January 30, 2019

20,000 vinyl LPs 167: Tammy Grimes ~ The Unsinkable Molly Brown

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vinyl LP front cover detail
Illustration by Tom Morrow
detail photo of album cover by Styrous®


Today is the birthday of Tammy Grimes who had a unique, sort of quirky voice that intrigued me from the first time I heard it.

Known for a speaking voice compared to a buzz saw, a "lyric baritone" singing voice that one critic called "a low, throaty quiver, a hum that takes wings", and "the stage personality of a daffy but endearing pseudo-English eccentric".
Tammy Grimes was a Broadway theatre actress, who was catapulted to stardom with The Unsinkable Molly Brown.     

The Unsinkable Molly Brown is a 1960 musical with music and lyrics by Meredith Willson whose previous credit was The Music Man. The libretto was by Richard Morris. The plot is a fictionalized account of the life of Margaret Brown and her wealthy miner-husband, who survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The Titanic incident is but a small part of the musical.    

Margaret (aka Molly) Brown giving Captain Arthur Henry Rostron an award on May 29, 1912 for his service in the rescue of survivors of the Titanic. 


photographer unknown
 

Tammy Grimes won a Tony Award for her portrayal of the real life character, Margaret Brown, but was largely unknown in 1960 when she was cast in the title role. The show’s producers considered the music and lyrics by Willson more marketable than Grimes, so, declined to put her name above the title, which meant that (because of the Tony regulations of the time) she could be nominated only in the featured-actress category.       


vinyl LP front cover  detail
detail photo by Styrous®


Tammy Grimes portrayed the character of Margaret Brown and her rendition of I Ain't Down Yet is the absolutely best version of the tune (link below). Although it sounds nothing like it, the song has the essence of Hey Look Me Over from the musical, Wildcat, which starred Lucille Ball (links below); both songs proclaim the refusal to admit defeat even at the lowest point in one's life and they are rousing, inspiring, fight and get-on-with-life songs.   
      

The Unsinkable Molly Brown
vinyl LP front cover
Illustration by Tom Morrow
photo of album cover by Styrous®


Grimes made her debut on the New York stage at the Neighborhood Playhouse in May 1955 in Jonah and the Whale.  

In 1964 The Unsinkable Molly Brown was made into a movie. Debbie Reynolds (link below) portrayed the role of Molly Brown and did a great interpretation of the role.    

In 1997 Kathy Bates portrayed the Molly Brown character in the film Titanic (link below); she did not sing but did a marvelous job of projecting a strong-willed woman who takes everything in her stride but nothing for granted. I've always liked ANY film Bates has been in. Titanic, directed by James Cameron, won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing.      


The Unsinkable Molly Brown
vinyl LP front cover detail
Illustration by Tom Morrow
detail photo of album cover by Styrous®


Grimes made her Broadway stage debut as an understudy for Kim Stanley in the starring role in Bus Stop in June 1955.     

On May 16, 1960, she acted and sang as Mehitabel in an abridged version of the musical Archy and Mehitabel as part of the syndicated TV anthology series Play of the Week presented by David Susskind, and co-written by Mel Brooks and Joe Darion. The cast included Eddie Bracken, who reprised the role in the 1970 animated feature version Shinbone Alley with Carol Channing (link below) in the Mehitabel role, and Jules Munshin.      
     
 
The Unsinkable Molly Brown
vinyl LP front cover detail
Illustration by Tom Morrow
detail photo of album cover by Styrous®


Grimes starred in her second Broadway musical, High Spirits, which opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on April 7, 1964. It is an adaptation of  the Noël Coward comic play Blithe Spirit, with songs by Hugh Martin and Timothy Gray. It ran for 375 performances. The original cast recording of the Broadway cast was released by ABC Records and it made the Top 20.      

High Spirits was nominated for eight Tony Awards, but did not win any of them. Other major musical nominees that same year (1964) were Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand (link below), and Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing (link below); most of the major Tony wins went to Dolly!.   

According to the Lyndon Johnson presidential diaries, on Wednesday 26th January, 1966, Grimes sang songs from The Unsinkable Molly Brown in the East Room of the White House.        

She starred in her own ABC television series, The Tammy Grimes Show, which aired during the 1966–67 season on the ABC network. It Premiered on September 8, 1966, but was cancelled after only one month (links below).
      
In 1969 after almost a decade of performing in what The New York Times called "dubious delights", Grimes appeared in a revival of Private Lives by Noël Coward as Amanda, winning the Tony Award for Best Actress the next year.        


Cleavon Little, Lauren Bacall, Tammy Grimes & Fritz Weaver -1970
photo: AP/REX/Shutterstock

  
The The Unsinkable Molly Brown record album came with a Souvenir Programme that had images from the stage production as well as bios of all the performers (link below).        


The Unsinkable Molly Brown
vinyl LP front cover  detail
detail photo by Styrous®


The Unsinkable Molly Brown
vinyl LP back cover w/Souvenir Programme 
Illustration by Tom Morrow 
photo of album cover by Styrous®


vinyl LP back cover
photo by Styrous®


There are videos of her that demonstrate her bizarre voice on YouTube (links below) one, I Can't Remember Ever Loving You, was written by Randy Newman (link below).        
          
      
The Unsinkable Molly Brown
vinyl LP back cover detail
detail photo by Styrous®


Grimes was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, on January 30, 1934. Her mother was Eola Willard (née Niles), a naturalist and spiritualist, and Luther Nichols Grimes, an innkeeper, country-club manager, and farmer. She studied singing with Beverley Peck Johnson.     

Grimes married Christopher Plummer on August 16, 1956. She married Jeremy Slate in 1966 and divorced him a year later. She married composer Richard Bell in 1971 and the couple remained wed until Bell's death in 2005.    

In 1965, Grimes made headlines after she had been beaten and injured twice in four days in New York City, by what were described as "white racists". According to a report, she believed the attacks were related to her association with several black entertainers and recent appearances in public with Sammy Davis Jr., who was said to be staging a nightclub act for her.      


The Unsinkable Molly Brown
vinyl LP back cover detail
detail photo by Styrous®


Tammy Grimes died from natural causes on October 30, 2016, in Englewood, New Jersey. She was 82 years old.   


 The Unsinkable Molly Brown
vinyl LP back cover detail
detail photo by Styrous®


 The Unsinkable Molly Brown
vinyl LP back cover detail
detail photo by Styrous®





     

Tracklist:
Side 1:

A1 - Overture    
A2 - I Ain't Down Yet    
A3 - Belly Up To The Bar, Boys    
A4 - I've A'ready Started In    
A5 - I'll Never Say No    
A6 - My Own Brass Bed    
A7 - The Denver Police    
A8 - Bea-U-Ti-Ful People Of Denver    
A9 - Are You Sure    

Side 2:

B1 - I Ain't Down Yet (Reprise)    
B2 - Happy Birthday, Mrs. J. J. Brown    
B3 - Bon Jour (The Language Song)    
B4 - If I Knew    
B5 - Chick-A-Pen    
B6 - Keep-A-Hoppin' And Leadville Johnny Brown    
B7 - Up Where The People Are    
B8 - Dolce Far Niente And I May Never Fall In Love With You    
B9 - I Ain't Down Yet (Finale)    

Credits:

    Illustration – Tom Morrow*



Viewfinder links:
            
archy, mehitabel & Carol              
Lucille Ball 
Eddie Bracken       
Carol Channing   
Tammy Grimes     
Debbie Reynolds          
Wildcat                    
Meredith Willson     
The Unsinkable Molly Brown Souvenir Programme      
Titanic subjects:       
       Gavin Bryars ~ The Sinkinig of the Titanic   
       RMS Titanic images    
       Titanic (1997 film         
      
Net links:
              
Tammy Grimes Filmography     
Tammy Grimes Stage work     
NY Times ~ obit   
Playbill ~ obit       
Variety ~ obit       
      
YouTube link:
        
Tammy Grimes ~ Dolce Far Niente            
                         ~ I Can't Remember Ever Loving You     
                         ~ Limehouse Blues             
                         ~ Quest-ce Que C'est        
                         ~ Sophisticated Lady   
The Tammy Grimes Show ~  
                            Part 1 (9 min., 50 sec.) 
                            Part 2 (9 min., 44 sec.) 
                            Part 3 (9 min., 24 sec.)     
     
  
     
     
photo by Leo Friedman





Styrous® ~  Wednesday, January 30, 2019   



     







  

The Unsinkable Molly Brown Souvenir Programme

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Souvenir Programme front cover
Illustration by Tom Morrow
photo by Styrous®


selected pages from the booklet



































       
Souvenir Programme photographer credits:         

Michael Denning
Friedman Abeles            
Marth Holmes              
Duane Michals
Daniel Ross, Galaxy
Maurice Seymour                          
Editta Sherman      
Forence Vandamm           
Milton H. Green        
       
      

Viewfinder links:        
     
Tammy Grimes      
The Unsinkable Molly Brown     
 
    
    
      

Souvenir Programme back cover

photo by Styrous®



Styrous® ~ Saturday, January 26, 2019      



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Eddie Bracken articles/mentions

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archy, mehitabel & Carol   
The Unsinkable Molly Brown        
        
        
       
       
      
     
      
Eddie Bracken - 1954
recording archy and mehitabel
publicity photo


















January 28, 2019

Chickens on Wood String Band ~ Freight Train

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photo by Styrous®


Yesterday evening I caught the latest performance of the fun-to-watch 'n fun-to-listen-to group, Chickens on Wood String Band at The Local on Park Street in Alameda. It's where I had seen them before (link below).       




The place was more crowded than it was the last time. As a result we couldn't find a place to sit and had to stand. This was good for the band and The Local, bad for us.                 

Also, I had a hard time getting great shots of the group. But I could hear them just fine and after all, that is what's most important.            




Scott Peterson, the band leader, was in great form . . .        



Scott Peterson belting out a tune 
Chickens on Wood String Band
photo by Styrous®

photo by Styrous®


At one point, Alison Limoges did a terrific cover of a folk song I have always loved, Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotton. Cotton wrote the song in her early teens and it is her most famous composition.

The 1956 UK recording of the song by Chas McDevitt and Nancy Whiskey was a major hit and is credited as one of the main influences for the rise of skiffle in the UK.       


photo by Styrous®


The song has been covered by many artists - Mike Seeger, Peter Paul & Mary, an instrumental by Chet Atkins and my favorite version by Joan Baez (links below).         

photo by Styrous®


The fifties seemed to be a hyperdrive time for the song for it was rocked out by the Scottish folk singer, Nancy Whiskey and an instrumental by Duane Eddy  in 1956, then another  instrumental by Rusty Draper in 1957 (links below).       


photo by Styrous®


As I had been working all day photographing/documenting my record collection (link below), I was exhausted and could only sit through the first set which they ended with what seems to be a great crowd pleasing number, These Boots Are Made For Walkin'; it certainly was that!      



        
Chickens on Wood String Band is:       
Scott Peterson, band leader -- banjo
Brian Glueck -- mandolin, resonator guitar, cello
Brian Kilrain -- double bass
Alison Limoges -- acoustic, rhythm guitar       
 

The Local
1333 Park Street
Alameda, CA  94501
Telephone:   (510) 523-2116
       
         
          
         
Viewfinder links:     
      
Chickens on Wood String Band 
Alison Limoges    
MOOvin' 'n GROOvin' @ The Local          
20,000 Vinyl LPs         
     
Net link:         
     
Chickens on Wood String Band on Facebook       
       
YouTube links:     
        
Freight Train ~
        Chet Atkins                 
        Joan Baez               
        Elizabeth Cotton      
        Rusty Draper                    
        Duane Eddy                 
        Peter, Paul & Mary              
        Mike Seeger              
        Nancy Whiskey & Chas. McDevitt                   
      
      
       
Styrous® ~ Monday, January 28, 2019     
       


 






Chickens on Wood String Band articles/mentions

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@ the Fireside Lounge     
Freight Train        
MOOvin' 'n GROOvin'!     
  
 
  
   
  
  
  
   
  
   
  









January 27, 2019

Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla & the incandescent bulb

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On January 27, 1880, Thomas Edison patented the electric incandescent lamp. He is given credit for inventing it but it was NOT him but the genius, Nikola Tesla, who did.       

In 1882, Tivadar Puskás got Tesla a job in Paris with the Continental Edison Company. Tesla began working in what was then a brand new industry, installing indoor incandescent lighting citywide in the form of an electric power utility. The company had several subdivisions and Tesla worked at the Société Electrique Edison, the division in the Ivry-sur-Seine suburb of Paris in charge of installing the lighting system.           
      
In 1884, the company transferred him to the United States to manage the Edison Machine Works, a manufacturing division situated in New York City. The Machine Works on the Lower East Side, in Manhattan in an overcrowded shop with a workforce of several hundred machinists, laborers, managing staff, and 20 "field engineers" struggling with the task of building the large electric utility in that city. As in Paris, Tesla was working on troubleshooting installations and improving generators.         
Tesla had been working at the Machine Works for a total of six months when he quit. It is unclear why. It may have been over a bonus he did not receive, either for redesigning generators or for the arc lighting system that was shelved. Tesla had previous run-ins with the Edison company over unpaid bonuses he believed he had earned.    

Tesla stated the manager of the Edison Machine Works offered a $50,000 bonus to design "twenty-four different types of standard machines" "but it turned out to be a practical joke". Later versions of this story have Thomas Edison himself offering and then reneging on the deal, quipping "Tesla, you don't understand our American humor." Tesla's diary contains just one comment on what happened at the end of his employment, a note he scrawled across the two pages covering 7 December 1884, to 4 January 1885, saying "Good by to the Edison Machine Works".        
     
Soon after leaving the Edison company, Tesla was working on patenting an arc lighting system, possibly the same one he had developed at Edison. In March 1885, he met with patent attorney Lemuel W. Serrell, the same attorney used by Edison, to obtain help with submitting the patents. Serrell introduced Tesla to two businessmen, Robert Lane and Benjamin Vail, who agreed to finance an arc lighting manufacturing and utility company in Tesla's name, the Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing. Tesla worked for the rest of the year obtaining the patents that included an improved DC generator, the first patents issued to Tesla in the US, and building and installing the system in Rahway, New Jersey Tesla's new system gained notice in the technical press, which commented on its advanced features.        

The investors showed little interest in Tesla's ideas for new types of alternating current motors and electrical transmission equipment. After the utility was up and running in 1886, they decided that the manufacturing side of the business was too competitive and opted to simply run an electric utility. They formed a new utility company, abandoning Tesla's company and leaving the inventor penniless. Tesla even lost control of the patents he had generated, since he had assigned them to the company in exchange for stock. He had to work at various electrical repair jobs and as a ditch digger for $2 per day. Later in life Tesla would recount that part of 1886 as a time of hardship, writing "My high education in various branches of science, mechanics and literature seemed to me like a mockery".       
     
Simply because Edison was able to gain the patents for them, he took credit for other Tesla inventions as well.          
       
        
          
Viewfinder links:        
           
Thomas Edison          
Nikola Tesla        
          
         
           
Net link:                   
         
Missed in History ~ Nikola Tesla: the War of Currents, Part 1      
         
           
           
         
          
         
Styrous® ~ Sunday, January 27, 2019         
           
         













Nikola Tesla article/mentions

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Edison, Nikola Tesla & the incandescent bulb   
Nikola Tesla & the MRI   
Nicola Tesla ~ Man Out of Time     

       
 
   
      
 
   
            
         
Nikola Tesla - ca. 1890
photo by Napoleon Sarony
   
   
    
    


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