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, July 30, 2010

Legendary Love Songs
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               You must remember this
               a kiss is just a kiss,
               a sigh is still a sigh
               the fundamental things apply
               as time goes by.
Some of Ken Lelen's programs are Legendary Love Song concerts. These special events are filled with romantic ragtime, jazz and swing tunes that are notable for their memorable melodies, lilting lyrics, sophisticated rhymes and heartfelt sentiments. Audiences say these concerts evoke and express all the emotions of romantic affairs, special relationships, nostalgic memories, even moonlit nights.
     "Ken Lelen's real passion is in delivering the honesty of the emotions expressed in these old songs," the Princeton Packet said. So expect a heartfelt performance of classic love songs, some of which may include:
       It Had To Be You                       ©  1924 - Isham Jones & Gus Kahn
       Someone To Watch Over Me        ©  1926 - George & Ira Gershwin
       Tip-Toe Thru' The Tulips              ©  1929 - Al Dubin & Joe Burke
       Can't Give ... Anything But Love   ©  1928 - Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields
       Stardust                                   ©  1929 - Hoagy Carmichael & Mitchell Parrish
       Georgia On My Mind                   ©  1930 - Hoagy Carmichael & Stuart Gorrell
       Embraceable You                       ©  1930 - George & Ira Gershwin
       On The Sunny Side Of Street       ©  1930 - Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields
       Exactly Like You                        ©  1930 - Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields
       As Time Goes By                       ©  1931 - Herman Hupfeld
       I'm Thru With Love                     ©  1931 - Gus Kahn & M Malneck & F Livingston
       Let's Fall In Love                        ©  1933 - Ted Koehler & Harold Arlen
       Love Is Just Around Corner           ©  1934 - Leo Robin & Lewis Gensler
       I'm In The Mood For Love            ©  1935 - Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields
       These Foolish Things                   ©  1936 - Holt Marvell & Jack Strachey
       Love Is Here To Stay                  ©  1938 - George & Ira Gershwin
       Taking A Chance On Love            ©  1940 - John LaTouche, Ted Fetter & Vernon Duke
       Let's Get Away From It All           ©  1941 - Tom Adair & Matt Dennis
       It's Been A Long, Long Time         ©  1945 - Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn
       Time After Time                         ©  1947 - Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn
       On A Slow Boat To China             ©  1948 - Frank Loesser
       Tennessee Waltz                        ©  1948 - PeeWee King & Redd Stewart
       You Belong To Me                       ©  1952 - PeeWee King, Redd Stewart & C Price
     In addition to singing love songs, Lelen pairs each tune with playing of a vintage acoustic guitar for a memorable combination of music, melody and sentiment. Each guitar is striking for its tone, character and sustain without use of pick-ups or electronics.
     "People of all ages love these songs," Lelen said. "And they're pleasantly surprised by the robust sound and classy look of the vintage guitars."
               Someday, when I'm awfully low,
               when the world is cold,
               I will feel a glow just thinking of you
               and the way you look tonight.
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© 2010 Ken Lelen — All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vintage Music News
No. 5 - Autumn 2008

Vintage Concerts Evoke the Sweetest Memories
You won't believe the stories people in my audiences tell me. They hear me play a song and  shower me with stories. Though most tales are love stories, they often regale me with stories of celebrities, proms and sock hops, youthful escapades, sibling jealousies, long-lost friends and family get-togethers. I also hear tales of stage-door johnnies, soda jerks and drugstore cowboys. Finally, they talk about missed opportunities, chance encounters and romantic regrets.
     Along with great music, these poignant memories and associated emotions are palpable elements of every Vintage Music Concert. In the past decade I've woven the stories I've accumulated into the fabric of my concerts so all can enjoy the social art of sharing music — whether I play a cherished tune or half-forgotten lyric, praise a vintage guitar as cherished relic, make a wry point about romantic love or retrace the cobbled paths of Tin Pan Alley.
     For years people have asked me to share these tales so they will not be lost. Here, then, are some examples for all to enjoy.                               Ken Lelen
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Rockette's Mickey Tryst
After a concert in Red Bank NJ in November 2001, I got a lesson in the power of memory and how some oldsters communicate: abrupt but clear as daylight.
     A slim, white-haired woman came up and announced she was 95 years old and a former Rockette who'd danced at Radio City Music Hall in N.Y. City during the 1930s. I'd just sung Over The Rainbow, Judy Garland's signature song from the 1939 movie, "The Wizard of Oz." Hearing it, she said, reminded her that she knew "all the swells" in the 1930s and 1940s.
Mickey Rooney
Photo: Ted Allan
     Then, with a devilish grin and not-too-subtle wink, she told me: "Back in the day I dated Mickey Rooney," Garland's movie co-star and friend. Short in stature, but never short in confidence, he was a top box-office actor from 1939 to 1941.
     "Oh," I said. "You dated Mickey Rooney."
     "No," she said, "I dated Mickey Rooney," and winked again. Her wink, I realized, was key to the reminiscence, but I was unsure what it indicated about this long-ago assignation. Curious, I asked, "What do you want to tell me about this date?"
     "Did you know Mickey had eight wives?" she asked. "Well, our date lasted all night," she said with another wink, "but I never married the guy."
     So there it was. My nonagenarian friend was the proverbial One Who Got Away. One of many, I suspect, for Mr. Rooney.
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Second Subaltern Lizzie
At a November 2002 concert in Edison NJ, a woman with a British accent told me the Swing tunes I'd been singing revived memories of her work with an all-female ambulance crew in London during WW II.
     "After the Nazi air-bomber attacks, we'd search the rubble for people," she said. "I worked with Lizzie, an ambulance driver with more nerve than all us girls."
Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor 
      She'd drive in the worse areas without hesitation, the woman recalled. "You would not know she was somebody important," she said, referring to Princess Elizabeth, crowned Queen in 1952.
     During the war a teen-aged Elizabeth convinced her father, George VI (who remained at Buckingham Palace despite the Nazi bombings), that she could contribute to the war effort by joining the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service. Trained to repair and drive a truck, she was known as No. 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor.
     Her training was her first with non-royals, according to Wikipedia. She liked the work, which led her to send her own children to school rather than educate them at home. She also was the first female in the royal family to serve in the armed forces. At war's end, at V.E. Day festivities in London, Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, celebrated with the crowd until after midnight.
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Musical Crew Mates
After a November 2003 concert in Pompano Beach FL a gentleman asked about my Galiano, a small guitar made in New York City's Little Italy in 1920. Back then, it cost $8 wholesale, or about $15 retail. He said it reminded him of a small guitar he'd owned in the 1930s and 1940s.
     "I played a cheap, $12 Sears, Roebuck guitar," he said. "I played it for friends, family and dates, and when I went to war, I took it with me."
B-17F Flying Fortress
     During WW II he was lead pilot on a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. He'd trained in south Florida and in mid-1942 he was assigned to a wartime airbase in England, taking his crew and his guitar with him. "I played it on our first long flight — a three-legged trip from the U.S. to England," he said. "In 15-hour flights we flew first from Florida south to Brazil, then east to Africa, and then north to England."
     On these and other long flights he'd put the plane on autopilot, pull out his guitar and sing over the airplane's intercom system to the rest of the crew.
     "By our 25th mission, when the war ended for all of us, my crew knew every song I knew," he recalled proudly.
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Kate Smith's Dream
People in my audiences often tell me have to go where memory takes you. You smell an aroma, see a picture, hear a melody, and you're transported to another time and place. You never know where a memory takes you go until you arrive.
     I was reminded of this in November 2001 when a woman in my audience in Red Bank NJ told me she enjoyed hearing me sing Dream A Little Dream Of Me. Hearing it revived a memory of seeing Kate Smith (1907 - 1986) introduce the song in Boston in April 1931.
Kate Smith
     Intrigued by this morsel of memory, I asked her what else she recalled of the Kate Smith and the day's events. "I don't remember much. I'm an old lady," she said. "But I was there with my sister and I was wearing  a blue dress."
     So I began introducing the song with a story about a woman in a blue dress and her sister at a Kate Smith concert in Boston.  Then, six months later a man at a concert in Bethlehem PA heard me sing the song and said, "I built the theater the woman talked about. It was the Metropolitan Theatre on Tremont Street in Boston."
     Opened in 1925, The Met was designed by Clarence Blackall, a leading theater architect. Considered an important Boston landmark in the Roaring Twenties, its crystal chandeliers and marble doorways made an elegant setting for people entertained by motion pictures, big bands and vaudeville.
     The theater still stands. In 1962 it was home to the Boston Ballet and many opera productions, but fell into disuse during the 1970s. However, in the early 1980s it was renovated for $9.8 million and renamed the Wang Theatre in honor of An Wang, founder of Wang Laboratories. Since its restoration, the Wang Theatre has hosted an array of world-class theater, music, dance and film.
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Backseat Memories
At a concert at Wayne NJ Public Library in June 2006, Jim Sandford, a spry 70-year-old, told me how pleased he was to hear the song Blue Moon. Written for the 1934 movie, "Manhattan Melodrama," with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Lorenz Hart, the song exclaims:
             Blue moon,
             you saw me standing alone
             without a dream in my heart
             without a love of my own.
     He recalled the song as it was sung by Connee Boswell, one of the three Boswell Sisters known for their jazz vocals during the 1930s. Later I learned that the lyrics heard today are actually the fourth version penned by Hart, and that Connee's 1935 version for Columbia Records was the first commercial recording of Blue Moon.
1938 Plymouth
     Still, he said, hearing me sing the song at the library on a balmy spring afternoon reminded him of a memorable summer's night when he was a teenager in the 1950s.
     "I got my first kiss from a girl as we sat in the back seat of a 1938 Plymouth and that song was playing on the radio," he recalled.
     "Enough information," I told him.
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Long, Long Time
It happens every time I sing It's Been A Long, Long Time, a 1945 hit song with music by Julie Styne and lyrics by Sammy Cahn. Popularized by several singers just as World War II ended, war-weary Americans were enchanted by its sentiment:
           Just kiss me once,
           then kiss me twice,
           then kiss me once again,
           it's been a long, long time.
     Back in the day it was common for record labels to release competing versions of hit songs. Thus, one rendition, by Harry James with vocal by Kitty Kallen, hit #1 on Billboard's charts on Nov. 24, 1945. Meanwhile, another version, by the Les Paul Trio with vocal by Bing Crosby (1903 - 1977), climbed the charts until it replaced the James-Kallen version at #1 on Dec. 8, 1945. Other copies of the song also charted that year, including one by Charlie Spivak and orchestra, with vocal by Irene Daye, and one by Stan Kenton and orchestra, with vocal by June Christy.
Bing Crosby
     Home-bound soldiers and stateside households heard several versions of the same tune from the fall of 1945 and to the winter of 1946. Today, when I sing it people say they associate the song with that narrow post-war time period as well as many bittersweet homecomings.
     Some former GIs, however, have less-than-fond feelings for the song. One man, stationed in the Pacific during WW II, told me he recalled hearing the song played over and over on the PA system of his stateside-bound ship at the end of the war.
     "I heard that song all the way from the Philippines to San Francisco," he said after a concert in Lancaster PA. "I was sick of that song by the time I got home."



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© 2008  Ken Lelen  -  All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 23, 2010

Vintage Music News
No. 4 - Autumn 2007

New Luster For Vintage Guitars
Prices for vintage acoustic guitars rest on big demand and short supply
The demand for vintage acoustic guitars has grown in the last decade as Baby Boomers find old guitars make better investments than new guitars.
     Acoustic guitars built between 1920 and 1950 by such American firms as Bacon and Day, Dobro, Gibson, Epiphone, Larson Brothers, Martin, National, Regal and Washburn are prized by collectors. Jazz guitars made from the 1930s to the 1950s by D'Angelico, Gretsch, Stromberg and other firms are highly collectible as well.
1927 Martin 0-28K
     "The market for vintage instruments has taken off," says Buzzy Levine, owner of Lark Street Music in Teaneck NJ. As examples, Levine cites a 1927 Martin 00-45 guitar that sold in 1991 at $6,500 and in 2001 at $15,000. In 1987 he sold a 1940 Martin D-45 at $18,000; now it's $200,000. "It was one of only two ever made," he says. "It had a sunburst top, which is a rare Martin finish, and a D-45 is the most desirable Martin to own and play, no matter what the age."
     What factors affect vintage guitar sales? Despite limited supplies, demand for musical instruments with superior tone is strong. "Vintage guitars not only are good musical tools, they look cool," Levine says. "They have a tone that comes only with age. It is not a myth that sound improves over time." Many collectors also play instruments, Levine points out. "This includes professional and amateur musicians who buy an older instrument because they like the sound," he says.
     Some 100 dealers sell vintage guitars, but perhaps only 20 have skilled repair people and knowledgeable sales staff. Still, the number of dealers, auctioneers and private sellers who operate websites or offer mail-order sales has increased. These new venues spread the word on the availability and condition of vintage guitars even as they raise sellers' price expectations.

Growing number of dealers
The vintage market is vigorous, and dealers may earn big margins. If a guitar is handled on consignment, a dealer may take 15 - 20 percent commission once an instrument sells. A collector who sells an instrument to a dealer for cash may lose more — 30 - 50 percent of the price quoted in classified ads, website listings or retailer's hang tags.
     Auction houses take bigger bites — snagging fees from buyer and seller. In 2004, Boston-based Skinner auctioned two Lloyd Loar-signed F-5 mandolins at $105,000 and $94,000. It got a 17.5 percent premium on the first $80,000 and 10 percent on the balance from the buyer and the seller. At Sotheby's the same buyer would have paid 20 percent on the first $100,000 and 12 percent on the last $5,000.
     Restorations affect values. People are surprised to hear a vintage guitar that needs repairs, neck reset or frets may be priced the same as one that doesn't need work. And shoddy repairs can lower value. "Work won't affect value if it's done correctly," Levine says. "Some repairs are needed. Still, a good repair is one no one can spot," Levine says.
     Collectors include Baby Boomers who want the old sound or an instrument they couldn't  afford in their youth. Even young musicians like old guitars for their sound and appearance. Some 90 percent of all guitar buyers are male.
     "Players say they need different instruments for different songs" explains Levine, "and it's not uncommon for someone to own 10, 50, 150 guitars. People today have the means to own several guitars, like carpenters who have several tools."
     Today's buyers are sellers tomorrow. "There'll always be people who decide they have too many guitars or whose life situations change," Levine says. "Certain collectors can't wait to get their hands on an old guitar that is new on the market, and they will even sell something to get it," he continues. "Or else their wives get wise to their guitar-buying habit or they run out of room to store them."
     In recent years the vintage market has been stimulated by newly founded web sites without retail sites that simply list instruments. Many are run by people with as few as 20 vintage guitars who launch web sites of their own so they could go into business as vendors.
     "This means dealers are trying to obtain a portion of the market for vintage-era guitars," Levine says. "It also means prices will continue to rise because collectors are always willing to pay premium rates for desirable instruments."

Vintage in the attic?
Do people find valuable old guitars in the attic? It happens, Levine says. His favorite attic find came to light 10 years ago, when a woman found a 1926 Martin 00-45 guitar. "She picked up a pair of identical 00-45 guitars at an estate sale for 50 cents each," he recalls. "She sold one because it had a crack in it, but I paid her $3,500 for the other. It sold it a few months later for $6,000. Now, it's worth even more."
     In 1981 a Lark Street client brought in a 1928 National Tri-Cone guitar, a steel-bodied instrument. "A guy found it in his roommate's mother's garbage,"  Levine says. "It was worth $1,200 then. Now, it's worth more than $5,000."
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© 2007  Ken Lelen  -  All Rights Reserved
Vintage Music News
No. 3 — Summer 2006

Mementos incite magic at Vintage Concerts
Displaying and playing guitars with known provenance, or ownership record, has added an exciting element to many Vintage Music Concerts. Recounting an instrument's provenance authenticates the vintage appeal of a program for an audience even as it enhances the musical offerings and anecdotes by Ken Lelen. As of Summer 2006 the instruments with provenance in my collection include:


1938 Gibson GS-35 — the Ross Hitch classical
Ross Hitch, with trombone,
and friend, with fiddle.
One of 39 ever made, this mahogany-bodied classical guitar was purchased nearly new in 1939 at a Toronto pawn shop by Ross Hitch (1919 - 1945), a full-time professional musician and arranger, as well as part-time guitar teacher. Hitch played the Gibson classical only a short while before an untimely death at age 26.
     "He loved guitars and classical music, but playing trombone was a lucrative job in his day — the Big Band Era," said Hitch's daughter, Mary Blendick of Stratford, Ontario.
     Today the guitar is in pristine condition due to the fact that it sat in a corner of the family dining room — virtually unplayed — for more than 60 years, said Blendick.


1951 Epiphone Triumph Regent — the Gordy Burgess archtop
This is a maple-bodied archtop guitar, played for 50 years by John Gordon (Gordy) Burgess (1915 - 2005) of Chicago, IL and Altamount Springs, FL. He played jazz-style guitar as well as harmonica throughout his life, according to his wife, Ginny Burgess of Orlando, FL.


1955 Martin 0-18 — the Ken Eskew guitar
This guitar was played for 40 years by Kenneth Eskew (1918-2001) of Greenville, SC. An aerospace engineer, Eskew mostly played the guitar to relax, said his wife, Marion Eskew. "Some days he'd come home and rush into the bedroom to play his guitar for a while before he could even talk to anybody."


1937 Kalamazoo KG-21 — the Floyd Riggs archtop
Gibson's budget-priced
Kalamazoo KG-21.
This budget-priced, archtop is one of 14 instruments found in the estate of Floyd Riggs (1923 - 2001), who paid $21 for this Gibson-made, budget-priced instrument in 1937. After a stint in the U.S. Army during  WW II, Riggs returned home to Vienna, WV.
     He was employed for 30 years in the purchasing department of a large chemical firm near Vienna, an Ohio River town that today is surrounded by tract homes and suburban traffic. Back in the day Riggs liked to play his guitars and mandolins anight and on weekends for local jamborees or social events. He loved to play his instruments — but not sing, friends of the family recalled.


1950 Silvertone — the Marie Williams guitar
This is an inexpensive, birch-bodied guitar built by Harmony of Chicago and sold at Sears, Roebuck. It was played for decades by Marie Williams, a middle-school biology teacher, retired and residing in Orlando, FL.


1940 Gibson A-50 — the Ernst Koch mandolin
This mandolin was played for 60 years by Ernst Koch (1906 - 2001), a language teacher and WWII veteran. He began playing mandolin in 1916, paying $9 for a bowl-back mandolin and 75 cents for twice-weekly lessons from a musician named Professor Moscati, a clerk in his father's woolen shop in Clifton, NJ. As a teenager Koch performed in a 50-piece mandolin orchestra that practiced above an Italian saloon. He also played banjo-mandolin, saxophone and clarinet. "I bought the A-50 directly from Gibson, which mailed it to me," Koch said four months before he passed away. "I loved to play that mandolin. I found it a great emotional outlet."

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Vintage sheet music collection grows with recent gifts
Fred and Ginger, 1935
Besides making song requests and lyric corrections, people attending Vintage Music Concerts have offered their sheet music collections to enhance my programs. Recent donors include:
     • Bob and Isabelle Doty of Rock Hill, SC;
     • Edna Adams of Northampton, MA;
     • Gladys Dean of Philadelphia, PA;
     • Mary Sampson of Advance, NC;
     • Jeanne Rudy of Advance, NC;
     • Ann North of West Chester PA;
     • Edna and Mert Couture of Holyoke MA;
     • Estelle Kay of Holden, MA;
                                                 • Gladys Laird of Feasterville, PA;
                                                 • Isabelle Mann of Orlando, FL.
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© 2006  Ken Lelen  -  All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vintage Music News
No. 2 — Summer 2005

Vintage instruments in the collection
Ken Lelen has owned and played instruments built during the late 19th Century and early 20th Century by such venerable American firms as: Bacon & Day, Bay State, Carlstedt, Cole, Dobro, Emory, Epiphone, Gatcomb, Gibson, Gretsch, Harmony, Haynes, Kay, Larson, Lyon & Healy, Martin, Oahu, Regal, Schmidt, Stewart, Thompson & Odell, Vega, and Washburn.
     Whether accompanying ragtime, jazz or swing favorites, they all make music that is striking for its tone, character and sustain — without the use of pick-ups or gimmicks. Vintage instruments currently [Summer 2005] in the collection include:

1920 Galiano
Ken Lelen — with 1920 Galiano.
Galiano was a low-cost brand offered by luthiers Rafaele Ciani (d. 1932) and Antonio Cerrito of Little Italy, NYC and Oscar Schmidt Co. of Jersey City NJ, which sold instruments through mail-order firms, dry goods stores and railway depots between 1900 and 1937. The renowned archtop guitar maker John D'Angelico (1905 - 1964) was an apprentice with Ciani, his great-uncle, between 1914 and 1932.
     This concert-sized guitar originally sold for $8 wholesale, or $15 - $17 retail. It has a mahogany back and sides, ladder-braced spruce top, mother-of-pearl inlays on a pearwood fretboard, and wood perfling on the soundhole rosette, edge binding and backstripe. Despite its diminutive size, this instrument has a surprisingly huge, warm voice that's well-suited for ragtime, hokum and up-tempo harassment.

1932 Gibson L-00
This black-bodied guitar was built by the Gibson Co. of Kalamazoo, MI (original price: $25). It has mahogany back and sides, 12-fret neck, rosewood fretboard, X-braced spruce top and white celluloid pickguard. Offered just before steel-stringed, dreadnought guitars with booming sounds became widely available, it has a four-legged presence and formidable voice for its size. A date-stamped C.O.D. receipt, discovered under the guitar's adjustable truss rod cover, indicates the instrument was sold for $12.25 on July 29, 1937 in Roaring Spring, PA.

1936 Martin 00-18G
This instrument (original price: $45 with $15 plywood case) was the prototype for 5,138 classical-style guitars  made  by  C.F. Martin Co.  of  Nazareth, PA  between 1936 and 1962. It has mahogany back and sides, spruce top, 12-fret neck with slotted headstock, nickel-steel machines with ivoroid tuners, ebony fretboard and ebony bridge. Over its life of six decades, the guitar's powerful tone has mellowed to a deep, crisp and radiant sonority.

1937 Gibson HG-00
This is a wide-necked, 12-fret guitar that sold for $30 plus $5.50 for its flannel-lined, cardboard case and $1.50 for a set of metal strings. This beauty originally was designed for playing Hawaiian-style music, rather than Spanish, or standard style. One of 300 made between 1936 and 1942, its spruce top is finished in a glorious honey-hued sunburst. Today, its tone is as deep and resonant as its wine-red mahogany back and sides.

1939 Gibson L-0
Built as the Depression ended, this small-bodied instrument (original price: $27.50 in Oct., 1939) has a 14-fret neck and sweet, woody tone. The all-black body is adorned with a firestripe pickguard, rosewood bridge, and white celluloid binding along the edge of its mahogany back and spruce top.

1940 Gibson A-50
This mandolin has figured maple back and sides and sunburst spruce top. It has Nick Lucas-style inlays in a rosewood fretboard and peghead with flowerpot inlay and pearl-script logo. Introduced in 1933 with an oval soundhole, it gained f-holes in 1934 and slightly larger body in 1937. Though discontinued in 1942 by a wartime hiatus, professional musicians deemed the A-50 easy to play and affordable (original price: $55 plus $15.50 for a plywood case).
     This A-50 was a gift from Ernst Koch (1906 - 2001) of Whiting, NJ, a Penn State graduate, WW II veteran, German language professor at New York University and original owner of the instrument. He began playing mandolin in 1916, paying $9 for a bowl-back mandolin and 75 cents for twice-weekly lessons from an Italian musician named Professor Moscati, a clerk in his father's woolen shop in Clifton, NJ. As a teenager, Koch also played in a 50-piece mandolin orchestra that held weekly practice sessions above an Italian saloon in Passaic, NJ, said Koch, who also learned to play archtop mandolin, banjo-mandolin, clarinet and saxophone.
     "I bought this mandolin ... directly from the Gibson company, which mailed it to me," the Professor said. "I loved to play the mandolin and could play up to the seventh position. I found it a great emotional outlet."

1943 Martin 000-18
Ken Lelen — with 1943 Martin 000-18.
With spruce top, mahogany back and sides, and rosewood fingerboard and bridge, this  auditorium-sized guitar is one of 400 produced by C.F. Martin Co. of Nazareth, PA in 1943 (original price: $67). Due to wartime metal shortages, it was built with an ebony shaft in its neck, rather than a steel bar, for stability. Today, this lightweight guitar renders delicate treble tones and robust bass lines without resorting to the muscular proportions of a larger instrument, such as a dreadnought or jumbo.


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© 2005  Ken Lelen  -  All Rights Reserved
Vintage Music News
No. 1 — Autumn 2004
Vintage Concerts drawing crowds to special events
Vintage Music Concerts are drawing big crowds at open houses, charitable benefits and marketing ventures, said event planners, program managers and venue operators.
     In May 2004 the Wright Museum of the American Home Front in Wolfeboro, NH netted about $1,000 for its Community Scholarship Fund. Some 90 guests paid $25 each to attend the museum's Fourth Annual Spring Luncheon and Concert, which underwrites the studies of local high school graduates.

Ken Lelen at the Wright Museum, Wolfeboro NH, May 2004.

     The event's main attraction — Ken Lelen singing pop songs from the 1940s and playing six vintage acoustic guitars built between 1939 and 1944 — generated raves from the audience.
     "Love the music!" said Judy Breuninger, Wolfeboro resident and Wright Museum supporter.

Vintage Concerts for two Open House events in NC
In the summer of 2004 Ken Lelen and his vintage acoustic guitars appeared before two open house events at retirement communities in western North Carolina. Both events were publicized beyond the confines of the community, which helped draw good-sized audiences.
     In June, Central Carolina Bank's wealth management division sponsored a Vintage Music Concert and Open House at Highland Farms, a 325-unit senior center in Black Mountain, NC, 16 miles east of Asheville. About 100 people attended the 90-minute event at the community.
     "It was well received by residents, so we were pleased," said CCB's Cindy Causby. "When residents are happy, we're happy."

Ken Lelen entertains guests at an Open House held at
Roanoke United Methodist Home, Roanoke VA, July 2004.

     And in July, Roanoke United Methodist Home hosted a Vintage Music Concert and Open House to develop interest in the 112-unit retirement facility in western Virginia. Publicized in the local media, the two-hour concert and marketing event attracted 79 people, including 32 prospective residents and their adult children.
     "It was an outstanding opportunity for people in the area to see our facility," said Lori Viar, director of marketing at Roanoke-UMH. "The vintage-music style appealed to our crowd. They loved the songs."

Vintage Concerts spreading across U.S.
In the past four years Ken Lelen's light-hearted musical events have expanded along the East Coast from sites in the MidAtlantic and Southeast to venues across New England and the Midwest. The number of concerts he has presented has grown as well — from 55 in 2001 and 102 in 2003 to more than 140 events in 2004. Several dozen concerts and eight regional tours already are scheduled for 2005.
     Vintage Music Concerts combine three magical elements: vintage acoustic guitars from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s; ragtime, jazz and swing tunes from the same decades; and fun anecdotes about the era's songs, composers and performers. Filled with sly lyrics, catchy tunes and endearing themes, these events are popular with diverse audiences.
     "People of all ages love these songs," Lelen said.
     Though many Vintage Music Concerts are offered at retirement villages, a growing number of events have been engaged by special sponsors and unique venues. These include acoustic-music halls, antique shops, arts centers, charities, community groups, libraries, historic societies, museums and social clubs.
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© 2004  Ken Lelen  -  All Rights Reserved