Ray Conniff In Britain
About This Album
Recorded live in Britain on September 26, 1973. This was Ray's first broadcast for the BBC.
Sound Supervisor (for Ray Conniff): Bob Ballard
Balance (for the BBC): Johnny Bathurst
Producer (for the BBC): David Rayvern Allen
Design and illustrations: Roslav Szaybo, Michael Farrell, and Mary Winton.
It was in February 1973 that Ray Conniff and his delightful Swiss wife Vera paid their first visit to the U.K. An exploratory visit, you might say, because although it fitted in nearly at the tai end of a European holiday, the real object was for Ray and CBS Records to explore the possibility of presenting a Conniff tour later in the year. With the sole exception of Frank Sinatra, I should guess that Ray's records must get more airplay on BBC Radio 2 than any other American artist. So it was with great pleasure that I received an invitation to meet him, and join in the discussions between Ray and CBS with a view to including a broadcast on Radio 2 as part of the projected tour.
I must say that after that meeting I came away gloomy. The financial obstacles involved in bringing 16 singers and 3 musicians all the way from the U.S. seemed insurmountable, apart from anything else. Then there would have to be lengthy discussions with both Equity and the Musicians Union to get the necessary permits. Even if they gave agreement for the tour, would I get permission to do a broadcast?
So it was a most pleasant surprise when CBS rang me in July to say that the tour was on, commencing in late September, and could I still do the broadcast? I said "Yes" instantly, before I had even begun to work out how. This was something that Radio 2 had got to do.
What you hear on this album is the broadcast Ray did for us. We recorded it before an invited audience on September 26th at our studio in the Golders Green Hippodrome and transmitted it on September 29th, 1215-1300, as our major spectacular in a special "Radio 2 Stereo Week." All we have edited from the broadcast are some of the announcements and some applause. The BBC was proud to play hose to Ray, his singers and his musicians. And the British public gave him a never-to-be-forgotten welcome at every one of his tour dates, from Bournemouth to Newcastle; from Bristol to Clacton.
Many credits are due to many people for the success of the visit, and I know Ray would want me to make some. First then, to Dick Asher, Managing Director of CBS Great Britain, and to CBS stalwarts Paddy Flemming, Derek Witt and James Fleming (no relation!); without all of them, and especially Paddy, nothing would have happened. Credit, too, to Eddie Kennedy and Robert Masters, the impresarios who master-minded the tour ñ 18 cities in 23 days for Ray and Vera, the 16 Singers, the Orchestra of 18, and the small army of back-stage staff necessary to look after all the music, instruments, lights, electronic equipment etc. If you think it's a glamorous life, just try it sometime! Ray is a hard task-master ñ a musical perfectionist. But he also has a great sense of humour, and when things are at their blackest he will always compensate with a joke or a gag. Thanks also to Equity and the Musicians Union for allowing it all to happen. And finally, a special thank you to the 3 famous visiting American musicians in what is otherwise an all-British, all-Star Band: Johnny Guanieri (ex-Benny Goodman) on piano; Johnny Best (ex-Glenn Miller) on trumpet; and Skeets Herfurt (ex-Tommy Dorsey) on clarinet and tenor. Oh, and of course Ray Conniff (ex-Bunny Berigan, Artie Shaw and Harry James) on trombone!
I hope you enjoy this album as much as I know our listeners enjoyed the broadcast. All I can say is: "Ray, please come back soon and do it all over again." ñ Mark White (Head of BBC Radio 2)