Tag Archives: Al Hirt

The Green Hornet rides again

When I got back into record digging more than a decade ago, this was one of the first records I bought.

I had no idea it existed, but was delighted to find it. I’ve loved “The Green Hornet” since I was in fourth grade, 1966-67, the only season it aired on ABC.

Likewise, I had no idea a YouTube playlist of all 26 episodes of “The Green Hornet” existed. I was delighted to find that, too. So, over the course of a month’s time during the pandemic, I watched all 26 episodes in the order they aired, one each night. (With the exception of two-part cliffhangers watched in a single night.)

Some takeaways from that lone season of “The Green Hornet,” seen by eyes that are more than 50 years older now:

— I didn’t expect it to be relevant from the first episode. One of the bad guys in “The Silent Gun” was …

— Van Williams, as The Green Hornet and Daily Sentinel publisher Britt Reid, gets the job done. The guys like the action. The ladies like the eye candy. How no one ever figured out that Britt Reid was the Green Hornet is beyond me. That mask isn’t much of a disguise.

— Bruce Lee, as Kato, never gets quite enough to do. He gets more lines and screen time as the series goes along, but there’s never enough of what everyone came to see — martial arts fights. The best one: Kato vs. Mako in “The Preying Mantis.” (Keye Luke, who played Kato in “The Green Hornet” movie serials in 1940, also appears in that episode.)

— Wende Wagner, as Lenore Case, Britt Reid’s secretary, never gets to do much more than answer the phone and be eye candy. In real life, Wagner was a tremendous athlete, a surfer and scuba diver. We get to see her run for her life in the season-ending cliffhanger, but that’s about it.

— Lloyd Gough, as Daily Sentinel reporter Mike Axford, who’s convinced that The Green Hornet is a bad guy, shamelessly blusters over the top for much of the series. Not exactly comic relief, but Britt Reid and Miss Case enjoy yanking his chain at the end of many episodes. He’s much more effective in the last handful of episodes, going low-key and playing it straight. (“The Green Hornet” was Gough’s first regular gig after being on the Hollywood blacklist for more than a decade. He has no IMDb listings from 1952 to 1964.)

 Walter Brooke, as District Attorney Frank Scanlon, is the show’s anchor, delivering gravitas every time he speaks. He also gets to ride in that cool lift behind the fake fireplace at Britt Reid’s home. That, of course, was activated by tipping books out of the bookshelves, which every kid did at home, at school and at the library, myself included. (Brooke is best known for tipping Benjamin Braddock to “plastics” in “The Graduate,” which was filmed after “The Green Hornet” had wrapped in 1967.)

— The Black Beauty is the least cool superhero car ever, built by Dean Jeffries from a 1966 Chrysler Imperial. They made two of them, and both showed up in “Corpse of the Year,” a two-part cliffhanger.

— There seemingly wasn’t much of a budget. The same footage of The Green Hornet and Kato flipping Britt’s white convertible for the Black Beauty in the garage, then hopping into the Black Beauty and driving it through dark, rain-soaked streets is used over and over. The same warehouse appears in multiple episodes. One sharp-eyed YouTube commenter saw the same boxes in that warehouse in back-to-back episodes.

— The day-for-night film technique, which created night scenes by underexposing film shot during daylight, is maddening. Per Wikipedia, “it is often employed when it is too difficult or expensive to actually shoot during nighttime.” Much of “The Green Hornet” is way too dark, with many of the fight scenes lost in the shadows. I’d love to see it shot with today’s film techniques.

— Lots of familiar faces show up as the series goes along … John Carradine, “Alias The Scarf,” the killer in a fog-shrouded wax museum? Imagine that. In the same episode, character actor Paul Gleason shows up briefly in only his third TV appearance and there’s Ian Wolfe, dressed much as he would be two years later as Mr. Atoz on “Star Trek.” … Barbara Babcock, later seen on “Hill Street Blues,” shows up twice as Britt Reid’s girlfriend. … Jeffrey Hunter — Capt. Christopher Pike on “Star Trek” — as a corrupt contractor in “Freeway To Death.” … Gary Owens as the Daily Sentinel TV news reader. … A gorgeous 21-year-old Lynda Day (before she was Lynda Day George) as a good girl mixed up with bad guys and James Best — yep, old Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane — as the baddest of the bad guys in “Deadline for Death.” … Michael Strong — “I am Roger Korby!” from “Star Trek” a year earlier — as the bad guy who tries to frame Britt Reid for murder in “Hornet Save Thyself.”

— The most fun episode is “Ace in the Hole,” in which The Green Hornet pits two gangsters against each other. It’s the only episode even close to being played for laughs. The bad guys are the always unflappable Richard Anderson and the always blustery Richard X. Slattery. Character actor Percy Helton shows up as Gus, the guy living across the hall from reporter Mike Axford. The weirdest part of this starts at the 19:43 mark. Billy May drops about 30 seconds of Tijuana Brass-style music into a fight scene involving some of the bad guys as The Green Hornet and Kato stand by and watch. It’s the only time that the series departs from May’s more muscular scores. It’s also one of two episodes in which “Batman” is shown on a TV during a scene.

After watching all the episodes, I can say this:

— I vividly remembered the fights, the gadgets and the costumes. I remembered none of the plots.

— I love that it was set at a newspaper.

— It’s a little sad to think that all five of the show’s stars are no longer with us.

— Let’s cue up that great opening and that great narration by executive producer William Dozier.

— Let’s cue up my record.

“Green Hornet Theme,” Al Hirt, from “The Horn Meets The Hornet,” 1966.

Here’s some more themes from that record.

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Filed under July 2020, Sounds

Those TV themes of intrigue

“Ooh, ooh! Green Hornet marathon on Decades!” my friend Larry in New Jersey announced yesterday. Likewise, my friend Bruce in Philadelphia announced it was “binge time.”

Dang. We don’t get that channel in our corner of Wisconsin.

So I had to make do with the next best thing.

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“The Horn Meets The Hornet,” a 1966 album full of TV theme songs by jazz trumpeter Al Hirt, was one of the first cool records I ever found while digging.

So I mentioned that record, found eight years ago, and Larry noted its cover of “Night Rumble.” Hm. Not familiar with that one. Turns out it was sort of a mod instrumental done in the spring of 1963 by a group called The Mark V and released as a 45 on ABC-Paramount. Here you go, my friend.

“Night Rumble,” Al Hirt, from “The Horn Meets The Hornet,” 1966. It’s out of print.

Of course, there also is that great “Green Hornet Theme,” which is Hirt’s take on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” as orchestrated by Billy May and conducted by Lionel Newman.

Among what the LP’s back cover bills as “TV Themes of Intrigue” are two other interesting but largely forgotten pieces by composers who wrote other, more familiar TV themes.

Hirt covers the theme from “T.H.E. Cat,” an NBC action drama that starred Robert Loggia. It aired only during the 1966-67 TV season. This muscular bit of mid-’60s jazz noir was written by Lalo Schifrin, who did the still-cool “Mission: Impossible” theme the same year.

He also covers the theme from “Run Buddy Run,” which aired for only the first half of the 1966-67 season. It’s written by Jerry Fielding, who’d done the “Hogan’s Heroes” theme the year before. “Run Buddy Run” was a CBS sitcom about a guy on the run from the mob, and Fielding’s theme plays it straight, reflecting that potential danger rather than going for laughs.

The star of “Run Buddy Run” was jazz trumpeter Jack Sheldon, but it doesn’t appear he played trumpet on the show’s theme.

 

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Filed under November 2015, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 7

Today, we find three under the tree in the wind section.

Two of the three selections are from Christmas records that are proof that that MOR can be less. No wonder the friendly gent at the Book Cellar in Waupaca, Wisconsin, virtually gave them away.

I tried to like these old records. However, the easy listening was anything but easy. That said, there is at least one small gem on each of them.

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Trumpet: “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town,” Al Hirt, from “The Sound of Christmas,” 1965. It’s out of print.

Imagine a Christmas tune for go-go dancers. It’s a bit adventurous. Even so, it’s one of the more coherent cuts from the pop side of this album, which otherwise mashes too many ideas with too many bland, cookie-cutter choruses. Side 2 showcases Hirt’s elegant horn in more traditional orchestral and vocal arrangements of familiar Christmas hymns.

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Saxophone: “Jingle Bells,” Boots Randolph, from “Boots and Stockings,” 1969. It’s out of print.

Randolph plays it safe on almost every cut on this album. But not “Jingle Bells,” fortunately. After he gets the easy listening vocals out of the way, Randolph cuts loose in the last minute. He improvises a swinging groove not heard on any other cut on the record.

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Clarinet: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” Pete Fountain, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. This is a compilation CD that, though also out of print, is much in demand under the tree at this time of year.

This cut is smooth all the way through. If you like your Nawlins music with a lazy, smoky vibe, you’ll dig the first half of this tune. If you like your Nawlins music as swinging riverboat jazz, you’ll dig the the second half of this tune. Either way, it’s classy, with no smooching sounds like the ones that render Hirt’s version of this tune unlistenable.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds

Me and the crate diggers

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Every six months or so, they have a modest record show in one of the meeting rooms of a downtown hotel here in Green Bay. It rolled around again Saturday, and it was the highlight of my day.

It’s nice to be in a room full of people with the same interests (and, largely, the same color of hair — gray or graying). That said, I’m a rank amateur compared to some of the folks at the show.

I hadn’t heard record collectors described as “crate diggers” until I started regularly visiting Larry Grogan’s Funky 16 Corners, a fabulous place to find vintage, obscure and terrific soul, R&B and funk. Larry digs through crates for those great 45s, as did a fair number of folks at the show.

(To see how a professional does it, Jamison Harvey over at the new and excellent Flea Market Funk also went crate digging on Saturday.)

I’m more of an LP and CD guy, but I still spent two hours digging through those crates, trying to find things on a fairly short wish list. Lots of familiar sights and great memories as I dug through the crates.

The LPs I’d hoped to find but did not: Either “Down In The Boondocks” or “Cherry Hill Park” by Billy Joe Royal (especially the latter), anything by The Royal Guardsmen, “The Jungle Book” soundtrack from the 1967 Disney movie and an album of 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks basketball highlights.

The LPs I fleetingly considered buying, but did not: Cheech and Chong’s first album, the “Mannix” original soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin and an album of 1967 St. Louis Cardinals baseball highlights.

The LPs that came home: “Mystery To Me” by Fleetwood Mac, “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, the “Hawaii Five-O” original soundtrack by Morton Stevens and “The Horn Meets The Hornet” by Al Hirt. (Plus the first Van Halen album on CD.)

Not bad for $7.

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I just had to buy the Al Hirt after finding it online a couple of months ago at Check The Cool Wax. You know the theme to “The Green Hornet” — a jazzed-up take on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.” It’s on this 1966 album, as are Hirt’s covers/interpretations of popular TV theme songs of the day. They’re described on the back cover as “Al Hirt Plays TV Themes of Intrigue.”

Well, it is intriguing to ponder who thought it was a good idea to start the theme from “The Monkees” with a spaghetti Western sound, then swing into a big-band arrangement. The theme from “Batman,” fares a little better, with Hirt’s trumpet riffing high above a fairly faithful arrangement of Neal Hefti’s classic piece.

As always, you be the judge.

“(Theme From) The Monkees,” and “Batman Theme,” Al Hirt, both from “The Horn Meets The Hornet,” 1966. It’s out of print.

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Filed under April 2007, Sounds

My inner 9-year-old is buzzed

News item: Columbia Pictures is planning to make a movie based on “The Green Hornet.”

Exciting news for someone who loved “The Green Hornet” when it aired on ABC in 1966 and 1967.

Hope it happens. Not a good track record so far, though. At least two other big studios have tried and failed. The gent who’s producing this time is responsible for the “Fast and the Furious” and the “XXX” films. You be the judge on that.

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That’s Van Williams on the left. He played Britt Reid, a crusading newspaper editor who was the Green Hornet. For a kid who loved superheroes and newspapers, that was a great combination.

That’s Bruce Lee on the right. You know who he is. He played Kato.

You know the theme music, too. That’s Al Hirt on the trumpet.

Last month, the fine folks at Check the Cool Wax posted “The Horn Meets The Hornet,” an album full “popular TV themes of intrigue” by Al Hirt. He also covers/interprets the themes from “Batman,” “The Monkees” and “Get Smart.” You be the judge on that, too.

A couple of links to the zipped full-album download are here, after you scroll down to Feb. 8.

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“Green Hornet Theme,” Al Hirt, from “The Horn Meets The Hornet,” 1966.

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Filed under March 2007, Sounds like bull to me