Monday, February 2, 2015

Who is this Guy?

Record Collectors, especially those who are relative newbies to what's referred to as 'the dig' usually find some certain items give a hint as to the era of the person whose collection was bought or donated or dispersed to become vintage vinyl that you can purchase.
   Whether they are going to or coming from 'a dig', The 'dig' that record-collectors refer to is the thrift store/rummage store/flea market/retro-record store/ where vintage vinyl is usually available. Basically everywhere you can find old records is 'the dig'. And, of course, when you're looking through old records, you're really going through someone else's collection which they've sold off or given up for whatever reason up to and including an untimely death. When a record store gets an influx of 'vintage' vinyl, what they are usually doing is buying up someone's old collection for re-sale. So when you, perhaps, decide to look through those records, you can usually find out something about the person whose collection it used to be.
   When you see lots of psychedelic records, you know you're going through a collection that was owned by a once-hippie. When you see an assortment of polka music together with Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers records, you're going through the collection of a post World War II immigrant or family to North America who later became naturalized citizens.
   However there's this certain Guy that keeps showing up every once in a while in vintage vinyl, and even though his music is probably not quite as familiarly nostalgic as Benny Goodman or Glen Miller, and he's nowhere near as sought after as that Miles Davis album or great players like Charlie Parker or John Coltrain, you find his albums usually do sell, though they are usually less expensive to acquire than those vintage Doors albums.

Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians
   'That Guy' is Guy Lombardo, and the reason that he keeps showing up when you go 'digging' for vintage vinyl is simple: It's sheer volume. Guy Lombardo was a recording 'star' long before they started handing out gold records or even keeping track of the sales of albums. Over the course of his lifetime it's estimated he's sold somewhere between 100 to 300 MILLION records. And that is a staggering amount for any artist of any genre of music. Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians started as a group of Lombardo himself and mostly his brothers, including singer Carmen Lombardo who were later joined by several musicians and that's when Guy took up the baton and became the bandleader.

The Fox Trot
Coming out of the late 1920s, Guy Lombardo and his band laid the foundation for their music and their careers on a dance called the Fox Trot  (or Foxtrot if you want to make it all one word). Today, the Fox Trot is considered one of those confusing and difficult ballroom dances that they occasionally do on competitive television shows or movies set in a historical period. In its day, however, the Fox Trot was considered to be much easier than tap dancing, square dancing or the 'Flapper' dances like the 'charleston' and other 'wild' dances of the first Jazz Age in the 1920s. The Fox Trot was simpler, allowed for improvisation and also was a dance that could be learned without paying for too many lessons.

Sweet Sound
Lombardo and his Canadians could never be referred to as being as edgy or avant-garde as jazz records by John Coltraine or Miles Davis. Neither were they quite as popular as Glen Miller and others in the mainstream. Instead, his music was advertised as 'The Sweetest Sound this Side of Heaven' and although there is no way to compare him to anything on the other side of Heaven, most people could probably agree that 'sweet' is a fair description for Guy Lombardo's style. His players and singers were always high quality and skilled, but not known for blazing solos and powerful, emotional arias. The feel and ideas conveyed by his music and choice of songs was mostly sentimental and romantic, and certainly 'sweet' implied that there was very little offputting or disonant styles to his music. Guy Lombardo's musical style was indeed sweet, affectionate and playful, but at the same time maintained a high-standard of musical skill and was well suited to both the first Jazz Age and the later Big Band era.

Miss DuShane?
For the 'misheard lyrics' fans: No it's not Miss DeShane or Miss DuShoen or Miss Duchesne. There is absolutely no one named Miss DuChein in this song. The song titled Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen translates to 'To Me, You're Beautiful' and is a song originally written in Yiddish, then German-ized and later 'adapted' to English. Guy Lombardo enjoyed a hit with the song, and his brother Carmen sang it numerous times for live audiences. Guy Lombardo originally performed Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen in early 1930s, however, because of World War II and the Nazi menace, many things that were German in origin fell into disfavour in North America. Guy Lombardo's version of the song Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen reappears in 1960s compilation albums of Guy Lombardo's greatest hits or most popular tunes.

Why Auld Lang Syne?
Auld Lang Syne is a Scottish poem written by the acclaimed Robbie Burns, though it's believed that the music was a traditional Scotch tune and the ideas for the poem were also previously borne by other Scots. This traditional tune was sung and performed not just at New Year's but at times of great change like funerals and farewells, including symbolic change like graduations. So why should such a traditional Scottish tune and poem be played largely all over North America at midnight on New Year's Eve? Well, this is almost entirely due to Guy Lombardo's New Year's Eve broadcasts on Radio and Television. Every year, for decades, Guy Lombardo's band played Auld Lang Syne at strike of midnight, during and through the 1950s and right up until Guy Lombardo's death in 1977, greatly popularizing this traditional Scottish tune and making it familiar to people all over the United States and Canada.