Peggy Lee's Bio-Discography:
The Peggy Lee Rexall Shows
(On The Radio, Part IV)
by Iván Santiago-Mercado

Page generated on Jan 28, 2017




The Peggy Lee Show:  Scope, Contents, And Cross-references

In magazines and music press releases from the first half of the 1950s, The Peggy Lee Show was a moniker informally assigned to not one but two series hosted by the vocalist. The earliest of the two was broadcast in 1951, the other one in 1952. Broadly speaking, that second series qualifies as a sequel to the first, due to a variety of reasons.  For starters, the same network broadcasted both sets of shows.  Also indicative of continuity was the fact that, during the first four months of its full span, the 1952 series featured the same producer and musical accompaniment as its 1951 predecessor.  Hence I will be discussing them together at times, even if I have ultimately chosen to dedicate separate pages to them -- lest a full dual discussion proves too much of an information overload for the reader.

The present page is circumscribed to the episodes from the 1951 series: a summer installment officially known as The Peggy Lee Rexall Show. Readers looking for general details about this two-month-long program (details such as scheduling, personnel, and format) should scroll down to the bottom of this page. For indexes of the songs that Lee performed and the guests for whom she hosted in this 1951 program, go to the bottom of the page dedicated to the second radio series.

On the matter of guests, I should explain that they receive close attention through the page -- not just in the aforementioned index.  Each visiting act has been supplied with a paragraph or two of commentary and photo(s).  The paragraphs qualify as biographical capsules sometimes (especially if the guest is an obscure name).  Other times, they are more casual write-ups, centering instead on the connections between the respective careers of guest and hostess.  (My decision to emphasize the guest gallery is partially predicated on the fact that the show itself gives prominence to its guest segments, and partially on the rationale that Lee must have been involved in the process of bringing them to the program.)   


Date: June 17, 1951 (Broadcast Date)
Location: CBS Studios, New York

Russ Case And His Orchestra (acc), Peggy Lee (v)

a. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) All Of Me - 1:54(Gerald Marks, Seymour Simons)
Armed Forces Radio & Television Service 16" TranscriptionProgram No. 81 — Peggy Lee   (1953)
b. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) Too Late Now - 2:24(Burton Lane, Alan Jay Lerner)
Armed Forces Radio & Television Service 16" TranscriptionProgram No. 81 — Peggy Lee   (1953)
c. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) After All, It's Spring - 2:28(Kim Gannon, Walter Kent)
Armed Forces Radio & Television Service 16" TranscriptionProgram No. 81 — Peggy Lee   (1953)
Real Gone Music CDRgm 0341 — AT LAST; THE LOST RADIO RECORDINGS   (2015)
d. Not Extant?Peggy Lee Shows (CBS) Mañana(Dave Barbour, Peggy Lee)
unissued
e. Not Extant?Peggy Lee Shows (CBS) It Never Happen' To Me(Joe Elly)
unissued




Guests

During the debut episode of The Peggy Lee Rexall Show, the hostess welcomed not one but two guests: fellow singer Mel Tormé and fellow songwriter Walter Kent.

At the time, Peggy Lee and Mel Tormé were enjoying a solid professional relationship as recording and performing partners. Working under their respective contracts at Capitol, they had joined forces to record four duets together (1949-1951), including two on which they further collaborated as songwriters. Capitol had released the four titles on two singles, and one of the numbers ("The Old Master Painter") had reached the top ten of the music charts. (Another, "Bless You," would enjoy a brief revival in 2013, after having been featured in Gangster Squad, an impressively stylized but financially unsuccessful neo-noir caper. Back in 1949, Lee had also made a pseudonymous appearance in Tormé's album version of his California Suite, play-singing the role of the antagonist to the suite's other characters. (California Suite holds the distinction of being Capitol's first non-classical 12" vinyl.)

In 1951, Lee and Tormé appeared together not only in this opening episode of her radio show but also on two TV programs, serving as co-hosts in one of them (TV's Top Tunes) and as boy-and-girl singers in the other (Songs For Sale). There might have also been an episode of Tormé's own CBS TV show in which the roles were reversed -- i.e., Tormé would have served as host, while Lee would have come in as his guest. (The matter remains unconfirmed. A relative of Tormé said in an interview that Lee worked as the girl singer in Tormé's show, but the claim is likely to be mistaken. The female singer who worked for Tormé during part of the show's run was not Peggy Lee but Peggy King. That clarification having been made, Lee still could have guested in one or more episodes of Tormés program.)

 As for the episode's second guest, songwriter Walter Kent was the composer of "After All, It's Spring," a song that Lee was debuting to radio audiences during this broadcast. Locating photographs of Kent has proven an elusive task. Online allegations that he is the man seen to the left of this paragraph have yet to be confirmed.

An architect by trade who also undertook violin studies at Julliard and briefly led his own orchestra, Walter Kent had his greatest success as the composer of two wartime hits, "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover." He also had a minor chart hit with "When The Roses Bloom Again," thanks to a version recorded by Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra, featuring crooner Bob Eberly. (A competing record was made by The Benny Goodman Orchestra, with no other than canary Peggy Lee.) During the same period, Kent also found steady work and a measure of success as a Hollywood film songwriter. In fact, he enjoyed two back-to-back Oscar nominations, both for songs from minor musical films ("Too Much In Love," featured in Song Of The Open Road, 1946; and, from 1947, the Endlessly theme).

Although he remained alive and kicking until 1994, Kent's 1950 composition "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" was his last hurrah as a songwriter. That number happened to receive ample plugging from Peggy Lee: it is heard in no less than six episodes of the 1951-1952 programming under discussion. (Unlike fellow vocalists Frankie Laine and Frank Sinatra, she never recorded it, though.)

During the half an hour occupied by this June 17, 1951 CBS broadcast, Walter Kent is presumed to have chatted with Lee, leaving to the other guest, Mel Tormé, the singing of two solos: "We Kiss In A Shadow" and "Mister And Mississippi." Apparently, no duets between Tormé and Lee were attempted. (To be more specific, the extant AFRS version of the show features none. However, the possibility of a duet can still be entertained, due to the fact that the AFRS versions of the show are edits of the episodes originally broadcast on the CBS network.)


Performances

1. Peggy's Preview: "After All, It's Spring"
According to a review published by the trade periodical Variety, each episode of Lee's 1951 summer show was slated to include a segment named Peggy's Preview, in which she planned to introduce a brand new song. "After All, It's Spring" launched her plan. The number came from the musical Seventeen, which back then was about to open on Broadway (June 21, 1951).

The Broadway show was based on Booth Tarkington's novel Seventeen: A Tale of Youth And Summer Time And The Baxter Family - Especially William, whose initial outing took the form of monthly installments published from 1914 to 1916 in the New York-based magazine Metropolitan. Attesting to the long-standing popularity of Tarkington's opus were the multiple adaptions for cinema, radio, and theatre that followed its 1916 publication in book form.

Featuring a score written by the aforementioned Walter Kent with his then-current collaborator, lyricist Kim Gannon, the 1951 theatrical edition ran for 182 performances, closing on November 24, 1951. As far as I know, it has not been revived, but the score had the privilege of being recorded for commercial issue on the RCA Victor label. That issue's front cover is pictured above.

Peggy Lee made several contributions toward the goal of keeping the score's best number alive. First, there was her singing of the number a few days in advance of Seventeen's debut on Broadway. There was also Lee's recruitment of the song's composer as one of her guests, and the commentaries about the song that he and she presumably made during the episode. Then, there is also the fact that Lee went on to sing "After All, It's Spring" once more, in a later episode (September 4, 1952).

Unfortunately, the song did not find much favor after the early 1950s, never becoming a standard. But it did enjoy at least two additional trips to the recording studio, one on a date with singer Teddi King in 1957 (for her RCA Victor album A Girl And Her Songs), the other in a 1988 session with vocalist Daryl Sherman, who sang it for the Audiophile album Getting Some Fun Out Of Life.

2. "Mañana"
3. "It Never Happen'd To Me"
My main source for the song listings in this page is an episode log of The Peggy Lee Show, put together by the Library of Congress, and based on the library's holdings. However, the two above-given titles are not among those listed in LOC's logs. Instead, they are listed in the aforementioned Variety review of the episode. The Variety reviewer makes it clear that he listened to the original broadcast as it aired on the CBS network.

In many instances, the episodes archived at LOC are not the original 1951 CBS broadcasts, but edited versions of them that the American Forces Radio prepared in 1953. Hence the discrepancy at hand: the couple of songs in question were heard in the original CBS broadcast, but excluded from the AFRS re-broadcast. Lack of space is one plausible explanation for AFRS' decision to leave them out. The Peggy Lee Show that AFRS beamed from its stations was scheduled to last 15 minutes, whereas the CBS episodes of The Peggy Lee Rexall Show ran for 30 minutes. Time limitations would have thus made cuts necessary.


Issues

1. The Peggy Lee Show; Program No. 81 [AFRS Transcription Disc]
As previously explained, the American Forces Radio Service prepared and sent to its participating stations an edited version of this original CBS episode. Making it part of a series which the AFRS called The Peggy Lee Show, the episode was edited down from 30 to 15 minutes. The shortened amount of time allowed for the inclusion of the following five numbers: "All of Me," "Too Late Now," "We Kiss In A Shadow" (Tormé), "After All, It's Spring," and "Mr. And Mississippi" (Tormé).


Date: June 24, 1951
Location: CBS Studios, New York
Songs: unknown
Guest: The second episode of The Peggy Lee Rexall Show counted with the presence of Art Lund, a fellow vocalist and actor who also did professional work under his actual name, Art(hur) London. Lee and Lund knew one another well. They had recorded a couple of duets and shared many concert dates during the years 1941 and 1942, when the pair had fulfilled the roles of boy and girl vocalists within The Benny Goodman Orchestra. Drafted for service at the Navy, London had had no choice but to leave Goodman's ensemble in May of 1942. But, after his wartime duty was over (November 1945), he promptly returned to the fold. Meanwhile, during his absence, Lee had married and quit the band; she had also been making waves as a solo artist.

In 1946, a radio show starring Benny Goodman brought about a reunion, during which London and Lee joined forces to sing her hit composition "I Don't Know Enough About You." (London, still functioning as Goodman's boy vocalist, had also recorded the song with his boss, and their version had become a hit, too. In the Billboard charts, London and boss Goodman took the song to #12, Lee and husband Dave Barbour to #7.)

Five years later, this episode of The Peggy Lee Rexall Show served as the occasion for another reunion, further cementing the professional partnership of Goodman's former vocalists. Unfortunately, we do not know if the present gathering resulted in any additional duets.

Two months later, Lee an Lund would cross paths on TV when both appeared in an episode of The Ken Murray Show, but the numbers sung by either artist in that episode are, once again, unknown.

Much more could be said about the long career of Art Lund/London, especially in the worlds of television and theater. For the purposes of this Peggy Lee-centered discussion, suffice it to mention Lund's high-profile role in the Broadway musical The Most Happy Fella (1956). As the actor who originally played that production's role of Joe, he premiered the song "Joey, Joey, Joey." His old partner Peggy Lee would record "Joey, Joey, Joey" for Decca Records that same year, placing it in Billboard's Top 100 chart.

(Below: Front cover versions of a 1957 album on Brunswick Records, one of only three official LPs ever released under Lund's name. (Blues Skies on MGM and Campfire Song Book on Coral round out the trio. Although keeping the semblance of a new set of recordings, I believe the 1956 MGM album to be a compilation of singles from the late 1940s and early 1950s. The other Lund LP out there, on the Joyce label, is not an official item, but a collector's compilation of big band material.) The first cover is an Australian pressing, manufactured by Festival Records. The second cover, issued in the United States, is the original, and also the most commonly found one.)





Date: July 1, 1951 (Broadcast Date)
Location: CBS Studios, New York

Russ Case And His Orchestra (acc), Peggy Lee (v)

a. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) Shanghai - 1:55(Milton DeLugg, Bob Hilliard)
b. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) Try A Little Tenderness - 3:07(Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly, Harry Woods)
c. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) Something Wonderful - 3:05(Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers)
d. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) That Old Black Magic - 1:39(Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer)
All titles on: Armed Forces Radio & Television Service 16" TranscriptionProgram No. 82 — Peggy Lee   (1953)

Guest




This episode's guest was Don Cornell, a big-voiced vocalist whose popularity remained steady for a 13-year period (1942-1955), during which he picked up well over 30 top forty hits. The 1940s portion of his catalogue was co-shared with Sammy Kaye, for whose orchestra Cornell served as boy vocalist. The Kaye-Cornell hits included "I Left My Heart At The Stagedoor Canteen," "That's My Desire," "Careless Hands," and "Room Full of Roses," all of which placed within the top three of Billboard's main music chart. Among the successes of Cornell's ensuing solo career (in the 1950s) were "Heart Of My Heart" (a trio with Alan Dale and Johnny Desmond, both of whom would guest in Lee's show as well), "I'll Walk Alone" and, in 1954, "Hold My Hand," his highest USA peak (#2). While visiting The Peggy Lee Show, the Italian-school baritone chose to croon "How High The Moon."

Dating from around 1956, the first of the two above-seen photos shows Cornell as he proudly displays his collection of more than 300 ties. The second photo is an undated publicity shot, which was often recycled as the front cover of sheet music pieces featuring Cornell's hit numbers.


Performances

1. Peggy's Preview: "Something Wonderful"
Each episode of Peggy Lee's summer series included a segment called Peggy's Preview, in which she introduced a new song to radio audiences. Although I have not listened to this episode, the above-shown song list leads me to suspect that this edition of Peggy's Preview spotlighted "Something Wonderful," from the very successful musical The King And I, which had had its Broadway premiere on March 29, 1951. (See, however, point #2.)

2. Song Log
The songs listed under this date were those which the AFR Service picked for inclusion in its own edited version of the CBS episode. The original CBS broadcast is likely to have featured additional numbers. A longer explanation for this somewhat confusing matter is provided immediately below.


Issues

1. The Peggy Lee Show; Program #82 [AFRS Transcription Disc]
This episode once existed in two versions: the original CBS broadcast (1951) and an edited version, put together by the American Forces Radio Services (1953). The latter was prepared for the express purpose of syndicated broadcasting through the Armed Forces’ network of participating stations, as part of a series which AFRS called The Peggy Lee Show on the air -- and more simply, Peggy Lee on AFRS disc's labels .

As part of its conversion of the half-an-hour CBS episode into its 1953 version, AFRS edited the 1951 original to 15 minutes, which allowed for the inclusion of the following five numbers only: "Shanghai," "Try A Little Tenderness," "How High The Moon" (Cornell), "Something Wonderful," and "That Old Black Magic." To my knowledge, only this edited version of the episode has survived -- not the original CBS broadcast.


Date: July 8, 1951
Location: CBS Studios, New York
Songs: unknown
Guest: Bandleader, trumpeter, songwriter and singer Louis Prima guest-starred in the fourth episode of Peggy Lee's summer series. Making a total of five appearances, Prima would turn out to be Lee's most frequent guest (vocal groups excluded). All his appearances but this one would fall within the later, 1952 edition of the show (broadcasts dated March 25, March 27, April 10, and April 24, 1952).

The first face-to-face encounter between Lee and Prima might have been the one that had happened just a few months earlier, when Prima's band had accompanied Lee at a Capitol recording session (February 8, 1951). During that date, she even covered one of the man's compositions ("Yeah, Yeah, Yeah").

By 1951, Louis Prima was a very well-established figure in the music business, mainly in his capacity as leader of a big band ensemble that had remained active for more than 15 years. Stylistically, Dixieland music had been the bandleader's primary focus during the earlier years, with swing becoming increasingly prevalent as time went by. In addition to leading, playing trumpet and singing in his own band, the so-called King of Swingers had written one of the definitive songs of the swing era ("Sing, Sing, Sing") and had, toward the era's end, co-written a bona fide pop standard ("A Sunday Kind Of Love"). From 1935 to 1947, Prima's steady presence in the world of popular music had been further proven through his placement of eight songs in the charts, half of them within the top 10. His popularity as a bandleader and recording artist was also made evident through the fair share of labels (most of them well-known ones) which signed Prima's band between 1935 and 1951: Brunswick, Decca, Varsity, Hit, Majestic Vocalion, RCA Victor, Mercury, Prima's own Robin Hood and, in late 1951, Columbia.

Despite such major achievements, the peak of Prima's fame was still waiting around the corner. From the mid-1950s onwards, his act The Wildest Show In Town would become one of the hottest tickets in the hotel/nightclub circuit. (In addition to the band, the act featured Sam Butera And The Witnesses and Prima's then-wife Keely Smith.) Concurrently, the group's recordings for Capitol -- made while Lee also happened to be recording for the label -- would fully cement the bandleader's reputation as a top act of the Las Vegas circuit and post-swing era.





Date: July 15, 1951 (Broadcast Date)
Location: CBS Studios, New York

The Russ Case Orchestra (acc), Benny Goodman (cl), Russ Case (br), Peggy Lee (v), Session Musicians (bkv)

a. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight - 1:59(Henry Creamer, James P. Johnson)
Castle Communications Licensed CS/CD(United Kingdom) Mat Mc/Cd 316 — Let There Be Love; The Best Of Peggy Lee   (1994)
Hughes Leisure Group Public Domain CD(Australia/New Zealand) Stb 8849 — Peggy Lee ("20 Golden Greats / Starburst" Series)    (1994)
Castle Communications' Kaz Division Licensed CS/CD(United Kingdom) Trt Mc/Cd Cd 153 — Let There Be Love (TrueTrax Sub-Label)   (1995)
b. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) Too Young - 2:56(Sylvia Dee, Sidney Lippman)
Hughes Leisure Group Public Domain CD(Australia/New Zealand) Stb 8849 — Peggy Lee ("20 Golden Greats / Starburst" Series)    (1994)
Hallmark Public Domain CD(United Kingdom) 300862 [Reissue: 1999] — The Lady Is A Tramp [aka These Foolish Things] & Other Great Standards; from box Ladies Of Song]   (1995)
Hallmark Public Domain CD(United Kingdom) 705462 — Peggy Lee Gold (Hallmark's Series)   (1995)
c. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) Make The Man Love Me - 2:35(Dorothy Fields, Arthur Schwartz)
Castle Communications Licensed CS/CD(United Kingdom) Mat Mc/Cd 316 — Let There Be Love; The Best Of Peggy Lee   (1994)
Hughes Leisure Group Public Domain CD(Australia/New Zealand) Stb 8849 — Peggy Lee ("20 Golden Greats / Starburst" Series)    (1994)
Castle Communications' Kaz Division Licensed CS/CD(United Kingdom) Trt Mc/Cd Cd 153 — Let There Be Love (TrueTrax Sub-Label)   (1995)
d. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) Toodle-Ee-Yoo-Doo - 2:35(Nancy Reed)
Giants Of Jazz Collectors' Label LP(USA) Goj Lp 1005 — [Benny Goodman] Swingin' Through The Years With Benny Goodman   (1977)
e. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) It Never Happen' To Me - 3:17(Joe Elly)
Hughes Leisure Group Public Domain CD(Australia/New Zealand) Stb 8849 — Peggy Lee ("20 Golden Greats / Starburst" Series)    (1994)
Hallmark Public Domain CD(United Kingdom) 300862 [Reissue: 1999] — The Lady Is A Tramp [aka These Foolish Things] & Other Great Standards; from box Ladies Of Song]   (1995)
Hallmark/Carlton Public Domain CD(United Kingdom) 300862 [Reissue: 1999] — These Foolish Things & Other Great Standards [aka The Lady Is A Tramp; from box Ladies Of Song]   (1995)
f. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) Shanghai - 3:15(Milton DeLugg, Bob Hilliard)
Castle Communications Licensed CS/CD(United Kingdom) Mat Mc/Cd 316 — Let There Be Love; The Best Of Peggy Lee   (1994)
Hughes Leisure Group Public Domain CD(Australia/New Zealand) Stb 8849 — Peggy Lee ("20 Golden Greats / Starburst" Series)    (1994)
Castle Communications' Kaz Division Licensed CS/CD(United Kingdom) Trt Mc/Cd Cd 153 — Let There Be Love (TrueTrax Sub-Label)   (1995)
All titles on: non-commercial (for-network-use-only) CBS Lacquer Disc"No. 5" — "The Peggy Lee Rexall Show"   (1951)
Starline's Sounds Rare Collectors' Label LPSr 5008 — If I Could Be With You   (1986)
Jasmine Collectors' Label CS/LP/CD(United Kingdom) Jasmc/Jasm/Jascd 2534 — If I Could Be With You [Reissue of 1986 album; CD released in 1993]   (1989)

Guest




From the King of Swingers to the King of Swing: following Louis Prima's visit, Peggy Lee enrolled her former boss, bandleader Benny Goodman, to royally serve as the fifth guest of her show. Lee had worked as the female vocalist of The Benny Goodman Orchestra from 1941 to 1943, going on live dates with the band day after day, and recording over 30 masters for Columbia Records before her March 1943 departure. In 1944, Goodman and Lee would separately record numbers that became part of Capitol's vaults (in his case, a couple of songs for the soundtrack of the Walt Disney movie Make Mine Music; in her case, a couple of songs for critic Dave Dexter's album project New American Jazz). Those sides were the beginning of her very long association with the label. In 1947, after Goodman's official jump from Columbia to Capitol, he and Lee joined forces for a handful of additional recordings, including one that became a chart hit ("For Every Man There's A Woman"). But their professional collaboration was not limited to the recording studios at this time. Away from Capitol's premises, they further worked together in at least one concert series (1946). Furthermore, Lee guest-starred in an episode of Goodman's own radio show (1946). Five years later, Goodman returned that favor by making the appearance under scrutiny. In addition to accompanying Peggy Lee during a rendition of the catchy and then-new novelty tune "Toodle-Ee-Yoo-Doo," the clarinetist graced this program with two solos: "Clarinade" and "Goodbye." (Another reunion had happened earlier this year. In March of 1951, they had appeared on TV together, along with Mel Tormé, in the premiere of a music variety series. More reunions would ensue over the decades, including a 1965 joint concert bill and a 1982 Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, in which honoree Goodman was regaled with a Lee performance of their hit "When Or When." ) For other specifics about Goodman and Lee's work together, consult this sessionography's Goodman section, along with the pages dedicated to their concerts, studio and radio releases.


Performances

1. Timing
The sources for the timings found next to the above-listed performances are the relevant releases from the labels Sounds Rare and Jasmine. In such releases, nearly all the tracks contain dialogue, which both Sounds Rare and Jasmine count as part of the given song's timing.

2. Peggy's Preview: "Toodle-Ee-Yoo-Doo"
In this episode's installment of Peggy's Preview, Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman acquainted radio audiences with "Toodle-Ee-Yoo-Doo," a ditty that had been written by Goodman's then-current girl vocalist, Nancy Reed, and which his band had recently recorded. Although never attaining widespread fame as a vocalist, Nancy Reed did go on to record her own album for Atlantic Records in 1986, using the same talented musicians (Grady Tate, Mike Renzi, Jay Leonhart, etc.) that would become members of Peggy Lee's regular music group during her later years.


Instruments

1. Clarinet
From the audio of this episode's dialogue, it transpires that Benny Goodman had momentarily borrowed Russ Case's clarinet to perform in this show.


Issues

1. “The Peggy Lee Rexall Show” (CBS Lacquer Disc)
2. If I Could Be With You (Sounds Rare LP)
The earliest commercial issue of this CBS broadcast came out on the Sounds Rare label, whose owner(s) probably had access to numerous types of rare radio material.

I cannot vouch for the current existence of the CBS lacquer disc from which Sounds Rare transferred this episode. On the contrary, I would not be surprised to learn that it no longer exists.

Normally I have entered in this discography only items that I know to be extant. The exception made on this particular case aims at clarifying the original source of this radio material, which nowadays has become amply disseminated through Public Domain CDs and MP3 files.

Not having ever seen the lacquer disc that contained the episode under discussion, I do not know which data was printed or penciled on it. The above-given title (“Peggy Lee Rexall Show”) and program number (“5”) are details of my own making — logical details that I needed to enter as part of this discographical database’s requirements during the process of filling out data about issues.


Date: July 22, 1951
Location: CBS Studios, New York
Songs: unknown
Guest: The guest for this installment of The Peggy Lee Rexall Show was Johnny Mercer, the legendary lyricist who was also a co-founder of Capitol Records, the label to which Peggy Lee was signed for the bulk of her long music career. Like most other interpreters of standards, Lee sang many of Mercer's songs during her career -- in her case, about 30 -- and recorded quite a few of them, too. In songwriting matters, Peggy Lee considered Johnny Mercer her mentor. Lee's 1951-1952 radio venture attests to her admiration for the renowned lyricist: during the months that she spent hosting the show, the songstress performed about a dozen of Mercer's lyrics. Her enthusiasm for Mercer's work was not limited to these 1951-1952 shows, though. She had already welcomed Mercer as her guest in two episodes of a radio series that she had previously hosted (The Chesterfield Supper Club). After this appearance on The Peggy Lee Rexall Show, Mercer would again accept Lee's invitation to appear in two episodes of her ensuing Club 88 Oldsmobile Show (one bearing the dating ca. September 2, 1952; the other dated as 'between May 22 And June 12, 1952'). Hence Mercer made a total of five guest radio appearances for Peggy Lee. He also sang with her in other radio programs (e.g., Philco Radio Time, Starring Bing Crosby), on television (The 25th Annual Academy Awards, The Steve Allen Plymouth Show), and in an ensemble Capitol recording ("The Freedom Train").





Performances

1. Peggy's Preview: "When The World Was Young"?
There is no signs of this episode's survival, nor is there any knowledge of the songs that were performed during the half hour. Even so, I would like to speculate about which new number Lee would have picked for the segment Peggy's Preview. Given the presence of Johnny Mercer, one possibility would be "(Ah The Apples Trees) When The World Was Young," which dates from this year, and whose debut record would be made by Bing Crosby three months later (on October 5, 1951). A few other artists would promptly follow in Crosby's footsteps, recording the song as well, but "When The World Was Young" would join the universe of music standards only after its inclusion in Lee's critically acclaimed 1953 album Black Coffee. An even more definitive, masterly performance of the number would be given by Peggy Lee during her 1961 guest appearance in Judy Garland's TV show. (That performance is viewable here.)


Date: July 29, 1951
Location: CBS Studios, New York
Songs: unknown.
Guests: For the final episode of her summer radio series, Peggy Lee featured two guests, just as she had done in the very first episode. One of the guests was the future Pulitzer-prize-winning pianist Mel Powell. He had actually accompanied Lee in her earliest recordings, back in 1941 and 1942, when both were members of Benny Goodman's orchestra. Powell and Lee would remain friends for life. The closeness of their connection can be gleaned from the fact that she quoted him verbatim and extensively in her autobiography, published in 1989. The photo of Powell seen below was taken around 1943, after the pianist had been drafted for military service. The second photo casts a spotlight on veteran stage actor Larry Douglas, who was Lee's other guest. At this point in time, Douglas was performing the role of Lun Tha in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I. (Herein he appears in costume next to Doretta Morrow, who was playing the role of Tuptim.) The highly successful Broadway show had had its premiere on March 29, 1951 (i.e., less than four months before Douglas' guest appearance). In an earlier episode of The Peggy Lee Rexall Show, the hostess had introduced to radio listeners "Something Wonderful," one of the numbers from that musical. Douglas would go on to become a repeat guest, making two additional appearances in the 1952 edition (broadcasts dated March 18, 1952 and ca. September 4, 1952).





Performances

1. Peggy's Preview: "We Kiss In A Shadow"?
Although there is no evidence of this episode's survival, nor is there any knowledge of the songs that were performed during the half hour, we can once again make an educated guest as to which new number Lee could have possibly picked for the segment called Peggy's Preview. Given the guest appearance of a cast member from the original production of The King And I, she could have featured a number from that show. The main suspect would be "We Kiss In A Shadow." Other possibilities can also be entertained: "Getting To Know You," "Hello, Young Lovers," "I Whistle A Happy Tune," "I Have Dreamed" "Shall We Dance?," or a reprise of the aforementioned "Something Wonderful."


The Peggy Lee Rexall Show




All seven episodes discussed above belong to the 1951 summer series The Peggy Lee Rexall Show, which aired each Sunday at 7:30 p.m. from June 17 to July 29 on the CBS radio network. Hostess Peggy Lee was accompanied by The Russ Case Orchestra and by announcer Bill Adams, the latter being in charge of promoting the sponsor's line of products. Crew members included producer Louis Melamed, director Oliver Daniels, and writer Robert Paul Smith.

Beamed from the Big Apple, each half-hour episode featured one guest, usually from the local scene or otherwise staying in New York at the time. The opening and closing episodes of the series actually went a step further, each spotlighting two guests instead of just one. The names of the participating musicians remain unknown. Trumpet player Pete Candoli is likely to have been one of them, per the recollections of harpist Stella Castellucci in her book Diving Deep For Sea Shells (page 41).

Unfortunately, only one full episode of The Peggy Lee Rexall Show (July 15, 1951) was ever released commercially, and have thus been preserved in such a manner. A few songs from two of the six missing broadcasts have also been preserved, though not the dialogue that preceded and followed said songs -- nor, for that matter, the rest of those episodes’ proceedings.

As for the other four broadcasts, no trace whatsoever has turned up so far (to my knowledge, of course), although their survival is most certainly within the realm of possibility. In total, 13 Peggy Lee vocals from this Rexall-sponsored show are definitely extant, along with a handful of numbers interpreted by various guests. (There is also the less certain, more tentative existence of two additional vocals, which would raise the total number to 15.)

The show's format can be tentatively surmised from two sources: the audio of the extant episode (July 15, 1951) and a trade review of the debut episode. The proceedings would customarily begin with a few bars of "It's A Good Day," as sung by Peggy Lee. Then announcer Bill Adams would step in and utter his introduction to the program. In the surviving episode, Adams enthusiastically recites his lines as follows: "Yes, it's the girl friend, Peggy Lee. Brought to you by the makers of Rexall drug products and ten thousand independent Rexall druggers. With Russ Case And His Orchestra, Peggy's special guest Benny Goodman -- and Benny's brought a brand new tune for Peggy and for you. You've got a date with Peggy Lee!" Throughout the episode, the volume of applause suggests that a substantial and enthusiastic audience was in attendance.

The focus was on the musical selections, which packed the show. Lee seems to have sung an average of five numbers per episode, adding or subtracting one song when the rest of the proceedings (i.e., guest time, Rexall promotional spots) demanded it. Each musical selection was preceded by brief, simple but winsome commentary from the hostess. For instance: "Hello. You are right there and I'm right here. And all we are missing is a song. And in just two bars, we'll have that."

Called Peggy's Preview, one noteworthy segment of the show was dedicated to the introduction of a brand new number. As the host, Lee is also presumed to have engaged in brief chats with her guests during each episode. This part of her role (indicative of her being more than just a singer on the show) is expressly pointed out in the following sentence from a July 1951 article of the magazine Capitol News: "Peg will not only contribute her chirping talents to the Rexall sponsored Peggy's Preview over CBS on Sunday nights but will toss the questions in the interviews and do general emceeing around the hall." The reference to the program as Peggy's Preview might be an error on the part of the magazine's reporter, or it could be an indication that the show was temporarily slated to bear that name. There is also a reference to the show as Peggy's Review in the 'Round The Wax Circle column from the July 28, 1951 issue of Cashbox magazine.

If the extant episode is a good indication, the closing segment was signaled by Peggy Lee's singing of the line "good health to all from Rexall," after which Lee would segue into a few bars of "Where Or When." Or perhaps she would not: whereas Lee's singing of the Rexall tagline strongly appears to have been standard procedure, the bars from the Rodgers & Hart standard could have been circumscribed to the available episode only. In the episode, any reference to "Where Or When" would have served as a reminder of the success which the hostess and her guest had enjoyed with that song a decade earlier, when Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman were working together on a regular basis.

As to why such a relatively small quantity of episodes (seven) was scheduled, the reason is simple: as already mentioned, The Peggy Lee Rexall Show was a summer replacement series. During the non-summer months, its 7:30 p.m. slot belonged to the popular Amos 'n' Andy comedy series. CBS' executives might have thought of the Rexall Show not just as filler for the Amos 'n' Andy hiatus but also as a trial which would determine if Peggy Lee could carry a multiple-episode series to their satisfaction. If so, she must have passed the test with flying colors: CBS next gave her a television program (July-August 1951, co-hosted by Mel Tormé), and a recurrent television spot (ca. December 1951 - ca. March 1952). More to the point, CBS gave Lee a year-round radio series as well. The busy singer started that sequel in January of 1952, as is fully documented here.

(Photos above and below: An ad from 1951, the same year in which The Peggy Lee Rexall Show reached the homes of CBS listeners. Rexall was not the manufacturer of the item promoted by the show's hostess in this ad, but the product was probably sold at Rexall drugstores across the nation.)






Sessions Reported: 3

Performances Reported: 15

Unique Songs Reported: 13

Unique Issues Reported: 40