Thursday, August 17, 2017
Today, we pay tribute to guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910-1953). This blogger and untold thousands of professional and amateur guitarists over the decades are still trying to figure out how the heck Django executed those lightning-quick runs and arpeggios with two working fingers (the others having been burned in a 1928 fire).
Preceding Django and his bandmate Stephane Grappelli in the Quintette du Hot Club de France as originators of "string swing" were Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti, Lonnie Johnson and Carl Kress.
Wrote a post back in January 2012 about Django's 1946 stint with Duke Ellngton's Orchestra and have noticed that 1930's Hot Club Of France style music, now coined gypsy jazz, has gained a great deal of popularity internationally in this past 5 1/2 years.
This makes sense, as Hot Club music is fun, does not require massive amplification and gear and, while not easy to learn, is less daunting for the student than ultra-complex modern jazz and classical music. In addition, the number of currently touring and recording gypsy jazz ambassadors - former Stephane Grappelli Quartet guitarist Martin Taylor, Julian Lage, Robin Nolan, Biréli Lagrène, Tommy Emmanuel, Frank Vignola and Vinny Ragiolo, just to name a few - have no doubt helped the music's popularity exponentially.
Here are a few film clips of the guitar genius in action. Some appear to have been from newsreels, others may have been shot by audience members.
We are thankful, as film clips as such musical giants as Charlie Parker turn out to be few and far between.
After the Quintette Of The Hot Club Of France and Django's subsequent Benny Goodman influenced swing band with clarinet ace Hubert Rostaing disbanded, Django at one point toured with The Duke Ellington Orchestra. Although Django was not a fan of the electric guitar, what was recorded of the Oct. 11, 1946 Ellington featuring Reinhardt concert in Chicago is glorious. Hearing Duke's gorgeous comping and creative chords on piano backing Django's guitar genius is an added richness.
There are some excellent documentaries on Django Reinhardt on YouTube.
For those who cannot get enough Django Reinhardt music, the gentleman who posted the last clip also has put together numerous exceptional YouTube playlists, including a plethora of Django Reinhardt recordings and concerts, organized by year.
Friday, August 11, 2017
As Señor Blogmeister's writing mojo was last seen approximately 15 miles off the coast of Paraguay, today's post shall not be a thoughtful essay but a followup to the last one about celebrities endorsing what would in 21st century parlance be called "adult beverages."
This time, the celebrities shall be endorsing cigarettes.
Celebrities and movie stars hawking smokes proved ubiquitous in print advertising throughout the 1930's and the 1940's - and in the 1950's, would become a staple on television.
After all, cigarettes transformed meek, impotent, lily-livered Casper Milquetoast types instantaneously into ultra-macho cowboys!
Smoke enough cigarettes and you can even be rough and tough like John Wayne!
Once transformed from schlemiel into a free swinging he-man like The Duke, a chain smoker could get girls, too - hubba hubba! Couch potatoes rejoice as 1964 style babes emerge from the television set and bequeath one with Newport cigarettes!
It wasn't just movie stars. Dentists were cool with their patients smoking with the passion, ferocity and frequency of Humphrey Bogart - as long as the brand was Viceroy!
And back in those days, your doctor WANTED you to smoke!
After all, doctors preferred smoooooooth Camel cigarettes 2 to 1.
Since cigarette ads were officially banned from TV as of January 1, 1971, these commercials elicit quizzical looks - and massive double takes from those under 30 - in 2017, but 65 years ago, the biggest show on television, I Love Lucy, was sponsored by none other than Philip Morris.
After throwing scalding coffee in your face - that brutal Fritz Lang flick was titled The Big Heat for more reasons than one - menacing tough guy Lee Marvin enjoyed a workout at the gym, followed by a satisfying smoke - Pall Mall!
The Beverly Hillbillies were sponsored by Winston cigarettes. If only an irate, chain-smoking Granny could have confronted those responsible at CBS for the show's hideously loud laugh track. . .
Another show sponsored by Winstons was the Flintstones. Knowing the undisciplined tendencies of Fred & Barney, it's just as well there was no 420 in Bedrock!
Ads for smokes even extended to TV game shows. The appropriately named Bob Barker hosted Truth Or Consequences (which never quite touched what the long-term consequences of a 5-pack-a-day smoking habit would be),sponsored by Belair Cigarettes. Hey, in showbiz, a guy or gal's gotta work - and work it. . . and Bob Barker did.
None of this is any surprise to those of us over the age of 60 who remember seeing "Call For Philip Morris," "Winston Tastes Good Like A (tap tap) Cigarette Should," "Show Us Your Lark" and "LS/MFT" on television, as well as pondering whether we wanted good grammar or good taste. The sole message was "smoke! smoke! smoke! that cigarette!"
The "my apologies for smoking" tours, produced for the American Cancer Society, once The Duke, Yul Brynner, Bill Talman and other tobacco-lovin' stars became deathly ill with lung cancer, did not happen until a few years later.
Friday, August 04, 2017
Today's post should be titled "extremely unconvincing celebrity ads," starting with none other than Orson Welles.
On the other hand, we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog have no problem whatsoever imagining Benny Hill (in a print campaign at least approximating truth in advertising) downing a shot of Black and White blended whiskey - or two or three - very likely without the rocks.
Can one envision sitting down with Lucy and Ethel - Merman that is - to quaff some Carling's Red Cap Ale? No. . . not really. Swilling cases of Canadian ale with Bob & Doug McKenzie? Yes, absolutely! Lucy and Merman? Nope.
Then again, Ethel might meet J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson for a nightcap or two later.
Olivia De Havilland for Royal Crown Cola? Yes, it happened. Joan Fontaine no doubt must have been doing print ads for Coca Cola!
The educated guess is that, of the Marx brothers, Harpo and Chico were much more likely than Groucho to invite you over for a beer. Come to think of it, even Zeppo and Gummo might be more convivial and up for getting together over a couple of brews than the brooding Groucho.
After way too many viewings of Fritz Lang's mucho corrosive noir Scarlet Street, it's easier to imagine meeting tough guy Dan Duryea to get pistol-whipped, beaten and robbed than to shoot the breeze while enjoying a refreshing Blatz Beer!
To close today's post, wrap that consciousness around the concept of Ava Gardner drinking . . . milk???
The closest Ava and Sinatra ever got to milk was (maybe) English "milk stout." That dynamic duo was more interested in Crown Royal by the case! Or rum and Coca-Cola.