Just here for the music cues? I understand. They’re here. That's the star attraction today - and there's something different I know you'll enjoy.


A few things: talking about Myths and Aspirations yesterday, here’s a post-war ad I ran across tonight that has both:

Two points. One, it’s part of a long-running campaign for silverware. Community brand. Pitched heavily to women dreaming of the day they will A) marry and B) have cutlery only used twice a year.

Two: the artist, as I learned a few years after I put up something in the Institute ridiculing the campaign, was Jon Whitcomb, one of the greats. The great illustrators worked from models; you have to wonder who she was - whether she got married, and whether she bought Community. She looks like a real person, albeit Vivian Leigh with tentacle fingers; he looks like something conjured from the ether. Which, I suppose, was the point of the ad. Dream-Man cometh with ring and the promise of heirloom quality spoons to sanctify their coupling.

Next: while researching a restaurant postcard, I came across a downtown with lots of old structures:

Doesn't that make you curious about V. J. Knox? The fellow had no small ego, if he carved his name in a small temple for the ages, defying the elements to weather it away. No one does this anymore. You never see a little building downtown with the owner's name chiseled proudly in the stone.

A little googling revealed that this was originally a bank, and Mr. Knox put his name over the original carving. Hah!

Zoom in, if you will, at the top - the terracotta panels with the classical foliage. A nice touch. Cost extra. They didn't have to put it there, but it was a small gift of beauty to the street. Maybe the bank was feeling flush. Maybe the small-town architect saw them somewhere else and wanted to work them into his own work - which, of course, he was proud of, even though it was panned in Architectural Digest as being rather cramped, with an excess of bland space above the pediment. Maybe a terracotta salesman sent him a circular a while ago and the prices were right. Maybe that was the only sale the guy made that week. We've no idea who he was, of course. Now apply those unknowns to every other building up and down the street. And every town in the state. And every state in the nation.

All these mute repositories. And it's the rare building that has the name of the guy who paid for it.


Now, the Cues! BOILERPLATE: As I say every week: if you're just joining the Listen project, it includes a selection of music cues gleaned from old radio shows In this case, "The Couple Next Door," the wonderful 1958-1960 radio show written by, and starring, Peg Lynch. It's library music the producers dropped in to get them in and out of scenes. It's the background soundtrack for mid-century life.

A few new cues this week, and clues about their origins.


CND Cue #246.Pizzicato confusion before going to the Busy City motif.


CND Cue #247. This, I know is new. Just domestic scene-setting.


CND Cue #248 From the same batch, except it's interrupted at the end by Dramatic New Developments.


CND Cue #249. Also new. Startling opening, then off on a jaunt.


Hmmm. That last one made me think right away of the theme from "Box 13," by Rudy Schrager.


Hear it? Therein hangs a tale. According to this NYT piece, Schrager was involved in a project that may explain the genesis of some of this library music. In the 50s, union rules prevented some composers for writing for TV, so a producer named David Chudnow hired "dozens" of composers t cobble together music - "some of it new and some of it derived from scores that they had previously written and used -- which he then recorded in Europe, in new arrangements (many by Mullendore), by orchestras whose members were working almost literally for pennies an hour."

Hmmm. More:

Chudnow used pseudonyms for the actual composers to protect them from the wrath of the union and packaged this material -- which, so far as any documentation stated, was of European origin, by composers who were not AFM members or subject to its jurisdiction -- as a music library, and sold it to eager television producers (and even occasionally to under-budgeted movie producers)

And, perhaps, radio producers?


CND Cue #250. This one sounds like it's going to be dramatic music for drowning a drunken sailor, and turns into a gliding dance.


CND Cue #251. A repeat; happy show closing. I play it for a reason.


CND Cue #252. Never heard this before: the same cue from bizarro world.


CND Cue #253. Let's end it all with the sound of Margaret Hamilton cackling happily away.



Now, something else.

The excerpt below doesn’t give you the flavor of a Lum & Abner ep, mostly because it’s not very funny. Or funny at all. The low-key humor of the show came from the characters, not the lines, and it holds up to this day because it’s not a series of corny puns, lame ripostes, and catchphrases that had to be ticked off one by one. No, it was two men playing a variety of characters, conjuring a store, a town, a culture. TV couldn't possibly accomplish what they did.

Now and then the show did its part for the War Effort, possibly because they got a letter from the War Department asking if they might slip in something about the Merchant Marine, or a scrap drive. In this ep a nurse wanders into the store to ask for a stamp, and since Abner’s daughter Little Pearl became war nurse a year back (never, ever, once heard her voice; Little Pearl never appeared on the show at all as far as I know, but she was still a character), he badgered the newcomer for news about her daughter. Of course, she had none, not knowing Little Pearl at all.

Very short excerpts to set the stage:


L&A #1 It would be an ordinary bit, except that the person playing the nurse was obviously not an actress.


L&A #2 At the end, it’s revealed: Beulah Tyler, the Girl with the Future.


Well, it took exactly four seconds of googling . . .

. . . and typing in her name brought up her daughter’s flickr page, where the War Nurse looking absolutely spectacular in 2009.

The reference to her being in the movin pitchers? She had a bit part, and it was cut. But there are stills from the set.

I love finding these things and putting them down and hoping they stick. The Internet is the Great Communal Recollection Apparatus. If everyone on Facebook started posting about their parents, and putting up pictures and anecdotes, a huge gap in the cultural-history record would be filled in a couple of years.

More on this next week. Oh, that poster?

Jon Whitcomb.




1959 ad for Cambell's Soup! Swingin' old school style!

Rich Country Cream!


That's it for this week! Column up here; scroll down to the COLUMNS pane.

By the way, it's all downhill from here:








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