Saturday, September 29, 2018

Musical Roots of Silicon Valley: Disney, Jazz and Irene Dalis

It has been well-documented that train-lover, Walt Disney was a frequent visitor to Billy Jones' Prune Ranch in Wright's Station (now Monte Sereno), since Jones was a longtime Southern Pacific railroad engineer who was responsible for reassembling the Gov. Stanford Engine Locomotive No.1 for the California State Railroad Museum. Disney also loved Jazz and was good friends with Louis Armstrong, who recorded an album of music from Disney classics, entitled, Disney Songs the Satchmo Way, in 1968. 


Unfortunately, the album, which Disney encouraged Armstrong to produce, was not completed until after Disney's death.

There is an excellent book which chronicles Disney music, musicians and the marketing of Disneyland Records under Jimmy Johnson, who was the head of the Walt Disney Music Company for many years: MouseTracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records. Published in 2006

A number of compilations of Disney classics have been produced honoring Disney's love of jazz, including 2011's Everybody Wants to Be A Cat, Vol. 1 (featuring Roy Anthony Hargrove, Esperanza Spading, Dave Brubeck, Joshua Redman, Dianne Reeves, Bad Plus, Alfredo Rodriguez, Nicole "Nikki" Yanofsky, Glad Hekselman and Mark Knaff).

That recording was preceded by the 2006 release, Jazz Loves Disney, Vol.1:

Volume 2 of Jazz Loves Disney was released in 2017:

The 1927 Al Jolson movie, The Jazz Singer, inspired Walt Disney to create the first synchronous sound cartoon,Steamboat Willie, in 1928, which also marked the debut of Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney performed all of the voices in the cartoon.

The Jazz Singer was the first full-length motion picture to feature a synchronized music score with actors singing and speaking dialogue coordinated with their lip movements. The film's release marked the end of the silent film era. (I will not add the film trailer or any YouTube segments of the film here, since some may rightly find Al Jolson in blackface as a jazz singer, offensive.)

Music for Steamboat Willie was written and arranged by Bert Lewis and Wilfred Jackson. (Jackson was also notable for his work on succeeding Silly Symphony cartoons, plus segments of Night on Bald Mountain, Fantasia, Lady and the Tramp and other Disney films, followed by scores for the Walt Disney TV series.) 

Turn up your speakers then click on the YouTube arrow in the Mickey Mouse image below, to hear The Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, or, use the link below to hear the full soundtrack to Walt Disney's Fantasia. 


Unfortunately for Disney, the song Turkey in the Straw featured in Steamboat Willie, was later associated with many negative racial connotations and lyric variations by 1939.

Previously, Turkey in the Straw was often recorded by banjo players and seemed to have its roots in two British and Irish folk songs, both entitled The Rose Tree:

Turkey in the Straw was later adopted as the basis for several instrumental jazz compositions, moving beyond any previous American bigoted variations by mid-century. This is one performance of jazz variations of the song, surprisingly, by Liberace:

Although many of Disney's legacy productions display unfortunate and hurtful stereotypes of racial groups, the newer Disney productions seem to seek to correct those earlier missteps by highlighting the importance and traditions of many indigenous peoples and heritages.

For many of us growing up during the early Walt Disney heyday years, Disney cartoons and films became our first introduction to dixieland music, jazz, classical compositions, swing, big band and roots music, serving as the beginning for a lifelong appreciation of not only the music itself, but the musicians who give the music life, though musicians were and still are, often relegated to the very end of most film and video closing credits. 

Musicians are artists and often do more to set the tone and atmosphere in films and TV shows than visuals and dialog. (How many of us have sat through obscure closing credits for film set caterers, animal handlers and studio accountants and lawyers, just so we could read the music credits at the very end? That hierarchy is so very wrong, on all counts, and needs to change.)

While the role of Disney and jazz might not be closely related to Silicon Valley history, our region's list of notable musicians from all genres, continues to amaze. 

Turk Murphy Lane, SF Wikipedia Commons
From the early days when future Metropolitan Opera star Irene Dalis and her parents lived in a Victorian at 124 Delmas Avenue in San Jose (now a registered city landmark), to the Dixieland heyday of Melvin Edward Alton Murphy, aka: Turk Murphy in San Francisco (he also appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, produced songs for Sesame Street with Pixar Studios animator Bud Luckey and appeared with his band members and singer Pat Yankee at clubs along the Peninsula all the way down to Palo Alto), our regional music legacy is storied and far-reaching. 

To learn more about Turk Murphy and the Traditional Jazz Revival of New Orleans-style Dixieland music in San Francisco and down the Peninsula, watch the video below from the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley:

Friday, September 28, 2018

Housekeeping Note: Transition to HTTPS in Blogger and lost links

Apologies to readers who may find broken links in this blog. I recently used Google Blogger's option to convert this Web site from HTTP to HTTPS, creating a secure site.

Unfortunately that transition seems to have deleted some photo caption attribution links, links to source materials, as well as links scattered throughout text on some of my Pages and Posts. I am working to restore lost links and attributions, which were previously coded to open in a new browser tab, another function lost during the conversion to HTTPS in Blogger.

If you notice any dead links, please feel free to email me using my email address located on the right sidebar. Your patience during this transition process is appreciated.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Silicon Valley After Dark & Tribute to Harry's Hofbrau - Best places to Shop and Dine

Tired of traffic, jammed freeways and crowded parking lots during commute hours?

Let me share some tips on where to shop, dine and enjoy Silicon Valley after dark, long after the commute traffic has subsided.

Silicon Valley at Night - Photo by Kidder Mathews
(If you are interested on taking off weight due to indulging in the many ubiquitous yet delicious ethnic, pizza, hamburger and BBQ spots in the Valley for lunch, after sitting at a desk all afternoon, shopping after dark gets you off the sofa and on your feet, burning calories while walking and enjoying the relative quiet of night time in the Valley.)

I've chosen these spots not only for their value and late hours, but because they can be reached by multiple side roads from many Silicon Valley cities.They are accessible for bike and public transportation riders, as well as drivers.

Okay, since I mentioned food, let's start there.

If you are like me and have already lost the 40 lbs. needed to get your BMI back in the safe zone (since becoming taller was not an option), here are some ideas on where to find some of the best late night hearty (or healthy) meals and drinks, at a reasonable cost and in family and singles-friendly venues:

Just lost - The best destination for hearty late night food:

Harry's Hofbrau on Saratoga Avenue in San Jose:

Harry's lost their lease on January 8, 2019. We have lost a community gathering spot in Silicon Valley which hosted meetings for many employee and nonprofit groups at no cost, provided attendees purchased a meal. You just don't see that type of generosity and community spirit at other venues here in the Valley.

When the sudden news was posted about Harry's lease and the sudden closing, lines formed around the building to have one last meal at this wonderful establishment soon to be lost to developers and more bland multistory housing cubicles.

The article below has been edited to become a tribute to Harry's Hofbrau, with thanks to the owners and staff for their generosity to many of us over the years.

At Harry's, which was essentially a huge British Pub with a long bar, well drinks, wines and multiple beers on tap serving guests seated in large sectioned dining areas, we enjoyed everything from a "real" home-style hot turkey dinner overflowing with meat, gravy, mashed potatoes, cooked veggies and stuffing for about $12, a turkey enchilada dinner (with what seemed like 8 oz. of shredded turkey thigh meat) plus beans and rice, also around $12, plus a host of other hot entrees with the same modest prices. (I don't know how they did it. Seriously.)

Harry's Hofbrau - Bar area - Closed in San Jose
The portions were huge, the staff was friendly and the food was consistently excellent. (The portions were so massive, staff were waiting at the cashier desk to help you carry your laden tray and large-sized drink, which was the only drink size they sold, to your table.)

Truckers loved Harry's so many semi's were parked along the curb while their drivers refueled inside this cherished and iconic, now lost San Jose establishment. Likewise, some owners of Silicon Valley fine dining establishments could be found eating a huge hot turkey dinner at Harry's. (No, I will not name names. They know who they are.) This place was just that good. If you grew up in the U.S. or landed here at some point and missed large family meals with kith and kin, this was the place to go. Harry's was open on many holidays and children were always welcomed, making it a mecca for both singles and families, plus those who wanted to eat a great meal while watching sports in the huge bar area.

For vegetarians, there was a heaped dinner plate called a Super Salad for around $10 with tax, which included five choices from the many mixed vegetable salads, fruits and greens offered at Harry's salad bar.

Harry's Salad Bar - Just a few of the many, many choices

If you loved roast turkey legs or turkey wings, prime rib, corned beef, bratwurst, old-style spaghetti and meatballs, spareribs, lasagna, various entree specials and a host of other hearty American and ethnic foods, plus huge slices of cakes, pies, puddings and ice creams in a friendly neighborhood pub atmosphere, this would have been your personal oasis. And it seemed safe and family-friendly. (On a tired night a few months ago I left my mobile device at my table as I went to find a to-go container. When I got back to my table after a lengthy chat with a few folks in the dining area, my device was still there, near my half-eaten entree.)
The Peninsula Banjo Band
For the true Harry's experience, folks would arrive every Wednesday after 7 p.m. (yet before 8:30 p.m.), then get in line for their meal. They heard the happy, traditional standards and dixieland sounds of the Peninsula Banjo Band during their free, weekly 90-minute practice session in the rear of Harry's large bar area. This large group of about 20 musicians began as the Cupertino Banjo Band in 1963 and still perform at SF Bay Area venues and private parties to raise money for charitable causes. They provided a large tip jar on a music stand at Harry's, for contributions to those charitable causes, where they also placed booklets of song lyrics so attendees could sing along. Did I say the PBB are great people? You can bet your train whistle they are, and they deliver a great time for all ages.

There are two remaining Harry's Hofbrau locations operating near Silicon Valley:
Harry's Hofbrau: 1909 El Camino Real, Redwood City
Harry's Hofbrau: 14900 East 14th Street, San Leandro

For a high-quality, affordable, plentiful meal and a warm, classic, family pub atmosphere, hat's off to the owner's and staff of Harry's Hofbrau, in all of their locations.

Best late night food shopping and contemporary lounge for coffees, deserts, beer and wine on tap, plus farm to table food--oh, and you can do your grocery shopping there daily until 10 p.m.:

Whole Foods (and the Whole Foods Hot Bar and Tap Room) Santa Clara:
The dessert and hot bar buffet at this classy Whole Foods location is legendary, with ethnic, vegetarian and meat entrees, plus salmon, soups, many salads and hot side dishes, seemingly a cut above other Valley Whole Foods locations. The store and parking area is large and easily accessible off Scott Blvd. from Central Expressway, Hwy 101, Bowers and San Thomas Expressway, on Augustine Drive. Here are some photos from Yelp! reviewers:

Santa Clara Whole Foods Tap Room photo by Tiffany S.on Yelp!
Santa Clara Whole Foods Tap Room menu bites and flights, photo by J.B. on Yelp!

Need to buy some practical items during your Silicon Valley, night-hawk adventures?

Best late night general shopping with coffee or tea breaks: My vote is the Target store in Sunnyvale on West McKinley Avenue. During my year of robust weight loss efforts I could be found here at night pushing a cart filled with heavy products (think gallons of water) around the outer perimeter of the store's interior, after dinner. (Hey, it's cheaper than a gym membership and I did actually buy a few things on each visit, just not chocolate. Rich, creamy, Guittard Organic 72% Semisweet Baking Chocolate is sold at Target. Don't get me started.)

The Starbucks in this Target location has been recently remodeled on the large, 2nd floor mezzanine, providing a range of coffees, teas and blended fare, with nuts, protein bars, cakes, cookies and a few sandwiches, in a generous and comfortable lounge-like atmosphere with large ceiling to floor windows. You may automatically exhale and unwind, just by entering this lovely spot. Chamomile tea optional.

Yelp! Photo by RJ.S. of the new Starbucks lounge area at Target in Sunnyvale

You can shop at this Target location until 11:59 p.m., every day of the week, however, the Starbucks closes at 9 p.m. Be warned, this Starbucks does not make decaf coffee in the afternoons or evenings, however they may offer to make you a decaf Americano, if you really need your beauty sleep.

Best late night place to go when something breaks and you want expert advice, like, "What's a sodium vapor light?" or "What's a flapper valve?"

Lowe's Home Improvement on East Arques Avenue in Sunnyvale
Best place to enjoy the smell of fresh cut lumber, to pretend you are in the redwoods and to enjoy all things home and garden-related, while walking around this huge store being schooled in home and yard maintenance topics. Their garden area is also open until closing at 10 p.m., which is a real treat.

While visiting this particular Lowe's, you can also view the new, circular, glass-walled Apple Central and Wolfe Campus across the street on Arques, which is beautiful when lit up at night.

Apple's new Central and Wolfe Campus in Sunnyvale
Happy moonlit trails,
The Silicon Valley Librarian