“The Door To Yesterday” #31

George & Gracie: The missing TV shows!

Would somebody please unearth the episodes of the Burns & Allen TV series from its last two or three seasons? George & Gracie’s TV show began in 1950 and ran until 1958 but the only episodes that have been and are available on video & DVD are from the early years. Every episode was set in and around George & Gracie’s home and when the show began its run, George would talk to the audience from the side of the stage and then physically step onto the set. Then as the series developed in later seasons, he sat in his study and looked at a television set where he could watch the action taking place elsewhere in the house. This was a very ingenious plot device and of course, decades later Garry Shandling took a leaf out of George’s book and talked directly to the audience from time to time.

But the later Burns & Allen shows (which also featured Harry Von Zell along with George & Gracie’s adopted son Ronnie) have not been seen for years and I remember them as being very entertaining. Talk about TV On Demand – this would be on the top of my list!


Give a little whistle!

Maybe it all starts when you’re very young and you try to imitate the newspaper delivery boy who whistles down the street
but as Lauren Bacall famously said to Humphrey Bogart in the 1944 film “To Have And Have Not”:
You know you how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put
your lips together and blow“!

A famous musical reference came seven years earlier in the form of the Frank Churchill/Larry Morey song “Whistle While You Work” in Walt Disney’s animated film “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs”.

On the smaller screen, whistling became a weekly essential exercise beginning in 1960 when CBS launched “The Andy Griffith Show” with a whistling tune that accompanied the aimable sheriff of rural Mayberry as he walked along the infamous tree-lined path along with six-year-old Ronny Howard.

Which got me to thinking recently of actual pop records of years gone by on which whistling played a memorable role. I’m sure that you have your own favorites but below is a list of mine including the version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” famously used by The Harlem Globetrotters. Obviously some of my selection are rooted in my British upbringing such as the skiffle record of “Freight Train” on which the group’s banjo-playing leader Chas McDevitt whistled while Nancy Whiskey took vocal honors.

Bony Moronie” (Larry Williams)
by Larry Williams (Specialty: 1957)

Freight Train” (Paul James/Fred Williams)
by The Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group featuring Nancy Whiskey (UK Oriole: 1957)

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” (Ennio Morricone)
By Hugo Montenegro (RCA: 1967)

A Handful Of Songs” (Tommy Steele/Lionel Bart/Michael Pratt)
By Tommy Steele & The Steelmen (UK Decca: 1957)

The Happy Whistler” (Don Robertson)
By Don Robertson (Capitol: 1956)

Heartaches By The Number” (Harlan Howard)
by Guy Mitchell (Columbia: 1959)

I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” (Roger Greenaway/Roger Cook)
By Whistling Jack Smith (Deram: 1967)

Just Walking in the Rain” (Johnny Bragg/Robert Riley)
by Johnnie Ray (Columbia: 1956)

Magic Moments” (Burt Bacharach/Hal David)
By Perry Como (RCA: 1958)

Many Tears Ago” (Winfield Scott)
By Connie Francis (MGM: 1960)

March From The River Kwai” (Malcolm Arnold) & “Colonel Bogey” (Kenneth J. Alford)
By Mitch Miller & His Orchestra (Columbia: 1958)

Michael” (Arr: Dave Fisher)
By The Highwaymen (United Artists: 1961)

Rockin’ Robin” (Jimmie Thomas)
By Bobby Day (Class: 1958)

Singing The Blues” (Melvin Endsley)
By Tommy Steele & The Steelmen (UK Decca: 1956)

(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Otis Redding/Steve Cropper)
By Otis Redding (Volt: 1967)

Sweet Georgia Brown” (Ben Bernie/Maceo Pinkard/Kenneth Casey)
By Brother Bones & His Shadows (Tempo: 1948)


R.I.P: Norman Wisdom (1915-2010)

The beloved British slapstick comedian Norman Wisdom made his fame and fortune in a series of very successful movies in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He also sang, most notably a ballad he co-wrote himself called “Don’t Laugh At Me (‘Cause I’m A Fool)“; it was featured in his first box-office smash “Trouble In Store” and reached #3 on the British hit parade in early 1954. Three years later, he charted with “The
Wisdom Of A Fool” which, though its title suggests it might have been written specially for Norman, it was actually a cover of an American song by Roy Alfred & Abner Silver and originally recorded by The Five Keys in 1956. Norman’s A&R man Norrie Paramor also teamed him up for a couple of duet recordings, one with the Irish singer Ruby Murray and another with British comedienne Joyce Grenfell.


R.I.P: Solomon Burke (1936-2010)

So sad to hear of Solomon’s sudden passing. He was rightly referred to as ‘The King Of Rock & Soul’ and his impassioned vocal lit a formidable fire under the country song “Just Out Of Reach”, giving him his first chart record back in 1961. Even in recent years, he was on still on the top of his game with his Grammy®-winning album “Don’t Give Up On Me” and his subsequent trio of records for Shout! Factory, singing songs by such contemporary artists as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Van Morrison. Below is a list of outstanding cuts from his early Atlantic sides.

Cry To Me” (Bert Berns)
By Solomon Burke (Atlantic: 1962)

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” (Bert Berns/Solomon Burke/Jerry Wexler)
By Solomon Burke (Atlantic: 1964)

Get Out Of My Life Woman” (Allen Toussaint)
By Solomon Burke (Atlantic: 1968)

Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye)” (Bert Russell/Wes Farrell)
By Solomon Burke (Atlantic: 1964)

Got To Get You Off My Mind” (Solomon Burke/Delores Burke/J.B. Moore)
By Solomon Burke (Atlantic: 1965)

If You Need Me” (Robert Bateman/Wilson Pickett/Sonny Sanders)
By Solomon Burke (Atlantic: 1963

Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)” (Virgil ‘Pappy’ Stewart)
By Solomon Burke (Atlantic: 1961)

The Price” (Solomon Burke Sr./Solomon Burke Jr./J.B. Moore)
By Solomon Burke (Atlantic: 1964)

Take Me (Just As I Am)” (Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham)
By Solomon Burke (Atlantic: 1967)

Tonight’s The Night” (Don Covay/Solomon Burke)
By Solomon Burke (Atlantic: 1965)

You’re Good For Me” (Don Covay/Horace Ott)
By Solomon Burke (Atlantic: 1963)


That song…That Face!

“That face, that face, that wonderful face!
It shines, it glows all over the place.

And how I love to watch it change expressions.

Each look becomes the pride of my possessions”

The premiere episode of CBS Television’s new cop show “The Defenders” ended with Frank Sinatra Jr. on stage singing an extract from “That Face” which was the title song from his 2006 album released by Rhino. The song has an interesting history: it was written by Alan Bergman and Lew Spence and introduced by Fred Astaire on a Verve single in 1957 and then both sung and danced by him on his 1959 TV special “Another Evening With Fred Astaire” on which his dancing partner was Barrie Chase.

That Face” has been recorded a number of different times over the years by such artists as Rosemary Clooney (on Concord Jazz in 1996), by Sarah Vaughan (on Mainstream in ’75), Joe Williams (on RCA in ’64), Mel Torme (on Stash in ’68) and John Pizzarelli on Telarc in 2004. The song’s co-author cut it himself on his “Lyrically, Alan Bergman” album on Verve in 2007 and Mr. Astaire revisited the song during his 1976 London sessions for United Artists. In addition, Barbra Streisand included an extract in the Circus medley portion of her 1966 TV special “Color Me Barbra’.


Movie Quote of yesteryear:

I am big…it’s the pictures that got small

Spoken by Gloria Swanson as the fading movie actress Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” (Paramount: 1950)

Rock on!


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