The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #38 – Sammy Rimington

Sammy Rimington is one of the leading advocates and practitioners of New Orleans revival jazz today. He’s been recording and performing professionally for more than 50 years. Born in the United Kingdom, Sammy Rimington is a clarinetist and reed player and has worked with many of the legends in music and has contributed to hundreds of recordings. We’re honored to welcome him to The Paul Leslie Hour for a unique look at a wonderful style of music.

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Sophie Lellouche: Filmmaker

For some people, fate is kind, but it’s never fate alone that creates lasting art.  For Sophie Lellouche, her great talent in writing a great script and her optimism resulted in her first film, Paris-Manhattan. How many filmmakers can say that there very first film featured great French actors like Alice Taglioni and Patrick Bruel…?Furthermore, Sophie Lellouche’s script caught the eye of a legend in film, Woody Allen.  Woody Allen agreed to appear in the filmmaker’s debut picture!  Paris-Manhattan is a French film with English subtitles.  It is a pleasure to meet the woman behind the film.


David Krakauer: Clarinetist, Recording Artist

It is not often an album is so instantly alluring as David Krakauer’s “THE BIG PICTURE.”  David Krakaeur is a clarinetist extraordinaire and “The Big Picture” is his renditions of 12 songs from major movies throughout the years…and what a collection it is!  At the forefront is the clarinet, but what makes this record so great is how innovative Krakauer is at interpreting the songs.

Perhaps the most represented are songs from Woody Allen films: “Si Tu Vois Ma Mère” composed by Sidney Bechet which appeared in Midnight in Paris among others.  Variety is key here.  There’s Krakauer’s cover of “People,” made famous by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, flawlessly followed by the Sheldon Harnick & Jerry Bock song “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof.

All it took was listening to “THE BIG PICTURE” once and I knew Krakauer was an artist I had to speak to.  We hope you enjoy our heart-to-heart interview.

Buddy Morra: Former Talent Manager for Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Robin Williams, etc.

Buddy Morra is a retired talent manager who worked for the prestigious management firm Rollins & Joffe.  Through the years he represented great talent like comedians David Letterman, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli.  Needless to say, he’s got a lot of stories to tell.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure we welcome our special guest, Buddy Morra. Thank you so much for joining us.

It’s a pleasure to be here, Paul. I’m not sure what I’m doing here, but I’m here (laughs).

I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?

Growing up? It  was kind of nice. It was like a lower-middle or middle class family. We lived in the Bronx. My father had some fruit and vegetable stores. He also had a pushcart for a while. He had a truck for a while. And we always managed to eat and we always managed to have food so we were OK. It was kind of a nice, sweet growing up. I’m glad I grew up that way, actually.

Can you remember early on what you wanted to do as an occupation?

Yes. I wanted to be a singer.

And did you ever pursue it?

Yes I did. It wasn’t terribly good (laughs) and at some point I realized, after a couple of years of having a good time running around and sleeping late that, you know, I had nothing special to offer. And my oldest friend at the time was a comedian, asked me if I’d be interested in working for the guy that represented him. He said he had a, he was doing okay, he could afford not very much money but I had the job if I wanted it. So I went to work for this guy for thirty bucks a week – cash.

The all-important cash!

(Laughs) Very important!

What city was this in?

In New York City. In 1957. I had been on my own until then, yeah. I had my own office for a while after I decided to give up singing and was just scraping by, at best. And then this offer came along and I took it. So I went from thirty bucks a week to forty bucks a week. Then I went to fifty bucks a week and then he put me on a percentage. But he was much smarter than I was because the percentage turned out to be the same fifty bucks a week (laughs).

Early on, the business side of the entertainment business – was it something you enjoyed?

Oh, I always loved it, yeah. I always loved it. Even as a young man I would just – I would read all the gossip columns. In those days we had, like, I think five or six newspapers in New York. I used to read all those columns about what was going on in Hollywood, what was going on on Broadway. I was very interested in that, so yes.

Tell us about how you started to specialize in comedians.

Well, I had my own office, oh, for four years or so, something like that, and then I had the opportunity to join Rollins and Joffe. They offered me a job, which was, at that time, the most prestigious management company in the industry. They handled Woody Allen, Dick Cavett – lots of really interesting people. It was an incredible organization and I went to work for them, and that changed my whole life. They managed a lot of people but mostly comedians. They were very successful with that. So I just kind of fell into that.

What are your memories of them, personally? Jack Rollins and Charles Joffe?

Jack Rollins, who I recently saw about a month or two back – I was in New York visiting my grandkids and I went to see him at the hospital. He had not been well. He had been in the hospital for a while and we talked for a while. He was kind of semi-awake, in and out, and I said ‘Jack, I just want you to know that you changed my life.’ and he said to me (laughs) ‘A lot of people have told me that.’ And he did! And he did change my life. I went from the bottom rung of show business – wherever that was, it’s way the hell down – to the top rung in one leap, and learned an awful lot from them.

You said that they were at the top. What was it about Charles Joffe and Jack Rollins the made that management company what it was?

Without question, it was the most prestigious management company in the industry. Everybody wanted to be with that company. We never had a contract with anybody, which is unusual, then and even now. It was just a handshake and we went to work. That was it.

Why do you think they were so successful? Why do you think they were so prestigious?

(Sighs) They were smart. They were intelligent – Jack Rollins was a very smart man. An intellectual, if you will. Read a lot. Could read a Woody Allen script and just be so precise about what was wrong and what was right about it that the first time, or any time that Woody Allen wrote a script the first person that would read it would be Jack Rollins. It was also that, and the manner that they worked in – no contracts with anybody. It was a very loose relationship with the clients and a very good one – and very honest, by the way. The company policy was – there was a little embroidery that was made by somebody that was hanging in the office that said ‘Don’t embarrass the office!’

(Laughs) That’s pretty good advice.

I had one made when I was living in LA and I misspelled it deliberately, thinking it would be funny but nobody ever caught on to it (laughs).

Did you have any personal involvement with Woody Allen during those years?

No. Outside of just knowing him, not terribly well but knowing him.  I found him to be a very, very nice man. My son, who was then a kid at the time, I don’t know, ten – nine, ten or whatever – was diving into magic and, uh, Woody had – and Woody was a very good slight of hand magician, by the way – and my son would come to the office every once in a while. And Woody would take him into the little conference room and he’d sit on the floor and do magic tricks for him. But no, I did not have any relationship with him in terms of business.

What about your move out to California– when did that happen?

About 36 years ago, 37 years ago.

Was the business in California different than New York?

I never found it to be different. I mean, people used to say that. I don’t know if they meant it as a joke – ‘Oh, it’s California …’ it’s not different. I’m dealing with the same people out here that I used to deal with in New York. Now I was much more face-to-face with them than I was on the phone, like I was in New York. But I found the business to be the exactly same. But probably a little less honest, maybe, out here than in New York, but the same, essentially.

What about working with Billy Crystal?

That was a joy. That was a joy. Yeah, I got a call one day from this guy – gosh, I wish I could remember his name – who was the manager of Sha Na Na. He called me from Buddah records and we had met a few times before. We didn’t really know each other terribly well and he said ‘Listen, there’s this very funny group, three guys, here that are just hysterically funny. You should come down and see them. They’re at the Buddah, the offices. So I went down – it was about three of four blocks from my office – I went down and I saw them. And I saw the group. I started to work with the group and, oh I don’t know, maybe for or five months later, I broke up the group and just started to work with Billy, who we thought had the most to offer at that point. My wife said to me ‘Why are you working with him? You should work with the others guys. They’re funnier.’ (Laughs) It’s the last time – thank goodness, I didn’t listen to her. I haven’t listened to her since (laughs).

What is Billy Crystal like to work with?

I found Billy to be a terrific guy. He’s one of my favorite people, one of my favorite clients. He’s a very smart young man, by the way. He knows a lot of things. I found him to be very pleasant, no problems. Did we ever have an argument? – we may have had one argument in 30 years or whatever, when we disagreed. But that was very rare.

What happens when a manager disagrees with a client?

The client usually wins. Well, unfortunately, what happens is – see, with our company, which was interesting, is that we never took a client except when they were just first starting out, they were brand new. We never took established clients. Not that it wasn’t possible to take one – we didn’t turn down established clients – but we liked working with someone who was brand new. Why? It was much more interesting. It was much more adventurous for us if we could, if we had a plan for them and that plan came to fruition after whatever – six months or a year later, you know, which is what the plan was, so they could essentially call their own shots at a certain point. And so when that happens, the relationship kind of changes, by the way. In the beginning, the client who is brand new relies on you totally. You are their god for a moment and, hopefully, you make the right decisions. Most of the time we did. Sometimes we didn’t, but most of the time we did. And once they get to a position of importance and becoming a much more important client and personality, the relationship kind of changes a little bit where you can’t just respond or act with them the way you did when they were first starting out. They won’t accept it, it’s not right, and you have to change with the times which took a little while to do, but we did.

When you think of all the clients that you had through the years, is it possible to pick a favorite?

Yeah. I would say probably John Pizzarelli.

What made him your favorite?

He seemed to have no ego. Now, we all have egos – some of them, the egos don’t come out. He was just a very easy guy to be with. He listened. You could say things, he listened. Sometimes he went along with what you said, sometimes he didn’t, but he listened. And it was just a joy to be with him. And he appreciated – he greatly appreciated what we tried to do for him and I think that made a big difference. And I still to this day, although I’ve been retired 14 years, I talk to John probably once a week, once every ten days.

What about the very first time you heard a young David Letterman performing?

Well, the first time I saw David Letterman was at the Comedy Store in Westwood, which doesn’t exist any longer. I was with one of my partners and one or two other people, and had never seen or heard of David Letterman but I knew when he came out and he started to talk – because he was never a very good stand-up comedian, but there was something special about him. I even said to my partner ‘This is the next Johnny Carson.’ And I went back to talk to him, but the guy who was running the back, the manager said ‘You know he has a manager.’ And I said ‘Oh, then I’m not going to go back.’ and I didn’t talk to him. But then a few months later, I was at NBC for some reason and he was doing a, hosting a game show – a pilot for a game show – in the next studio so I went over and spoke with him.

Letterman is very much a legend. When you think about him in those days and you see him now, is it hard to believe?

Not really. I always thought that he could do what he’s doing. I always thought so. And we got started with him and things just moved really quickly. I think one of the leading factors was that as we started to make a little noise out here, The Tonight Show called. And The Tonight Show, at that point, when they had comedians on the show it was kind of a policy that you never sat down with Carson until you’ve done three shots on that show as a stand-up. And I kept turning down the show because I knew Letterman’s stand-up was not that great but he’d be great sitting down with Carson because they had a lot of the same things in common. And I must have turned it down half a dozen times. And then finally they said to me one day ‘OK, he can sit down.’ then we took the show.

Wow. What makes a good manager a good manager?

(Laughs) Good question! Well, honesty for one, I think is very important, you know? I mean, you have to be honest with your clients and sometimes it’s not as easy as it may sound, you know? If you have critiques about a particular client, hopefully you’re right, well you try to explain that to the client – hmmm, you’re dealing with egos now and actors are very fragile, so it has to be presented in an interesting way where you’re not offending their ego but, at the same time, making your point. And sometimes it’s not easy to do, but you find a way – sometimes.

What’s the best thing about being Buddy Morra?

(Laughs) That’s a good question! You’ll have to ask my wife that, I think (laughs). We’re about to celebrate 50 years.

Wow. Congratulations!

Thank you. Early May we celebrate, yeah, end of May, yeah. It’s been an incredible ride. I mean, my – she is amazing. That’s all I can tell you. I don’t know where I’d be without her, quite honestly. I once said to her, not too long ago, I said ‘Why did you want to marry me?’ She said ‘I just had a feeling you were the right guy and you would do well,’ when I first met her (Laughs) I was making, like, twenty bucks a week or something like that on my own (laughs)! Yeah, I mean I couldn’t pay the rent, really.

So she saw a spark.

I hope so! (Laughs) Unless she was lying – I don’t know (laughs)!

What do you want to say to anyone who is listening to this interview?

Gee whiz. Well, if you’re going out to see live talent, do listen to them. Don’t make noise. Don’t slurp your soup. Otherwise, don’t go to the club. Stay home and listen to the radio or something. I mean, pay attention to these people. They work real hard. It’s important for them to get your acknowledgement and your applause, assuming you like them. If you don’t like them, then don’t applaud. But otherwise, be kind, be attentive, pay attention. You’ll learn a lot more that way. And I think, also, you get to be a bit more discriminating that way. If you see enough talent after a while, you can be a little more discriminating in your taste. Because everybody has talent. It’s just that what kind of talent is it and does it rise to where the general public can love it and like it and understand it?

Mr. Morra, it’s been a pleasure to do this interview.

My pleasure, Paul. Sorry I didn’t get you earlier but my daughter is back east, in Harrison, New York and there’s floods and things. I couldn’t get through for the longest time. I finally got through so we got a little time on the phone.

I appreciate it very much. It’s been a joy.



Joe Franklin: TV & Radio Legend

We live in a world of constant transition. Our modes and models change incessantly. Nowhere is that so true as in the entertainment industry. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able, at once, to reach back into the good ol’ days while still keeping pace with the new entertainers? The Atlas of those conjoined entertainment worlds, without a doubt, would be Joe Franklin. The first man to bring the talk show format to television, Mr. Franklin pioneered facets of television that are wholly taken for granted these days. With an incredible list of classic stars and new names fresh from the marquise lights, to his talk show credit , we don’t want you to miss a moment of this astounding, fast paced interview. Don’t change that dial…or URL!

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to welcome the great Joe Franklin. Joe Franklin is someone who has brought a lot of joy into the world. The Joe Franklin Show ran on television for 40 consecutive years, featuring guests in the hundreds of thousands. Joe Franklin has played himself in films like Manhattan, Ghostbusters, Twenty Ninth Street, and Broadway Danny Rose. Joe Franklin has been honored by the Museum of Television and Radio, and is still active today. In the words of Howard Stern, Joe Franklin is a celebrity you have to love. Mr. Franklin, thank you so much for joining us.

Oh, what a nice eulogy – I mean what a nice introduction. I really appreciate that. That’s very nicely put. I did TV for 43 years, 43 years, believe it or not. That’s a long time, right? And then counting radio, I’ve been around about 60 years –I’m only 39 years old (laughs)! I would have been 40 but I was sick for one year (laughs). I’m sorry, I apologize. I’m still going strong, still doing interviews every day on Bloomberg Radio here in New York City. This week I had Cindi Lauper, I got Neil Sedaka, I got Olivia Newton-John. I call my little segment The Business of Show Business because I’m more or less the nostalgic historian in the world of show business and I’m not going to quit until I get it right. So I’m just going to keep on practicing until I get it right, Paul.

Well, I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?

Well, I was, I was in the Army. I was in the Army when I was 17½ years old. And I had a little accident in the service and I began playing old records on the army radio station in Temple, Texas. I was in Camp Wood, Texas and word about me got written up in the Stars and Stripes, and the New York papers like the New York Times and the Daily News. And when I got out of the army they sent for me to take a job on the local radio station called WHOM. I had a program called Joe Franklin’s Vaudeville Echoes and I got paid zero. Then I got a phone call one day from WNEW, which was a major radio station back in those days. And they said ‘Joe, whatever you’re making, we want you on our station. We’ll double your salary.’ And I said I’m getting paid zero so I had to think fast. I said ‘I’m making $20 a show.’ ‘Joe, we’ll double it.’ so I went to WNEW and I met a man named Martin Block, who was the famous disc jockey on that radio station with his Make Believe Ballroom, and he gave me a job choosing his records. And from there I got my own radio show on WNEW which I called The Record Collector’s Exchange. I would go out to different stores and buy old records for a penny apiece – old Al Jolsons, old Eddie Cantors, old Sophie Tuckers, old Fanny Brice, old Rudy Vallees. And I’d come on the radio and say ‘Now here’s a record worth $500!’ I made up those crazy stories. The next day I’d go back to the same store and I’d pick out five records and put down five pennies on the counter and the man would say ‘Come here, kid! I heard you on the radio last night say these records are worth $500 apiece.’ So, for us, we created the collector’s market, the blockbuster market of old records and that was the beginning of my true nostalgic career. I’m known more or less as the King of Nostalgia.  Not the King of Neuralgia, the King of Nostalgia. And one day I get a phone call from Channel 7, that’s WABC TV – then it was WJZ TV – and they said ‘Joe, we heard your voice on the radio. We like your voice. We’re considering, we’re just thinking about maybe lighting up in the daytime.’ But there was not daytime TV yet. TV was only on from 5:00 at night until the Sermonette. And they said ‘Joe, if we gave you an hour a day on our proposed daytime schedule what kind of a show might you do?’ So I said ‘Well, I’d do a show of people just talking nose to nose, eyeball to eyeball. Something very pure, very organic, from the bones.’ And they said ‘Joe, you’re out of your mind. you can’t do a ‘talk’ show on television. The word is “television.” You gotta give them ‘vision’. You gotta give them, you gotta give them baggy pants, you gotta give them burlesque skits. You can’t just do – there’s no such thing as just a talk show’ I said ‘Well, those rock and roll polls are coming out. I’ll show the kids dancing to records.’ They said ‘Joe, you’re nuts! Who’s gonna watch kids on TV dancing to records?’ Then Dick Clark becomes a billionaire. But I defied them d the first pure, nose to nose TV talk show. My first guests included Kim Novak, Eddie Cantor, Georgie Jessel. I had tremendous guests. So that day, and I met…the film, A&E – Hirsch, Hirsch made a film called It’s Only Talk. It runs for about two hours and it shows I, Joe Franklin, invented the talk show. There was no talk show before then so I can tell you a little about it. Every time you open up the paper today somebody’s got their own talk show. They tell me it looks today like flies, butt I did create the talk show – for better or worse – and I’m still carrying on. And, in fact, what I’m doing now is on 11:30 AM on Bloomberg Radio, the same station, on WNEW 11:30 AM, 60 years ago so life goes full-cycle, you know what I’m saying? Like where I began, and I’m still enjoying it. And I do lectures at colleges and nursing homes. And I do nostalgia, memories. I was in a nursing home two weeks ago and I see a – I was giving a little lecture in a nursing home and I see a man in the front row falling asleep. I said to his wife ‘Hey what’s that?’ She said ‘My husband is sleeping.’ I said ‘Do me a favor, wake him up!’ She says ‘No, you wake him up. You put him to sleep!’ (Laughs) They have a good sense of humor, those old-timers. I’ve written 23 books. Whatever you want to tell me, whatever you want to ask me, Paul, I appreciate, but I’m very happy to be on your show. I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time and it’s fun to be chatting with you.

Well, Mr. Franklin, you mentioned a moment ago the name Eddie Cantor.


And that’s someone that maybe youngpeople should find out about. He’s an important person in American popular culture. Tell us about him.

You know what’s sad? I’ll tell you about Eddie in a second, sad how people don’t know – I met a lady the other day, she’d never heard of Joan Crawford. They never heard of Bette Davis. They never heard of Rudy Vallee. Fame is very fleeting. They barely know Bing Crosby nowadays. Frank Sinatra’s magic is waning. So it’s very noble of you to want to keep those names alive a little bit on this radio show. Eddie Cantor was the #1 star in all of the world. For many, many years he was #1 on radio with the old Chase and Sanborn Hour every Sunday night at 8:00. He was #1 in movies with movies like Roman Scandals and Strike Me Pink and they would line up around the block around the clock at Radio City Music Hall to see Eddie Cantor movies like Whoopee!Makin’ Whoopie. He was #1 in vaudeville, at the Palisadium. Over at the Palisadium he was on the bill with Georgie Jessel. He was #1 with…record sales in the 1920s so he was known as “the Apostle of Pep.” He was the energy that they needed in the early days of the depression, in the early ‘30s. He was very lively and bright, you know, sparkling and jumping up and down. And there was a big movie on his life called The Eddie Cantor Story with Keefe Brasselle, which wasn’t a great movie but he was an important part of show biz history.  He died in 1964 at the age of 72. In fact, I wrote his radio show when I was a kid he gave me a job writing his radio show with the old records I had saved up and new anecdotes about the stars… There’s still old timers who remember and I love them but the young generation today, it’s all rock and roll and Puff Daddy and Lady Gaga and Madonna and – you can’t knock what’s current, right? You can’t knock it. Trends do come and go. Trends change but I’ve got a lot of memories of the old-timers that I knew and loved when I was a kid – Veronica Lake and Rudy Vallee and Kate Smith. And, thank God, they were all dear friends of mine way back when.

One of the people in your book – and I’m talking about your book, Up Late with Joe Franklin


Just a fantastic, entertaining book that really could keep you up at night. I wanted to ask you about meeting the great Al Jolson. What was your first impression?

Well, he was known as the world’s greatest entertainer. One night, when I was a kid, I turned on the radio and I heard that voice and I said ‘Oh my God, what a voice.’ I was only 10 years old and I just fell in love with that voice. And I met him several times. And when they made the movie called The Jolson Story with Larry Parks – I love watching that – they made me sort of the technical advisor, and I lent them some of my old records, and I did it with Al Jolson a few times. He was, I mean when he would do a Broadway – he was in many, many Broadway shows and then about 10 minutes into the show he would say to the audience ‘Should I send the cast home and just sing to you?’ and they would scream ‘Yes, yes!’ and he would send the whole cast home and he would stand there and sing for three hours. And he sang Sonny Boy and Rockabye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody and Swanee and all those great songs. He was, he was beyond dynamic, beyond, beyond tantalizing, beyond anything. He was just a great, great star. He died in 1950 at the age of only 64, but what he crowded into that lifetime – it was a great, great, great, great track record. It was Al Jolson. There are Al Jolson conventions all over the world today where people line up by the thousands to come and remember him and honor him, and watch old movies and play his old records. It’s a bygone era, Paul, but it’s nice to be remembered and I hope that many of your people listening will remember Jolson, remember Cantor, and remember what fun it was back in those days.

There’s another name that I wanted to get your impression when you met George M. Cohan.

I met at the park on a bench when I was a kid. I recognized him from having seen him in a Broadway show called I’d Rather Be Right. And I said ‘Mr. Cohan, did you ever make any records?’ and he gave me a record and he went. Next time I meet him at his house, about a week later, he gave me a record. A one-sided record. There was no such thing as – it was known in those days as a 78 RPM. Long before LPs, long before albums. And it was a song called‘You Won’t Do An Business…” “You Won’t Do Any Business, If You’ Haven’t Got a Venue, If You Haven’t Got a Band.”  He autographed it with white shoe polish.  And I said ‘Mr. Cohan, how many records did you make?’ He said he’d made like six or seven back in the old days. So I set out to buy those records, and in searching I found out that Jolson made thousands, Eddie Cantor made thousands, Kate Smith made thousands. So that was the beginning of my searching and making the rounds of old records, and becoming known as the king of neuralgia (laughs) – I mean ‘nostalgia’ – and Cohan was my inspiration. He was my mentor for everything I did in later years in this business and I remember him fondly. He was, he wrote Yankee Doodle Dandy, I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy. He wrote You’re a Grand Old Flag, which he – originally it was called You’re a Grand Old Rag because that was the year of Ragtime, but the public didn’t like that connotation of the word ‘rag’ so he changed it to You’re a Grand Old Flag. And he wrote Mary is a Grand Old Name and so many fabulous songs. George M. Cohan. C-O-H-A-N, Cohan. He was the best. I had Charlie Chaplin on my TV show. I had Ronald Regan five times. I had Richard Nixon. I had John Wayne. I had Cary Grant.I had Frank Sinatra twice, Bing Crosby twice. I think I had them all. I tried for Greta Garbo. Greta Garbo was a dear friend of mine but Greta Garbo would not go on any shows. She said ‘I want to be alone!’ but she was just – we’ve got great memories, Paul.

I wanted to ask you about Woody Allen. Woody Allen is just probably the greatest film maker, in my humble opinion, of American film.

I’m a fan of Woody Allen movies. I’m in Broadway Danny Rose. I’m in Manhattan. He’s a very dear friend of mine and I enjoy his work. I think he’s a genius film maker and I can only tell you that when he makes a movie, there’s no script. He just tells you to – he just gives you the flavor of the movie role and it’s just a fantastic, the kind of mind he’s got. He’s just brilliant. Did you ever see Broadway Danny Rose?

Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

I’m in the pivotal scene, you know where the singer is trying to make his comeback – you know, the old-timer. And he’s a very dear friend of mine. You can’t knock that. He’s the modern-day Charlie Chaplin, I guess. You can’t knock that, you know?

What do you find him to be like, personally?

Very quiet. Very, very subdued. Totally, totally into – I mean, I think he still goes to a psychiatrist, as so many people do. He wants to know the meaning of life. He’s genius of the movie business. Still is to this day. His movies are eagerly awaited and they do a pretty big business all over the world, so he’s certainly got his niche.

Both on radio and on television, who has been your most talented guest?

I would say Bing Crosby. That’s the one who excited me. I always thought of Bing, Paul, as what you would call mechanically reproduced, as sort of being on radio, on TV, on records, in movies. But when he walked toward me flesh and blood that day I think I melted. I think I did my best interview that day. I don’t know – half a million, half a million interviews, I think I did my best one with Bing. He was my favorite. And you know, the ironic thing? He was not that romantic. It’s kind of like ironic because the #1 singer in the world of romantic ballads was not that romantic. He would tell his song writers, he would say ‘Don’t put the words ‘I love you’ twice in one song.’ I think he’d rather be out hunting and fishing with the boys. But Bing was his own man. His record of White Christmas is still the #1 record seller of all time. Andhe was – I just love Bing Crosby. I had people that never made any appearances on TV, including Cary Grant, including John Wayne, who would never do any interviews anyplace else but Bing, Bing remains in my mind a highlight if not the highlight.

Wow. Another one would be Frank Sinatra.

He was the best. What a voice. There’ll never be another Sinatra. One time I said ‘Frank, how could ever you go under contract at one time to three people? You’re under contract,’ I remember, ‘to Tommy Dorsey, the famous bandleader, Harry James, the famous bandleader, and your press agent, George Evans.’ He said, ‘Joe, let me tell you one thing.’ He said ‘Hearts and contracts were meant to be broken.’ (Laughs) Does that tell…I’ll never forget it. But he spoke a little bit like a kid from the East side but when he sang! His…thrilled.  Nobody else had that voice. He would make every song into a story, with a middle, with a beginning, with an ending. He was just beyond captivating. And he will endure.

One artist who still records, still tours, who got some early exposure on The Joe Franklin Show would be Barry Manilow. And he’s a singer who has paid a lot of homage to the old-time greats and the Tin Pan Alley – the American Songbook as you would say. Tell us about Manilow.

Well, he’s a legend. He certainly a music legend along with Billy Joel and so many more. One of my back-up singers for Barry Manilow was Madonna. I knew she was going to make good. She said to the other singers ‘Back up! Back up! Back up!’ She was very enterprising. She knew how to merchandise her own career. Then Barbra Streisand was my singer for one year. I think she was 17 years old. She was my house singer. She was followed by Connie Francis. Connie was followed by Eddie Fisher. I had Patti Page when she was very young – “Patti Page, the singing rage” was her name. Patti Page. I had – in those days, I had a big orchestra, a 15-piece, 18-piece orchestra that played for these singers and it was a crazy era of life. I would have all my commercials on – at one time, I had 28 commercials on my desk. Twenty-eight commercials, which I did live – 28. I did Martin Paint, Bertolli Olive Oil, Nabisco Shredded Wheat, Imperial Margarine – all on my desk, the most cluttered desk. My office is cluttered now, my office is cluttered. My office isn’t quite as well known for being a mess but I’m enjoying it. I’m still, you know, in demand for radio or TV. They want me to go back on TV, which I never will. I’ll never – I don’t want to get into that much rehearsal anymore. But it was the golden era. I was there when TV was brand new. I grew up with it and I became part of it. I was very close with Johnny Carson. I was on his show a couple of times. He was on my show a couple of times. And they’re all gone, all the other talk show hosts, except for Dick Cavett. I mean, Dick Cavett and I, we’re the last two. Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Jack Paar – they’re all gone. I’ve got great, sacred memories of those people. I love them. But we’re – I’m still hanging on.

Now, you mentioned Barbra Streisand a moment ago. What was your impression of her when you met her?

I knew she’d make good. One day she was on my panel with Rudy Vallee. Rudy said ‘You’ll never make it Barbra. You don’t have the right face. You don’t have the right nose.’ And that sort of gave her even more of a reason to accept that challenge and make good. She got a part in a Broadway show written by Harold Rome, who discovered her on my show, Harold Rome the famous songwriter, and that Broadway show was called I Can Get It for You Wholesale. She sang a song called Miss Marmelstein, Miss Marmelstein. Then, of course, she became the star of a big Broadway show called Funny Girl where she portrayed the late comedian, Fanny Brice. Then she certainly took off.  You can’t knock her. And she made a few million dollars a month ago singing at a bankers convention. She got a few million dollars for one performance. I said, ‘I gotta work two weeks for that kind of money!’ (Laughs)

You were mentioning the other talk-show hosts –


And one of them is based out of New York City who, as you like to say, he’s made good (laughs). Tell us about David Letterman. David Letterman has had you –

Oh, yeah! You can’t knock what pays the rent. He’s gigantic, as is Jay Leno. I used to get Jay Leno little jobs here and there in nightclubs to get him rolling, and he still calls me and says hello to me. And David Letterman, of course, he’s the one and only. He’s beyond a broadcast legend. He’s I guess around 65, 67 or 68 years old now but you’ve got to give him credit. He comes on every night. He’s so spontaneous and so clever and humorous. And throws his pencil into the audience. You can’t knock him. He’s beyond a legend, as is Jay Leno. You can’t knock him. And now you’ve got all these new ones coming up like Jimmy Fallon and all these others. They love being in this field and they have a certainly likability factor that the public seems to enjoy.

What does New York mean to you?

Well, I’m kind of known as Broadway Joe. I’ve been in this vicinity for about 50-60 years now and some people think it’s going downhill but I think, under the improvements of Mayor Bloomberg, it’s gone uphill. And we’ve got a new mayor soon. Mr. DiBlasio is a dear friend of mine. So I think it’s – education is up, graduations are up, tourism is way up, filmmaking in the city is now maybe bigger than what it is in California. New York, to me, is the pivotal part of the whole, the whole country. It’s the museums, it’s the stock market. I love New York. I love the fiber, the ambiance, the track record – it’s here to stay. It’s definitely here to stay.

What is the best thing about being Joe Franklin?

Well, I think the best thing is that – I mean, in all modesty, I’m very recognized even though I’m not on TV now for so many years. People say, you know, ‘Joe, we love you. We miss you. We learned so much from you. We learned culture, we learned Americana, we learned about movies, about old-time radio.’ I would take on any topic and I had a fantastic run. Let me get a world record somewhere for the world’s longest running TV talk show. I never had a talent coordinator. I would do my own – I could feel it in my mind the chemistry of who would go well on my panel. I had Ronald Regan with a dancing dentist. I got Margaret Meade with the man who whistles through his nose. I could feel who would go well together. I had a very well-known mix. Sometimes I had 15 guests on one show. I got ‘em in there, I would pack ‘em in there some days. If I had a Bill Cosby or someone like that, I would give them the whole hour, naturally. But I’ve got maybe, out of my 28,000 shows, I’ve got maybe 500 on video, which I saved. The rest have gone into space. They would tape one show over the last show. that’s how they’d save a lot of money back in those days, which is kind of sad. I wish I had more shows. I preserved more than 500 but that’s the way the cookie crumbles (laughs).

This is a question I used to ask people but I’m very curious to know – what is your all-time favorite meal?

I would say meatballs and spaghetti. Believe it or not I’m very simple. I love lamb chops – and meatballs and spaghetti and, I guess, I like a little Jello at the end. I’m like Duke Ellington in that sense. I like my dessert at the beginning because I feel like later I might not have room by the end of the meal, so I like my dessert first – cheesecake or whatever, before I start the meal (laughs). But I, I try to cut down, you know, it’s the calories. But I think best option is probably have half the plate. Have half the plate and then whatever is left, push the plate away for the second half, you know?

For anyone who listens to this broadcast, wherever they are in the world, what do you want to say to the people who are listening in?

I just want to say thank you for your loyalty and your response. And one of my deep regrets is that I never answered my fan mail. I guess thousands and thousands of people must hate me because they wrote in for autographed pictures or they wanted to send me souvenirs and I just never got around to it. The days go so fast. So, except for feeling a little guilty about the fact that I didn’t answer my mail – because I got thousands and thousands, tens of thousands of letters which I never answered – I’m happy I was able to teach people Americana, culture, show business. I’ll do the best I can for as long as they want me. I’ve got so many nibbles – two guest appearances, a request to bring back The Joe Franklin Show, which I said I never would, but it’s just been an amazing career. I’ve written one book that’s the Bible of the film industry. It’s called Classics of the Silent Screen. It’s a film history that’s second to none. It sold over a million books. And I wrote Joe Franklin’s Awfully Corny Joke Book, Joe Franklin’s Memory Lane Cookbooks that included recipes of the big movie stars of the past – Clark Gable’s onions and Jack Benny’s meatballs. Oh, it’s a great book. And I’m doing another one called Growing Up with Radio. It will be out soon about the old radio stars. I’ve got a trivia book with Square One Publishers called Joe Franklin’s Trivia Game, which was a big, big seller all over the world. My last book is into it’s third printing – you want to know why?

Why’s that?

The first two printings were blurred (laughs)! I’m only kidding. But I still enjoy knocking out these things. And I do benefits and I do a lot of speeches at universities. And the college kids all want to do a question and answer bit and they ask me about the old days and Gone with the Wind and Lucille Ball and Lassie and Lost in Space. I chose the right profession, I think, you know?

Yeah, I would definitely have to agree with you. For my last question –


Who is Joe Franklin?

Well he a certain guy that I’d like to get to meet someday. He’s a very shy, a very modest guy. He doesn’t blow his horn too much. I never made the circuits or the big-time parties. Never had an agent.   I had an agent or manager or someone who wanted to work with me. I just felt intimidated. I just rolled up myself and you can’t. I could have been bigger and been a multi, multi-millionaire but I’ve got my niche and I’m Joe Franklin who just never went to wild parties and I wasn’t on the social register. I’ve been invited all over the world – Italy, Israel, France – with the airline free, the hotel free. I just never took advantage. I just didn’t want to be like a mooch. I never took anything for nothing. I always paid my way every place I went, and it’s been a great career. And I met nice people like you, Paul. So it pays off in the end. You know?

Wow. Well, Mr. Franklin I can say there is only one Joe Franklin. You’ve brought a lot of joy.

And one is enough.  Paul, you’ve got a good radio personality and I wanted to wish you much success. I’ve got one or two people that I’d like you to chat with eventually, so we’ll be in touch, right?

Absolutely. I hope to have you again. Thank you so much.

If conversations could echo back through time how many well known faces would turn to see this wonderful talk with Joe Franklin? But that is what “the King of Nostalgia” does best, ruling the record of entertainment down on Memory Lane.


Jack Phillips: Singer-Songwriter, Recording Artist

Jack Phillips is the leader of the Jack Phillips Band, a songwriter, a singer and a recording artist. He joined us to talk about his album Café Nights in New York, an album that was influenced in short by many nights of listening to the late great Bobby Short singing at the Cafe Carlyle in New York City.

His latest album features Eddy Davis and Conal Fowkes from the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band featuring Woody Allen.

Who is Jack Phillips?

Well (laughs), I have a running joke with Eddy Davis that I’m ‘John’ by day and ‘Jack’ by night. My name is John Phillips but there’s a famous musician from the Mamas and the Papas by that same name so a friend of mine in London said, “Why don’t you call yourself ‘Jack’?” So that was a couple of years ago I started doing that with my music. So, ‘Jack Phillips’ is supposedly unique in the music business so that’s who I am now, for music purposes.

Can you recall the first album you ever bought?

Oh yeah, sure. It was Elton John’s Greatest Hits. It was from 1974 and I purchased it the summer of ’75. It changed my outlook on music completely because up until that time, I really – I was 12 years old and I had no real exposure to pop music at all. I grew up with a family that only listened to classical music and I studied the piano in those days as a young child. And my mother was a great pianist. And suddenly, you know, I discovered this wild piano performer. My interest in pop music began at that point when I was 12. I remember very clearly when I purchased that record, sure.

Tell us about the influence, or the inspiration rather, for this new album that you have. It’s all original compositions. The title of this album is Café Nights in New York.

Well, I first made my first trip to New York in 1994, I recall. Back then, I had been to New York a few times before as a student but when I came with my wife in 1994 – we had a few days to spend in New York – there were at least three things that I wanted to do. One was to have dinner at the Russian Tea Room. Another was to go catch Woody Allen and the New Orleans Jazz Band at Michael’s Pub. And it was on that evening that I met Eddy Davis and the band. And the other was to go hear Bobby Short at the Café Carlyle. And I absolutely fell in love what Bobby Short was doing. I absolutely loved it. And over the next several years I would make repeated visits to the Café Carlyle. One evening in 1998, I was talking to Bobby and he introduced me to his drummer, Klaus Suonsaari, and we’ve been friends ever since. And so, I moved to New York in 2006 and, from frequenting the Café Carlyle at the end, this time Woody Allen was there – he was playing the Café Carlyle on Monday nights – and I got to know Eddy and the band, including Conal Fowkes. And I’ve been telling Eddy for years that we should do something, let’s just write something together. And it wasn’t until this last year that I got to actually take action and do something. And when Conal and I had at least a couple of tunes, we got together with Eddy and Eddy, you know, agreed to produce the album, and that’s where it really got started. But it was inspired by many, many evenings spent at the Café Carlyle listening to Bobby Short and all that, all that wonderful sophistication he brought to that scene in those days.

The producer, Eddy Davis. What is he like to work with?

(Laughs) Eddy’s fantastic. You know he comes from a composition background. He studied music theory and composition in school, and he’s a prolific writer. I’m willing to bet you he writes one or two songs every single day. And he’s just terrific. He knows so much about music. He knows the history of music and the business of music and orchestration and everything. He was terrific to work with. He understood what I was trying to do and I couldn’t have done it without him. He was the arranger and the producer on the record. I had a very vague idea of what I wanted to do when I was writing some of the material with Conal, but it was really, it was really Eddy’s genius that sort of fleshed it all out and created the beautiful arrangements that are on the album.

A lot of the songs, as you mentioned, they were also written with Conal Fowkes – a couple of them are anyways. What is he like to write with?

I got together with him at the piano and I had some vague ideas of what I wanted to do. I generally walked in with a lyric that I had written and I might have had, for example, the first line of a song. And it’s not that I can’t write music by myself. I do and I’ve written loads of pop songs but I don’t have the skill that Conal brings to it. Conal was able to help me think of chord progressions and chord changes that I couldn’t come up with myself. So he and I sat down together. I would sing the first line and he would help me think through, you know, where the song should go and give me some things to think about, and then it all just kind of felt better that way. The first song we did together was called I’ve got Sophistication Too and that just came together so beautifully.

Well, tell us about the inspiration behind the lyrics on that song, I’ve Got Sophistication Too.

Well, I think that harkens back to my recollections of studying time at the Café Carlyle and probably, more relevantly, listening to Bobby Short and the songs that he sang, many of which were written by Cole Porter and others, Rogers and hart and so forth. And maybe it’s influenced also by the movies of the ‘30s. If you can sort of imagine, you know, an old black and white film with people in tuxedos in their, in their penthouse apartments in New York, stirring martinis and so forth. And that was just all so glamorous to me, and that was kind of  the picture I wanted to paint throughout the album. I was trying to put a little glamour into the music.

There is another song on this album, it’s called The Old Grey Hat, which you wrote. Tell us about that song.

Well, that one was purely inspired by listening to Woody – Woody Allen and the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band – at the Café Carlyle. Woody has a very distinct style of playing the clarinet. He’s actually a tremendously good clarinetist. In fact, if you – you know, the proof of it, uh, you can watch an old Dick Cavett episode – it’s probably on YouTube – where he played some just terrific clarinet. But in recent times, Woody tries to play the clarinet in a very original, what Eddy calls the ‘crude’ style, very much the way it would have been played perhaps in 1917 or the very early ‘20s in New Orleans. And I was very taken by that. I really admire and appreciate what he’s doing in keeping old New Orleans jazz alive. In fact, if it wasn’t for Woody doing it, I’m sure there would be lots of people who would just not be aware of how great that music was. And so that – I took inspiration from that. I created a little piece of music that was similar in style to some of the pieces that they’ve played there. I, basically, lyric’d around a little motif from at least a couple of his films where he mentions in the films ‘the grey hat’ or ‘the gray het of compromise’ the grey hat of compromise. And so, I kind of wrote a little funny little lyric around that idea and that music that I hear them play at the Café Carlyle.

It’s a really interesting connection there because of, you know, the Café Carlyle, your love of Bobby Short who appears in the Woody Allen film, Hannah and Her Sisters, which makes me curious. Are you a fan of Mr. Allen’s films?

Sure. I do know what you’re talking about. I do know that scene from Hannah and Her Sisters and that was a terrific little appearance that Bobby made in that film. And, of course, Bobby has been in other films too. But yes, I do admire his film work very much. And I don’t think anybody alive has made me laugh quite so hard, and also think deeply about the meaning of life – or maybe, as Woody might say, ‘the lack of meaning of life.’

(Laughs) Do you have a favorite Woody Allen film?

Oh I don’t know. There’s just so many of them. But I was so tickled to have been invited to the Clinton’s … – you know, a couple of years ago when Conal recorded those beautiful Cole Porter pieces that were used last year in Midnight in Paris. And so, I have a great connection with that film. I had been in Paris just a few months before they shot that movie. It’s certainly one of my favorites right now.

Working our way back to your album, Café Nights in New York – our special guest, Jack Phillips – do you have a favorite song on this record?

I think they all, they’re all nice. I think, I think the one that Eddy and I collaborated on called Someone is very nice.

That is a good one.

We had not collaborated together on anything until we did that song together and I sat down at his piano and just came up with the first couple of notes – it was just, you know, it was just two notes. And those two notes suggested an after of, you know, another couple of notes, and Eddy and I said. ‘That’s good. We like that.’ And then because it was just two syllables, I just came up with the word ‘someone’ and we were off to the races. I mean, the song just fell together beautifully. I think Eddy did a marvelous job of arranging it. I think it’s a good song.

When someone listens to this album, Café Nights in New York, what do you want the listener to get from the experience?

Well, I hope that they’ll maybe be transported in time. Maybe they’ll remember a more sophisticated time – or should I say a more glamorous time? – that we all lived, when people went out for dinner, people dressed up for dinner, people when dancing. It was just a, maybe a more civilized time? I don’t know. I hope it, I hope it moves people.

What is the best thing about being Jack Phillips?

(Laughs) Oh, that’s funny. Gosh, I don’t know. Being married to my wife and having a beautiful 11-year old daughter. Those are certainly probably the best things about being Jack Phillips.

Do you see yourself delving more into music like this? Making recordings like this?

Well sure! I mean, if the public likes it, if  people get what I’m trying to do, I would absolutely love to do some more of this. I would love to work with Eddy again. I, you know, have a lot of interest. I would love to make another pop record. I would love to make a blues record. But I would absolutely love to do something along these lines again, sure.

For all the listeners out there who would like to find out more information, what web site can they go to?

Alright, and that’s My last question is open-ended. For anyone who’s listening to this broadcast, what would you like to say to all the people who are listening in?

Support great music. Support your kid’s interest in music. Go hear live music. They need your support. And it’s because of your support that we can do this.

Mr. Phillips, thank you very much for this interview. It’s been a real pleasure to speak to you.

Thanks so much, Paul, for having me.


Jeff Daniels: Actor, Songwriter

JEFF DANIELS is another one of those singer-songwriters who is also an actor.  This interview was recorded on Halloween, on the stage at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, Georgia.  Jeff Daniels was kind enough to perform a song for us.

Daniels does a great job of talking about the creative life.  He is a great songwriter.  His serious songs represent his best work.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to welcome our special guest, fellow Michigander, Jeff Daniels. Thanks so much for making the time to do this.

Thanks, Paul.

Who is the real Jeff Daniels?

I have no idea. That would take, um, probably a team of psychiatrists to figure out. I mean, if you look at the acting career it’s certifiably schizophrenic. It really is (laughs) because you can go from Dumb and Dumber to, uh, to Gettysburg or Squid and the Whale – there’s a lot of people in between those two, those two or three people. So, uh, probably the music, uh, is probably the closest but even in the music I go wildly comic to very serious so I’m probably still in search of whoever that is.

Can you remember and tell us some of your earliest musical influences?

I remember getting Tumbleweed Connection, the Elton John album and I didn’t even know who Elton was. And the album jacket, the cover, intrigued me at a young age and I bought it and I just loved it. And I didn’t know why I loved it. I’d never heard anything like it. And I think a lot of it was Bernie – Elton’s playing but Bernie Taupin, the writing. As I look back, I started to look at the writers. I started to look at the story-tellers and then that led to guys like Arlo Guthrie who could tell a story and then weave a song into that story. Stevie Goodman – I saw Stevie Goodman at The Bottom Line in New York – amazed at what that guy did with just himself and a guitar. Christine Lavin. You know, lately, guys like Todd Snider. Todd’s got such a point of view. Only Todd can write those songs and they’re almost like you can’t cover them. So, and that’s what you look for in writing – guys that have a singular point of view.

Yeah. When I was listening to the album that I got of yours, I thought ‘this guy sounds like Steve Goodman and Arlo Guthrie.’ That is what I thought (laughs).

Yeah. My heroes. My early heroes. They really, they openedthe door for you can just have a guitar, and you can write funny and you can write serious back-to-back and that – and Christine Lavin was another one. I chased all those three people. They were, they kind of led the way for me.

Could you pick a favorite artist that influenced you?

No, probably not because I’m still probably trying to, uh, define what it is I do and it’s influenced by a lot of people. Then you get guys like Stefan Grossman who I’ve been privileged to have lesson from and have also studied him since the ‘80s – his tab books on finger picking and the whole deal. Then you get into the blues. You get guys like, you know, Lonnie Johnson, Skip James, Robert Johnson – all those guys and what were they singing about? What were they doing? Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee. I remember listening to them in the ‘80s. A friend turned me on to them. They’re all probably in there somewhere. There’s a – Lyle Lovett is a guy that, again, as a writer only Lyle could write that song that way. If I had to pick somebody present-day it would probably be Lyle.

Can you remember the first song that you wrote?

Yeah. It’s in my notebook. My big, huge notebook of everything I’ve ever written. Yeah. I think it was about my dog, my first dog and it’s god-awful. It’ll never see the light of day.

You do this tour. You have four albums to your credit thus far. So you’ve recorded, you’ve written songs, you’ve performed. Could you pick a favorite part of music?

I think the moment – and it happens in some of the older songs now that I’ve played a few hundred times – but it’s, uh, certainly that moment when you find you get on top of that new song. And it takes a bunch of performances in front of people to kind of give birth to it. But you get on top if it, you get the phrasing right, you get the guitar right and then it connects. And you see and hear from an audience that this thing that really was just an idea in your head weeks or months ago is now something that you will be playing on a regular basis because it connects with people you don’t even know. It’s that moment where that first connection happens, that new thing. That’s pretty cool.

In the liner notes to one of your albums you talk about how these songs are like a snapshot and you’ve been keeping, like in this notebook, like a journal. Take it a step further and you record these songs and perform for people. What would you say makes you want to do that?
I’m living a very creative life but it’s creative on my terms. And this country, you know, uh, it – I wouldn’t say it’s exemplary in the way it treats its artists or supports its artists. I could argue that Europe does a better job of that or takes it more seriously. I think America has always been like that. There is certainly room, there is room for artists and art but you kind of have to make your own space, you know, if it’s what you’re supposed to do, which is what I was told at the age of 21. I had a director from New York see me in a college production and he took me aside and he literally asked me ‘You know what you should do with your life, don’t you?’ and he said ‘Come to New York and join my theater company and chase an acting career. No promised but you’re good enough to give it a shot.’ And that acting chase led to a lot of sitting around, waiting for the phone to ring, for someone else to tell me it was time to be creative. The guitar, which I picked up in 1976, became that go-to creative outlet so I could keep that side of my life and that part of my brain, and that – just that part of me, which is probably the essential part, going 24/7. And I didn’t have to wait for the phone to ring. I didn’t have to wait for somebody in Hollywood to tell me that I’m hot and I can now be in a movie. I just was able to do it on my own. The music has probably, you know, fulfilled me the most of all.

Ladies and gentlemen, you’re listening to an interview with singer-songwriter and actor, Jeff Daniels. Grandfather’s Hat – tell us about that tune.
That’s a song that – I wear a fedora. I really like those fedoras. They’re kind of timeless and, um, I was – my kids played hockey and, uh, high school hockey in Michigan, and I was wearing it to one of the games and a friend of mine came up to me. And he knew my family and he knew my grandfather, and he came up to me and he goes ‘Is that your grandfather’s hat?’ and I said ‘No, no. It’s just one that was very similar to …’ Before I got to the end of the sentence, I knew it was a song. Not just a song about my particular grandfather but your mother’s necklace or your aunt’s ring or your father’s knife. You know, Guy Clark has a great, great song, uh, about his dad’s, um, jackknife. And so it’s that, that kind of ‘missing someone who is no longer here’.
Well, would you like to play it for all the listeners out there
Sure. [Performs Grandfather’s Hat]

Ladies and gentlemen, Jeff Daniels. Thanks so much. One of the things about music is you get to meet a lot of people. One of the tracks that you do, you did a cover of the George Harrison song, Here Comes the Sun. tell us about some of the exciting people you’ve met through your music.


I mean, first of all, George Harrison – say no more (laughs).
Yeah, that was pretty cool. Uh, the short version of that story is I was doing a movie called Checking Out in 1988 and it was produced by George Harrison’s independent film company called Handmade Films. And we were hoping he would show up on the set in L.A. and, sure enough, one day he did. And I had a guitar in the dressing room and I said ‘Would you mind signing my guitar?’ and he said ‘I’d be happy to.’ Took him into a back room so it wouldn’t be, like, 100,000 signatures. And he signed the guitar and then, before he gave it back to me, he flipped it over and, on that guitar, played Here Comes the Sun. I mean, just me – and two other guys – just the three of us sitting there. It was like our own little private concert. It was such a gift that he gave and he couldn’t have been nicer. He couldn’t have been more interested in anyone other than himself. It was just a great lesson on how to handle that level of fame or any kind of fame.

You have a theater up in Michigan and everyone can check out The proceeds from the sale of the CDs goes towards this theater, the Purple Rose of Cairo. We just reviewed that film. It was from 1985 but we did like a flashback kind of thing. So tell us bout the theater a bit.

The Purple Rose Theater Company is 20 years old this season. Uh, it’s mission is mainly to do new American plays, particularly plays about that part of the country. That’s how I was brought up in New York, at the Circle Repertoire Company. Every play was a new play. Every play, the months before, the playwright was walking around rewriting the second act, getting ready for rehearsal. There was a thrill to that versus doing what New York had done last year and being popular, or doing, you know, Shakespeare or the old classics and all, which are fine. And many, many theaters do those. I want new stuff. I want living, breathing playwrights writing about the people sitting in our seats. Write about them. Connect with them and then I’m interested. After 20 years, that’s what we’re able to do now, more often than not. I’m real proud of that place and the fact that that part of the country supports it. It means the world to me.

What made you call the theater The Purple Rose of Cairo? That movie is great. I got to interview Woody.

I was a young actor. I was 30 at the time. I’d been in New York about nine years. Terms of Endearment had come out and I got that movie ten days after Terms of Endearment had been released. So Terms was now the #1 movie in the country which, at the time, for a character-driven film like Terms – it bypassed Raiders of the Lost Ark and all those kind of at the time special-effect movies. You hadn’t seen a character driven comedy-drama in a long time like that yet there we were, #1 – due, in no part, to Jack, Shirley and Debra. Jim Brooks had a hit and, uh, I was, I happened to be in it. Ten days later, they were looking to, uh, recast Purple Rose of Cairo and they called me in and, you know, a screen test later and, you know, a meeting with the studio, I got it. So now I’m working with Woody Allen. And I get handed the script and it’s not a supporting role or it’s not one starring role. It’s two starring roles in a Woody Allen movie. And I’m going ‘OK. Everything I have ever learned, please God, let me remember now.’ (Paul laughs) and that’s how I went into work everyday. And about halfway through the movie, Woody said I was good. For a young actor who had been battling, you know, rejection and, uh, are you going to make it? What’s it – you know, is this really worth it? It’s nine years. Terms of Endearment, yeah, but is it two or three movies and done? You know, you just don’t – the business is so, uh, here-today-gone-tomorrow. And Woody said I was good. And so, I remember going home and saying to my wife, um, ‘I think I’m going to be able to make a living in this business.’ And it wasn’t ‘I’m going to be a star.’ It wasn’t ‘I’m a genius.’ It was ‘If Woody Allen thinks I’m good, I think I’m going to be able to make a living in this business because if I’m good enough for Woody, I’m good enough for anybody.’ And that was a turning point. So years later, when it was time to name the theater, we named it the Purple Rose Theater Company.

My two final questions. What is the best part about being Jeff Daniels?

So many people go through life having to do things they don’t want to do, or they have a job that they wish they’d never taken but there’s security in it. And I think the satisfaction that I’ve had – I’m going way back to that director, Marshall W. Mason from Circle Rep, when he said ‘You know what you should do with your life, don’t you?’ What he didn’t say? It’s going to be hard. You’re only one who believes in you and you’re going to have to find people along the way. The fact that, decades later, I pulled that off and that now I’m still living a creative life and doing what I want to do, and that people in the business, whether it’s Broadway or film, TV or music want whatever it is I do – that’s the best part. It’s that I’m still relevant.

My last question. What would like to say in closing to all the people who are listening?

What I told my kids. I tell my kids, ‘Fall in love with tomorrow.’ Don’t worry about today. Don’t worry about the past. Fall in love with tomorrow. What are you doing tomorrow? That’s the creative process. That’s the creative life right there, is working on that next thing. Yeah. Fall in love with tomorrow.

Well, Mr. Daniels, it’s a pleasure. Thank you.
Thanks, Paul.