This was a VERY special weekend - here's why!
On Saturday, March 23, 1974, WMAL radio announcer Tom Gauger, also a Percy Faith fan, managed to sneak me into the studio for an hour-long interview (which boiled down to perhaps 18 minutes with commercials/PSA's/News/Paul Harvey/etc. etc. removed). That meant Tom and I were able to converse freely with Percy Faith - and I was seated right next to my musical hero!
I was 22 years old (I think, my math is terrible) and I drove to the studio in my brand new Honda Civic (turned out to be an awful car, but it was cheap, and I wasn't making much at the music store!) I hastily set up my Sony 650 to record the show off the 5,000 watt AM genuine mono signal of WMAL, hoping the machine wouldn't run out of tape. It didn't, so you can hear that interview elsewhere on this site.
Nervous? Yes indeed but amazed that when I was whisked into the studio (no credentials, just another fan) Percy Faith guessed who I was, and had a letter I had written to him in his jacket pocket, and said "Somehow I figured I'd see you here, but in case I didn't I was going to call you from my hotel." WOW. More amazing is the first question Tom and I had to ask Percy was the same - could there possibly be a good stereo recording of the Columbia Album of George Gershwin (Percy's favorite composer) salted away in the vaults? The answer was a firm NO. The hour passed in 5 minutes (seemed like it). In the studio was Percy, Sgt. Gleeson from the Air Force Concert Band, Tom Gauger, Percy Faith, and me.
No one will remember this but me, but I sat in the "elevator lobby" of WMAL of Jenifer Street NW DC and almost didn't get in to the interview! There was a security door, and the station staff could buzz people in, there was an intercom speaker. The speaker was broken, and I could JUST BARELY HEAR Tom trying to yell at me to come in to the station, but I wasn't 100% sure. So just minutes before air time Tom bounded to the door and said "get in here" and in the engineer's booth I was introduced to Percy and Sgt. Gleeson.
After the radio show concluded, Percy handed me his camera that took incredible color shots with no flash (indoors!) and that's the camera used to take the picture of Tom, Percy, and Sgt. Gleeson and then Percy and I stepped right outside the office building and he said "let's take another picture" and handed his camera to Sgt. Gleeson, who took a picture of me standing next to Percy. Hey, it was 1974, I had REALLY long hair and Ray Manzarek type sideburns. I should have looked NEAT but it was a crazy time for me personally, I was about to be hired by the foam (phone) company where I'd spend the next 31 odd years, I had a job at a large piano/organ company with many stores, AND was being asked to work for a new radio station with an old fashioned format as "music director" - I used to hunt for records all over the Washington area and found a few for WQMR/WGAY radio (seen elsewhere on this site, it was one of the pioneer "beautiful music" stations but has long been ROCK of course). Percy had the film developed and asked me to deliver Tom his copy and autographed a copy for me!
The next day was the concert. Seated front-row-center, Percy recognized me from the podium and pointed and waved! The section I was seated in went abuzz - "That Must Be His Son" - nope, just a fan. The concert, as you will hear on this recording, was VERY VERY VERY unusual. Why? THERE WERE NO STRINGS, the most important part of most of Faith's arrangements. After all, this was the United States Air Force CONCERT *BAND* - so I was told that late into the night about 6 orchestra members and Percy worked to remap string parts on the manuscripts to be carried by mostly flutes and clarinets. Did it work? Well, it wasn't ideal, but the electricity that Faith brought to the concert hall yielded many standing ovations and excitement. Two selections drew long applause and great delight in particular, because they were "swinging" arrangements that weren't harmed by the lack of strings - ONE NOTE SAMBA and KAHLUA (Faith composition as well as arrangement). The latter drew the longest applause. KAHLUA drew the longest standing ovation - and it was very obvious the concert band enjoyed the @#$% out of playing it.
There was a reception line after the concert so naturally I wanted to see Faith again if only for a minute - and I had brought along a just-received copy of HATTORI MELODIES. Faith was delighted with the cover art and said "I have a tape from the studio but they haven't sent a disc yet" and I had two spares and offered to send him one immediately, but he assured me he'd get a copy as soon as he got back to LA. I only brought the album because I thought it possible he had not seen the cover art, and I was right. Then to my amazement he took the time to find an almost dried-out felt marker in his jacket, and autographed the album (on this web site somewhere) - he wrote "For Bill, A Pleasure For You To Be "One Of Us" - Percy Faith. WOW. I had only gotten two other autographs, one from Roger Williams circa 1970 and Hank Steele (friend and collector from Marcellus Falls, NY) had sent an album to Warren Barker for him to autograph for me and send to me.
It's interesting that in the printed notes (program) for the concert, it says Faith recorded over 40 albums. What The Heck. Listen to this concert recording and you'll hear regular conductor Col. Arnald D. Gabriel mention 70 which was more like it!
ONE YEAR LATER...
If you listen to this recording you'll hear that Percy Faith planned to return to guest conduct the USAF Concert Band the next year - and he did! Sadly, I know of no recording of it. The first concert recording was supposed to be from WETA-FM which "I think" broadcast each Sunday's concert on a one-week delayed basis - in stereo - but the tape I used is from Peter Faith's collection with no mention of the radio station, in genuine mono. Also, it doesn't include the "classical warhorses" that were part of the concert conducted by Col. Gabriel. So no recording from the second year at all. I do have the program, it won't scan (blue with faint black print) but the selections were: MUSIC OF BROADWAY - March from CAMELOT; The Sound of Music; Fiddler On The Roof; and Climb Ev'ry Mountain; POP TUNES, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Love The One You're With (with the Singing Sergeants). Then, TWO FROM THE FILMS: What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life and Shaft; concluding with EXCERPTS FROM THE ROCK OPERA "JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR" - Superstar, I Don't Know How To Love Him (with Singing Sergeants), Heaven On Their Minds, Everything's Alright (with Singing Sergeants), concluding with Hosanna.
I tried to get copies of these shows back then and was informed by the PBS radio station that I wasn't of sufficient pedigree or something to that effect.
At this concert, Henry Steele and his wife Karen, stayed with my mother and I so they could see the Sunday concert (I flew up there once, different climate entirely from DC, their closest airport was Syracuse. Hank and Karen loved "quality music" and he was especially keen on Percy Faith and some of the "sweet" big bands (e.g., Freddy Martin). He had three or four thousand records in his collection!!!
After the concert, Henry Steele, Karen, my mother and I were in the lobby, I was pretty sure I'd not be meeting Faith this time. I was wrong! A gentleman in the lobby saw how anxious we were to get into the reception (now in a room, not the lobby, and "invitation only." He gave us his invitations - wow. He said something like "I can see how much you want to get in to meet Mr. Faith, so here you go" - I never knew his name but really appreciated that! I still have the pass, it says "President General's Reception Room Pass." So Henry (Hank) and I went in and I know it was a huge thrill for Henry (Hank) to meet Percy Faith; sadly the visit was very short and Faith did not look well at all. I took no pictures the first time but this second time I did take a few of Faith at the podium - but I prefer to keep them to myself as Percy Faith had lost so much weight due to his illness.
Musically this second concert was "almost no strings" - there was one lone cellist.
I'm very sorry I don't have a tape of the second concert, but listen to this recording and you'll get some idea of the PF arrangements with no strings. Yes, they are sorely missed but as I said before, the precise, punchy, lively conducting of Percy Faith of his amazing arrangements made it all seem trivial as we listened at both concerts!