MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
This week on the program, we’re continuing our celebration of the 100th birthday of arranger Nelson Riddle. Riddle had an unmistakable style: harmonically rich, texturally diverse, with a classy swing on upbeat tunes, and a romantic elegance on ballads. Riddle was probably most famous for his work with Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra in the 1950s, which I discussed at length in previous episodes. But those were not his only collaborators — many, many notable singers from this era worked with him. On this show, I’ll be exploring Nelson Riddle arrangements with singers like Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, and Ella Fitzgerald.
It’s Nelson Riddle’s Other Favorite Singers, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - ELLA FITZGERALD, “THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT”
Ella Fitzgerald with the Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields song “The Way You Look Tonight.” That comes from her Jerome Kern songbook album, recorded for Verve Records in 1963 with arrangements by Nelson Riddle. The following year, Riddle arranged a completely different version of this jazz standard for Mr. Frank Sinatra.
MUSIC CLIP - FRANK SINATRA, “THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT”
MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON AND NELSON RIDDLE, "A SLEEPIN' BEE"
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re exploring the work of arranger Nelson Riddle, who would have turned 100 years old this week. Riddle is primarily known for his groundbreaking work with both Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra in the 1950s, helping to shape some of their most famous and artistically creative songs and albums. I covered Nat and Nelson and Frank and Nelson in previous episodes, so you won’t be hearing from them this hour.
Instead, we’re going to look at a few of Nelson’s other favorite singers during this time, and frankly, it’s pretty much a who’s who of American Popular Song from the 1950s.
We’ll start with one of Frank Sinatra’s closest pals at this time, fellow Rat Pack member and Capitol labelmate Dean Martin. Riddle and Martin worked together on a few singles and albums around 1960, which also happened to coincide with Martin and Sinatra’s legendary years living it up at the Sands Casino in Las Vegas and starring in films like Ocean’s 11. You may say that Riddle is really the one responsible for that late-night, swingin’ Vegas, Rat-Pack style.
Here is Dean Martin and Nelson Riddle with two songs from 1960, beginning with the song “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, “AIN’T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD”
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, “YOU’RE NOBODY ‘TIL SOMEBODY LOVES YOU”
Dean Martin with two classic songs he recorded with arranger Nelson Riddle in 1960. Just now, we heard “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You,” and before that “Ain’t That A Kick in the Head.” Martin performed that latter song in the 1960 Rat Pack film Ocean’s 11 (although not with Nelson Riddle’s arrangement).
The next singer I want to feature alongside arranger Nelson Riddle is Miss Peggy Lee. And this next recording also comes from Sinatra’s orbit. In 1957, Lee was without a record label, and Sinatra (who was her neighbor out in Los Angeles) had helped court her to join (or really rejoin) Capitol Records. Her first album for the label was called The Man I Love, featuring a picture of her and her new husband Dewey Martin on the cover.
Riddle was asked to do the arrangements, although this was one of the few albums of his arrangements that he did not conduct. Instead, it was Sinatra himself who was waving his arms at the podium. The session produced one particular iconic song, and one that resonated with Lee in particular. It was the Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein song “The Folks Who Live On The Hill,” and the song’s picture of domestic bliss was something that Lee constantly strived towards, but never quite achieved.
Here is Peggy Lee in 1957 with Nelson Riddle’s arrangement of “The Folks Who Live On The Hill,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - PEGGY LEE, “THE FOLKS WHO LIVE ON THE HILL”
Peggy Lee with one of her signature songs “The Folks Who Live On The Hill.” That comes from her 1957 album The Man I Love, conducted by Frank Sinatra with arrangements by Nelson Riddle.
Nelson Riddle and Peggy Lee teamed up for another session later that year which became the Capitol LP Jump For Joy. As opposed to the dreamy album The Man I Love, Jump For Joy channeled some of Riddle’s light and airy sense of swing, while still remaining sly and sexy to match Lee’s performing style.
Here are two songs from that session now, beginning with the Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jule Styne song “Just In Time,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - PEGGY LEE, “JUST IN TIME”
MUSIC - PEGGY LEE, “BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD”
Peggy Lee with “Back In Your Own Backyard” and “Just In Time.” Both songs come from the 1957 Capitol LP Jump For Joy, featuring arrangements by Nelson Riddle.
Our next Nelson Riddle collaborator is singer Keely Smith. In 1956, Smith and her husband Louis Prima were signed to Capitol Records as a duo, based on their fame as a Vegas lounge act. But as part of the contract, Prima negotiated for Smith to have her own solo contract, and with that came two albums recorded with Capitol’s most successful arranger Nelson Riddle. Riddle helped Smith emerge from under the shadow of Prima, transforming her from a mere comic foil on stage to a true ballad singer.
Here is Keely Smith and Nelson Riddle from the 1957 LP I Wish You Love with “Fools Rush In,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - KEELY SMITH, “FOOLS RUSH IN”
MUSIC - KEELY SMITH, “YOU GO TO MY HEAD”
Two songs by Keely Smith: “You Go To My Head” and “Fools Rush In,” both from the 1957 Capitol LP I Wish You Love. Those arrangements were by Nelson Riddle.
MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON AND NELSON RIDDLE, "JUDY"
In just a bit, we’ll hear from some other of Nelson Riddle’s favorite singers (in honor of the arranger’s 100th birthday). Stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - NELSON RIDDLE, "GONE WITH THE WIND"
MUSIC CLIP - NELSON RIDDLE, "DAY IN DAY OUT"
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring the work of arranger Nelson Riddle this hour with singers who were not named Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole. I explored his work with them on previous episodes. Nelson Riddle would have turned 100 years old this month.
Let’s turn now to his work with singer Ella Fitzgerald. When Ella Fitzgerald and producer Norman Granz began their songbook project in 1956, recording the catalogs of many of the great early 20th-century songwriters, Granz initially thought that Nelson Riddle was the best arranger for the job. However, Riddle was under an exclusive contract with Capitol, and Granz wanted to record the project for his new record label Verve. It took three years, and a hefty sum of money, for Riddle and Fitzgerald to finally team up on a songbook album. It was the songbook of George and Ira Gershwin,and Granz was going to make sure he got his money’s worth. Ella and Nelson recorded nearly 60 songs for the album over the course of eight months. The result was a masterpiece of elegant pop, which even included a Grammy award for this next recording.
Here is Ella Fitzgerald and Nelson Riddle in 1959 with “But Not For Me,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - ELLA FITZGERALD, “BUT NOT FOR ME”
MUSIC - ELLA FITZGERALD, “PICK YOURSELF UP” / “I HEAR MUSIC”
Ella Fitzgerald and arranger Nelson Riddle. First in that set was the Gershwin song “But Not For Me,” one of the tracks from their 1959 Gershwin songbook album. Riddle would also arrange Ella’s Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer songbook albums in the 1960s. And just now, the song “Pick Yourself Up” (the song “I Hear Music”). That comes from the 1962 album Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson.
When pop stars of the 1940s and early 1950s tried to remold their image into elegant crooners of jazz standards in the late 50s and early 1960s (let’s call this ‘the Frank Sinatra approach’), they often turned to Nelson Riddle to help them with arrangements. His sound had become so ubiquitous and consistent.
Here now are two multi talented entertainers who turned to RIddle for help. I’ll begin with Rosemary Clooney, who worked with Riddle on the 1961 RCA album cleverly titled Rosie Solves The Swingin’ Riddle. This is “You Took Advantage Of Me,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - ROSEMARY CLOONEY, “YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME”
MUSIC - DINAH SHORE, “I’M OLD FASHIONED”
Dinah Shore in 1959 from her album Dinah, Yes Indeed with the song “I’m Old Fashioned,” and before that Rosemary Clooney in 1961 from the album Rosie Solves The Swingin’ Riddle with the song “You Took Advantage Of Me.” Both of those songs were arranged by Nelson Riddle.
Another artist who turned to Nelson Riddle for a late career boost was Judy Garland. In the mid 1950s, Garland’s career was on an upswing, after the success of the film A Star Is Born. She was signed to Capitol Records, and made some of her best recordings of her entire career with Riddle’s elegant and nuanced arrangements supporting her.
This is Judy Garland in 1956 with Nelson Riddle’s arrangement of the song “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “ANY PLACE I HANG MY HAT IS HOME”
MUSIC - MAVIS RIVERS, “FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE”
Capitol Recording artist Mavis Rivers from her 1959 album Take A Number, with the fifth track “Five O’Clock Whistle,” an old swing era tune. Before that, Judy Garland in 1956 with the Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer tune “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home.” Both of those arrangements were by the one and only Nelson Riddle.
In the late 1960s into the 1970s, Nelson Riddle mostly abandoned the world of singers and standards for Hollywood. He became a notable composer and conductor for film and television, writing music for shows like Batman and Route 66, and scores to films like The Great Gatsby. But by 1980, the “Nelson Riddle sound,” once so ubiquitous and beloved, had become cliched and a marker of a bygone era. Yet, some artists appreciated the gifts he could bring to a recording session. Some reached out—Riddle had once turned down Paul McCartney when he asked for an arrangement. But he agreed to work with singer Linda Ronstadt when she was seeking to record music from the Great American Songbook.
Ronstadt was one of the first major artists of the post rock ‘n’ roll era to take a serious look back at the music of the jazz era. Her trio of albums featuring jazz standards were all arranged by Nelson Riddle, and became Platinum selling hits and Grammy award winners. It was Riddle’s last hurrah. He passed away in 1985, before the release of Ronstadt’s third album.
To close off this hour, here’s a track off of their first album together in 1983 called What’s New? This is Linda Ronstadt and Nelson Riddle with Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do?” on Afterglow
MUSIC - LINDA RONSTADT, “WHAT’LL I DO?”
Linda Ronstadt and arranger Nelson Riddle in 1983 with Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do?” That comes from one of Riddle’s last albums called What’s New?
Thanks for tuning in to this Nelson Riddle celebration on Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - NELSON RIDDLE, "YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG"
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