Remembering American Comedian Jackie Gleason (Feb 26, 1916 — June 24, 1987)

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Today Jackie Gleason is remembered for his humor, both on television and in the movies. Reruns of his favorite The Honeymooners series still have been revealed on television. His film career included the wildly popular Smokey and the Bandit series as well as The Hustler for which he had been nominated for an academy award. The 1950’s watched Gleason delve into the music business and this is the industry where he made millions of dollars.

Marilyn Taylor was a young ballerina working for the June Taylor dancers when Gleason discovered her. Although only lawfully separated from his second wife, Gleason chased Taylor with a persistence that finally paid off when she became his third wife. Actually, it might take nearly twenty years earlier Taylor would eventually become his third wife; however in 1953 the love took off.

As portion of his romantic pursuit of Marilyn Taylor, Gleason sat down with a professional arranger termed Pete King. Since Gleason couldn’t even read or write music he’d play the notes King and King would write them down. In one day Gleason, with King’s assistance, written two songs, Lovers Rhapsody and Melancholy Serenade. The song Melancholy Serenade afterwards became the theme tune for the Jackie Gleason show.

One might ask how a person who doesn’t understand how to write music may write it. The good trumpeter, Bobby Hackett, had this to say about Gleason’s musical ability. “Jackie knows a lot more about music than he is given credit for. I have seen him conduct a sixty-piece orchestra and detect one discordant note in the brass section. He would immediately stop the music and locate the wrong note. It always amazed the professional musicians how a guy who technically didn’t know one note from another could do that. And he was never wrong.”

The 1950’s had been the age of Rock and Roll and the big band era had silently hauled into the past. Guitars and drums were the big tickets and there were quite few romantic records being produced. Gleason approached the important recording studios around making an album and he had been rejected by all. Perhaps his reputation as a comedian, combined with his lack of musical credentials scared them off. So Gleason did what he needed to perform, he borrowed money and rented a studio in Decca records.

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