03.03.04 (Updated 13.03.04)
KEN ON SPIKE JONES RADIO SHOW (21.05.48)
I came across an offer for some Spike Jones' Radio Shows, in mp3 format, on Ebay about a week back. There are many programmes on the CD's but I noticed one stating that Ken was a guest. I can't get an account set-up for some reason but Karl France, of Iowa kindly purchased them for me and I received the two CD's on the 3rd of March. Ken's appearance is all too brief but very enjoyable. The programme was made on the 21st May 1948, the very year Ken's You Can't Be True, Dear took off, therefore is a historical record in itself for us all.
On his first introduction, after some banter with Spike Jones, Ken plays his Hit Of The Day 'You Can't Be True, Dear. Later he joins in a trio of short pieces based on three radio personalities. Ken starts off with an excellent take-off of Jack Benny's 'off key' Violin playing of 'Love In Bloom', which is completely played on the Hammond. It is virtually note by note of Benny's version. This is followed by Dorothy Shay singing 'Blue Of The Night and concluded with Spike and the City Slickers' zany version of 'If You Knew Susie'.
A very interesting addition to my collection.
Here are the two sections by Ken, in mp3 format. They are in low 64 kbps resolution........
You Can't Be True, Dear Love In Blue (Impression of Jack Benny on Violin)
Comments to Above...........
From Doug Koempel (Ohio):
I agree with you that the clip of Ken playing "You Can't Be True" live is a treasure. Now I may be completely wrong about the next couple of observations, but I thought I noticed some different pedal work that I don't recall having heard on his hit recording at 35 seconds and also at 1 minute 11 seconds into the piece - "bum-bump . . . bum-bump". Also, and I might be mistaken about this, I noticed what seemed to be an altered melody at 1 minute into the piece - I'm almost wondering if a little "nerves" were involved and maybe he opted to use safer finger work due to the live situation. He could have been a tad anxious as he started the piece out at 156 bpm and ended up at 180 bpm.
From Eric Larson (Massachusetts):
Regarding Ken's playing of You Can't Be True, Dear, I did not measure the tempo, but he definitely speeds it up as he goes along. I think most of us do that in a live situation until we hit upon a tempo that, in our heightened state of anxiety, seems right, although it's usually too fast. The shifting of accents on the pedals is there also. Instead of pedal, chord, chord for a typical waltz pattern, it becomes pedal chord, pedal; pedal chord, pedal. I have done this many times myself at the rink. It makes it slightly more interesting, and in some ways can emphasize the rhythm. But I have noticed some slight tempo increases in some of the radio transcriptions also, but not as pronounced as this one. No doubt, it's Ken being slightly nervous on a live performance. Evidently, Doug Koempel actually checked the tempo with a metronome. I did not, but the increase is definitely noticeable. It's possible also that he (Ken) may have "played it safe" and made it slightly different regarding the fingering of the melody. This is also something that I and (I am sure) many others have done. If you're doing a live performance in which you can't take back any mistakes, and if you are slightly unsure or hesitant with a difficult part, you play it a little more simply or safely.
This excerpt of Ken with Spike Jones is a marvelous opportunity or window to look into the human side of Ken's live performances, showing the same touch of nervousness that virtually every performer faces in a live situation. Obviously there was no metronome to hold his tempo steady, and no safety of the recording studio in which to get slightly daring and then simply replay the music if he made a mistake the first time.
It would be interesting to know what model Hammond he was using, and what it was playing through. It sounds kind of "tubby" which would indicate perhaps an old Hammond D series tone cabinet, which many consider to be Hammond's poorest tone cabinet. Of course, a lot also depends on the microphone they used. I doubt very much that they had a sophisticated electrostatic or condenser microphone with a built-in compensating equalization curve back in those days. Could have been a plain, old studio mic of not overly high quality.
Nevertheless, it's a wonderful opportunity to hear Ken live, both in his conversation and playing. What else is impressive is the enthusiastic response of the live audience to both his introduction by Spike Jones, and then the response and applause when he completed his playing. Let us hope that through our efforts and through this website we may again elicit that kind of enthusiastic appreciation for Ken's music and playing style, and the traditional Hammond organ.
N.B. Added to link 3, on Home Page (78RPM) a colourful German label of Ken's Tipi-Tin and Bumblebee On A Bender.