Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bobby Troup – Theme Magazine Interview: Bobby and Julie London Revisited [From The Archives]

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles’ recent “discovery” of the following article about pianist-vocalist-composer Bobby Troup in the November 1954 edition of Theme Magazine prompted this return visit to archived features of both he and his wife, vocalist Julie London. You’ll find these earlier pieces plus related photographs and videos following this article by Herbert Kimmel. By the way, we think you’ll love the story about how the tune Route 66 came about.

© -  Herbert Kimmel/Theme Magazine, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Bobby Troup – A Boyish Grin and A Roadmap

“Imaginative press agents spend their sleep­less nights dreaming up stories like this for their clients:

"It happened in the winter of 1946 at the old Trocodero out on the Sunset Strip. It was after closing time and the last of the partying night club crowd had finally drift-ed out into the sleeping city. A few tired musicians were packing their instruments away for the night, talking very softly.

A nervous young man, still wearing the deep tan acquired during five years in the South Pacific as a Marine captain, was being introduced to King Cole. The fellow making the introduction, who seemed to be the young man's agent, was saying, "Nat, this is the song-writer I was telling you about. The one who wrote Daddy. Remem­ber ?" King Cole nodded. "Bobby just got in from back east and I want you to hear some of his tunes before anyone else gets a chance.” Then, the agent turned to his protege, "How about playing a few songs, Bob?"

The young man bit his lip as he ap­proached the bandstand. He knew it was foolish for him to be so jittery, but he couldn't talk himself out of the feeling. As if this were his first big chance! He re­membered how nervous he had been that time in Philly, when he was just a twenty-year-old college kid. His friend, Kurt Weiler, had telephoned him to say that Sammy Kaye had heard his song, "Daisie Mae," being played by Kurt's small band at the Embassy Club and wanted to record it.

Still, as he adjusted the piano stool, he was jittery. His hands felt cold and stiff as he placed them on the keyboard. This was a little different from having your song played by your friend's band. He decided to shout the works and play his best tune first. At the instant he played the opening chord the stool slipped off the platform supporting it, and stool, platform, and song-writer tumbled over backwards, all three ending up in a heap behind the bandstand. What a way to make an impression! But, when he had gotten back on his feet and re-arranged the stool, he realized that his vaudeville-type spill had broken the tension. Now his hands felt warm; his fingers were looser.

When the first tune was finished, King Cole said he liked it, but wanted to hear some others. Bobby played every song he had ever written, without satisfying Cole. Finally, in desperation, he said, "Look, I wrote twelve bars in the car yes­terday, kind of a blues idea. Maybe you'll like it.' He had thought of the tune while driving across the desert on highway 66. It had never even been played on a piano be­fore. Cole loved it as soon as he heard it. He told Bob to finish it and bring it back the next night.

As simple as that. All he had to do was compose a song overnight. The next morn­ing he went to a gas station and got a road-map. Then he went from rehearsal hall to rehearsal hall at CBS, using any un­occupied pianos he could find. By the time the next night rolled around, "Route 66" had been completed. The rest is his­tory.'

The only difference between this story and a press agent's dream is that this one is true. The remarkable thing about Bob­by Troup's career is the fact that the same boyish ingenuousness which characterized his piano-fall that night back in 1946 is still noticeable in him every time he sits down to play. Not that he makes a habit of falling off the stool. Simply, he has nev­er thought of himself any differently. Put­ting it in corny words, he just hasn't let success go to his head.

Even after having composed such nation­wide hits as "Daddy" (nee "Daisy Mae") and "Route 66," Bobby still found that the going could be pretty rough. The world of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael doesn't have room for people who produce one or two big hits and expect to loaf around while the money pours in. Bobby knew this. For six years after Route 66 he devoted all of his energy to two things, com­posing new songs and trying to assemble a successful trio. He produced everything, from straight ballads to zany novelties like "Triskaidekaphobia," "The Three Bears," and "Hungry Man." Recording artists such as Sarah Vaughan, Lea Brown and The Page Cavannaugh Trio waxed his tunes.

But none of them seemed to click real big. His first trio had a quaint, folksy sound, hut offered very little new in the way of entertainment. Listening to this group gave you the feeling that the musicians were all such nice friendly boys who were always smiling. But this wasn't enough to keep the strangers coming in. The group found its way into almost every cocktail lounge in Los Angeles. Each change of jobs was a step downward into what seemed would be eventual oblivion. Bobby's spirits ebbed near gloom when he found the trio being booked into such out-of-the-way saloons as the Pioneer Club in far away El Monte. He felt so bad about his hard luck that he couldn't even force himself to try to write another song. Finally, the trio split up and Bob went back to playing as a single.

After successful bookings at the Parrot's Cage and The Kings in Hollywood, Bob's confidence slowly returned. With the for­mation of his new trio, with Bob Enevoldsen on bass and Howard Roberts on guitar, Bob's piano has become more and more dis­tinctive. The jazz backgrounds of Enevoldsen and Roberts have rubbed off on Troup with excitingly salutary effects. Recently, after hearing the Dave Brubeck Quartet when they were in Hollywood, Bobby was very much impressed by Brubeck's unique percussion approach to the piano. Now, his listeners are getting used to the surprise of a "Brubeck-type" chorus when it graces the trio's offerings.

Three other recent happenings have helped to place the Troup star higher than it has ever been. With the encouragement and as­sistance of his friend, Johnny Mercer, Bob­by has become a permanent panelist on the KTTV musical quiz-variety show, Musical Chairs. Along with Mercer, and master-of-ceremonies Bill Leydon, Bobby spends his Friday evenings visiting millions of living rooms, via television, singing songs and clowning around in general. In addition to the regular panelists named above, each week finds another glamorous feminine star sitting in as guest panelist along with a male personality. Recent weeks have seen songful June Christy, lovely Carol Rich­ards, funny-man Dave Barry and the pop­ular Mel Blanc lend their talents to the show.

The second new push up the ladder was contrived with the help of Capitol Records. For a short time last year Bobby tried his luck with a small band. The Septette's first week at the embers in North Hollywood was so successful that Capitol decided to record it before the group disbanded. The results of this session have been released on a long-playing Bobby Troup album. The arrangements were written by Bob Enevoldsen with a definite jazz concept in mind: to develop the four-reed idea which had been so effective on Woody Herman's record of Early Autumn. The contrast established be­tween this sound and Bobby's whispery vo­calizing is striking. The album has sold so-well that Capitol has recorded additional sides for the future.
Last of the three new events, but far from least, are Bobby's newest song hits, "It Hap­pened Once Before" and "Julie, is Her Name." Writing songs was what started Bob out into the world of entertainment, and in these tunes he convincingly indi­cates that it is still his first love. There is warmth and simplicity in the words and a fresh sound to the tunes. The funny side of the story of these songs is the fact that they differ from Bobby's other big hits in that they are romantic ballads. And this is its serious side also, because underneath Bobby's boyish grin there is a world of simple, romantic idealism.

Which brings us to the end of the story. Bobby Troup doesn't need a press agent to invent a tale of rags-to-riches for him. He doesn't want anyone to think of him as be­ing any different from any other American kid, who went to college and had some fun, had some luck at times and some tough breaks at others, got married and had two lovely silken-haired daughters, and above all, worked hard for a long time to get where he is now. As a matter of fact, when I asked him to give me a few ideas on what to write about him, all he could think of to say was, "Just say — Come into the En­core Restaurant and let me play a few songs for them." And, truthfully, that's the only way to really get what I mean.”

Bobby Troup – Stars of Jazz

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“About Bobby Troup...
He sang as though he had just half a voice. No volume, it was all about confiding. Some­times he croaked out a line, next minute he'd released a word as though he was doubtful about delivering it to the world at large. Bobby Troup never played to the gallery, never went for the big one. Yet, despite - or rather because of - such reluctance, allied to a lemon-twist quality that fell oddly on unaccustomed ears, the man from Harrisburg, PA. still qualified as Mr. Cool, the vocal equivalent of a Paul Desmond alto solo maybe. He sounded like no one else. And no one else has ever sounded like him.”

- Fred Dellar, Mojo Magazine

We wrote about composer, pianist and vocalist Bobby Troop in an earlier feature about him and Julie London which you can locate in the blog archives by going here.

Many of us first “met” Bobby in the 1950s when he hosted the Emmy award wining ABC television series, Stars of Jazz.

Can you imagine - a regular, weekly series on a major television network devoted to Jazz?

It was cool and so was Bobby.

Since it was based in Los Angeles, most of the groups that appeared on the show were associated with was then labeled the “West Coast” school of Jazz.

There are two wonderful books on this subject: Ted Gioia, West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960 and Robert Gordon, Jazz West Coast, The Los Angeles Jazz Scene of the 1950s.

A number of years ago, The California Institute of Jazz made available to those in attendance at its Spring 1999 4-day festival celebrating West Coast Jazz , a wonderful CD of the music from the Stars of Jazz series.

Ken Poston, the director of the institute, wrote the following in the insert booklet which accompanied the compendium:

“This anthology has been assembled exclusively for JAZZ WEST COAST II, presented by the California Institute for the Preservation of Jazz. All of the material comes from various Bobby Troup Stars of Jazz television broadcasts. Stars of Jazz debuted in the summer of 1956 on KABC, Los Angeles. It was unheard of in the mid 1950s to televise jazz on a regular basis, but because of the dedication of producer Jimmie Baker, program director Pete Robinson and host Bobby Troup the program aired for over two years. It was sponsored by Budweiser and eventually went from a local to network broadcast. The selections on this disc represent the incredible range of artists that were beamed into your living room every night.”

—Ken Poston

Incidentally, Ken’s organization, which now carries the name – The Los Angeles Jazz Institute [LAJI] – continues to sponsor semi-annual, four day festivals, as well as, one-day commemorative events. You can find out more about these programs by visiting Ken’s website at

In addition to the LAJI’s repository of goodies, Ray Avery, the late photographer and Jazz recordings maven, was allowed to photograph the Stars of Jazz.

A compilation of Ray photographs from these shows was published in 1998.

Cynthia T. Sesso, who in her own right is a major authority on Jazz photography, licenses Ray’s work along with the images of a number of other photographers who specialized in Jazz.

Cynthia has been a great friend to JazzProfiles over the years in allowing us to use photographs by her clients on these pages.

You can find out more about Cynthia and her work at She may also have copies of Ray’s book about Stars of Jazz still available for sale.

Her are some excerpts from the book’s introduction regarding how Ray came to be involved with the show and Bobby Troup’s role as contained in an interview that Ray gave to Will Thornbury.

© -  Cynthia T. Sesso/CTSimages, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“…, my photography flowed naturally out of my involvement in my record store. At that time I wasn't well known as a photographer. I just happened to be there and I had an entrée because I was in the record business. Most of the small record companies knew about me because I was carrying their product in my store, they would invite me to record sessions. I was very seldom paid for a session, except if they bought some photos. …

One day a friend of mine asked if I'd seen "Stars Of Jazz" and I said I hadn't, so I checked the newspaper and found out when it was going to be on. I just went down, I think it was the second or third show, and I asked them if I could photograph it. They were very friendly and said yes, of course, just be careful and don't fall over any cords or walk in front of any cameras."

The host for all but two Stars of Jazz episodes was Bobby Troup. He embodied the essence of the show - straightforward, genuine and creative. Perhaps some of the show's viewers from outside the jazz world were pulled in through Troup's accessibility. He wore a crew cut. He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in business and had written many of the nation's favorite songs "Route 66", "Daddy", "Lemon Twist", songs that crossed over from the jazz to the popular charts. In addition to writing songs, he was also an active musician and would perform often on the show.

"Bobby was the perfect man", notes Jimmie Baker. 'There were some people who wanted to have a bigger name, but nobody else could do it. Nobody else had the appeal that Bobby had." Avery adds, "Bobby was a good musician, had written great songs and he could be a great master of ceremonies. That's a combination they couldn't find in anyone else. He spoke really well - he didn't want any of those corny jazz lines in the script, which was good. He was a really good interviewer. He made people feel so comfortable when they were there. And of course they respected him as a musician, many of the sets featured Bobby at the piano."

"All the musicians had so much faith in the presentation of "Stars of Jazz"," Troup says. "They thought it was the best jazz show they'd ever seen. Did you know the story of how "Stars of Jazz" got started? Pete Robinson, Jimmie Baker, and Bob Arbogast were all jazz buffs. I mean they really loved jazz, and there was this executive, Seligman, graduated from Harvard, Phi Beta Kappa, and they were on him constantly to let them do this jazz show. Finally just to get them out of his hair, he said 'OK, I'll give you a studio, a camera, you have to write it, you have to arrange every musician, no more than scale, and I'll give you three weeks to run the show.' The first show was Stan Getz. And they screened quite a few people and for some reason or another they picked me to be the host. I'm sure glad they did. Every night was a highlight, every night. I did the show for scale, it amounted to $60 maybe $70 a night. When we went network I got scale for network, which was more."

Avery adds, "in those days there weren't the camera men that there are today. Now you go to a concert and there's fifty people with cameras, but before, maybe half a dozen of us would show up. Consequently, the photos taken in my early period are the ones that are in demand now because not many people have them."”

Ironically, Seligman, who authorized Stars of Jazz and was very boastful of the program when it won an Emmy Award, never supported the show for a regular timeslot when it went national on ABC.

Despite the critical acclaim it received, the show was cancelled of January, 1959 due to “low ratings.” Seligman was also responsible for ordering that the tapes of the 130 episodes of Stars of Jazz be erased so that they could be reused. After all, each tape cost $400. Of course, what was recorded on them was priceless!

I guess “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad?”

Mercifully, Jimmy Baker of the show’s production team was able to save 35mm’s and 81 of the early kinescopes, all of which now reside for posterity in the UCLA Film Library.

More of the music from the series is available on a commercial RCA CD - Bobby Troup Stars of Jazz [74321433962] - from which we’ve drawn the music for the following tribute.

In his insert notes to the recording, Pete Robinson, one of the show’s producers, wrote the following:

“It has been observed that People Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones, and since Bobby Troup's particular glass house is a collective one, consisting of 17- and 24-inch television screens the country over, it is most important that his participation in the realm of jazz be exemplary. It is.

As one playing of the enclosed collection will attest, Mister Troup's qualities of tempo, intonation, taste and interpretation place him in good stead as a jazz singer of considerable merit. Nominations in the Down Beat and Playboy polls add further to his vocal status.

These fans, however, will come as no sur­prise to the initiated. Bobby's work has had more than a little exposure on records. What IS new is the extraordinary group of jazz musicians who here­with are represented in tandem with Troup. Bobby's presence as narrator of ABC-TV's "Stars of Jazz" for the past three years has found him rubbing elbows with players from every corner of jazz. (A total of 714 of them at this writing, for those who find security in statistics.)

It was, then, only a matter of time until an elite group of these jazzmen should come together with Troup for the purpose of recording. When Shorty Rogers and Jimmy Rowles became available to provide arrangements, the time was ripe.”

The audio track on the video is Bobby singing Free and Easy which he co-wrote with Henry Mancini. The trumpet solos are by Pete and Conte Candoli and Jimmy Rowles wrote the arrangement.

Julie London, Bobby Troup and The China Trader

[c] –Steven A. Cerra, Introduction, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The China Trader is not there anymore.

Originally located at 4200 Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake, Ca, it was a Chinese restaurant that had a South Sea islands and nautical theme with lots of tiki heads and bamboo sprouting from every nook and cranny.

For a time it was best known for being the birthplace of the Hawaiian Eye drink [think Mai Tai].

The '60s detective, ABC television show Hawaiian Eye was filmed at Warner Bros. studios in nearby Burbank, CA and The China Trader was the after-work hangout of its stars, Robert Conrad, Connie Stevens and Anthony Eisley and of many members of the crew.

The Hawaiian Eye drink was concocted there in their honor.

The Falcon Theater is in The China Trader’s place today.

Toluca Lake is a very upscale community located between Burbank and North Hollywood, CA. Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures studios are only a few miles away. A 10 minute ride over the Barham Pass takes you into Hollywood.

There really is a lake in Toluca Lake and it is surrounded by very fashionable homes and a country club that offers access to a marvelous golf course.  Bob Hope is probably the best known of Toluca Lake’s many long-time residents, but numerous luminaries associated with the entertainment business live in the community.

For many years, composer, pianist and vocalist Bobby Troop held forth at The China Trader.  He and his wife, actress and song stylist, Julie London, were residents of Toluca Lake. Since his piano was already stationed in the lounge, Bobby could and did walk to work on some of the nights he appeared at The China Trader.

Throughout most of the 1970s, Bobby and Julie were in the cast of the hit NBC TV show, Emergency.  The popularity of the show only served to enhance the gatherings  at The China Trader when Bobby was performing there.

Bobby appeared solo on Thursday and Sunday nights and with a trio on Friday and Saturday nights.

Given his low-key temperament, unassuming personality and acerbic wit, Bobby always kept the atmosphere in the bar relaxed and cordial.

Julie dropped by occasionally and when she did, their were always numerous pleadings for her to sing, but she rarely did.

Bobby was one of the most comfortable-in-his-own-skin musicians I ever knew.  I first met him in 1962 when we were both involved with the Surfside 6 television show; he as an actor, and me as a member of the band that recorded the soundtrack for the series.

That year, I was home on leave following boot camp and he came up to me in the studio and said: “You’re a Marine.” When I quizzically looked at him following that remark, he said: “I was a Captain in the corps for three years.”

Over the years, I kept in touch with Bobby as The China Trader was a stone’s throw away from my home.  I even subbed as the drummer is his trio on a few occasions.

With over 40 movie and television appearances to his credit and a slew of royalty checks coming in from songs he wrote like Route “66,” Daddy and Lemon Twist, Bobby was a very busy guy and a fairly well-off one, too. Good for him; not too many musicians make more than a few schimolies in the music “business.”

He was very pleased and proud of writing the tune – The Meaning of the Blues.

Interestingly, when Julie was in the mood to sing during her visits to be with Bobby at The China Trader, she invariably sang this tune.

I recently came across a version of Julie singing The Meaning of the Blues with an orchestra under the direction of Russ Garcia.  It’s from her album All About the Blues which Bobby produced for Capitol [7243 5 38695 2 6] and it forms the soundtrack to the following video tribute to her.

Here is an excerpt from  James Gavin’s insert notes to the disc:

“LPs were her true medium. The queen of the make-out album, London recorded over 30 for Liberty between 1955 and 1969. Supported by a goose-down blanket of strings or just guitar and bass, she sounded so intimate that she seemed to be breathing into your ear. Men drooled over the cheesecake covers, which showed her snuggled in bed, posed in an alley as a scantily-clad courtesan, or seated backwards in an Eames chair, legs pointed up in a V. ‘I'm sure she hated all that,’ says Arthur Hamilton, the songwriter who wrote Cry Me A River, her breakthrough hit of 1955. ‘That wasn't Julie at all. She wasn't trying to seduce her audience; she just blotted them out. She hid inside the song. She didn't like to perform, she didn't like getting dressed, she didn't like that image she had to live up to.’”