Two more Willis Conover stories.

Posted: 27 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"'You’ve no doubt heard that Johnny Mercer passed away on June 25?’ asked Willis Conover, the genial host of the ‘Music and Jazz USA’ programs on a summer day in 1976. We were standing in the lobby of the Voice of America (VOA) building. I had just toured the VOA studios in Washington, D.C., where I was spending the 4th of July week-end to celebrate the bicentennial of the United States of America. ... So I replied to Willis Conover that the death of Johnny Mercer had indeed stunned me. I added that a few weeks prior to my trip to Vermont and thanks to jazz singer Blossom Dearie, I had been able to write to Johnny to express my deep admiration. Willis explained he was busy working on an interview of Johnny Mercer that he had conducted in January 1970. The edited interview would be broadcast worldwide by VOA in a series of six ‘Willis Conover’s Music USA’ programs as a tribute to the late, great American lyricist. Much to my delighted surprise, Willis invited me to attend the recording session for these programs, on the understanding that I should be satisfied with quietly watching and listening to the proceeding. An offer I could not refuse!" Michel-Pierre Montet, The Creative Coast (Savannah, GA), 25 October 2009.
     "Drummers of a certain age have their lists of undiscovered, video 'holy grails,' which usually include Buddy Rich playing two bass drums at the Paramount Theater in 1949, Gene Krupa's performance with the Benny Goodman band at Carnegie Hall in 1938, and the Buddy Rich/Gene Krupa drum battle at Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1952. ... Although there is no recorded documentation on hand thus far, there is evidence that Buddy and Gene continued their battles from time to time through 1957. At joint, 1956 radio interview with the Voice of America's Willis J. Conover, the two drummers spoke of how they felt about the battles, as well as an upcoming JATP show where they were both set to appear." Bruce Klauber, Naples (FL) Daily News, 26 October 2009.