Thursday, September 24, 2009

Now you can call me Ray. . .

And now we present a story that could only have happened in the world of music collecting. A while back I came upon an album by Ray Hildebrand that featured a song I had heard years ago called “If I live well praise the Lord.” It was a blessing to find the song and I enjoyed many of the other great songs on the album. I kept Ray’s name in mind. Several months later, I came upon another album by Ray. . .or did I? The album indicated that Ray was an artist at the Oak Room at the Disneyland Hotel. Interestingly, it was not a “Disneyland” album, but seemed aimed at a more grown-up audience. The songs on the album were not religious at all. (“Mack the knife”, “Bim Bam Bum”, “Besame Mucho”) Remember, both guys had the same name and looked somewhat similar. Wasn’t this the same person?

The answer: Nope! That would be way too easy.

First let’s look at Ray Hildebrand number 1, or “Guitar Ray.” Here’s Ray’s biography as written on the back of the “He’s everything to me” album:

In 1964 Ray wrote and sang a tune that sold three million copies called “Hey, Hey, Paula.” This flash of success took him to distant lands as a teenage idol. But let’s back up just a bit. Life was music and sports for Ray in high school and, when he got to college, he organized a group called THE PRISONERS. He was also captain and most valuable player on the conference championship basketball team. Today, along with his singing, Ray is the Southwest Regional Director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This work fits him perfectly. It’s marvelous to see how athletes respond to this musician-athlete who knows and speaks their language.

Yes that’s right, Ray was “Paul” of “Hey Paula!” Never would have guessed that. And Ray’s career is not over. His Web page points out that he has had three successful music careers: as the “teen idol” of “Hey Paula”, as the Christian singer of “He’s everything to me” and as part of the duo of Land & Hildebrand. You can find out more about Ray #1 on this site:
Ray Hildebrand #2, or “Piano Ray”, is a greater mystery. Here’s his biography from the back of the “A night at the Oak Room” album:

Ray Hildebrand has had a widely varied musical career, beginning with a combo at the University of Connecticut. Following college, Ray played with such name bands as Shep Fields and Blue Barron. During service in World War 2, Ray broadcast nightly at the New Albany Hotel in Albany, Georgia, over station WPGY and later over the Armed Forces network in San Juan, Puerto Rico. During civilian service in Tokyo, Japan, after the war, Ray was musical director at General MacArthur’s Officers’ Club, conducting a 12-piece orchestra composed entirely of Japanese musicians. Ray has played piano at the Disneyland Hotel since its opening in 1956. When the exclusive OAK ROOM, a private club in the hotel opened, Ray was chosen to provide the music for dancing.

The so-called Information superhighway did not seem to have any kind of information on this Ray Hildebrand. I contacted Don Ballard, an expert on the Disneyland Hotel, to see if he could provide me with some insight. He had heard of Ray, but didn’t have any new information about him. He did tell me that the Oak Room is sadly not a part of the hotel anymore. After the Disneyland Hotel went through a major renovation, the Oak Room was chopped out. Don has some excellent information and historic photos of the hotel itself, though.

Here’s a peek at his book about the Disneyland Hotel and its history:

And check out his blog for more historic images from the hotel:

A question remained. With two musicians named Ray Hildebrand, and one looking a bit older than the other, was it possible that Piano Ray was a relative of Guitar Ray? Again, apparently not (well, not a close relative, anyway). Guitar Ray did not recognize Piano Ray. So Ray’s life post-Disneyland hotel remains a mystery. So “Piano Ray”, if you happen to be reading, please contact me via my YouTube channel or better yet Don and share your memories of the hotel days & what other stuff you’ve been doing since.

For Oak Room fans, here’s a peek at how it used to look, courtesy of the Kittle family:


WHAT WOULD YOU DO?: Congratulations are due to Benjamin Wagner and his crew for raising enough funding to complete the “Mister Rogers and Me” documentary he has been working on for years. Benjamin recently gave an interview over the radio that began with a rather unusual question. He writes about it here:

It took a minute to get my bearings: 'You're in Vermont,' I thought. 'Time for your "Saturday Light Brigade" interview.' I tiptoed around the bedroom, quietly putting on a few layers of clothes; with a dozen friends sleeping in bedrooms on every floor, I'd have to do the interview outside where the current temperature is 46°. I pulled on a cap and gloves, slipped my headphones into my ears, dialed the radio station's number, and stepped out into the crisp, morning air."Hello," I said, half asking. "This is Benjamin Wagner calling for my 'Mister Rogers & Me' interview."

"Oh, Benjamin!" the woman at the other end of the line said. "I was just about to call you. Good morning! May I put you on hold? We're just finishing a puzzle segment, then Larry will take a call, then he'll speak with you. Ok?"

"Ok!" I said, endeavoring to make sense through my gravelly, three hours of sleep voice.She put me on hold where I was able to listen to the show. The host, Larry Berger, was reading a brain teaser over acoustic bluegrass music in a cadence and tone not unlike Mister Rogers himself.

"Imagine that you're in a room with only two exits. One is blocked by a thousand magnifying glasses that focus the sunlight to a super-hot ray of sunshine that will burn you alive. The other is guarded by a fire-breathing dragon that will also burn you alive. What do you do?"

He paused a second, then said, "We have Benjamin on the line. Benjamin, what would you do?"

"Oh my," I said, startled, confused and scrambling to make sense of the riddle. "G'morning, Larry! Well, I suppose I would try to make friends with the fire-breathing dragon and ask him to make an exception and let me pass."

Larry too was startled."I'm sorry, this is Benjamin Wagner on the phone, kids. I thought you were a listener calling in with the answer. Hello, Benjamin."

"Hello, Larry!"

"Well, Benjamin, the answer is, leave at night."

I still think the dragon would have helped me out. . .

I agree, Benjamin. At least it would have been worth a try.

This fun story was taken from Benjamin’s post on his “Making Mister Rogers and Me” blog. You can read the original post here:

Here’s the main page where you can keep track of the production:


QUICK REVIEW: PETE SEEGER CONCERT: Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday concert aired last month on PBS. I tuned in mostly just to catch a glimpse of Oscar the grouch (see my post), but found a true treasure - the concert itself. This is one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen. I knew many of the songs, and the songs I didn’t know were just as great! And the performances were, for the most part, excellent, There’s very little “filler” in this concert. I suppose it’s possible that any “mediocre” songs have been edited out. But what aired on PBS is a real classic. Oscar was only a minor highlight. I loved Richie Havens and Ani Defranco. I loved “Gather round the stone.” I basically loved the whole thing. PBS is making a DVD of the concert available. It’s worth contributing just to get a copy of it all. Or at least keep your eye on PBS for when it reruns. And it should!



This particular Ernie and Bert sketch has become important to me because of something I noticed years after I first saw it. There is a tiny moment in this skit that I’m pretty sure is intentional. Once I point this out to you, you’ll never look at this skit the same way again.

The skit involves the gang rehearsing a pageant about feelings. Bert’s role is to get into his pajamas and play cupid. Bert reluctantly sings his lines about love, then decides he’d rather sing about what love means to him, personally. He does so, and sings about the things that he loves. At the end of the song, he sings that he’ll always have a special place “for Ernie in my heart.” As he sings those words, Ernie looks down a bit. We see a bright dot of some kind on Ernie’s nose. He wipes it away. Is this a stray piece of paper that somehow accidentally landed on Ernie’s nose, or is this what I believe it must be. . . A tear? An intentional moment of Ernie showing his emotions at Bert’s words? That’s what I’m voting for. No accident could have worked out as good as that. I vote for the tear. I hope you will too. You can find the clip in my favorites folder on my YouTube page. The link is in the links section to the right.

Here’s a page that lists the great pageant skits from Sesame Street. See if you can remember some of these:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Peter, Paul and Mary

This photo is from the official Peter, Paul and Mary Web page, which at the moment includes photos of Mary & the band and statements from Peter and Paul and others about the recent news.

We lost a piece of music history last night when Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary died. She was a part of one of the most important bands in the history of American folk music, and seemed to be a treasure of a person as well. It’s no use to ask if Peter, Paul and Mary will ever perform together again - the answer is painfully clear. It’s like asking “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”

When compact disks first began to appear on the scene in the late 1980s, my family and I were not immediately drawn to them. We were die-hard record collectors, for goodness sake. But I also knew that the times, they were a-changing, and we should keep our eyes on this new technology. When the classic “10 Years Together” album by Peter, Paul and Mary was released on CD a bit later, I realized that this was the sign I had been waiting for. CDs were here. I had to put that one on my wish list.

The band has an important hold in the history of my family. Before my father met my mother, they both collected albums by Peter, Paul and Mary. When they met, they found that the albums my Mom had were the ones Dad was missing, and the ones Dad had were the ones Mom was missing. It was meant to be, I tell you.

After John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the news media focused their attention on the tragedy for the next several days. After the coverage was over, and the radio began to return to regular programming, the first song that was played on “the sound of inspiration,” a radio station Dad listened to, was “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Peter, Paul and Mary. Here it is again, written by Bob Dylan and in tribute to Dad and my teacher Mr. Kaye and everyone else in the 5th grade who sang along with him.

But first by way of introduction: Once upon a time, there was a man who wanted to know the secrets of life. He climbed a high mountain and asked a wise guru who lived there what the answer to life was. The guru wrote down the answer on a piece of paper, and the man carried it down the mountain to read it later. It was a windy day, and as the man walked down the streets to his home, the paper flew out of his hands. He raced furiously to try to catch it, but to no avail. Eventually, he was stopped by another man who held his shoulders and said, “Be careful! What is it you’re trying to find?” The first man replied by singing this song.


How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?
How many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned?
The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist before it is washed to the sea?
How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?
How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

How many times can a man look up before he can see the sky?
How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?
How many deaths will it take ‘till he knows that too many people have died?
The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

HE LIVES, PRESENT TENSE: The songs of Peter, Paul and Mary exemplify the kind of entertainment that I’ve found I enjoy quite a bit. They are simple songs, but not so simple. There is a depth of meaning in them that makes them truly timeless. As an example, it would be careless of me to post about PP&M without talking about Puff. Like “Blowin’ in the wind,” I don’t recall the first time I heard “Puff the Magic Dragon.” I do recall one of the first times, though. Back in 2nd grade or so a young lady came to our classroom in the round building to perform some songs on her guitar. “Puff” was the one I remember and enjoyed. I also remember my Grandma and I serenading my Dad with the first two lines of the song. Lots of fun. I’m glad we didn’t do the whole thing, though.

There was a “Puff” animated TV special in the late 1970s that I still enjoy to this day. It’s a kind of tearjerker for me due to obvious reasons. It’s about a boy who must learn to come out of his shell and grow up. Puff helps him along the way at the start, but at the end he must leave the boy and let him do the rest of the growing by himself. The special also features “Weave me the sunshine” at the end, another great song. And the legendary Burgess Meredith was the voice of Puff.

Leave it to the stupid grown-ups to come up with a theory that the song “Puff” is actually about illegal drugs. Desperate, man. As Peter Yarrow said during a comic intro to the song, “There was never any meaning intended other than the obvious one!” Here’s the obvious meaning for you, written by Peter Yarrow and Leonard Lipton.


Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea,
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff

Oh, Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea,
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.
Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea,
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sails.
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail.
Noble kings and princes would bow whene’r they came.
Pirate ships would lower their flags when Puff roared out his name.

Oh, Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea,
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.
Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea,
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.

A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys.
Painted wings and giant’s rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more,
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.
His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain.
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his lifelong friend, Puff could not be brave.
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.

Oh, Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea,
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.
Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea,
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.

Okay folks, as I was typing in those lines that begin with “a dragon lives forever,” I found something unusual appearing out of my eyes. It appears to be water of some kind. I’ve wiped them away now. I share that with you to make the point of how incredibly wonderful the song is, and how deeply I love it. That stuff in my eyes has been coming out a lot lately. . .

SO CLOSE: I very rarely go to concerts, but Peter, Paul and Mary were one of the few bands that I had a strong desire to go see live. It wasn’t meant to be, but I came very, very close. A few years ago, they planned to perform at the California Center of the Performing Arts in Escondido, not too far away. I excitedly bought two tickets for the show, only to receive a letter from ticket services manager Erin Peck dated September 26, 2007 that the show was being postponed:

You may have already heard from us by phone, but just in case we wanted to notify you by mail as well. Due to Mary’s recovery from a back surgery, the CCAE performance of PETER, PAUL & MARY on Friday November 16, 2007 has been postponed to Friday April 18, 2008 at 8pm.

This was not a big deal for me. I was willing to wait, and it gave me more time to try and find a date. But sadly, I received another letter from Ms. Peck dated February 29, 2008:

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the upcoming performance of PETER, PAUL & MARY on April 18, 2008 has been cancelled. We have been informed that Mary Travers has undergone two back surgeries and, while her doctors anticipate a full recovery, the healing process is taking longer than hoped. On her doctor’s advice, regrettably, the Trio has had to cancel all of their upcoming concerts.

Thankfully, the venue was very good about giving my money back. Also thankfully, I think Peter, Paul & Mary were able to give a few more concerts in these last few years - just not at the Escondido venue. And for you die-hard pack rats like me, here is the ticket to the Peter, Paul & Mary show that never was.


THINGS TO WATCH FOR: There is a Christmas special with Peter, Paul and Mary that stands out as one of the best concerts I’ve seen on TV. It’s PP&M singing along with a choir in the background for many of the songs. It’s a marvelous show that I hope PBS brings back one of these years. It was made available on home video for a time as well. A great demonstration of how their timeless music fits in so well with the timeless tunes of Christmas. You also might consider their “Flowers and stones” album. From the late 1980s, I think, it’s one of their lesser-known albums, but it has a few really good songs on it, including “No man’s land” and “Coming of the roads.”

CARRY IT ON: In an interview with PP&M not long after their albums were first released on CD, Peter Yarrow said that Warner Brothers had made a commitment to keep the music of PP&M, as well as other bands, a part of their music library for the long-range future. Assuming they’re still behind that, I breathe a sigh of relief that generations after our own will enjoy their beautiful music. In fact, even if somehow we lost all of the PP&M music, their music would still live on. No, that isn't a typo. You see, their music goes beyond what they played as a trio. It is the spirit of folk music itself, the beauty that comes from three people using their talents to create something that speaks to every generation and stays in the hearts of the listeners long after the music is over. Their music is very much a part of my life forever.

FAVORITE PP&M SONGS: Blowin’ in the wind; Puff the Magic Dragon; Day is Done; Too much of nothing’; Stewball; Light one candle; Coming of the roads; No man’s Land; Danny’s Downs; If I had a hammer; Kisses sweeter than wine; Wedding Song; Weave me the sunshine; 500 Miles; I dig rock & roll music; Leavin’ on a jet plane; The great Mandala; El Salvador;

COMING SOON: A musical mystery regarding the Disneyland Hotel and the man who made “Hey Paula” famous.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Marvel meets mouse

On August 31, the Walt Disney company announced that it was going to buy Marvel for about $4 billion. Is it a good thing? (The deal that is, not the $4 billion) I think the deal is a good thing - as long as Disney treats Marvel with at least as much “reverence” as it has its other major buyouts. The Disney buyout of the muppets did not really hurt the muppets - that’s a matter of debate, I know, but we’re speaking generally here. Aside from some issues, the relationship between the two companies is friendly. Likewise the relationship between Disney and Lucasfilm has not really hurt any of the Lucasfilm properties (Star Wars, Indy). I think that if Disney treats Marvel the same way, we can still enjoy Marvel without feeling like they’ve “sold their souls” to Disney. So I think things will work out as long as both Disney and Marvel can remember that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Or has someone already said that? Probably.

That Spidey image comes from an MTV news report on what the buyout may mean for fans:

It’s clear that Disney wants a “piece of the pie” of many already successful enterprises. It’s like a larger company buying up a smaller one to reap the benefits. The only real downfall that’s clear is that it’s not really a good idea for one company to control every form of entertainment, and sometimes that seems like what Disney is trying to do. But again, as long as Marvel remains “Marvel,” the fans should be content.


CODE BARF: A recent post on the “Mouseplanet” message boards along with my recent foray into the world of Facebook has given me the inspiration for a rather disgusting survey question. Before we get to the list, take a look at this posting from poster twindaddy involving a rather disgusting incident at Disneyland:

We were on main street, on the porch that I think used to be known as the "Bra Shop" letting my girls conk out in the stroller while we stake out good parade viewing spots. All of a sudden we see a mom with a toddler in her arms running past us to get to the bathroom next to Carnation Cafe. He is barfing all the way along.

So there is this huge pile of barf right in front of us, right in the middle of the sidewalk. I don’t want anyone to step in it, so I grab a trashcan that is about 5 feet from the pile and put it over it. No sooner is the can out of my hand, about 30 seconds after the barf hit the ground, then a nicely dressed guy who would EASILY blend into any crowd is behind me directing people. I wonder "who is this guy?" He asks me why I moved the trashcan, and then I explain and he says "good idea!" He then realizes I am looking at him funny until he flips his collar to show his CM (cast member) name tag and a see his radio ear piece (ala secret service).

He radios the code barf (they had a code for it) into control, about two minutes later two uniformed security guys show up, and about six minutes after the chunks hit the ground a janitorial CM is there going through an elaborate bio hazard process to clean it up. A short while later the mom shows back up apologizing, and we explain it has already been handled.

Code barf. I love it. Well, I love the idea of it. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. The story gave me a disgustingly fun survey question that I would like you to consider: Name the most memorable places you have thrown up. For me, the list is a great summary of my life in general. Embarrassing and messy and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

1. While coming in for landing on a friend’s airplane. I think they’re still my friends.
2. While walking home with a friend. Thankfully, I missed her. She never really hung out with me after that. . .
3. While driving home on New Year’s Eve. . .and it was the afternoon and I hadn’t drunk a thing!!

All these joyful memories almost prompt me to send out one of those Facebook things. “Name the three favorite times you vomited!” I only hesitate because I know my friends have put up with me for so many other ridiculous things. I don’t want to push my luck. But dear reader, I ask thou to consider well the times you have created a mess in this way, and be thankful, as I am, that you were there to make the mess.


WHERE TO SEND THE MONEY: Okay, now that the recession is over (yeah, right), we have a little bit more money to spend (yeah, right). So what worthy causes can we contribute to? Here’s one that interests me: Benjamin Wagner has been working on his documentary on Mister Rogers for the past few years. Based on his behind-the-scenes info documented on his blog, this looks like a very entertaining and professional production. Ben’s now almost done and he needs - yes, contributors to make the film a reality. For a $25 donation, you can get your name briefly in the credits of the movie. For bigger donations, there are bigger perks. Read all about it here:

I support this project, but I feel a bit small because I can’t contribute nearly as much as I’d like (I want that autographed DVD, darn it!). I feel like I’m watching a PBS special and I want the big present that they give you for donating a lot of money. But I don’t have the money, which makes me feel that my small contribution won’t amount to much. But every bit helps, and based on the numbers, it looks like they’re nearly there. I wish them luck and I look forward to seeing this production someday.


WHERE NOT TO SEND THE MONEY: There is apparently going to be a new compilation of Cds by Morrissey, and Morrissey doesn’t want you to buy them. Here’s a brief clip from an article that was also posted on “The Vinyl Villain”:

“Lyricist and sardonic crooner Morrissey has urged loyal fans to steer clear when the big music labels re-release his old tunes. Mozzer has asked fans not to buy either a planned boxed set of his solo work or a re-released set of CDs and vinyl from his days with the legendary Smiths. The EMI, HMV and Parlophone record labels in November plan a boxed set of Morrissey singles and B-sides from his post-Smiths years spanning 1985 to 1999. But Morrissey told the True to You site: "Morrissey does not approve such releases and would ask people not to bother buying them. Morrissey receives no royalty payments from EMI for any back catalogue, and has not received a royalty from EMI since 1992."

As the “Vinyl Villain” himself hinted, any die-hard fan who really wanted to get that material shouldn’t feel bad about buying it. I’m a fan and I wish no ill will toward Morrissey, but please don’t make us feel bad about buying your own stuff! It’s kind of a compliment when you think about it. His fame is greater than he’s able to write a check for. Incidentally, I had no idea his name was “Steven!” I knew we had a few things in common, but wow!


I’M LOUVIN IT: In my quest for old-fashioned Christian music, I have come upon an interesting duo which seem to create a problem. It’s actually kind of an image problem. The Louvin Brothers seem to personify everything that is unintentionally corny about old Christian music. You need only look at the cover of their “Satan is Real” album to see what I mean. It features the two brothers dressed in white suits smiling merrily as they dance around the flames in Hell in front of a cheap cutout of Satan. (The cover has made a few “worst album cover” lists.) Sadly, the corniness wasn’t their only fault- they weren’t always perfect Christians. Upon meeting Elvis Presley, one of them called him a name that is a curse word as far as I’m concerned. It’s the word in “Huckleberry Finn.” Yep, that one. But based on the sample track that I’ve heard, they seem to have a talent for harmony. And their song “The Christian Life” has a lyric that I think every Christian can take to heart:

“I won’t lose a friend by heeding God’s call,
For what is a friend who’d want you to fall?”

I’ve had a few “friends” who not only wanted me to fall, but tripped me. Literally. I think I’d rather sit around listening to the corny Louvin Brothers than spending time with those “friends.” Wouldn’t mind throwing up on them.

Special thanks to “Any Major Dude” for his summary of the Louvin Brothers:

For more old-fashioned Christian music, I’d recommend checking out “Old Fashioned Christian Radio” or “Music you (possibly) won’t hear anyplace else”. Both are in the links section to the right.