  16. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Band remotes are one of my favorite types of programming to collect -- but it's frustrating how rare pre-1940 airchecks of them actually are. The earliest genuine aircheck of a band remote I've encountered dates to 1932, a local band from Cincinnati (there are syndication recordings of simulated band remotes that date earlier, but live broadcast recordings from this far back are exceedingly rare.) There's also a surviving broadcast by Don Redman's orchestra from 1933 which is the earliest swing/jazz oriented band remote I've encountered.

    The surviving Goodman material from 1935-37 is actually an exception to the usual scarcity of band-remote material from this era -- and we can thank a CBS engineer by the name of Bill Savery for the fact that it exists. He paid to have recordings made off WABC and WEAF by the Harry Smith and Universal Recording studios for his own enjoyment -- and it was these discs which were used for the LP reissues that have been the basis for all the subsequent issues of the Congress Hotel and Madhattan Room broadcasts.

    There's quite a bit of NBC band-remote material extant from 1939-41 -- and the story on this is that the original transcriptions exited the network's Central Files under someone's overcoat in the early sixties. I thought I had tracked down the originals on some of these broadcasts a few years back, but alas, the trail went cold. The taped copies, at least, have had fairly substantial circulation over the years -- lots of good stuff including bands like Artie Shaw, Glen Grey, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Will Bradley, Harry James, etc. etc. etc.

    It's not until the "One Night Stand" era in the mid-forties that a large accumulation of band remotes started to be preserved, thanks to AFRS. Many of these broadcasts are edited -- some severely so -- but it's worth having them in any form.

    A while back the First Generation Radio Archives did a CD package of remotes, focusing mostly on forties material -- I contributed to the liner notes for this collection, which should still be available from the Archives, at http://www.radioarchives.org.
     
  17. max the cat

    max the cat Familiar Face

    Messages:
    84
    Location:
    midwest
    transcriptions

    thanks for savery info- i assume you have a 16'' turntable for transcriptions-which I suppose is the form in which Savery obtained them-the resultant lp's and 45's-issued I think after success of Columbia lp issue of 38 Carnegie Hall concert. These always sounded rather professionally tranfered. I recollect a Japanese 78 pressing of 2 sides from this Savery material which i junked , enjoyed and probably traded for an earlier (20's) jazz record.

    max
     
  18. Fletch

    Fletch I'll Lock Up

    That's NBC for you – as I've heard it, they were legendary for incinerating everything they could get their hands on. I remember reading that one of their experimental TV people literally had to steal scripts, etc., to keep some kind of record of their activities. I think they actually had a rule that all production materials had to be destroyed after broadcast, in case anyone outside NBC might get any clue about their operation.

    My favorite story concerns NBC's first TV broadcast in 1936. RKO Pathé News filmed it as it was being broadcast live, with a movie camera right beside the TV camera. RKO handed over the reel to their parent RCA, who wanted it for a screening for bigwigs who hadn't been able to make the live show. It was subsequently "lost," they claimed. But seeing as the show was so top secret that even the press weren't invited, it was probably burned.
     

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