Just two obscure entries for this themed episode, but folks from my neck of the woods will know the singer of the first and the subject of the second.
Bob Braun, “‘Til Tomorrow”
Cincinnati was home to perhaps the first daytime television talk/variety show, The 50 Club (there were 50 seats in the audience), hosted by Ruth Lyons beginning in the late 1940s. A few years later, capacity was doubled and the show was rechristened The 50/50 Club. When Lyons retired suddenly in January 1967, her protégé Bob Braun took command and kept the show going until the mid-1980s.
I guess it was during the summers of my youth that I would regularly catch bits of the hour-long 50/50 Club, enough at least so that Braun and his cast became familiar. The format was pretty set by the mid-70s: a couple of guests (often entertainers whose tours had taken them to Cincy), a few songs, and oodles of bonhomie.
Braun was an almost exact contemporary of my parents. Like them, he was raised in the northernmost tip of Kentucky, mere miles from Cincinnati. Mom was a year younger than Braun, and she told us more than once about seeing Braun showing off in his convertible, cruising around Frisch’s Big Boy on a weekend night, back when they were in high school. Maybe I’m misremembering, but I also seem to recall that Braun’s parents were parishioners of the church my father was serving when I was born.
Bob Braun was born to entertain, a natural schmoozer. He made a number of attempts at a recording career, and even had one Top 40 hit: “‘Til Death Do Us Part,” a treacly, mostly-spoken-word piece, peaked at #26 on Labor Day weekend, 1962. His work was decidedly in the easy-listening vein (an exception is 1954’s “Rock and Roll Country Girl“); as you might imagine, this didn’t work out so well as the 60s progressed. (Check out this fascinating clip of a March 1964 appearance on American Bandstand: Dick Clark is trying to help break Braun’s current release, while Braun clearly is sucking up to Clark, both seemingly oblivious to the tidal wave hitting popular music at that instant.)
Another of Braun’s releases wound up in Dad’s stash. “‘Til Tomorrow” is from the Broadway musical Fiorello! (Did you know there was a Tony Award-winning production about the life of Fiorello LaGuardia in the late 50s?) It was released in 1961, while my dad was at that church in Braun’s hometown (lending credence to my speculation above). Braun’s version is not on YouTube, but other recordings are available if you’re curious enough. By the way, Cliff Lash was the bandleader on The 50/50 Club, and the B-side was written by Ruth Lyons.
I’ve gone on long enough, but one more thing–there’s a strong chance non-Cincinnatians are familiar with Braun. After The 50/50 Club ended in 1984, he headed to LA to try his luck as an actor. Braun did score a few parts, including a scene in Die Hard 2, but he made his biggest mark in late 80s/early 90s commercials for Craftmatic beds:
Be Merry, “The Ballad of Adolph Rupp”
Throughout his life, Dad was an ardent (and I do mean ardent) fan of University of Kentucky men’s basketball. Their ascendancy as a national powerhouse came toward the end of my father’s high school days; since he went to college in Lexington, he was able to see them play often during their peak (though a point-shaving scandal led to the cancellation of their 1952-53 season). Somewhere around here I’ve got his ticket stub from the 1958 NCAA Championship game in Louisville, when UK beat Seattle for their fourth title in a decade.
Adolph Rupp was the architect of this dynasty, coaching UK from 1930 to 1972. As Rupp’s career was winding down, a local fan wrote and recorded “The Ballad of Adolph Rupp” under the name Be Merry. It’s typical of the genre, both specific in some of the details yet bland and generic in its praise. Fortunately for you, it is available on YouTube:
There’s no date on the 45, but circumstantial evidence points to it being released in 1970. The B-side is “Kentucky Basketball ’69,” a recap of the mostly successful 1969-70 season delivered by Caywood Ledford, UK basketball’s radio play-by-play man, and a legend in his own right.