The Peggy Lee Bio-Discography And Videography:
Research And Inquiry Into The Beauty And The Beat Dates
by Iván Santiago-Mercado
Generated on Feb 26, 2016
I. Contents And Scope
This supplementary page discusses Peggy Lee's Beauty And The Beat!
concert and studio sessions, which took place in late May and possibly early June 1959. Primary details about the sessions are given in the 1957-1959
page of the sessionography.
Some readers might wonder why this discussion has not been placed in that sessionographical page. There are two reasons for the abstention: (1) the inordinate length and (2) the amount of speculation involved in the discussion. By placing lengthy and speculative discourse in miscellaneous pages such as this one, I am hoping to make the main session pages easier to scroll down, and thus more amenable to browsing.
II. The Miami Disc Jockey Convention
In the late 1950s, Peggy Lee and George Shearing were both Capitol artists whose records were produced by Dave Cavanaugh. The three of them joined forces to perform and record a concert during the Second National Disc Jockey Convention at the Americana Hotel, in Miami. ("It was Dave's idea to put us together," Lee told music writer Will Friedwald in 1992.) The event, sponsored by the Storz radio chain, was more formally known as the Second International Radio Programing Seminar And Pop Music Disk Jockey Convention.
III. The Convention's Schedule (And The Scheduled Artists)
The official dates of the convention were Friday, May 29 to Sunday, May 31, 1959. (Although not usually mentioned as part of the official dates, a welcoming cocktail party had been scheduled for the evening of Thursday the 28th, too.)
On opening night, the two Capitol artists were the entertainment. Roulette's Count Basie And His Band was the musical entertainment scheduled on closing night, during which a barbecue party was programmed to last well into the wee small hours. Saturday night was dedicated to the central event known as The Big Show, produced by Dick Linke and Paul Brown. A large number of acts were booked for the Saturday extravaganza: Count Basie (though he might have not been able to arrive until Sunday), Pat Boone, Cathy Carr, Chris Connor, Vic Damone, Alan Dean, The Diamonds, Connie Francis, Johnny Horton, Kirby Stone Four, Peggy Lee, Patti Page, Lou Norman's Panama Records Orchestra, The Playmates, Jimmy Rodgers, Connie Russell, Jack Scott, George Shearing, Dodie Stevens, Gary Stites, Jesse Lee Turner, and Andy Williams.
Besides the scheduled performances by those artists, various lectures were held over the weekend, on topics such as radio ratings, news programs, and commercials. Adding legitimate cache to the convention was a taped film address from the nation's president and the secretary of defense, plus a live address from the executive director of Eisenhower's "Council on Youth Fitness" program. Attendance was estimated at 2,500 -- and the heat outside was said to be hitting the upper 80s.
IV. Scandal At The Convention
Despite the presidential seal of approval, the high-class entertainment, and the academic atmosphere suggested by the lectures, this convention was plagued by low-brow scandal. In a whistle-blowing article titled "Booze, Broads And Babies," The Miami Herald
made payola allegations and contended that some of the record companies were treating the disc-jockeys to a lavish and promiscuous way of living. Time
published another article, in which various companies were specifically named in connection with practices that the press deemed dubious: RCA Victor (said to have handled disc-jockeys "$1,000,000 in play money
" for gambling and drinks, and to have held contest prizes for the deejays' benefit), ABC-Paramount (said to have "paid for all taxi rides") and Columbia (alleged to have "made tapes of D.J.s interviewing celebrities and [to have given] them to the jocks to play on the air at home"). Coincidentally or otherwise, one of the convention's hosts was Morris Levy, the allegedly-mafia connected owner of Roulette Records and The Birdland Club.
V. The Lee-Shearing Concert
In his autobiography, George Shearing writes an extensive commentary about this concert. The pianist states that "the whole industry was there, all the main record companies. So this gave us a built-in audience response, in fact it was an incredible audience and the whole atmosphere [...] was charged because of that." In the liner notes of the 1992 Capitol Jazz CD Beauty And The Beat!
, Peggy Lee adds: "I was so exhausted [after flying in, working out keys, and doing continuous rehearsal with little sleep], I don't remember the performance too well, I just remember standing there." Lee's vague reminiscence notwithstanding, the only actual track from this concert that has ever been released evinces that she and Shearing were in excellent form, and that the audience was indeed very appreciative. (For specifics about the track, check this page's May 29, 1959 session.)
VI. The Concert's Technical Difficulties
On this opening night, serious problems with the audio system at the hotel's ballroom produced unsatisfactory results. From the scant reports at hand, the picture that emerges suggests that the hasty accommodations and late-minute technical adjustments made by those in charge of the convention left plenty to be desired. By Sunday, when the Count Basie Band arrived from New York and proceeded to play, the recording problems had apparently been fixed. (Either that or, less likely, the Roulette Jazz CD Breakfast Dance And Barbecue
contains a Count Basie studio or a different performance posing as this live concert.)
It is indeed mentioned in the liner notes of the Capitol LP Beauty And The Beat!
that "[a] troublesome P.A. system caused the audience some difficulty in hearing parts of the session." Additional commentary was included in a souvenir version of this LP which was sent to disc jockeys who had attended and signed to receive a copy. In one of two typewritten letters that are part of the souvenir album's package, Lee and Shearing give "a special thanks to each of you who stuck through the inaudible opening portion of the session that Friday night long enough to hear the entire session." (The letter ends with the handwritten words "we love you, Peggy & George," in Lee's signature.)
A more detailed explanation is found in the other typewritten letter that is included in this souvenir album. Unsigned, it was presumably written by Cavanaugh: "Starting at 4:00 PM on Friday from absolute zero, we had to build rooms, a stage, install and check out recording equipment, install lights and arrange the hundreds of other details required to serve 3,000 people. Not having had any previous access to the Grand Ballroom prior to 4:00 PM, we were working against odds that would make Vegas child's play by comparison. When the last electrical outlet was installed and the switches were ready to throw for the first test - the room had 2,000 people in it - we had a distinct disadvantage. The events that followed were pretty much history. We went ahead with the stereo session - despite the feedback from the P.A. system." The writer of this letter goes on to estimate that about half of the audience left, unable to hear either Shearing or Lee: "We are sorry that so many of you could not hear note one in the rear of the room. Surprisingly enough, slightly more than 1,000 people were crowded down front close enough to the stage so that they could hear Peggy and George without benefit of a P.A System."
VII. Recording At The Convention
According to what CD producer Michael Cuscuna was told by Cy Godfrey (Peggy Lee's attorney in the 1990s), "a live recording was attempted one night at the convention before an invited audience. Shearing did two numbers and everything came to a halt due to equipment problems. When they resumed, Peggy Lee sang three songs, but the technical problems proved insurmountable and the event was prematurely ended with nothing to show for the effort. The next night, they did a full show for the entire convention, but it wasn't recorded."
The tapes still rolled (at least during those three songs), and Capitol has kept them in its vaults. In 2003, one of those songs was cleaned and released; the others (and the tapes themselves) remains not only unreleased but also shrouded in mystery. For further details, check this page's May 29, 1959 session.
VIIII. Recording In The Studio (Or Elsewhere)
Plans to release an album were apparently set in stone, because Cavanagh had Lee and Shearing record or re-record the numbers at an unknown location and without an audience. Capitol and Cavanaugh were just proceeding in the same manner that other labels and producers had done before and would keep on doing thereafter: they altered a studio date to make it sound like a live-in-concert performance. (In both the jazz and pop fields, a large number of alleged live albums are partially or completely studio reconstructions.)
The anonymous liner annotator of the original LP would have us believe that, "[f]ortunately," and despite the acknowledged problems with the audio system, "great sounds were being fed continuously to Capitol's engineers manning the recording equipment backstage, so that the recorded results escaped unscathed." Not true. (On the contrary, I have been told that the only part of the actual live concert whose sound quality is fair enough to allow for its release is the one number that I have entered in the next session, "Always True To You In My Fashion.")
IX. Summary Of The Recording Schedule
To summarize, the extant reports suggest that Lee and Shearing did:
1. rehearsals in Miami, and presumably a sound check before the show.
2. a May 29 mini-show, consisting of a couple of Shearing instrumentals and three Peggy Lee vocals, before the poor quality of the p.a. system led to cancellation for the night. (The titles of the vocals are unknown. For what is worth, I am left to wonder if Lee perhaps tried an all-Porter mini-program, singing not only "Always True To You In My Fashion" but also "Do I Love You?" and "Get Out Of Town." Those last two songs are included in the studio session and in the LP Beauty And The Beat!
, one as the opener, the other as the closer.)
3. a show on May 30 which was not taped, and in which Lee and Shearing were but two of a large number of acts.
4. studio sessions that presumably recreate the contents of the May 30 show. (There is a chance that these studio sessions are one and the same with the rehearsals mentioned in #1, or at least partially the same. For further commentary about the studio sessions, see next paragraphs.)
X. Dating (And Venue) Of The Studio Session(s)
May 28-30 is the date given to these masters in Capitol's master file. A different date, April 28, 1959, appears in Capitol's Peggy Lee session file. That April 28 date can also be found in various Capitol CDs, such as the boxed set Miss Peggy Lee and the 1992 CD version of Beauty And The Beat!.
According to CD producer Michael Cuscuna, other Capitol files list even a third date, April 30. "Most likely, the New York office entered the information into Capitol's files incorrectly and the 14 tunes were recorded in two or three sessions between May 28 and 30," theorizes the producer in his notes for the 2003 CD version of Beauty And The Beat!.
Cuscuna thinks that the album's contents were "probably recorded in Miami, either at a local studio or more likely at a ballroom in the hotel with the remote equipment that Capitol's engineers brought down from New York." (Cuscuna wrote those comments for the 2003 CD version of Beauty And The Beat!. In 1992, when fewer details about the Beauty And The Beat! date were known, his discovery of two bonus tracks led him to speculate that they could have been "cut at a rehearsal or the sound check in the hall that housed the concert.")
Fans' stories portray Peggy Lee recording these numbers at her Americana Hotel dressing room, immediately after the concert had taken place. If such stories were to be believed, she would have just put on a set of earphones and would have proceeded to sing and re-record all the vocals over the (unsatisfactory) tapes from the original concert. A far likelier scenario is that Lee, Shearing and other musicians recreated the session elsewhere.
In his liner notes for the 1992 Capitol Jazz CD, Will Friedwald asserts that, "[w]ithin days of the convention, the threesome were at work transforming the event into an album." His timeline is probably predicated on beliefs held at the time of his writing, and now known to be incorrect -- i.e., that the album contained the live event. Continues Friedwald: "At the original concert, Lee and Shearing had generally seguewayed from one tune to another without saying anything, and some of the announcements that were there had been off-mike. However, to make it sound even more live, Cavanaugh decided that each tune should have a spoken intro."
If we are to base our assessment on Lee's Miami timeline (or what is known about it), these studio date(s) could have been recorded either before or after the concert. However, I can think of no logical reason to assume that they were recorded before the concert -- unless the album contents actually come from taped rehearsals.
"We rendezvoused in Florida," Lee writes in her autobiography, referring to Shearing and herself, "to set the keys and figure out the arrangements. We were up seventy-two hours straight." Lee was also interviewed for the 1992 CD release, in which she is quoted as saying that "[w]e were all pretty much wrecked ... They had a talk-back set up for Dave [Cavanaugh], and he would speak to us from the control room. His feet were so swollen for having been on them for so many hours ..."
Lee made another pertinent comment during an interview with radio broadcaster Fred Hall: "How we lived through it and stayed alive, I don't know, because it was 72 hours that we were up ...[...]... We recorded the whole thing in front of the disc jockeys convention, and then we did some extra sides and polished some things that the acoustics were not quite right, or something. I always think about Dave Cavanaugh, whose feet had begun to swell up because he was so tired, and every time he touched the button for the talkback it would give him a shock, and he would say, We'll do that--OUCH!" This comment, like the one in the previous paragraph, suggests that the studio recording (the extra sides and "polishing") happened very soon after the live concert.
The identities of the sessions' bassist, drummer and vibraphonist have also been the subject of contention. In the sessionography, I have chosen to list the names given in Capitol's session file, which is my primary source for the Capitol pages of this discography. The names are Carl Pruitt (b), Ray Alexander (vib), and Ray Mosca (d). All three musicians were members of Shearing' quintet during the late 1950s. In the album itself, George Shearing is heard saying "at this time, we introduce our bass player, Carl Pruitt
," thereby giving partial validation to the personnel listing in the session file.
However, the 1992 Capitol Jazz CD Beauty And The Beat!
lists a different set of musicians:
James Bond (bass)
Roy Haines (drums)
Warren Chaisson (vibes)
Fortunately, the Bond/Haines/Chaisson personnel has been proven to be erroneous. Vibraphonist Ray Alexander is credited with being the first to notice that the personnel given in the 1992 CD was not correct. He contacted Capitol about it, and as a result corrections were made. Alexander showed gratitude for the correction in a 1993 interview for Jazz Journal International
: "I was fortunate enough to record the album Beauty And The Beat!
, with Peggy Lee. It's proved to be a classic over the years ... The only thing that bugged me was that none of the musicians were credited on the album. I'm happy to say that it's been re-released on a CD and all the musicians were listed ... The record is considered a classic, and it's great that they took the time to give credit to the proper musicians for the session." Michael Cuscuna is to be thanked for this diligent correction, which was made in later pressings of the 1992 CD, as well as in the updated version of the CD that came out in 2003.
A chance remains, however, that both
of these sets of musicians are correct. That is to say, the musicians who played live in concert and the musicians who came to the studio could have been different men. But so far I have found no evidence leading in that direction.
There are additional sources that list yet other musicians. Percy Bryce on bass and Emil Richards on vibes. Or Ray Ellington on vibes. Those sources are incorrect.
Some of the confusion may have arisen from the personnel changes undergone, over the years, by the Shearing Quintet.