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15 February 2022

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Les Paul and Mary Ford 1940s Multitrack – Phantom Dancer 15 Feb 2022

Greg Poppleton's Phantom Dancer swing jazz radio show

Les Paul and Mary Ford are this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artists. Les was a jazz guitarist. Mary was a country guitarist. Together, they pioneered multitracking and had a string of hits in the 1950s.

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 15 February) and two years of Phantom Dancer mixes online at, at https://2ser.com/phantom-dancer/

Here’s Les Paul and Mary Ford waiting for the sunrise in a short 1953 TV spot…

MULTITRACK

In 1946, Les Paul’s mother complimented him on a song she had heard on the radio, when in fact she had heard guitarist, George Barnes. This motivated Paul to spend two years in his Hollywood garage recording studio, creating his unique sound, his New Sound. Paul stunned the music industry with his New Sound in 1948, all recorded using acetate discs only.

With the assistance of Bing Crosby who was a major shareholder in Ampex Tapes and Tape Recorders, and who Paul backed on recordings in the 1940s, Paul started his studio in the garage of his home in Hollywood. He experimented with microphone placement, track speed, and recording overdubs. These methods resulted in a clarity previously unheard in this type of multitrack recording.

Capitol Records released “Lover (When You’re Near Me)”, on which Paul played eight different parts on electric guitar, some recorded at half-speed, hence “double-fast” when played back at normal speed for the master. This was the first time he used multitracking in a recording. His early multitrack recordings, including “Lover” and “Brazil” were made with acetate discs. He recorded a track onto a disk, then recorded himself playing another part with the first. He built the multitrack recording with overlaid tracks rather than parallel ones as he did later. By the time he had a result that satisfied him, he had discarded some five hundred recording disks.

As a teen he had built a disc-cutter assembly using the flywheel from a Cadillac, a dental belt and other parts from his father’s car repair shop. Years later in his Hollywood garage, he used the acetate disc setup to record parts at different speeds and with delay, resulting in his signature sound with echoes and birdsong-like guitar riffs.

In 1949, Crosby gave Paul one of the first Ampex Model 200A reel to reel tape recorders. Paul invented sound on sound recording using this machine by placing an additional playback head, located before the conventional erase/record/playback heads. This allowed Paul to play along with a previously recorded track, both of which were mixed together onto a new track. The Ampex was a monophonic tape recorder with only one track across the entire width of quarter-inch tape, and therefore, the recording was “destructive” in the sense that the original recording was permanently replaced with the new, mixed recording. He eventually enhanced this by using one tape machine to play back the original recording and a second to record the combined track. This preserved the original recording.

In 1952, Paul invented the flange effect, where a sound phases in and out in harmonic tone. The first example of this can be heard on his song “Mammy’s Boogie”.

Observing film recordings inspired Paul to design the stacking of eight tape recorders. He worked with Ross Snyder on the design of the first eight-track recording deck built for him by Ampex for his home studio. Rein Narma built a custom 8-channel mixing console for him. The mixing board included in-line equalization and vibrato effects. He named the recorder “The Octopus” and the mixing console “The Monster”. The name “octopus” was inspired by comedian W. C. Fields who was the first person to hear Paul play his multi-tracked guitar experiments. “He came to my garage to make a little record (in 1946),” Les recalled. “I played him the acetate of ‘Lover’ that I’d done. When he heard it, he said, ‘My boy, you sound like an octopus.'”

LES PAUL AND MARY FORD

In mid-1945, Paul met country-western singer Iris Colleen Summers. They began working together on Paul’s radio show, as Rhubarb Red and The Ozark Apple Knockers with Mary Lou. Later Paul suggested the stage name Mary Ford. They married in Milwaukee in 1949.

Their hits included “How High the Moon”, “Bye Bye Blues”, “Song in Blue”, “Don’cha Hear Them Bells”, “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise”, and “Vaya con Dios”. The songs were recorded with multiple tracks where Ford harmonized with herself and Paul played multiple layers of guitars.

They used the recording technique known as close miking where the microphone is less than 6 inches (15 cm) from the singer’s mouth. This produces a more intimate, less reverberant sound than when a singer is 1 foot (30 cm) or more from the microphone. When using a pressure-gradient (uni- or bi-directional) microphone, it emphasizes low-frequency sounds in the voice due to the microphone’s proximity effect and gives a more relaxed feel because the performer is not working as hard.

They also performed music-hall style semi-comic routines with Mary mimicking whatever line Les decided to improvise.

Here, Les Paul and Mary Ford explain their multitrack recording technique to Alistair Cooke on his Omnibus TV show…

15 FEBRUARY PLAY LIST

Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney
LISTEN ONLINECommunity Radio Network Show CRN #531

107.3 2SER Tuesday 15 February 2022
12:04 – 2:00pm (+11 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
1940s Swing Radio
Pretty Little Petticoat (theme) + A Symphony Under the Stars
Raymond Scott Orchestra
Brunswick Hotel
WBZ NBC Bosyon
6 Dec 1941
I Dreamt I Dwelt in Harlem
Mal Hallett Orchestra
‘Spotlight Bands’
AFRS Hollywood
7 Jun 1945
Moten Swing + Cirribiiribin (theme)
Harry James Orchestra
Casino Gardens
Ocean Park Ca
KFI NBC LA
1944
Set 2
Spike Jones
Open + By The Sea
Spike Jones and his City Slickers (voc) Trio
‘Corn’s a-Poppin’
AFRS Re-broadcast
21 May 1949
The Barber of Seville
Spike Jones and his City Slickers (voc) Sir Frederick Gas
‘Corn’s a-Poppin’
AFRS Re-broadcast
1948
Carolina Moon + When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba
Spike Jones and his City Slickers (voc) Prof. Beetlebaum
‘Corn’s a-Poppin’
AFRS Re-broadcast
27 Feb 1949
Set 3
Modern Jazz
One O’Clock Jump + Perdido
Count Basie Orchestra
‘All-Star Parade of Bands’
Zardi’s
KNX NBC Los Angeles
2 Jul 1956
I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
Benny Goodman Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Palladium Ballroom
Hollywood
AFRS Re-broadcast
1949
Take the A-Train + Close
Ted Heath Orchestra
‘International Bandstand’
BBC/NBC
1959
Set 4
Les Paul and Mary Ford
Open + Brazil
Les Paul Trio (voc) Mary Ford
‘Les Paul Show’
NBC
12 May 1950
Some of These Days
Les Paul Trio (voc) Mary Ford
‘Les Paul Show’
NBC
30 Jun 1950
Puttin’ on the Style
Les Paul Trio (voc) Mary Ford
‘Les Paul Show’
NBC
26 May 1950
What Is This Called Love? + If a Nightinggale Could Sing Like You
Les Paul Trio (voc) Mary Ford
‘Les Paul Show’
NBC
26 May 1950
Set 5
Glenn Miller Hits Played by Other Orks
I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo
Joe Marsala Orchestra (voc) Al Jennings
Aircheck
Log Cabin Farms
Armouk NY
23 Oct 1942
In the Mood
Louis Armstrong Orchestra
‘Jubilee’
AFRS NYC
early 1943
Moonlight Serenade
 Gray Gordon and his Tic Toc Rhythm Orchestra (voc) Cliff Grass
Radio Transcription
New York City
1939
Set 6
Hit of the Week Cardboard Discs
Sweet Jennie Lee
Reser’s Radio Orchestra (voc) Frank Luther
Hit of the Week Records
29 Dec 1930
My Extraordinary Girl
Hit of the Week Orchestra (voc) Ralph Kirbery
Hit of the Week Records
26 May 1932
Let’s Get Friendly
The New York Twelve (voc) Smith Bellew
Hit of the Week Records
May 1931
Me
Sam Lanin Orchestra (voc) Male Trio
Hit of the Week Records
8 Oct 1931
Set 7
1930s Radio Dance Bands
St Louis Blues
Paul Whiteman Orchestra (tb) Jack Teagarden
‘Paul Whiteman’s Musical Varieties’
WJZ NBC Blue NYC
16 Feb 1936
Lady Be Good
Barney Rapp and His New Englanders
Sign of the Drum
NBC Cincinnati OH
17 Jun 1939
King of Bongo Bong
Roy Eldridge Orchestra
Aircheck
Arcadia Restaurant NYC
1939
I Wanna Be a Rug Cutter
Ella Fitzgerald Orchestra
Savoy Balllroom
WEAF NBC Red NYC
4 Mar 1940
Set 8
Modern Jazz
Micro
Django Reinhardt Hot Club of France
Radio Geneva
Switzerland
25 Oct 1949
The Cinch
Buddy Rich Quintet
Birdland
WABC ABC NY
8 Nov 1958
Theme + The Dart Game
Shelly Manne Quintet
Basin Street
WCBS CBS NYC
1956
All Gigs

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12:04 pm - 2:00 pm
2SER 107.3 Sydney
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