From the desk of Johnny Holiday

From The Desk of Johnny Holiday

Hollywood USA

Friends, 

At the time of this writing, I am just starting to address various matters unrelated to our program which will unfortunately compel us to postpone future shows in the near term. Rest assured, however, that we will all be back bringing you top flight talent, our wonderful orchestra under the direction of Dean Mora, and of course the Satin Dollz Pin Up Dancers, who are sensational!  Frankly, I am very proud of the people who have worked so hard to make our program a success.  These volunteers are good friends, one and all. Again, we will be back!

I was delighted with the feedback from our most recent program featuring my special guest star Johnny Crawford, who certainly outdid himself singing so many of the old favorites from the golden era of popular music.  Johnny, a wonderful guy and someone for whom I have great respect, did us all a favor by bringing his authentic vocal styling to our program, and for this we are very grateful.  We will soon have some clips on our website for you to see from that show, so stay tuned.  It was also marvelous to have Miss Toni Prima surprise us with a few songs, and equally grand to see the Jive Aces in the audience, along with many fine friends.  I told Toni that she could sing on any show I ever do, and I hope she will when I return.

Looking back, I am so grateful to have hosted a great many talented friends on our program – from Mickey Rooney to Michael Feinstein.  We have had the Mills Brothers, Cassie Miller, Mather Louth, Laura Dickinson, Chester Whitmore, Jan Rooney, Michelle Lee, Stefanie Powers, Jennifer Keith, the Lindy Sisters, Richard Halpern, Russ Wilson, Dinah Steward, Sergio Vellatti, Emily Bergl, Robert Picardo, the Rhythm Boys, Courtney Freed, Rebecca Johnson, Jennifer Shelton, Gina Eckstein, and the list goes on and on…so many wonderful artists… 

One of the goals I have had for our program is to expose our audiences to new voices, new talent, and to people who deserve to be showcased in front of a live orchestra and an audience.  I recall so many years ago how heady that experience was when I was a youngster. In the future, I hope to have a nice mix of seasoned professionals, as well as folks whom I think you might enjoy hearing.  Los Angeles is chock full of talented kids, and we have so few places for them to perform. I had my turn so long ago, and I want to make sure others get the same leg up that I did.  

After our last show, I spoke to so many wonderful people who were new to our program, and I was so grateful to meet and greet them. This only adds to the regret I have in shutting things down for a while, but again, I have procrastinated too long in addressing other issues and now, I really have no choice.  

I hope you all know how much your messages and invitations mean to me personally.  Let me say that I find it most gratifying that you and others have sent me requests for songs, or have asked me to make appearances at your functions. I assure you that we will get back to you very soon.  Time does pass so quickly these days, and while I will be away for a time, I have every intention of continuing with our fine program. When the time is right, I will let you know.  For now, my thanks to all for your kindness and support.  Be sure to keep visiting our website for new videos, updates and pictures. 

Until next time, so long for now!

Johnny

Mr. Johnny Crawford

From the Desk of Johnny Holiday

Hollywood, USA

Greetings,

I am dashing this off just after our March 15th program with my special guest stars, the Mills Brothers.  Even as I write these words, I see a flurry of emails from some of the many fine volunteers who have worked so hard on the Johnny Holiday Program. I am constantly touched by the hard work of so many fine friends who care about our show in the Empire Room at the Sportsmen’s Lodge.  

A few weeks ago, I was over at radio station KRLA 870 AM, where I was appearing on the Mark Isler Show.  As I walked up to the studio window, I was delighted and surprised to see my guitarist, the legendary John Reynolds, along with my friend and a fine performer, Johnny Crawford.  Now, John Reynolds is a remarkable and gifted artist who is simply the best when it comes to playing the old songs on guitar, and to hear him whistle is a joy.  But to hear him playing with my friend Johnny Crawford – just the two of them – well, that was pretty special.  As soon as the show broke for a commercial, I peeked in and spoke to John, Johnny and Johnny’s wife, Charlotte.  We gabbed about this and that, and then John took his guitar and headed home, while Johnny and I stayed on for the second half of Mark’s popular radio program.  After the show, we posed for some pictures together, and as I headed to my car, I thought to myself, “You need to ask Johnny Crawford to do your program!”  We spoke again a few days later, and Johnny said he would be happy to appear as my special guest on Friday, April 12th in the Empire Room at the Sportsmen’s Lodge.

To give Johnny a proper introduction, I must go back a bit deeper into the past.  When Johnny was appearing as Mark McCain on the Emmy Award winning show, The Rifleman, he was already nearly a veteran in our business.  Johnny started as one of the original Mouseketeers selected by Walt Disney back in 1955.  His credits on television and film are numerous, but what I treasure most about Johnny is his singing voice.  Many people attempt to affect what they believe is the sound of the 1930’s when they sing…but when Johnny sings, you know it’s real.  He is truly one of the last crooners I know of who still has an amazing and youthful voice.  Johnny appeared on two of my shows in previous years, but for this upcoming show, I plan to open the door mighty wide and let him do whatever he likes.  I can assure you that this man knows more songs than almost anyone I know, and to top it all, he can tell you who wrote it, when, and what they had for breakfast before they wrote it.  

Johnny has had a remarkable career as a bandleader and vocalist, but he is also a man who cares about being true to the melody. The arrangements you hear on his hit compact disc, “Sweeping the Clouds Away” are perfect, and his version of the great song, “Isn’t It Romantic” is just about as good as it gets.  

Today, some of us purists get a bit tired with the many male singers doing piano bar versions of “Come Fly with Me,” “Witchcraft,” and the like.  There was only one Frank Sinatra, just as there was only one Crosby.  But for me, some songs simply grow stale after a while. For while you loved the original versions, it’s not always easy to hear others sing them and attempt to replicate a Capitol recording from 1958.  Now I plead guilty, as I do sing a lot of the old songs done by Bing, Jolson and others, but I know full well that no one can come close to the remarkable tones those men were able to produce.  It’s funny to think that when I was still a boy singer with the bands, “The Crosby Clause” was in my contracts.  I would never be asked to sing any song associated with Bing, so there was no “Swinging on a Star,” “Moonlight Becomes You” or “Please” for me. During the past few years, however, I have been singing these songs, and I’ve been singing them because I want folks to remember Bing. Plenty has been done to remind us of Sinatra and Elvis, but Bing was so much an “everyman” in music that he simply sort of faded away, and that was and is wrong.  For over thirty years, only MCA released a few things, and then just a few years ago, an effort was made to remind people of “The First Citizen of Popular Music”… or so he was dubbed by the Grammy people back in 1960.  

Today, I worry that too many of our younger singers rely too heavily on the more commonly known tunes to play it safe, yet there is a cornucopia of amazing songs that have been forgotten, and which deserve fresh voices to sing them.  That’s why I encourage young vocalists to avoid what is common, and make themselves uncommon; own the song as if it were written for them.  

When I hear Johnny Crawford sing, he owns every song he approaches.  He delivers a ballad with feeling, and you can hear the smile in his voice when he sings something with a beat.  I can assure you that when Johnny Crawford comes on my program, he will knock your socks off, because there is no one else who delivers the goods as this great singer does.  Johnny is a fine man.  He loves our country, he embraces the wholesomeness that is sometimes missing in our current culture, and he is a reminder of what a good performer truly is.  No frills, no gimmicks – just an honest delivery of a wonderful song.

Come and see us in the Empire Room on April 12th and hear my pal Johnny Crawford sing with the Dean Mora Orchestra and my cast of talented friends.  I promise you it will be a special night of great songs from those days I often wish I had known first hand. Actually I did…but that is another story.

Reservations for this special night can be made by calling 818.432.7502. Until next time…

So long for now,

Johnny

Hollywood, California

Our First Show in the Empire Room

From Johnny Holiday, Hollywood USA

Dear Friends,

Well, I have to say that I was very pleased with the tremendous amount of positive feedback we received from our debut in the Empire Room at the historic Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City.  Several thoughts come to mind when I reflect on that special evening, and the events that led up to it.

I think the first thing I need to share with you is that there is no way I could have pulled this off without the support and assistance of our great cast and crew.  I am deeply grateful for the exceptional efforts of Hutton Wilkinson, a dear friend and a man who is known around the world as one of our most eminent interior designers, and whose jewelry adorns some of the most glamorous people on the planet.  Thank you, Hutton!  Toni Prima, my special guest star, did so much behind the scenes as well, working closely with the fine people at the Sportsmen’s Lodge Events Center (along with Mr. Randy Dupree)  to dress our stage and work with the lighting technicians.  Not only did Toni provide us with a memorable night of classic songs, but she also did so much more to help pull together this first show of the third year of our program.  I must also tip my hat to Rusty Frank, my favorite dance partner, who works collaboratively with us because we both believe that more venues for dancing means more fun, and Rusty and I always have a lot of fun. Follow Rusty’s Rhythm Club and Lindy by The Sea, by all means.   It was wonderful to see so many fine people from the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, of which I am a member. The ADSLA does a lot of good in our community; thank you, fellow ADSLA members!  Also, many thanks are due to Sanford Cohen of Estate Sales Los Angeles for helping spread the word.  Between Hutton, Toni, Rusty, Sanford and so many more of you, we managed to pull it off! For this, I am sincerely grateful. 

A number of luminaries were in our audience for this first show, including the legendary Ms. Keely Smith, who is truly a great lady of song.  Another Grammy winner, Melissa Manchester, came in and celebrated her birthday with us, and I was so happy to see her again.  We were also pleased to see so many friends of all ages from our previous venue.  It was truly a sea of Fedoras in the room, and I met several new people who were so very kind to me and to our cast. My thanks also go to B House Photography (www.B-HousePhotography.com) and Dave Welch of Photos with Class (www.PhotoswithClass.com), who are great friends and gifted photographers

With any first program at a new venue, technical issues inevitably arise, and with a full house, I know the staff was working as quickly as they could to serve the hundreds of people who came for our opening night.  Let me tell you, we all have our lists, and we will meet soon to discuss all of the issues we encountered, and make adjustments accordingly. 

I was happy to see Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine (who will be our next Controller), the Counsel General from Italy, my pal Mark Isler from KRLA 870 AM, and so many other wonderful people who add something special to our community, like Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Doheny, Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Stanfill, and Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Oppenheimer.  It was great to see many others as well, such as my friends Mona, Katie, and Robert and Linda Picardo.  There are simply so many people to thank, and among that number especially are Mr. and Mrs. Richard Weintraub, whose support is greatly appreciated. 

Now some of you may or may not know this, but my longtime Musical Director, Dean Mora, was planning to play for us the night of our first show. He is currently doing a theatrical production out in Thousand Oaks, and as luck would have it, his substitute for that show injured himself.  Dean arranged for Chris Dawson to fill in for him, and while it caused yours truly a small melt down, it came together well.  In fact, I was very pleased with Chris’s ability to pick up so many pieces at the last minute, and equally pleased that Dean was still there in spirit helping us pull it all off.

I have so much praise to offer Toni Prima, whose voice is sterling and who is simply perfection in so many ways.  This wonderful lady is so inspiring because she is so darn talented.  And my thanks of course to Miss Christine Nelson, who always has a big smile in her voice. I adore Christine, her talent, her sparkling personality... Frankly, she is just about the best of the best.  Adam Tunney once again demonstrated why working with him is not just a pleasure, but a lot of fun as well.  As one of my close friends, I always enjoy my stage time with Adam.  John Reynolds also joined us, and I have to say, it’s always fun doing the old songs with a man who is beloved by so many.   The Satin Dollz were sensational, as they always are.  These dancing and singing ladies add so much color to what we do, and I am so lucky to have such wonderfully talented gals who are so much more than a chorus line. They are a huge part of our effort, and I love them all.

Our next show is March 15th with my pals John Mills and Elmer Hopper, The Mills Brothers.  John Mills’ late father was Donald Mills, the lead tenor of the Mills Brothers since their very start in the early 30’s.  John sang with his father and famous uncles, and since those great men left us, John has faithfully kept the legacy of his family alive.  John is an exceptional vocalist and conductor, and his bringing Elmer into the act was a good move.  Elmer has one of the best voices I have heard, and was for many years the lead vocalist of The Platters.  Together, along with classic arrangements of the great songs immortalized by The Mills Brothers, I believe you will see and hear something special.  I have worked with these two wonderful men several times, and in my book, they are the best of the very best!  When they sing my favorite tune, “Opus One,” or “Glow Worm,” it is simply amazing, and an act worthy of the best theatres in the nation. They have toured all over the world keeping the sounds of The Mills Brothers alive and well for generations to come!  More about the next show in my next message.

For now, please know of my gratitude for the incredible and generous support that so many of you have given us.  If our first effort was an indicator of the future, I think we have dead aim on something special in the Empire Room and the Sportsmen’s Lodge, where we have been treated so well by so many. 

Until next time, so long for now!

Johnny

MISS. TONI PRIMA

Johnny Holiday

Hollywood, USA


Dear Friends,

I want to tell you a story that goes back some years when I was still working as a full time vocalist.  Liberace was an exceptional man and a great showman whose management company contacted my agent and offered me a short term run in Las Vegas where Lee was headlining at The Las Vegas Hilton.  I had never met him before but it was a wonderful time because his show was spectacular and no expense was spared in terms of the audience experience.  I was given, as I recall, 3 to 5 songs a show and on all but one Lee played piano for me while I sang the old songs that we both loved. He was generous and exceptionally kind.  I later worked with Lee at one or two other venues, but this was the first and by far the most memorable.   It was during my brief time in Vegas that I first met and heard Keely Smith, the undisputed Queen of Las Vegas.  Lee knew her and introduced us. 

Very few female vocalists give me a thrill to the degree that Keely Smith did and still does.  That was back in 1980 I think but during that brief meeting we spoke of mutual friends like Johnnie Ray and others, some cousins of mine she knew and that sort of thing.  Keely was walking a dog as I recall while we talked outside of what I believe was the Desert Inn, at least this is what my memory tells me and it was a big thrill for me.  I mean Keely was known for so many hits with her husband Louis Prima and then of course her own solo outings which were huge sellers.  Her recordings with Capital Records are so amazing to hear and of course Keely had the best arrangers, musicians and worked with the likes of Nelson Riddle.  Combined with Keely’s remarkable voice, it was magic.

Some years later, maybe 2008, I was doing some songs from time to time at The Cicada Club.  The promoter was telling me about the highly popular, and always entertaining, Jive Aces… who have more energy than a 17 year old boy on prom night.  When I was informed that there was a concern of the cost of producing the show I offered to chip in, but I also wanted to host a table for Keely and her friends and family that were coming in from the desert to see the show.  Keely and I caught up as we were being seated but one of the magical events of that particular night was when I first met one of Keely’s two wonderful daughters, Toni Prima.  I sat next to Toni and we gabbed throughout the night and to this day she is without a doubt one of my closest friends and someone I respect as well as admire.  Toni is an actress, singer, and really so much more in terms of her numerous gifts, but most important to me she is a dear and adored friend.  Louis and Keely broke the mold when Toni arrived in our world!  I have heard her sing many times and it always pleases me to no end to hear this lady own a lyric and deliver it as it should be.  Not obtrusive, no bells and whistles, just a soulful reading of a lyric the way it was written and meant to be delivered.  One night she sang one of my all time favorites on my own program, “I’ll be Seeing You”.  This particular tune conjures up so many memories.  Bing was not the first to do it, but it was his song during the war and the sentiment in the lyrics has always touched me.  I had heard the Incomparable Hildegard sing it in New York, Liberace of course always closed with it, and numerous others but Toni’s reading of this song has always touched me.  I may ask her to sing it when she joins me for our first program this coming February 15th in The Empire Room at The Sportsmen’s Lodge along with some other old chestnuts that are the standards that I treasure so much and which Toni can deliver with feeling and honesty.

In this life people come into our lives for reasons we may not always understand, but I do have to say how grateful I am for having Toni as not only my first special guest at our new venue, but a dear and much loved friend.  I tell you now, Toni Prima has what it takes.  Her voice is exceptional and her heart is made of pure gold.  Who could ask for anything more?  I am so grateful to my friend Toni for adding so much color to my program and my life.  She is a treasure.  

Until next time,

Johnny

GREETINGS FROM HOLLYWOOD!

Johnny Holiday

Hollywood, USA

Greetings,

Having been sort of a musical gadabout off and on for about 43 years I certainly am delighted to be working in The Empire Room at The Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City on a monthly basis.  For me, this new chapter for myself and our strolling players is indeed special and exciting.

Live entertainment has changed so much since when I first started in 1969 as a boy singer...sort of the Bobby Breen of my era... it's not like the old days when there were many venues throughout North America with house bands, showrooms, and nightclubs where a night out was a regular happening in terms of entertainment.  Yes things have certainly changed since my salad days.  But our goal is to bring back the sounds and the style of those marvelous times with the hope of reaching out to folks of all ages who might care to experience what is it was like when people dressed for an evening out and danced to the music of bandleaders like Del Courtney, Ernie Heckscher, Dick Jurgens, Lawrence Welk,  Ronnie Kemper, Lester Lanin and so many others that I knew or worked with.  The sounds of Artie Shaw, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Blue Barron, Benny Goodman,Shep Fields, Eddy Duchin, Harry James, Glen Gray, Ray Anthony, Freddy Martin and so many others still live...just a bit more quietly I guess...

From 1969 until the early 80's I worked steadily at various venues that catered to the elite's of the day and of course the tourists who might be staying at a resort we would play and  those folks who lived in cities like New York, San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Toronto, and so many other desinations where the locals would come to have dinner, dance and hear and see headliners and featured attractions.  These were remarkable times and looking back I seriously wonder if I realized at that time if I appreciated how lucky I was to be a part of it.  I was young, had a decent set of pipes and loved to sing the old songs and I had the chance to meet and work with some of the greatest performers of any century like Ella Fitzgerald, Eddie Fisher, Johnnie Ray, Rosemary Clooney, Gordon Macrae, Mel Torme, John Gary, Sarah Vaughn, and in the green rooms I learned so much from these outstanding people who we will never see the likes of again.  Again, I was a very lucky young man.  

As the years passed club owners saw a decline due to the changing sounds of popular music and of course having a house band of 10 to 20 players was pretty expensive 3 to 5 nights a week and so I sort of faded into the woodwork and went into a new chapter of my life.  I recall so many nights when I was not on the bandstand but would go to a place like The Rainbow Room to catch Ella Fitzgerald who I had worked with or perhaps drop in on Margaret Whiting who would be singing in The Plush Room at the York Hotel or I would be in Las Vegas to hear Jerry Vale at Ceasars Palace or listen to Keely Smith at The Desert Inn. A rather important singer I knew very well once told me that you never forget what it feels like to sing a song and bring back memories for a couple on the dance floor or perhaps make new memories for another.  To me, that is what it is all about.  And maybe that's why the music never left me and why my memories are so vivid of those heady times.

I was blessed to come in at the tail end of what was then "cafe society" and the era of debutante balls and supper clubs.  It was a special time for me and it was a special time I think in our culture.  Live music was everywhere and the opportunities to work seemed endless.  Today is a different story.  Here in Los Angeles venues for the music of Cole Porter, Al Dubin, Harry Warren, Sam Coslow, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Harry Ruby, Harold Arlen and so many others are exceptionally and unfortunately limited.  But I do see a light at the end of the tunnel because there is a growing legion of followers who do want to hear the great songs and dance to a live orchestra and that is why we created The Johnny Holiday Program in late 2010. 

When I debuted The Johnny Holiday Program in 2011 I had Mickey Rooney join us.  Now where in Los Angeles would you find one of the all time great motion picture stars of all time talking and singing?  And on my program!  Well as a personal favor to me Mickey and Jan, his lovely wife, were happy to do the show and it proved the point that with a nice mix of old and young Hollywood, a great band, beautiful chorus girls and some featured acts, a musical variety show could prove to be of some interest to the public.  Mickey was the first of many great performers to appear on our program.

Throughout 2011 and 2012 we were fortunate to have many fine friends appear and sometimes perform on our shows.  When my friend Michael Feinstein came to see us, someone whose star was rising back in the early 80's when I was planning my exit, I asked him to appear and he graciously did. Now here is a man who has done more to sustain The Great American Songbook compared to anyone in my book and Michael was and remains gracious, amazingly gifted, and a star!   We had on The Mills Brothers, Gina Eckstine, whose Father the legendary Billy Eckstine I knew and opened for at The Venetian Room.  We also have had on folks like Jan Daley who, to me, is one of the most gifted all around performers I know.  The fine motion picture and television actor Robert Picardo has delivered some great songs on our show as have so many others.   I have also had on some local talent that continues to amaze me like Miss. Jennifer Keith who is a great singer and a dear friend as well as up and coming vocalists like Sergio Vellatti or someone who is the perfect big band singer, Miss. Cassie Miller who is marvelous to see and hear.  I suspect that over a two year period I had on as many as 45 guests performers, all of them wonderful people and gifted artists.  And how nice to see stars like Academy Award winner Shirley Jones come by and talk to our audience or Stefanie Powers, Michelle Lee and many others.  To me, it always seemed so perfect...the mix of seasoned performers and those whose stars are on the rise.  My two year run at The Cicada Club was an amazing and happy experience. It always felt like a party but now the party has moved to a new location which houses a lot of history and is an ideal and spacious location for my audience, cast, and orchestra.  

In the Fall of 2012 I was approached by some very fine people at The Sportsmen's Lodge which I knew well but confess I rarely visited.  So I went over there and took a look at the place and saw an opportunity for a larger room, a real stage, and a venue that I believed would work well for our band and strolling players.  In January of this year I signed a contract under somewhat bittersweet conditions because I have fond affection for The Cicada Club but the Lewis and Clark in me wanted to try something new.  I had many discussions with my Musical Director, Dean Mora, about this move because the men in his orchestra have been with me for several years and frankly I wouldn't make the plunge without Dean and the boys in the band...and the response was positive across the board.  So we contacted the cast and crew and agreed to make the move...."and make the San Fernando Valley my home".

The Empire Room at The Sportsmen's Lodge opened its doors back in 1945 and it is a spacious place with a large dance floor and plenty of room for seating 400 to 800 people comfortably.  In addition, and because I look at things from the audience perspective, I checked out the parking, the exterior lighting, the ease of entrance and the surrounding area and became convinced we should give this a whack and so here I am, a new home for our program and yes it is a bit new for me because I was unable to bring along several people who mean much to me.  But at the same time I am grateful to have the best band in town and some of the finest people I know helping pull our program together.  Our debut is Friday February 15th and we will do a show every month in The Empire Room and I could not ask for a better team at The Sportsmen's Lodge Events Center to help us in terms of promotional support, reservations and the like.  Really these are wonderful people.  It's actually the sort of place you should consider for a private event, corporate meeting or a birthday party and if you need a band, just drop me a line!

I have always wanted to see Los Angeles offer more diverse opportunities for live music and for a night out on the town the way I knew it 25 or even 30 years ago and The Johnny Holiday Program simply seeks to provide you with a chance to see an authentic sliver of what was once a popular theme in many of the big rooms I used to play...a supper club environment with great food, wonderful dance music with a live orchestra, headliner and a supporting cast...oh and of course a chorus line of lovely ladies!

I sincerely hope you will come to see us once a month and I am also delighted that we are working with other organizations such as The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles and Rusty Frank's longstanding and popular "Rusty's Rhythm Club" to offer discounts to their members and followers and other worthwhile groups and organizations.  Check with the folks at The Events Center at 818.432.7502 and I know they will do all that they can to accommodate your needs.

To me we are in this together when it comes to supporting live music and I sincerely hope you will come to see us on February 15th where my special guest is Miss. Toni Prima who is not only a dear friend but the daughter of another dear friend, the legendary Miss. Keely Smith.  I first met Keely in Las Vegas some 30 years ago when I was doing a brief stint at The Las Vegas Hilton with Liberace....that's a story for another time.  Toni's Mother along with her Father, the great Louis Prima, were truly the King and Queen of Las Vegas and when you hear Toni's voice you will easily hear and see that the apple does not fall far from the tree.  She is one of my favorite singers and when you hear this lady's voice you will know why she is so special to so many.  Toni is the perfect performer for our debut!  

I do hope to see you in the historic Empire Room at The Sportsmen's Lodge on the 15th of February...oh, and use the Coldwater Canyon Ave entrance because this is really a great way to get the full effect of your visit....

Until next time, so long for now...

Johnny

P.S. If you have special requests for songs or guests please feel free to drop me a line at Johnny@johnnyholidayentertainment.com and I will do my best to accommodate your request.