Friday, December 27, 2013

Music for Lovers Only: Sherriff Bufford T. Justice Does Music

Jackie Gleason was a very versatile entertainer.  I first became acquainted with Jackie Gleason not through Ralph Kramden from The Honeymooners, but through Sherriff Buford T. Justice from the Cannonball Run movies.  It wasn't until I was a teenager when I first watched The Honeymooners and was blown away by the comic timing of the entire cast.  I remember thinking, "They sure don't make shows like this anymore."

Now, in my forties, I have become acquainted with another side of Jackie Gleason:  musical conductor and composer.

In the early 1950s, Jackie Gleason put together a popular series of instrumental albums that catered to mood.  The first was Music for Lovers Only, which was originally released in 1952.  A longer, stereo version came out in 1954.  I just happened to pick up a decent copy of that album at Half Price Books for fifty cents.

The cover features a close up of a table, two empty wine glasses in the background.  A purse, a pair of gloves and a key sit on the table as two cigarettes burn in an ashtray; one cigarette marked by pink lipstick.   The description of the album on the back is hysterical:
"A wisp of cigarette smoke in the soft lamplight, the tinkle of a glass, a hushed whisper…and music for lovers only. This is love’s entrancing setting. For music, in a thousand ways, describes each glowing facet of romance.  In this album Jackie Gleason has chosen a group of love's most appealing melodies...tender ballads that have special significance for all of us.  Here is tuneful, sentimental music for your most relaxed listening moments."
This album was very popular.  In fact, it remains one of the most popular albums of all time. Yes, you heard me right.  Music for Lovers Only still holds the record for number of weeks in the top ten on the Billboard Charts: 153 weeks.   Michael Jackson's Thriller was there for only 78 weeks.

Jackie Gleason followed up the success of Music for Lovers Only with a series of emotion-categorized music: Music to Make You Misty, Music to Remember Her, and Music to Change Her Mind, to name just a few.  In total, Jackie Gleason produced close to 60 albums throughout his career.

Jackie Gleason was not a musician, however.  In fact, he couldn't read a note of music.  How much music did he create himself?  That depends on who you talk to.  Some claim that Jackie Gleason hummed melodies to assistants and those assistants then put it to music.  Indeed, he is given writing and conducting credits for music on The Honeymooners. Others claim that the only thing Gleason did was cash checks.

He didn't use traditional music terms when explaining the music that he wanted played. Sometimes, he used descriptions such as "pissing off a high bridge into a teacup" in  order to get the sound he wanted from the musicians.

Nevertheless, Music for Lovers Only is a good album.  Nostalgic, really.  Not anything that you would hear today, but probably very common in the Fifties as the bins at Goodwill and other thrift shops are filled with such remnants.

Soon, you'll be able to hear tracks from Music for Lovers Only as we bring back the Vinyl Brunch on weekends here at Vinyl Voyage Radio.  The Vinyl Brunch will feature music not in regular rotation at the station: classical, instrumental, jazz and much, much more.

Stay tuned for more information.


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