Celluloid Improvisations logo Jazz on Film Mark Cantor

Mel Torme “Lulu’s Back In Town”

My association with Hugh Hefner, a gentleman who is still one of my closest buddies, has brought me into contact with some amazing people. Among them was Mel Torme, who I saw and talked with, and with whom I shared musical history, for a number of years.

One night I asked Mel if he had any particular “pet peeves” as a performer. He said, “yes.,” and here I paraphrase a bit: “I hate it when I am on stage and I start a song with the verse, for instance, ‘I’ve wined and dined on Mulligan Stew and never wished for turkey…’ Then I finish the verse and begin the chorus, ‘I get too hungry for dinner at eight…’ And the audience applauds because only then do they know that I am singing The Lady Is A Tramp.”

Mel and I used to play a game over dinner, one that mystified the other non-musical guests. I would sing a verse, trying to stump Mel, and he would do the same with me. You can guess who won the cutting contest most often. Boy, do I miss him!

This performance stems from a 1966-67 television series titled SOMETHING SPECIAL. This one-hour syndicated variety program was shared on a monthly basis, and the stars on this particular broadcast were Mel Torme and Stan Ken’s orchestra. (Although originally broadcast in color, the archive copy is a black and white kinescope of the program.)

The song, LULU’S BACK IN TOWN, is a terrific standard by Al Dubin and Harry Warren. Oddly enough, the original verse, which is quite wonderful, is replaced by an 8 bar introduction, probably put together by Torme and the program’s musical director, Marty Paich The instrumental support is introduced as the Marty Paich Dectet, and Paich is indeed the arranger of this tune, but the sidemen are all members of the Stan Kenton orchestra, which has features of its own on the show. Ray Reed, alto sax, and Dick Shearer, trombone, solo along the way.

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