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.

Friday, February 10, 2017

2017   Concert  Schedule
Date         Community / Venue   —   Location          Concert Theme
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Feb    23     Pine Run, Doylestown PA                       When Love Was Nifty
Mar      2     Friends Village, Woodstown NJ              Juke Joint Jive
Mar    11     Old Bridge Public Library                     Juke Joint Jive
                 Old Bridge NJ — 732-721-5600
                 oldbridgelibrary.org
Mar    24      Luther Crest, Allentown PA                     Vintage Guitars + Songs
Mar    28      Jefferson's Ferry, So Setauket NY           Big Band Idols
Mar    30     Bronxville Public Library                       She Did It Her Way
                 Bronxville NY — 914-337-7680
                 bronxvillelibrary.org
Apr      8      Chesterfield Cnty Publ Library             Tin Pan Alley Cats
                 Elizabeth Davis Middle School
                 Chester VA — 804-318-8911
                 chesterfieldlibrary.gov
Apr    12     Cypress Club, Raleigh NC                      Sunny Side of the Street
Apr    15     Denville Public Library                        Big Band Idols
                  Denville NJ — 973-627-6555
                  www.denvillelibrary.org
Apr    25     Shannondell-Ashcroft, Audubon PA      He Did It His Way
Apr    26     Springhill, Erie PA                                She Did It Her Way
May   18      Arbors, Manchester CT                           Sunny Side of the Street
Jun      9     Lake Prince Woods, Suffolk VA             Great American Nightclub
Jun    13      Oaks, Orangeburg SC                            He Did It His Way
Jun   16       Medford Leas, Medford NJ                     Big Band Idols
Sep   21      Friends Village, Woodstown NJ              Sunny Side of the Street
Sep    22      Luther Crest, Allentown PA                    Sunny Side of the Street
Oct    17      Plymouth Public Library                      T B A
                 Plymouth MA — 508-830-4250
                 plymouthpubliclibrary.org
Oct    18      Greendale Mens Club, Worcester MA      She Did It Her Way
Oct    19     Wilmington Memorial Library                    Tin Pan Alley Cats
                 Wilmington MA — 978-658-2967
                 wilmlibrary.org
Oct    30      Shannondell-Bradford, Audubon PA      Great American Nightclub
Nov     1      Springhill, Erie PA                                 Radio Ramblers
Nov     8      Cypress Club, Raleigh NC                      Great American Nightclub
Nov    11      Oaks, Orangeburg SC                               Great American Nightclub
Nov    29       Heath Village, Hackettstown NJ              Broadway Mementos
Dec    15      Medford Leas, Medford NJ                     Tin Pan Alley Cats

                                          ©  2017 — Kenneth Lelen — All Rights Reserved

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2018  Concert  Schedule
Date        Community / Venue   —   Location            Concert Theme
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Apr   14     Rodgers Memorial Library, Hudson NH      Big Band Idols
May  19     Cross Keys Village, New Oxford PA             T B A

                                          ©  2017 — Kenneth Lelen — All Rights Reserved

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Concert  Themes
Updated for the 2017 concert season
Every song tells a story

Vintage Music Concerts trace musical, romantic and historic themes with fun anecdotes, savory musings and wry commentsAudiences love the wit and warmth of each program. Hosts say a themed event is easy to promote.

Offering great American ragtime, jazz and swing, Vintage Music Concerts feature vintage acoustic guitars for an authentic, back-in-the-day sound with no pick-ups or electronic gimmicks.

Updated for the 2017 concert season, here is the latest collection of themes performed in Vintage Music Concerts.

• • • • • • •

Great American Nightclub
Back in the day adult couples dined and danced at supper clubs, hotels, night clubs, cabarets and restaurants, so we'll offer a concert of standards, jazz hits, novelties and romantic tunes performed by saloon singers, ballroom bands and jazz combos. Concert will revive the musical glow of Vaughn Monroe in 1946 at Meadows Restaurant near Boston, Blossom Dearie singing Comden and Green tunes at Danny's Skylight Room in New York City in 1959 or Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London in 1966Bobby Short in 1968 at New York's Café Carlyle, and Slam Stewart and friends in 1970 at Morey's Restaurant in Binghamton.

Big Band Idols

Features songs immortalized by the vocalists, musicians and band leaders who fronted Big Bands, society orchestras and jazz combos during the Swing Era.

When Love Was Nifty

In the decade before Elvis and his rowdy friends came on the scene, American pop music began shifting to appeal to both adult interests and youthful ideas of romance.

She Did It Her Way

Concert celebrates the lives, romances, careers and hit songs of such vocalists and recording artists as Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Patti Page, Ella Fitzgerald, Mildred Bailey, Ruth Etting, June Christy, Dinah Shore, Kate Smith, Frances Langford, Judy Garland, Helen Forrest, Rosemary Clooney, Sophie Tucker, Jo Stafford, Bessie Smith, Marlene Dietrich, Margaret Whiting, Boswell Sisters, Andrews Sisters, DeCastro Sisters, the Incomparable Hildegarde and others.

He Did It His Way
Concert celebrates the lives, romances, careers and hit songs of such vocalists and recording artists as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, Mills Brothers, Fats Waller, Fats Domino, Eddie Cantor, Gene Autry, Al Jolson, Nick Lucas, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Johnny Mercer, Les Brown, Benny Goodman, Gene Austin, Ozzie Nelson, Hoagy Carmichael, Cliff Edwards, Louis Prima, Louis Armstrong, Elmo Tanner, Les Paul, Nat King Cole and others.

In The Mood

Concert features the memorable tunes of the 1940s that changed Americans by injecting deep emotion in popular music and evoking moods that resonated with folks on the Home Front and Front Lines.

Juke Joint Jive
Memorable toe-tappin' hits for stage door johnnies, lindy hoppers, swing shift maisies, bobbie soxers, drugstore cowboys, jitter buggers and zoot suiters.

Broadway Mementos
The hit tunes used by producers, composers and musicians on the Great White Way to advance story lines, promote ingenues and spawn ancillary income from sheet music sales, 33-, 45- and 78-rpm recordings, juke boxes, radio airplay or the movies.

Hollywood Souvenirs
The power of song selection gave movie producers a way to turn their celluloid dramas and zany comedies into nationwide hits. You'll be surprised how many movies spawned some of the great songs you know.

Bye Bye Blues
Concert spotlights the hit tunes of the Depression that young urban audiences called their own because since it featured the popular singers, memorable lyrics and rhythmic music they could dance to.

A Fine Romance
Features the romantic ballads popular with the generation that rationed its romance and deferred its affairs "for the duration" of WW II.

Folk Song Boomers
Concert offers the topical, folk, traditional and protest songs of the 'Fifties and 'Sixties that became popular hits favored by America's post-WWII generation.

Speak Easy Jazz
Concert of tunes popularized on record and radio in the 'Twenties + 'Thirties by the originators of jazz: Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Paul Whiteman, Isham Jones, Mildred Bailey, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Richard Whiting and others.

Legendary Love Songs
Offers amorous lyrics and memorable melodies that evoke old flames, moonlit nights, romantic affairs, heartthrobs and heartaches.

Radio Ramblers
For years Americans turned to a console, portable or tabletop device to catch the latest tunes, news, drama, comedy, games, sports, shopping and gossip, so this concert salute the songs, singers and shows of radio's heyday.

Ragtime Rascals
Concert of hot sweet jazz and insouciant jive tunes that were notable for clever lyrics, rapid rhythms and memorable melodies. Spread by radio, talkies, 78-rpm records, tin lizzies and bootleg liquor, these songs were the hits for doughboys, flappers, bootleggers and other speakeasy denizens in the Roaring Twenties.

Sunny Side Of Street
Covers mirthful songs that softened the Great Depression's bite, offered pithy personal advice and poked fun at society's upper crust.

Tin Pan Alley Cats
Songs and stories behind the hit songs of Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Dorothy Fields, George Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Frank Loesser, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Johnny Mercer, Jule Styne et al.

Torch Song Embers
Offers favorite songs of people who moon for the One Who Got Away, idolize a misbegotten heartbreaker or can't forget some long-ago romantic rendezvous. Wistfully memorable and bittersweet, these full-blown romantic tunes prove it's better to love and lose than to never love at all.

Vintage Songs on Vintage Guitars
For an authentic, back-in-the day sound we pair popular tunes of the 'Twenties, 'Thirties and 'Forties with the playing of steel-stringed, acoustic guitars made in the same decades.

Singing Songwriting Folkies
Established composers and performing artists of Tin Pan Alley, Hollywood and Broadway lost their grip on pop music when talented upstarts — Paul Simon, Jimmy Webb, Carole King, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Jackson Browne, Jim Croce and others — began to write, record and perform their own hit songs during the 'Sixties and 'Seventies.


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© 2017 — Kenneth Lelen — All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 14, 2017

She Did It Her Way
thrills Big Band fans at Shannondell
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   ©  2017 — Kenneth Lelen — Al Rights Reserved

Residents at Shannondell, a 1,000-unit retirement community 
in Audubon PA, recently invited Ken Lelen to perform his She Did It Her Way concert. The 75-minute program celebrates the lives, careers, romances and hit songs of some of 
the 20th Century's most popular female vocalists.

                                                                                                 Both concert photos: Abby Glazier
At She Did It Her Way concert at Shannondell Ken Lelen played a
1936 Gibson L-00. Behind are 1931 and 1932 Regal MarvelTones,
1934 Kalamazoo KG-11 and restored 1940 Gene Autry Round-up.
The event was held Mon, Oct 24, 2016. The concert filled all but five seats at Bradford Theater, one of two 100-seat venues at the continuing care facility, which is spread across a 140-acre site near King of Prussia.

The musician performed a program of 15 tunes that were originally popular hits for female vocalists between the mid-1920s and mid-1950s. Each song was introduced by a musical, historic or romantic anecdote about the singer, the song, the era or the composer.


Concert celebrates only female vocalists

When Lelen performs the She Did It Her Way concert, his program features only female vocalists, including some of the following celebrated artists:

          Kate Smith, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Mildred Bailey, Anita O'Day,

          Edith Piaf, Kate Smith, Kitty Kallen, Ella Fitzgerald, Helen Forrest, Jo
          Stafford, Bessie Smith, Sophie Tucker, Marlene Dietrich, Lena Horne,
          Doris Day, June Christy, Dinah Shore, DeCastro Sisters, Ma Rainey,
          Dinah Washington, Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting, Patti Page,
          Frances Langford, Incomparable Hildegarde, Mabel Mercer, Vera Lynn,
          Ethel Waters, Helen O'Connell, Andrew Sisters, Boswell Sisters,
          Maxine Sullivan, Peggy Lee and others.

Hit songs by female vocalists offered in the She Did It Her Way concert at Shannondell included:



          All vocalist photos: Wikipedia
Ella Fitzgerald (1917 - 1996)
I'm Beginning To See The Light — Composed in 1944 by Duke Ellington, Don George, Johnny Hodges and Harry James, this jazz standard and dance favorite was a Billboard Top 100 hit for six weeks in 1945 for the Ink Spots, with lead vocals by Bill Kenny and Ella Fitzgerald.


Kitty Kallen (1921 - 2016)







In 1945 the song was also a hit for band leader Harry James and Orchestra, with vocals by Kitty Kallen. A year earlier she replaced Helen O'Connell on hit records with Jimmy Dorsey, "They're Either Too Old Or Too Young" and "Besame Mucho."


Dinah Shore (1922 - ) 
As much as I like Ella and Kitty's versions, I've grown enthralled with the sultry version by Doris Day in 1964. Doris, who first drew the world's attention in 1945 with "Sentimental Journey," was reported to be inspired to become a singer as a teenager in the 1930s by listening to Ella Fitzgerald on the radio.

Connee Boswell (1907 - 1976)
In a small irony lost to history, Ella once said she was inspired to become a singer when, as a 15-year old, she heard a record of Connee Boswell, another great female jazz singer.

"My mother brought home one of [Connee's] records, and I fell in love with it," Ella recalled years later in a remark noted by the NY Times in a 1996 obituary of Ella, doyenne of the Great American Song. "I tried so hard to sound just like her."


After You've Gone — Written by Turner Layton and Henry Creamer, this 1918 classic 
is one of the music world's earliest torch songs. The original sheet music instructs musicians to deliver the song as a "Ballad — not too fast."


Sophie Tucker (1887 - 1966)
Ruth Etting (1897 - 1978)
To no one's surprise, the song was first rendered as a blues, with its emotional core expressed as: "Someday you'll feel what I felt, you dirty dog." Indeed, on recordings by Sophie Tucker, Bessie Smith and Ruth Etting — all made in 1927 — the song was offered as a languid blues number.

But "After You've Gone" quickly morphed into a revenge song with an emotional edge best expressed as: "Someday you'll get yours, you dirty dog." The change occurred between 1929 and 1931 as Bing Crosby, Paul Whitman, Red Nichols, Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman and Fats Waller and other male artists gave it their very best up-tempo jazz treatment.

Bessie Smith (1894 - 1937)
Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out — This song was written by Jimmy Cox in 1923 as a cautionary tale about the fickle nature of fortune in an era of apparent prosperity. Songster Bessie Smith released her recording of this song on Friday, Sept. 13, 1929 — two weeks after the Stock Market hit an all-time high and just two weeks before it crashed, sparking a 10-year Depression.

Offered as vaudeville blues with a hulking ragtime feel, Smith's "race record" for Columbia became her best selling song. It was covered by countless musicians long after her 1937 death under tragic circumstances.


I'm Thru With Love — In the 1959 comedy "Some Like It Hot," a saxophone player named Joe (Tony Curtis) and his bass-playing friend Jerry (Jack Lemon) are feckless witnesses to Chicago's St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Feb 1929. To escape harm by avenging mobsters, the pair disguise themselves as women (Josephine on sax and Daphne on bass) and join an all-female band — Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators — and head to Miami to entertain a rich crowd of winter vacationers.



Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962)
In a scene near the film's end, Joe/Josephine watches his love interest, the band's vocalist and ukulele player Sugar Kane Kowalczyk (Marilyn Monroe), straddle a piano in a black slinky dress and intone "I'm Thru With Love." In an act of romantic disavowal, she sings this 1931 jazz standard by Fud Livingston, Matty Malneck and Gus Kahn.

I've seen the movie numerous times and often make a hash of the plot and its hapless characters. But I've never forgotten 
the plaintive song or the zaftig girl in the black slinky dress who convinces me she's not really through with love.


Teach Me Tonight — Written in 1953 with music by Gene De Paul and lyrics by Sammy Cahn, this love song was a successful jazz and pop hit for many artists. It was first recorded in 1954 on Decca by a now-obscure jazz vocalist and Charleston WV native, Janet Brace (1927 - 1991). But her cut of the song "sank at launching, with barely a ripple," according to De Paul.


DeCastro Sisters — Peggy,
Cherie and Babette
Jo Stafford (1917 - 2008)
Then, in late 1954, Dinah Washington, Queen of the Jukebox, recorded an R&B version. But that cut got only minor playIt was Jo Stafford's version in 1954 that turned heads when it reached #15 on the pop charts and opened the path for an even better selling version in the next year.

In 1955 the DeCastro Sisters, a trio raised in Havana, Cuba, scored a huge hit with the song when it reached #2 on Billboard's pop charts. Begun as a Latin group, they were inspired by the Andrew Sisters and became protegees of the singer, dancer and actress Carmen Miranda (1909 - 1955), who back in the day was known as the Brazilian Bombshell.

Fever — Co-written by Eddie Coley and Otis Blackwell in 1956, it was the best known tune from jazz and pop singer Peggy Lee (1920 - 2002). Her smooth and sultry cover, slower and steamier than Little Willie John's R&B original, added new lyrics ("Romeo loved Juliet" and "Captain Smith and Pocahontas") that have become standard elements of the song.

Peggy Lee (1920 - 2002)
"Fever" was Lee's signature song, best-known work and most successful hit in a 50-year career. Launched on the radio in North Dakota as a teenager during the 1930s, she moved in 1942 to Chicago. There, she replaced Helen Forrest in Benny Goodman's Orchestra and made several hit records over a two-year span.

In the late 1940s she worked in California with Capitol Records. Over the next three decades she produced a stack of hits, including "I Don't Know Enough About You," "It's A Good Day," "Mañana," "Is That All There Is?" and "Fever."

Lee's 1958 version of "Fever" was played in a medium swing tempo and used only an acoustic bass, small drum set and finger snaps for rhythmic back-up. Considered her "most memorable tune," it spent 12 weeks on Billboard's Hot 100 in the U.S. and peaked at #8.


I'll Be Seeing You — Written in 1938 by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal, the song was inserted in Right This Way, a Broadway musical that closed after 15 shows.

Still, the song gained renown in the 1940s for its emotional power with soldiers stationed overseas and folks on the Home Front. Like “It’s Been A Long, Long Time” and “Sentimental Journey,” the wistful "I'll Be Seeing You" was recorded extensively during the war years.



The Incomparable Hildegarde (1906 - 2005)
Among other artists, "I'll Be Seeing You" was successfully covered by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Connee Boswell. But the tune gained a certain cachet when sung by the nightclub entertainer dubbed the "Incomparable Hildegarde" by the columnist Walter Winchell.

Raised in Wisconsin, she was also called the Chanteuse from the Continent while performing in U.S. cabarets during the war. And along with her elegant gowns, long white gloves, lace handkerchiefs and precise diction, "I'll Be Seeing You" was one of her best-known numbers.

Vintage guitar tones
For an authentic, back-in-the-day sound at the Shannondell concert, Lelen paired each song with the playing of pre-war acoustic guitars. He played these five period instruments in his She Did It Her Way program:

           1931 Regal MarvelTone — Mahogany bodi grand concert

           guitar by Regal of Chicago IL that originally retailed for $28.

           1932 Regal MarvelTone — Rosewood body grand concert

           guitar by Regal of Chicago IL that originally retailed for $50.

           1934 Kalamazoo KG-11 — Mahogany body grand concert

           guitar with sunburst finish and budget design (ladder-braced
           top, no adjustable rod in neck) by Gibson of Kalamazoo MI
           that originally retailed for $12.50.

           1936 Gibson L-00 — Mahogany body grand concert guitar

           with sunburst finish and upgraded appointments (X-braced
           top and adjustable rod in neck) by Gibson of Kalamazoo MI
           that originally retailed for $27.50.

           1940 Gene Autry Round-up — Recently restored, maple

           body auditorium guitar has the Singing Cowboy's signature
           painted on the fingerboard. Made by Harmony of Chicago IL,
           it was sold in Sears, Roebuck mail-order catalogs for $9.95.


Ken Lelen performing his She Did It Her Way concert at Shannondell's Bradford Theater in October, 2016.

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©  2017  Kenneth Lelen  —  All Rights Reserved