Doris Day Obit. Tuesday 21stMay 2019



“I learned than the more I studied humans the more I loved animals.”

I wanted to write an obituary about Doris but so many have been done covering every aspect of her life so I thought I would write one in poetry form from the viewpoint of Doris, from things she has said, others have said about her and everything I have learned over the years.  I hope she would like it!

I did OK.  97 years, I month, 10 days
I don’t need memorials, end of life celebrations
I’ve had my share of fanfare
Born in the jazz age, the silent movie age
this old Cincinnati sour’s ear just wants to slip off
shake off the rotten and remember the good
Watching as the decades slip in front of my eyes
unexpected twists, turns
spontaneous happy times
of animals, the children of my later years

How hollow life seemed with men
I sure knew how to pick ‘em!
Didn’t they realise that all I wanted
was to be a mother
build the home I never had,
instead of their gifts:
jealousy, violence, control

I survived so many things
Someone out there was looking after me
that deep faith  I plundered so many times
to strive for the positive but
losing Terry, losing friends
Paul, my mother
the tumour that left me with no hope
no further children of my own

I had drive, determination
something that was part of me
(not only my mother’s) that made me dance
push me to improve, win awards
take me to Hollywood
imagining side by side with Ginger
until a train drove through my dancing dreams
took me out of step, the schlep
Ouch, the remembrance of a shattered leg
yet listening to Ella, swing bands
a new direction
a new name
a sudden need to lie about my age

Singing nightly at The Sound of the Drum
soundies, entertaining troups
tour bus, touring stateside with the boys
Barney, Bob, Jimmy, Les
I was one of them, the younger sister
the 16 year old pretending to be more
I found intimacy in each song, feeling every word
lasting longer than each marriage
that drew me back
but as I packed up to go home
the silver screen changed my direction forever

A regular girl, the girl next door
not quite the goody two shoes of people’s imaginings
only I had a feeling of what was right,
what was proper,
how I would want to be remembered
They say it was effortless, I was so versatile
if only they knew what hard work
it took to be so natural
I loved the nostalgia, the easy domestic lives
each fantasy family lived
for as long as the camera rolled

Women post war, coaxed back to the kitchen
in contrast to me, their poster girl
for the working, self-sufficient, single mom
Women thought they wanted to be me
men thought they wanted to marry me
Reinvention for rejuvenation
responsibility for my public face
until the cracks of my life
yanked everything apart

Marty and money gone
under contract to carry on
My lows got lower
depression, exhaustion
the threat of Charles Manson
my son’s living hell
I picked us back up, moved to Carmel
took my fight to court and my career to TV

Now everything is fading
darling dogs lining up
I see my mum smile, Terry holding her hand
but I’m eight reliving my father leaving
willing his return
Him still not turning back
to look at me.

When I heard the news that she had died the song that came to mind was Little Girl Blue

“Old girl you’re through…why won’t somebody send a tender, blue boy to cheer up little girl blue.” Little Girl Blue – The Life of Doris Day

Vintage Day Doris and Political Musings on the Eve of the General Election 2015

Doris Day Duo at Vintage Day, The Grand – Folkestone – Monday 4th May 2015

 Grand Hotel

The first thing that greeted us as we entered this grand-dame of a hotel, whose magnificence astounds me every time we enter it, was, that on this day in 1979 Margaret Thatcher came to power and the questionable downward slope that it evoked. With the election just a day away it’s interesting to look back on her life. I realise that I am very much a product of her reign and the consequences that followed:

 maggie 1

“Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth.

Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.”

Harmony and hope – but for who? Certainly not to miners but the unions did become too powerful. We lost a lot of Industry and our exports have been declining ever since. It’s amazing what damage can be done in 11 years. We are suffering with the results of selling off state owned industries such as the railways, gas etc., although British Telecom was perhaps one exception but why do the French own our water and the proceeds of allowing us to drive over the Dartford Crossing? We are suffering for the lack of social housing all of which Maggie initiated and much more. I won’t even mention mad cow disease (CJD) and as a former chemist Maggie should have known better.

Maggie 2

I should like her personally for the same reasons I like Doris Day – a strong woman who came from (relatively) nothing to be top in her field but Maggie did very little for other women, she wasn’t a feminist; she just knew how to get to and succeed at the top. In addition to her accomplishment in the highest political spot she still managed to bring up two children and have a long lasting marriage and if she left anything to women it was that – you could do, and have it all, even if she criticised working mothers for raising a “crèche generation”. Aside from Baroness Young she had no females in the cabinet above junior minister level but had proved that the role of prime minister could be “gender-neutral”, after-all our figurehead was and still is female.

doris 2

Her strength was shown during the Brighton hotel bombing where five people died and she too narrowly avoided death. She carried on with her conference and left a quote that resonates loud and clear today and to which I wholeheartedly concur:

“This attack has failed. All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.”

 doris 1

Strong women. I admire them. I aspire to be one: strength from adversity, perseverance and hard work. Doris always played strong women in different ways. At a time when women were chained to the kitchen once married, being a successful film star she was able to show women a little escapism. Of course she played plenty of wives and if there was drudgery it was temporary because she always had laughter and music…in films.

grand hotel 01

At my daughter’s school they are having their own election and she is the Green leader so I showed her how to look up their policies and current manifesto – more female leaders, Caroline Lucas, the first Green MP based in Brighton and now the party leader is Natalie Bennett, so more women leaders. It’s interesting with the recent discovery of oil in the south and previous fracking discussions have been around that Sussex/Surrey area so let’s see how far that goes… There has been a lot on Facebook today – and of course in the press whose allegiance with the blues is more than down your throat – and one journalist decided that the best party for the family (and for him) was the Green party, also popular with the young – after all they have to live in the future mess the blues have created for them!


Another political announcement was made in the last couple of days by Sandy Toksvig, of Herne Bay who is forming her own political party called The Women’s Equality Party, which already has 15,000+ supporters – me included. Reporting from The Times newspaper:

“The comedian, has left Radio 4’s The News Quiz for a career in politics with a newly-formed party campaigning for women’s rights. The broadcaster, who has been in charge for more than 220 episodes over 28 series, will bow out of the show in June to work for the Women’s Equality Party. She told Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour: “I have made jokes over and over again about politics, and you know this election I’ve had enough and I have decided that instead of making jokes about it I need to participate.

“So I am involved in the founding of a new political party.” She said the party, started by journalist Catherine Mayer, was a “fantastic group of women and indeed men who have decided enough is enough”. Toksvig said the new party was “not going to be right or left” and would look for “practical and possible” solutions to improve the position of women in society.”

She later tweeted:

Yes, it’s true, this will be my last series of @TheNewsQuiz. Perhaps I’ll finally have time to change the world. It wants doing

11:05 AM – 28 Apr 2015

So, with these thoughts going around my head we took our place in the restaurant surrounded by people having a delicious bank holiday lunch and later on, high tea. Down stairs Gypsy John entertained again with his music for the jazz dancers. In the green room there were clothes stalls and vintage items for sale. I stood chatting to the ladies from AGE UK, based in Hythe and purchased a beautiful bracelet. Next door there was a classical concert being prepared for. It’s wonderful to see hotels being used in this way – again.


Because I know all the words and they are now committed to brain muscle I was able to gaze out across the English channel watching families at play: children whizzing past on scooters, tag-alongs, bikes, electric mobility scooters, walkers, joggers and slow walkers with sticks; all enjoying the sun and the scenery of this beautiful area. I was singing April in Paris and thinking Folkestone in May.


Last year I attended a vintage fayre in Mount Ephraim Gardens and bought a beautiful red and white gingham dress, with three tiers so today it had its debut; coupled with my red and white patent Miu Miu shoes and a necklace and earring set my sister sent from Australia. I dug out my long red gloves that I bought decades ago to complete the look!


We did our celebration set and added in The Very Thought of You, Bewitched and I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm. We even attempted our Calamity Jane medley, which is not an easy task with just two of us. We had some attentive listeners and enjoyed a grand tea in our break, which consisted of coffee, cheese and onion triangle sandwiches; a lime cheesecake and a huge fruit scone with Tiptree strawberry jam and whipped double cream. We say it every year – why don’t we come here more often! They offer a wide selection of Tea Pig tea, a British company committed to fine teas. Mine was green sencha, of course and was delicious.


I found another tea ‘shop’ this week. Just off Old Bond Street is Dering Street and Postcard Teas. I went in and asked for advice. I sat down on one of the wooden benches and waited for a sample. It was a sencha from the Fuji Mountains so I took a pot home with me – for special occasions. I am happy about the health benefits of green tea but it’s the taste I like. I am becoming quite a green tea connoisseur! Ronnie’s owner Mike Watt bought himself some flower tea in the week and disliked it so I was the lucky recipient.

Final political point. Our General Manager said last week in the office, “Sarah likes her politics like her tea.” Yes, I do.

Happy December Doris Day!

Doris Christmas 1

DECEMBER FACTS: 1st December 1963 – Move Over Darling was a popular film starring James Garner (the second film with him after The Thrill of it All) and Polly Bergen. This was a film that had been originally cast with James Dean and Marilyn Monroe but onset antics got Marilyn dismissed and then James Dean wouldn’t work with anyone else. Terry Melcher, Doris’ son wrote the theme tune. It was a song banned by the BBC for its content!

1st – 31st December 2013 – The British Film Institute had a Doris Day series of films shown to celebrate her upcoming 90th birthday. The film critics Karen Krizanovich and David Benedict appeared on BBC Radio 4 to talk about the forthcoming celebrations and discuss her appeal. When talking about how her acting abilities should have been celebrated more David made the important comment that most critics at the time were men and male critics tended to not appreciate musicals, romances and comedies and these were the most common film genres that Doris acted in, which is probably why she never gained an acting Academy Award (although nominated for her role in Pillow Talk). He commented on the directness, the intimacy in which she sang on film; as if singing to one person, as one of her best assets. Karen said she was never sexy on film but David rightly corrected her; she looked fabulous in so many films. They discussed TVs Mad Men, which shows women having no power but of course Doris played so many strong female roles. David said she gave up on films because she never wanted to act. From everything I have read this seems wrong. Doris sang during the 40s once her dance career looked as though it could never be and she said she found her niche in film acting. Even in singing Doris said, “The words were there, and the words told a story. I can’t say anymore than that, except I loved singing”.

6th December 2010 – Doris released My Heart a collection of songs produced by Terry Melcher. At 86 she was the oldest artist to release an album and score a top 10 hit with new material (Vera Lynn was 92 but it was a best of). She wanted to release the album to raise funds for the Doris Day Animal League.

11th December 2007 – Doris was awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award.

13th December 2014 – Tea for Two will be shown on Turner Classic Movies channel.

17th December 1956 – Doris released the first of her concept album; collections of songs not associated with a film releases. Day by Day was an album of songs mostly from the 30s and 40s (except Autumn Leaves). She performed the album with the Paul Weston Orchestra who was one of the writers of the song Day by Day. The concept worked and the album was a hit paving the way for Day by Night.

22nd December 1969 – A Two-Family Christmas episode of her Doris Day Show sitcom on CBS was aired (39 of 128 episodes – season 2, episode 11).

26th December 2014 – Please Don’t Eat the Daisies with David Niven and Billy Rose’s Jumbo will be showed on Turner Classic Movies channel.

28th December 1968 – the TV Guide said of The Doris Day Show: “When the show hit the air (September 1968), it was everything you knew it would be-pure, unadulterated, wall-to-wall freckle, Doris-Daysies-in-my-garden-type Doris Day, a real throwback to the good old days when there was no problem that goodness couldn’t solve.”

Dec 2011 – Doris did an interview with Parade. In it she talks about her co-stars and singing.

Doris is reference in songs such as “Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee” in the musical Grease, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go!” by Wham, “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel, “Dig It” by the Beatles, “Wrap Her Up” by Elton John and Underworld’s “Dirty Epic” among others.

When Doris was asked about how she avoided substances and substance abuse she said, “Easy – I didn’t do it. Party all night? Oh lord! No, no, no! I don’t even like parties”.

Fact: Rock Hudson’s name for Doris was Eunice.

On singing: “Everything you do, you have to do your best, and made it sound as good as you can”.

Sarah Weller and the Mad Men will be celebrating Doris Day’s 91st birthday at Ronnie Scott’s at lunchtime on Sunday the 29th March 2014.

Help support Doris’ charity by purchasing a 2015 wall calendar:

Buy the Doris Day Christmas album: Doris Christmas Album 


Happy 102nd Birthday Viola Smith

“I had the field pretty much to myself; there weren’t many girl drummers”

Viola Smith

If you think of female jazz drummers today a few will come to mind straight away:

Cindy Blackman, Sheila E (scovedo), Terri Lyne Carrington, Sherrie Maricle, the UK’s Michele Drees. In the pop world there’s Meg White from the White Stripes, Ruth Underwood who played with Frank Zappa and who could forget the drumming of Karen Carpenter, who was happy at the back playing drums before she was forced forward to sing. In a world where the number of female instrumentalists don’t equal that of their male counterparts these drummers must be thankful to the trailblazers of the 30s and 40s especially one particular musician, a drummer called Viola Smith.

Viola Schmitz was born on the 29th November 1912 in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin and became one of the first professional female drummers. Not only did she perform in orchestras and swing bands her playing was seen in films, TV appearances and on Broadway.

She gained popularity and earned her fame during World War II, which enabled Viola and other female instrumentalists the opportunity to ‘keep on swinging’ after the men went to war, perform to mass audiences, and be taken seriously, “given a chance”. There were groups such as The International Sweethearts of Rhythm who famously had Roz Cron, a white saxophonist and clarinetist musician in its otherwise all female, black group; Ada Leonard’s All American Girls; and the Prairie View Coeds who made a star of trumpeter Clora Bryant (who also played with Dizzy Gillespie). As the war ended men fell back into their old band positions while the female groups disbanded. Some would go on as soloists or have smaller groups but the time had past for the appreciation they received during this time; ‘substitutes’ rather than the real thing.

Viola came from a large family of eight sisters (and two brothers) who were encouraged to play at least one instrument. Their parents ran a concert hall so the family started a group to play for weddings and other social occasions held at their hall. Their performances grew out beyond the hall to Milwaukee and to other states. Viola’s father chose the drums for her, which she started playing at 11 years old and by 12 she was travelling with her female siblings around the RKO circuit as the Smith Sisters, applying for permits for the underage musicians. She says of the time:

“During the summer we’d play county and state fairs. In those kinds of venues it wasn’t so unusual to see an all-girl band because the fairs always featured the strange things that were happening in America such as the 800-pound man. As girl musicians we were part of that, we were strange in the early 1920s”.

On the Keith-Orpheum circuit they shared the bill with the Andrew Sisters. Some of the sisters moved on or got married but Viola stayed with the drums and created an orchestra for the Major Bowes Amateur Hour radio show, a talent show in the 30s. She came to New York in 1935 with the Jack Fine’s Band Box Revue. Sister Mildred who played the clarinet and saxophone joined Viola in a female orchestra called the Coquettes, formed by them in 1938. They were together for four years and performed with musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb. She appeared on the cover of Billboard in 1940 and on the front of Variety on numerous occasions.


In 1942 she joined Phil Spitalny’s 22-piece band known as the Hour of Charm Orchestra and appeared on the radio program, The Hour of Charm, hosted by Arlene Francis. The program aired in various time slots on CBS and NBC from 1934 to 1948. The orchestra had commercial success and even performed at the inauguration of Harry Truman in 1945. Spitalny interviewed over 1000 female musicians before he settled on his choice.  Viola recounted:

In 1944, I was playing with the Phil Spitalny orchestra at the Paramount, on 43rd and Broadway. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, my father died. A relative called me and told me right before my show. In the theatre Phil Spitalny had already announced me and was waiting for me to play. I didn’t play because I had fainted, but somehow I remained upright on the chair. Spitalny indicated to the horn player nearby to come over and give me a shove, which she did, and I immediately came to like a robot and played the solo like a robot. However, I did miss catching a stick that I had thrown on a drum, bouncing up high and not being caught, accompanied by an automatic thud on the bass drum. I was told later there were gasps in the audience. I had told a friend in the orchestra not to tell the others that my father had died. It was easier to make it through the performance by pretending I had not received the news.”


It was while she was working at the Paramount that she met Frank Sinatra who was working with Tommy Dorsey. She said that he asked her on dates but she refused not because he was married but because he was unattractive to her. She went on to say that he would become very handsome and the request for dates stopped!

Jazz in New York during WWII was centred on 52nd Street – Swing Street – as it was known, featuring smaller versions of the larger orchestras such as a pared-down Count Basie band. These clubs were full of military personnel. She said that Louis Bellson came to see her during this time to see what she was doing with all her drums. She had lessons with Billy Gladstone who also taught Buddy Rich, Shelly Manne, Joe Morello and Gene Krupa when they came through New York with their bands.

At this time she ‘achieved notoriety for an op-ed that she penned for Downbeat, entitled “Give Girl Musicians a Break”, imploring jazz groups and orchestras [to] not discriminate against female musicians’. She also played with the Kit Kat Band; a group that was part of the original Broadway production of Cabaret, a time she says her playing was at its best. This led to a TV appearance with Liza Minnelli on Liza with a Z. As well as stage she featured in films such as When Johnny Comes Marching Home (1942) and Here Comes the Co-Eds (1945) featuring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. TV appearances included I’ve Got a Secret (CBS) and she appeared on the Ed Sullivan show (CBS) five times.


In 1948 she entered Juilliard via a scholarship and became part of the orchestra studying timpani and played percussion in 1949-50 with the National Orchestral Association. In 2000 Viola was one of eight women honoured by the Lincoln Center as legends of jazz.

She had a style of her own and became the face of Zildjan cymbals and Ludwid drums. Some named her the female Gene Krupa because of the way ‘she would hurl her drumstick onto her drum, then jump up in the air and catch it as it bounced’. She would set out her tom drums high, something she saw a drummer in Texas do. She played more than the average twelve drums adding toms to her left and right; the only drummer to have done this. Although she continues to live her life she gave up the sticks when she was sixty-six. She said of her playing, “When I play drums, I have to play loud”.

Long may her heart continue to beat.


Let the rim shot be heard around the world,
it’s Viola Smith’s birthday.  
Splash out the champagne,
this centenarian does it again. 
Splash Viola, make a crash Viola,
drums boom.
Firecracker creates a new permutation,
a new scene.
No need to ghost note,
your presence is heard.
Hemiola to New York.
Modulate to new,
improviser, pocket the job.
No vamping for you,
centre stage.
Toms piled high, left and right
sustaining the scene,
your timbre is strong.
Thunder is the applause,
roar for more.
Reverberate for years,
ostinato reputation.
Your reach is as long 
as your stretch around the toms.
Diminuendo, cut time,
drums come to an end.
But what a life, Viola?
Vamps ever onwards for you.
Happy Birthday 102!
A dedication to Viola Smith
(c) 2014 Sarah Weller

The legacy of all-female groups lives on:

Sherrie Maricle’s Diva Jazz Orchestra

Ann Patterson’s intergenerational Maiden Voyage – formed in the 70s and featured original ‘Sweetheart’s’ saxophonist Roz Cron

Alive – A ten-piece San Francisco band who released 3 albums from 79-82

The Seattle Women’s Orchestra – now in its 14th year

Tia Fuller Quartet

Deirdre Cartwright’s Blow the Fuse

Terri Lyne Carrington’s ACS – Carrington, Gerri Allen and Esperanza Spalding

Rachel Z’s all female trio on her first visit to London for her On the Milky Way Express release in 2001 with Miriam Sullivan on bass and Alison Miller on drums.

Ronnie Scott’s celebration International Women’s Day with a series of gigs under the festival of Women in Jazz in 2010

The Girls in the Band a documentary film based around The Sweethearts of Rhythm was released in 2013.


‘Boobs in Toyland’ and other inventions of the 1950s

Whenever I do one of my Celebration of Doris Day shows I research and find new facts about the characters, the actors and the times they lived in, therefore I have turned my attention to inventions.  It was a time that saw women a little freer from the kitchen sink by the advances of a modern kitchen with its labour-saving devices and the technical advances developed during the war and beyond however, I thought it would be fun to see what other contraptions changed our lives for the better (or worse) during the 50s.  In chronological order:

 Kenwood Processor 1950sKenwood Chef 1950s

1950 – Kenneth Wood designed and created the first food processor for his own company Kenwood.  What self-respecting mother, chef or home cook hasn’t owned one of his contraptions?

bankamericard-ad Doris DAY BLOG1950 – The first credit card was made by Ralph Scheider who was able to use his card to sample the delights of 23 different restaurants (a diner card) and pay later.  It took until 1958 for the Bank of America to come up with the catchy card: Bank Americard (known later as VISA).


Although these had been around before, it was in the 50s that Goblin’s Teasmade made its impact on early morning tea.  The Teasmade was popularised further by appearing regularly on the TV show Take Your Pick as a relatively cheap prize to be won.  I have a seventies model inherited from my mother-in-law’s move to Spain…I just wish the alarm clock buzzer wasn’t so loud.

Goblin Teasmade 1954 Doris Day Blog

1951 – Tupperware was invented in the 30s (and then launched for sale in 1944) but it was in 1951 Earl Silas Tupper decided on a radical way to sell his plastic containers. These fine items called Tupperware were created out of the ‘slag’ byproduct of oil refinery. Shop assistants were unable to demonstrate the unique seal in the shops; the key element in keeping food fresher than any other containers around at the time therefore halting sales. He found that direct home sellers could demonstrate and that’s where he saw sales soar. Tupper saw the future of selling his products and removed his wares from shop shelves and switched to direct selling only.  With the arrival of marketing pioneer Brownie Wise the Tupperware Party was born; an ingenious idea popular with housewives, who were able to work as well as broaden their social circle.  I’m sure every household in Britain owns a piece of Tupperware and it’s still sold in America, Australia and other countries around the world.  What made Tupperware so fantastic was the lifetime guarantee, which demonstrates its quality.  I now scour boot fairs and second hand shops for old Tupperware but it’s been appearing in vintage shops and museums so it won’t be affordable for long…

A-Tupperware-party-in-the-19500s Doris Day Blog

1952 – The London Rubber Company produced its first Marigold Rubber Gloves. Marigold images Doris Day blog

1953 – This is one (for health reasons) I wish had never been invented in our radiation bombarded 21st century.  Why would anyone want to eat food that was devoid of nutrients?  Some might argue there were no nutrients in the food before it went into the microwave but that’s a discussion for another time.  The physicist Percy Spencer made magnetrons used in radar systems to detect planes and ships during the war by beaming out microwaves and was surprised at the heat coming back (and melting the sweet in his pocket). The first was called Radareye before being the square box we know (and some of us still use) today.Microwave over doris day blog

1953 – The year that Tetley mass marketed their teabags to Britain.  I’m glad that in our house Sainsbury’s red label tea sans bag was used until I left home and therefore I would forever know the joy of loose leaf tea.  Luckily for me loose leaf tea in all its varieties has made a resurgence but the teabag manufacturers are constantly on the look out for the new ‘bag’ style whether it be round, pyramid, plastic or paper, for those people who no longer treasure the art of tea making. Besides, you can always throw the used leaves on the compost!

Tetley advert 1953 Doris Day Blog

1955 – ‘Lowest common denominator food’, this is how a critic described fish fingers.  Kids love them and fish fingers continue to be a strong supermarket seller today. It was in the 60s that The Guardian coined the phrase ‘convenience food’ so in came the snazzy kitchen and out went the home cooked meals.


1955 – Just like the electric guitar, music of the future changed forever in 1955 with the appearance of the first synthesiser by RCA called Mark 1 developed by Olsen and Belar.  Mark 2 came in 1959 and was designed as a scientific exercise.  Bob Moog whose name is synonymous with ‘synthesiser’ came later…Birdseye ad 1944 Doris Day Blog

1955 – Although the business was launched in 1916 in Billund (home still to Denmark’s Legoland and the factory) it wasn’t until 1955 that the Lego brick was launched and in 1958 the ‘stud and tube’ coupling system was invented by Godtfred Christiansen, son of the founder Ole for never-ending building combinations.  Still voted as the number one toy, year after year and having visited Legoland this week in Billund one can see the enduring appeal to children and adults alike; boys and girls. From November 3rd 2014 you can apply for tickets for a tour around the factory, meet the designers and see Lego being made! Lego

1955 – The car seat belt was invented as a result and reaction to some legislation in Illinois, USA.  In 1959 the Swedes put them in Volvos. It wasn’t until the 80s that is was mandatory in the UK.

Vintage Contraceptive pill advert doris day blog

1956 – Testing began on the contraceptive pill by inventors Dr Pinas and Dr Rock who started on volunteers (women) as part of slum clearance in Porta Rico.  I’m glad to see we are as morally sound today in our testing methods as we ever have been!  In 1941 it was discovered that Mexicans used Lithospernum Ruderale as a natural contraception and from then the race was on to find a synthetic pill that would control birth and make huge amounts of money for pharmaceutical companies.  I love the fact that it was tested on men as well as women but because ONE man developed swollen testicles the idea was scrapped.  Good old women and ever since heart disease has become a big killer for women as well as strokes and cancer! It wasn’t until 1961 that it was available to women in Britain.  From the Catholic side came Pope Paul VI’s comments of 1965: “Make certain that there is enough bread at the banquet of life”!  Whatever my views on ‘the pill’ women were able to enjoy the same sexual freedom as men.

1957 – 1st lubricated condom was invented by Durex – with the invention of ‘the pill’ they had serious competition so had to ‘up’ their game in the control stakes.

1958 – A material called Fibre K was invented and turned into Lycra in October 1959 by American company DuPont.

1958 – The disposable nappy.  Landfill sites have never been the same since!

1958 – Hoola Hoop.  This invention came hot-on-the-heels of the Frisbee.  Moscow condemned it as exemplifying, ‘the emptiness of American Culture’.

1959 – The fold up bike1st Barbie Doris Day Blog

1959 -9th March saw the hottest toy in town, named by New York Village as ‘Boobs in Toyland’.  Barbie started life as Barbara Millicent Roberts (named after her inventors Ruth and Elliot Handler’s daughter who founded Mattel). Soon after (1961) came Ken (named after their son!) This ultimate ‘couple’ never married but went steady for many years, but hardly surprising when in reality they were brother and sister and the decision (the male buyers not Ruth) was made not to give Ken any genitals.  Ken went through his own transformation from being skinny to the point of anorexia to bulking out in the 60s with a new ‘do’ and a bulge.  Barbie has been criticized extensively over the years for being top heavy, too skinny and anti-feminist but she has had a varied career and a fabulous wardrobe.  In Prague Castle in 2011 I saw a 50th anniversary exhibition of all things Barbie and the range of ages, styles and variation was exciting to see.  The UK’s rival of Sindy (and Paul) in 1961 never really competed.

The 50s: it was a time of convenience; life for women was made easier.  Of course, with convenience came less physical energy being used up on work so there was more available for play! Attitudes may have gone back to pre-war but women had seen the future during the war years.  You didn’t have to be tied to the kitchen for most the day, you could get out and exercise in your new Lycra wear, ride a bike and then take it on the train and if you casually met a chap you liked you could be carefree without the risk of being tied down to children and if you did have children you could spend less of your day washing their dirty nappies and cooking from scratch.  Women could work, roles were changing and if your name was Barbie there was no reason to ever get married but to have a host of careers and a wardrobe to match every occasion.  Long live ‘boobs’.

Our next Celebration of Doris Day show is on Sunday 29th March 2015 at Ronnie Scott’s.

The Life Story of Dory Previn as told by Kate Dimbleby and Naadia Sheriff at Crazy Coqs Thursday 26th June

I wanted an excuse to visit the newest cabaret joint in town and this show was it. Crazy Coqs, an Art Deco styled venue situated at 20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly that also houses Brasserie Zedel. I had tried to get my Doris show in there but to no avail but they have great quality acts and an opportunity to learn more about a great songwriter wasn’t to be missed.

So, thinking for a minute about 6 degrees of separation, think of me, in Boston listening to US radio and a song comes on called ‘Runaround’ by a singing duo, husband and wife sensation Jackie and Roy. I made it my mission to find that album, which I later discovered (having emailed the radio show) was called ‘Like Sing’ from 1963 and it’s an album of songs written by husband and wife team Dory and Andre Previn and at the time I had no idea who they were. I bought said album and became a fan of all four. In fact Roy Kral (brother to Irene, who performed at Ronnie’s as well as the duo in the 70s) was born in New Jersey as was Dory Previn.

ImageJump forward 15 years and I ‘met’ Andre Previn again (I never got to see Jackie and Roy but collected as many of their albums as I could lay my hands on, I even tried to persuade Adam Sieff at Sony to let me compile a ‘best of’. I tired!) While researching for my Doris Day show I came across an album called ‘Duet’, which was actually a jazz trio album that Doris Day recorded in 1962 with Andre Previn Trio (Red Mitchell – bass and Frank Capp – drums) and as I say in the show it was her purest jazz album and one that I recommend to everyone. From the album I perform Andre’s arrangement of ‘Close Your Eyes’ (by another famous female songwriter called Bernice Petkere) and ‘Control Yourself’ written by Dory and Andre Previn so I have now come full circle back to Dory Previn.


I love lyrics, I love strong female characters, and what an opportunity to fill in gaps of knowledge so I sat down and thoroughly enjoyed the show from start to finish. I won’t go into what’s covered in the show as Kate and Naadia do that so well so check out Kate’s website to see where they will be next but what I loved about it was the ‘show’ aspect of it. They both took on the voices of co-stars, Dory herself and narrator. Both sang and of course, Naadia played piano. They carefully weaved autobiographical material with images and songs that illustrated the time in Dory’s life. One thing I did know about was Andre Previn’s marriage to Mia Farrow so it was interesting to hear how that came about and how Dory then wrote a song about her called ‘Beware of Young Girls’!

Kate and Naadia

Dory Previn was left handed (until the nuns drove it out of her) so it was a coincidence that they performed the show on ‘Left Handed Day’. Dory (Dorothy Langdon Shannon) was a woman of Irish descent, who battled through schizophrenia and broken hearts becoming part of what was later to be described as confessional songwriting – until tonight I had never heard of confessional songwriters (a way of sometimes describing singer-songwriters in the 60s and 70s) – but if her songs were anything to go by it was an outpouring of personal feeling, conveying life and feelings through songs and her songwriting is good. ‘In contrast to the storytelling approach of most prior country and folk music, these performers typically wrote songs from a highly personal (often first-person), introspective point of view. The adjectives “confessional” and “sensitive” were often used (sometimes derisively) to describe this early singer-songwriter style’ (

Most of all it was a celebration of a life and someone that Kate and Naadia have clearly grown to know intimately and admire. There was a relationship described between Dory and her second true love, producer (??) that reminded me of Dorothy Squires and Roger Moore, the dynamic of an older, successful woman giving a leg up to the new buck in town only for it to go wrong and him leave for what Dory describes as the ‘Lemon Haired Ladies’.

I’m a sucker for a happy ending and Dory did find love…again, for the third time with Joby Baker until the end of her life in 2012, when I presume Kate started doing the show. It’s co-written by Amy Rosenthal (daughter of Maureen Lipman) and the pace worked very effectively. There is enough humour to balance what is at times a heart-breaking story of rejection, acceptance and struggle, through family, lovers and her lost Catholic faith (check out ‘Did Jesus Have a Baby Sister’, a strong feminist piece).

Strong women celebrating strong women, a concept I will never tire of watching.


To buy the album of the show go to: ‘Beware of Young Girls: the songs of Dory Previn’

You know the Hollywood sign

That stands in the Hollywood hills

I don’t think the Christ of the Andes

Ever blessed so many ills

The Hollywood sign seems to smile

Like it’s constantly saying cheese

I doubt if the statue of liberty

Ever welcomed more refugees

Give me your poor

Your tired, your pimps

You carhops, your cowboys

Your midgets, your chimps

Give me your freaks

Give me your flunkies

Your starlets, your whores

(Kate looked at me when she sang that!)

Give me your junkies

Mary, Cecilia Brown

Rode to town on a Malibu bus

She climbed to the top

Of the Hollywood sign and with the

Smallest possible fuss

She jumped off the letter ‘H’


Cause she did not become a star

She died in less than a minute and a half

She looked a bit like Hedy Lamar

Sometimes I have this dream

When the time comes for me to go

I will hang myself from the Hollywood sign

From the second or third letter ‘O’

When Mary, Cecilia jumped

She finally made the grade

Her name was in the obituary column

Of both the daily trades

I hope the Hollywood sign

Cries for the town, it touches

The lady of Lourdes in her grotto

Saw fewer cripples and crutches

Give me your poor, your maladjusted

Your sick and your beat, your sad

And your busted, give me your has-beens

Give me your twisted, your loners

Your losers, give me your black-listed

You know the Hollywood sign

Witness to our confusion

A symbol of dreams turns out to be

A sign of disillusion

Writer(s): Dory Langdon Previn

Copyright: Bouquet Music, MCA Music Publishing A.D.O. Universal S

There is nothing nicer than…a cream tea

When one wants to have a pick-me-up, something to retreat to, time to reflect and console there is nothing nicer than a British cream tea. Cream must always be crusty and tea loose. I have exacting standards so here are some of my favourites:


  1. Close to home is the Tudor Rooms with their scones of dough-like consistency and Kent green tea, served with an extra jug of hot water and white plastic tea strainer. If you arrive about 10.30am the scones will be freshly baked and hot from the oven. You will sit amongst the pensioners of Whitstable. Famous locals such as Peter Cushing used to frequent here and now have made way for the many tourists of London. On cold days you will be spoilt by the two large wood burning stoves to warm your chilly cheeks.
  2. The Mad-Hatter at Margate will only open 11am until 5pm on Saturdays. I like that. Dressed in pin-stripes across top-hat, waistcoat and trousers the Mad-Hatter dresses his rooms with year-round Christmas decorations, family portraits and the royal family. No need for company as you feel you are at home, albeit lop-sided, in his presence. As he sits to take our order we talk about his granny Dolly as mine sits by my side. Tea is delivered in huge blue and white crockery and the scones have lashings of cream.
  3. A Chinese setting in Soho for this perennial favourite, Yauatcha, with its blue glass and fish tanks. You get a trio of lucky scones: sultana, chocolate and plain with a quenelle of cream and designer porcelain dishes of jam and honey washed down with expensive Tai Pei green tea, brewed and strained before it enters the bamboo handled teapot and poured into handle-less teacups. The scones are on the small side but perfectly executed. Unfortunately they no longer serve scones but I still enjoy the memory. Now if I want afternoon tea in Soho I may go to Dean Street Townhouse where afternoon tea is always popular and often hard to get in to unless you have booked but if you do get in you will also receive three scones and a nice pot of green tea. The seats are comfy and your surroundings are vintage greens and autumnal browns.
  4. A chance encounter on a first visit to Glasgow we entered the Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street. Surrounded by Macintosh ambience, I took my tea and scone among Scottish favourites like Cloutie dumpling and custard and Arbroath Smokie and thought about Margaret and Charles and the wonderful art they made together.
  5. A new find is the Lavender Tea Room in Folkestone. A small lilac painted room housing only loose tea and if one hasn’t had breakfast you could treat yourself to bubble and poached egg but here a cream tea is served with your tea of choice (mine was Chinese Sencha) and the scone recipe has been honed into perfection. Served more than warm I can honestly say this was the best scone I had ever tasted and I have tasted a fair few. The jam is presented in an eggcup and the cream is in a teacup. The cream was delicious but was double not my preferred clotted although plentiful! Somewhere new to frequent often.
  6. Lastly, but most frequented is Pat. Val. in Old Compton Street. Madam Valerie has been donning her beret and serving her slice of French since 1926 (first in Frith Street). A great place for sharing if value is required. Two separate pots of Suki organic tea and three fruit scones to share, a large vessel of cream and a rotating display of six Tiptree jams, marmalade and honey for only £7.95. The last time I had a scone in Pat Val I left a small biteful on the side of my plate. The waitress was ready to whip it away when I said, “I’m saving that bit until last”, such is my love of scones.

Once said scones and tea have arrived I layer jam followed by a thick layer of cream, pour out a cup of tea, top the pot with extra water then either get out my ink pen and diary or my book and escape for an hour of my own indulgence.  I suppose I should have a scone recipe at the ready but I’m not very good at making them so I don’t know if I should and I don’t enjoy them anywhere near as much as when I have them out. I did make dairy free ones recently and they worked just as well. Instead of butter I used Vitalite margarine and we substituted milk with rice milk and they worked equally as well.

Leon Ware – just like the first time – at Ronnie Scott’s

Leon Ware is king of the one liners, the chat up lines; a man who will never dry up in front of the laydeez, hardly surprising when you look over his songwriting and recording credits. For those of you not already in the know he hails from Detroit, motor city and from the 60s hit factory of Motown. Move forward 10 years and he would meet Berry Gordy and Marvin Gaye.  Performer-wise he has recorded albums for various labels both solo and many a collaboration.

7th March 2014, 3 weeks after his 74th birthday would be the first time he would enter Ronnie Scott’s as a performer and in his words,”Ronnie’s is like a date I’ve been wanting for a long time”.  He is the master of the slow grooves, looking back you would call them rare grooves, but that term came later. We caught up with him back stage while he was waiting for sustenance of the food kind and he expressed his joy at coming to Ronnie’s at last and compared it to the time he shared the stage with his favourite instrumentalist Mile Davis at Montreux Jazz Festival.  He talked about the nerves he felt as a 19-year-old going on stage until his teacher told him to close his eyes and, “let the people hear you sing and the love you have to give”.  He has been giving that love ever since preferring sensual love (not sexual love) and not the love that was lost on the rappers who have sampled him since with all their talk of bitches and hoes.

He entered the room from the back preferring to mingle with his audience, letting them know he’s part of them, made by him; no ego.  Slim and slight despite his voracious appetite, with his trilby hat on he moved with ease to the stage. This is a man who first entered the stage at 3 years old; this was a man whose had the horn for 74 years and there doesn’t appear to be any slowing down.  He feels he is responsible for a lot of babies; he asked the crowd how many of them were made as a result of his music over the years. It’s a show about love and all the different ways he’s found to express it, feel it, enjoy it; desire and mutual response are all in there.

His UK based band played a number first before he came on to sing, ‘Don’t Make Me Beg You’ and I feel I am transported to 1985 where the love musings of Luther Vandross, Freddie Jackson, Alexander O’Neil and Peabo Bryson filled the airways. Leon Ware has never been as successful a front man as some of the people he has written for/performed with: Isley Brothers, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Minnie Riperton and more recently Maxwell but he was here to highlight his rightful place at a performer and writer of these soul classics.  His second track, ‘Tight’ was, and the backing vocalist Suzie Samuals delivered the backing vocals strongly and convincingly.  She had a slight look of Phyllis Hyman and a look that could have come straight from the 80s.  Leon followed up with a song from 1996 called Sumthin’ Sumthin, his collaboration with Maxwell but the backing band seamlessly created Leon’s classic sound and groove.  What I hadn’t appreciated before was what a strong singer he was and still is.  His voice along with his youthful verve hasn’t faded; he’s an artist with a passion for what he has always done and will always do, the feelings never fade.

Every word that Leon presented was with humour and I hadn’t been prepared to laugh as much as I did at his exclamations of desire,”I do everything slow”, “I can’t tell you how pleased I am, how wet I am” and how he hasn’t done a good job (on stage) until he has got the ladies, “moist and hot”.  MD, keyboardist, vocalist and all-round talent, Lex Cameron played flute for the Average White Band hit, ‘If I Ever Lose This Heaven’.

Leon Ware has (or is just about to) release a new album on Ralph Tee’s fantastic soul label Expansions.  We were treated to ‘Surrender’.  He said he heard the four chords (a self confessed chord maniac) and let them swirl around in his head all night then wrote this song quickly.

All the songs that appeared on Marvin Gaye’s album ‘I Want You’ were written by Leon Ware but once heard by Berry Gordy were handed over to Marvin to record for himself so he had to start again and write a new album and that album was ‘Musical Massage’ in 1976. From that album he performed ‘Comfort (Come Live with Me)’ a song he recorded with the late, soaring, angelic, soprano voice of Minnie Riperton. Fans of Minnie and Tarantino films would recognise his writing on, ‘Inside My Love’ and knowing the lyrics inside (sorry!) out it now makes perfect sense that Leon wrote them with it’s double entendre meaning (the other meaning was from being a child being drawn into church by the minister).

Other songs performed were ‘Body Heat’, a song written with and appeared on Quincy Jones’ album from 1974; ‘That’s Why I Came to California’ from 1982 and co-written by Manhattan Transfer original Janis Siegel; ‘Rock You Eternally’ the title track from 1981 and then he finished with his most famous composition, ‘I Want You’. It made me ask the question why was Marvin Gaye the bigger star?

He left the stage with us all wanting more and delighted us all at the piano with a solo performance of his 1972 song, ‘The Spirit Never Dies’.

Leon’s spirit is alive and strong and his songs will certainly never die.


Photo by Carl Hyde:

Inside Llewyn Davis – a musician’s struggle

Thom Tupper gives his perspective on the plight of the Coen brothers’ latest protagonist Llewyn Davis and discovers the challenges of the modern musician haven’t changed much in 50 years.

Being a fan of the Coen brothers’ films I was keen to watch their latest especially on a topic so close to my heart, no, not folk but the pursuit of a musician trying to succeed in his career. As I sat watching Inside Llewyn Davis last night at Soho’s Curzon I realised that in 50 years the challenges of the 1961 musician don’t differ much to today’s.

Whether it’s New York, London or any major cultural city that artists flock to, one will see the same struggle and it got me thinking about the range of musicians I know and how they manage to ‘succeed’ in today’s over-crowded market.  With so few label deals available to artists; the constant promotion of fame; the many music colleges churning out hundreds of musicians each year; they are then left to their own devices as we enter the age of DIY productions so here’s my top 6 types:

The musician/business person:

This is a rare beast; a musician who is equally adept at the artistic side and business side.  Able to market, promote and ‘get on’ without quashing their creativity.

The musician patronised by a fan or philanthropist:

Any musicians dream.  Someone decides that they love what you do and want to back you with their financial muscle.  There is a new way of funding where fans can pay into their favourite musician’s career, where artists can ask fans (via schemes such as to be part of their process and the more you give the more you are involved!

The dual role musician/teacher:

Another common category for musicians.  Some say if you can’t play you teach.  This is unfair to all the fantastic musicians who wish to stay true to the music they create rather than doing any musical work or non-music work to make a living.  You look at any top musician and they are spreading their knowledge and techniques around colleges, private lessons or tuition DVDs.  They also get the benefit of meeting the next big thing on their way up and staying in with the kids to keep themselves current.  Personally I think it’s an all win situation…if they’re good teachers that is.

The amateur musician:

These are the musicians that have to hold down regular jobs in order to pursue their career/hobby in their own time.  Of course they suffer the curse of not being taken seriously but you can guarantee their passion is burning beneath the surface.

The session/pop/theatre musician:

When you start out and often depending on where you have been educated you often stay within a certain group and once you are in your specific group you tend to stay there for the good and bad.  So there are the musicians who are the first call player on recording sessions, land good pop gigs or get in on the theatre scene.  Benefits are of course regular work, money coming in, a good chance of more work once this session has finished but the downside is it becomes a ‘job’ and for those creative types among this group they may find their own projects have to be shelved for a while (the money is quite seductive) or of course they end up putting in all their creativity into someone else’s work and not getting the full credit they deserve.

The Llewyn David type musician:

This type is the blagger, the sponger, the one who gets by whatever they can.  They are the ones that leave their stuff, instruments etc. in your house.  They borrow your gear then lose it. In their single minded attempt at making it they piss off family, friends, they owe money, they never have money.

Of course, these are stereotypes and there are many more but as Jason Ward remarks in his review of the film there are never any guarantees in this word to succeed regardless of talent or fortitude, the future of Llewyn Davis and all musicians is left to the toss of a coin.  In the words of the great jazz saxophonist Benny Golson if luck doesn’t come knocking it doesn’t matter how much talent you have. Of course what constitutes success is another subject…


Pondering the Fillies from France


Friday 5th April 2013

Pondering the Fillies from France

At Christmas I am drawn to all the beautiful baubles, the more glitz and sparkle the better. I say that because when we see that on stage we are suckers to it and when in the shape of a beautiful woman, who shimmers and shines, more so. 

I have been pondering such things as I recall two fantastic American singers who have both lived/are living in France. The first of which was Madeleine Peyroux. I remember when she first came to prominence, the mutterings of a white Billie Holiday and yes, her tone was reminiscent, so I was excited to finally see her up close. Back then I would have said she wasn’t for me, preferring the country tinged Norah Jones with her smooth, warm tone but demographically they were reaching the same Radio 2 listeners.

A documentary came out and I really warmed to her; I ‘got’ what she was about. That was about ten years ago so it was with interest that I watched her not knowing what I would think. Her line-up was Jon Herrington (Steely Dan’s guitarist since replacing Wayne Krantz back in 1996); fusion keyboardist Jim Beard, whom I have loved since discovering him on his album Advocate and then heard him live in Night Ark; Barak Mori on bass and Darren Beckett on drumsand drummer plus a string section led by Sylvia D’Avanzo (1st violin) and including Anna Szabo (2nd violin), Stephen Tees (viola) and Nick Cooper (cello), which is such a luxury in Ronnie’s.

She was a quiet performer in the sense that it felt quite insular, controlled and she seemed quite shy on stage so the outward impression was quite vulnerable, each song seemed to lay each heart felt word on sleeves of classic songs sung by this great song stylist and I was with her all the way. Each song is hers whether written by Buddy Holly or Bob Dillon and the like. Her subtle backing meant that vocally she had nowhere to hide so I was especially impressed by her pitching, timing and phrasing all carefully expressed to emphasise the meaning within the well-chosen covers and originals. There were a couple of songs that seemed familiar but we were hearing the new album.

Tonight was the turn of MTV presenter, daughter of Dee Dee Bridgewater and admirer of Dinah Washington singer, China Moses. She was here to promote her new album recorded with her French band that shared the stage with her. If Madeleine was North, China was South Pole. Madeleine didn’t move much on stage, China didn’t stop, a firecracker of side-to-side, front to back dynamism. She covered a Dinah number ‘Crying’ written by her then lover, young trumpeter Quincy Jones, showing a more subtle side, a side I would have liked to see more of. I like that she spoke of strong feminist women but she seemed more akin with the Jessica Rabbit cover ‘Won’t You Do Right…’ There were crowd pleasers such as ‘Chain Gang’ but still young in her singing career she is still honing her craft although I loved her energy.

If I’m being critical I would say diction needs some work and I would direct myself away from the Dinah tribute aspects of the show.  I was in the realm of a young Etta James (and of course a Dinah/Dee Dee).  She is a beautiful, immaculately dressed young singer with a lot of bluesy inflections and could go far but in the case of the French fillies the jury voted in favour of the precise and penetrating Peyroux. Glitz and glamour, while alluring don’t always infiltrate as deeply.


Picture copyright David Sinclair