Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bill Stewart 1969



Larry McClellan had a memory of Bill  Stewart:
"I got nostalgic and decided to do a search for Bill Stewart and came upon your blogspot pages.

My ex-wife and I attended the concert at the Palladium in 1969 (thanks for pointing up the year -- I wasn't sure about it after these years.) The house was a little over 400 and we were among less than a dozen civilians in the audience; and we were there because a friend who was a DJ on KRHM was on the air at the time and comped us his tickets.

The story we heard was that Bill's wife had developed cancer and they had gone completely through all their savings trying (in vain) to find treatment. She passed and Bill was destitute -- emotionally and financially. Some performers who felt that he had been instrumental in establishing their careers staged a benefit concert for him. I don't know what the tickets cost -- as I said, ours were comped -- but my understanding at the time was that they were not cheap.

There were four acts: Henry Mancini, with a scratch orchestra (most of whom, I heard, were there pro bono); Johnny Mathis; Andy Williams, with the Osmond Brothers; Peggy Lee. Williams interrupted a rehearsal schedule to appear, and Miss Lee flew in a couple of hours before the show, performed, and flew out again immediately after, to meet appearance obligations somewhere else (Vegas, I think, but memory lapses after 55 years and I was only a spectator anyway.)

Mancini's opening line was "So this is where Lawrence Welk works. Doesn't record here." The acoustics were second-rate. It took Peggy Lee two numbers to get the sound system adjusted so she could hear herself perform.

Mathis performed straight up, just like it was a recording session. We later saw him at the Greek Theater and he was doing his "African Queen" routine for the West LA audience. Same singer, two different performers.

At the time, my ex and I were friends with Skip and Lynn Weshner. Skip had been with AFR in 1945-46 and worked the first show that used Ampex tape decks. A Bing Crosby show, if I remember the story correctly. Lynn had been a torch singer in front of, among others, Benny Goodman. She was also the chick singer of the Rooftop Singers when they cut their first version of "Walk Right In." The tickets were comped to us by Paul Rhone, a regular evening DJ at KRHM. I seldom listened to Bill Stewart's show because he was on at a time of day when I was not around radios. But I know that the DJs all respected and admired him and his work.

I want to recall that Bill's title on the air during the war and early postwar years was "The Master of C" or something similar. I talked with some WWII overseas vets who remembered him fondly.

I hope this is of some interest to you and that it might lead to some research that could round out his biography a bit."

Thank you Larry!  From 1969 here's Bill with guest Mort Garson, the writer of "Our Day Will Come", Mort did neat things with the early synthisizers.