MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, [a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook], I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
2022 marks the centennial year for the great singer Judy Garland, and I’ve been celebrating her on this show for the last few months. This week, I’ll be celebrating her yet again in the third and final episode in a Judy Garland series. Last time, we looked at her singing career on film, and this week, I want to focus on her post-1950 work, when she bounced back several times after hitting rock bottom. Coming up, I’ll showcase Garland’s reinventions as both a recording artist and a stage performer, including a look at her award-winning concert at Carnegie Hall in 1961.
It’s Judy Garland’s Comeback, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE”
Judy Garland in 1958 with the Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields song “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” with an added introductory verse likely written by Garland’s music director Roger Edens. That comes from her Capitol LP Judy In Love, arranged by Nelson Riddle.
MUSIC CLIP - STAN KENTON AND HIS ORCHESTRA, “SOPHISTICATED LADY”
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re featuring some of the post-1950 work of singer Judy Garland.
1950 was a turning point for Judy Garland’s career. It was the year that she was dropped by the film studio MGM, the place where she forged her career. It wasn’t without reason, either—she had become increasingly unreliable behind the scenes, struggling with addiction and mental illness.
It seemed to many that Garland’s career was over. But as we’ll discuss, a completely different side of her career was only just beginning.
The post-1950 career of Garland was one marked by several comebacks: she became a revered studio recording artist for Capitol Records, a star on television, and most of all, a much-celebrated live performer. Her live shows became legendary, attended by the show-business elite, along with mobs of adoring fans.
MUSIC CLIP - ARTIE SHAW, “YESTERDAYS”
This period, in particular, was the time that Judy’s gay male fan base grew. Garland became one of the first so-called “gay icons,” and this association has become such an integral part of her story, as well as her continued legacy throughout the decades. Many authors have examined this relationship between Judy and the many homosexual men who adored her. But I will say that this particular fan base seemed to love her not despite her troubles, but often, because of them.
As Garland biographer Manuel Betancourt put it, quote, “Her voice carried within it an invocation of shame, tragedy, desire, longing, and rejection that felt all too familiar to men (and women) who’d found themselves at the mercy of a society who mocked and discarded them.” (end quote) Garland’s ability to overcome, to bounce back stronger, despite the gossip, the strife, and the shame made her revered among an audience who could relate.
“Friend of Dorothy” became a underground slang term for a gay man, referring to Garland’s iconic role as Dorothy Gale in the Wizard Of Oz. The Stonewall Riots in June 1969, the starting point of the gay liberation movement, began the night of Judy Garland’s funeral on June 27 (a connection that’s probably more of a coincidence than a cause—although many people who were involved in the riot had attended the funeral earlier that day). And, of course, the rainbow, a symbol of gay pride since the late 1970s, has long had an association with Garland, thanks to one of her most recognizable songs.
Here is a studio recording of that song from this late period of her career. This is Judy Garland in 1955 with “Over The Rainbow,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “OVER THE RAINBOW”
Judy Garland, from her 1955 album Miss Show Business, and a performance of one of the most enduring songs in her career, “Over The Rainbow.”
MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “I GOT IT BAD (AND THAT AIN’T GOOD)”
As I said earlier, 1950 was the lowest point in Garland’s life. Increasing struggles with addiction and mental illness got her dropped from an MGM film she was working on, which was later followed by a publicized suicide attempt, a release from her contract at MGM, and later that year, a divorce from her husband Vincent Minelli. The following year, her first comeback came on the radio, as she made several successful appearances with Bing Crosby on his radio program. The two were old friends who recorded together several times in the 1940s—unfortunately, these radio duets are really hard to find in print today.
Based partly on her recent radio success, Garland was asked to perform in London at the London Palladium, a move that would revitalize her career as a “concert performer.” She spent four months performing in England in 1951 to rave reviews. A reviewer from The Evening Standard praised Garland’s performance as being better than her material, saying that she has, quote, “emerged from the shadows [to find] that the public likes her as she is, even more than what she was.”
MUSIC CLIP - BERT AMBROSE AND HIS ORCHESTRA, “SUGAR IS BACK IN TOWN”
The show itself was a co-creation between her music director Roger Edens and musician Oscar Levant, and it was less of a traditional concert as much as it was an old style vaudeville performance, along the lines of something Al Jolson would have done in the 1910s. It was a show steeped in nostalgia—not just for Judy’s own past (most of the songs were her old MGM film songs), but also for show business past. In fact, in one of the numbers, an “olio” medley of her past hits, she introduces it by placing herself in the tradition of a minstrel performer.
Now, scholars such as Brian Currid in his article “Judy Garland's American Drag” have unpacked some of the racial implications of Garland, a white singer performing for a largely white audience, aligning herself with the racist tradition of minstrelsy. After all, Judy did don blackface in several MGM films, and that fact remains a stigma on her reputation today. However, among many things that have to do with her early film career as a teenager, she didn’t necessarily have much of a choice over how she was portrayed on screen.
That said, it’s clear that Judy Garland considered herself first and foremost to be a traditional American stage performer. And, if you look at the history of American music, minstrelsy (warts and all) marks the beginning of America's own unique popular music performance tradition. And Judy is placing herself in that lineage.
Here’s Judy Garland with that number now it was recreated on her 1955 studio album titled Miss Show Business. This is “Judy’s Olio Medley,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “JUDY’S OLIO MEDLEY”
Several of Judy Garland’s film songs, assembled into a number called “Judy’s Olio Medley.” We heard in order, “You Made Me Love You” from the 1937 film Broadway Melody of 1938, “For Me And My Gal” from the 1942 of the same name, and “The Boy Next Door” and “The Trolley Song,” both from the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis. That recording comes from her 1955 Capitol LP titled Miss Show Business, which was largely a recreation of her live shows that she had initially made at the London Palladium in 1951.
The London Palladium concert performance led to an even more successful run of shows at The Palace Theater in New York, a Broadway theater that opened as a vaudeville house in 1913. Throngs of fans flocked to the shows, and every publication in town gave her rave reviews. A review in Life magazine said, quote “Almost everyone in the theatre was crying and for days afterwards people around Broadway talked as if they had beheld a miracle.” (end quote)
Her engagement there ran for four months. In addition to performing some of her past MGM film hit songs, like she did at the Palladium, Judy also added to the bill another medley called “Judy At The Palace.” This particular number extolled the legacy of the old vaudeville theater, while also featuring some traditional vaudeville numbers like “Shine On Harvest Moon” and “My Man,” as well as alluding to vaudeville’s past. Again, this was just yet another nostalgic way that Judy celebrated the history of American music, while also placing herself in that lineage.
Here’s a recording of that medley that she made in 1960 for the album The London Sessions. This is Judy Garland with “Judy At The Palace,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “JUDY AT THE PALACE”
Judy Garland with the medley “Judy At The Palace,” a number she had performed at her famous gig at The Palace Theater in New York City in 1951. That medley featured several old vaudeville songs, including “Shine On Harvest Moon,” “Some Of These Days,” “My Man” and “I Don’t Care.” That particular recording was made years later on her 1960 album The London Sessions.
MUSIC CLIP - JOE VENUTI AND EDDIE LANG, “SOME OF THESE DAYS”
We’ll discuss more of Judy Garland’s late career work in just a bit, stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - SHORTY ROGERS AND HIS GIANTS, “OVER THE RAINBOW”
MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring the many late career comebacks for singer Judy Garland this hour.
After her triumphant engagement at the Palace Theater in New York in 1951, Judy Garland spent much of the next several years mounting yet another comeback, this time on film. Her new husband Sid Luft helped produce and finance her work in the 1954 film A Star Is Born. Just like she did in her live performances at the London Palladium and The Palace Theater, she reached into the past to help mount her comeback. A Star Is Born was a remake of an award-winning 1937 film—it’s since gone on to be remade yet again two more times after 1954. And although Garland didn’t win any awards for her portrayal of the star on the rise—she was famously snubbed for the Academy Award in 1955—her performance on screen was praised by critics, as were the new songs she introduced, like “The Man That Got Away” from Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin.
MUSIC CLIP - JUDY GARLAND, “THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY”
The success of this film comeback led to a recording contract with Capitol Records in August 1955, the same label that produced records for such artists as Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. She released her first album for the label, titled Miss Show Business, on September 26, 1955, just two days after a CBS television special of hers aired. This was her first full-length studio album and her first television special, and both were released, yet again, to rave reviews. 40 million people watched the special, and the album reached the top 10 of the Billboard charts. Both the special and album, again, recreated parts of her now famous live performances in London and New York.
MUSIC CLIP - JUDY GARLAND, “ROCK-A-BYE YOUR BABY”
The following year, 1956, Judy created a second television special tied to a second album for Capitol, simply titled Judy. The album featured arrangements by Capitol’s house arranger Nelson Riddle, and featured what’s considered to be one of her best studio recordings. Let’s hear it now.
This is Judy Garland in 1956 with Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “COME RAIN OR COME SHINE”
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “I GOTTA RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES”
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “YES”
Some of Judy Garland’s best studio work from the late 1950s into the early 1960s. Just now, we heard the Dory and Andre Previn song “Yes,” from her 1960 album That’s Entertainment, arranged by Jack Marshall. Before that, the Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler song “I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues” from the 1957 album Alone, arranged by Gordon Jenkins. And starting that set, one of her signature studio recordings, “Come Rain or Come Shine,” from her 1956 album Judy, arranged by Nelson Riddle.
The late 1950s had its ups and downs for Judy Garland. She continued to ride her newfound wave of success, recording more albums for Capitol, starring in more television specials, and performing more extended engagements in places like Las Vegas and Los Angeles. However, she was also dealing with some of the toughest health struggles of her life, nearly dying after suffering from liver failure.
By 1960, Garland had yet again turned herself around, setting the stage for yet another comeback. This time, it was to be her most triumphant one yet. On April 23, 1961, she performed her most legendary concert, this time at the famed Carnegie Hall. It’s hard to overstate just how magical the night was for people who experienced it. Contemporary reviews in the New York Times called it “ a religious ritual.” The Long Island Daily Press compared Judy to “a great faith healer endowed with magical powers,” saying, quote “If the building had caught fire, I think [the audience would] have perished on the spot rather than leave her.”
The entire evening’s performance was captured on record and released as a double LP for Capitol Records. Judy At Carnegie Hall became the fastest-selling double LP at the time, reached number 1 on the Billboard Charts for 13 weeks, and earned five Grammy Awards, including Album of The Year. Garland became the first female artist to win that award.
I’ll play some excerpts from that memorable night now, beginning with Judy’s closer from Act I of the show, a rousing version of the song “San Francisco,” made famous by Jeannette MacDonald in the 1936 film San Francisco all about that city’s notorious 1906 earthquake.
Here is Judy Garland live in Carnegie Hall in 1961 with “San Francisco,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “SAN FRANCISCO [LIVE]”
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT [LIVE]”
Judy Garland, live from Carnegie Hall on a memorable evening, April 23, 1961. We heard the close of her first set, the song “San Francisco,” followed by the opening of her second set, “That’s Entertainment.”
Judy Garland’s final years have been much discussed in the media. There’s the musical End of The Rainbow, which was remade into the 2019 film Judy starring Renee Zellwiger, all about one of her last performances in the months leading up to her death in 1969. Garland was plagued by further health issues, more struggles with addiction, another divorce, and tax troubles in those finals. The decline really began around 1964, after the cancellation of one of her last major successes: her TV show.
In 1963, after creating a series of television specials for CBS for nearly a decade, Garland struck a deal with the network to create The Judy Garland Show, a weekly variety show. The series only ran for one season, but has since been considered an important landmark in television history. Judy, of course, sang on the show, which featured such phenomenal show biz guests as her old MGM buddy Mickey Rooney, Broadway legend Ethel Merman, singers Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, and Peggy Lee, and other musical icons like Lena Horne and Count Basie.
One of the most celebrated episodes of the program was episode 9, taped on October 6, 1963. Here, Judy teamed up with one of the biggest young singers of the day, a twenty-one year old Barbra Streisand. It was two generation-defining divas, at the top of their game, meeting for the very first time. One of the most memorable performances in this episode featured Garland taking one of her signature songs, “Get Happy,” and combining it in counterpoint with one of Streisand’s signature songs, a slowed-down version of “Happy Days Are Here Again.” The result is magical, greater than the sum of its parts.
Let’s hear it now. This is Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand on The Judy Garland Show in October 1963 with “Get Happy” and “Happy Days Are Here Again,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND AND BARBRA STREISAND, “GET HAPPY/HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN”
Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand in their live television performance on The Judy Garland Show in 1963, with “Happy Days and Here Again” and “Get Happy.”
Thanks for tuning in to this close look at the late career of Judy Garland, this week on Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - JUDY GARLAND, “CHICAGO/OVER THE RAINBOW [LIVE]”
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow