Monday Artday: glow

four boys and a guitar

The Mills Brothers began singing in their church choir, branching out to street performances outside their father’s barbershop. A win on a local talent show got them a gig at May’s Opera House in their hometown of Piqua, Ohio. They sang in between showings of Rin Tin Tin. Famed pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington saw the group while on tour in nearby Cincinnati. He was so impressed, he called a representative at Okeh Records and signed the young quartet to a recording contract. They were brought to New York where stardom awaited.

In 1930, CBS Radio exec William Paley was urged to listen to the young men rehearse. He was elated and immediately signed the band to a three-year contract, making them the first African-Americans to have a network radio show. Each program began with the announcement that the only musical instrument or mechanical devices used was a single guitar. The Mills Brothers were adept at imitating trumpets, saxophones and trombones. A similar statement was printed on their record labels. They enjoyed wild success for decades with chart-topping records, radio and film performances and lucrative sponsorships.

In the 1950s, trying to combat the popularity of rock and roll, the Mills Brothers recorded a reworking of a song called “Das Glühwürmchen”from a 1902 German operetta called Lysistrata. American lyricist Johnny Mercer penned new lyrics and re-titled the tune “Glow Worm.” The song, released by the Mills Brothers in 1952, was their last Number 1 hit.



Monday Artday: renaissance

cold is being

I was a fan of the progressive rock band Renaissance when I was in high school. The band, originally forming from former members of The Yardbirds, evolved into a band combining a rock base with medieval touches and mystical lyrics. They were fronted by the angelic voiced Annie Haslam. Haslam was trained as an opera singer and her soaring vocals became the focus of the Renaissance sound.

A few years ago, a beloved host on a popular Philadelphia radio station announced her plans to leave after a quarter century on the air. A months-long celebration of her career culminated with a tribute at a concert venue that is housed in the same building as the radio station. One of the featured performers at the tribute was Annie Haslam, who had moved to the Philadelphia suburbs in 1999, where she currently makes her home. I was excited to see Annie Haslam in person, as I never had the opportunity to see Renaissance live.

Midway through the event, after many heartfelt speeches and accolades, Annie Haslam approached the podium, looking a bit older than I had remembered from Renaissance album covers, and bent the goose-neck microphone closer to her mouth. After delivering a short tribute of her own, she asked the audience to join her in a few a capella verses of “Carpet of the Sun,” a Renaissance song popular among the 50+ crowd and a staple on “Classic Rock” format radio.

Her cringe-inducing performance, even while augmented by six hundred accompanying vocals, made me wish I had seen Renaissance in 1974 and not now.



DCS: miguel ferrer


Miguel Ferrer passed away yesterday at the young age of 61. When I posted the announcement of his death on Facebook, I noted his well-known acting roles: NCIS Assistant Director “Owen Granger” in NCIS: Los Angeles, “Vice President Rodriguez” in Iron Man 3, and FBI forensic pathologist “Albert Rosenfield” in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. He even voiced several animated characters including “Big Boss” in Rio 2, the sinister Hun leader “Shan Yu” in Disney’s Mulan and “Death” in the cartoon series Adventure Time. I remember him fondly for his portrayal of “Bob Morton,” the cocaine-addicted designer of the title character in Robocop.

Miguel was the son of Academy Award-winning actor Jose Ferrer and actress-singer Rosemary Clooney. His sister-in-law was singer Debby Boone and his first cousin was actor George Clooney.

The most intriguing aspect of Miguel’s career was his music. In 1974, Miguel drummed on Keith Moon’s solo album, Two Sides of the Moon, alongside such notable drummers as Ringo Starr, Kenney Jones, Jim Keltner and Moon himself. Later, he was part of a Los Angeles blues-rock band called The Jenerators, fronted by his best friend, actor Bill Mumy (of Lost in Space fame).




Monday Artday: sun

here comes the sun

I started watching CBS Sunday Morning years ago, when Charles Kuralt was the host. The show, conceived as the television equivalent to the Sunday newspaper magazine, set an easy pace with gentle stories that were the perfect accompaniment to a bagel and a cup of coffee. Kuralt, the veteran newsman, delivered the introduction to each segment in a friendly manner as he stood on the sparse studio stage, graced only by a chair and the subtly smiling sun icon. His calm demeanor was so beloved that, after his retirement in 1994, fans were shocked by scandalous tales of the avuncular Kuralt’s double life as a philandering playboy with two separate, but simultaneous, families.

Kuralt’s successor was Charles Osgood, the smiling, genial news correspondent known for his daily broadcasts on the CBS Radio Network. Osgood brought a dignified “homey” air to the program, all while looking dapper in his neatly-tied trademark bowtie. For twenty-two years, the grandfatherly Osgood presided over a wide variety of stories presented in a heartwarming and soothing style. Preceding different holidays, he offered bits of self-penned whimsical poetry and even sang while accompanying himself on the grand piano. He was reminiscent of an old friend or family member who was always welcome in your home.

This past October, Osgood stepped down as host of CBS Sunday Morning, relinquishing his post to Jane Pauley. Pauley made appearances on CBS Sunday Morning in a correspondent capacity over the past few years, contributing feature stories and sometimes even serving as substitute host. Since Jane Pauley took over, I find myself losing interest in the show. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it is, but something is different. The individual segments are still compelling, the editorials are insightful and humorous when they need to be, but there’s just something off about the whole complexion of the show. It doesn’t seem as warm or inviting. It seems to have lost that nostalgic, fireside “homey” feeling, its unique personality, its throwback to days-gone-by. It has morphed into just another product of the CBS News department.

I will continue to watch… until something better comes along. Or until I lose interest completely.



Monday Artday: frida kahlo

After a long, five year absence and an awkward “passing of the baton,” the Monday Artday blog has resurfaced like the Phoenix (the mythical bird, not the city in Arizona). I received an email from the original host and I have accepted the invitation to participate. So, here’s the deal: much like the venerable Illustration Friday, Monday Artday will present a topic each Monday and illustrations to fit the theme will be posted throughout the week until the next topic is offered. A weekly winner will be chosen and lavish cash prizes will be awarded. (I may have imagined that last part.)

So, here we go, my first entry for the eagerly anticipated return of Monday Artday…

I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.

The first inspirational suggestion is the work of Mexican surrealist Frida Kahlo. Since I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in years, I offer a tribute to the late painter in my artistic tool of choice – Photoshop.

Hopefully, Monday Artday will continue to grow, thrive and attract a new group of participants, as well as those who previously submitted their fine examples of creativity.