One of the last projects I worked on before I moved to Los Angeles was an album for George Segal. I got a call from Artie Kornfeld a talented producer I had worked with before. I remember asking what does he do? Artie explained that George sings and plays the banjo. I was familiar with George as an actor, so this was a quite a surprise. I met with Artie and George and started the process of getting George’s key for each song.
I recall when George played the first song for me I just smiled. Here was this guy, a young successful actor, singing and playing old songs and smiling from ear to ear and just having a party all by himself. I instantly got what George was all about, and wanted to join his party. We picked the tunes and I started to write the arrangements a day or so later. As I kept writing these arrangements I started to really laugh. Due to the type of songs they were and where we were going with this album musically, I was able to really dig in and tap into my sense of humor (oh boy do I have a warped one) and imagination .
The music was a combination of roaring twenties, vaudeville, burlesque, Dixieland and steam boat minstrel music. I really had fun doing this album. In addition to using a rhythm section along with brass and reeds, I used quite a combination of percussion. I wrote for slide whistle, timpani, bells, chimes, xylophone, cymbals, concert bass drum (aka grande casa) car horns, police whistles, prizefight bell, woodblocks, foghorn, temple blocks, slap stick, bird chirps and duck calls and tons of other stuff. It’s so much fun being nuts.
We scheduled the recording sessions at Bell Sound Studios and booked the musicians. I kept writing and laughing for three weeks. I could not wait for these sessions. Finally the day of the first session arrived. We started with “Yama Yama Man.” I counted off the tempo and the fun began. The musicians really understood what I was looking for, and got into this from the first note. About four bars into the intro George had a smile on his face from ear to ear, and it lasted for three days until we finished recording.
This three day party was soooooooo much fun. George started to appear on many talk shows singing and playing the banjo, and I conducted some of these for him.
Quite a few years later in Los Angeles he called me and asked me to do the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. We did it, and the audience and Johnny Carson were practically rolling on the floor. For George and I, it was another party. Only this time there were millions of people invited to attend. I see George once in a while at a restaurant in Beverly Hills and we smile. We both are reminded how much fun we had making the album. It really must have been a great party. After all, we are still laughing 35 years later.