Guy Lombardo, “about as artistically creative as the average comic book”

January 1st, 2019

.

.

Guy Lombardo

_____

“If you can dance at all, you can dance to [Guy] Lombardo’s music,” the Metronome writer George T. Simon wrote in 1942.   The Lombardo band’s popularity was once so immense and widespread that he set attendance marks wherever he went, including at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. His appeal came despite what Simon described as the band’s “exaggerated sax vibratos, the clippety brass phrases with their illegitimate tones…and the style of singing that lets you hear all consonants and no vowels,” leading to what some musicians would ridicule as being “about as artistically creative as the average comic book.”

But, as Simon wrote in the chapter on Lombardo from his essential 1967 book The Big Bands, “Lombardo believed implicitly in his music, and he succeeded handsomely in selling it to two generations of dancers.”

For many of us born in the years following World War II -– raised culturally by the likes of Elvis and the Beatles -– our exposure to Lombardo’s immense popularity was a yearly New Year’s Eve dread spent in the company of family members from a generation who outwardly “partied” to this man’s music. This televised celebration, often culminating in Lombardo wearing a party hat while conducting “Auld Lang Syne,” was an almost comical view of a preceding generation whose popular culture could otherwise -– at times, at least -– be held in reasonable esteem.

This comical view of Lombardo, however, was not held by the 20th Century’s most important popular musician. Lombardo may have been “corny,” but to Louis Armstrong, it was his favorite band, even “my inspirators!”

“I haven’t heard no band that plays more perfect music than Guy Lombardo yet,” he once quite famously told Life magazine. “That’s the way I feel and I don’t let my mouth say nuthin’ my head can’t stand.” For those of us who grew up being exposed to Lombardo’s saccharine music every New Year’s Eve on television, it is hard to imagine that someone of Armstrong’s stature could have possibly believed that.  But the late jazz writer Ralph Gleason wrote in a 1973 essay that Armstrong “determinedly insisted that [Lombard was his favorite band] and there’s no trace of put-on in his statement.” “Any time I walk up on the stage with Guy Lombardo,” Armstrong said, “I’m relaxed.”

So, it is with respect for Armstrong’s appreciation of Lombardo, as well as with some measure of nostalgia, that I present several different clips of him:

 

Lombardo appears on “What’s My Line?” on New Year’s Eve, 1950

A segment of the “Guy Lombardo Show”…No “Auld Lang Syne” but a sweet (what else?) piece called “Wedding Bells are Breaking Up that Old Gang of Mine”

Lombardo brings in 1958

 

Bringing in 1977, Lombardo’s final New Year’s Eve celebration (check out the rather hilarious rendition of Barry Manilow’s “I Write the Songs” — a song that invites almost endless parody)

 

 

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 19 recently released jazz recordings, including those by Branford Marsalis, Joe Martin, Scott Robinson, Allison Au and Warren Vache

Poetry

In a special collection of poetry, eight poets contribute seventeen poems focused on stories about family, and honoring mothers and fathers

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob Hecht presents three very different stories; on Harlem Stride piano, Billy Strayhorn's end-of-life composition "Blood Count," and "Lester-ese," Lester Young’s creative verbal wit and wordplay.

Short Fiction

We had many excellent entrants in our recently concluded 50th Short Fiction Contest. In addition to publishing the winning story on March 11, with the consent of the authors, we have published several of the short-listed stories...

“What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?”

Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Neil Tesser, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who write about their favorite album cover art

Art

“Thinking about Homer Plessy” — a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #127

Before his tragic early death, this trumpeter played with Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, and John Coltrane, and most famously during a 1961 Five Spot gig with Eric Dolphy (pictured). Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.

Art

Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.

Interviews

Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses the life of the important 20th century American artist

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Coming Soon

Michael Cuscuna, the legendary record producer and founder of Mosaic Records, is interviewed about his life in jazz...Award-winning photographer Carol Friedman, on her career in the world of New York jazz photography

In the previous issue

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, talks about her book, and the complex life of her late husband.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 22 recommended recordings by seven jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive