Thursday, November 01, 2012

Harry James, Plaza Gardens - August 1972

I have acquired a big bunch of slides from the 1970's featuring various big band legends performing at the Plaza Gardens. They get a bit repetitive, but I definitely want to share the best of them with you once in a while.

Today we'll have a look at Harry James and his Big Band. Harry was 56 in 1972. Did you know he was once married to Betty Grable? Hubba hubba! His band was the first to employ a young singer named Frank Sinatra in 1939, and at one point, Buddy Rich was part of his orchestra. Here he is, blowing his horn!

Wikipedia says that Harry was known for his "astonishing technical proficency as well as his superior tone". His first big hit was "You Made Me Love You", which was in the top 10 when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

The drummer in the background is, as you can see, Sonny Payne. Sonny played with Count Basie's orchestra from the mid-1950's to 1962. When Buddy Rich left Harry James' orchestra, Sonny Payne replaced him. You can find clips on YouTube of Sonny playing with Harry James!

I wish I knew the name of this lovely singer, but could find no information. If anybody has a clue, please leave a comment!

A few brave souls take to the dance floor. My friend said that there were many nights when he couldn't get near the stage, but then there would be nights where nobody was there, which must have been disheartening to the performers. Show biz! It's a tough racket.


TokyoMagic! said...

I don't think the Princesses will be as entertaining as this. :-(

Rich T. said...

I second TokyoMagic's comment. My parents would attend these shows every evening of our annual DL vacation while I ran off on my own to explore the park at night.

Nowadays, I'd be the one listening to the great music! :)

Melissa said...

When I was a kid, we had a sofabed in the family room upholstered in fabric almost identical to Harry's jacket. It used to leave little zigzag imprints on your skin if you sat on it too long.

K. Martinez said...

I remember this. What an era that was at Disneyland. I mostly remember Carnation Plaza Gardens for it's local talent performances from various community organizations and area schools. What memories!

This area changing to "Princess" Fantasy Faire doesn't bother me too much, as it was already a ghost of what it once was anyway. Time marches on.

Anonymous said...

@K Martinez. I kind of agree. I hate to see the old places erased, but when I walked through there last trip, it was sad to see it empty. There's no market for saving it as a historic place unless someone appreciates the history that was made there. Someday, Gettyburg will be completely paved over, because no one will remember why it was special.

Music and dancing like that just isn't popular like it used to be and the youngsters have moved on to the entertainment outside in the Downtown Disney area.

My parents were not big dance fans, but I remember seeing the signs for the big names and hearing the music as a boy.

Now, I much prefer this big band and jazz style to the so-called "rock and roll music" of my youth.

Major, thank you for the classic pictures of a bygone era, now lost forever.


PsySocDisney said...

I took a jazz history class in college and though the class itself was dreadful I did get to hear the greats of jazz and big bands and I fell in love with the music. I imagine hearing these guys at the happiest place on earth would be like sprinkles on top of ice cream :)

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, considering that it is an area pretty much designed to appeal to little girls, I'd say you are right!

Rich T., I wonder, does ANY band with a great history ever play at Disneyland any more?

Melissa, did anybody fall asleep on the sofabed and have the zigzags on half of their face?

K. Martinez, since the Plaza Gardens had been all but abandoned for some reason, maybe it will become a lively place again, which would be great.

JG, you're welcome!

Hannahx2, I wish I had more of an appreciatiion of jazz... I love big bands, but just don't have much knowledge about serious jazz.

TokyoMagic! said...

Right up until it's closing just last Spring, Plaza Gardens was very popular on Saturday nights (and maybe Fridays too) with Swing Dancing. And it was still being used regularly during the daytime for school group performances.

Snow White Archive said...

I would've really enjoyed experiencing the Big Bands at the Plaza Gardens. Go Harry go!

Melissa said...

Yes, Major, I spent plenty of Saturday morning looking like Harvey Dent.

The Viewliner Limited said...

WOW!!! This is the coolest man! MORE! MORE! MORE!

Chuck said...

My wife and I used to go there and dance every other Saturday as young twenty-somethings in the mid-nineties. We weren't the only "youngsters" there, either. Sad to see this go.

Nancy said...

extra nice....those were definitely the days

Unknown said...

The singer was Sundi Martino.
My wife is Cheryl Morris. She sang with Harry and many other bands at Carnation Plaza.

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck Par-Due, thank you for the information! I have more slides of big bands playing at the Carnation Plaza Gardens, it's high time I scanned some of them.

Anonymous said...

The lovely lady in the picture is my husbands aunt. Her name is Mimi De Joseph but not sure if she had a stage name. We will tell her baout this