Sunday, August 31, 2008

One vintage kiddie TV tray: Kinda scary, and not just in a Richard Scarry kind of way

Pictured here is an old and slightly shabby kid's 'Teevee Tray' folding tray table, looking like it may have been manufactured circa 1955 - 1963 or thereabouts.

The short legs suggest that perhaps it was planned for use as an in-bed meal tray, to be placed over a semi-reclining little kid's legs, but my own suspicion is that it's intended for a tyke sitting on the floor and snacking in front of the television.
Could have been both, I suppose...

(Click on image to ENLARGE in a new window)

Regardless, the 'cheerful' illustration on it comes off a tad creepy.
I know I'm not the only one to hold this opinion.

This artifact was passed onto My Friend Topic from a friend of hers, who's husband had grown up with it in his family. (Thanks for sharing, Topic!)
To hear Topic tell it, as adults all could appreciate the tray's kitschy qualities, but agreed it was at least a little bit 'off'.

Certainly the TV clown doesn't help matters, nor does the notion that the Dalmatian puppy might be frightened or angered by it.

The leers of the bear and the rabbit confronting the viewer send it over the edge, in my opinion.

The possible sick-bed use for this old tray makes me recall some early nightmarish days home from elementary school with the flu, running a fever, doped up on cough medicine, and losing touch with reality while parked in front of the television.

Had I been forced to sit alone with this tray in that condition, there would have been trouble...

Also adding to the mystique is it's 'knockoff' quotient.

Setting aside some of its very specific qualities, the illustration is sort of generic for the era.

Looks like they were going for a Little Golden Book feel, though slightly tarnished here.

When I first saw it I wondered if it might actually be artwork by children's book author ⬅ Richard Scarry, or even Gustaf Tenggren ⬇ illustrating in his 'Poky Little Puppy' style of the era.

I have since decided that neither artist created this image, but that whoever did knew what they were doing.

So: Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong!

If you have any information or thoughts to share regarding the origins of this item, please comment or drop an e-mail.
- - Or how about memories? Maybe you lived with a tray just like this once upon a time?

See also two previous posts on this blog:
- 'Excerpts from Richard Scarry's Golden Book Of Manners, 1962'

- 'Gustaf Tenggren's Tell-It-Again Fairy-Tale Illustrations, 1942'

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Fog Meets The Mopless Martians (1967 print ad)

(You MUST read the copy for this vintage advertisement! Click on image to ENLARGE in a new window!)

Wow. Simply wow.

- - And 'Let there be no climate where evil may flourish'?!?

Dang! One helluva bold slogan for selling raincoats...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Lazy Ade Monsbourgh - Recorder In Ragtime (1954 - '62)

The recorder makes for a surprisingly apt lead 'voice' in this irrepressibly happy batch of recordings from the mid-'50's through early '60's!

Lazy Ade Monsbourgh (sometimes spelled as 'Monsborough') was an Australian multi-instrumentalist, and a leader of the traditional jazz scene in that country.

Born in 1917, he came up as an alto saxophone player and clarinetist, forming his first band while at college.

He'd first trained as a pianist, but also became proficient at trombone, trumpet and various reed instruments.

His association with danceband leader Graeme Bell began in 1930, and Monsbourgh was part of Bell's influential band through the '40's and '50's, including during several major European tours.

Whether as a sideman or bandleader, and regardless of instrument, 'Lazy Ade' was quite busy during his career and made many recordings before entering semi-retirement in the 1970's.

Recording personnel on this album includes:

Ade Monsbourgh, recorder
Graham Coyle, piano
Frank Gow, piano
Peter Cleaver, banjo
Jack Varney, banjo
Ron Williamson, tuba
Roger Bell, washboard
Jim Beale, washboard
Len Barnard, washboard
Ferdie Rose, accordion
Bill May, bass
Ron Toussaint, violin

- Click here to see album track listing with specific session details and recording dates.

- Click here to read 1984 back cover liner notes by compilation producer Nevill L. Sherburn.

From the Lazy Ade Monsbourgh
'Recorder In Ragtime' LP,
(Swaggie Records Reissue LP, 1984), Listen to:

Swiss Roll
Hessian Rag
Whistling Rufus ('54)
Rainbow Jelly Strut
At A Georgia Camp Meeting
Darktown Strutter's Ball (vocal: Ade Monsbourgh)
Pipes Of Pan
Policeman's Holiday
Hiawatha ('62)
Piping Hot
Hiawatha ('56)
That's Him Whistling Now (vocal: Joan Blake)
Ragtime Dance
Even Stephen
Turkey In The Straw
The Whistler And His Dog
Teddy Bear's Picnic
Whistling Rufus ('62)

(click for audio)

- - OR download all 18 tracks in one 40.3 Mb zipfile.

See also:
- An entry at The Big Band Database, scroll down the page for Lazy Ade Monsbourgh.

- An article, ''Lazy Ade' no slouch when it comes to Jazz' from Scotch College Melbourne's Great Scot, printed in April of 2006.

- Ade Monsbourgh passed away in July of 2006, at the age of 89.
Follow links to read a couple of obituaries from August of that year - - 'It all came easy to the master', from The Sydney Morning Herald, and one from the U.K. that ran in The Independent.

- For an additional example of creatively used recorder, follow link to the previously posted
Medieval Jazz Quartet plus three (circa 1961), featuring Bob Dorough!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The TapeDek Convertible Swings Four Ways! (1967 print ad)

(click on image to ENLARGE in a new window)

Wow! - - It's 'The Complete Stereo Sound Center for your car, boat or home'!

Check the handy and oh-so-modern innovations that include separate cartridge/modules for AM and FM radio, and how timely was the naming of the 'Gidget'
4-track tape adapter?

I'd never heard of that one...

...but of course there's a special section for
4-track history and their accompanying gizmos at the lovingly detailed 8-track Heaven.

- Please also follow this link to a
previously posted 1966 Lear Jet Stereo 8 advertisement
for some additonal background on the
mid-'60's mainstream introduction of the 8-track format to American consumers!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Neato! A Plaudit, An Accolade!!

- - Much Kudos, even!

I'm very pleased and honored to announce that I awoke this morning to the discovery that 'I'm Learning To Share' has just received an Arte Y Pico Award.

I received an announcement from Preston of the
Me and the Blue Skies blog;

"I've awarded you the Arte Y Pico Award because yours is THE coolest blog ever."

Many thanks, Preston. You'll make me blush.

Crafting this blog has been a great pleasure from the beginning, and it's been hugely gratifying to know that the stuff I think is cool enough to share with others has been so well received.
Onward and upward!

And so onto the fine print, and a further opportunity to share...

Here are the rules for the Arte Y Pico Award:
1) You must choose up to 5 blogs that you consider to be deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and for their contribution to the blogging community.

2) Each award granted must include the name of the awarded blog's author and provide a link to his/her blog so it may be visited by all.

3) Each award winner must exhibit the award, and provide the name of the person who presented her/him with the award, along with a link to that person's blog.

4) Both the award winner and the one who has given the award must show a link to
the “Arte y Pico” blog so that everyone will know it's origin.

5) You must also show these rules.

- A note from the Arte y Pico blog, perhaps poorly translated from Spanish, regarding the meaning of 'Arte y Pico':

"...basically, ironically, it translates into a wonderful phrase in Mexico, 'the maximum.'
"It will never find its exact counterpart in English, but if it HAD to, it would be something like "Wow. The Best Art. Over the top."

With that in mind comes the very difficult task of picking 5 worthy bloggers out of so very many regular favorites on a long and non-definitive list...

1. Fabulon.
Among the many delights of Thombeau's blog for me personally is that although a fair portion of his Grandly Glamourous and Divinely Decadent content is not strictly my cup of exquisitely-flavored tea, the beautiful presentation and joy that it conveys never fail to draw me in.

2. Bedazzled!
Videos, music, some similar sensibilities, and my introduction to the amazing world of Scopitones! Spike Priggen's essential site provided much inspiration for me to begin sharing what I love, and what's not to love about that?

3. Dark Roasted Blend.
Avi Abrams and crew have created a site full of 'weird and wonderful things' from the world over. The perfect place to visit if you've got just a minute on your coffee break for quick shots of intriguing sights and information - - but be prepared to still be chasing down more after your mug's gone cold and you're now running desperately late...

4. Martin Klasch.
Image! Color! Line! Design! Art! Inspiration! P-E Fronning's crisply visual blog sends sparks through my retinas and fires the imagination. An ongoing eclectic gallery of stuff that has COOL in common.

5. If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats.
Speaking of cool, there's a whole lot of it here. Tom Sutpen and the other curators serve up a visual feast with results that delight in a similar fashion to that Martin Klasch blog, but using primarily photographs of notable personalities past and present. Truly stunning - - and how can you not love a blog that worships Joan Blondell?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Playmates - The Guy Behind The Wheel (1964)

This recording joins a long line of 'highway tragedy' songs, and stands up well alongside other pop songs of the early '60's that were also part of that fine tradition.

Vocal trio The Playmates broke up the same year it was released, which was almost five years after their novelty B-side 'Beep Beep'
(a much happier driving song) became their biggest charting hit.

Chic Hetti, Donny Conn and Morey Carr met while attending the University of Connecticut in the early 1950's, and began performing a comedy act as The Nitwits while still enrolled.

They began touring around the US and Canada in 1952, developing eventually into a musical group and changing their name to The Playmates.

They signed to Roulette Records in 1957, performing light-hearted rock & roll.
The surprise 1958 success of 'Beep Beep' ensured that novelty numbers and comedic patter would remain a part of their act.

The Playmates released several singles and four LPs on the Roulette label before moving onto other labels and eventually disbanding.

With their roots in the Eisenhower era, the overall sound and subject matter of their repertoire was likely a bit too corny and 'innocent' for the '60's British Invasion and beyond.

Listen to:
The Playmates -
The Guy Behind The Wheel

(ABC-Paramount Records 45, 1964)
(click for audio)

See also:
- As an extra bit of Playmates trivia, there's a 'soundtrack' video of the British-released version of 'Beep Beep' posted at YouTube.

The BBC's rules didn't allow brand names to be mentioned in songs they broadcast, so for European release The Playmates re-recorded the song, changing lyrics referring to Cadillacs and 'Little Nash Ramblers'.

Follow links to...
'Beep Beep' - The UK version

'Beep Beep' - original US version

(Ongoing THANKS to Joe Sixpack for yet another generous loan from the Slipcue 45 collection)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Reasons To Be Cheerful - - Further Friday Addendum: A new album from David Byrne & Brian Eno

Okay, it's not too often that I feel so completely aware of my status as a shill, but I do so quite happily in this case.

Many thanks to a favorite radio alumnus pal of mine, Laura In The Living Room, for sending along a note hipping me to this.

At the website for the new David Byrne & Brian Eno album, 'Everything That Happens Will Happen Today' you can listen to the entire record streaming on the nifty flash player thingie.

(If you're having any trouble with the nifty flash player thingie embedded here, you might follow the link above to the website.)

Pardon me, but even if it's a marketing tool to increase sales, it's a nice gesture.

It was just about 30 years ago that Eno started producing Talking Heads records, and it was in 1981 that Byrne and Eno's first official collaboration, the ground-breaking 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' was released.

This new album bears ever so much more of a resemblance to the pretty pop records that both parties have been releasing in just the past few years.
Though I've found some of the recent efforts to be very different than some of the very familiar old favorites, I've found plenty to like about them.
After a first listen I feel the same here, and maybe you will too.

Personally I'd say its sound is leaning just a tad more towards the recent Eno spectrum of things, in that its instrumentation is perhaps less adventurous and eclectic than some recent Byrne ventures.

I think also that the impression I'm getting is that maybe Eno was responsible primarily for melody, and Byrne for lyrics, which makes sense, I suppose.

Regardless, enjoy!

Another nugget of news Laura sent along about Mr. Byrne made me smile; Perhaps you've seen the
New York Times article that ran a couple of days ago, about the newly-installed NYC bicycle racks designed by David Byrne?

Follow the link...

'Tops In Pops' - Radio deejays battle in a 1964 comic book story

When this story made it's first appearance in 1964, the AM radio band in America was filled with the non-stop snappy patter of top 40 pop disc jockeys promoting the hits, promoting their show's sponsors, and promoting their persona.

Though it was not necessarily a new phenomenon, it had reached a fever pitch and was quite a novelty of the era, as was the resurgence of rock & roll radio.

This spoof ran in issue #36 of Archie's Mad House, dated October, '64. It was written by George Gladir and drawn by
Joe Edwards.

'Archie's Mad House' was a humor comic book published by the same Archie folks that gave us the adventures of the high school crowd in Riverdale.

It was a brazen attempt to try and cash in on the popularity of MAD magazine, right down to the visual style of its cover border and the separation of the word 'mad' from 'house' in its title.

- For detailed info on 'Archie's Mad House', its creators and
this issue in particular, please follow this link to an entry at Scott Shaw's Oddball Comics posted this past spring.

⬆ READ 'Tops in Pops':

⬅ (Click either on images or page numbers to open an ENLARGED page in a new window) ⬇

(page 1)
(page 2)
(page 3)
(page 4)
(page 5)
(page 6)

- For a bit more reference on the spoofing of the 'deejay craze', please see either of my previous posts presenting vintage novelty records on the topic:

Arbogast & Ross' 'Chaos', Parts 1 & 2, from 1959,


Ted Randal's 'What Is A Disc Jockey?', from 1957.

- For just a tiny bit more on the subject of 'Archie's Mad House', please let me also refer you to a flickr page in the 'Archie comics of the 1960's as a mirror to fads, fashion and trends' set that accompanied my previous blog post on that topic.

Reasons To Be Cheerful: week of 08/22/08

1. On the subject of 'film', this week I am feeling very ready for:
A new Coen Brothers comedy on the horizon. Thank you very much.

Still under the heading of 'film', I personally am NOT yet feeling at all prepared to contemplate Russell Crowe playing the lead role in a possible future biopic about the late stand-up comedian Bill Hicks, thanks again all the same.

2. I'm very pleased to announce that I've been a semi-regular contributor to the Contrast Podcast for a few weeks now, and it's been great fun.

This past week the chosen theme of the program was 'Wrath'.

I was again pleased to discover that the selection I made, Happy Flowers displaying their typical ultrasonic histrionics on the 1989 track 'I said I Wanna Watch Cartoons' seemed to go over pretty well.

3. Earlier this week I found a link to a creepy and fun 'activity game' site called 'The Hospital' (via Frankenstein's Fun House).

In it you explore the rooms of a spooky abandoned medical facility and click your cursor around to find all the clever little amusements you can uncover.

The site reminded me a bit of Vectorpark's 'Feed The Head'
(which I mentioned here
earlier this year), another perfect and addictive time-killer.

4. The 'Extending Album Art' gallery I found at Spyder's Random Things (by way of coisas do arco da velha) blends and warps familiar album cover art in fun and fascinating ways.

Most of this batch ▲ was originally part of one of the many photoshop challenges found at b3ta,
which is always worthy of a peek.

5. You don't have to be a comic-book geek to enjoy the provocatively-titled list and discussion, '10 Comics Creators We Wish Would Make Movies Instead Of Frank Miller' posted at io9
(found via IMDb), but it sure couldn't hurt.

There's some great folks on the list, and plenty of worthy omissions cited in the post's comments, but I think things perhaps go astray a bit if the expectation is for some of these great visual artists to direct a live-action film. Still, fanboy speculation is a large part of what keeps the internet ticking...

6. - - and finally, still under the heading of 'comics' and 'fanboy', a couple of new books that look quite promising to me:

◀ - 'Telling Stories:
The Classic Comic Art of Frank Frazetta'

There have been several career-spanning collections published of work by the legendary fantasy illustrator, but often the comics artwork he did primarily in the 1940's and '50's is overlooked or given short shrift in favor of his lavish, more famous book-jacket paintings and such.

From some of the reviews I've read, it sounds like this book does a better job of presenting Frazetta's vintage sci-fi, action and jungle adventure stories - - many of them previously uncollected - - than the scant other books that have focused on this facet of his work.

- And speaking of 'previously uncollected', there's
'Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan'. ▶

This large book celebrates vintage Japanese Batman toys and other items, but more importantly, it reprints for the first time the rare Batman manga that was produced in Japan in the 1960's, licensed from DC Comics during the height of the American 'Batman' TV show's popularity.

There were already some Japanese comics publishers at the time who were reprinting translated American comics, but for only about a year there was also an 'experiment' in newly-created stories that gave the character a decidedly different treatment.

- Follow the links to About.Com for both a Preview Gallery for the book, and an interview with the authors, graphic designer Chip Kidd and bat-memorabilia collector
Saul Ferris.

- There's also a pretty good article, 'It's Bat-Manga!' at the Comic Book Resources website, reporting on a presentation that Chip Kidd did at Comic-Con about the book and the material.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Alexander Brook's illustrations for Modess booklet 'How Shall I Tell My Daughter?', 1954

Recently I've been visiting
My Friend Topic, and cruising her amazing collection of 'zines and booklets and pamphlets and other fascinating paper ephemera.

(You'll likely be seeing more results from my raids soon.)

One that I found intriguing was this booklet from 1954,
"... Published for mothers by Personal Products Corporation, Milltown,
New Jersey, makers of Modess".

This was one of many such booklets advertised in women's magazines over the years, so moms could send away for information to help them explain the process of menstruation to their growing daughters.

(click on images to ENLARGE in a new window)

What struck me here, however, was the overwhelmingly somber tone to the illustrations in this particular edition, the work of
Alexander Brook, "... one of America's foremost painters."

Divorced of context, these painted illustrations are more than a little bit creepy.

Yes - - I'm a man, so what would I know of such mother-daughter talks, and yes - - it's 50+ years later and times have changed, as has 'personal products' technology.

Still, had I been either mother or daughter confronted with this book at that time, I think I might feel my life was over.
(I'll guess that may have been an ordinary response.)

A bit of further investigation online turned up a truly amazing website, The Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health, which is loaded with a wide and varied collection of information and images, from the whimsical and 'historically sad' to a gateway of helpful information.

You can read the entire text from this '54 edition of 'How Shall I Tell My Daughter?' archived there, along with commentary and background information.

While there, you can also link to several later editions of the same book (with completely different visual styles), or the companion volume, 'Growing Up and Liking It'.

(click on images to ENLARGE in a new window)

As to American realist painter Alexander Brook (1898–1980), he was known for portraits of women in quiet or reflective poses, so that reputation certainly couldn't have hurt him here.

He was born in Brooklyn, New York, but lived and worked in several places around the U.S. and in Europe after his artwork became popular in the 1930's.

During military service in WWII, he provided sketches to the army as a correspondent in Panama.
After his service he continued providing war illustrations under commission to LIFE magazine.

You can see more art by Alexander Brook online.
Follow links to:
- 18 selected Brook drawings on view at the Childs Gallery

- 4 Brook pieces at
The Smithsonian American Art Museum.

- A few more at artnet.

See also:
- More Modess print ads at the TJS Labs Gallery of
Graphic Design

Freshly-stirred links