Friday, June 11, 2010

More of Les: The Album

Turns out if you're looking for this blog and Google the terms "More of Les" and "blogspot," your top result will transport you to a rare record album of that name by Les Elgart and his Orchestra on the out-of-print music blog "Hooked on Stereophonic."

Before this discovery, I knew of neither Les Elgart nor his music. Of course, I immediately downloaded the album, hoping to add an overlooked masterpiece - with a great title - to my music collection. Alas, I was greatly disappointed. "More of Les," the LP version, proved to be passable swing music, but nothing that would have set the world afire upon its release in 1956.  

Yes, just as rock 'n roll was catching fire, Les Elgart started one of the last Big Bands! 

A sure recipe for failure, you say? Maybe not. For starters, in an ironic twist, one of Elgart's compositions would become a rock institution - he wrote the theme for Dick Clark's long-running American Bandstand (with lyrics later added by Barry Manilow!) And 50-odd years later, the Les Elgart Orchestra is still around - 15 years after the bandleader's death in 1995 just shy of his 78th birthday. I'd love to steer you to a Les Elgart Orchestra show near you, but the last gig listed on the band's website was this past Sunday afternoon at a Vietnamese restaurant in Plano, Texas.

So, as Gary Vaynerchuk might say, follow your passions! There's an audience for what you love, and you'll be able to cash in on it. Even if it means decades of playing weddings and cruise ships.

But I haven't actually come to blogland today to talk about Les Elgart's music. Les Elgart might as well be Les Brown, for all my knowledge of big bands. I'm really writing because "Hooked on Stereophonic" has got me hooked on the "More of Les" album cover pictured above.

The art is a great example of what so many have missed since music distribution switched first to cassettes, then to CDs, and now to online. As the "Hooked on Stereophonic" blogger wrote, the "More of Les" art is both "amazing and obscure." And, I'd add, a good example of a collage cover a decade before Sgt. Pepper.

Seems that when record buyers got "More of Les," they got all sides of his personality.  He's serious, he's playful, he's menacing, he's got a childish streak... he's even got a feminine side!

But most of all, he's self-denigrating - having fun at the expense of himself.  I like that. 

Besides the art, I also like the album's title, of course. And since Columbia Records (and its current parent Sony) has kept this record out of print, and has objected neither to my use of the title nor "Hooked on Stereophonic's" use of the music, perhaps they also wouldn't care if I borrowed the art permanently?

After all, I've been bombarded recently by blog postings, email newsletters, etc., etc., imploring me to improve my personal branding. And  visual representation is certainly part of any brand's image. Apparently, this blog needs a logo, and some anonymous record album designer from a half-century ago may just have supplied me with one. Today, I'm sure he or she would be a web designer!


  1. Funny Artwork! Ahead of it's time. This great band was VERY popular during the 1950s and 60s. Bear in mind, they also experimented with Rock and Roll as early as 1954, with songs like "Bazoom!", "At the Boppin' Stop", and the very bluesy "Flip, Flop, and Fly" featuring JOHNNY RAY on vocal.

  2. Thanks Anonymous! I'll need to check those other songs out!

  3. Hello, I am from Montreal, Québec, Canada. I`d like to tell you whathever recording you buy made by Les Elgart or Les & Larry Elgart or Larry Elgart you won`t make a mistake. I have all their recordings on vinyl and renewed my collection on cds. If you search on the internet as I did you will find all their recordings reissued on cd. I heard the Les Elgart orchestra live in a ballroom near Montréal in 1960. His band was booked for 2 weeks in a row.I went 4 times to hear it. Best Regards.