Thursday, July 31, 2008


Today is the fifth anniversary of "Avenue Q" and our friend (co-composer) Jeff Marx will be at tonight's performance that will include his writing partner, Robert Lopez and all the members of the original cast including John Tartaglia. Imagine that a show with puppets succeed like crazy. John Nugent and I met Jeff at an ASCAP musical workshop and John and he have been corresponding. What a sweet guy. Speaking of John Nugent and myself we began a big marketing campaign yesterday to promote our musicals. We are putting a lot of effort into each of these submissions to make them the best presentation that we can. We wrote one Tennessee theatre to tell them that we are working on a musical called "The Shadow of Freedom"-- what an amazing story: that of the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson (who died on this day at age 66) . Most people have no idea how close this country came to to a complete unraveling on that day in May of 1868 when the United States Senate gathered to vote on whether to remove the president from office. Johnson was guilty of nothing. All he tried to do was to follow in Lincoln's footsteps. The radical Republicans of his day, however hated him- they wanted to really punish the South. Had Johnson been removed from office, that would have made Benjamin "hot head" Wade the Chief executive. Wade wanted to re-ignite the Civil War. Had that happened, France and England (desperate for the export of cotton from Dixie) would have re-entered the war on the side of the South. With that, all progress (including the Industrial Revolution) would have been delayed by about eighteen years. Can you imagine-- we might still be on eight track tapes and dealing with Atari computers. So we sent this theatre in Crossville, TN a proposal for them to be the first theatre to book the show upon its completion. The first two scenes are completed as are three lyrics and one complete song. Today also is the birthday of performer Gary Lewis-- son of Jerry. Remember?The group auditioned for a job at Disneyland, supposedly without telling Disneyland employees about Lewis' celebrity father. They were hired on the spot, audiences at Disneyland quickly accepted them and the Playboys were soon playing to a full house every night. Band leader Les Brown had known Jerry Lewis for years and he told record producer Snuff Garrett that the younger Lewis was playing at Disneyland. After listening to the band, Garrett thought using Gary's famous name might sell records. Garrett took them into a recording studio with the song "This Diamond Ring" in a session financed by Jerry Lewis' wife Patti. However, according to Lewis, the Playboys were'n’t allowed to play their instruments except on the backing tracks. Garrett wanted to maximize the chances for a hit, so he insisted on using experienced studio musicians for the overdubs, which included guitar and keyboard solos, additional bass and drum overdubs, and timpani. These musicians included Tommy Allsup on guitar, Leon Russell on keyboards, Joe Osborn on bass, and Hal Blaine on drums. Session singer Ron Hicklin did the basic vocal track. Garrett then added Gary’s voice twice, added some of the Playboys and more of Hicklin. "When I got through, he sounded like Mario Lanza," Garrett commented.
Garrett got airplay in New York City for "This Diamond Ring" by making a deal with WINS disc jockey Murray the K Kaufman, who ran a series of all-star concerts at theaters around the New York area, promising that if he played Lewis’ record, the Playboys would do his shows. Garrett then had Jerry Lewis use his contacts to get his son onto The Ed Sullivan Show. However, Sullivan had a general policy that all acts appearing on his show were to perform live (although one of his frequent guests, The Dave Clark Five, had lip-synched from their second appearance on, in early 1964). Since so many studio tricks had been used on the record, the Playboys could not re-create its sound. In compromise, Lewis sang along with pre-recorded tracks as the Playboys pretended to play their instruments. The January 1965 broadcast made Gary Lewis and the Playboys instant stars, "This Diamond Ring" went to #1 and pressing plants reportedly could not keep up with initial demand for the record. However, by the end of 1965 only West and Lewis remained in the band. In 1965 Gary Lewis was Cash Box magazine's "Male Vocalist of the Year," winning against nominees Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra and was the only artist during the 1960s to have his first seven single releases reach Billboard magazine's Top 10 on the Hot 100 chart, with "Count Me In" (#2), "Save Your Heart for Me" (#2), "Everybody Loves a Clown" (#4), "She's Just My Style" (#3), "Sure Gonna Miss Her" (#9), and "Green Grass" (#8) all hitting the upper reaches of the chart. Lewis was drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1967 and discharged in 1968. He immediately returned to recording but was unable to regain his group's earlier momentum. Lewis continued touring, eventually marketing the band as a nostalgia act. -- ah the decline of fame! Gary also appeared and performed on many of his father's Labor Day telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Gary Lewis had eight Gold Singles 17 Top 40 hits and four gold albums. In addition to The Ed Sullivan Show, he appeared on American Bandstand, Shindig!, Hullabaloo, The Sally Jessy RaphaĆ«l show, Tonight Show, The Mike Douglas Show, Nashville Now and Wolfman Jack. My sister Annette was able to contact an old family friend by the name of Sally Pritchard. She was a great friend of my mother and the last time I saw her was in 1968--yep that was forty years ago. She is now seventy-eight years old and lives in Rhode Island. Wow! Well, later!

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