Route 66 Song Of The Week:  Glenn Frey swings western style, Teri Thornton sings Nelson Riddle

Hello again, fellow roadies!  It’s shaping up to be a really nice 4-day Memorial Day holiday here in Chicagoland — low 70s predicted for Friday and Saturday, low 80s Sunday and maybe that’ll hold for Monday instead of going hot.  To yours truly, that justifies a double-header for our Song Of The Long Weekend.

Mention The Eagles, and most people think of “Hotel California,” which was supposedly inspired by some motel from hell along old U.S. Route 66.  Me?  I think of Glenn Frey doing a little Western swing, Mother-Road style.  And that’s just what we have for you this week.  You’d think Frey was channeling Lyle Lovett and his Large Band, the way he digs the tune with some zip in this video (now there’s a guy I wish would record our favorite song.  Hint!).

Frey, of course, is the founding member of The Eagles with that drawling tenor on lead vocals that we’re so familiar with from songs like “Take It Easy” “Tequila Sunrise.”  That is not the voice you hear here, however:  it’s mellowed, and he has more than enough life for this performance.  Frey, who was born in Detroit (of all places! not a country-rock sort of town, that) and raised in suburban Royal Oak.  He got together with drummer Don Henley in 1970, and the band was born — first as backup for Linda Ronstadt, then recording its own tunes starting in 1972.  The Eagles were a very productive band for eight years, with a number of Top Ten hits, then the band broke up in 1980 and Frey went his own way.  Well, 34 years later, his voice is still in shape, thanks, and this 2012 performance proves it.


Teri Thornton, on the other hand, is someone we’ve forgotten, more’s the pity.  Another Detroiter, she was a 1960s jazz singer of whom saxophonist Cannonball Adderley once said that she had “the greatest voice since Ella Fitzgerald.”  Ella, for that matter, called Thornton her favorite singer.  Lots of critics agreed at the time.  Adderley, of course, knew her talent well:  they played gigs together in Chicago early in her career.

Her 1963 album Open Highway on Columbia included a song by the same name — which was really Nelson Riddle’s “Route 66 Theme,” for which she wrote the lyrics.  Tony Bennett wrote the liner notes for that album and remarked:  “Teri sings with life, feeling, intensity, intelligence, and taste …  She’s the first singer in years who doesn’t have any gimmicks, any tricks.  Instead, she’s endowed with perfect pitch, a three-octave range, solid training, and years of invaluable experience.  All this has made her create here a great album.”  She recorded four albums, in fact.

In 1963, the same year she recorded this album, her take of “Somewhere in the Night,” the theme  from the TV series Naked City, became a Billboard Top 10 hit.  Thornton found herself on The Ed Sullivan Show and other variety programs hosted by the likes of Steve Allen, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Rudy Vallee, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Martha Graham.  When jazz fell out during the 1970s, however, Thornton faded into the background.  As did a lot of jazz musicians.

Thornton may very well be the only one who’s sung that Nelson Riddle theme with words, or at least the only one who recorded it.  The old vinyl album is hard to find, and although Thornton made a comeback on the jazz scene during the 1980s, this album isn’t on CD ot in mp3 format yet.  With enough interest, perhaps someone from Columbia Jazz (now Sony, I believe) will wise up and reissue it.  We can only hope.

Meanwhile, be safe and happy out there this weekend, on the road or at your barbecue, and think of us kindly.  And as usual, if you enjoy our posts, please rate them with a Like at the end of the posts and the star-rating system on the home page, which is right under the headline for each individual post.  Don’t forget to share your faves using Press This, Pinterest, Facebook or any other social media you use – and to keep up with us on Twitter.  We appreciate the readership!  And we thank you for your support.

Until next time,
your own DJ SweetMarie




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