BOBBY DARIN -

THE ULTIMATE PERFORMER


This article, written by Jimmy Scalia appeared in the
April 2001 issue of IN TUNE Magazine.


(Gerry Stonestreet: I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Jimmy Scalia, considered to be the leading archivist on Bobby Darin. Jimmy, in kindly writing this article for "InTune" readers, was able to draw upon the recollections of two people who were very close to Bobby, namely his manager, Steve Blauner and his publicist, Harriet Wasser, and I am very grateful to all three of them for their cooperation in providing this exclusive article. Now over to Jimmy-)

To achieve high praise from your peers and the public is the meaning of the word success. To be versatile in many types of music and to be good at each type is quite an accomplishment. By including timing, phrasing and comic ability to that would merit one the title, Ultimate Performer. That seems to be the category that Bobby Darin has nestled himself into. In speaking with Gerry Stonestreet of In Tune magazine we spoke of the recent Bobby Darin Cd titled, "The Curtain Falls BD Live At The Flamingo" (from Collectors Choice Music). We both agreed that the special excitement in this performance was the wide range of music that was covered in the show. And how effortlessly Bobby would venture into one style of music to the next. While tackling standard tunes as a seasoned saloon singer and yet only being at the tender age of 26. I was asked if I knew what music Bobby loved the most. Instead of trying to interpret which music I thought was closest, I felt I should go right to the source, and so I did.

I went to Steve Blauner, Bobby's long time friend and manager and asked him for his opinion. His response was rather quick but to the point. He said: "Bobby loved all kinds of music". If we start from the beginning a very young Bobby grew up listening to such singers as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and of course the legendary Al Jolson, combined with the Big Band Swing sound of people like Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. At this point it is easy to see where the love of this type of music fits in. By the 1950's New York City was a vast melting pot of different types of music. Among the Swing & Standard music the Blues and R&B was also fluent throughout the neighborhoods as well. By the the mid 50's Doo-Wop also notched itself a little spot for the new generation. Bobby was obviously keeping an open ear while staying very aware to all types of music.

In 1956 Bobby prepares to cut 8 songs for the Decca label. The tune that was picked to be a single was a skiffle tune by Lonnie Donegan titled "Rock Island Line". Which goes to show you it is not only what is in your backyard, but what is good abroad. At this point Bobby realizes that Rock & Roll is making an impact on the music scene and will most likely be the best avenue to travel. He writes and records some R&R & R&B tunes and records them on Ahmet Etegun's label ATLANTIC / ATCO records. One tune in particular will be his introduction into the music industry, that is; "Splish Splash". After the success with such tunes as; "Splish Splash", "Queen Of The Hop", "Early In The Morning", and "Dream Lover" (which were written by Darin) ATCO records felt they had their Fats Domino.

In steps Harriet Wasser public relations and friend of Bobby. She mentioned to me that when she heard that Bobby would be channelled into the the R&R venue of the label she felt it would be a disservice to Bobby because she was well aware, just as he was, that there was more depth to him than just R&R records. After talking it over with Bobby he agreed to make a record with mature adult tunes. Harriet also made the connection at a earlier time with Richard Wess to meet and work with Bobby, which they did. So it was no surprise when Wess teamed with Bobby to arrange and conduct this upcoming session, thus giving us the "That's All", record which went gold. The Lp spawned two hits one being "Mack The Knife" and the other "Beyond The Sea". From 1959 to 1962 Bobby had the luxury of recording a number of albums from Rock & Roll to Swing and Standards. He even managed to release a R&B album titled "Bobby Darin Sings Ray Charles" and a duet album with Johnny Mercer titled "Two Of A Kind". So while the kids are reading teen magazines about their favorite singers like Bobby Darin more serious music publications were comparing Darin to Sinatra by saying: "To those who would offer the rejoinder that Darin does not have Sinatra's vocal finesse and musicianship, it should be adequate to point out that Sinatra is 42 while Darin is 23". I think it is safe to say that the love of both kinds of music are adored by Darin.

"THE CHANGE OF A LABEL"

The year is 1962, Frank Sinatra is on the set of making the film "Sergeants Three" when he calls Bobby's manager Steve Blauner to come to see him. On Blauners arrival Frank introduces Steve to Moe Austin and states that Moe and he were forming a label (Reprise Records) and are planning to sign Dean Matin and Sammy Davis Jr. on it and that he (Sinatra) wanted Bobby Darin on the label. Steve Blauner's reply to that in a seemingly surprised voice says: " Oh my God, you and Dean are leaving Capitol?" In answer to Blauners question Sinatra confirms with a yes! At this point Blauner says to Frank: " Well, let me think about it overnight and I'll get back to you in the morning". After leaving the meeting with Sinatra, Blauner immediately ran over to Capitol Records (EMI) and signed Bobby Darin. At that point Capitol knowing it was losing 3 of their big singers felt their new formula would be Nat King Cole and Bobby Darin pulling the reins. With a new home came the chance for some newer sounds from Bobby. Although his first Lp from Capitol consisted of standards with those incomparable arrangements by Billy May, other diverse music crept out for the public to sample. A pop Lp surfaced titled; "18 Yellow Roses and 11 other Hits" and a Country Lp titled; "Your'e The Reason I'm Living" and two Folk Lp's. One being Folk music from around the world and the other being American Folk tunes. Now you can see by mid 1963 Bobby Darin has touched on so many different types of music unlike his peers and many who have come after him. In the summer of 1963 Bobby Darin performed at Freedomland in the Bronx, New York. Between the weather being bad that day and Bobby pushing himself to exhaustion he fell ill. Harriet Wasser who was present backstage at the concert remembers a shivering Bobby wrapped up in a blanket. At that point the writting was on the wall. He must stop this hectic pace or pay the consequences. It was obvious his weakened heart from childhood rheumatic fever had taken a toll on him. He was lucky this time and pulled through but knew he would have to retire at least for a spell.

THE FAREWELL CONCERT

Although Bobby loved live performing, he knew he had so much more on his plate to keep himself busy. He was married to Sandra Dee and acting in films. He was still writting music and producing artist such as Wayne Newton and involved in his own music publishing company called TM Music. So when November rolled around Bobby was ready for his exit pertaining to live performing while still being at the top of his game. This brings us to the, "Live At The Flamingo" CD. Mr. D walks onto the stage with such confidence and presents as he sings his opening number, "Hello Young Lovers" and then knocks out two more tunes just to make sure he not only captures your attention but gets you on the right track as to what the night is going to be like. Just as you thought you knew where he was going with this he then throws in a medley of Darin chart topping Hits. A song or two later Bobby also makes sure to throw in the self penned Country flavored hit 18 Yellow Roses. Time to change gears yet again Darin style! A wonderful comedy skit chock full of impersonations from Dean Martin to Jerry Lewis and Jimmy Stewart just to name a few. At the end of the skit the lights go dim and Darin disappears for a moment. As the sound of the bass guitar in a cool slow rhythm and the high hat cymbal being played with that heavy accent on a tom tom drum bellows through the room, Darin reappears with out a tuxedo jacket or a tie. Just a white shirt with slightly puffed sleeves. He walks into the spotlight that absorbs him from his head to just below his waist. The name of this tune is, "The Work Song" and what has just happened was Bobby changed the style of music once again. This time the format is folk and he took the audience with him with the smoothest convergence that one can imagine. As the show draws towards the finish Bobby who never gave an encore decided this November show was to be different. After his last song came to a close and the band played him off stage, the lights dimmed once again. Then a spotlight shines on a stool with a microphone. Out comes Bobby dressed again in his full tuxedo. He approaches the stool, picks up the microphone and explains how he heard this particular tune and has been saving it for a special time. This is obviously the time. The title of the tune is, "The Curtain Falls". What many may not realize is that this tune was written for a television show called Broadway Tonight. In Bobby's case it is most fitting and truest to what he is feeling as he is singing it. Nearing the close, when the song is at it's peak and Bobby belts out: "And I Get Paid For This.............( in a soft sincere voice) Goodnight Ladies and Gentleman and God Love You". Bobby then places the microphone on the stool where the spotlight is fixed and walks into the black while the band plays on. You have just experienced Bobby Darin!




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