Peggy Lee's Bio-Discography:
Rhapsody In Rhythm
(On The Radio, Part I)
by Iván Santiago-Mercado

Generated on Jan 15, 2016





Rhapsody In Rhythm

During the 1940s and 1950s, Peggy Lee's voice was frequently heard over the airwaves. She guest-starred in a wide variety of radio programming, most of it naturally falling within the musical variety genre -- from network shows such as Songs By Sinatra, Kraft Music Hall Starring Al Jolson, and The Ford Show With Dinah Shore to various original series created by the American Forces, including the well-known Jubilee, Command Performance, Let's Go To Town, and Guest Star shows. Lee also served as the girl singer on two programs hosted by very popular radio personalities (Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante), and she herself (co-)hosted at least four radio series. The first of them, Rhapsody In Rhythm, was broadcast on the CBS network and sponsored by the P. Lorillard company, producer of the Old Gold cigarette brand.

Rhapsody In Rhythm aired over two consecutive summers, of which only the second had Peggy Lee as its hostess. During the first summer, Jan Savitt And His Orchestra, Connie Haines, The Golden Gate Quartet and pianist Skitch Henderson shared time every Sunday at 10:30 p.m. from June 16 to September 15, 1946. Through the fast-paced, music-packed half hour, announcer Art Gilmore kept the proceedings in order. The season's second episode, broadcast on June 23, 1946, has been issued by Collectors' Choice on a CD named after the show and credited to Jan Savitt And His Orchestra. Savitt, Haines, Henderson and the Quartet are all heard.

The second season of Rhapsody In Rhythm aired on a different day (Wednesday) and time (9:00 p.m.). It began on June 11 and concluded on September 17, 1947. Throughout, Peggy Lee served as hostess and female vocalist, while the male hosting-singing spot alternated between Johnny Johnston -- who happened to be one of Lee's Capitol labelmates -- and Buddy Clark -- who had once been, according to one Lee biography, a flame of hers. Under this alternate arrangement, Peggy Lee paired up with Johnny Johnston in the debut episode, and with Buddy Clark in the second episode. Similarly, Lee and Clark were heard in the August 13 episode to be detailed below, whereas Johnston was the man singing with Lee on the installment that followed (August 20). Also part of the second season's cast were a gospel-oriented group called The Jubalaires and the so-called swing harpist Robert Maxwell. Frank Goss served as the announcer. Other names listed in promotional ads for the program included Phil Regin and Griffin Williams. Present during both summer seasons was Jan Savitt And His Orchestra. They provided the main accompaniment for the program's vocalists and also played instrumentals on their own ("jived up" versions of classical music, according to a reviewer who will be quoted at more length below, though other data suggests that straight swingers and standards were played, too). Each episode was 30 minutes long.

The July 1947 issue of Capitol News promoted Lee's new gig as follows: "Taking over Frank Sinatra's Wednesday night mike for Old Gold ciggies, strictly for the summer season, were Peggy Lee and the Jan Savitt band. The new series was launched on June 11 with two male chanters, Johnnie Johnston and Buddy Clark, selected to alternate every week as Miss Lee's partner. Robert Maxwell, for years featured harpist with Matty Malneck, also is given a fat spot in the weekly stanzas."

Reviewing the premiere, Variety found nothing to dislike, and plenty to praise:  "[t]he 1947 edition of Old Gold's summer show is fresh, easy to take and welcome. A good compilation of popular music items, it has variety in entertainers as in music styles, and is expertly put together, despite the disarming, engaging informal attitude of handling. [The] premiere started off smoothly, apparently effortlessly, in an easy-going introduction of participants, and a brief, attractive singing' commercial, to set the summer's mood and tempo. Johnny Johnston doubled as emcee and singer and did both well. His romantic style blended well with Peggy Lee's sultry type of song, while all the participants came up to par ... Harpist Robert Maxwell had a neat turn ... Most unusual offering, perhaps, was the neat insertion by Savitt of a Bach fugue set to jazz with a great deal of tricky arrangement ..."

A Billboard review of the second episode was not as thoroughly positive.  The program was described as "a smooth, highly professional musical amalgam, sporting class vocalizing by Buddy Clark, Peggy Lee and the Jubilaires with an ace contribution given by Robert Maxwell."  Clark came in for foremost praise on a variety of counts ("one of the top male warblers," equipped with "style, phrasing, first-class diction and projection and pipes").   His skill at "tossing off a line" was rated "okay, too."  As for Peggy Lee, the reviewer opined that she, "too, is up there -- certainly one of the more efficient fem yodelers of the current crop, and who seems bound to finish near the top herself."  But the show was deemed to have two weak spots:  the orchestra lacked the "solid-rock" sound that had characterized it in earlier years and the script's chatter came off as "forced and lumbering, rather than facile and flip."

Of this season's 15 episodes, only one is definitely known to exist, and I am not even certain that it has been fully preserved. From that episode (August 13, 1947), just three Peggy Lee Rhapsody In Rhythm performances are extant. The same August 13 show included a medley which comprises two additional Peggy Lee vocals, for which I have yet to find evidence of preservation. (See below for tentative commentary about the possible preservation of a second episode -- the series' very last one, which aired on September 17, 1947.) Their obscurity notwithstanding, full episodes of this relatively obscure summer show might have managed to survive in the collections of dedicated Old-Time radio fans; I would appreciate hearing from any readers able to offer confirmation on the matter.

(As the previous comments should make amply apparent, the available data about this show is far from thorough. On that note, I should add that, back in the 1930s, a syndicated 15-minute program called Rhapsody In Rhythm had already been on the air. It variously featured The Rhythm Rascals, Charles W. Hamp, and Ben Pollock. Some of the details at hand give that earlier show a 1936 date, yet I have also come across entries for episodes dating back to 1930 and 1931. In any case, and aside from the shared name, there are no other forthcoming links between the 1930s Rhapsody In Rhythm and the 1946-1947 show under scrutiny. I am inclined to believe that the former was not an early incarnation of the latter, but I would be glad to receive a correction from any reader who might be more knowledgeable on this matter.)

Photos above: (1) Jan Savitt. (2) A Peggy Lee biographical capsule, from a source unknown to me -- probably a celebrity rag, in currency during the second half of 1947. The tidbits about the roles played by Johnston and Clark in Lee's career are false. Such tidbits come off as attempts at establishing a close connection between the hostess and her co-hosts. They could have been invented by the makers and promoters of Rhapsody In Rhythm. Alternatively, the details could have been made up by a careless magazine writer. (3) Buddy Clark. (4) Robert Maxwell and harp. (5) The Jubalaires, also known as The Jubilaires. Their Capitol 78 rpm recordings are among the sources that spell their name with an a. Yet the above-shown Capitol ad opts for the i spelling. (6) Johnny Johnston.

Images below: Promotional material and general data about the show, the latter part of a trade review.




Date: June 11, 1947
Location: CBS Radio Playhouse, 1615 North Vine, Hollywood, California

Jan Savitt And His Orchestra (acc), Johnnie Johnston, Peggy Lee (v)

a. Not Extant?Peggy Lee Shows (CBS) A Sunday Kind Of Love(Barbara Belle, Anita Leonard, Louis Prima, Stan Rhodes)
b. Not Extant?Peggy Lee Shows (CBS) I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now(Frank R. Adams, Will M. Hough, Joseph E. Howard)
c. Not Extant?Peggy Lee Shows (CBS) Irving Berlin Medley(Irving Berlin)
All titles unissued.

Performances And Personnel

1. "A Sunday Kind Of Love"
This number is a Peggy Lee solo.

2. "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now"
My only source for this tentative entry is a Variety review of the episode, in which Peggy Lee and Johnnie Johnston are reported to have sung a number that the reviewer calls "I Wonder Who." I have not come across any 1940s (or pre-1940s) song with that exact title. Bearing in mind that reviewers sometimes shorten song titles (or unwittingly rename the songs by their catchiest words), I have thought that perhaps the reviewer was referring to "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now." That 1909 composition was again in vogue in 1947 due to the summer release of the 20th Century Fox film of the same title (a biopic of composer Joseph Howard). The movie was not actually released until July, but advance word of its premiere could have led to the choice of the already well-known number for inclusion in this June episode. Other fine songs that were active in the mid-1940s and which I considered -- but ultimately rejected -- were "I Wonder" (popularized by The Roosevelt Skyes) and "I Wonder, I Wonder, Wonder" (recorded in 1947 by, among others, Eddy Howard, Tony Pastor, and Martha Tilton). The catchy Buddy Clark - Doris Day duet "Love Somebody" also came to mind, even though it doesn't quite include the same wording given by the reviewer. In any case, "Love Somebody" is also out of the running, because it did not come into currency until late in 1947.

3. Irving Berlin Medley
The titles of the songs heard in this medley are unknown to me. The full cast participated (Peggy Lee, Johnnie Johnston, Robert Maxwell, The Jubalaires, Jan Savitt And His Orchestra).

4. Numbers By The Other Performers
Listed above are, naturally, just the numbers in which Peggy Lee participated. The episode also included the following renditions, none of them featuring Lee: "Old Devil Moon" (Johnnie Johnston), "Casey Jones" (The Jubalaires), and two Jerome Kern compositions (Robert Maxwell).


Date: August 13, 1947
Location: CBS Radio Playhouse, 1615 North Vine, Hollywood, California

Jan Savitt And His Orchestra (acc), Buddy Clark, Peggy Lee (v), The Jubalaires (bkv)

a. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) Stormy Weather - 3:07(Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler)
b. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) Ask Anyone Who Knows - 2:45(Alvin Kaufman, Sol Marcus, Eddie Seiler)
c. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) Ain't Misbehavin' - 2:34(Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf, Thomas 'Fats' Waller)
d. Not Extant?Peggy Lee Shows (CBS) Stormy Weather: Harold Arlen Medley(Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler)
e. Not Extant?Peggy Lee Shows (CBS) Blues In The Night: Harold Arlen Medley(Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer)
All titles unissued.

Personnel

1. Buddy Clark
Co-host Buddy Clark sings with Peggy Lee on "Ain't Misbehavin' " and "Blues In The Night" only.

2. The Jubalaires
The Jubalaires accompany Buddy Clark and Peggy Lee in "Blues In The Night" only.


Performances

1. Harold Arlen Medley
Two songs from this episode's medley of Harold Arlen are listed above. Here is a full list of the medley's songs and performers:

Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea - Buddy Clark
Get Happy - Jan Savitt And His Orchestra
Stormy Weather - Peggy Lee
It's Only A Paper Moon - The Jubalaires
Over The Rainbow - Robert Maxwell
Blues In The Night - Buddy Clark, Peggy Lee, The Jubalaires, Jan Savitt And His Orchestra


2. Numbers By The Other Performers
In addition to the numbers in which Peggy Lee participated, this episode also included the following renditions, none of them featuring her: "I Never Knew" (Buddy Clark), "Je Vous Adore" (Buddy Clark), "Aye, Aye, Aye" (Robert Maxwell), "Steamboat Bill" (The Jubalaires), "The Hall Of The Mountain King" (Jan Savitt And His Orchestra), and "Fascinating Rhythm" (performer unknown; presumably the orchestra as well).



Photo

Peggy Lee and Jan Savitt at the Hollywood Palladium, where he was performing at the time (November 1945).




Date: September 17, 1947
Location: CBS Radio Playhouse, 1615 North Vine, Hollywood, California

Jan Savitt And His Orchestra (acc), Peggy Lee (v)

a. ExtantPeggy Lee Shows (CBS) All Of Me(Gerald Marks, Seymour Simons)
unissued

Performance

This tentative entry is entirely based on my finding of the below-seen image. I came across the image on the internet, where it was also found tagged as "episode 15." That tag certainly corresponds with the log information at my reach: the 15th and last episode of this series aired on September 17, 1947.

Based on the title written on the disc's label, there is a high likelihood that this transcription disc's program indeed starts off with a performance of "All Of Me." Though not as high, the chances that Peggy Lee is the artist heard on the performance are good, too. (Among the other possible candidates would be Johnny Johnston, who is presumed to have been the male vocalist in this episode.) Here is hoping that a copy of the acetate can be eventually auditioned, or that reliable and full information about the episode eventually surfaces.




Sessions Reported: 3

Performances Reported: 9

Unique Songs Reported: 9