“I love music all day through although it makes me do the things I never should do.”
You may not have heard that verse but it was sung by Ginger Rogers and comes from one of my favorite films, Flying Down to Rio (1933) which starred Ginger and Fred Astaire in one of their early Depression era musicals.
That film inspired one of the hottest dance crazes of the day: “The Carioca”. I wonder how many people actually knew the dance came from the movie when they were dancing the night away in the USA and singing “Have you seen the Carioca; it’s not a fox trot or a polka……”
That brings me to the subject of American songwriter Leroy Anderson. If you are scratching your head wondering, “Who is Leroy Anderson?” I don’t blame you. He was a prolific songwriter from the era of the 1930s through the 1950s who, in spite of writing numerous popular songs that are still used today as themes, in commercials, or as background, never achieved the status of others like Gershwin or Irving Berlin. Maybe it is because his tunes were more of the pop style but I think Anderson has been shortchanged in the popularity department.
For example, What would the Christmas holidays and winter be like without “Sleigh Ride”? Composed in 1948, we have heard this song thousands of times though the years in different circumstances. When I hear it, I am a kid again in Cincinnati ready to get up on Christmas morning. With the horse hoofs and the bells, it’s easy to picture a Christmas winter scene.
Who remembers “I’ve Got a Secret”? It was a popular quiz show that ran on TV from 1952 to 1967 with Garry Moore as the host. The theme song was “Plink, Plank, Plunk”, another Anderson song which I’m sure you have heard many times over the years.
“The Syncopated Clock” was written in 1945 and was performed by the Boston Pops with Anderson as a guest conductor. It was such a humorous encore to the night’s program that CBS started using it as a theme for their late movie presentation. After one week, they were swamped with phone calls as to how the song could be acquired. We have all heard it many times since then.
In 1952, Anderson’s “Blue Tango” became the first instrumental piece to ever make the epitome of popular music, the Hit Parade. It made the top ten on March 29, 1952 and stayed there for twenty-five of the next twenty-six weeks. That included reaching number one twice.
Perhaps the most heard song that Anderson wrote is “TheTypewriter.” It only runs about two minutes but I have seen and heard this song in more movies, TV shows, and commercials than about any other vintage tune. The link is a cute version of it with a bit of comedy added. It runs about four minutes and you’ll enjoy it.
So, who was this guy Leroy Anderson? His biography shows he was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1908. His mother was a church organist who got him interested in music. He went to Harvard where he received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. In the mid 1930s he became an arranger for the Boston Pops under the tutelage of Arthur Fiedler.
After serving in World War II and Korea as a linguistics expert, Anderson finally got back into music in 1952 at age 43 doing composing and arranging.
The five tunes I have linked you to above are the tip of the iceberg for Leroy Anderson. He wrote and performed many more which you can Google and enjoy.
In 1975, Leroy Anderson died at age 66. As one writer said, “His cheerful light tunes did more than express the optimistic and good humored Forties and Fifties. Their mixture of nostalgia and wit remains fresh and entertaining to people of all ages.”