Friday, April 10, 2020

The SUSPENSE Collector's Companion

Joseph W. Webb, Ph.D., recently released a revised and expanded 2020 edition of his book about radio's Suspense, focusing on various discoveries found through recent archival digging. Rather than focus on the history of the radio program, Joe focuses on the collector aspect such as documenting the missing "lost" recordings, how the 60 minute episodes were recycled for later use as two-part half-hour shows, the ratings for Suspense, a missing segment of the episode titled "The Search," the motion-pictures adapted from Suspense radio scripts, the variations between East and West Coast broadcasts (and the discovery of both versions found for many of the episodes), and so on.

Until a year or two ago, courtesy of Joe Webb, I only knew of two episodes from 1946 that existed with variations: an East Coast and West Coast performance. It seems Joe was comparing recordings from various sources and discovered both versions existed and circulated among collectors. Ever the completist, he began seeking out the multiple renditions. For years various dealers would brag to me about being the person responsible for certain radio programs being made available to collectors from transcription discs. I used to take most of those claims with a grain of salt. Now I suspect multiple people were indeed correct when they claim they were responsible for the transfers, unaware that more than one disc for network programs existed. Joe goes into detail regarding the specific years that both East and West Coast performances were recorded. 

Basically, Joe's book is like a compilation of magazine articles reporting recent findings about Suspense, so his book caters to people who are familiar with the series and wants to explore more than just a history of the program. One episode, for example, was authored by a former inmate of San Quentin. Joe sought out information regarding who the mysterious author was. All of which make fascinating reading and essential for fans of the radio and television program. A link is provided below for your convenience to order.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall

About 30 minutes before curtain time, the producer (Andy Wiswell) for Capitol Records spoke to Judy Garland in her dressing room. He explained that they intended to record the concert and would she mind if they asked the drummer to tone it down for recording purposes. At this point Judy told him in no uncertain terms that they was her night, that she intended to give the best performance she could and she did not care if they got a recording or not but she wanted her drummer to play vigorously as he was used to. This was on the evening of Sunday, April 23, 1961.

As for the concert itself, Judy Garland was at her peak and the audience responded in kind. Many still remember it as the greatest night in show business that they ever experienced. The concert was indeed recorded and released on 2 LP records, a commercial success from all ends of the spectrum. For fans of Judy Garland, or those who enjoy her screen performances but never went to the trouble of buying up all those CDs of her music (sadly, with much of the music recycled on multiple releases so you end up purchasing duplicates), Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall is perhaps her best performance -- ever. It would remain her biggest selling recording, staying on the charts for 95 weeks -- 13 at Number One, and won five Grammy Awards, including Best Female Vocal Performance, and Album of the Year. Highly recommended and available on a 2-CD set, the commercial release includes a small booklet documenting the history behind her stage performance.

The show business famous who were there that evening echoed the press raves. Phil Silvers, Rock Hudson, Polly Bergen, Myrna Loy, Carol Channing, Henry Fonda, Julie Andrews, Richard Burton and many others. This was a milestone in the life and career of a woman who had seen so many successes in her time, who had been "reborn" before. None of the many achievements she had previously could compare with what happened to her in 1961, however. Especially considering that only 16 months prior to stepping onto the stage at Carnegie Hall, Judy Garland nearly died.

There has been talk (and complaints) about various CD releases not being "pure," with alterations and missing tracks, but I am avoiding what complaints people may have as the Capitol Records release (pictured above) is the one I have and the majority of the Judy Garland fans praise this as the ultimate rendition and the only one you want to get. In short, avoid any other CD release that does not look like the one pictured above. Whether you are looking for something to enjoy on a long road trip or want to turn off the electronic devices and play something soothing and entertaining that does not involve DVDs, streaming or the Internet, do yourself a favor and grab the 2-CD set today. Hollywood entertainment does not get better than this.