Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Monday, November 12, 2012
In February of 1942, as the last civilian car rolled off the Ford assembly line, my father had 76 cars and one “A” ration book (limiting his weekly fuel purchases). The ancient buggies all ran, but he certainly couldn’t drive them during the war, except the steam cars and the electrics. The electrics became so popular in Fairfield County that my father supplied a number of friends with cars from his collection "for the duration."
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
A couple of weeks ago I went to a really delightful luncheon at the Woodstock, Vermont home of Curt and Pat Blake. Curt was one of my father's car-collecting buddies, and has remained a friend of mine to this day. The luncheon was a gathering of the FARTs -- Friends of Ancient Road Transportation--and there were about twenty-five gorgeous brass era cars in attendance. During lunch Curt regaled the attendees with stories of car collecting, including the fact that it was my father who, after WWII, got Firestone to resurrect their old tire molds, and quite literally helped put these ancient buggies back on the road. I also had a chance to meet Richie Clyne, who currently owns my father's 1917 Winton House Car. (See my blog from November 5, 2009.) The housecar resides in Las Vegas. What a fun day!
Friday, August 24, 2012
Berkshire Record Outlet has just restocked the Preiser CD Lebendige Vergangenheit (Legendary Voices) James Melton. If you like opera, you'll love this recording. And it's only $5.99 through Berkshire. It's got arias from Don Giovanni, Magic Flute, Lohengrin, Meistersinger, Manon, Carmen, Martha, Tosca, Butterfly (w.Licia Albanese) among others.
Berkshire also offers CDs of Melton in Madama Butterfly (with Albanese) and Mignon (with Rise Stevens).
Go to http://www.berkshirerecordoutlet.com/search.php?row=0&brocode=&stocknum=&submit=Find+Item&text=james+melton&filter=all
By the way, I get no financial remuneration from any of these recordings. My vested interest is only in seeing my father's voice circulating as widely as possible!
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Saturday, August 4, 2012
The photo credit on the reverse indicates it was taken in Washington, D.C. That would coincide with the passengers in the car. That's me in the passenger seat, with the Confederate army cap my father insisted I wear when we were anywhere near the Mason-Dixon Line. In the back seat, behind Daddy is his sister Virginia Cain; next to her (mostly hidden) is my companion Agnes Pazdan; then Virginia's daughter and my sometime playmate, Kathy; and finally, my mother.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
In the fall, Peter and I will be doing a program on James Melton. Stay tuned.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Monday, June 4, 2012
Friday, April 27, 2012
As I am about to head off on a brief European vacation (Paris for a week), I thought it appropriate to post a photo I found of my father with The Revelers on their European tour in 1928.
The Revelers were born in 1925 from an older group called the Shannon Quartet, so named because Irish songs were very popular 1918 when they first came together to make recordings for the Victor Company. Until 1925, they were only heard in recordings and on the radio, but in the summer of that year they started making concert tours, including one to Great Britain where they sang for the Prince of Wales and Princess Mary. The original group consisted of Lewis James and Charles Hart (tenors), Elliott Shaw (baritone) and Wilfred Glenn (bass). In 1925, Charles Hart left the group, and was replaced by Franklyn Bauer. In due time he too left to pursue a solo career, and the quartet went in search of another tenor. In 1927, Dr. Frank Black became their accompanist and arranger. And they hired James Melton as first tenor.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Monday, April 2, 2012
The oldest car in the Melton collection was 1893 custom steam stagecoach, which looked rather like a horse-drawn carriage with engines added front and rear.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
When I was growing up, there was not the intensity of planned lessons and activities for children that there is today, and I was left to amuse myself much of the time. But I was rarely left alone, as my father had an almost paranoid fear of my imminent dismemberment or death. (There was always a governess or companion in my life until I was about eight years old.) As a result, I never learned French or how to play the piano, nor did I become an accomplished tennis player, sailor or equestrienne...though I dabbled in all of the above on my own terms. My father bought me a half-size violin, which I never played. He gently pushed me to take piano lessons. But living with a father who played by ear, I was not content to start from ground zero with scales, for heavens sake, and gave up very early in frustration. The photo above is wishful thinking, shall we say.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
If any of you get to LA in the near future, and could send me a photo, I'd really appreciate it!
Monday, February 13, 2012
But my friend in Maine, Conway Stone, found an ad from 1935, in Popular Science magazine, which has my father endorsing Carborundum Sharpening Stones which aid in keeping his tools sharp for making the model of his boat Melody. I knew he had a scale model of the yacht, but I certainly didn't think he constructed it himself! The Melody model (whoever made it) traveled with the Meltons to California in 1936 when my father was called back to Hollywood by Warner Brothers to make "Sing Me a Love Song" and "Melody for Two."
Thursday, February 2, 2012
While doing research for the biographical memoir of my father, I was drawn to Joan Benny’s biography of her father, Sunday Nights at Seven. The book I was writing was based largely upon an unpublished manuscript by my mother—just as Joan’s book used an unpublished manuscript of her father’s. I was intrigued by how she intertwined her own memories with those of her parents. Plus, there was the fact that my father had been on Jack’s radio show a number of times in the mid 1930s; he and Jack shared an affinity for antique cars; and the Meltons and the Bennys each had adopted a baby girl. I felt a special bond with Joan.
On a very personal level, Joan’s recollections of growing up were remarkably close to mine in many ways. The Meltons and the Bennys both impressed upon their only daughters how lucky we were to be adopted, because we were “chosen”—that made us special.
We shared the enigma of our parents’ relationship to each other, especially the separate bedrooms. This was always explained to me as a result of my father’s erratic schedule, often necessitating the need to sleep until noon, while my mother had to be up early to get me off to school.
As children, Joan and I both liked our milk served warm rather than ice cold. Joan says in the book it’s because in the 1930s it was believed that cold milk was bad for children. Whatever the reason, I too grew up liking warm milk.
Jack sized up TV as a “man-eating monster” which gave performers too much close-up exposure and lead to audience disinterest quicker than radio. How true! My father’s TV show, “Ford Festival,” lasted only two years, while his radio career lasted for twenty.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
from the Autorama brochure extolling the mural and its artist
Just a bit more about the Autorama and the America the Beautiful mural:
While on concert tour, my father had discovered the artist, Bernard Thomas, in Montana and commissioned him to paint a cycloramic three dimensional mural, to be housed in its own circular room, depicting the history of the United States. Recorded narration was provided by Daddy’s good friend, radio commentator and explorer Lowell Thomas, and musical accompaniment was supplied, of course, by James Melton. As the brochure enthused, “Picture yourself in the soft-lighted Mural Room...America the Beautiful being sung by the nation’s favorite tenor...America’s most renowned commentator is telling the story of America the Beautiful, unfolding scene after scene, until song and story have completely swept you through 300 years of our nation’s history.”
My father invested not just his money but his heart in the Autorama. He welcomed people to it as if it were his home. While researching the book about my father, I received a letter from George Roberts of Middletown, New York, which tells such a story: “As my family and I were walking around the museum, we came upon Mr. Melton's office. The door was open. We waited until he got off the phone. He was very cordial. I said how enjoyed his singing. He was surprised that someone so young knew of his music. I started to sing one of the songs from a record I had, and he sang along with me. Then he arranged for us to be taken for a ride around the grounds in an old Dodge touring car. After our ride, he recommended a friend’s restaurant to us for dinner. We went there and were given a warm welcome and great service at the mention of James Melton’s name. We were so impressed with the warmth your father showed us that day that after forty years I can still remember him with fond memories.”
Saturday, January 7, 2012
The article(s) in the Palm Beach Post on the Autorama have led me to some information about Bernard Thomas, who painted the America the Beautiful mural there.
As you know, the Autorama closed in October 1961. Someone bought the 153-foot mural to decorate a bar, but when they were unable to obtain a liquor license, the mural vanished. It was found in 1979 behind a real estate office in Boynton Beach, Florida. Gene Moore, the attorney who discovered it, contacted Bernard Thomas, then living in Boynton Beach, and asked him to restore it. Thomas restored it over the following six months. He and the Boynton Beach Rotary Club donated the mural to the Boynton Beach Womens Club, to be housed in their Addison Mizner-designed clubhouse.
Thomas, born in Sheridan, Wyoming in 1918, became a camouflage technician at the outbreak of WWII. Later he served in the US Army in Europe. At the recommendation of General George S. Patton, Thomas studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Upon his return to the USA, he became known for his Western art and documentary murals. Thomas died in 1992.