Ken Lelen

Ken Lelen
Ken Lelen sings great American ragtime, jazz & swing and performs with vintage acoustic guitars for an authentic, back-in-the day sound.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Library patrons savor the sound
of  Hollywood  Song  Souvenirs
   ©  2019 — Kenneth Lelen — Al Rights Reserved

                                                                                                        Photo: Steve Kovacik    
Vocalist and vintage guitarist Ken Lelen offers popular songs
from classic movies at East Greenbush Community Library.
East Greenbush Community Library recently presented a Hollywood Song Souvenirs concert by vocalist and vintage guitarist Ken Lelen for its patrons and guests in the Albany NY area. Organized by Laurie Dreyer, the facility's adult program librarian, the 90-minute concert offered nearly 20 jazz standards, romantic ballads and swing tunes to an audience of more than three dozen people.

Each song in the concert had once been part of a well-known musical, comedy or drama. Eventually, for one reason or another, the songs became recorded hits, radio favorites, bandstand requests and jukebox selections once people heard and loved them. Today, some of the songs are classics in their own right, as they possess an emotional appeal for audiences beyond the realm of cinema.

In addition to singing tunes made famous by Hollywood, Lelen played several of vintage acoustic guitars for an authentic, back-in-the-day sound. In his program Lelen offered amusing anecdotes or wry comments about the movies as well as tales about the prominent actors, story lines, composers, musicians, recording artists and vocalists for the movie songs.

You must remember this
Here are brief descriptions of several songs performed in the Hollywood Song Souvenirs concert at East Greenbush Library.

She’s Funny That Way — Told from a male point of view, this 1928 torch song by Neil Moret (music) and Richard Whiting (lyrics) was composed for use in the short film Gems of M-G-M. Popularized in 1929 by both Gene Austin and Ted Lewis, the song lingered in obscurity until recordings by Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman hit pay dirt in the Big Band Era. Renown as a jazz standard for recording artists and performers, Hollywood film producers later turned to Billie's 1937 recording to lend emotional weight to Pollock, a 2000 biopic about abstract artist Jackson Pollock.

Marilyn Monroe portrays Sugar
Kane in 1959's Some Like It Hot
I’m Through With Love — Toward the end of 1959's Some Like It Hot, Marilyn Monroe, in the role of  lovelorn singer Sugar Kane, mounts a piano in a black slinky dress. In a tremorous full-throated whisper, she sings "I'm Thru With Love," a 1931 effort by Fud Livingston, Matty Malneck and Gus Kahn.

I've watched this movie countless times. I've enjoyed seeing Marilyn Monroe as much as her co-stars, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon, in the zany jazz-era plot. And I'll always remember the plaintive song and zaftig girl in the black slinky dress. Each time she sings the song I'm convinced she's not through with love.

They Can’t Take That Away From Me — Composed by George and Ira Gershwin just months before George’s sudden death in 1937, this bittersweet song was introduced by hoofer Fred Astaire in Shall We Dance. In a fog-bound ferry-deck scene with no dance sequence, a wistful Fred sings it to his love interest Ginger Rogers. Over the next 25 years recordings by Bing Crosby, Artie Shaw, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Frank Sinatra and others turned this nostalgic gem into a great American standard for performers and recording artists. Most recently, the song saw featured use in 1988's Rain Man and in 1995's Mr. Holland’s Opus.

Over The Rainbow — Composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Yip Harburg for the 1938 movie The Wizard Of Oz, this song of yearning and hope has become one of the greatest tunes in American history. In the movie the tune was sung several times by a young Judy Garland (1922 – 1969), who would reprise it for anyone and everyone — often with little hesitation — throughout her life.

It Had To Be You — Composed by Isham Jones with lyricist Gus Kahn in 1924, this song became a signature go-to tune of jazz musicians and dance bands in the 1920s and 1930s. Its popularity spread with performances in no less than 13 films between 1936 and 1992, including Melody In May (1936), Casablanca (1942), I’ll See You In My Dreams (1951), Annie Hall (1977), When Harry Met Sally (1989), and A League Of Their Own (1992).

Rick (Humphrey Bogart) listens as piano player Sam (Dooley
Wilson) sings "As Time Goes By," in 1942's Casablanca.
As Time Goes By — Written by Herman Hupfeld, the song premiered in “Everybody’s Welcome,” a musical with a three-month run on Broadway in 1931. Surpassed only by “Over The Rainbow," it is now known as the No. 2 song in film due to its use in a scene of Casablanca. The 1942 movie, itself an ageless classic, saw Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman portray star-crossed lovers in a wartime setting.

Back-in-the-day sounds
In addition to singing songs from movies, Lelen played several vintage acoustic guitars made in the same period as the films. Each instrument produces music with a special character, tone and sustain without use of pick-ups. In the East Greenbush Library program he played the following guitars:

1925 Maurer Style #493 — X-braced, mahogany-bodied auditorium guitar — made by luthiers Carl and August Larson of Chicago — original price: $30.

1933 MarvelTone — X-braced, rosewood-bodied grand concert guitar with one-of-a-kind pearl inlays in headstock and fingerboard — made by Regal Instruments of Chicago for wholesale distribution by Targ & Dinner of Chicago — original price: $50.

1934 Kalamazoo KG-11 — ladder-braced, mahogany-bodied grand concert guitar with cost-saving features and budget branding — made by Gibson of Kalamazoo MI for sale by retailers across North America — original price: $12.50.

1938 B&D Groton 1 — ladder-braced, mahogany-bodied auditorium guitar — made by Regal Instruments of Chicago for exclusive retail sale by B&D of Groton CT — original price: $15.

1939 Harmony Round-Up — recently restored and X-braced maple-body jumbo guitar with Gene Autry stenciled in the fingerboard and Round-Up stenciled in the headstock to honor the Singing Cowboy of radio, recordings and movies — made by Harmony Co. of Chicago for exclusive mail-order sale by Sears, Roebuck and Co. — original price: $9.95.

 ©  2019 — Kenneth Lelen — Al Rights Reserved
2019  Concert  Schedule      —         Our 20th Year in Service to Seniors
Date           Host / Venue      —      Location                     Concert Theme
Feb        8    Moravian Village, Bethlehem PA               Sunny Side of Street
Mar      16    Westfield Memorial Library                    Kingston Trio Redux
                   Westfield NJ  —  WestfieldLibrary
Mar     18    Prop rietor's Green, Marshfield MA           Big Band Idols
Mar     21    BayWoods, Annapolis MD                        Hollywood Souvenirs
Mar     22    Carroll Lutheran Vlg, Westminster MD     Big Band Idols
Mar     24    East Greenbush Community Library      Hollywood Souvenirs
                   East Greenbush NY  —  EastGreenbushLibrary
Apr       4     Springhill, Erie PA                                     Juke Joint Jive
Apr       9     Cypress Club, Raleigh NC                         Big Band Idols
May     11     Old Bridge Public Library                        She Did It Her Way
                   Old Bridge NJ  —  OldBridgeLibrary
May     18     East Norwalk Assn Library                     He Did It His Way
                   East Norwalk CT  —  EastNorwalkLibrary
May     29     Greendale Social Club, Worcester MA       Hollywood Souvenirs
May     30     Arbors, Manchester CT                             He Did It His Way
May     31     OceanView, Falmouth ME                         Mid-Century Melodies
Jun        5      Linden Public Library                               She Did It Her Way
                    Linden NJ  —  LindenLibrary
Jun        7     Lake Prince Woods, Suffolk VA                Radio Ramblers
Jun        9     Pennybyrn, High Point NC                        Radio Ramblers
Jun      19     Woodlawn Commons, Saratoga Sprgs NY Big Band Idols
Jun      20     Wilmington Memorial Library                 In The Mood
                     Wilmington MA  —  WilmingtonLibrary
Aug       5     West Milford Twp Library                       T B A
                   West Milford NJ  —  WestMilfordTwpLibrary
Aug       8    Montville Public Library                          Juke Joint Jive
                    Montville NJ  —  MontvilleLibrary
Aug     10    South Plainfield Library                          Big Band Idols
                    South Plainfield NJ  —  SouthPlainfieldLibrary
Sep     25    Heath Village, Hackettstown NJ               Great American Cabaret
Oct      14     Cypress Club, Raleigh NC                         Speak Easy Jazz
Oct      16     Bermuda Village, Advance NC                 Broadway Mementos
Oct     17     Evergreens Lifestyle Center                   Sunny Side of Street
                  Greensboro NC  —  SeniorResourcesGuilford
Oct      29    Carroll Lutheran Vlg, Westminster MD      Hollywood Souvenirs
Oct      30     Springhill, Erie PA                                     In The Mood
Nov       4     Woodlawn Commons, Saratoga Sprgs NY Sunny Side of Street
Nov       6     Greendale Social Club, Worcester MA       Big Band Idols
Nov       7     Arbors, Manchester CT                              Radio Ramblers
Nov       8     Amherst Senior Center                           She Did It Her Way
                  Amherst MA  —  AmherstSeniorCenter
Nov      9    Rodgers Memorial Library                       Juke Joint Jive
                  Hudson NH  —  RodgersLibrary
Nov     19    Denville Public Library                            T B A
                  Denville NJ  —  DenvilleLibrary
© 2019 — Kenneth Lelen — All Rights Reserved