TV Director Recalls Long Music Career
Monday - August 20, 1962
Last Update: 04-05-2018
NEW YORK - When it comes to discussing music on television, there's probably no one better qualified than Norman Paris. On April 11, 1948, the Norman Paris Quartet played the first live music on TV. He's been in TV ever since and today Norman is the musical director of I've Got a Secret." and has been for the last six years.
Possibly the best thing that TV ever did for Norman was get him out of the entertainment rat race that calls itself the night club circuit. Norman hasn't had to play in a night club since 1957.
"The then first lady of television, Kyle MacDonnell, was on that first live music variety show," Norman remembered. "Back then we had no arrangements, no rehearsals, we just winged it. When there was a singing duet, we had only one boom mike, which went back and forth between the singers.
"When they first did musical shows on TV, it used to drive a director crazy to have someone just stand still and sing. Every director seemed to think, he was Busby Berkely. Perry Como was the first to really fight that approach. He said he'd sing it his way or not at all.
Plays Gag on Como
"Speaking of Como, I remember the first night that Como moved to Wednesday opposite us. There was to be a bag party that night after the show welcoming him to Wednesday and I was supposed to play the party. I told Gerry Moore, and we cooked up a scheme. As a gag, I was going to smuggle Garry into the party without Perry being aware of it and have him join the band.
"We were able to get over to the party before Perry could escape from all the dressing room congratulations, but once we got there I had to hide Garry. The only safe place I could find was one of those screens where waiters throw their dirty dishes. I stashed Garry there and I had to keep him out or sight for 50 minutes, until Perry got there. The only way I could keep him hidden was to keep slipping him drinks. Perry was much later and Garry much higher than we thought, but a was all worth it later to catch the expression on Perry's face when he glanced at the bandstand and saw his number one competition sitting there, blithely playing the drums."
Finds Show Fun
As musical director and on-the-spot, instant composer of "I've Got a Secret," Norman finds the show fun to work on in an era when most of the fun has gone out of TV. He also enjoys some of the wilder "secrets."
"We've had some real screwball musical secrets," he said. There was one guy who said he could whistle with eight cigars in his mouth. So what did he whistle; 'Smoke Get In Your Eyes.'
"One at the funniest bits we ever had was when Jean Shepherd was the guest. He played his head. After the show he suggested we record an album together, for head and orchestra. "Norman" he said, "you're the only guy who understands me."
"Another time, I created I concerto for coughers, sneezers, and yawns for Victor Borge. We took 120 people out on the audience and I conducted them.
"Then there was the time I played a spinet while some old guy held it and me up in the air. And on one show we collected four one-man bands and then had to keep them separated to prevent chaos.
"This past season we collected a quartet consisting of Fred Waring's son, Les Paul's son, Durward Kirby's son and Dave Brubeck's son. The rest of them kept looking for the beat but not Brubeck's boy. He had the same far out instincts his father has.
"On our show, you just never know." ||
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