Sunday, December 14, 2014

Excerpt from Diving Deep for Sea Shells: Peggy Lee at Hollywood Bowl - September 5, 1953

We played the Hollywood Bowl Saturday Night “Pops” program on September 5, 1953. Peg was soloist and the first “nightclub singer” to appear at the Bowl. Hollywood Bowl Magazine described Peg as thus: “Miss Lee possesses a smooth, sleek prettiness, and in person she offers one of the warmest show personalities in the entertainment field, plus a voice that is exquisite in tone and quality.”

Peg was nervous during rehearsals with the prospect of performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Los Angeles Philharmonic was comprised of 97 musicians. This was the closing concert of their 32nd season. The season had begun in June. There we were, Peg and her quintet on front stage center with the orchestra in place behind us.

This concert was so precious to me. It is the most meaningful event of my career. Daddy was bass trombone player in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He was seated behind us with the orchestra. He was in the brass section near the back of the Hollywood Bowl’s shell. That was his tenth year with them. What a privileged experience to be on the same stage with him. Daddy in a symphonic orchestra and me in Peggy Lee’s jazz group!

Although I was nervous, I was familiar with our part of the program. Peg wore two gowns, one for the first part and another after intermission. The first gown was a white creation of Howard Greer,
with a Spanish mantilla. He designed Shirley Temple’s wedding gown in 1945. Greer also designed a coral flame-colored chiffon gown for the second part. Peg later gave me both gowns. I would wear them on stage with her. I had a collection. I later gave them back to Nicki and her daughter, Holly. Some of them were used for a collection requested by a museum. Peg didn’t require me to wear black as she did her male musicians. She preferred them in black suits.

Peg asked her friend Victor Young to conduct the concert. He was better known for film scores. He worked and wrote a lot with Peg. He composed a piece for the orchestra entitled “New York City Ghost.” This stunning piece contained a narration on which Mr. Young and Peg collaborated. This “mood poem” was never recorded by Peg. An instrumental version was recorded by a jazz group consisting of: Herbie Harper (Trombone), Bud Shank (Tenor and Baritone Saxophone), Harry Babasin (Bass), Marty Paich (Piano) and Roy Harte (Drums). I worked with Bud Shank many times on sessions and concerts. He was a superior musician, as was Marty Paich. I have completely forgotten the music and narration. The other songs we played were: “Just One of Those Things,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “Golden Earrings,” “MaƱana,” “Too Marvelous for Words,” “Legend of The Well,” and “Lover.”