Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jim Nabors In Memoriam

Jim Nabors, the baritone singer best known for playing Gomer Pyle on both The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., died today at the age of 87.

Jim Nabors was born on June 12 1930 in Sylacauga, Alabama. He sang in the choir at his church and in the glee club at his high school. He also played the clarinet in his high school band. He earned a degree in business from the University of Alabama. After graduating Mr. Nabors moved to New York City where he worked as a typist at the United Nations. He then moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee where he worked as a film cutter at a local television station.

Because of his asthma Jim Nabors eventually moved to Los Angeles, California. Once there he became a film cutter at NBC. He also began performing at the Horn, a club in Santa Monica, California. Jim Nabors's monologue was based around a persona not too far removed from Gomer Pyle. He came to the notice of Bill Dana, who managed to get him on The New Steve Allen Show.

Andy Griffith also caught Jim Nabors's act at the Horn and thought he would be perfect for a guest appearance on The Andy Griffith Show. Jim Nabors made his first appearance as none-too-bright service station attendant Gomer Pyle in the episode "The Bank Job" on December 24 1962. Gomer Pyle proved so popular that Jim Nabors became one of the regulars on The Andy Griffith Show. In the 1962-1963 season he would also make guest appearance on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and I'm Dickens, He's Fenster.

It was at the start of the 1964-1965 season that Gomer Pyle was spun off into his own show, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. The show proved to be a hit and ran for five years, ending only because Jim Nabors wanted to move onto other things. It was also in the 1964-1965 season that Jim Nabors had a recurring role on the short lived sitcom Valentine's Day. During the Sixties, Jim Nabors guest starred as Gomer Pyle on The Lucy Show. He also guest starred on Off to See the Wizard. Mr. Nabors was able to show off his rich baritone on an episode of The Andy Griffith Show and sometimes appeared as a singer as well as a comedian and actor on variety and talk shows. In the Sixties he guest starred on such variety and talk shows as The Danny Kaye Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Joey Bishop Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The Leslie Uggams Show, and The Mike Douglas Show. In 1969 Jim Nabors received his own variety show, which ran until 1971. It was still doing well in the ratings when it was cancelled as part of the Rural Purge. He appeared in the film Take Her, She's Mine (1963).

As a singer Jim Nabors also had a fairly successful career. He released his first album, :Jim Nabors Sings Love Me With All Your Heart, in 1966. In all he released 28 albums.

In the Seventies Jim Nabors guest starred on such shows as The Ken Berry 'Wow' Show, The David Frost Show,The Flip Wilson Show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, The Muppet Show, and Dinah!. He appeared in the first episode of the every season of The Carol Burnett Show,  Miss Burnett considering Mr. Nabors her good luck charm. He starred in the Saturday morning live-action show The Lost Saucer and in 1978 he had his own syndicated show, The Jim Nabors Show. He guest starred on The Rookies.

In the Eighties Jim Nabors appeared in the films The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Stroker Ace (1983) and Cannonball Run II (1984). He reprised his role as Gomer Pyle in the reunion television movie Return to Mayberry in 1986. He guest starred on Knight Rider. In the Nineties Mr. Nabors appeared in a brief revival of The Carol Burnett Show. He guest starred as Gomer Pyle on an episode of Hi Honey, I'm Home.

Much of Jim Nabors's later career he spent touring and singing in nightclubs. From 1972 to 2014 he sang "Back Home Again in Indiana” at the Indianapolis 500 each year.

Jim Nabors was an enormous comic talent. It is with good reason that Gomer Pyle is the most famous character outside of Deputy Barney Fife (played by the great Don Knotts) to emerge from The Andy Griffith Show. Mr. Nabors played the often clueless Pyle with perfect timing and an honesty that made the gas station attendant and later Marine seem like a an authentic character. While Mr Nabors played Gomer for much of his career, not to mention many characters similar to Gomer, he was capable of much more. He was incredible in the skits in which he appeared on The Carol Burnett Show and his own variety show. Of course, Jim Nabors was also a great singer. He had an impressive baritone and made quite a good living as a singer, both recording albums and touring. As both a comedic genius and a very talented singer, Jim Nabors could well have been a great musical comedy star in film had he been born only a few years earlier. He may always be remembered as Gomer Pyle, but Mr. Nabors was much more.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Godspeed Della Reese

Singer and actress Della Reese died on November 19 2017 at the age of 86.

Della Reese was born Delloreese Early in Detroit, Michigan. She was only six years old when she joined the junior choir at her church. She eventually became a soloist and sang at other churches and various events. She also sang on the radio. She was 13 years old when she joined Mahalia Jackson's gospel group. She toured with Mahalia Jackson for five summers. Miss Reese briefly attended Wayne State University, but had to drop out following her mother's death.

Della Reese held down various jobs while still pursuing a singing career. She formed her own group, the Meditation Singers. It was in 1951 that she won a singing contest sponsored by a newspaper while singing at a bowling alley/nightclub. She won a week long engagement at an after hours club. The engagement at the club was later extended. It was an agent who got her a job singing with Erskine Hawkins’ jazz orchestra for nine months. In 1954 she signed her first recording contract. Her first single, "In The Still Of The Night", was released in 1955. She made her television debut in 1956 as a guest vocalist on Stage Show. In 1957 she had her first major hit single, "And That Reminds Me", which peaked at no. 12 on the Billboard singles chart. She would have even more success with her next single, "Don't You Know", which went to no. 2 on the Billboard singles chart 1959. She had one more major hit, "Not One Minute More", in 1960. In the late Fifties she appeared on such shows as The Big Record, The Ed Sullivan Show, Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium, and Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall. She appeared as herself in the movie Let's Rock.

In the Sixties Della Reese's music career went in decline. She had several hits reach the Billboard Hot 100, but none entered the top forty. She continued to appear frequently on television, appearing on such shows as The Tonight Show, The Lively Ones, The Hollywood Palace, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Jonathan Winters Show, The Dom DeLuise Show, and Playboy After Dark. She hosted her own show, Della, from 1969 to 1970. In 1968 she made her acting debut on an episode of The Mod Squad. She also guest starred on The New Doctors.

In the Seventies Della Reese was a regular on the hit sitcom Chico and the Man. She guest starred on the shows Getting Together, Police Woman, Petrocelli, Police Story, Joe Forrester, The Rookies, McCloud, Medical Centre, Welcome Back Kotter, and Insight. She also appeared in several TV movies. Miss Reese appeared in the feature films Psychic Killer (1975).

In the Eighties Della Reese was a regular on the show It Takes Two and had a recurring role on Charlie & Co. She guest starred on the shows The Love Boat, The A-Team, Crazy Like a Fox, Night Court, 227, and The Young Riders. She appeared in the feature film Harlem Nights (1989).

In the Nighties Della Reese starred on The Royal Family and Touched by an Angel. She guest starred on such shows as MacGyver, Designing Women, L.A. Law, Picket Fences, and Promised Land. She appeared in the films The Distinguished Gentleman (1992) and A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996). she was one of the voices in the animated feature film Dinosaur (2000). In the Naughts she guest starred on That's So Raven and The Young and the Restless. She appeared in the films Beauty Shop (2005), If I Had Known I Was a Genius (2007), and A Very Mary Christmas (2010).

In the Teens Della Reese appeared in the feature films Me Again (2012) and Meant to Be (2012). She guest starred on  Signed, Sealed, Delivered.

After the Sixties Della Reese recorded two more albums: Blue Skies in 1994 and Give It to God in 2006.

Although she is now best remembered as an actress, Della Reese was a fine singer. She had a dulcet voice that was very adaptable. She could sing both popular songs and gospel music with ease. Of course, she also had that same adaptability when it came to acting. She did equally well playing both comedic roles and dramatic roles. She could play anything from the matriarch of a family to the owner of a trailer park. In the end Della Reese was one of those rare individuals with multiple talents, both singing and acting.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Godspeed David Cassidy

David Cassidy, the former teen idol best known as Keith Partridge as The Partridge Family, died on November 21 2017. The cause was liver failure. He had also been suffering from dementia for several months.

David Cassidy was born on April 12 1950 in New York City. His parents were actor and singer  Jack Cassidy, who would later play actor Oscar North on the cult sitcom He & She, and actress Evelyn Ward. Since his parents were often occupied with their work, young Mr. Cassidy spent much of his childhood with his maternal grandparents in West Orange, New Jersey. His parents divorced while he was very young and his father later married actress Shirley Jones.

David Cassidy made his acting debut in a guest appearance on the TV show The Survivors in 1969. He guest starred on the shows Ironside, The F.B.I., Marcus Welby M.D., Adam-12, Bonanza, Medical Centre, and The Mod Squad. It was in 1970 that he began playing oldest brother Keith Partridge on The Partridge Family. The show also starred his stepmother Shirley Jones as mother Shirley Partridge. The show, about a family who performed as a band, proved to be a hit with the younger set, and David Cassidy soon became a teen idol. Songs and albums by The Partridge Family were also released, although the instruments were played by session musicians and vocals, except for those of Shirley Jones and David Cassidy, were performed by session vocalists. Regardless, they sold very well. The first single from The Partridge Family, "I Think I Love You", went to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Four other songs reached the top twenty. Their albums sold well too, with the first three reaching the top ten of the Billboard album chart.

David Cassidy was still on The Partridge Family when he released his first solo album, Cherish. The first single from that album, a cover of The Association's "Cherish" went to no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Mr. Cassidy released three more solo albums while The Partridge Family was still on the air.

The Partridge Family went off the air in 1974. Unfortunately, Mr. Cassidy's music career would go into a bit of a decline in the United States, although he continued to do well in Britain, Europe, and Australia. He continued to release albums until 1976, when his last album for some time, Getting It in the Street, was released. He also continued acting. During the 1978-1979 season he starred in the short-lived series David Cassidy: Man Undercover. He guest starred on Police Story (the backdoor pilot for David Cassidy: Man Undercover), and The Love Boat.

In the Eighties David Cassidy released two studio albums and a live album. In 1981 he toured in a revival of Gorge M. Cohan's Little Johnny Jones for a time. In 1983 he took over the lead role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He later appeared on London's West end in Time. On television he guest starred on Matt Houston, Fantasy Island, Tales of the Unexpected, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He appeared in the films Instant Karma (1990) and The Spirit of '76 (1990).

In the Nineties David Cassidy released two albums. His single "Lyin' to Myself" peaked at no. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100. He hosted the VH1 show 8-Track Flashback. On television he guest starred as The Mirror Master on The Flash, and also guest starred on The Ben Stiller Show, and The John Laroquette Show.

In the Naughts he was a regular on the show Ruby & the Rockets. He was a guest voice on Kim Possible. He guest starred on the shows The Agency, Malcolm in the Middle, and Less Than Perfect. He appeared in the films Popstar (2005) and Alexa Vega: You Are Where I Live (2009). In the Teens he guest starred on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Next year he will appear in the film Forgiven This Gun4hire (2018).

David Cassidy was hardly the first teen idol, but, short of Davy Jones, he might well have been the biggest. David Cassidy was wildly popular with pre-teen and teenage girls in the Seventies. His posters adorned their rooms. They bought his albums (both The Partridge Family albums and his solo albums). He was regularly featured on the covers of such magazines as Tiger Beat and 16. There have been several teen idols since David Cassidy, but none have really matched him.

Of course, David Cassidy had his male fans as well. I was only about six when The Partridge Family debuted and I watched it faithfully. And while my favourite character was Danny and I had a crush on Shirley, I thought Keith was pretty cool. I also liked the songs on the show. I never quite stopped being a Partridge Family fan, although there was a time that I was not likely to admit it. David Cassidy was responsible for much of the show's success. Never mind that pre-teen and teenage girls found him attractive, he also had a good voice and he was a fairly good actor as well. His acting talent would be on display in his later guest appearances. He turned in a good performance as The Mirror Master on The Flash, and he was quite good as a plastic surgery obsessed, washed-up poker player on CSI. If David Cassidy was one of the biggest teen idols of all time, it was perhaps because he had a good deal of talent as well.