Frankie Laine / Buck Clayton: Until the Real Thing Comes Along

If you remember Frankie Laine, you're definitely on AARP's mailing list. During the 1950s, Old Leather Lungs, as the manly baritone was affectionately known, regularly occupied both the Hit Parade and Western-themed film soundtracks. Indeed, in the latter capacity, Mr. Steel Tonsils might be vaguely familiar even to youngsters, given his manly rendering of the whip-lashing title song to Mel Brooks's manliest movie, Blazing Saddles (1974).

So what, you ask impatiently, does any of this have to do with jazz? Well, if you're going to get snooty about it, nothing. We're just trying to give you a measure of the man so you can appreciate the cosmic unlikelihood of his co-leading an LP called Jazz Spectacular.

Yet in the '50s, anything could happen. And sure, enough, here's that manly singer of Rawhide, the CBS-TV series (1959-1966) that launched Clint Eastwood's own manly career, teamed with heart-throb handsome trumpeter Buck Clayton. (Come to think of it, "Buck Clayton" does sound like a rough-ridin' straight-shootin' Western hero.)

On this genial standard from 1936, abetted by Basie veteran Clayton's relaxed 1930s Basie-style arrangement and the distinctive soloing of trombonist Dicky Wells, Mr. Steel Tonsils displays surprisingly agreeable phrasing for a pop vocalist. Perhaps Will Friedwald, in his book Jazz Singing (1992), too harshly dismissed Frankie Laine as a talentless hack. Judging by this track, Old Leather Lungs will do "Until the Real Thing Comes Along."

May 26, 2008 · 2 comments


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