‘Of Thee I Sing, Baby!’
By Tom Morrow
During my tenure at the Blade-Citizen/North County Times, I was involved in a number of activities which kept me highly-involved in entertainment. From plays to musical productions, I was in the center of most things cultural in North County.
In 2002, I conceived an idea for a music festival, which would be sponsored by the Oceanside Rotary Club. The purpose was to raise monies to buy musical instruments for needy elementary school students throughout the Oceanside Unified School District.
I headed this project for the first three years, but the real success of the first year was due to one man: legendary song writer, Broadway performer and director Hugh Martin (“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “The Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door,” “Love,” and many more.
Hugh lived in nearby Encinitas and had been following my daily column in which I wrote about the progress of the festival. I dubbed the event “The Gershwin Festival.” At first I attempted to get Michael Feinstein to be the key performer because of his extensive knowledge of the Gershwins and their music, but he was way out of our price range.
Hugh called me saying, “Tom, I know of someone who will come close to equaling Michael and he’ll come at a price much more affordable,” Hugh told me. “Why don’t you call Kevin Cole who lives in Chicago.”
I took Hugh’s advice and boy was Kevin a real find. Before he came to Oceanside, I took a busload of local folks up to the Hollywood Bowl where Kevin was to do George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. There were some 18,000 people in the audience that night and by the end of the performance he had everyone standing on their feet, shouting with wild applause.
In addition to his regular two-hour evening show at The Star Theatre in downtown Oceanside, I arranged for Kevin to perform the “Rhapsody” with one of our local orchestras, The Big Band & Jazz Hall of Fame Orchestra. It was the finale of the festival and was a Sunday afternoon performance on stage of the Oceanside Pier Amphitheatre.
The Kevin Cole-Oceanside Music Festival connection lasted for three years, all thanks to Hugh Martin. Kevin, and I have been friends since. In later years, I did a two-part hour TV interview with Hugh for my daily “Living Legacies” interview series on KOCT-TV in Oceanside. It’s re-run occasionally and is “on demand” at: www.koct.org.
We lost Hugh a few years back, but not until he had passed his 96th birthday and finished his autobiography, “The Boy Next Door,” (available at Amazon.com).
As an interesting footnote, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” continues to be the most popular holiday song each year – even more so than “White Christmas,” … and the last time I was with him, Hugh had a six-figure royalty check to prove it.
With that song, Hugh continues to be a very bright light in entertainment, even though most people under 50 have no idea who he was – and he lived right next door in Encintas. One of America’s truly great gentlemen and giant in the music world.
REAGANISM – This quote by the late President Reagan is right in fashion with today’s California: “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it, if it keeps moving, regulate it, and if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
WORD POWER — Ideologue, (n.), generally an obscure, humorless zealot who finds fulfillment by spouting the ideas of famed humorless zealots.
SEZ I – You’ll find my historical novels under my name at Amazon.com
Humorous or human-interest stories or notes for my osidenews.com column can be forwarded via e-mail to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org