Tuesday, September 29, 2009
W.C. Fields fake: SMOOTH LUNDVALL "Dear Chester"
It was easy to get a novelty single released by Columbia ... if you happened to be an executive there!
"Smooth Lundvall," aka Bruce Lundvall (Bucknell graduate, class of 1957), managed to push Columbia into issuing TWO novelty singles. One was a cover of "Winchester Cathedral" b/w "I'm Gonna Spoil You Baby" (billed as The New Happiness, vocal refrain by Smooth Lundvall) and the more disturbing coupling of "Dear Chester"
and "Ode to Larson E. Whipsnade" credited to Smooth Lundvall and The New Happiness.
Adopting a W.C. Fields cadence, but sounding more like Rudy Vallee, Lundvall attempted to be part of the "Fields cash-in" that included new books, pop posters, and the arrival of "Uncle Bill" (imitating the Great Man in both TV commercials and on a novelty album). Columbia issued four albums of W.C. Fields radio shows...and a few years later, 1976, "Smooth" Bruce Lundvall had worked his way up to become president of CBS Records.
Jazz fan Lundvall switched over to Elektra in 1982, boosting Elektra's new "Musician" label, and two years later, went to EMI, where he revived Blue Note and signed Norah Jones, which immediately let the world know that this aging executive still knew how to bring in talent.
Lundvall was once chairman of the RIAA, and also held high positions at other alphabet soup groups; Country Music Association (CMA) and National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). He received a presidential award (whatever that is) from NARM (whoever they are...the National Association of Record Merchants, whose job apparently is to wave farewell every time a Tower, HMV or Virgin closes.)
"Dear Chester" references "Chester Fields," a mythical son W.C. loved to mention on radio just to annoy his sponsor, the rival cigarette company Lucky Strike. Lundvall recites a script that goes from copping familiar Fields jokes into inventing lesser ones...a distracting piano offering what is supposed to be some period flavor. If you've ever tasted a period, this is not a compliment.
Lundvall, now 73, is still the CEO over at Blue Note, and despite signing more acts, including Cassandra Wilson, and having certifiable hits with albums by Al Green and Wynton Marsalis, people want him to step aside for somebody younger. In a February 2009 article in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/07/arts/music/07blue.html) "Smooth" Bruce said "“I don’t want to sit around the house and mow the lawn. I don’t want to be a crossing guard for the Wyckoff, N.J., school system. I want to keep doing this.”