PBS Offers Big Band Vocalists (My Music) in March
Many of them became stars on big and small screens, the subject of long-distance crushes, and toast-of-the-town celebrities. They were the vocalists who sang with the big bands (Harry James, Stan Kenton, Ted Weems, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey) in the 1940s, becoming recording stars with fans clamoring for their records. During the month of March, PBS celebrates these artists with Big Band Vocalists (My Music), airing on PBS stations beginning March 3.
It’s an hour of nostalgia hosted by Peter Marshall and Nick Clooney (who can’t refrain from singing a few verses themselves). Performances are taken from long-forgotten forties’ and fifties’ film footage, including movie clips, and the songs focus on love and romance, though there are a few songs (“Big Noise from Winnetka,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “Cow Cow Boogie,” and “God Bless America”) deviating from the theme. Marshall and Clooney supply biographical tidbits about the singers and bands throughout the program.
A very young (“boy singer”) Perry Como performs “I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now” in an arrangement made comical by his back-up singers and bandleader Ted Weems, and the Andrews Sisters cut up with Shemp Howard when they sang “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.” Most of the other performances are somewhat more reserved and elegant.
Singers highlighted include: Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King Cole, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore, and Kate Smith, among others. In all, there are 21 “crooners” and “canaries,” providing a taste of the music the Greatest Generation held dear, shared with their Baby Boomer kids, and still enjoy on Sirius Satellite Radio.
Big Band Vocalists (My Music) is a simple production—performance films cobbled together with comments from the hosts—but one that fans of the Big Band Era will find immensely entertaining.