Thursday, May 21, 2009

50 years ago: Gypsy opened on Broadway


Jule Styne (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics)

The Musical

Opened on Broadway: May 21, 1959

Number of Performances: 702

Opened at London’s West End: May 29, 1973

Number of Performances: 300

Movie Release: November 1, 1962

Cast Album

Charted: July 20, 1959

Peak: 13 US

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: show tunes


Charted: December 15, 1962

Peak: 10 US

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: show tunes

Songs on Cast Album:

Song Title (Performers)

  1. Overture
  5. Baby June and Her Newsboys
  6. Mr. Goldstone, I Love You (ETHEL MERMAN)
  7. Little Lamb (SANDRA CHURCH)
  8. You’ll Never Get Away from Me (ETHEL MERMAN/ JACK KLUGMAN)
  9. Dainty June and Her Farmboys
  10. If Momma Was Married (SANDRA CHURCH/ LANE BRADBURY)
  11. All I Need Is the Girl (PAUL WALLACE/ SANDRA CHURCH)
  12. Everything’s Coming Up Roses (ETHEL MERMAN)
  15. Let Me Entertain You (SANDRA CHURCH)
  16. Rose’s Turn (ETHEL MERMAN)

Songs on Soundtrack:
  1. Overture
  2. Small World
  3. Some People
  4. Baby June And Her Newsboys (Let Me Entertain You)
  5. Mr. Goldstone, I Love You
  6. Little Lamb
  7. You'll Never Get Away From Me
  8. Dainty June And Her Farm Boys
  9. If Mama Was Married
  10. All I Need Is The Girl
  11. Everything's Coming Up Roses
  12. Together Wherever We Go
  13. You Gotta Have A Gimmick
  14. Let Me Entertain You
  15. Rose's Turn
  16. Finale


4.502 out of 5.00 (average of 9 ratings for cast album and soundtrack combined)

Quotable: “One of the crowning achievements of the mid-20th century’s conventional musical theatre art form” – Wikipedia

Awards (Cast Album and Soundtrack): (Click on award to learn more).

About the Show:

Critic Ben Brantley said Gypsy may be the greatest of all American musicals.” WK-C Frank Rich said it was “Broadway’s own brassy, unlikely answer to King Lear.” WK-C This 1959 tribute to burlesque was loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of famed striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. The story “casts an affectionate eye on the hardships of show business life” WK-C by following Gypsy’s mother, Rose, and her efforts to raise her daughters as performers.

Producer David Merrick had read a selection of the memoirs in Harper’s Magazine and sought the rights, knowing Ethel Merman was looking for a starring vehicle. Arthur Laurents was tapped to write the book and Stephen Sondheim, with whom Laurents had worked on West Side Story, was brought in to write the lyrics after Irving Berlin and Cole Porter declined. Merman wanted Jule Styne to write the music, but Sondheim initially refused since he wanted to write the music and lyrics – that is, until he was persuaded to take the job by Oscar Hammerstein. WK-C

The talents of Styne, who represented broad show business entertainment, and Sondheim, who symbolized more “modern, dark, psychological drama,” MWR made for a perfect balance. It “was considered the definitive Merman performance and the crowning achievement of her long career.” MWR Theater critic Clive Barnes described Rose as “one of the few truly complex characters in the American musical.” WK-C

The musical, which ran for 702 performances, introduced “the Merman standard Everything’s Coming Up Roses, and the song that is invariably used to introduce anything having to do with the strip tease, Let Me Entertain You.” MWR

In 1962, it was made into a film directed by Mervyn LeRoy. In his book The Musical Film, Douglas McVay said, “Fine as West Side Story is…it is equaled and, arguably, surpassed – in a rather different idiom – by another filmed Broadway hit: Mervyn LeRoy’s Gypsy.” WK-S

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 3/22/2011; last updated 12/23/2021.

Monday, May 18, 2009

50 years ago: Wilbert Harrison “Kansas City” hit #1

Kansas City

Wilbert Harrison

Writer(s): Mike Stoller (music), Jerry Leiber (words) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 3, 1959

Peak: 12 US, 11 CB, 3 GR, 12 HR, 17 RB, 13 CN (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 4.98 video, 9.91 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller met as students at Los Angeles City College in 1950. They became “the greatest songwriting team of the 1950s,” DM writing classics for Elvis Presley (“Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock”), Ben E. King (“Stand by Me”), the Drifters (“There Goes My Baby,” “On Broadway”), and the Coasters (“Young Blood,” “Searchin’,” “Yakety Yak”). However, it was “Kansas City” that “was their first defining song.” SS

The pair wrote the “bluesy coming-of-age song” MM in 1952. Stoller said that Kansas City was “the home of swing, jazz, and the blues” MM and “was known as a pretty wild place.” MM Neither had ever been there, but asked R&B musicians for the names of big streets in Kansas City. MM Houston-born singer and pianist Little Willie Littlefield recorded it as “K.C. Lovin’.” It failed to chart but was revived in 1955 by Little Richard as “Kansas City.” Four years later, Wilbert Harrison “made the song a massive crossover smash.” SS

Harrison, born in North Carolina in 1929. After finishing a stint in the Navy in 1950, he recorded for several small labels without a hit. He headed back home to Charlotte in 1956 and didn’t make another record for a couple of years. Bobby Robinson, a Harlem record store owner and blues label owner, then brought him to New York to record some gospel records. Harrison brought “Kansas City,” a song he’d performed since hearing Littlefield’s recording, to the session. The session was held late at night in Manhattan with Ike Turner on piano. In less than 30 minutes and at a cost of less than $40, they recorded the song “as a relaxed stroll with a shuffle beat.” MM

It ranks as “one of the outstanding Number Ones of the rock and roll era” DM and became “a standard in the modern blues repertoire.” DJ “Without having ever set foot in the town they were writing about, Leiber and Stoller had touched something deep in American culture.” SS


First posted 8/8/2023.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Today in Music (1959): The Flamingos “Eyed” the charts

I Only Have Eyes for You

The Flamingos

Writer(s): Harry Warren (m)/Al Dubin (l) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: May 4, 1959

Peak: 11 US, 10 CB, 5 GR, 11 HR, 3 RB, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 19.76 video, 81.39 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This Tin Pan Alley standard dates back to 1934 when it was introduced in the Busby Berkeley movie musical Dames by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. Cabaret singer Mary Cleere Haran called the song “one of the loveliest love songs written about big-city romance.” SS Ben Selvin took the song to #2 and Eddy Duchin and Jane Froman also charted that year with #4 and #20 versions respectively. PM A quarter century later, the Flamingos’ recorded it ““with elegant vocalizations and the otherworldly doo-bop-sh-bop.” RS500 It became “one of the most memorable hits of the doo-wop era.” TB

“There’s nothing about [their version of] this record that really relates to Ben Selvin’s or anybody else’s.” DM The song is marked by “its warm, ethereal backing vocals, the gently nagging, piano-led arrangement, and, most importantly, [Sollie] McElroy’s lilting lead vocal about a love that ‘must be a kind of blind love.’” TB

“Dubbed ‘The Sultans of Smooth,’ this Chicago quintet” RS500 formed in 1950, becoming “one of the greatest vocal groups of the doo-wop era.” RS500 In fact, in the liner notes for Rhino’s Doo-Wop Box, Bob Hyde said they were “possibly the finest R&B vocal group ever to record.” SS They displayed broad influences including “gospel..and the silken pop harmonices of the Mills Brothers and Four Freshmen as well as R&B-oriented groups.” DM By the end of the ‘50s, they’d “honed their onstage dance routines in the manner of 1960s groups like the Temptations” TB and, in fact, were a “clear influence on the Motown Sound” TB of that decade.

In 1975, Art Garfunkel recorded a version which hit the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was a #1 song on the adult contemporary chart and in the UK. It was also recorded by George Benson, Jerry Butler, the Lettermen, Johnny Mathis, and Frank Sinatra. The Fugees sampled the song on “Zealots” for their 1996 album The Score. SF


First posted 4/13/2020; last updated 1/17/2024.