It was a happy Mouseketeer that was given a brief solo at their first recording session in 1955. Later, I enjoyed recording for Del-Fi Records. But what I loved most during my youth, was acting in a western, having my own horse, learning to rope, and playing Red River Valley on the harmonica. In my head, I was actually living in the 1880s, and I continued to live there even after two years in the army; as a young veteran, I couldn't resist the allure of rural America, and the excitement of participating in cowboy events at dusty arenas. My family was a little concerned.
Then, in my 26th year, I began a road trip from which I have never returned.
An old roadster put me in touch with the spirit of my grandfather, Bobby Crawford (1889-1941). A former jockey from Chicago, the "dynamo song plugger" married the young pianist at Woolworth's and soon became vice president of Irving Berlin's music publishing company. Not satisfied, he left Berlin to form De Sylva, Brown & Henderson as well as Crawford Music Corporation, and moved his office into the penthouse of New York's famous Brill Building ("Tin Pan Alley"). He made a quick fortune. Then he lost it, even quicker, about the time my old car was rolling off the assembly line, in the "fall" of 1929.
I became possessed by my grandfather's spirit. I would find myself driving around in the middle of the night, hearing forgotten dance bands and singing songs I didn't even know I knew. Instead of the 1880s, suddenly I was living in the 1920s. This was considerable progress, but my family was still a little concerned. So, after word got around, arrangements were made and two years were spent in an institution on the east coast known as Vince Giordano's Nighthawks, the notorious asylum for musicians lost in time.
When I got back to LA, the brakes on the old car were frozen, but grandpa's spirit kept me moving. Crawford Music Services, now in it's 19th year, stays quite busy doing special events for a list of clients that includes Paramount Pictures, Fox Television, the Academy Foundation, the Art Directors Guild, UCLA and USC. The flagship of the company is the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra, from which a 2008 CD (Sweepin' the Clouds Away) has been remastered and is now back on-line.
I hope you enjoy these vintage dance band arrangements, and the spirit of my grandfather, as much as I do.