Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer of 1927



I've just finished a fascinating book:   One Summer – America, 1927 by Bill Bryson.

I always like Bryson's work, and the subject of this book seemed particularly intriguing to me. My father, helped by a loan from several Nashville businessmen, arrived in New York City to seek his fortune in the spring of 1927.  

On July 4, 1927 my father made his New York radio debut as a member of “Roxy's Gang.” Roxy was impresario, Samuel L. Rothafel. “Roxy’s Gang,” which was on the air from 1922 through 1931, was broadcast on the National Broadcasting Corporation’s Blue Network, Monday evenings at 7:30. My father joined Gang regulars Douglas Stanbury and Maria Gambarelli. (Over the years, such performers as orchestra leader Fred Waring, tenor Jan Peerce, baritone Leonard Warren, and radio personality Kate Smith were guests on the program.)

My not-yet famous father isn’t mentioned in Bryson’s book, but I was fascinated to know how many other amazing things occurred during that spring and summer of 1927—from Lindbergh’s flight, to Babe Ruth’s home run record, the execution of alleged anarchists Sacco & Vanzetti, Al Capone’s activities in Chicago, the dedication of Mount Rushmore, and on and on. A great read!  And for me, great background on what was happening at the moment my father embarked on his career.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

1893 Custom Built Steam Stage Coach

 This is from the souvenir booklet for the Melton Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut (1949)


This photograph of my parents is actually from the December 7, 1942 issue of Opera News
That was the date of my father's debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Tamino in "The Magic Flute." 



This is the car as it looks today. (Thanks for sending this, Mike.)

Back on April 2, 2012 I posted something about the oldest car in my father's collection, a 1893 custom-built steam stage coach.  Recently I had an email from Mike in Nevada, who is the current owner of this unusual vehicle!  One just never knows where cars formerly in the James Melton collection will turn up—and I'm always delighted to hear from their current owners.

This one, according to Mike, he bought five years ago. It had gone from Winthrop Rockefeller (who bought most of my father's collection from the Autorama in 1961), to Bill Harrah, to Bill Anderson, and now to Mike. 


Unfortunately, none of the sales records or inventories from my father's collection survived--so I don't know when my father bought the car, from whom,  or for how much.

I don't personally recall the car, as it stayed pretty much on display in the museum. Although I'm sure it ran; all of the cars in the collection did!  But it was not one of the cars my father drove frequently to meets, etc., like he did the 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and the 1913 Mercer Raceabout.  Those I do remember riding in frequently (and have photos to prove it). 

I wish I knew more about this unusual vehicle.  


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Melton Museum in Norwalk, CT



I've purchased many unusual items of Melton memorabilia on e-bay over the years, and even connected with a couple of cousins I didn't know about (we were bidding against each other on some item, and I e-mailed to find out who they were).  But my latest foray to the auction site yielded a Melton Museum souvenir catalog of cars in the Norwalk, Connecticut collection that has a reserve price of $1,500!  And a "buy it now" price of $2,500. Whoa!  I'd love to know if the seller gets any bids.  I have half a dozen of these catalogs in my collection. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nice review of my book


Here's another nice "bolt from the blue."  

Back in 2004 I had some correspondence with Jim Pegolotti, author of a biography of Deems Taylor (1885-1966)—the American composer, music critic and promoter of classical music.  I had enjoyed his book (Deems Taylor: A Biography, published by Northeastern University Press in 2003), and wrote inquiring if there had been any connection or interaction between my father and Taylor.  There hadn't. But Jim was kind and encouraging about my project.

At any rate, last month I had a nice letter from Jim, saying he had read my book, and here is what he wrote about it:

"You have written a uniquely compelling biography, for while your ostensible purpose is a chronology of th life of your father, you have written a fascinating story of three people: you father, your mother and you. A biography written by someone who lived with the subject provides a stronger emotional reaction on the reader than one written by a 'stranger.' With the exceptional letters of your mother covering the early years, the your recollections coming firmly in your father's final years, nothing could come closer to giving the reader the sense of a singer who ultimately lost control of himself. I suppose he gave in to the power of fame. And yet what a wonderful voice."

Thank you Jim!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Old Friends



I had a nice note (and book order!) from one of my far-flung correspondents this past week—Dave Strong from Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Our parents were friends and car collecting buddies from way back. Dave remembers being allowed to 'chauffeur' my father around Minneapolis in the Strong's 1915 Pierce Arrow.

Here's a photo of Dave's dad and mine, having what looks like a pretty serious conversation, probably taken in the late 1940s.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lebendige Vergangenheit restocked

Good news:  Berkshire Record Outlet has just restocked the Preiser CD — James Melton Lebendige Vergangenheit (Legendary Voices). It's the best price around, only $5.99 plus shipping. If you like opera, you'll love this CD.




Here's what's on it:




By the way, I don't derive any monetary benefit from the sale of these CDs, produced in Austria in 2008. I'm just delighted that they are out there for us all to enjoy.

Here is the link to Berkshire. It should take you directly to the James Melton CD:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

JM on TV's "American Pickers"

James and Marjorie Melton in 1903 Stanley Steamer


Oh my goodness, one never knows where Melton-related bits will turn up.  The other night, I was watching “American Pickers” on the History Channel. (In case you don’t know, it’s about two guys who, as the website says:  “…are on a mission to recycle America, even if it means diving into countless piles of grimy junk or getting chased off a gun-wielding homeowner’s land. Hitting back roads from coast to coast, the two men earn a living by restoring forgotten relics to their former glory, transforming one person’s trash into another’s treasure…”)

More often than not, the treasures they find have to do with automobiliana—from old gas station signs to vintage oil cans and car parts.

Last Wednesday night, in amongst the stuff of interest to pickers Mike and Frank was a Stanley Steamer pressure gauge (as I recall). There followed a very brief ‘history lesson’ about Stanley Steamers and the Stanley Brothers. By way of illustration of Stanley Steamer cars, there were two photographs shown:  One was of a Stanley in front of our instantly recognizable Weston, Connecticut garage. The other was of my parents waving from a 1903 Stanley Steamer!!! (The photo above.)  Each photo was on the screen for a just few seconds, but they jumped out at me instantly. Of course, the people were not identified, just the cars.