Monday, July 12, 2010

Mel Torme and Lacoste (1956)

Vocalist, drummer, composer, and actor Mel Torme was 30 years old at the time of this LP cover photo. By this time he had already written what would become his most famous composition "The Christmas Song" and had attained some degree of notoriety as the leader of a vocal ensemble (Mel Torme & his Mel-Tones) with Artie Shaw's Orchestra and as a solo singer. Born in Chicago, he had started to spend an increasing amount of time in Los Angeles during the late-1940s. He had his first (and only) number 1 hit in 1949 with "Carless Hands" on the then independent label Capitol Records. The following year his California Suite was the first 12-inch LP released on that label. His association with Bethlehem Records began in 1955, important not only for the music it produced but for the fact that Torme was able to pick his own material and arrangers. He chose, wisely, Marty Paich who parlayed the cool jazz sounds of the Miles Davis Nonet and the Gerry Mulligan Tentet into his own outstanding Dek-tette. Although he briefly had had a television show in the early-1950s, he (much like Astaire) adding acting to his resume the year after this LP.

The Lacoste brand was 23 years old at the time of this LP cover photo. Founded by a retired tennis player, by 1939 it had developed a reputation within its native France as a high-quality garment, but it's production was interrupted by the Second World War. In 1951, the company not only began exporting products (initially to Italy), but it also added a range of colors alongside it now semi-famous white "chemises." The following year, Lacoste polo shirts made their first appearances here in the United States, initially licensed by American businessman Vincent Draddy through his Izod organization. Draddy bolstered the reputation of the brand by making sure his friends such as President Eisenhower and Bing Crosby were seen wearing Lacoste polos.

Unlike Torme, Lacoste would have to wait until the 1980s to reach its peak in popularity.

2 comments:

wilthomer said...

Interesting read as always!

Karate Boogaloo said...

I love the Velvet Fog...that Bethlehem LP is really good as I recently found out when I found a copy at some garage sale or another.