Skip to content

the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

I was so sorry to have heard this morning of the passing of Eydie Gorme. I said on my radio show this afternoon that I think Eydie Gorme was one of the most underrated vocalists in the history of the Great American Songbook. In fact, I would probably put her as the #1 most underrated female singer with Julius La Rosa as the #1 most underrated male singer. Gorme had Streisand-like chops but BEFORE Streisand! Her voice, her musicianship, her emotionally heartfelt interpretation of the lyrics – everything she did as a singer was right on target.

Having been born in 1964, I was too young to remember Gorme on Steve Allen’s version of “The Tonight Show.” I think my introduction to Eydie Gorme is probably due to another great television star of the sixties and seventies – Carol Burnett. Steve & Eydie were frequent guest on Burnett’s variety show which ran on CBS from 1967 – 1978. I remember many a Saturday night with either Steve, Eydie, or both of them together, belting out great standards with Ms. Burnett. It was truly spectacular television that introduced me to a lot of great performers and great music.

According to YouTube, the following two numbers were both performed on the February 4, 1977 episode of “The Carol Burnett Show.” That seems absolutely incredible to me but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. My shock comes from the fact that you won’t find one production number as good as this in an entire season of network television today, let alone one week. Also, the way the old variety shows were done, these number were usually conceived, arranged, choreographed and rehearsed in 1-2 weeks. Besides the fact that no one could do something like this today because of cost, logistics, LIVE Musicians, etc., the fact is I don’t think there are enough performers today who are the same type of professionals these performers were. By the time Carol Burnett and Eydie Gorme performed these two duets, both had been in the business for 20+ years.

When I was growing up, I always regretted not having been born sooner as all the music, comedy, movies, and performers I loved had preceded me by anywhere from 10-30 years. Looking back on it now, I’m so grateful that I was at least able to live through the late sixties and early seventies and experience the last great era of talk shows and variety shows.

People talk about the talk show wars now but in the sixties and seventies every pretender-to-the-throne was going after just one man – Johnny Carson. He was truly the “King of Late Night.” I loved Johnny Carson and watched him whenever I could sneak it in or get permission from my parents to stay up late on a Friday night. Johnny loved music and like anyone, he had his favorite performers. It always seemed very clear to me that two of his very favorite vocalists in the world were Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence.

I’ve heard people say before that Steve & Eydie may have hurt their careers by working as a duo instead of going solo. I don’t think they HURT their careers but working together certainly changed the course of their careers. Truth is both of them had some pretty big hits as solo artists – Eydie with “Blame It ON the Bossa Nova” and Steve with “Go Away Little Girl” but I can tell you from first hand experience, to see Steve & Eydie perform together was an absolute treat!

I saw them in concert on two separate occasions – once was probably in the early 1990s at the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua, New York and the other time was maybe 7-10 years later at some theater in NE Massachusetts. Both times they were absolutely fabulous. Some of their banter between songs was the same, some was different. They worked together on stage like a finely tuned watch. They made what they were doing look easy, natural, improvised. Again, I hate to sound like an old man but this is how performers were trained in “the old days.” You made the difficult look natural. Today, it seems like performers think they need to make what they do look and seem particularly difficult. I don’t quite know why that is.

The second time I saw them (Massachusetts), their musical director was Vinnie Falcone, a superb piano player, arranger and conductor. It was Mr. Falcone who introduced me to Frank Sinatra in 1980 when Falcone was Sinatra’s musical director. Mr. Falcone and my uncle have a friendship that goes back 50 years. The night before the Massachusetts concert date, Steve & Eydie were supposed to dine with me, my aunt and uncle and Vinnie and his wife at my aunt and uncle’s house. Sadly, they had to beg off because Eydie was suffering from some terrible back problems at the time and was in a lot of pain. I’ve always felt terrible I never got to spend that evening with Steve & Eydie. God knows, I’ve spent a lot of time with them over the years through their music and performances and I’ve never been less than completely entertained.

I send out my deepest condolences to Mr. Lawrence and his family. There’s an old saying in show biz, “You can’t fake chemistry.” It was obvious to all who saw them perform together, that Steve & Eydie shared something truly special. Their talent and love brought a lot of happiness over the years to millions of people. I’m grateful to have been one of them.

 

Tags: , , , , ,