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RALPH FLANAGAN

Plays For Dancing
Vol. IV 1954-1958

Sounds of Yester Year DSOY 853

 

 


Hollywood Palladium, February 1954
1. Introduction
2. Joshua Fit de Battle of Jerico
3. Don't Take Your Love from Me
4. Reverie in the Rain
5. You Turned the Tables on Me
6. Where or When
7. Stars Fell on Alabama
8. Rub-A-Dub-Dub
9. Blues Theme from An American In Paris
10. Shaker Heights Stomp
11. Sign Off: Where or When

Personnel:
John McCormick, Carl Erca, William Wert - Trumpets
Ralph Craig, Marshall Cram, Hale Rood, Harry Street - Trombones
Joe Lenza, Leon Hamlin - Clarinets, alto saxes
Louis Cantanzaro, Salvatore Azzolina - Clarinets, tenor saxes
Martin Marks - Clarinet, bass sax
Ralph Flanagan - Piano
Milton Norman - Guitar
Jack Keys - Bass
William C. Smith - Drums
Buddy Victor and the O'Day Sisters - Vocals

Chase Club, Hotel Chase, St. Louis, MO, June 6th, 1958
12. Intro. (Gene Krupa: Calling Doctor Gillespie)
13. When the Saints Go Marching In
14. On the Banks of the Wabash
15. Twelfth Street Rag
16. Hot Toddy
17. My Hero
18. Sign Off: Giannina Mia

Personnel:
Ralph Flanagan - Piano
Others unknown

Hotel Peabody, Memphis, TN, November 7th, 1958
19. Intro: Hot Toddy
20. I'm in the Mood for Love
21. I Want to Be Happy
22. Sentimental Journey
23. Lazy River
24. Sometimes I'm Happy
25. Sign Off: (Gene Krupa: Calling Doctor Gillespie)

Personnel:
Ralph Flanagan - Piano
Sheila Jordan - Vocals
Others unknown

 

This CD, the fourth volume of radio broadcasts in this series by the Ralph Flanagan big band, covers the years 1954-1958. That decade was one which, unknowingly for many of us at the time, witnessed the twilight of the big bands. In the late forties there had begun a shift to small groups. Louis Armstrong, for example, abandoned the big band format in the late forties and went to the All Stars, a seven-piece group. At the same time, the traditional jazz revival, to which many teenagers were flocking, was under way, the bands playing such jazz being comprised of six or seven musicians. Also by the mid-fifties rock and roll was making its entrance.

But during the fifties, the big bands, although declining, hung on. Ted Heath, Ray Anthony, Ray McKinley, Eric Delaney, Billy May, Ralph Flanagan, and many others were still touring and recording and broadcasting or some combination thereof. In the U.K. ballrooms still existed in most cities, and bands came in to play for dancing, not just concerts. While no American bands were yet able to tour in the U.K. in the early fifties because of some union squabble, we did manage to listen to them at night when, after dark, we could pick up American Forces Network broadcasts from Germany. Then we would then go to listen to their records-78 r.p.m.-in the record shop's listening booth, occasionally buying one when flush.

Among others I would hear Ralph Flanagan's big band, his big hit being Hot Toddy. On this disc that number is featured, along with others that were on the hit parade of the day, including Rub-A-Dub-Dub. Flanagan consciously attempted to recreate the "Glenn Miller" sound, as is clear on many of the tracks on this CD. Indeed, the opening track, simply called Introduction, is a thinly veiled reworking of Moonlight Serenade, and most others try to capture that sound. Perhaps that was one of the band's limitations-it developed no sound of its own, no musical identity, but was more or less another Miller-sounding band, and there was hardly a shortage of those in the 1950's, including bands led by former Miller alumni such as Tex Beneke, Ray McKinley, Ray Anthony, and Jerry Gray. To cap it off, unlike the Benny Goodman band for example, there were no "stars" in the Flanagan band.

But despite all of that, the band played eminently danceable music. The arrangements were crisp: all sections solidly together, brass nicely punched by the rhythm section, tempos evenly maintained-everything, in short, that ballroom dancers craved. However, there was no real, separate identity. Yet for a window on part of the big-band scene of the time, this CD serves quite well.

Bert Thompson



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