Friday, February 19, 2016

Red Skelton and a Phil Ochs pianist: "SPRING DAY"

What's that photo? It looks like the late Red Skelton, spiritually guiding Lincoln Mayorga through a performance of "Spring Day."

In dreams. It's a Photoshop job; Mayorga on stage was playing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" as part of "Broadway on Ice." The show was at the Royal Opera House (in Oman, of all places) back in December of 2014. No photo of Gershwin superimposed, much less "one of America's clowns," as Red humbly billed himself.

In just a month, we'll encounter our first "Spring Day." Maybe only one, considering climate change.

Some 50 years ago, Red was interested in emulating other musical comedians, from Chaplin to Jackie Gleason (who was very successful conducting "easy listening" albums). Red would eventually write his own theme song, to be played when he walked on stage for his one-man shows. In the mid 60's, Liberty gave him a two album deal conducting standards and some self-written numbers as well.

Leading off the second album is "Spring Day," a Skelton original. Like every other cut on the album, it was arranged by Lincoln Mayorga. Phil Ochs fans will instantly know that name. Mayorga supplied the fascinating piano work on several of Phil's A&M albums. It might be a bit of a stretch, but Lincoln's piano embroidery for "Spring Day" might recall the burlesque of easy listening that he did on Phil's track "The Party," probably only a year or two later.

In a Spring day in March, Lincoln Mayorga will turn 79. You can find out much more about him at his dotcom.

As we look to Spring, we can hope (against hope) for some good new music in the world. Maybe some of it will come from comedians. I once had a lively talk with Phyllis Diller on the kind of band we could assemble made up of comedians (Phyllis on piano, Jackie Vernon on trumpet, Morey Amsterdam on cello, Henny Youngman and Jack Benny on violins, Woody Allen on clarinet, Pete Barbutti and Judy Tenuta on accordion, etc.)

Steve Allen was a pianist and Johnny Carson a drummer; today's late night stars are also musical and some very ambitious about it, too. Jimmy Kimmel plays clarinet. His CBS rival Stephen Colbert recently tried to replace James Taylor in duetting "Mockingbird" with guest Carly Simon. The most obsessed of the lot is Jimmy Fallon who will strum a guitar and imitate (ad nauseum) Neil Young. He has insisted on doing karaoke regularly. He has done the good (a duet with McCartney imagining what "Yesterday" would've been like if it had remained "Scrambled Eggs") the bad (literally falling all over the piano and the stage while duetting with Billy Joel) and the ugly (too much to chronicle here.)

The late musical comedian Michael Flanders recalled enjoying a Spring day in Great Britain: "I missed it last year. I was in the bath." Just in case the temperatures do indeed shift rapidly from cold and rainy to overbearingly hot and humid, you can perpetually enjoy THIS "Spring Day" below. And if that's not optimism, well, it's not.


1 comment:

Jr. Williams said...

Tribute song for wedding...?
Lemmy Tribute Song