Thursday, January 1, 2015

Musings on the past, waxing nostalgic for the 30s and 40s...

An intriguing article in the January 5, 2014 issue of The New Yorker is The Birth of Pulp by Louis Menand. It talks about a revolution in the publishing industry when Robert de Graff launched Pocket Books, the first American mass-market-paperback line. A quote from the article: "Whether it also transformed the country is the tantalizing question that Paula Rabinowitz asks in her lively book "American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street" (Princeton."

Looking back at one of this blog's earlier posts about Adventure Magazine, where my aunt worked in the 1930s ("My aunt Connie and Adventure Magazine", posted on Mary 25, 2013), the New Yorker article refers to that very same era with very similar cover art, such as the illustrations done by artist Earl Mayan (see website with Mayan's illustrations for Adventure and Saturday Evening Post.

The 1930s and 1940s seem very appealing to me now, though at the time I was very young and interested in the more daily doings of childhood!

I'd like to recommend a catalog I receive periodically called Radio Spirits which documents what was, before television, a wide variety of drama and humor and news...the catalog lists them all, including newsreels from World War II.

Here is the Radio Spirits catalog information:

1(800) 833-4248
Radio Spirits
P.O. Box 3107
Wallingford, CT 06494-3107

CDs are available of what they call "classic radio": detective programs including Nero Wolfe, Johnny Dollar, Sherlock Holmes, Mr. Keen - Tracer of Lost Persons, Mr. & Mrs. North, The Falcon, The Saint, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, The Adventures of Sam Spade, Nick Carter, Bulldog Drummond, Boston Blackie, Dragnet (on radio before it was on TV), The Whistler, The Shadow, Mysterious Traveler and Suspense.

And humor: the Fred Allen Show, Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Burns & Allen, Abbot & Costello, Duffy's Tavern, and my parents' favorite: Henry Morgan.

I was and am very partial to Jean Shepherd, who via his all-night wonderful radio monologues on WOR, helped me survive my first year at Pratt Institute. CDs of many of his shows are available from Amazon for modest sums, under the heading of "Classic Radio Humor". The titles alone entertaining: "Don't be a Leaf", "A Fistful of Fig Newtons", and "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories." Shepherd, as he did in the Christmas Story movie, told again and again of his childhood in the midwest in details I had heard over and over again on his radio shows in the late 50s when I was commuting to Pratt, and struggling with art homework on all-night stints in the cellar of my parents' house, in a room that had been converted into an office/art studio from its earlier incarnation as the room where coal had been delivered through one of the cellar windows.

And lastly, in continuing homage to the 30s and 40s...I enjoyed many a wonderful jazz performance at the 92nd Street Y in New York City: the Jazz in July series directed for years by Dick Hyman. I used to buy CDs at those performances, and recently ordered a magnificent one directly from Dick Hyman's website:
The CD is "Lost Songs of 1936"...Dick Hyman, piano, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar, and Jay Leonhart, bass.

These are some quotes from the wonderful liner notes for the album by Michael Feinstein: 
"That Bucky, Dick & Jay collaborate so effortlessly is as much due to the bonds of friendship among three longtime colleagues as it is to their peerless professionalism."  And: "The musical accomplishments of Dick Hyman are of Herculean status, his being a career of extraordinary scope, innovation and inspiration." And: "The best example of Hyman's maverick versatility is paradoxically demonstrated through one instrument: the piano. He has made many recordings on that instrument and the dazzling variety of sounds and styles he has extracted from 88 piano keys remains the single most unique document of what is possible from the mind of a true genius of musical expression."

Here is contact information from Dick Hyman's website (and see the beautiful Al Hirschfeld caricature):

Dick Hyman Music, Inc.
617 Menendez Street
Venice, FL 34285

Phone: 941-485-9506
FAX: 941-488-1824

Al Hirschfeld drawing