67 MELODY LANE 

Ken's 1954
TV  Programme

(Video)

 

02.05.13 Internet link to Stitling Yates page .
3. 06. 05.  View video clips on your media player.
25. 08. 08. Additional information on Sterling Yates and internet links to Johnny Costa and Joe Negri.  

The LP 67 Melody Lane was based on Ken's television series of the same name. Most of the tunes were probably recorded directly during the programme. I had known of this show since purchasing the LP way
back in the early 60's but thought that it would have been a live show, with little or nothing left of it. It was a great surprise learning through the Memorial Pages that they were made on 16mm film and that video
conversion had already been made. Thanks to Wilfred HÝstland's connection with Ken's sister he was able to get the video conversion made. Likewise, thanks to the kindness of Kurt Armsden whom Eric Larson
 paid a visit to a few months back, and who, allowed Eric to make copies for myself and Frank Pugno.

What a great Christmas present, when my copy arrived on Christmas Eve.  I was completely bowled over at finally being able to see and hear Ken as he was and not just a disembodied name to the recordings.
Everything we have leaned about Ken comes through on the video. He was a well built-chap with a very natural and friendly manner. His Missouri accent can be heard but he had developed a very clear speech
for talking on Radio or TV. The programme has to be taken for the time it was made and the style and limitations of the period. If you do, you will enjoy them very much.

There are five 12-15 minute programmes on the video. The programmes open and close with a close-up of the model Tram (Trolley), as seen above, and with a view of Ken, playing "You Can't Be True, Dear" on
the Wurlitzer ES, framed through a doorway, while the organ slowly circles on a turntable. There is a close-up of Ken that fades out with a nice smile. The Trolley turns out to be Ken's mailbox

The series is based on Ken's (stage) home, with a housekeeper (Martha), his producer (Sterling Yates ) and secretary (Cathy Murray), who each play small parts to link Ken's playing. Its a shame that the titles
don't give them credit, but they may have appeared in their own names. Guests arrive on the assumption that they are doing rehearsals for future shows. I believe the programmes were made in Chicago and these
artists having been well-known in that TV area. The stagy style reminded me of the Bill Haley Rock & Roll films, of that same period, where the music was great but the story line and script, rather banal. Its was
just how they presented such shows in those days! However just to watch Ken playing many of the numbers we know so well is very rewarding. He makes it all look so easy.

Additional: If you listen to the very first introduction of Ken's Agent you will find that Ken actually calls him "Charlie". It is surprising that this error wasn't edited from the film. It would appear that Charlie was this
actor's correct name and can now surmise that the names of the Secretary and Housekeeper were also not their own.

There are a number of very entertaining guests. He certainly wasn't afraid of having other great artists on his shows and there is a most lovely young lady ( Marjorie Meinert, from Davonport, Iowa) who plays a
terrific arrangement of Flight of the Bumble Bee, on Kens Wurlitzer ES. Whatever became of her!

Ken next performs two numbers accompanied by a young lad "Sonny" where he plays syncronised notes along with Ken (the tune is un-credited). This is followed by a great 'fast shuffle', which Sonny dances to.
This number lets us see Ken at one of those really fast boogie pace performances that was all his own. Again the tune is un-credited. But both are obvious of Ken's own composition, in the Jukebox Polka style..

Other fast numbers include Jukebox Polka and Lady of Spain. Ken plays three other numbers that didn't make it onto record, Braham's 5th Hungarian Dance, My Best to You and his own composition Hawaiian
Echos. A lovely number that should have made it to disc. My Best to You is one of my favourites, which is on the LP "Romantic Waltzes" and played on the Hammond.

There is a very competent male duo, Johnny Costa & Joe Negri, on piano and guitar. They play After You've Gone and then form a trio, accompanied by Ken for  Little Brown Jug, that really swings.

The final guest is another very pretty young lady (Marlene) who performs brilliant acrobatics (as were very popular in films and home-grown concert parties of those days) to Ken playing Glow Worm. Watching her
subtle and highly syncronised movements made me feel quite old!

There is no doubt, it is seeing and hearing Ken that means everything to me. I still can't believe that I have seen him, after all these years. Its almost the climax to my long interest in Ken and his music.

===============================================

02.05.13 Wilfred Hosteland sent in this nteresting information on Stitling Yates and his career: click oStirling Yates

03. 06. 05.  Click on the 'active' text to view a video clip of that artist. If you haven't seen Ken before you will enjoy seeing him as he was in 1954. You will require the latest version of your media player and
Broadband for a fast download and best possible picture resolution.


Finiculi, Finicula
Braham's 6th Hungarian Dance
Flight of the Bumblebee (Marjorie Meinert)
Uncredited number accompanied by 'Sonny'
Uncredited number accompanied by 'Sonny' doing a 'fast shuffle'.
Old Kentucky Home
Ciribirinin
You are my sunshine
Over the waves
My Best To You
Bumpity Bump
Lady of Spain
Put your arms around me Honey
Hawaiian Echos
After You've Gone (Johnny on piano & Joe on guitar)
Little Brown Jug (Johnny & Joe accompanied by Ken)
Yes sir, that's my baby
Narcissus
Glow Worm Accompanied by Marlene (Acrobat)
Jukebox Polka

Technical Note: These VHS tapes are made in the American NTSC system, which is no problem for U.K. and European (PAL) users, providing you have a recent TV & VCR that can convert to NTSC recording,
playback and viewing. I found that I had to lower the TV contrast to the very minimum and set the brightness so that overall density was good without blocking out shadow details. Picture quality was acceptable.
My only disappointment is that there is a 'wow' in the sound that doesn't do the organ sound justice, but then this is a copy of a copy, etc. However the 'wow' is constant and doesn't make the sound totally
unbearable to listen to. It would be nice to see full commercial quality video's available to the public.

Colour! I believe I am right in thinking that 67 Melody Lane was filmed and televised in what was very early colour TV broadcasting in the U.S.A. Therefore the original 16mm colour-negatives and colour-positive
reels must be available somewhere. It would be terrific to see the series in full colour. Does anyone have any knowledge as to where these may be? Likewise, was there only five programmes in the series, or do
other reels exist?

Just as with Ken's studio recording and one-man shows, is it possible that there is anyone from that period still around who could give us more details as to what was involved in making these films and getting
the recordings onto LP! We would love to hear from you.

Perhaps if enough of you show interest these great TV films of Ken playing will get made into a commercial video. If you don't shout sometimes, you just don't get heard. My thanks to everyone involved who
have made it possible for me to finally see these films for myself.

Credits on the video go to:

Directed by James L. Baker
Written by William G. Beal
Photographed by Samuel R. Sappo
Sound Recorded by August A. Borgen and William A. Stone
Produced by Mode-Art Pictures Inc.
A Trans-Video production

Andy's Comments: "The shows are absolutely wonderful. Griffin is much more endearing that I ever imagined him. How could you watch him and not love him? He is warm, personable and charming. Yeah, the
shows are corn, but they reflect the times. I love them and I'm so glad I'm getting to see them 50 years later. They hold up very well. I have even more respect for what Ken was all about. As cornball as these shows
 were, they made a real statement. Ken had a lot of introspection into society.

Now that organ...it sounds like an underwater anemic accordion. Wurlitzer went from making organs that made history to organs that just barely made tuned noise, but hey, I need one of those turntables so I can
spin in my living room as I play!

Eric's Comments: "On the videos, Ken's ES is the 25 rather than the 32 pedal console. Other than the smaller pedal board, Ken's ES looks exactly like the 4602 that I have, although it is very light in color. Since the
video is in black and white, it's hard to tell whether this ES is painted white or if it is just a very light colored wood such as rock maple. I wonder what became of it? It would be nice to acquire that particular ES for
the same reason as it was to know now the location of Ken's AV Hammond and to know that it is being played regularly and appreciated. Unfortunately, the ES's didn't fare as well over long time periods and it may
no longer even exist, which would be a shame, as I found a guy in Tennessee who repairs these ES organs and has a complete stock of replacement reeds and other special parts. Evidently he bought out
Wurlitzer ES inventory when they changedto more conventional technology".

Well! Is there anyone out there who knows what became of the actual Wurlitzer ES, that appears in the TV films? Lets here from you, thanks.

UPDATE Sept. 2002

 I asked Kirby if there were any more of the 67 Melody Lane programmes available. He said that, while fifteen programmes were planned, Ken stopped the series after the fifth programme as he didn't like the rather
wooden presentation and he also didn't think of himself as an actor. So, sadly, it seems we have to be thankful that they were made and copies of the films can now be seen on video. Discussing this series with
others we all seem to agree that while it is nice to have these films of Ken, it would have been much better if they had been presented as a proper variety show.

25. 08. 2008

With thanks to Louis Doutt of Waynesburg, PA who sent in some information in response to finding this page on 67 Melody Lane. Louis writes....

"I just saw the little clips of the 67 Melody Lane series.  For your information, Sterling Yates, Johnny Costa and Joe Negri were all radio and TV personalites in the Pittsburgh area.  Johnny and Joe, musicians of
note in their
own  right,  appeared on many of the Mr. Rogers shows, and Sterling Yates, a radio announcer, was part of Cordic and Co., with Rege Cordic on WWSW and KDKA radio during the late 40's and 50's".

I found it interesting in that Sterling Yates was his real name in the TV series. You may recall that I meantioned that Ken called him Charlie in the first film on the video set of 67 Meloday. However  it would appear
that that was a genuine mistake  rather than possibly being Sterling's real name, as I first thought.

Louis included an internet link to the Wikipedia mention of Sterling, which you may also find of interest and perhaps be surprised that you may well have listened to him on the radio programmes mentioned.

http://cordic-and-co.com/bios_etc/JohnMehnoTribute.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KDKA_(AM)

I also found one slightly more comprehensive web page about Sterling, which adds to his story. It was interesting to learn that he was also a very accomplished musician and liked Jazz. he had also had
accompanied Johnny Costa and his trio.

http://cordic-and-co.com/aco/sterling_yates.htm

This article was published just two years after 67 Melody Lane.

It appears that he appeared a lot as part of the team in the Reg Cordic Radio programme, where he played many characters. 

However, there are no details of whether he is still with us or not.

I didn't recognise the name Reg Cordic when Louis mentioned him but from the internet links I realised that I had seen him many times in films and on TV.

----------------------------------------------------

Thanks too to Louise for some links to web pages on Johnny Costa and Joe Negri

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Costa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Negri

I find it quite interesting that most of the artists who appear with Ken on 67 Melody went on to become accomplished artists in their own right. I am sure Ken would have been very pleased about that.

67 Melody Lane Picture Gallery

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