The Legends Series Archive

 

ROY ROGERS

Meeting your childhood hero live- in person is a thrill of a lifetime. Imagine what a blessing that is. Imagine meeting and getting to know all your childhood hero’s. That blessing has happened to me.
As a youngster going to the movies and seeing your idol or star up their on the giant screen was nothing short of breathtaking. My hero’s were Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger Hopalong Cassidy and Flash Gordon. When my family bought their first television Saturday morning was nothing short of fantastic on this new entertainment medium. One hero after another!
ROY ROGERS. King of the Cowboys.

To me Roy was the coolest of cool. He could ride like the wind, Shoot and never kill. Sing with such style and most of all he embodied truth, moral courage, honesty, integrity and loyalty.
I can’t remember any American more popular than Roy Rogers in the early 1950’s.
There were re- released movies ever week at our local theatre. Roy starred in over 80 feature films. Saturday mornings with Roy, Dale, Trigger, Buttercup and Bullet on our TV was a tradition. Roy filmed over 100 TV episodes on his ranch in California. Every drug store and candy shop had the newest Roy Rogers comic book on display. Sears ( Sears Roebuck) had a whole section devoted to him. My bedspread was a Roy Rogers special edition. Roy was the second most popular character -related merchandising character behind only Walt Disney. Roy’s picture was on my Post Cereal box. I looked on the internet and over 2 1/2 billion boxes of cereal feature Roy on the cover. It was Roy who created The Sons Of The Pioneers. There is a great book on Roy and it’s called ” It’s always been about the music! We may never return to the Sons of the Pioneers days but their music will live forever!


HOW I MET ROY.
Roy’s wife, Dale Evans (“Queen Of The West”) had a syndicated television show on many of the Christian cable channels. One such channel was Super Channel 55 in Orlando, Florida. My dear friend Miller Goodman was general manager of that station. That’s where I recorded my early VHS shows and later several of my DVD’s. Miller directed, edited or oversaw all of my productions. He was also a magnificent keyboard player and never missed getting the right keyboard close up shot. While having a lunch break with the crew Miller mention that the station was carrying Dale’s show. I talked about being a Roy Rogers fan and he said ” The next time you’re in California call me and I’ll set up an interview with Dale that we can use at the station and you will meet Roy too. Two months later I was playing in Laguna Hills and took 3 days off and drove to Victorville, Ca. to meet Dale at The Roy Rogers Museum.

The museum was huge and the first third was about Roy, Dale and their children. In one word Spectacular. The rest of the museum had memorabilia from their movies and their television shows. The picture below was taken about a half our after we taped the interview

In the museum they had a small theatre called The Sidekick Theatre. That’s where I first met Roy. You could see clips from their movies and television shows that featured mostly Pat Brady and Gabby Hayes. Roy told me that Gabby (Real name George) was like his Dad, brother and best friend. “I loved him and I miss him every day of my life. I know God will let me be with my friend in his time.”
The picture below was taken out front of the sidekick theatre. To the right of us was Trigger. Roy said, “You know if I don’t take care of myself Dale will have me stuffed and I”ll be up on trigger”. Then Roy laughed. Before we said goodbye from that first visit Roy yodeled for a minute or so and I can still recall that sound to this day.

I was a proud member of The Roy Rogers Riders Club.
These were the by-laws.
1. Be neat and clean.
2. Be courteous and polite.
3. Always obey your parents.
4. Protect the weak and help them.
5. Be brave but never take chances.
6. Study hard and learn all you can.
7. Be kind to animals and care for them.
8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
9. Love God and go to Sunday school regularly.
10. Always respect our flag and our country.

I am so blessed to have met The King of the Cowboys and The Queen of the West!

Rosa Rio

Rosa Rio has a very special in my heart. I knew Rosa from 1953 to her passing in 2010. She was 107 years young and only 3 weeks away from her 108 birthday. Rosa had a delightful spirit if life. At the age of 106 Rosa was still performing concerts on the mighty theatre organs. She could at 2 hour concert, with no intermission ,visit with the audience, take pictures and then go to dinner and be the life of the evening!

Rosa Rio had a remarkable career and Rosa.was one of the early Hammond artists who popularized having an organ in your home.

Rosa started performing on the Mighty Theatre Organ accompanying the Silent movie and also concertizing throughout the world. When radio became popular the organ was the perfect instrument to accompany all the soap operas, game shows, interview shows and comedy shows. Rosa created the accompaniment for 40 famous weekly and daily shows including My True Story, Lorenzo Jones and Bob and Ray. Her most famous show was The Shadow.

This next statistic is amazing.
Rosa created the musical scores for over 370 silent movies!!!!!

ROSA and DENNIS Rosa and I performed together for the first time doing The Battle Of The Silents. Two organists using all their tricks of the trade accompanying the same movie at the same time! We had a ball. Our adrenaline was racing thru our minds. We had a 3 minute standing ovation. What an honor that was for me. I was in my 50’s and she was in her eighties and believe me it took all I had to stay up with Rosa. I can still see her smile as we both did the same run at the same time.

After that concert we went for a little snack. Rosa started to reminisce about her early years. She said when she first started doing the shows all the music was done live as the musicians union forbade any prerecorded music. There was no rehearsal time. You had to know your craft. Some shows that were broadcasted had to be performed several times to accommodate the different time zones.

Rosa received the script of the show about 5 minutes before show time. Sometimes their would be some suggestions from the director but usually Rosa created the accompaniment to go with the actors reading. Her favorite actor was Orson Wells. She said he was a super talented genius and he had a wonderful sense of humor.

Rosa also played organ on the Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge radio show on ABC.

This picture shows Rosa and myself on the a Theatre Organ elevator at the Tampa Theatre moments before she played a full concert . She was 107 at this time! I believe this is the last picture taken of Rosa.

God Bless Rosa Rio.

As a special gift here are two
theme arrangements of another two of radio’s greatest shows…

Dennis Awe


 

Johnny Mercer

Johnny Mercer is one of America’s giants in the music industry. He was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1909. Johnny wrote song lyrics for over 600 songs plus he contributed to 88 movies.  (That’s more movies than Irving Berlin and Cole Porter combined!)

Johnny Mercer was the found of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  He was also co-founder of Capital Records.  Johnny’s early claim to fame was that he as a feature vocalist with Paul Whiteman and his orchestra.  One of Johnny’s first duties with Paul Whiteman was writing a song a week for the Kraft Musical Hall on radio.

              He met Hoagie Carmichael, and together they had their first big hit; Lazybones.

Johnny and his wife Ginger moved to Hollywood and Johnny’s musical gifts made him an industry giant almost overnight.

In 1940, Harold Arlen and Johnnny Mercer wrote “Blues In The Night”.  The song was so popular, it became the title and theme of a Bing Crosby musical. Johnny Mercer had 4 Academy Award-winning songs; “The Days of Wine and Roses”, “Moonriver”,”In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening”, and “Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe”.

mercershitsweb

Ethel Smith

I first met Ethel Smith in the mid 1950s. She was performing a concert at the Harry Holmes Hammond Organ Studios in Hempstead, New York. Before the First Lady of Hammond was introduced I had a 20 minute performance on the Hammond Chord Organ. (Ethel only appeared on the console Hammond.) We both arrived early and after the round check we were invited to Harry Holmes office. What I remember from that time was that every movement, every word and even her exquisite grown said you are in the presence of a star. Ethel was gracious and remarked that being a performing musician takes dedication and practice.

When it came to showtime Ethel listened to my entire segment and she didn’t have to do that. When it came time for Ethel’s introduction she was brought on with “Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Tico Tico Ethel Smith!” The audience went wild. After she said her Thank You’s she brought me out for another bow. I was thrilled beyond belief.

Once she began to play the room was filled with the magic personality of her music. Ethel never missed a note, absolutely letter perfect. Ethel also sang and embellished her performance with humor. She was also a linguist . Her flawless French, Spanish and Italian demonstrated she was a very intelligent lady.

ETHEL and DENNIS.

I never played a duet with Ethel but we shared the stage many times usually at organ conventions. I was the first act and Ethel would close the show. It would be professional suicide to follow Ethel. She was a living legend!

We had dinner only a few times together and they were such fun. Ethel loved talking about her days at MGM and Disney. Ethel appeared in a Disney film entitled ——–. What a great addition it would be to your DVD collection.

God Bless Ethel Smith.

Dennis Awe


Eddie Baxter
Eddie Baxter was a master musician. I first met Eddie in the mid 1960s when he was a concert artist for Lowrey. Later he became a District Salesman for Lowrey and I traveled with Eddie as an artist several times a year till he retired on June 1,1985.

In the early 1940s Eddie was playing piano with the Frankie Masters Orchestra. It was during this time he met one of the female vocalists Miss Martha Baldwin, nicknamed Marty. She was an extremely talented musician in her own right. Eddie and Marty were married in 1946.

After serving in The Army Air Force Eddie became the pianist with the Glen Gray Casa Loma Big Band. Eddie and Marty decided to settle down in California. Eddie’s knowledge of orchestral arranging made the introduction to the organ pure pleasure for Eddie. Eddie became a staff organist for the NBC Hollywood studios. It was now that Lowrey entered the picture and the instrumental voicing were so outstanding Eddie bought and mastered his orchestral styling on a Lowrey Festival Console Organ.

Eddie recorded for on of the greatest music composers, arrangers, and conductors… The world renowned Henry Mancini. Eddie also still recorded for Frankie Masters. I heard Eddie perform several of his greatest recordings. What a thrill it was to see and hear Eddie play Quiet Village and Mr. Lucky.

Eddie recorded 15 record albums and Hal Leonard Publications create a ‘Pro’ book of arrangements that is a true collectors item.

EDDIE and DENNIS

What a blessing it was to perform duets with Eddie. Both of our big band backgrounds created musical magic when we performed together. We thought alike and we both left “spots” to add the fill-ins that embellished the arrangement.

In 1979 Lowrey introduced their first virtual orchestra The MX-1. The instrument of the future featured the most accurate instrumental sounds in the history of the organ industry. The introductions, fills, voicing, endings and fabulous drum accompaniments made the audience reaction beyond belief. They went wild with their applause!!

Eddie and Marty often performed together and were the only husband and wife organ duo since Jesse Crawford and his wife played theatre organ concerts.

Eddie made it possible that whenever I had special concert appearances in the Hollywood area there was always a Lowrey there. He was a wonderful gentleman and dear friend. It was Eddie who made it possible to have a Lowrey whenever I played at the Grumman Chinese Theatre in Hollywood for many of their celebrity hand and footprint ceremonies . Here is a picture of Julie Summers and myself at one of those ceremonies.

My life has so blessed by the wonderfully talented people I’ve known. May God Bless Eddie and Marty Baxter.

Dennis Awe