Friday, July 6, 2018


My father sang with The Revelers quartet in the late 1920s.

As you may recall, back in 2015 I was contacted by Craig Phillips, who was doing his doctoral dissertation on male quartets of the 1920s. (See my post from 7/19/15.) We have been in touch over the years, and I am thrilled to report that there will be a presentation of "The Revelers Project" in  New York City, at the National Opera Center on July 11th.  For those of us who can't make it to NYC, the concert will be live streamed at 5:30 on that date, and here is the link:

Craig has also gotten some nice local press (out in Oregon, where he is a professor at Oregon University).  Here are some links:

And you'll find all sorts of interesting material at

See also my blog post of 7/6/17.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Postscript to the Indy 500

After posting about the Indy 500 a few days ago, I received several interesting photos from John J. O'Leary IV, with whom I have been in touch in recent months. (He is writing a book about Gustav Reuter and Reuter Coachworks, the premier car restorer who handled many of my father's cars over the years. More about John and his project in a later post.)

Anyhow, I would love to know how and why Clark Gable and my father were at the Race together, and what year it might have been. I imagine my parents got to know Gable when they were living in Hollywood in the 1930s while my father made several movies.  Oh to be a fly on the wall...

Any idea who the guy in the hat might be?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Indy 500

Always around this time of year I think of the Indianapolis 500 and my father singing "Back Home in Indiana" before the start of the race. In 1946 he supplied several antique cars from his collection for a pre-race lap. There's also the story that for one race, with the cars revving furiously behind him, he got a bit flustered and started to sing "My Old Kentucky Home" instead of "Back Home in Indiana."
He did this pre-race gig for a number of years, although I am not sure how many. Does anyone out there know?  He started this tradition which was later carried on by Vic Damone, Mel Torme, Dinah Shore and Jim Nabors.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Scale Model of 1901 Curved Dash Olds

This, the 57th anniversary of my father’s death (4/21/61), seems an appropriate place to re-start my on-again-off-again James Melton blog. (I do apologize for my laxity, the result of traveling and later recovery from hip replacement surgery.) My absence has not been for lack of material—far from it! There’s something new to talk about almost every week.

For instance, remember that half-size 1901 Curved Dash Olds my father carried on our yacht? (See blog entry July 19, 2010.) Just last week I heard from the grandson of the fellow who built it—Richard H. Francis. As his grandson, Jon, remembers it, his grandfather Dick built one to drive in the 1949 Mummers Parade in Philadelphia. My father saw it, and asked Dick to built one for him!

Thanks to Jon, who sent me photos of “Mabel,” the original car, which Dick copied for my father.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ford Festival TV Show

A scene from "La Traviata" on James Melton's TV Show, Ford Festival (1951)

A couple of weeks ago CBS’s “60 Minutes” did a rerun of their show about the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and what happened to them after their parents were executed for espionage in 1953.

Robert and Michael were adopted by Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne. What does this have to do with James Melton, you may ask? 

About six months ago I was contacted by David Newstead, who is writing a biography of Abel Meeropol. Meeropol, under the pen name of Lewis Allen, was a songwriter and social activist. He wrote the Billie Holiday song “Strange Fruit,” and the Frank Sinatra song “The House That I Live In” …and he worked on my father’s TV show “Ford Festival.” In fact, he wrote the theme music for the show.

Life is full of amazing discoveries!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

1901 Frisbee "Red Devil"

Back in January I heard from Diane Davis in California, who was looking for information on the 1901 Frisbie Red Devil car that was in may father’s museum. She is a Frisbie descendant, and was in the midst of putting together a book about the Frisbie family of inventors.

Her project has come to fruition and the book is out! Red Devils & Penny Shooters.  (The Penny Shooters refers to the cast iron mechanical toy banks made by the J&E Stevens Company, owned by the Frisbee family.)

As Diane says on the back of the book, “Russell Abner Frisbie would create and manufacture gasoline motors, Frisbie marine engines, and take part in the birth of the automobile industry with the creation of his Frisbie ‘Red Devil’ car.”

I did find a small photo of the Frisbie that my father owned. The photo is only about 3”x5” and there is a date of 1949 on the back (meaning it was in the Melton Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut).  I looked at the sign in front of the car with a magnifying glass, and here is what it says:

1901 Frisbie
1 cylinder water cooled planetary transmission
Built in Cromwell, Conn. and presented to the Melton Museum by its builder R.A. Frisbee

Thursday, July 6, 2017

More on The Revelers

My email conversation with Craig Phillips continues. He’s the fellow, you may remember, who was a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The focus of his dissertation is The Revelers, the male quartet my father sang with in the 1920’s.  (See my July 19th, 2015 post.) The actual title of his dissertation is: The Vocal Arrangements of Ed Smalle and Frank J. Black: Seven Performance Editions of Songs for Male Quartet Made Popular By The Revelers.

Craig has just received his doctorate this Spring.  Congratulations, Dr. Phillips! He also writes, “I'm happy to report that this Fall I am joining the music faculty of the University of Oregon as assistant professor of voice and vocal pedagogy. It's a big move for my family (swapping coasts!) but a great gig.”

In the two years since he first contacted me, Craig has been able to locate a number of other Revelers’ descendants, and has found marvelous materials that he has generously shared with me.

Here is a rare gem, a live performance photo of The Revelers (circa 1930) performing in NBC Studio H, showing their orientation to the microphone, where the piano was situated, the audience in front and the orchestra all around. And of course they're all wearing tuxedos!

This photo is from the collection of Craig Arnold, who is the grandson of Lewis James, one of the Revelers.