Our next entry on the Holiday best list is often considered by others to be the greatest Christmas album ever produced. Phil Spector arranged his wall of sound and best singers to produce a classic album that should be in everyone’s collection. Unlike A Motown Christmas, A Christmas Gift For You was not cherry picked from previous recordings. Phil Spector masterfully crafted the album from the ground up. Darlene Love is sensational; the Crystals are amazing. While it was probably easy to pick and choose the best songs on the Motown album, building a classic from the ground up was probably a monumental task.
Delloreese Early was Born in 1931 in Detroit, Michigan. Her father was an African American steelworker and her mother was a Cherokee cook. While her mother had already had several children before her, she was raised as an only child. Delloreese began her singing career as a young child, singing in her church choir. At age twelve, she got her chance to perform professionally when Mahalia Jackson chose her to join Mahalia’s choir. Delloreese stood out from the rest of the singers and soon found herself performing solo. She then adopted the stage name she would use for the rest of her life- Della Reese. Della signed with a record label and became a soul and jazz sensation. While her albums were rather successful, she would find her biggest fame performing live on tour and in Las Vegas. A trailblazer, Della sought to lay down roots in Beverly Hills with other wealthy celebrities. She had been told that African-Americans were not allowed to officially buy in her chosen neighborhood, but she
Possibly the greatest Christmas album ever released, A Motown Christmas was a package album originally released in 1973 as a 2 LP set. At the time, the record company sought to take advantage of its deep catalog by reissuing existing recordings and creating greatest hit albums. Just about every Motown act had recorded Christmas singles and albums, so the staff working on this compilation had numerous versions of each song to choose from and they chose wisely. We hear Stevie Wonder’s soulful, yet reverent version of Ave Maria, the Jackson 5ive’s youthful Frosty the Snowman and the amazing version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by the Temptations. There were also surprising finds like One Little Christmas Tree, stripped of elaborate orchestration and sung by Stevie Wonder. The arrangements used on these versions would become THE soul arrangements used when these standards were performed, even to this day. It might not be as famous as Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You, but it wa
The Beatles were huge in 1964. Heck, they're still huge now. In 1964 everyone wanted a piece of them and United Artists realized it had a potential goldmine. Brian Epstein had signed a deal granting United Artists the right to make a film starring the Fab Four. A deal that granted them the right to release the movie soundtrack. The studio didn't care about the film; it just wanted to make money off the soundtrack. With this in mind, they approved a budget of $500,000 and free reign of the project to young director Richard Lester and the boys. They just wanted a releasable film that would allow them to cash in on a soundtrack. To everyone's surprise, United Artists received a hit album AND a classic film that has inspired every rock band film that came afterwards. The movie and the album were huge hits.
With The Beatles all but broken up by the early 1970's, it was really up to the lawyers to finish the process of breaking up the band. With the paperwork finally completed and agreements made, it was up to the band members to sign the documents officially breaking up the band. As it turned out, John Lennon happened to be staying within the Walt Disney World complex when he was asked to sign the official documents. So on December 29, 1974, the Beatles officially broke up legally- with the final paperwork signed at Florida's Polynesian Village in the Disney World complex.
DISNEYLAND's proximity to Hollywood has always provided something extra for its guests that isn't available at any other Disney park- a supply of top quality talent. Whether they knew it or not, guests have enjoyed some big names at the park, like famed blues singer Monette Moore. Ms. Moore was a legend in the blues world. Born in Texas and raised in Kansas City, Monette taught herself how to play the piano in her teens and took jobs playing the piano in Kansas City theaters. She soon found herself performing with the greats, including Fats Waller. Frustrated by the lack of venues open to African-American performers, she opened her own in New York City called Monette's Place. The joint was always jumping, attracting a who's who of blues talent. Her fame led to roles in Hollywood, such as her performance with Judy Garland in A Star is Born. Monette, tired of touring, settled in Southern California where she recorded music and decided to take a job at DISNEYLAND. Pro
January 2012 was a sad month for fans of classic Rhythm & Blues. On January 17th of that year, we lost a legendary singer, producer and writer- Johnny Otis. You might not know his name, but you’ve definitely heard the songs he wrote and inspired. Called The Godfather Of R&B, Johnny Otis wrote such early R&B hits as Every Beat Of My Heart and So Fine. He also wrote the first hit for one of his biggest discoveries who died just three days later on January 20th- the Matriarch Of R&B- Etta James. Discovered by Johnny Otis in San Francisco along with her girl group The Creolettes, Etta James’ first single of note was written by Johnny Otis- Roll With Me, Henry , a controversial song that was officially called Dance With Me, Henry. The song earned the group a spot on James Brown’s tour. Etta started the tour as a girl group singer and ended it as a star on the rise. That two giants of music would leave us just days apart was heartbreaking, yet proof that heaven must exist. Af
As the saying goes, success has many parents while failure is often an orphan. Arguably one of the biggest musical groups of the early 1970’s, the Jackson Five had many people claiming to be the one who discovered the group. But who really did discover the talented band of brothers from Gary, Indiana? The official Motown story was that Diana Ross discovered the band. This version of events was further cemented by the title of their first album- Diana Ross presents The Jackson Five. At the time, Diana Ross was the mistress of Motown CEO Berry Gordy and he was grooming her to become a solo star. Her first release after leaving The Supremes was not commercially successful, so creating the legend whereby it was she who discovered the next big thing would burnish her career as much as it would help The Jackson Five. However, of everyone involved with the group in its early days at Motown, Diana Ross was the one who should have claimed the least credit. Other than allowing them to tour with