Peggy Lee

Candace Scott posted 04/22/06 04:29 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I confess I've never spent much time appreciating Peggy Lee except for her great song with Benny Goodman, "Why Don't Ya Do Right?" Therefore I've really enjoyed listening to her singing on this month's audio selection. Her duets with Bing are delightful, as well as her solo songs. I'm sure I'm not saying anything others here have already long known, but this girl could really bring it! What a great, sultry voice she had and wonderful phrasing.

Also, the interplay between her and Bing is adorable. Seems like these two really enjoyed each other and worked well together. Thanks for sharing this old radio show with Peggy and Bing. It's turned me into a Peggy Lee fan.
Jon O. posted 04/22/06 05:04 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Give a listen to Peggy's "Black Coffee" CD. There's no Bing on it, but it's a great Jazz vocal album.
Arne posted 04/22/06 10:57 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
In his new biography of Peggy Lee, author Peter Richmond captions a photo of Peggy, Bing, Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra as being the "Mount Rushmore of American pop-jazz singing". - In the immortal words of Bert Lahr in "Wizard Of Oz": "Ain't it da truth, ain't it da truth"!

The new bio, which I've just about finished, is very interesting. The author certainly pays due respects to Bing, not only for his place in Peggy's life, but for his place in American music, and it is gratifying to read. The book does contain some historical errors (one regarding Crosby), but is overall a very good read. Now it's up to some Peggy Lee expert to tell us if the book is an accurate picture of Peggy, or not. Personally, I am a huge fan of hers, and I feel she is one of the all-time best.
Ben Weaver posted 04/23/06 10:16 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Bing is mentioned quite extensively in Peggy's Autobiography, "Miss Peggy Lee ~ An Autobiography", published in 1991. On Page 125 she writes:
"By now my work with Bing and Durante was going full force, and my love for them both brightened my life. Years earlier I had literally saved pennies to go see Bing's movies. Tears rolled down my cheeks if the leading lady didn't treat him right. In the film "Mississippi" I was emotionally spent when the brokenhearted Bing sang "Down By The River"

Through the several years I sang on Bing's program, I met the most fantastic stars, like Al Jolson, whom I also sang with, and Bing was always finding ways to help give me confidence. In fact, everyone connected with him was funny and nice and talented.

Bing and I were always the first to arrive for rehearsals -- that was something that always impressed me, his promptness. And I always felt you could count on his honesty. Bing maintained a certain modesty, even diffidence, about himself, although he didn't wear it on his sleeve. I remember his saying, "I wish I could really make something of my life...". That amazed me, that he could feel so humble. I tried, in a stumbling sort of way, to tell him what the world thought of him, but I don't think I ever convinced him. evening in San Francisco, Bing asked me to go to dinner with him.

For dinner he took me to one of San Francisco's great restaurants, during which I told him about my emotional experience with his movies, especially "Mississippi" when he sang "Down By The River". We then cruised all over that wonderful city until we found a pianist who could play the song in Bing's key, and he actually sang it to me at our table. Once again, all those years later, the tears rolled. A whole river of them....

Bing was also so protective of me. Once he found me standing rigid outside the studio at NBC and asked what he could do to help me. He was so sensitive to my early days of nerves and self-consciousness. This was just before air time on one of Bing's many Kraft programs. I managed to say something like: "When you introduce me, would you please not leave me out there on the stage alone? Would you stand where I can see your feet?" He agreed and always sort of casually leaned on a speaker or piano to give me the support and time I needed to learn about being at ease onstage.

You have to love a man like that. He offered everything -- money, cars, his own blood, and even volunteered to personally babysit with our little daughter, Nicki, while David was so sick in the hospital.

The last time I saw Bing, we were both doing a benefit performance. It was beautiful, if brief. He called to me, "Hello, baby! So good to see you."

I was grateful I got to see him one more time.

Yes, once we walked alone, Bing -- down by the river...."

Candace Scott posted 04/23/06 09:08 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Ben, thanks for much for taking the time to type up Peggy's recollections of Bing. It's been many years since I've read her book and this anecdote brings it all back. Hmm... if one reads between the lines, it seems like Peggy and Bing were quite "good friends." :) Lucky Peggy!

Jon, thank you for the recommendation for the Peggy CD. I just ordered it from Amazon. Thanks!
Jon O. posted 04/23/06 11:30 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Candace, if it turns out that you like "Black Coffee", then, as they say, you'll love "Beauty and the Beat"--Peg with George Shearing on piano. Shearing was also her accompanist on an incredible medley in a 1959 Bing TV special which also featured Frank Sinatra with Paul Smith, and Bing with Joe Bushkin.
Dieter Beier posted 04/24/06 08:54 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
A quote of Peggy´s admiration to Bing:

"He didn´t really know what great things his singing did for others or what a wonderful influence his personality had on people. There is a certain security just thinking about Bing."

Peggy told the story of Mississippi too to Gord Atkinson:

"Going out to dinner with Bing was really quite an occasion.He was always so punctual that I was determined to be totally ready and I probably started dressing in the morning, to be ready. However,on one occasion,as usual,he arrived on time. Just before the doorbell rang I thought I´d apply a little more hair spray. It turned out to be one of those horrible floral room deodorants.I had picked up the wrong spray can. I didn´t know what to do whether to put my head out of the window,jump or what!However,we went to dinner as planned and during the evening I told him about having seen the movie "Mississippi" where the girl had cheated on him rather shabbuly. The story really hurt me. I thought no one should ever treat Bing Crosby that way,not even in a movie. The song that he sang in the movie was "Down By The River" and so after dinner we were wandering around San Francisco looking in here and there. I didn´t realize he was keeping an eye out for a pianist who knew the song.Looking for some little unobtrussive place.Well he found one. After we had been sitting there for a while.he went over and spoke to the piano player.The pianist then played "Down By The River" and Bing sang it to me personally, can you imagine that kind of dream coming true? It was memorable."

About Peggy: "Like brandy, she gets better every year, one of the greatest magicians a good song could ever wish for."...and that´s really right!

Candace Scott posted 04/24/06 12:57 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Jon, the only version of "Black Coffee" that I know is Bobby Darrin's version, which I love. Can't wait to hear Peggy's version. She really had a sultry jazz voice. I'm ashamed I never listened to her much before.
Sally posted 04/24/06 03:59 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I've heard Julie London's and Rosemary Clooney's versions of Black Coffee. I love Rosie, but her version absolutely pales next to Julie London's.
Ken Barnes posted 04/25/06 06:55 AM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
There have been several versions of "Black Coffee" ( among them - Rosemary Clooney, Julie London, Ella Fitzgerald and, as far as I know, only one male vocal by Bobby Darin. All of them pale beside Peggy Lee's classic 1953 version. Written by Sonny Burke and Paul Francis Webster, this was actually the title song of Peggy's first ever LP. It's still an incomparable classic. Oh, and one other track on this album, offers Peggy's superlative reading of "When The World Was Young." Mainly sung by male vocalists, Johnny Mercer also wrote a terrific set of female lyrics which Peggy sings to perfection.

It's little wonder that of all Bing's guests on radio, Peggy was the one who made more appearances than any other.

I reckon it would take at least three CDs to do full justice to their radio work together. Of course, quite a lot of songs were repeated, so maybe the most sensible and commercially viable answer would be to make it a 2-CD set.

Well, it's something to think about. And I'm thinking about it. But, in the meantime, I recommend that everyone go out and buy the "Black Coffee" album. It's a gem.
Judy Schmid posted 04/25/06 07:23 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Ken - we LOOOOOOVE it when you put your mind to thinking about something... ;-)
Ronald Sarbo posted 04/25/06 10:16 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Peggy Lee was Darin's only guest on the last show of his TV series in 1973.

Darin's version of "Black Coffee" is on the 1960 ATCO LP "This Is Darin" which has been issued on CD.
Dieter Beier posted 04/25/06 11:27 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Must be the radio output and the duets not at least similiar with Miss Clooney.Bing and Rosie began their broadcast teamwork with a Chesterfield Show, following about 18 GE-Shows and about 24 Ford Road Shows and 675 Crosby-Clooney Shows +3 Christmas Sings? Certainly on the last two show serials the Buddy Cole numbers were prerecorded and were used many times again and again-but there must be a lot of duets.

Unfortunately Bing and Peggy recorded only 7 songs commercially (two of them were taken from their radio shows). Merry-Go-Runaround with Bob and Bing together have a great appeal with Peggy´s voice instead of Dorothy Lamour´s. On the other side the White Christmas soundtrack would be better with Rosie (but there was the difficulties with the record companies!). Some of my dreams are, that Peggy and Bing would have recorded at least one concept album in the late 50th or early 60th, when Peggy´s voice was on a peak and Bing´s bass-baritone was ever very fine when he have got the right inspiration. The other dreams are a duet LP with Ella and a late teamwork album with Rosie and Bing in his late "Sunset Years".

Curious it is that Peggy and Bing didn´t record Life Is So Peculiar that they sung together in Mr Music - The Andrews got this honour.

In When The World Was Young also Bing shows his fine talent for the French section. I ever like it when Bing sings chanson material (my personal favorite is Piaf´s If You Love Me, I Won´t Care - one of Bing´s peak songs of the early 50S!).

Candace Scott posted 04/25/06 11:33 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Even though I've been woefully ignorant about Peggy Lee's musical career, I can share one brief "encounter'" I had with her.

Around 1977, Joan Fontaine had a one-woman show in which she toured American campuses and halls, talking about her career. Later on, Cary Grant and Bette Davis had similar shows.

I attended a Joan Fontaine evening in Claremont, California as a kid. She took questions from the audience and I asked her about Bing. She expressed essentially the same views about Bing as she had in her book ("he was cold").

After the show, I saw a bunch of people congregating in the foyer and Peggy Lee was standing amongst them. I remember she had dark glasses on. I was too shy to approach her, so I coerced my mom into doing so. I had her ask Peggy about Benny Goodman and Peggy said something like, "Oh! He is SO cheap! He probably has the first nickel he earned. A difficult man, a perfectionist." Then someone interrupted her and blocked my view and this minute was my one chance encounter with Miss Peggy Lee.

I wish now I would have asked her about Bing, whom she obviously much preferred to Benny.

Jon O. posted 04/25/06 11:38 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Peggy Lee's "Black Coffee" LP was originally released in 1953 as an 8 song, 10-inch record; in 1956 it was fleshed out into a "state of the art" 12-inch LP (and given a full color cover) when four songs were added, which had been specifically recorded for this purpose. I can't tell which songs were from what session by simply listening--it's a seamless presentation. Will Friedwald refers to "BC" as one of the first "concept" records in his liner notes to the CD.
Harley posted 04/28/06 02:30 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
Funny Jon O. should mention Friedwald. I VEHEMENTLY DISAGREE with Mr. Friedwald about early Peggy Lee recordings. I have a lot of early transcriptions where the girl is so clearly doing Billy Holiday karaoke that I find it painful to listen to. Will Friedwald claims she never copied Holiday that directly, which I think is wildly incorrect.

That said, Peggy (slowly) developed her own style, and became a really sensational artist. One album I like a lot is "Miss Wonderful," which I have on CD coupled with "Dream Street," another fine LP.
Lee posted 04/28/06 03:50 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I second the vote for Peggy's "Black Coffee" album, now CD. I had heard about this CD and just last year finally got a beautiful mastered CD of it. Sound is great and Peggy's interpretations of every song on it is even better. Anyone see the Peggy Lee PBS special? Great version of her singing "Fever" in a early b/w TV special. My mom says she remembers still seeing that special way back when and esp. Peggy's version of Fever on that TV show. I showed her my DVD of the program and it reminded her of that she had seen it when it was first on. I also hear another one of Peggy's best is a live album she did with the George Shearing Orchestra. I don't have this CD yet, but it's on my list to get.
Candace Scott posted 05/06/06 10:23 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Thanks to everyone for the recommendation for Peggy's "Black Coffee" LP. I ordered it on Amazon and listened to it several times today. A great album. I never much cared for female vocalists, but this is a fabulous concept album, sung beautifully. Thanks again.

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