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

January 1st, 2019

.

.

“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

photo of Sullivan Fortner by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Interview

photo by Michael Lionstar
In a wide-ranging interview, Nate Chinen, former New York Times jazz critic and currently the director of editorial content for WBGO (Jazz) Radio, talks about his book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century,, described by Herbie Hancock as a “fascinating read” that shows Chinen’s “firm support of the music

Short Fiction

photo by Alysa Bajenaru
"Crossing the Ribbon" by Linnea Kellar is the winning story of the 51st Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest

Poetry

photo of Stan Getz by Veryl Oakland
Seventeen poets contribute to the Summer, 2019 collection of jazz poetry reflecting an array of energy, emotion and improvisation

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

In this edition, Michael Jarrett interviews producer Nat Hentoff about the experience of working with Charles Mingus at the time of Mingus’ 1961 album. Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus — recorded for Hentoff’s short-lived label Candid Records

Art

"Dreaming of Bird at Billy Bergs" - by Charles Ingham
“Charles Ingham’s Jazz Narratives” — a continuing series

Poetry

Painting of John Coltrane by Tim Hussey
“broken embouchure” — a poem by M.T. Whitington

Art

photo of Chet Baker by Veryl Oakland

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 Yusef Lateef and Chet Baker

Interviews

photo by Francis Wolff, courtesy of Mosaic Records
Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Poetry

photo from Pixabay
“The Fibonacci Quartet Plays Improv” — a poem by Gerard Furey

Short Fiction

“The Stories of Strange Melodies” a story by Vivien Li , was a finalist in our recently concluded 51st Short Fiction Contest.

In the previous issue

Michael Cuscuna
Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records co-founder, is interviewed about his successful career as a jazz producer, discographer, and entrepreneur...

Contributing writers

Site Archive