Monday, May 19, 2014

"It's Such a Happy Day" - Jackie Gleason wrote it for his skits…

While two songs closely associated with Jackie Gleason were not written by him (his "theme" song, "Melancholy Serenade," and the ubiquitous "Shangri-La,") he's credited with writing the one below.

"It's Such a Happy Day" was used quite a bit on Gleason's 60's variety show, usually over the silent antics of Jackie as "the Poor Soul." No reason to believe he didn't at least hum the melody for this thing, which was then orchestrated for him. That was the M.O. for quite a few celebs. A contemporary of Gleason's, with a sketch comedy show involving mime, Red Skelton, also wrote a lot of tunes that an arranger polished up. Two albums of Skelton music were issued by Liberty, and some cuts were pretty good. Both Jackie and Red were probably thinking they were in the same league as Chaplin…who not only wrote, starred and directed his comedies, but often created the music, too.

Gleason was one of the foremost sellers of lounge music. In his day, he competed successfully with Mantovani, Percy Faith and Melachrino, in coming up with sappy "music for lovers." Apparently he came in to "conduct" the orchestra, after others created the charts. The character Frank Lorenzo, on a memorable episode of "All in the Family," loved playing the romantic lounge albums for his swinging wife: "that Jackie Gleason…he knows more about love than anybody!" Leaning more toward brass than strings, maybe there was some subliminal "blow" message going on, but there aren't many serious music critics who find anything worth praise on the albums conducted by "The Great One." Today most of the interest is from album-cover-lover types, who like the kitschy poses of women turned horizontal, eyes closing in rapture.

It's kind of interesting that a guy best known for playing a childlike, brawling bus driver, and a few unattractive and peculiar characters in sketch comedy, would have such an impact on the field of romantic lounge music. However, comedians in general are very musical. In an interview I did with Phyllis Diller, she talked about timing, and pointed out that "most comics are also musicians." We tallied up the list…Woody Allen on clarinet, Jackie Vernon on trumpet, Morey Amsterdam on cello, Henny Youngman and Jack Benny on violin, Steve Allen on piano, Johnny Carson and Mel Brooks on drums, Harpo Marx on harp…you could end up with quite a band…one that could've been conducted by Jackie Gleason


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