Dinah Shore, Harry James and His Orchestra and Johnny Mercer – Call For Music – March 12, 1948 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Since it’s a holiday weekend, time to dust off a few classic examples of mid-century entertainment from the likes of Dinah Shore and Harry James. This one, Call For Music (sponsored by Philip Morris cigarettes) is from CBS Radio on March 12, 1948. It features Dinah Shore along with the band of Harry James and singer-songwriter/personality Johnny Mercer running through a number of songs which were very popular that year.
Dinah Shore was a household name in America all throughout the 1940s, the 1950s when she morphed into TV and became a staple of America’s TV diet with a wide range of variety and later talk shows well into the 1960s and 70s. She was one of the most popular female singers of the day, whose records sold in the millions and was synonymous with the Big Band era who later scored heavily in Pop music of the pre rock era.
Harry James was one of the key figures of the Big-Band era who came to prominence at the height of that era from 1939 to 1946. He broke up his band for a short period in 1947 but shortly after he reorganized and was active again with his band from then until his death in 1983. He was especially known among musicians for his technical proficiency as well as his tone, and was influential on new trumpet players from the late 1930s into the 1940s. He was also an actor in a number of films that usually featured his band.
John Mercer was a lyricist, songwriter, and singer. He was also a record label executive who co-founded Capitol Records with music industry businessmen Buddy DeSylva and Glenn E. Wallichs.
He is best known as a Tin Pan Alley lyricist, but he also composed music. He was also a popular singer who recorded his own songs as well as songs written by others from the mid-1930s through the mid-1950s. Mercer’s songs were among the most successful hits of the time, including “Moon River”, “Days of Wine and Roses”, “Autumn Leaves”, and “Hooray for Hollywood”. He wrote the lyrics to more than 1,500 songs, including compositions for movies and Broadway shows. He received nineteen Oscar nominations, and won four Best Original Song Oscars.
For those not familiar, this was American Popular music of the post-World War 2 era presented in its most popular medium; radio. It would remain a solid fixture in American lives well into the 1950s and beyond, only loosening its grip by the mid-1960s when sheer numbers and changing tastes overtook the charts and record sales.
This broadcast represents an era of songwriting and singing that has been pretty much forgotten (by mainstream standards) by 2022, at least it isn’t familiar to the vast majority of people born after the era of Dinah Shore.
But for all that it may seem strange and foreign, it does ask that you give it at least a partial listening if for nothing else than to listen to a different point of view.
Those familiar can skip most of this and head straight to the music, if you haven’t already.
Enjoy either way.