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       ASK ROD

Photo by Bob Gentry ©2001 Stanyan Entertainment

A Thought for Today

Overnight success only takes about thirty years of hard work; give or take a decade.

 

Lots of concentrated work over the weekend so that the first orders for the new book can start being mailed on Wednesday. I’m afraid all of us misjudged the number of requests that would come in for the first edition. Thanks for your patience. 

In the mail today answers to a riddle or two, a reunion and concerts revisited. 

KISS ME AGAIN STRANGER

Dear Rod, My questions today are all about what came first? A while ago someone offered a video on E-bay that contained your first TV appearance on the Arthur Godfrey Show, claiming that this was recorded in 1953. If he reviewed the video, he would have seen Bob Crosby who stood in for Arthur on that occasion, asked the question as to whether one of the new participants including you, was possibly destined to become a new Elvis Presley. Elvis only shot to fame in 1956, so I therefore presume that this show was not recorded before 1956, the same year as your first album "Songs for a Lazy afternoon" was released. The question is whether "Godfrey" was this recorded before "Lazy Afternoon" or not?

To complicate things more, a while ago you told Jay that "Lonely Summer" actually preceded "Lazy afternoon", but according to an article in "Billboard", "Lonely summer" was only released in 1958. It might have been released in 1958, but when was it recorded?

But what really confused me was your reference to "Kiss me again stranger" as your first album. So, the big question is what did come first, "Godfrey", "Lazy Afternoon", "Lonely Summer" or "Kiss Me Again Stranger"? Also, is it possible to supply me with a track listing for "Kiss me again stranger"?

Will this ever be made available on CD? Thanks. Johan

Dear Johan, As you know sometimes it takes me a while to get around to answering certain letters. That’s particularly true when it involves long ago dates. Here’s the history of the albums and The Arthur Godfrey show as best as I can piece it together.

Godfrey’s Talent Scouts could not have been broadcast in 1953, since that was the year I entered the United States Army. I received my discharge in early 1955 and later that year came to Hollywood where I recorded “Lonely Summer.” It was released the same year.

“Songs for a Lazy Afternoon” was recorded and released in 1956. In 1957 I made “Rock Pretty Baby” for Universal International and was signed to a long-term contract. 

While I may have thought I recorded “Kiss Me Again Stranger” as my first album, it turns out that it was done in 1958 and never released. At that time I was still under contract to Liberty Records (I was so disappointed with my second album for them “The Boy on Calypso Island,” that I held up its release for a year and eventually bought back the masters and got out of my Liberty contract. 

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. In 1958 while I was still with Liberty I recorded an album “Kiss Me Again Stranger” under the pseudonym Roy Fitzgerald. If that name sounds familiar it’s because one of my friends at Universal was Rock Hudson. By then he was a very successful actor but still under contract to UI. He paid for the album and I used his real name as a nom de plume. It was an in joke between us. Years later, of course I was able to return the favor by writing and producing a Stanyan album for him called “Rock Gently.”

“Kiss Me Again Stranger” was never released but it’s an album that I’ve always been close to. Here’s the track listing:

I Remember You, You Better Go Now, Lilac Wine, If Love Were All, Confession, Kiss Me Again Stranger, By Myself, Nobody’s Heart, When the World Was Young, I Had Myself A True Love, Round About and the only song I wrote for the album “Sunday’s Child.” 

Later in my career I re-recorded “When the World Was Young,” “Lilac Wine,” “By Myself” and “I Remember You.” While all of the songs remain personal favorites of mine I haven’t attempted doing a repeat on any of the others. As for “Talent Scouts,” my bet is it was broadcast the summer of ’56.

Will “Kiss Me Again Stranger” ever be released on CD? Maybe a track or two one day but I’m not sure the world needs a Rod McKuen boy tenor album at this juncture. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception “Spring on the River” receives. It’s an unreleased track from “Lonely summer” that is just out on one of the CD’s from “A Safe Place to Land.”

The basement tape vault is yielding an astonishing number of forgotten tracks. I’ve turned up unreleased sessions with Mancini, Yarbrough and Al Hurt among others and that’s only because Jim Pierson has me concentrating on the RCA McKuen Discography for a boxed set. 

Sorry this has taken so long Johan, but I wanted to answer your question with as much detail as possible. Hang in there & eventually I’ll be able to fill in the actual session dates. As ever, Rod 

OAKLAND TECHNICAL HIGH’S 50th REUNION

Greetings, Rod. Got your CD "Beatsville" at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore last week. Coincidence! On May 12 I will go to Oakland for 50th reunion, class of '51. I know you aren't in that group, perhaps the year after? Anyway, I look back on those years warmly. Best wishes, Jim Lieberman

Dear Jim, A nice surprise hearing from you. I was in ‘the class of ’51, I just didn’t stick around long enough to graduate. But, if I can work it out I’ll be joining you and the rest of the fifty-oners for the big reunion.

Some years ago I went back to Oakland Tech and received an honorary diploma. I had told the faculty that as a way of saying thanks I’d give a performance at an assembly. Of course not having been in Oakland for more than 20 years I had no idea of how Oakland Tech. High had drastically changed since I was last in the city. The student body was now nearly 100% Black and (rightfully so) they didn’t have a clue as to who the hell Rod McKuen was. Never mind being receptive to a white guys songs and form of entertainment. But, a promise is a promise and I was there. 

Without a doubt I was about to face the toughest audience of my life. What in the world could I possibly do to entertain thes pubescent youngsters with a culture worlds away from mine and who had probably only come to the assembly as a means of cutting class – that was always my motive for attending assembly when I was a student.

But I won ‘em. How? I turned the hour and a half into a question and answer period, where the Q. & A.’s had very little to do with me. We discussed everything from show biz to sex & along the way I sang a song or two and coaxed some of the more adventurous – and it turns out quite talented – students on stage to do their thing. It was an anxious moment, but I had a ball. In the end I got a standing ovation.

I too have some good memories of 1951 at Tech, though probably not as many as yours. I was somewhat of a misfit but enjoyed faking my way through school by pretending to be an extravert. I couldn’t complete the term because I had a living to earn and it was time for me to move on.

Looking forward to seeing you and Sandy and Jack and Bruce and all the rest. Warmly, Rod

A LITTLE SECRET

When I was little and would have bad dreams, I would crawl into bed with my parents. They would wait until I was safely asleep again, then sneak into the living room, light a fire, turn on one of your albums, and make love on the living room floor. I just thought you should know. Love, Dawn-Marie

Dear Dawn-Marie, Thanks! Guess it’s not a secret any more.
Luv, Rod

RIVERTON RENDEZVOUS . . . 

Dear Rod: I am trying to figure out a way to get to Wyoming to see you--But friend, I am not sure, but I know you will figure out a NEW CALIFORNIA CONCERT soon. If it is the Wyoming concert, it is the travel plans. Dave tried to figure something out, but it won't work. We love you and we will sing your songs and recite your words on that day. Nan

Dear Nan, I know it’s pretty tough getting from Southern California to Riverton, because I’m having to make the arrangements to get there myself. 

While there are no Southern California concerts planned at the moment, I will be able to announce very soon the date of the Tribute to Jerry Herman that I’ll be involved in this fall. It’ll take place at the Luckman Theatre at Cal State with David Gallagan producing again. Naturally I’m looking forward to it and by now you should know your way to The Luckman blindfolded. Love to you and Dave, Rod

. . . AND OTHER RALLY’S

As I go through my piles of much read books and sort out double copies that have been gifts I realise that it is just on 19 years since you were in New Zealand. Our son had just been born and we took time out to go see you show at the now (sadly) demolished His Majesty's Theatre

Your poetry and songs have been in our lives for over 30 + years through good and bad times. Do you think you will ever come back to New Zealand for a tour – or alternatively - We now have our own balloon ride company here in Auckland New Zealand and visit the States annually in Sept /October to attend Reno, White Sands Pagosa Springs / Durango Abilene, Albuquerque & Las Vegas. Was about to ask if you still balloon and saw that you will be at the Riverton event!

Will you be doing any appearances or shows at this time in the S California or South West area Regards Daryl & DIa McKee
Auckland, New Zealand


Dear Daryl and Dia, I had a great time in New Zealand and recently ran across a live, unreleased album recorded on the last night of that tour in Timaru. I’d come back in a minute if I were asked and I hope that if I get an offer from Oz I can combine Australia, New Zealand and South Africa on a Southern Sun reunion tour. We’ll see if the interest and the concert promoters are out there.

I won’t be making it to any of the other Balloon Rally’s you mentioned this year, but it’s too bad you can’t be in Wyoming for the Riverton Rendezvous in July. Lots of surprises planned for that one. It promises to be a blast. 

Sorry, but I have no other concerts planned in the west or anywhere during the summer. But, we’ll meet up again Luv, Rod

AFTER VIETNAM

I called my locale bookstore in Denver and asked for "anything by you" Sorry came the reply, never heard of him. My god! How old are you? Nineteen? Well may I speak with someone a tad older. Oops sorry, they are all out of print. Now much to my surprise, here you are online. With a Mac no less.

After Vietnam, I spent ten years as a wino. Then ten years seriously depressed. After obtaining several degrees, adopting a downs child and recently falling in love. It is time to start crying again. I have never been able to get through more then a few of your poems and the tears start to flow. They feel good and I thank YOU for them. God I'm glad your still around! Good luck and take care. Jeff Trochelman


PS: Get my platinum card Kim, I am going to visit a long lost friend.

Dear Jeff, I am indeed still here and so are you. Considering what we’ve both been through in the intervening years, I’d say that’s quite an accomplishment. My ‘days of wine and roses’ are still ahead of me, but considering how much I love the red stuff they might not be too far away.

Here’s to happy and sad tears, they’re both good for you. Take care of yourself Jeff an exercise caution with that platinum card. Affectionately, Rod

TO DIE IN SUMMERTIME 

Hello Rod. Please tell if you plan ever to come to England
again. I read your poems and listened to your music in the 60s/70s first of all, and saw you live twice in Bournemouth, and loved you ever since. I would so love to see you again, and I search Napster daily for the tracks on an old LP of yours I had, which was pinched. I cannot get "To Die In Summertime", which I remember so well, and would love to have it again. It is a great pleasure to find this site, but would be even more of a pleasure to see you in the UK again. Do you have any plans? Linda Klein


Dear Linda, As I’ve said many times I would hate to think I’ll never perform in England again. I will, you can count on it. I just don’t know where or when. As for “To Die In Summertime,” it’s not yet out on CD but it’s still available on two LP’s “In Concert” & “Odyssey.” Both are available from Stanyan By Mail.

See you in England, Linda, the sooner the better. Warmly, Rod 

IN SEARCH OF EROS

When I was a young boy a family friend gave me an audio tape entitled "In Search of Eros." I was a young lover of the spoken word and after listening to the cassette several times I found a part of myself that I never knew. I discovered that poetry is not just a rhyme but it is also a story which can be expressed in many ways and not necessarily in its most popular form. A
spring of emotion that I never have been able to express in the past became quite evident in my work and I found that I preferred this way of expression than any other. 

Unfortunately the tape that I had was played so many times
that it broke and at that point it had been out of print for many years. Is there any way that I can get "In Search of Eros " from a resource that you have. I am more than willing on paying whatever is necessary for the tape meant a lot to me.
Respectfully, Michael Miller, Clinton Corners, New York


Dear Michael, I appreciate all the nice words about “In Search of Eros. A couple of tracks from it are featured on the “Beatsville” CD and the complete album is available on both LP and cassette from Stanyan By Mail. Hope this helps. Kindest regards, Rod.

Sleep warm.

                                     04/16/01 Previously unpublished

Summer concert just announced! Details can be obtained via the link below:

Rod McKuen Concerts & Appearances

Make sure you're advised of upcoming McKuen happenings - add your name to the Rod McKuen Mailing List.

notable birthdays

EASTER MONDAY (AUSTRALIA, NZ, UK)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar o Edie Adams o Ellen Barkin o Perry Botkin Jr. o Charlie Chaplin o Jon Cryer o Merce Cunningham o Anatole France o John Hodiak o Michael Jackson (commentator) o Martin Lawrence o Herbie Mann o Spike Milligan o Barry Nelson o Selena o Dusty Springfield o Peter Ustinov o Bobby Vinton o Wilbur Wright

And, to remind you a little of what loss means, today would have been Henry Mancini’s 77th birthday.

Rod's random thoughts The more profound the thought, the easier its transmission.

Even when my memory has a favored day, some prisoners refuse escape.

Envy keeps no holiday.

THE ATHLETES 
IN THE OLD SCHOOL ANNUAL

I.
I sent you love 
in long misspelled letters
                          remember
and you never wrote back
and that spring was hard
because everybody else 
seemed to have somebody.

And now and again
people would tell me about you
sometimes I'd see you in the street
or looking from a window
or passing by in crowds.

The hundred you's 
that populate this lonesome city.
And I'd call after you
your name catching in my throat.

And there were others 
                                that year
some taller
some with yellow hair
some whose memory
still echoes down the corridor
outside my room
when I try to sleep.

But it seldom worked.

They were always too intense
                            or too playful or too rehearsed
or too anything.

And there was always the war 
of remembering you.
                       Or forgetting you 
while in somebody's arms.

I don't remember you now.
Not your eyes or what you said
as you stood in the summer doorway
and waved me out of your life.

I've forgotten you
                             your hands
your quick little mouth
just as I've forgotten Hampton Skies
the athletes in the old school annual
and the songs we sang that summer.

I don't remember you when the sun 
sinks low and there is no one here 
to spend the night with me
remembering is for people 
        whose images have grown dim.

You are not remembered. You are real.
Though years have put you from me
you are real.

II.
I was wrong to invade your little world
of museums and kites and pigeons flying.
I have deceived you.

Not by meeting other stranger's eyes
or knowing arms that were not yours
but by pretending to be young at heart
and invading your stuffed animal world.

I should have stood aside 
when your kite came sailing down
but I had to run and help.

III.
Leaves fall down now, 
              brown and beautiful
                     brittle to the touch.
Lying on the ground 
or filling public fountains
or swirling down the street.

One year older and still I look.

The park, by the river, on the street
at every face, in every eye
                       passing by in trains 
I see it in the subways and on the hills
the same face sometimes
walking a little bit ahead of me.

And still I look
growing older all the time
opening my eyes in strange hotels
last night's memory clouded
mixed with all the other memories.
Following neon after nine o'clock
watching people, like a cat sometimes.

I'm running out of tomorrows
and arms to run to
strange or familiar.

It is as though my world now
is made of yesterday's 
                               Sunday afternoons.
old skies, snow on red brick pavements,
and passers by remembered.
The athletes in the old school annual.

But, maybe tomorrow.

           -
from the prose-poem & album "In Search of Eros, " 1961
© 1961, 1984, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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