Beginnings

There are premiers then there are premiers.

A few days ago I was listening to the ’60’s channel on Sirius/XM. They played She’s a Lady by Tom Jones. I remember the first time I heard the song in 1971 (go figure). Usually if I remember the first time I heard a song it is because I associate it with something. In the case of that recording by Mr. Jones, it is because Bob Foster, the announcer on KFRC, said it was the world premier of the song.

The world premier?

Even though I was 15, I wondered at the time why the world premier of a record by someone from the UK would have its world premier on a radio station in San Francisco. New York I could understand. Maybe Los Angeles. But San Francisco? But if Bob Foster said it, it must be true!

Ten years later I lived on the Central Coast of California. Our cable service gave us TV stations from both Los Angeles and San Francisco. One night I was watching an LA station and they ran a promo about a movie they were going to show in a week — the “World Television Premier” of the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That’s right, the world television premier.

Two weeks later — a week after the “World Television Premier” on the L.A. station, I was watching a San Francisco station. They had a promo for something they were going to be showing in a week — the “World Television Premier” of the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. While they might not like to think so, I always thought that Los Angeles and San Francisco were on the same planet.

That got me to thinking — what is the fastest a recording made it on the air after being recorded? I don’t mean something that was done live on TV and recorded for the purpose of being released as a single such as All You Need Is Love by the Beatles.

I found two videos of the original broadcast but they both “freeze up” accidentally on purpose at the same spot.

Nor did I consider Elton John’s reworking of Candle In The Wind for Princess Dianna in this regard, as releasing it as a single was also a fait accompli.

From the original broadcast in September, 1997

Instead, I considered a case where a song was recorded in the normal course of events. What was the fastest a record made it from the studio to the radio in the shortest amount of time? The record for the shortest time it took a record (sounds redundant, doesn’t it?) to make it on the radio has to be from 1961 for one Pat Boone.

Boone went in to the studio to record a song. After he was finished, he had a few errands to run. As he drove he listened to the radio. The producers of the recording must have thought they had something great on their hands. The made a quick copy of it and rushed it over to a local radio station. Before Boone even made it home, the song — Moody River — was already on the air.

Today it would have to be approved by the consultants first

Talk about quick!

Just as a side note, in 1978 I was the first person at the station I worked at to play Stuff Like That by Quincy Jones. That wasn’t because I was some important person tasked with breaking hits; I just happened to be the person who was on the air when the record was brought into the control room.

With my help this made it all the way to #21 on the charts!

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The Legacy of the Mitchell trio

Like many American families in the early 1960s my family enjoyed the folk music craze. We were weekly watchers of Hootenanny. One group that appeared on that show and several others was the Chad Mitchell Trio.

In their early days they were accompanied by a guitar and banjo virtuoso by the name of James Joseph McGuinn.

You may know him better as Roger McGuinn.

In the 1940s there was an Air Corp/Air Force pilot named Henry “Dutch” Deutschendorf. He and his wife had a son in 1943. That son became a musician. In or about 1965, the younger Deutschendorf replaced Chad Mitchell in what became the Mitchell Trio. Some of the group’s albums show the name Deutschendorf as composing some of the songs.

One of the albums had one of the best recordings I ever heard. The young Deutshendorf sang the song and played on it. That song was a Pete Seeger Composition called “Bells of Rhymney.”

By the way, young Deutschendorf had adopted the stage name of John Denver, which is how he was billed on the Mitchell Trio albums. I think you have heard of him. But have you ever heard him play like this? If you like good folk music, and you like a good song, and you like good guitar playing, then you will like this recording.

You can’t help but admire the musicianship of McGuinn and Denver.

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The absolute first

Thomas Edison is well known for a number of inventions, one of them being how to record and playback sound in 1877. He used a foil cylinder and a stylus attached to a horn. Once the cylinder was recorded, Edison could then play it back.

Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville 1817-1879

However, it would not be correct to say that Edison was the first person to record sound. That honor goes to Frenchman Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville whose earliest recording from 1860 was of someone singing Au Clair de la Lune. He used a soot covered paper in which he traced the audio wave. The problem, though, was that he did not have any means of playing back the audio. Unlike earlier attempts, some going back to 1857, this recording had a 250 hertz tuning fork as part of the recording which allowed modern scientists the ability to calibrate the speed to a certain extent, although the recording device was hand cranked.

It was not until 2008 that scientists were able to play back this recording from 1860. In this clip, the original recording is first, followed by attempts to “clean them up” to make them more intelligible.

Truly a voice from the past.

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A career begun in war

World War II was a very hard time for the people of Britain. German air raids, destruction, food shortages, and many other factors went towards making life hard. British entertainers helped keep spirits up, with veteran performers such as Vera Lynn and George Formby becoming early favorites. Sometimes a star is born, almost out of necessity.

In the early 1870’s, a new hotel was built near what was to become Piccadilly Circus. There was to be a concert hall in the basement, but the managers of the hotel petitioned to change the proposed concert hall into a theatre. Permission was granted, and the underground Criterion Theatre was born.

Because of the theatre’s unique location, the BBC made use of it for many of its broadcasts during World War II. On October 17, 1942, The Beeb was preparing to broadcast one its programs, “It’s All Yours.” A man went to the program, hoping to record a message for an uncle who was stationed in North Africa. The man’s daughter accompanied her father to the theater, but before the program began, air raid sirens sounded and the audience became nervous. To ease the tension, the BBC producer asked if anyone in the audience would like to sing, or tell a joke or story, to help the audience calm down. The daughter, who had wanted to be an entertainer since a young age, volunteered. She sang a song from the turn of the century called “Mighty Lak a Rose.” The orchestra began to play behind her, and the audience was enchanted. When the song was over, the orchestra gave her a standing ovation. The girl was asked to sing on the program, and her performance drew hundreds of letters. Her singing career was born. Two years later she added film to her resume.

By the early 1960’s, the girl was a popular singer and actress across Europe, but she did not become known in the US until 1964 at the ripe old age of…32 with her hit, Downtown. I was not able to find a recording of her 1942 broadcast, but here is a video exploring the life of a young Petula Clark.

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