Alan "Weaver" Copeland
On the original sheet music of “Swinging on a Star” you’ll see a charming picture (from the Paramount film “Going My Way”) of Bing Crosby sitting at a piano, attired in a jaunty gym jacket and cap. He’s obviously enjoying himself as he croons Burke and Van Heusen’s irresistible classic. Surrounding Der Bingle is a group of twenty-five or so boys, joining the legendary Oscar winner in Song. It was this unique choir (The Robert Mitchell Boychoir) that I began my grand affair with the popular song.
Robert Mitchell, a gifted organist, vocal arranger and conductor, was a perfectionist who not only underscored countless radio offerings with his (mostly inp9rvised) brilliance, but who also dedicate many hours daily to refining his Boychoir into a smooth sight-reading team that found considerable favor with the film and broadcasting studios.
Besides appearing in three classic films in 1939 (“Yankee Doodle Dandy,” ”Meet John Doe, “ and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”), we were on friendly terms with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Eddie Cantor; Al Jolson and all the ruling rogues of radioland.
Once addicted to the thrills, I was to pursue more of them over a lifetime’s musical landscape. After appearing in two of Bing’s films with the Boychoir, we met many times again. I was choral director on his Christmas Shows for over two decades.
Some other thrills along the way:
’46-’48: Just out of the navy, I lucked into a berth with Jan Garber’s band. Jan was affectionately known as “The Idol of the Airlanes” because of him many radio remotes. Under Jan’s watchful, benevolent gaze, my quartet, “The Twin Tones,” joined him on those airlanes from most of the great ballrooms across the land.
’48-’52: I merged with the Modernaires, who were being showcased at the time on Bob Crosby’s five-night-a-week radio bash, “Club 15” (along with Jo Stafford, Margaret Whiting, The Andrews Sisters, Dick Haymes and Jerry Gray’s Orchestra.)
’52-’56: Bob Crosby, this time with his “Bob-cats,” segues to CBS TV, taking the Mods with him, along with vocalists Joanie O’Brien and Carol Richards. For five years, five days a week, we collectively serenade millions of living rooms with the popular song. About this time, Jo Stafford records my song, “Make Love To Me,” sending it to the top of the Hit Parade.
’57-’60: On a leave of absence from the Mods, I join the aforementioned “Your Hit Parade.” With an “accent on youth” attempt to cope with the pedestrian tunes of that era, NBC brings in Tommy Leonetti, myself, Jill Corey and Virginia Gibson. We do our best with vehicles like “The Purple People Eater,” but the venerable sky-liner of the airwaves strays far off course and vanishes.
’60-’64: Lady luck steps out of the shadows. Back with the Mods. Many months in Vegas’ Sahara Hotel with Tex Beneke’s Big Band and the charming voice of romance, Ray Eberle.
’65-’69: Mods signed for Red Skelton’s TV show. Back to CBS TV City, and a wonderful four-year association with David Rose. The Alan Copeland Singers record with Count Basie (ABC LP “Basie Swingin’ Voices Singin’”) and garner a Grammy nomination. The Grammy comes for real in ’68 for Best Performance By A Chorus (Alan Copeland Singers “Mission Impossible – Norwegian Wood” on ABC Records).
‘70’s: Dick Haymes returns from Spain for a heartwarming comeback at the old stomping grounds, The Coconut Grove, with yours truly arranging and conducting the great Les Brown Band. It all works and Dick is once again in the charmed circle. Henry Mancini, in attendance opening night, engages me to craft charts for guests on his new TV series.
‘80’s: I form the mini vocal group “Feather” with my wife Mahmu and we record for Albert Marx’s Discovery label. The Alan Copeland Singers are chosen by John Lewis to sing with the Modern Jazz Quartet at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Charts for Sarah Vaughan, Steve and Eydie. Choral conducting for Horace Silver’s LP, “Sliver And Voices.”
‘90’s: Live jazz gigs with Mahmu in the San Francisco area. More charts for Steve and Eydie. Recording new “Feather” CD featuring Joe Pass and Richie Cole. The thrills keep coming.
Throughout the next decades, blending a charmed life into the now and “Now You Hazz Jazz,” a magical musical manifestation that happily takes the listener from Broadway to Birdland, and beyond- ENJOY!