Today’s spotlighted performer connects with a couple of previous posts on the GMC. Trumpeter and bandleader Dick Jurgens led a very successful band during the swing era, and for a while it provided the backing for crooner Eddy Howard. Also, Jurgens and his group often made appearances at Catalina’s Avalon Casino ballroom, an iconic building that was explored in an earlier post.
An early bloomer, the Sacramento native was just in his mid-teens and already a talented trumpeter when he and his brother Will put together a band in the late 1920s. Although the group started modestly as entertainment for summer camps in the Lake Tahoe area while the guys continued their schooling, they gained enough experience over the next few years to eventually break through with a job at San Francisco’s prestigious St. Francis Hotel.
During the 1930s the band became a well-regarded and popular group, featuring the kind of sweet but swinging music that was perfect for dancing or listening. By then brother Will was mostly working as the band’s manager, while Dick was the driving force behind the music, which included his old friend, guitarist turned crooner Eddy Howard. Regular appearances at places like the Avalon on Catalina, the Elitch Gardens in Denver, and the Aragon in Chicago helped make the band a popular national attraction. A Decca Records contract also came along during that period, providing another route to stardom. Even after Howard left and was replaced by singer Harry Cool, the band’s popularity continued into the 1940s. By then the group had enjoyed a number of good-selling records, many on songs Jurgens had written. Among the most popular were “Careless,” “I Married An Angel,” “One Dozen Roses,” and what was probably the band’s best known, “Elmer’s Tune.”
But World War II was a volatile time in the music business, and the Jurgens brothers ended up spending most of it in the Marine Corps, organizing and leading musical groups. The close of the war brought renewed success on the civilian musical scene, but within a few years the big band era began winding down. Dick retired from music during the 1950s, although he did make somewhat of a comeback a dozen years later when he formed a new nightclub band. He finally retired for good in 1976, and died at age 83 in 1995.
Dick Jurgens & Orchestra w/ Harry Cool – “I Married An Angel”
If you’ve visited the GMC over the last couple of days, you’ve noticed some turmoil in the way it looks. It all began when the hosting company apparently had a snag in the ways things were formatted for some of their sites, and it made for some strange looking views.
That’s all fixed now (hopefully for good) but during the time it was wacky I decided to ease my frustration by the possibility of changing the whole look. Long-time GMC regulars might remember that the GMC has worn several different faces — called ‘themes’ by the hosting company — during its 7+ years of existence. But even though we’ve stuck to the current one for a long time, I thought I’d at least look at what was available now. That’s why you might have noticed some strange colors and designs for the last couple of days.
The bottom line is that I didn’t really find any that combined all the things I found most important, so I’m going to stick to the current one a while longer. BUT I have tweaked the colors and the thingy at the top a little, because I was in a mood to change something.
I just hope it doesn’t make visitors too blue.
Benny Goodman & Orchestra – “There’ll Be Some Changes Made”
Although Bob Hope has been gone for a decade now (he was 100 when he died in 2003) he is still well-remembered, and most of us might also recall his signature song, “Thanks For The Memory.” But what you might not know is that his breakout moment occurred when the then little-known comic actor performed the Oscar-winning song with Shirley Ross in the film, The Big Broadcast Of 1938.
Shirley Ross (birth name Bernice Gaunt) was an Omaha native who first began to show up in the early 1930s as a singer for bandleader Gus Arnheim. It wasn’t long before she was also finding small parts in movies, where she spent several years building up to featured roles, eventually becoming a solid part of the cast of several. She also specialized in singing duets in her movies, matching up with guys like Bing Crosby and Frank Forrest.
Her path to appearing with Bob Hope began when she got a part in an earlier film, The Big Broadcast Of 1937, one of a series of similar movies that showcased many of the era’s stars. When the 1938 edition came along, she was well-positioned to again have a role, this time playing one of Bob Hope’s three ex-wives. Hope was not a big star at the time, but the scene that featured the twosome singing “Thanks For The Memory” was so memorable that producers quickly generated a follow-up movie with the song’s title, and it in turn featured another well-regarded duet on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Two Sleepy People.”
Of course, Bob Hope went on to super-stardom but Shirley Ross never reached those dizzying heights. She did continue to make a number of movies in the following years, but pretty much retired from the business during the post-war years. It’s been said that she had occasional offers to return but seemed content with the life she’d chosen. When she died in 1975 she was in her mid to late sixties (reports of her date of birth vary).
Gus Arnheim Orchestra w/ Shirley Ross – “I’m No Angel”