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181 - If You See Kay (1950)
October 19, 2020 09:42 AM PDT
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Sometimes there is just one thing you can say about the world around you, and in that spirit Wilderworld now unleashes upon the world the mythical and hilarious If You See Kay, with words by Alec Wilder and music by Morty Palitz. This recording is from an acetate, privately waxed by Jimmy Carroll and Orchestra in 1950. It has rarely, if ever, been heard over the past 70 years.

In 2011, we asked legendary publisher Howie Richmond, of TRO, about If You See Kay.

He said, "I plead guilty to being 'the publisher.' It was really a joke which Alec, together with Bill Engvick, Morty Palitz and Jimmy Carroll had recorded during one of their sessions. A dub copy was given to a NYC late night disc jockey, named Jack Eigen who had a show at the Paradise Restaurant on the mezzanine floor of the Brlll building. His format was to introduce new releases via advance pressings, requesting the audience to call in and offer their opinions.

"Some of the listeners caught on to the title and that evening there was a genuine commotion. Within a day or two it was gone and forgotten, and Mr. Eigen ceased auditioning new releases."

Bill Engvick's recollection of the song was, "It was played on the air just once, and the switchboard lit up with furious listeners. I resented their waste of a nice tune, so TRO published it under the title If You See Jean."


Don't miss the 35th Annual Friends of Alec Wilder Concert on November 7, 2020 at 2p EST. You can watch this year's performances from the comfort of your home! See the photo for more details, and go to www.alecwildermusicandlife.com to find the link to the Concert on Youtube, when it is posted.

180 - Peacock Feathers (1964)
April 15, 2020 10:20 AM PDT
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Music by Alec Wilder, from the film Open the Door and See All the People by Jerome Hill

Orchestra conducted by Samuel Baron

SIDE A - 1. I See It Now 2. 5/4 Dance 3. Love Is When 4. Bill’s Theme 5. Taylor Mead Theme 6. Hat In Sky 7. Potted Palm #1 8. Potted Palm #2 9. Gypsy Theme 10. Recorder and Bass Duet 11. Steak Chase 12. Vespa Waltz

SIDE B – 1. Platform Dance (Two Versions) 2. Astroillogical Parlor 3. Chase Through Woods 4. Mimosa’s Solitude 5. Lonely Girl 6. Mimosa and Me 7. Unbelievable (Two Versions) 8. Mimosa’s Paris Dance 9. Potted Palm #3 10. Dance for B.B.

How many melodies can you pick out that later became Wilder songs?

The film, from a script originally titled Peacock Feathers, can be seen at https://vimeo.com/channels/223455/121184030

The first draft of the script can be found at http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00565/pdfa/mstpeacock.pdf

179 - Entertainment No. 2 (1966)
October 09, 2019 01:01 AM PDT
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Performed by the Eastman Orchestra, Rochester, New York

Don't miss the 34th annual FRIENDS OF ALEC WILDER CONCERT on Saturday October 12, 2019 at 3 p.m. at St. Peter's Church, 619 Lexington Avenue in New York City

See photo for details

See you there!

178 - American Popular Song: The Songs of Willard Robison (1976)
August 29, 2018 07:43 AM PDT
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Recorded in early April 1976, with a broadcast date of October 3, 1976, it's American Popular Song Show #1! This is the first show NPR listeners heard, and, for many, their first exposure to Alec Wilder

Singer Barbara Lea joins Alec and Loonis for a lively exploration of the pastoral songs of Willard Robison (1894-1968), "a strange, indigenous talent"

All songs by Willard Robison, except

Plenty Good Enough For Me lyrics by Loonis McGlohon, music by Alec Wilder

Mel Alexander plays bass, Tony Cooper drums. Clarinet on Deep Ellum Blues by Bob Mitchell

Thank you, SCETV, original producer of this great series! Please consider re-running it again!

For an illuminating contemporaneous look at American Popular Song radio show #1 see

“Songs are part of my emotional being. And I'm not ashamed of it at all. I've written half a ton of concert music. It's an entirely different point of view. And yet I go back to songs like I go back to an old friend, to a garden, to a fireplace, to a cat that's come back after being away.” – Alec Wilder

Don't miss the 33rd Annual FRIENDS OF ALEC WILDER CONCERT at the Shapeshifter Lab, 18 Whitwell Place in Brooklyn, New York on Sunday, September 16, 2018! See the photo for details

Alec Lives!

177 - Western Star (1975)
August 05, 2018 10:17 AM PDT
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A rare example of Alec Wilder singing his own song, accompanied on piano by Loonis McGlohon, recorded October 8, 1975

Words by Arnold Sundgaard, Music by Alec Wilder

From the musical play Western Star, originally titled The Wind Blows Free and based upon the Book of Job

Photo of Alec and Loonis taken February 1970 by Elmer Horton

176 - I'll Be Around (1961)
August 04, 2018 12:55 PM PDT
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Words and Music by Alec Wilder (and, on this record only, "S. Murphy")

The 33rd annual Friends of Alec Wilder Concert will take place on Sunday, September 16, 2018 at the Shapeshifter Lab, 18 Whitwell Place in Brooklyn, New York at 3 p.m. Be there!

175 - When I Get Old Enough to Vote (1953)
October 30, 2016 09:07 PM PDT
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Words by William Engvick, Music by Alec Wilder. By Jimmy Boyd with the Norman Luboff Choir.

This is an acetate of a never-released Columbia Records recording featuring child singing star Boyd, and produced by Mitch Miller. Very timely tune!

Today marks the 10th Anniversary of the day I started the Wilderworld podcast! Thank you to all who have come here over the past decade to enjoy Alec's music. It is gratifying to have had the opportunity to share my extensive Wilder collection with tens of thousands of music appreciators around the world.

As a candidate for the San Francisco School Board in the November 8 election, I hope wherever you are you make sure to get out and vote. Especially if you're in San Francisco and voting for me! Rob Geller for SF School Board! Rob4sfSchoolBoard2016.wordpress.com

174 - It's So Peaceful In the Country (c. 1940)
March 13, 2016 10:59 PM PDT
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This recently-discovered acetate record we believe is Alec Wilder himself(!) singing and playing piano on an early demo of It's So Peaceful in the Country, a song that is popular to this day. Note that some words are different, like the line about "a chocolate cake"

A few people who have heard this are not totally convinced that it is Alec, possibly because he is singing with an affectation of sorts. But it certainly is his writing on the acetate label.

What do you think? Is it Alec? Please leave your conjecture in the comments!

And don't forget to attend the 31st ANNUAL FRIENDS OF ALEC WILDER CONCERT in New York City on Sunday, April 3, 2016! This year's Honorary Host is pianist BILL CHARLAP, who just won a Grammy for his work with Tony Bennett. Also, singer JOYCE BREACH with MIKE RENZI on piano, a JOHN CARLSON jazz trio, a salute to GUNTHER SCHULLER, and MICHAEL FEDYSHYN and BARBARA LEE playing the Suite for Trumpet and Piano (see wilderworld 124).

The concert is at 3 pm at the Christ and St. Stephen's Church 120 W. 69th Street. Be there!

173 - Miss Chicken Little (1953)
July 01, 2014 12:00 AM PDT
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A Cantata for The Theatre

Text by William Engvick, Music by Alec Wilder

Miss Chicken Little was broadcast on CBS' Omnibus television program on December 27, 1953

Jo Sullivan as Miss Chicken Little, with Charlotte Rae and Jim Hawthorne

Recording is from a live soundstage air check acetate disc

At 7:29 the missing line is, "It was just an acorn," sung by one of the hens

The late, great wordsmith of this remarkable production, William Clark Engvick, was born on July 1, 1914, 100 years ago today. Happy birthday, Bill!

Obituary: William Engvick, Lyricist for Musicals and Popular Songs, Dies at 98

William Engvick, witty and eloquent writer of musicals from the Golden Age of Television, and lyrics for such popular songs as The Song from Moulin Rouge (Where is Your Heart), Moon and Sand and While We’re Young, died September 4, 2012 in Oakland, California following a brief illness. He was 98.

Engvick, known largely for his many collaborations with eclectic composer Alec Wilder, contributed lyrics to musical versions of Pinocchio and Hansel and Gretel, which aired nationally on NBC Television in the late 1950s, and featured music by Wilder. Some of the top Broadway talent of the day starred in these live productions, including Barbara Cook, Mickey Rooney, Fran Allison, Red Buttons and Stubby Kaye. Met opera star Rise Stevens sang Hansel and Gretel’s Evening Song (Soft Through the Woodland), a typically tender and heartfelt Engvick creation.

As a writer during the peak of the American Popular Song era, Engvick’s mellifluous words filled the mouths of many of the leading singers of the day, from Peggy Lee and Mel Torme to Marlene Dietrich and Johnnie Ray. In 1965, Frank Sinatra recorded Wilder and Engvick’s I See It Now, an autobiographical song with a memorable first stanza that helped put the lyricist’s hometown of Oakland on the map: “That year in Oakland High / When I was 17 / The grass from there to San Jose / Was high and cool and green / I see it now.”

“It was just something that I wanted to write about myself, a true memory piece. The grass really was high and cool and green,” recalled Engvick, who thought Sinatra was attracted to the “touch of seriousness” about the song, and by the line “‘loves have come and gone,’ because that’s precisely what happened to him.”

Called upon frequently by Mitch Miller, head of A&R at Columbia Records and Engvick’s friend and neighbor in Stony Point, New York, Engvick penned such popular tunes as Kiss and Run, Bonnie Blue Gal, Follow Me, All Yours, I’ll Remember Today and Make It Soon. In the last years before rock’n’roll began to dominate the musical landscape, he tirelessly churned out material for many Columbia artists, including Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Don Cherry, Liberace and Jo Stafford.

Engvick’s greatest commercial success came with The Song from Moulin Rouge (Where is Your Heart), an English rewrite of a French song introduced by Zsa Zsa Gabor in the award-winning John Huston film Moulin Rouge. Percy Faith’s recording of it, with Felicia Sanders singing Engvick's lyric, bewitched the radio airwaves throughout the summer of 1953, holding the Number One spot on the Billboard charts for 10 weeks straight. The song inspired sales of over one million copies of sheet music, and has been performed and recorded by hundreds of artists.

Many of Engvick’s assignments were, in fact, to write English words for tunes that had gained popularity in Europe sung in a foreign tongue. Engvick's version usually ended up telling a very different story from the original. “I never learned a foreign language, and didn’t want to know what the original words meant,” said Engvick. “I always started from scratch.” Among the titles he rewrote was Anna, from the movie of the same name, which had been a hit Spanish record for actress Silvana Mangano. The irresistible song about a girl who desires to dance the Bayon hit piano racks across America as a song about a heartbreaker named Anna who’s “got to be kissed.”

Engvick’s various musical collaborators included such luminaries as Cole Porter – their It’s Just Like the Good Old Days was written for Porter’s Broadway-bound musical comedy Mexican Hayride, but went unused – Les Paul, Mark Laub, Roy Kral, Bob Thompson and Edith Piaf, but Engvick said his most satisfying work had always been with Wilder.

Engvick and Wilder first met in 1939 when an agent brought Engvick’s revue Ladies and Gents to the attention of the singular composer, who declared it to be “fresh air” and quickly came up with melodies to match the captivating words. A prolific writing team was born. Over the next three decades, Wilder and Engvick wrote musicals, operas and dozens of songs, at least two of which, Moon and Sand and While We’re Young, written in the early ‘40s with Morty Palitz, remain ubiquitous jazz standards to this day.

Other well-known Engvick and Wilder songs include The Lady Sings the Blues, I Like It Here, The April Age, Who Can I Turn To? and Crazy in the Heart. Wilder, who praised Engvick as a master of the “singing line,” maintained that the writer James Thurber “became obsessed with While We’re Young and claimed it was one of the finest pieces of English writing he had ever heard.”

Although Ladies and Gents was never produced – it came tantalizingly close to a Broadway run – Engvick and Wilder did manage to stage small-scale productions of their operas The Long Way and Miss Chicken Little. The latter, a hilarious take on the classic tale of mass hysteria, was picked up by the prestigious CBS Omnibus television program, which broadcast it in December 1953 with Jo Sullivan Loesser in the title role. Engvick also wrote lyrics for Omnibus’ American premiere of Sleeping Beauty in the Woods, with music by Ottorino Respighi. Together Engvick and Wilder contributed songs to a 1955 off-Broadway production of Once Over Lightly starring Zero Mostel.

At one point Engvick and Wilder were summoned to Hollywood to write songs for the film Daddy Long Legs, but after several months of work a regime change caused the material, which Wilder characterized as being “the very best set of songs we ever wrote,” to be shelved. One of the duo’s most far-reaching and beloved collaborations was on Lullabies and Night Songs, an entrancing book of children’s songs lavishly illustrated by Maurice Sendak and published on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1960s. Engvick edited the book and provided lyrics to several songs.

In 1990, Jackie and Roy dedicated their CD An Alec Wilder Collection to Engvick, calling him “a terrific, intuitive man with a kind heart, gentle soul and the gift of being able to fashion meaningful, poetic lyrics to lovely, though sometimes difficult, melodies.” Engvick cited Remember, My Child, written with Wilder for Jackie, as his favorite of the many songs he composed.

The only child of Clarence and Sadie Engvick, William Clark Engvick was born in Oakland, California on July 1, 1914. Growing up in the shadow of the construction of the huge, elegant Grand Lake Theatre, which he attended on opening day, proved to be a major influence on Bill's career path. He frequently attended performances by such favorite local, soon-to-be-national acts as Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights, and quickly developed a strong interest in music and theater. As a teen he created meticulously-detailed, scale models of the stages and prosceniums of all of Oakland's large theatres.

While a student at UC Berkeley, Bill achieved some noteriety with his madcap revue In Your Hat, for which he wore many hats, including writer, director, actor, piano player and composer of music. Later in life, moving back-and-forth between Oakland and New York, Engvick always kept one foot in the theater, his first love, writing skits, directing and acting in local productions by the Gaslight Troupers and Straw Hat Revue in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the late 1940s, Engvick briefly tried his hand at radio dramas, penning scripts for CBS’ The Whistler and Silver Theatre.

More recently, Engvick wrote songs with longtime friend and Broadway actor Gordon Connell, of Hello Dolly, Big River, and Julius Monk revue fame, and authored lyrics for several new songs based on melodies sourced from Wilder’s film music and ground-breaking Octets.

Active well into his 90s, Engvick famously advised that “if you can’t write a million-dollar song, write a million songs at a dollar a try.”

by Rob Geller

172 - The Lowland Sea (1963)
February 16, 2014 08:57 PM PST
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Libretto by Arnold Sundgaard, Music by Alec Wilder

Written in 1952

Performed May 16 & 17, 1963 in Dolton, Illinois at the Thornridge High School Spring Musicale

Chorus and Orchestra under the direction of John Pearce

Betty Smith as Dorie Davis, Paul Maddux as Johhny Dee

"The Lowland Sea was written as a remembering of the sea and sea songs - of dunes, of harbors, of voyaging, of loneliness, of waiting. It is hoped that it will seem familiar to anyone who has walked (or wanted to walk) the streets of Nantucket, or has waited for the evening mail boat at Ocracoke. Some of it was suggested by drawings and prints of ships like the Witch of the Waves out of Salem. Part of it comes from a nursery song, Bobby Shaftoe, which has been given a new musical setting for this occasion. The words for The Cuckoo are very old, but the music is new."

Happy Birthday Alec Wilder, who should have been 107 years old today!

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