Archive for the ‘Retirement’ Category

Anatomy Of A Song – It Had To Be Me?   2 comments

Isham Jones kept pretty busy in the 1920s and 1930s as the leader of a popular orchestra, but years later his legacy is more about his songwriting ability. He was the composer of a number of familiar songs, among them “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” “There Is No Greater Love,” and our Anatomy of a Song subject today, “It Had to Be You.”it

The year was 1924, and Jones wasted no time making a record of the song with his band, something that several others did in that same year. Among them was the orchestra led by the self-styled King of Jazz, Paul Whiteman, but it seemed to be a popular choice for many bands of the era.

The song also had words added by lyricist Gus Kahn, which opened up things for vocalists too. One of the earliest memorable performances by a singer occurred when Ruth Etting did the honors in the 1936 movie short Melody in May, but the song became a popular choice for the soundtrack of many movies, including some in later years — like Harry Connick, Jr’s version in 1989′s When Harry Met Sally. It also furnished the title for a surprising number of movies and TV shows — although not all of them included the song itself — and even a book or two.

A lot of performers have had successful records with “It Had to Be You” through the years, with a duet by Dick Haymes and Helen Forrest charting the highest — #4 — in 1944. But it has been recorded by just about every singer you can imagine, including Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, and Andy Williams, and maybe one or two that would surprise you — for example, Elvis Costello and John Travolta.

icdIsham Jones Orchestra – “It Had to Be You”

The Persistence Of Wesley Tuttle   Leave a comment

You have to give a lot of credit to Wesley Tuttle. He enjoyed a pretty good career as a country music performer, racking up several hit records and even enjoying a chart-topper on “With Tears in My Eyes” in 1945. He also wrote some good songs, worked alongside stars like Merle Travis and Tex Ritter, appeared in a number of Western movies, and for many years was part of a popular singing duo with his wife. Not bad for a guy who lost several fingers as a child.wt

Although he was born in Colorado, he actually grew up in the San Fernando Valley of California, where his father was a butcher, and it was in his shop that young Wesley had his accident. He was just four at the time, but as part of a musical family had already learned to play the ukulele. Showing a lot of determination and courage for someone so young, he somehow managed to relearn to play and soon added the guitar too.

He was still in his teens in the mid-1930s when he began to appear professionally, bouncing around in area clubs and shows and at times singing with the newly-established Sons of the Pioneers. Over the next decade he gained experience, often playing rhythm guitar in studio bands and occasionally getting some movie work, as both a musician and an occasional actor in ‘B’ Westerns. By the mid-1940s he was also making some records of his own, doing well with songs like “Detour” and “I Wish I Had Never Met Sunshine” in addition to his big #1 hit.

Another significant event occurred along about then in the life of Wesley Tuttle. He met and married Marilyn Myers, who’d been part of the Sunshine Girls, a lesser-known group that had once included Mary Ford, later to be part of a famous duo with her husband, Les Paul. Marilyn and Wesley teamed up in a very similar way, even though Wes was no Les, instrumentally. (But then, who was?) In any case, the Tuttles became a very popular twosome, appearing on TV for years and selling a lot of records along the way, although things changed a little in the late 1950s. After the tragic death of their young daughter, they rededicated themselves to gospel music and it provided their focus until retirement. Wesley Tuttle was 85 when he died in 2003, survived by his wife of 56 years and two children.

wtcdWesley Tuttle – “With Tears in My Eyes”

Gisele MacKenzie – Canada’s First Lady Of Song   Leave a comment

Although she is probably best remembered now for her years on TV’s Your Hit Parade, Canadian singer Gisele MacKenzie actually had a long and varied career. Beginning in radio, she seamlessly moved to early TV, where she made countless appearances, not only a regular on many shows but also as the star of her own. She also did a little acting from time to time, appeared in stage shows, and sold a lot of records along the way.gm

A native of Winnipeg, Gisèle Marie Louise Marguerite LaFlèche studied music while growing up, learning to play piano and violin at a high level while also developing her vocal talents. By the time she reached adulthood in the post-war years, she was appearing (as Gisele MacKenzie) on Canadian radio broadcasts and soon had her own show, one that featured a lot of well-known guest stars.

As the 1950s began, MacKenzie brought her talents to the U.S. and it wasn’t long before she was showing up on radio and TV there too. (One of the guests on her Canadian show — Jack Benny — returned the favor, and their friendship would continue for many years, as would their duets. See video below.) She also began spending more time in the recording studio, and even though she didn’t  generate any best-sellers at first, it helped lead to her breakout on Your Hit Parade.

Spending several years on the hit TV show definitely helped move her career along and she also began selling more records, enjoying a hit with “Hard To Get” and doing well with several others too. In 1957 she moved on to her own TV show, but it only lasted a year and she fell back on what had always been a strength, making appearances on various other TV shows, including a stint as a regular with Sid Caesar. She also showed up from time to time in stage musicals and nightclubs while continuing to make records along the way, before things slowed a little. In the 1980s she started finding acting parts, and stayed active until her health began to fail. She was 78 when she died in 2003.

gmcdGisele MacKenzie – “Hard To Get”

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