Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Well today would have been the birthday of one of the greatest jazz composers of the 20th Century--none other than Duke Ellington who was born in Washington D.C. in 1899. Today is also the 40th anniversary of the great musical "Hair"Hair was conceived by actors James Rado and Gerry Ragni. The two actors met in 1964, when they were both cast in the off-Broadway play Hang Down Your Head and Die, and began writing Hair together in early 1965.In the Los Angeles Times, Rado described the inspiration for Hair as "a combination of some characters we met in the streets, people we knew and our own imaginations. We knew this group of kids in the East Village who were dropping out and dodging the draft, and there were also lots of articles in the press about how kids were being kicked out of school for growing their hair long, and we incorporated that in the show too."[2] Many cast members (Shelley Plimpton in particular) were recruited right off the street.In the 1960s, Ragni was an active member of The Open Theater group in New York City, which was developing improvisational and experimental theatre techniques.[8] In college, Rado wrote musical revues and aspired to be a Broadway composer in the Rodgers and Hammerstein tradition. Imagine that musical theatre enthusiasts! Anyway, Mr. Ragni interested Mr. Rado in the more modern styles and techniques being developed at The Open Theater. Then In 1966, Ragni performed in The Open Theater's production of Megan Terry's play, Viet Rock, which influenced his development of the book for Hair. Viet Rock, a play about young men being deployed to the Vietnam War, employed the same improvisational and workshop techniques later used in the development of Hair.Mr. Rado and Mr. Ragni brought the show to producer Eric Blau, who connected the two with Canadian pianist/composer Galt MacDermot through mutual friend and music publisher Nat Shapiro.MacDermot had won a Grammy Award in 1961 for his composition "African Waltz" (recorded by Cannonball Adderley While living in South Africa, MacDermot studied the music of the Bantu tribe, whose music stresses beats on unexpected syllables, and he incorporated this African influence into the score of Hair. MacDermot says he listened to "what they called kwellas very characteristic beat, very similar to rock. Much deeper than that Among the first songs written for the show were "I Got Life", "Ain't Got No", "Where Do I Go" and the title song "Hair"
The show was pitched to several Broadway producers and received many rejections. Eventually Joe Papp, who ran the then-named New York Shakespeare Festival, decided he wanted Hair to open his newly titled Public Theater in New York City's Greenwich Village. Chicago businessman Michael Butler, after seeing an ad for Hair in the New York Times that led him to believe the show was about Native Americans, watched the Public's production several times and decided to purchase the rights and move it to Broadway.Hair became the first off-Broadway musical to successfully make the transition to the Broadway stage. The New York Theatre League ruled Hair ineligible for consideration for the 1968 Tony Awards and the producers brought suit. but were unable to force the League to reconsider. At the 1969 Tonys, Hair was nominated for Best Musical and Best Director but lost out to 1776 in both categories. In another note, our recording session on Sunday April 27th went amazingly- we recorded thirteen songs including tunes from "Wild Swans" "Little Bit of Broadway' "Sevenly" and "The Runaway Heart" Jeff Urband at the piano was amazing as usual-- but we still miss Tim Doran- who is off this weekend for a little R&R up north. One singer could not show because he had victimized. He had answered an ad in Craig's List for an apartment to rent. He went the apartment house and found the guy- who said he was subletting his place. Our singer paid him $1200 and thought he had a new place to live. When he arrived Sunday morning "to drop off a few things" he discovered the guy had never lived there-- had only been "house sitting the apartment to feed the fish and the cat, had disconnected his cell phone and disappeared. Gone was the singer's $1200. Since his old apartment had already been re-rented-- he literally had no where to go. He has until Wednesday to solve this horrible dilemma. Please everybody-- think twice before you do anything serious investment wise dealing with Craig's List. My partner, John Nugent was also victimized after moving from Erwin, Tn last fall. He moved into a place that he was suddenly denied access to the kitchen, shared with a screaming female version of Felix Unger and had to enter the apartment after 11:30 at night to avoid confrontations with this awful woman. Then they cheated him out of his security deposit when he moved out! So if you are using Craig's List-- think twice. Subletting an apartment-- ask to speak to the landlord in a rental office before you give any of your hard earned money away. That's all for today. Plano gram meeting today for work! I hate plano grams!

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