Two For Tuesday BONUS: Aretha Franklin (Encore)

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that The First Lady of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is in hospice care, nearing the end of her fight with pancreatic cancer. She and I both celebrate our birthdays on March 25, so I’ve always felt a kinship with her. I’ve featured her twice on Two for Tuesday. The first time was in 2013, when I was celebrating people with birthdays in common with mine.

Aretha Franklin started singing in her father’s church when she was ten, and in the sixty-one years since has become one of the iconic performers in R&B, Soul, Gospel, and Popular music. Rolling Stone ranked her Number One on their list of 100 Best Singers of All Time, as well as #9 on their Best Performers of All Time. The legendary John Hammond considered her the greatest singer since Billie Holiday. And she shares my birthday, March 25. I don’t know many people who haven’t been affected by Aretha Franklin’s singing. You don’t listen to her music as much as feel it.

She has done so many great songs and albums over the years that I finally just threw up my hands and said, I’m just going to pick two of my favorite songs of hers. The first is “Day Dreaming,” off of her 1972 album, Young, Gifted, and Black. It spent two weeks at #1 on the Hot Soul Singles chart in April 1972, and peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The second is “I Say A Little Prayer,” a cover of Dionne Warwick’s hit from December 1967. Dionne’s version reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #8 on the magazine’s R&B chart. Aretha recorded it as the B-side of her single “The House That Jack Built,” and it still rose to #10 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B chart in August of 1968.

Birthday greetings to the “First Lady of Soul,” Aretha Franklin, our Two for Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

The second time was last June, when I was talking about musical artists from my high school days.

Aretha Franklin spent 25 weeks in the Top Ten during my high school days, with five songs. Strangely, none of those songs reached #1.

“Spanish Harlem” was a hit for her in August 1971. It spent six weeks in the top ten, peaking at #2.

“Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” also spent six weeks in the top ten, starting in February 1974. It peaked at #3.

Back in March 2013, I dedicated the month to people who share my birthday, March 25, and Ms. Franklin is one of them. You can see what I talked about there.

Aretha Franklin, your Two for Tuesday, June 6, 2017.

Vaya con Dios, Aretha Franklin.

Two For Tuesday: Bonnie Guitar (Encore)

The first time I tried setting a theme for Two for Tuesday was in 2013. Since my birthday is March 25, I went looking for artists that shared the day with me. Aretha Franklin and Elton John came easily, but it took me a while to find Bonnie Guitar. This is from March 5, 2013.

Bonnie Buckingham, better known as Bonnie Guitar, turns ninety on March 25, so I had to feature her. Born in 1923 in Seattle, she learned to play the guitar while a teenager and worked at a number of small labels as a session guitarist in the 1950’s. She worked with the likes of Jim Reeves, Dorsey Burnette and the DeCastro Sisters during that time, and wanted to record one for herself.

She heard the song “Dark Moon” in 1956, when Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley were starting to define the “New Nashville Sound,” and went so far as to agree to waive her session fee if she could record the song herself. Her recording (the first track here) was originally released on Fabor Records, and in 1957 Dot Records released it. It rose to #14 on the country charts and #6 on the pop charts, making her the only woman besides Patsy Cline to have a hit simultaneously on both. A followup song, “Mister Fire Eyes,” charted at #15 on the country chart and #71 on the pop chart later in 1957. “Candy Apple Red,” the second video, made it to #97 on the pop chart in 1958.

She continued recording and performing around the country until 1996, when she retired to Soap Lake, Washington. She still performs there occasionally.

Happy birthday, Bonnie Guitar, your two for Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

Two For Tuesday: Julie London (Encore Performance)

I did a series on women singers (informally called “Chanteuses”) in late 2016, including one of my favorites, Julie London, who was both a wonderful singer and a very beautiful woman.

I think most of us know Julie London as Dixie McCall, RN on the TV show Emergency! in the Seventies. The show was produced by her first husband, Jack Webb, and also starred her second husband, musician Bobby Troup, as Dr. Joe Early. She started her entertainment career as an actress, acting in 45 movies and TV shows, including 1956’s The Lady Can’t Help It with Jayne Mansfield and Tom Ewell (she appears to a drunk Tom Ewell early in the movie).

Today, though, I want to feature Julie London the jazz singer. She recorded 29 studio albums over a recording career that spanned from 1955 to 1969. Her first single, “Cry Me A River,” accompanied by Barney Kessel on guitar and Ray Brown on bass, was her most successful, reaching #9 on the Hot 100. That was the most chart success she had (her last single, “Like To Get To Know You,” reached #15 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1969), but her albums were reasonably successful, as much for their erotic (for the Fifties) album jackets as for her singing.

“Perfidia,” from Latin In A Satin Mood (1963)

“Black Coffee,” from Around Midnight (1960)

She retired from both acting and singing at 52, when Emergency! was cancelled. She suffered a stroke in 1995 and died in 2000, the year after Troup died, on what would have been his 82nd birthday.

Julie London, your Two For Tuesday, September 27, 2016.

Two For Tuesday: Vince Guaraldi (Encore)

I’ve actually done Vince twice: the second time I had forgotten I had already done him. This is the second, from July 2013. Note there are three songs here: when replacing the first one, I realized I didn’t remember which one I had intended to feature, so you get both “Samba de Orfeu” and “Cast Your Fate To The Wind.”

I saw the premiere of A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965, and while the story was all right (hey, it was “Peanuts,” and I was a kid, right?), it was the music that really caught my ear, and I needed to know who did it. A special that played later (can’t remember if it was later that night or a few days after) identified Vince Guaraldi and his trio as the musicians. It made me a fan for life.

Born in San Francisco in 1928, his solo career began in 1959 after time with Cal Tjader. In 1962, he recorded the album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, which included covers of most of the music written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa for the movie Black Orpheus. The album also included “Cast Your Fate To The Wind,” a song for which Guaraldi is probably best known; it was the flip side to “Samba de Orfeu,” our first selection today. After that came a period of collaboration with Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete, which included the recording of the album Vince Guaraldi, Bola Sete and Friends. At the time, Guaraldi was experimenting with bossa nova rhythms. The second song today, “Star Song,” comes from that collaboration.

Vince died in 1976. He had had dinner the night before with Lee Mendelson, the producer of the “Peanuts” specials, and was complaining of indigestion. The next night, he played his last set at Butterfield’s Nightclub in Menlo Park, California. After the set, he and drummer Jim Zimmerman went to the hotel next door where they were staying, and, according to Zimmerman, Vince was walking across the room and dropped dead, of either a heart attack or an aortic aneurysm. He was 47 years old.

Vince left behind a significant amount of music, and influenced jazz pianist David Benoit and New Age pianist George Winston, and probably everyone that ever heard him. I consider his music among the best recorded, and hope that you’ll explore a little further.

That’s Vince Guaraldi, your Two for Tuesday, July 22, 2013. Sorry it’s so late, it’s been a crazy few days.

Two For Tuesday: Wes Montgomery (Encore)

From October 21, 2014, when I was doing a series on great jazz guitarists, possibly the best of the post-Bop period.

John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery had a unique style on the guitar, starting with the way he played the instrument. He played with his thumb, his other fingers splayed across the pickguard and bottom of the guitar. He developed that technique so as not to disturb his neighbors when he was practicing late into the night after a shift at the factory. He developed a large, sharp callus on the thumb that worked as well as a pick, anyway. His solos generally employed single-note lines drawn around scale and arpeggio lines, lines that employed octaves, and chord-melody lines that used block chords.

He recorded his first albums for Riverside from 1958 to 1964, then moved to Verve in 1964 and A&M Records in 1967. The Riverside albums, particularly The Incredible Jazz Guitar, are considered jazz classics. When he moved to Verve, he steered away from jazz and played more pop tunes, often backed by a full orchestra, while continuing to play in a small-group setting in clubs.

Wes never felt comfortable away from his hometown of Indianapolis, and lived there with his wife and 8 children between trips. He woke up on the morning of June 15, 1968 and told his wife that he didn’t feel right. Within minutes, he had suffered a fatal heart attack. He was only 45 years old when he passed.

Today’s songs show Wes from both his small-group days and from his orchestra-backed days. First is Thelonius Monk’s “Round Midnight,” a televised performance with a quartet, but I know little more than that. Then, “Bumpin’ on Sunset,” from his 1966 Verve release Tequila, with an orchestra conducted by Claus Ogerman.

Wes Montgomery, your Two for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.