They say that timing is everything. And this is probably very true for the next artist that William Price King is going to be talking about in the next few weeks in the Saturday morning music posts. I will hand over to William and the subject of his new series on iconic musicians, composers and singers of the last 100 years.
Melvin Howard Tormé (September 13, 1925 – June 5, 1999)
Mel Tormé was a multi-talented performer across the music and film industries from the 1940s through to the 1990s and most of us of a certain age will certainly remember seeing him on television or hearing him on the radio in the 50s and 60s. What most of us will not appreciate is that many of the well-known songs of the time were written by Mel and sung by iconic stars of the day such as Nat King Cole.
Timing was everything and Mel felt that being born in 1925 rather than in the previous decade such as Frank Sinatra in 1915 and Nat King Cole in 1919, meant that he had missed the gold rush of the popularity for Big Band sound and early Jazz music. He was the crossover artist of his generation as his career bridged the transition from Big Bands and Jazz into the rock and pop era of the 60s and 70s.
His early career also encompassed the world of film and television and he became the teen idol of the late 40s and early 50s which brought him to public attention particularly with the younger generation.
Around the world however, Mel Tormé will be best remembered as a singer, although because of the transition in the music industry to pop and rock during his career, he never reached the commercial success of stars such as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. This was frustrating for him especially as he was an accomplished musician, songwriter and performer. The audiences were changing and he found that he was moving further away from his musical roots in Jazz and Swing as he revised his style to suit the new demands.
He did hold a place in the hearts of each generation of music lovers throughout his lifetime. Combined with his own persistence to succeed, and also a supportive record label later in his career, he achieved a far reaching popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. This brought him a great deal of pleasure as he performed the music that he had always loved to a very appreciative Jazz audience around the world.
He wrote over 250 songs many of which are classics that were performed by the headliners across the decades. And this is the legacy that he left behind for performers such as myself, who have such awe for his talent and his music. As a performer he gave even the classics a new sound and respect that delighted his audiences
Here he is performing one of those classics of the day written by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Johnny Mercer courtesy of Mel Torme — That Old Black Magic (VintageMusic.es)
Mel’s private life was often turbulent and certainly well publicized. He ‘fascinated’ many rich, talented and famous women including Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. He was married four times and was father to five children and two step-children, several of whom keep the name Tormé well known in the music and film industry.
In 1988 Mel Tormé wrote his autobiography titled It Wasn’t All Velvet. The title was a nod to his nickname, “The Velvet Fog”, given to him by a DJ in the 1940s to describe his husky and wide-ranging voice. For those of you who have enjoyed his music across the decades you will find the book and his others on Amazon and find it a fascinating read.
Mel acted in over a dozen feature films and on radio and television as well as hosting popular music shows on both. He was an excellent musician in great demand as a drummer touring with the Big Bands of the 40s. A songwriter responsible for some of the all-time classics of Jazz and popular music including that festive and much recorded The Christmas Song. He was also an accomplished writer of television dramas, articles in upscale publications such as the The New York Times and five books of fiction, biography and music criticism. A man of many parts and over the following weeks I shall be sharing just some of those talents with you.
Mel covered some of the well-known Jazz songs of the 1930s including this classic Harlem Nocturne. Words & Music by Earle Hagen & Sid Robin, 1939. Mel recorded his version in 1963 and here is my own tribute to him with guitarist Gabriel Anfosso live at the Jazz Comedy Club in Nice.
Next Saturday I will be looking at the early music and film career of Mel and sharing more of his performances. I hope you will join me here.
William Price King – Jazz composer, musician and singer.
William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His debut jazz album is called ‘Home,’ a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.
William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.
Links to website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
Find out more about William and his music at these two links.