Friday, August 17, 2012

Jack Benny Fiddles With the Classics

Sheer fun this week, as I present a children's album by that still much-beloved American comedian, Jack Benny (1894-1974).  Ostensibly a recording designed to introduce kids to the glories of the classical violin literature (excellently played by his friend Issac Stern), in Jack's hands it becomes a delightful story showcasing many of the facets of his on-air persona - his vanity, his bad violin playing; even his catchphrase "Well!!!" is worked in.  The record also features spoken contributions from his wife, Mary Livingstone, and the ever-dependable Mel Blanc.  Note also the delightful underscore by Billy May which accompanies the story portions, which seems to work in everything from Jack's trademark Kreutzer etude and Paderewski's Minuet in G, to "Hooray for Hollywood."  I have owned and loved this LP since my college days, when I purchased it from a local used record shop (my apologies for the nasty "cut-out" snip in the scan above, but that's how it was when I bought it!).  The album is a 1978 reissue of a 1956 release originally titled "Jack Benny Plays The Bee, Ably Assisted by Issac Stern":

"Jack Benny Fiddles With the Classics"
Jack Benny, Mary Livingstone, Mel Blanc, speakers
Issac Stern, violin, with orchestra conducted by Izler Solomon
Incidental Music composed and conducted by Billy May
Capitol Special Markets L-8108, one 12-inch LP record
Link (FLAC file, 95.93 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 46.6 MB)

That Jack Benny actually could play the violin quite well, when he wanted to, is proven by this YouTube posting of an excerpt from a 1961 concert in Carnegie Hall, where he plays the first movement of the Bach Double Concerto with Issac Stern (and Eugene Ormandy conducting):

YouTube link

1 comment:

  1. I've been hoping to hear this again for a long time now! Thank you very much. I love the speeded up Benny voice to represent him as a youngster!