Greg Poppleton

21 May - Hear 1940s Jazz Harpsichord on this week's Phantom Dancer LISTEN

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17 May 2022

(Until 17 May)

Leith Stevens From 1930s Radio to Mission Impossible – Phantom Dancer 17 May 2022

Greg Poppleton's Phantom Dancer swing jazz radio show

Leith Stevens is this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artist. Leith Stevens was a composer and music director. He worked on 1930s radio series like ‘Saturday Night Swing Club’,  film scores like the 1953 Brando classic, ‘The Wild Ones’, and 1960s TV including ‘Mission Impossible’.

The Phantom Dancer is your weekly non-stop mix of swing and jazz from live 1920s-60s radio and TV every week.

LISTEN to this week’s Phantom Dancer mix (online after 2pm AEST, Tuesday 10 May) and two years of Phantom Dancer mixes online at, at


Leith Stevens was a child prodigy pianist who accompanied early opera recording artist Madame Schumann-Heink.

During World War II Stevens worked as radio director for the Southwest Pacific Area for the U.S. Office of War Information. He was musical director of the War Production Board (WPB) series Three Thirds of a Nation presented on Wednesdays on the NBC Blue Network.


Leith Stevens was active in radio broadcasting from 1934. Radio highlights in an April 28, 1934, newspaper listed “Romantic songs have been chosen by Charles Carlile, tenor, for his broadcast with Leith Stevens’ orchestra over WBBM at 5:45.”

Stevens worked as an arranger for CBS radio, and his numerous radio credits over several decades include The Abbott and Costello Show, Academy Award Theater, Action Eighty, American School for the Air, Arch Oboler’s Plays, Big Town, The Black Book, CBS Radio Workshop (later called Columbia Workshop), The Doctor Fights, Encore Theater, Escape, The Free Company Rogue’s Gallery, The Burns and Allen Show, The Judge, Lights Out, Men Against Death, The Miracle of America, No Help Wanted, Request Performance, Saturday Night Swing Club, Suspense and radio crime melodrama Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.


Stevens’ piano concerto in C minor was his first work to be used in cinema, for the 1947 Hollywood film Night Song. In the film’s plot, the concerto was the work of a fictional composer played by Dana Andrews. Arthur Rubinstein played the concerto on the piano, accompanied by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Eugene Ormandy. The music is tonal, with a horizontal (as distinct from vertical) compositional approach, with sophisticated harmonies and challenging virtuoso passages for the piano. The work is influenced by Delius, Rachmaninov, and Gershwin, and is both impressionist and romantic.

He co-wrote the Oscar-nominated title song from the 1956 movie Julie starring Doris Day. His other film scores include:

Syncopation (1942)
Night Song (1948)
All My Sons (1948)
Feudin’, Fussin’ and A-Fightin’ (1948)
Larceny (1948)
Not Wanted (1949)
The Great Rupert (1950)
Destination Moon (1950)
The Sun Sets at Dawn (1950)
No Questions Asked (1951)
When Worlds Collide (1951)
The Atomic City (1952)
Storm Over Tibet (1952)
Beware, My Lovely (1952)
Eight Iron Men (1952)
The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
The Glass Wall (1953)
The War of the Worlds (1953)
The Bigamist (1953)
The Wild One (1953)
Private Hell 36 (1954)
Crashout (1955)
The Treasure of Pancho Villa (1955)
World Without End (1956)
Julie (1956)
The Garment Jungle (1957)
Lizzie (1957)
Ride Out for Revenge (1957)
Eighteen and Anxious (1957)
The Green-Eyed Blonde (1957)
Violent Road (1958)
The Gun Runners (1958)
But Not for Me (1959)
The Gene Krupa Story (1959)
Hell to Eternity (1960)
The Interns (1962)
A New Kind of Love (1963)
The Night of the Grizzly (1966)
Chuka (1967)
Assault on the Wayne (1971)

He also provided uncredited contributions to the Frank Capra film classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

Stevens composed and conducted the music accompanying the film The James Dean Story. In 1957, Capitol Records released the eponymous album containing this music.

Its anonymous sleeve notes state describe the music as “…unusual and exciting as the motion picture itself. Leith Stevens, the composer, captures a haunting reflection of the violent yet strangely understandable uncertainties of modern youth. Stevens, whose musical scores have distinguished such films as The Wild One, Private Hell 36, Destination Moon and Julie, describes the loneliness and frustrations, the fury and tenderness of James Dean’s life and the world in which he moved. With his use of such instruments as the recorder, harmonica and bongo drums, and in his unique utilization of the jazz idiom, Leith Stevens produces music with dynamic personal identification, not only for James Dean, but for every boy who’s ever worn a leather jacket and for every girl who’s ever danced without her shoes. Stevens traces the development of Dean throughout his boyhood, his early rebellion against conventions, the discovery of his artistic abilities, and his failure to resolve his personal problems. “Who Am I?” depicts the young Dean groping for self-identification; “Lost Love” is a painful portrayal of a romance without a happy ending; and “Testing The Limits of Time” is a brilliant montage of the moods and actions which Dean experienced in his last few months. Tommy Sands, the nation’s newest singing sensation, sings the theme song “Let Me Be Loved” by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.”


Stevens’ television work was extensive, including composing, arranging and conducting music for 36 television series, nearly two dozen from the 1950s through the late 1960s, including the haunting theme song for the CBS television show Climax!.

He was the Music Supervisor for six popular television series: Mannix, Mission Impossible, Mr. Novak, The Odd Couple, The Brady Bunch, The Immortal, and Love, American Style. Stevens scored episodes for:

Stevens died at the age of 60 years due to a heart attack after learning that his wife had died in a car accident.


Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney
LISTEN ONLINECommunity Radio Network Show CRN #545

107.3 2SER Tuesday 17 May 2022
12:04 – 2:00pm (+10 hours GMT) and Saturdays 5 – 5:55pm
National Program
5GTR Mt Gambier Monday 2:30 – 3:30am
3MBR Murrayville Monday 3 – 4am
4NAG Keppel FM Monday 3 – 4am
2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4am
2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4am
2BRW Braidwood Monday 3 – 4am
2YYY Young Monday 3 – 4am
3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm
7MID Oatlands Monday 6 -7pm
6GME Radio Goolarri Broome Tuesday 12am – 1am
2SEA Eden Tuesday 6 – 7pm
2MCE Bathurst Wednesday 9 – 10am
1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Friday 10 – 11am
2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm
5LCM Lofty FM Adelaide Friday 1 – 2pm
Denmark FM (West Australia) Saturdays 10 – 11am
Repeat: Wednesdays 10 – 11pm
7LTN Launceston Sunday 5 – 6am
3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am
3BBR West Gippsland Sunday 5 – 6pm

Set 1
1930s Variety Radio
Theme + A Shine on Your Shoes
Fred Astaire (voc) Johnny Green Orchestra
‘The Packard Hour’
KFI NBC Red Los Angeles
3 Nov 1936
Woodbury Ad + Boots and Saddles
Paul Whiteman Orchestra (voc) Bob Lawrence and Chorus
‘Paul Whiteman’s Musical Varieties’
2 Feb 1936
The Continental + Close
Fred Astaire (tap dancing) Johnny Green Orchestra
‘The Packard Hour’
KFI NBC Red Los Angeles
3 Nov 1936
Set 2
Great Women Jazz Singers
Baby Get Lost
Dinah Washington
‘Symphony Sid Show’
21 Jul 1951
You’re Mine You
Sarah Vaughan
‘Stars in Jazz’
1 Apr 1953
Oh Johnny, Oh!
Ella Fitzgerald
Savoy Ballroom
25 Jan 1940
Set 3
1930s Selling Toothpaste
Serenade in the Night
Peter van Steeden Orchestra + Fred Allan
‘Town Hall Tonight’
17 Mar 1937
Thanks for the Memory + Change Partners
Skinnay Ennis Orchestra (coc) Skinnay Ennis + Bob Hope
‘Pepsodent Show’
27 Sep 1938
Set 4
Leith Stevens
Theme + Panamania
Leith Stevens Orchestra
‘Saturday Night Swing Club’
12 Jun 1937
Leith Stevens Orchestra
‘Saturday Night Swing Club’
12 Jun 1937
The Swing Session is Called to Order
Leith Stevens Orchestra
‘Saturday Night Swing Club’
12 Jun 1937
Swing Club Theme
Leith Stevens Orchestra
‘Saturday Night Swing Club’
12 Jun 1937
Set 5
1950s Swing
Your Daddy’s Got the Gleeks
Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (voc) Charlie Shavers
Meadowbrook Ballroom
Cedar Grove NJ
1 Jan 1956
Don’t Take Your Love From Me
Claude Thornhill Orchestra (voc) Audrey Morris
‘One Night Stand’
Steel Pier
Atlantic City NJ
AFRS Re-broadcast
24 Aug 1955
Open + Stealin’ Apples
Harry James Orchestra
Aragon Ballroom
WMAQ NBC Chicago
18 Jun 1954
Soemtimes I’m Happy
Woody Herman Octet (voc) Dorothy Houston
Blue Room
Hotel Roosevelt
WWL CBS New Orleans
20 Oct 1951
Set 6
Jazz Kings
Body and Soul (theme) + Chant of the Groove
Coleman Hawkins Orchestra
Savoy Ballroom
4 Aug 1940
Christopher Columbus (theme) + Royal Garden Blues
Fletcher Henderson Orchestra
Cafe Society
20 Dec 1950
I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love with Me
Fletcher Henderson Orchestra
Savoy Ballroom
4 Aug 1940
Perdido + Close
Johnny Messner Orchestra
Cafe Society
21 Dec 1950
Set 7
Chuck Foster
Blue Melody Blues
Music in the Foster Fashion (voc) Lee Sherrin and Millie Corey
‘Treasury Bandstand’
WREC CBS Memphis Tenn.
18 Sep 1950
Set 8
1950s-60s Jazz radio
High Falutin’
Gene Krupa Trio
London House
WBBM CBS Chicago
13 Mar 1959
Seventh Heaven
Oscar Pettiford
26 May 1957
I Want a Little Girl + Bernie’s Tune
Charlie Shavers
London House
WBBM CBS Chicago
May 1962
All Gigs
12:04 pm - 2:00 pm
2SER Radio 107.3 Sydney

11 broadway sydney nsw

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