Sunday, 16 May 2010

Willard Robison

As I have mentioned in previous posts on Lowry's film script to Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night Lowry infuses the script with jazz music to fit the "Jazz Age" in which the novel is set.

In one of the early scenes of the script in Antibes, Lowry originally wanted to use music by Bix Beiderbecke. However, while he was writing the script, Michael Curtiz's movie of Bix's life was released. Lowry became conscious that the piece he wanted to use In A Mist may have been used in Curtiz's A Young Man With A Horn. Instead, he suggested using a piece by Willard Robison. He doesn't mention one in particular so I have chosen I'm More Than Satisfied from 1927 featuring Bix Beiderbecke (c); Frank Trumbauer (Cms); Don Murray (cl); Frank Signorelli (p); Eddie Lang or ? (bj); Vic Berton (dm/harpophone); The Deep River Quintet (voc.

Willard Robison (September 18, 1894 - June 24, 1968) was an American composer of popular song. Born in Shelbina, Missouri, his songs reflect a rural, melancholy theme steeped in Americana. Their warm style has drawn comparison to Hoagy Carmichael. Many of his songs, such as "A Cottage for Sale", "Round My Old Deserted Farm", "Don't Smoke in Bed", and "Old Folks", have become standards and have been recorded countless times by jazz and pop artists such as Peggy Lee, Nina Simone, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, and Mildred Bailey. "A Cottage for Sale" alone has been recorded over 100 times.

In the early 1920s, Robison led and toured with several territory bands in the Southwest. He met Jack Teagarden in this period, whom he befriended. In the late 1920s, Robison organized the Deep River Orchestra, later hosting a radio show entitled The Deep River Hour in the early 1930s.

During the 1920s, Robison recorded extensively for Perfect Records, with scores of vocal recordings accompanying himself on piano (displaying his rather eccentric stride piano style), as well as "Deep River Orchestra" recordings using standard stock arrangements. In 1926-1927, Robison recorded an interesting series of 6 mood pieces with the umbrella name of "American Suite" (for example, "Tampico" was American Suite no. 5). Between 1928 and 1930, he recorded for Columbia, Harmony and Victor. He also recorded a session in 1937 for Master Records.

Jack Teagarden recorded a critically-praised album of Robison's songs in 1962 entitled Think Well of Me. Robison died in Peekskill, New York in 1968, aged 73.

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