Rebecca Deniston at Taking Up Room is hosting a blogathon dedicated to all things related to L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, and the classic 1939 MGM film on August 23 - 25. Click 3 times to access the contributions: DAY ONE, DAY TWO, DAY THREE.
May 13, 1909 - January 24, 1992
Composer, arranger, performer, choral director Ken Darby was an honoured member of his profession. He was awarded three Oscars, sharing with Alfred Newman for the scoring of The King and I, 1956, sharing with Andre Previn for the scoring of Porgy and Bess, 1959, and sharing with Alfred Newman for the scoring of Camelot, 1967. Other nominations were for South Pacific, 1958, Flower Drum Song, 1961, and How the West Was Won, 1962. He was awarded the Grammy for Best Soundtrack Album for Porgy and Bess and nominated for Best Soundtrack Album for Flower Drum Song.
The King's Men
Jon Dodson, Ken Darby, Rad Robinson, Bud Linn
The King's Men vocal group was formed in Hollywood in 1929 and enjoyed great success on radio and recordings, performing with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and appearing in movies such as Alexander's Ragtime Band, 1938 as an Army quartet. The group appeared as cowboys in several Hopalong Cassidy movies, and in Stagecoach War, 1940 they even played a gang of singing outlaws.
THE WIZARD OF OZ
Charles Becker as the Munchkin Mayor
Singing voice by Ken Darby
Herbert Stothart hired Ken Darby for MGM and his first screen credit for Orchestral and Vocal Arrangements was for The Wizard of Oz. Along with the song arrangements, and working with Douglas Shearer to create the sound of the Munchkin characters, Ken and the King's Men also performed. Rad Robinson was the voice of coroner, Bud Linn and Jon Dodson voiced The Lollipop Guild, and Ken was "Hizzoner", the esteemed mayor of Munchkin Land.
The Wizard of Oz, 1939 was placed on the National Film Registry in 1989. The film won Oscars for Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg's Over the Rainbow and Herbert Stothart's original score. The movie also received nominations for Best Picture, Best Color Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Special Effects.
Hopping, skipping and jumping through Ken Darby's career we land on another childhood favourite, Disney's Make Mine Music, 1946. Ken's work is on display here as a songwriter (Casey at the Bat), choral director (Blue Bayou) and performer with The King's Men (The Martins and the Coys).
Much of Ken Darby's movie career would be spent at 20th Century Fox. Ken's songwriting credits were often uncredited by his choice or attributed to his wife of 60 years Vera Matson. Among these we find the songs in Rancho Notorious, 1952, the theme song to Vicki, 1953, the lyrics to A Little Girl from Little Rock in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the songs in River of No Return, 1954, and your personal favourite that I neglected to mention.
Ken Darby, Elvis Presley
Ken and Elvis Presley wrote/adapted the tunes for the film Love Me Tender, 1956 including changing the ballad Aura Lee into the popular title tune.
Alfred Newman, Ken Darby
One of my favourite musical treats is the score to How the West Was Won for which Alfred Newman and Ken Darby were nominated for the Oscar for Best Music, Score - Substantially Original. Ken wrote the lyrics to How the West Was Won, Nine Hundred Miles from Home, On the Banks of the Sacramento, and music and lyrics for I'm Bound for the Promised Land. The Ken Darby Chorus is heard throughout the score, with Ken singing Shenandoah and When Johnny Comes Marching Home.
Like many of us, Ken Darby was a fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe. Unlike many of us, he wrote a book dedicated to the abode of the famous fictional detective. One day it will be on my bookshelf!
The above photo is from my years in the first soprano section of the Etobicoke Centennial Choir. In my time machine fantasy, I am a much better sight-reader than ever I was, and I can roll my r's like nobody's business. I am also a member of the Ken Darby Chorus.