Thursday, June 22, 2017

'Memories of you...'

The song begins, and I'm swingin' again.

It is, as is everything, it seems, out of my era. But it's mine, as much a part of who I am as whoever is in the top 40 today, or was in your day, might be to you.

Benny Goodman, the King of Swing, and Rosie Clooney begin to perform "Memories of You." In my mind, Johnny Carson's on NBC-TV again, saying so long.

I taped Carson's "Tonight Show," watched it again and again, paying attention to the timing, to the phrasing, and, yep, to the performance of that big band.

Carson and Doc Severinsen (who lives in East Tennessee now, by the way) introduced me to so much big band, jazz, and swing. Benny, sure. And the Dorsey brothers, Dizzy Gillespe, Glenn Miller, Buddy Rich, "Begin the Beguine."

I met Doc after a show a few years ago. He was cordial, cool, calm. I chose not to mention Carson. Instead, I asked about Eddie Shaughnessy, Tommy Newsom, Snooky Young, Ross Tompkins, members of his old band.

He perked up when I did. I told him their music had led me to the '30s, '40s and early '50s, to the ballrooms of New York City, to the big bands, to the best, to Harry James, with whom Doc started, then to Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra and so forth.

Doc dug it.

I hear the music, and, suddenly, it's a spring Saturday. Friend and former co-worker Janna Barrett and I are hunting records. I find Goodman's famous 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall. I find a comeback quartet reunion record for RCA. That was a good day.

I gotta tell ya, buddy Gary started this when he posted a classic clip of Goodman with Gene Krupa, Cootie Williams from Duke Ellington's band, and the boys, on Sid Caesar's show. Bonus points for seeing Sid on sax, and Howie "Ernest T. Bass" Morris and Carl Reiner cutting a rug.

The YouTube rabbit hole leads me to Goodman's guest shot on "What's My Line?" Oh, those days. I feel like I was there.

And, when the needle drops on the disc, I am -- to Carson, to that Severinsen show, to springtime and Record Store Day, to Carnegie Hall 40 years or so before I was born.

And, mixed in the music, somewhere in that sweet, sweet, swing, lie, too, my "Memories of You." 

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