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The Peggy Lee Bio-Discography:
The MusicMasters And Harbinger Contracts (1988-1990)

by Iván Santiago

Page generated on Sep 17, 2021

Peggy Lee's Recording Career, 1988-1990

For three consecutive years (1988, 1989, and 1990), the New Jersey-based independent company MusicMasters was Peggy Lee's recording home. The first two years generated one album each. The last year resulted in a holiday cassingle. Lee also recorded a special album project for another independent label, the New York-based Harbinger Records. Further specifics about her association with both labels can be found in this page's final note and, of course, in the annotation under each session below. In total, Peggy Lee is known to have recorded 43 masters during this three-year period.

The photography at the top is representative of the time period during which Lee held the studio sessions to be itemized on this page: the second half of the 1980s. The first two are from a photo shoot believed to have taken place in mid-1986, or otherwise slightly earlier. Additional takes from this same shoot would go on to be featured on some editions of the 1988 album Miss Peggy Lee Sings the Blues. Believed to date from May 16 of 1987, the next photo features the 67-year-old singer next to actor Gary Sinise at the age of 32. Undated, the other two pictures above are estimated to be from around 1989, the year on which Lee recorded There'll Be Another Spring, another studio album of hers. In one picture, Lee poses for Rolling Stone magazine with her friend and fan, vocalist kd lang. In the other, she is probably onstage, with one of several musicians clearly visible behind her.

The Peggy Look: 1980-1982

A pictorial mosaic fills the remainder of this opening section. Chronologically sequenced, the mosaic is focused on documenting Lee's physical appearance through the 1980s -- naturally paying heed to her coiffure and sartorial choices.

Being the continuation of a project carried out across all pages of this sessionography, the mosaic picks up after 1979, the year that follow Lee's last record contract. Incidentally, Lee was in talks to sign contracts with at least two record companies during the present 1980-1982 period, but those deals appear to have fallen through.

Estimated to date from 1980, the first photo reached without stamps or any other documentation. I have had better luck with the other first-row pictures, all of them from the taping of A Gift Of Music, held at Hollywood's Metromedia Square on April 25, 1981. A concert benefit and TV special, the celebrated occasion was the bicentennial of Los Angeles, or in promotional press, a "bicentennial tribute to Los Angeles' musical heritage of men and women of achievement."

Highlighting a period through which Lee frequently accessorized her wardrobe with handbags, the second row starts off with two shots at another taping. This time (January 11, 1981), it is a so-called all-star tribute to Bob Hope and celebration of his 30 years in comedy, taped at NBC studios in Burbank, CA. Next we see Lee at a May 20, 1981 party, celebrating the publication of Harold Robbins' novel Goodbye Janette. Moving on to 1982, we now catch Peggy Lee on the evening of Valentine's Day, attending the premiere of the musical Barnum at the Pantages Theatre, in Hollywood. About two months later (May 16), she is photographed at New York's Waldorf Astoria, the occasion being the Friar Club's Man Of The Year award to Cary Grant. (Like most other guests or attendees, Lee would typically bring a date to all these celebratory events. In the case of this tribute to Grant, her date has been cropped from all the shots of this event that I have seen.)

The Peggy Look: 1983-1985

In Peggy Lee's life, these years were marked by the continuation of her successful career as a concert performer, and also by her preparation for what would prove to be the only significant flop in her seven-decade career. Lee's one-woman autobiographical Broadway show opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York on December 14, 1983. It closed after less than 13 previews and a handful of proper performances. (For an in-depth exploration of that Broadway project, consult my overview. For discographical details about the show's songs and its extant audio, visit the 1983 sessions on this discography's Theater page. )

On display in the first pictorial row above are two photos tied to the ill-fated show, and two photos connected to Lee's more successful concert performances from this same period. The first picture was taken on January 27, 1983 in Toronto, where she had traveled to perform at the Imperial Room of the Royal York Hotel. The third picture is also from the same Canadian trip, but taken on the occasion of Toronto's Variety Club Telethon. Lee is seen signing an autograph for nine-year-old Don Barrie, who suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, more commonly known as "brittle bones." (Now a 47 year old (2020), Barrie grew up to major in journalism, and to coach the Canadian Electric Wheelchair Hockey Association.) As for the photos with a connection to the musical Peg, one of them shows Lee in September of 1982, right within the period during which she and the show's producers were holding dinners and meetings for potential investors into the project. The other photograph gives use a glimpse of Lee at curtain call on the show's opening night (December 14).

The bejeweled headgear that Peggy Lee sported on opening night was also worn by her on several occasions during the ensuing couple of years. Two pictures from the second row are from one such occasion: a concert at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, itself part of the singer's 1984 UK tour. Yet two more sightings of the headgear can be enjoyed in the fourth row. Those are from 1985. One captures the singer onstage at The Ballroom nightclub, along with New York's then major Ed Koch, who is in the process of honoring her with a Letter of Appreciation (July 12). The other picture finds Lee and actress Jayne Meadows (wife of TV host Steve Allen) at the Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles, posing together during a benefit for the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (June 1).

At one brief in time, singers Peggy Lee and Della Reese went together into the business of making and selling hats. The exact dates are unknown to me, but chances are that the several hat-happy photos above belong to that period. The one on the second row bears a May 22, 1985 stamp. (The stamp might reflect the actual date on which it was taken, or might instead be several months past the original shoot.) On the third row, we start off with a 1984 picture stamped November 9, and continue with screenshots from two TV shows that also aired on that year -- respectively, On Stage America (September 9) and The Merv Griffin Show (June 12).

The remaining photos, both located on the last pictorial row, are from 1984, too. Gone all red, Lee attended the Legends And Showstoppers Benefit on April 29 at the Shubert Theatre (NY), in the company of her granddaughter. Its exact location and full date unknown, the closing shot treats us to a fab-looking Lee, performing at a venue in New York City.

The Peggy Look: 1986-1989

In Peggy Lee's life, the second half of the 1980s was characterized by her successful bi-annual engagements at cabaret nightclub venues such as The Ballroom in New York, and also by the battery of significant health issues which she increasingly faced. While the vocalist's lungs had finally stabilized from the long-lasting effects of a bout with pneumonia in the 1960s, the onset of diabetes would become a new serious source of concern to her health. There had also been long-standing glandular problems with periodic weight struggles, as well as vascular issues. By the time of her debut at The Ballroom (July 10, 1985), Lee had already gone through three angioplasties in the space of a few months, and was scheduled to undergo more heart-related procedures. In October of that same year, while in the middle of a week(s)-long engagement at New Orleans' Fairmont Hotel, Lee could not longer ignore the ongoing chest pains that she had been experiencing. Hospitalization, double-bypass heart surgery, and a recovery period ensued.

The first row of pictures above comes from two celebrity events. Promotionally called An Array Of Golden Stars, the earliest of these events was held at the Century Plaza Hotel on August 30, 1986. Peggy Lee was among those honored at that benefit for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The third and fourth photos come from the other event: a large birthday party for George Burns, who had recently turned 91. The nonagenarian was being feted at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, on January 24, 1987.

A week later, George Burns and Peggy Lee were scheduled to begin a double bill at the Circus Maximus Showroom of Las Vegas' Caesar's Palace Hotel. On opening night, it was not the nona but the sexagenarian who inadvertently strode into the loudspeakers and fell into the orchestra pit, requiring hospitalization. A broken hip caused her to use first a cane, then a walker, for assisted balance. A wheelchair would also become a regular companion, though the alternative options of walking in public with a cane or a walker would also be exercised.

The Circus Maximum accident did not deter the ill-starry singer from attending a fine array of star events during the next months, however. In the second row of pictures above, we are seeing her at three such events: ASCAP's award and dinner tribute to composer Miklós Rózsa at LA's Beverly Wilshire Hotel (April 22, 1987), a Friar Club's roast and tribute to Red Buttons at NY's Waldorf Astoria Hotel (May 16, 1987; herein flanked by Milton Berle and Buddy Hackett) and a salute to the Disneys (Walt & wife Patricia), part of the Annual Big Hearts Awards at the Variety Club of Southern California's Registry Hotel (May 31, 1987).

Below, we first witness Sammy Davis, Jr. kissing Peggy Lee at NY's Radio City Hall, on April 10, 1988. She was making a guest appearance within a Rat Pack benefit concert for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center. Old acquaintances who had each extolled the other's praises over the years, Davis and Lee had first worked together back in the 1950s. (Though five years her junior, Davis would unfortunately pass away two year later.) Next in view is a screenshot from a televised interview (probably conducted at Lee's Beverly Hill home in late 1987), followed by a picture taken on October 4, 1988, while Lee was performing at the Imperial Room of the Fairmont Royal Hotel in Toronto, Canada. Then, on our final row of pictures, Lee is caught in the act of singing again, this time at the Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1988, exact date unknown), and striking a smiling pose for a press interview published in 1989.

Date: February 1988
Location: Clinton Sound Studios, 653 10th Avenue (between 46th and 10th), New York

Peggy Lee (ldr), Gregory K. Squires (pdr), Bill Kipper, Andrew Milano (eng), John Chiodini (g), Jay Leonhart (b), Mike Renzi (p), Grady Tate (d), Mark Sherman (per), Peggy Lee (v)

a. Master Take (MusicMasters) See See Rider - 5:06(Traditional) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
b. Master Take (MusicMasters) Basin Street Blues - 3:10(Spencer Williams) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
c. Master Take (MusicMasters) Squeeze Me - 2:47(Thomas 'Fats' Waller, Clarence Williams, possibly Andy Razaf) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
Jazz Heritage Society/Amerco CD65064 2 — [Various Artists] Exclusively Yours; Jazz Heritage Romances   (2003)
d. Master Take (MusicMasters) You Don't Know - 4:09(Walter Spriggs) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
MUSICMASTERS/Amreco CD65064 2 — [Various Artists] MusicMasters Jazz Sampler    (1989)
Jazz Heritage Society/Amerco CS/CD312870Y & 912870A (also 512870T) — [Various Artists] Jazz Sampler    (1991)
e. Master Take (MusicMasters) Fine And Mellow - 5:13(Billie Holiday) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
f. Master Take (MusicMasters) Baby, Won't You Please Come Home - 3:25(Charles Warfield, Clarence Williams) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
g. Master Take (MusicMasters) Kansas City - 3:43(Mike Stoller, Jerry Leiber) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
h. Master Take (MusicMasters) Birmingham Jail - 4:15(Traditional) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
i. Master Take (MusicMasters) Love Me - 4:10(Joe McCoy) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
j. Master Take (MusicMasters) Beale Street Blues - 2:52(W. C. Handy) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
k. Master Take (MusicMasters) Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do - 5:45(Porter Grainger, Robert Graham Prince, Clarence Williams) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
MUSICMASTERS/ BMG Jazz Foundations CDD 126466 — [Various Artists] Prime Time; Giants Of Jazz In Their Prime   (1999)
l. Master Take (MusicMasters) God Bless The Child - 3:14(Billie Holiday, Arthur Herzog, Jr.) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
All titles on:
MUSICMASTERS/Amreco CS/LP/CDCijd 40155h/20155k/60155f//2ndPressing:5005 4c/5005/5005 2c — Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues    (1988)
Musical Heritage Society/Amreco CS/CDMhc 312487x / Mhs 512487m — Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues   (1990)
Jazz Heritage Society/Amerco CD5124878MISS PEGGY LEE SINGS THE BLUES [K2 Laser Cutting Remaster]   (2002)

The Recording Session(s)

In early February 1988, Peggy Lee came to New York for a two-week engagement at The Ballroom. Her engagement was so successful that it was extended for three additional weeks. "We had two days off at The Ballroom and I just brought the musicians over the recording studio and we did [this album]," Peggy Lee told Fred Hall in a 1990 interview. The album to which she was referring was Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues, whose masters are listed in this session. Guitarist John Chiodini told biographer Peter Richmond that he was actually the one who had "encouraged [Lee] to do an album devoted entirely to the blues, for the MusicMasters label."

During the aforementioned oral interview with Fred Hall, Peggy Lee also pointed out: "no rehearsals -- any. That is true jazz; they didn't -- there was no rehearsals. All of those things they had in mind, like let's do a doo dah dah dah ...[...] ... [such spontaneous ideas would] set off a whole chain of things they'd play. [The album] sounds almost as if it has been arranged just right there."


The exact dates on which Peggy Lee recorded the material included in Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues are unknown to me. The approximate dating that I have entered herein is based partly on information gleaned from various periodicals and partly on data drawn from two other sources (an oral interview, some album outtakes). Specifics are discussed in the next paragraphs.

On Sunday, January 31, 1988, a Newsday article reported that Peggy Lee was "recording an album this weekend, for MusicMasters." Two days later (February 2, 1988), a New York Post article quoted Lee as having said that "[I] will do part of it before I'm in the Ballroom, and the rest after."

Lee's engagement at The Ballroom started on the very evening of the second article's publication (February 2). As for the last scheduled day of the two-week engagement, it was Saturday, February 13.

If the plans that Lee had shared with the press were carried out, then the recording dates can be pinpointed with only a small margin of error. The earlier sessions would have taken place during the last weekend of January (i.e., between Friday the 28th and Sunday the 31st). The later sessions would have happened in mid-February, possibly Sunday the 14th and Monday the 15th.

But even the best laid plans can go awry. For one, and as already mentioned, Lee's engagement was extended for three more weeks. Since the decision to extend it was presumably made after Lee had already performed for a few days, the pre-engagement quotes that she made to the press do not reflect this change of schedule, which might have caused in turn a re-schedule of the recording sessions. Second, the session(s) planned for the pre-engagement period could have been postponed: in the pre-engagement articles, the reporters and the singer make references to some diabetes-related difficulties that Lee was having.

Third, the date of one of Lee's 1988 MusicMasters sessions is actually known: on Monday, February 8, 1988, she recorded at least a couple of numbers, both of them album outtakes. (See next session.) It stands to reason that some of the songs included in the album were recorded on that same date, but it is not known which ones, nor how many.

In the aforementioned 1990 interview, conducted by radio broadcaster Fred Hall, Lee states that the album was done in just two days. If her recollection is completely accurate, and if we factor in the outtakes' date, the correct recording dates for all of these masters could be February 7 and 8 or February 8 and 9, 1988.

Be it as it may, and due to the absence of more specific information, I have chosen to enter a safer, more general and encompassing dating: February 1988.


1. Gregory K. Squires
2. Andrew Milano
A fair number of MusicMasters CDs list George K. Squires as part of their sessions' personnel. Usually he is identified as the record engineer, but in the case of Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues he is credited as the producer. (The mastering of the album is credited to Bill Kipper at Masterdisk Corp.) Squires' website indeed describes him as both a producer and engineer who majored in French horn and who is a faculty member of the Manhattan School of Music.

A September 1989 Audio magazine review of the album states that "[t]he sound has been beautifully recorded at New york City's Clinton Sound by the uncredited Andrew Milano. Produced by George K. Squires ..."

Masters And Labels

1. Amreco
2. Amerco
All issues from the Musical Heritage family of labels bear two company ownership credits, one for the label itself and another for a company that, curiously, seems to have changed its name. For further details, see notes under session dated November 1-3, 1989.

Photos And Collectors' Corner

The respective Musicmasters and Musical Heritage CD editions of Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues sport different photos of Lee. Pictured above are the original CD and cassette editions on MusicMasters. It has been said that the photos on those front covers were taken while Peggy Lee was performing onstage at The Ballroom, but I have not found any corroboration for that informal claim. Seen below is an equivalent British CD edition of the album, on the Limelight label, and also an equivalent cassette edition, on the American label Music Heritage. Moreover, there is an original Musicmasters LP, too, as well as a MusicMasters reissue on both LP and CD, neither pictured here. (If looking for additional information, read not below, under Issues, point #4, and peruse next session's photography. Finally, consult the pictorial album gallery of this discography, section VII.


1. The Album Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues At The Grammys
Held on February 22, 1989, the 31st Grammy Awards ceremony found Peggy Lee's name back in the category of Best [Jazz] Vocal Performance, Female, after twenty years of absence. The nomination was for the album Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues. Her fellow nominees were Betty Carter, Lena Horne, Rickie Lee Jones and Carmen McRae. The winner was Carter, for her album Look What I Got!. Lee's next nomination would take place on the following year; see session dated November 1-3, 1989.

2. The Correct Album Title
The album actually has two valid titles: Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues and, more simply, Peggy Sings The Blues. The reason why both titles are valid is that they are jointly used in most configurations of the album. More specifically, all issues typically show the title Peggy Sings The Blues in the front cover, but the variant Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues inside, in the actual disc and tape. (As for the spine of the cassettes, those tend to use the Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues variant.)

3. The Correct Release Date Of Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues [CD]
The compact disc edition of Peggy Sings The Blues was originally released in November 1988 or a bit earlier, as proven by articles that were published that year, and backed by a couple of record guides published in subsequent years. Although most of the aforementioned reviews make no reference to the configurations in which the album was originally released, I believe that all three (LP, cassette, CD) were simultaneously available from the start. (Actually, I do have what I believe to be an advance review of the CD. It dates from September 1988).

However, the CD is given a 1989 release date in a few record guides. Presumably, such a dating points to a second pressing or, otherwise, is erroneous. (Since November 1988 is close enough to 1989, there is also the possibility that those record guides are listing the release date of the album outside of the United States.

In any case, 1988 is the copyright and sound recording copyright year given in all configurations of the album. I have thus chosen to give a 1988 date to the original release.

4. MusicMasters' Various Pressings of Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues
The album under discussion has gone through a fair amount of pressings and reissues, starting with those on the releasing label, MusicMasters (LP, CD, cassette).

In 1990, MusicMasters' parent company, Musical Heritage, reissued the album in two configurations (CD and cassette). This reissue sports a cover different from the original one on Musicmasters. Lee wears the same coiffure but a different attire. The photographer is Hans Albers on both cases, and the year is 1988. Musical Heritage uses black and white, not color.

MusicMasters' sister label, Jazz Heritage, reissued the album in 2002, in superior sound quality. Although Jazz Heritage is clearly identified as the releasing company in the front and back covers, the disc itself bears only the Musical Heritage logo and copyright. The front cover photo is the same one as in the original MusicMasters issue, with a few minor differences. (For one, it has been darkened.)

Curiously, different shots from the same photo session were used for the front covers of the 1990 Musical Heritage CD and cassette. The CD's photo shows Lee from the waist up, and was taken at a greater distance, from a higher angle. Furthermore, the CD's photo makes it clearer that Lee is sitting on a chair.

To see images of the above-discussed covers next to one another, check this discography's photo gallery for Late Period albums (section VII).

5. Re-pressings Of Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues
A new catalogue number was assigned to MusicMasters' own 1992 re-pressing of the original 1988 album.

There has also been at least one licensee's pressing, which bears two catalogue numbers. The first of the two numbers is among those listed above (5005-2-C). The other catalogue number, D 143661, is accompanied by the legend "Mfd. for BMG Direct Marketing, Inc. under License," etc.

In a record guide, I have come across yet another catalogue number (820809) for the MusicMasters CD. This number is linked to S&R, which I presume to be another licensee, or perhaps a distributor.

Although those are the only pressings of which I am fully aware, I do not discard the possibility of others, which could bear entirely different catalogue numbers.

6. Foreign Versions Of Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues
Of course, there have also been non-USA pressings of this original MusicMasters albums, on labels such as Limelight, Polygram, and Phonogram. For a listing of those, consult this discography's Miscellanea section, specifically this page and this page.

7. MusicMasters' Technology
The Musical Heritage family of labels took pride in its use of innovative aural technology for its original recordings. Both of Lee's albums for MusicMasters bear legends pointing to a technological bent; they are called "[full] digital" recordings. Meanwhile, the cassettes are labeled "chrome" or "compatible chrome." Moreover, the album's 2002 CD edition on Jazz Heritage is a remastering for which "K2 technology" was used.

This concern with up-to-date technology dates back to the company's early dates and is probably an offshoot of an audiophile orientation among classically minded fans. In 1971, the Musical Heritage Society was being listed among the international leaders in using Dolby noise reduction technology for their cassettes of classical music. Earlier in the same year, Musical Heritage's decision to use TDK Super Dynamic tape had put the label in the news, too.

Date: February 8, 1988
Location: Clinton Sound Studios, 653 10th Avenue (between 46th and 10th), New York

Peggy Lee (ldr), Gregory K. Squires (pdr), John Chiodini (g), Jay Leonhart (b), Mike Renzi (p), Grady Tate (d), Mark Sherman (per), Peggy Lee (v)

a. Master Take (MusicMasters) Since I Fell For You - 2:42(Woodrow "Buddy" Johnson) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
b. Master Take (MusicMasters) How Long Has This Been Going On? - 3:06(George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin) / arr: {Head Arrangement}
Both titles unissued.


Music Heritage's CD edition of the album Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues. (For its cassette counterpart, see photography under the preceding session.) Also provided right above is a full shot of the 1986 photo that generated the cover of the Music Heritage CD.


The above-listed two vocals are outtakes from the Miss Peggy Lee Sings The Blues sessions.

Date: August 29 - September 2, 1988
Location: Clinton Sound Studios, 653 10th Avenue (between 46th and 10th), New York

Peggy Lee (ldr), Ken Bloom, Bill Rudman (pdr), Keith Ingham (pdr, con, p), Tim Martyn, Andrew Milano (eng), Phil Bodner (f, as), Ken Peplowski (ts), Glenn Zottola (t, fh), George Masso (tb), John Chiodini (g), Jay Leonhart (b), Mark Sherman (vib, per), Grady Tate (d), Peggy Lee (v)

a. Master Take (Harbinger) Look Who's Been Dreaming - 2:35(Harold Arlen, Dorothy Fields) / arr: Keith Ingham
b. Master Take (Harbinger) Love Held Lightly - 4:12(Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer) / arr: Keith Ingham
c. Master Take (Harbinger) Buds Won't Bud - 3:24(Harold Arlen, Erwin 'Yip' Harburg) / arr: Keith Ingham
d. Master Take (Harbinger) Can You Explain? - 3:34(Truman Capote, Harold Arlen) / arr: Keith Ingham
e. Master Take (Harbinger) Wait'll It Happens To You - 2:26(Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer) / arr: Keith Ingham
f. Master Take (Harbinger) Come On, Midnight - 4:33(Martin Charnin, Harold Arlen) / arr: Keith Ingham
g. Master Take (Harbinger) Happy With The Blues - 4:18(Harold Arlen, Peggy Lee) / arr: Keith Ingham
h. Master Take (Harbinger) Bad For Each Other - 3:21(Carolyn Leigh, Harold Arlen) / arr: Keith Ingham
i. Master Take (Harbinger) Love's No Stranger To Me - 2:46(Harold Arlen, Truman Capote) / arr: Keith Ingham
j. Master Take (Harbinger) I Could Be Good For You - 2:36(Martin Charnin, Harold Arlen) / arr: Keith Ingham
k. Master Take (Harbinger) Got To Wear You Off My Weary Mind - 4:06(Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer) / arr: Keith Ingham
l. Master Take (Harbinger) I Had A Love Once - 2:40(Harold Arlen) / arr: Keith Ingham
m. Master Take (Harbinger) Love's A Necessary Thing - 3:31(Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler) / arr: Keith Ingham
n. Master Take (Harbinger) My Shining Hour - 2:30(Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen) / arr: Keith Ingham
All titles on:
CAPITOL's Angel CS/CD4ds 0777 7 54798 4 3 /Cdc 0777 7 54798 2 9 — Love Held Lightly; Rare Songs By Harold Arlen   (1993)

The Recording Session

After going through a couple of rehearsals at her home in California (with producers Ken Bloom and Bill Rudman, along with their favored pianist Keith Ingham), Peggy Lee came to New York to record the above-listed masters. "She came scrupulously prepared," Rudman told biographer Peter Richmond. Relying on his conversations with the producer, Richmond adds that at the dates Lee was "[b]y and large ... the essence of professionalism."

In 2002, Glenn Zottola recalled the occasion as follows: "she flew in from Los Angeles to do the session in New York ... It was an amazing experience ... She wasn't well; her spirits were very high. She actually had a nurse with her, and in the session she actually was in a wheelchair ... But as I said her spirits were high; we laughed, we had a great time. it was a high point for me being with her all day in the studio and making music with her."

Lee is known to have had at least one argument with Ingham. The specifics are vague. The discrepancy appears to have stemmed from different perspectives on the direction that either the piano playing or one particular arrangement was taking. Hearsay suggests that Lee actually wanted Mike Renzi, her regular accompanist, to play at the sessions. Another musician present at the date has claimed that Ingham had to "retreat to a closet until the squall had passed over. But otherwise, Lee was agreeable to most of Ingham's arrangements." (The source for this last quote is also biographer Richmond.)

In Rudman's opinion, Peggy Lee's work during the sessions was a success. "It was as if she'd finally come home," Rudman told Richmond. "Her voice came from this quiet place, and she was the essence of Peggy Lee. She took in the energy of the musicians, of the art, and she was totally present in each moment."


1. Clinton Recording Studios
2. Classic Sound Studio
In their aforementioned essay, Rudman and Bloom identify Clinton Studios as the location in which these session's masters were recorded. They make this identification just in passing, without dwelling on it.

Another source ties these masters to Classic Sound (then located at 211 West 61st Street, New York). The source does not clarify if Classic Sound was the original recording location, or the place where some of the subsequent mastering and mixing took place.

I have naturally given greater credence to the comment made by the producers themselves.


1. Peggy Lee's Assessment Of The Musicians
2. Ken Peplowski
While talking to music critic Will Friedwald about one of the session's performances ("Can You Explain?"), Peggy Lee praised the musicians in the Keith Ingham Octet: "The way it came together was very nice. They were all marvelous in their own way, especially Kenny [Peplowski]. I don't often work with saxophones, but I came to love that horn all over again after hearing him. He reminds me of Ben Webster."

3. My Shining Hour
4. John Chiodini
The number "My Shining Hour" is sung by Lee with only Chiodini's guitar as accompaniment. Most of the other numbers are either full-ensemble or small-combo performances.

5. Tim Martyn
6. Andrew Milano
Tim Martyn is credited for the mastering of the Angel edition of Love Held Lightly, Andrew Milano for the mixing of the Harbinger edition.


1. "Happy With The Blues"
Peggy Lee originally wrote lyrics for the melody of "Happy With The Blues" back in 1961. Those original lyrics were commissioned for a television special in honor of songwriter Harold Arlen. (Details about that special, which was broadcast on September 1961, will be found in this discography's television section, once that section is finished and ready for viewing.)

Lee was never satisfied with the lyrics that she wrote in 1961. "Of all people," the artist said to an interviewer, "I admired Harold so much, and I wanted them to be really good. I suppose that’s what kept me from writing my best." These Love Held Lightly sessions gave Lee the opportunity to do a revise her lyrics, making them more suitable for Arlen's music.

2. "Unrecorded" Songs
Although no unissued Lee masters are known to exist at Harbinger, there is knowledge of at least two other rare Arlen songs that she and the company's producers considered to record: "I'm Off The Downbeat" and "Green Light Ahead."


Above; the original edition of Love Held Lightly, released by Angel Records in conjunction with Harbinger Records. Below: the reissue edition of Love Held Lightly, released by Harbinger Records.

Labels And Issues

1. The Delayed Release Of Love Held Lightly
Though recorded for Harbinger Productions in 1988, this session's masters were first released in 1993 by Angel Records.

Peggy Lee herself was the cause of the five-year delay. In the spring of 1988, when plans to issue an album were well in advance, the singer asked the producers to pull the plug on the project. She is said to have given various reasons for her decision, including some eccentric ones which might or might have not been uttered with tongue planted in cheek (e.g., her consultation with an astrologist who told her that the stars were not aligned in her favor and that "Mercury was in the retrograde"). Rudman's own opinion was that the artist had become scared because the songs had "put her out there emotionally in a way she hadn't been in a long, long time." Lee herself acknowledged her high sensitivity to the material, due in part to the emotions that Arlen's numbers had always aroused in her. She was also concerned about the weighty responsibility at hand: the release of tunes, most of them never published before, written by one of the greatest American composers.

But the principal source of her objections seems to have been more specific. In comments that Lee made to the press after she finally authorized the release of Love Held Lightly, it is the album's mix that comes off as the crux of the matter. After first listening to a rough mix, she had asked the producers to strengthen the masters' overall sound by adding more percussion and brass (trombone). Rudman had agreed with Lee's assessment, and had fulfilled her request. His acquiescence turned out to be of little avail, though. Despite further work on the masters, Lee remained dissatisfied. She felt that the mix (or the way that she had been miked) failed to capture the "layers of overtones" that she often pursued in her vocal interpretations. "When they use those limiters and high-tech things on the human voice, it doesn’t even sound like yourself when you hear the playback," she explained to the San Francisco Chronicle's Lee Hildebrand in 1993. For their part, the producers suspected that Lee's impressions on the mix had been colored by the visceral reaction that she had had to the original, unmixed tapes: the artist had not found them as smooth as she had hoped they would be.

But the passing of time apparently mollified Lee's misgivings. In 1992, she gave a fresh listening to the mix and unexpectedly called Rudman to authorize the album's release. As Rudman remembered, Lee said to him on the phone, "you know, dear, I've been listening to this tape, and it's really pretty good. I don't see any reason why you shouldn't put this out if you want to."

For the extremely considerate producers, the news of Lee's approval were very welcome, and a sign that they had proceeded wisely. In 1989, they had had to face the unpleasant prospect of telling their investors that the album had been cancelled. After doing so, they had decided to just sit and wait. As experienced producers who had already worked with a fair share of artists, they had thought it would be best to "be cool about it and not in any way pressure her, which we knew would backfire," Rudman explained to biographer Peter Richmond.

Added the ever-thoughtful Rudman: "We also did this because we knew that she had taken incredible risks on the project ... The Arlen songs ... required total nakedness in performance. From the beginning, that's what attracted her to the project. But embracing a project is not the same as embracing your work on it and knowing when to let go."

2. Angel Records
Once Lee gave her blessing (1992) to the release of the Arlen songbook, Bloom and Rudman took on the task of finding new investors in order to continue the project. After they completed that task, the producers' next hurdle was to convince the record labels that the album merited commercial release. Some of their past Harbinger projects had been successfully licensed to Stash Records, but in 1992 they were not finding any takers. "We sent tapes all over the place," Rudman told Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Rebecca Freligh, "and we kept getting told, Peggy sounds terrific, but why did you record all these songs that nobody knows?, which was very discouraging."

Finally, the album was picked up by Angel Records, a label whose specialty was classical American music. According to what the company's vice president of marketing (Linda Sterling) told Freligh, Love Held Lightly struck the label as "a natural" for them. Since Angel Records was in reality a New York-based branch of Capitol, their release of Love Held Lightly signified Peggy Lee's return (of sorts) to her mother label.

3. Love Held Lightly [CD; Harbinger Reissue]
Harbinger CD #2401 is a reissue of Angel CD #54798. In both issues, the same masters are included. The artwork is only slightly different. But the Harbinger reissue boasts richer writing: essays not only by Edward Jablonski and Will Friedwald (both reprinted from the 1993 Angel issue) but also longer, newly written notes by producers Rudman and Bloom. For a look at the covers, click here and here.

4. I Had A Love Once [LP]
A British music fan once told me that a Peggy Lee LP titled I Had A Love Once had been released abroad. No other sights of an album with that title are known to me. Most likely, the fan was confused about the title, and was actually thinking about Love Held Lightly. The album configuration that he cited is another curious detail; to my knowledge, Love Held Lightly has been issued only on cassette and compact disc, not on LP.

Date: November 1, 2, 3, 1989
Location: BMG Studios, New York

Peggy Lee (ldr), John Chiodini (pdr, g, elg, bkv), Peggy Lee (pdr, v), John Snyder (pdr), Joe Lopes, Jay Newland (eng), Sanford Allen (con, vn), Mike Renzi (con, p), Jay Leonhart (b), William Galison (hps), Peter Grant (d), Mark Sherman (per), Robert Fuchs, Winterton Garvey, Stanley Hunter, Regis Iandiorio, Louann Montesi, Dale Stuckenbruck (vn), Diane Barere, Melissa Meell (vc), Milt Grayson (bkv)

a. Master Take (MusicMasters) Circle In The Sky - 2:55(Peggy Lee, Emil Joseph Palame, Jr.) / arr: Mike Renzi
b. Master Take (MusicMasters) I Just Want To Dance All Night - 3:59(John Chiodini, Peggy Lee) / arr: John Chiodini
c. Master Take (MusicMasters) He's A Tramp - 2:32(Joseph F. "Sonny" Burke, Peggy Lee) / arr: Mike Renzi
Armed Forces Radio Service 12" Transcription DiscP 26543 - P 26544 — Basic Music Library [6 songs from album There'll Be Another Spring]   (1990)
d. Master Take (MusicMasters) There'll Be Another Spring - 4:16(Peggy Lee, Hubie Wheeler) / arr: Mike Renzi
Armed Forces Radio Service 12" Transcription DiscP 26543 - P 26544 — Basic Music Library [6 songs from album There'll Be Another Spring]   (1990)
e. Master Take (MusicMasters) Johnny Guitar - 5:18(Peggy Lee, Victor Popular Young) / arr: Victor Young
f. Master Take (MusicMasters) Fever - 3:21(Otis Blackwell aka John Davenport, Eddie Cooley, uncredited Sid Kuller & Peggy Lee) / arr: Peggy Lee
Armed Forces Radio Service 12" Transcription DiscP 26543 - P 26544 — Basic Music Library [6 songs from album There'll Be Another Spring]   (1990)
Jazz Heritage Society/Amerco CD65064 2 — [Various Artists] Exclusively Yours; Jazz Heritage Romances   (2003)
g. Master Take (MusicMasters) I'll Give It All To You - 2:30(John Chiodini, Peggy Lee) / arr: John Chiodini
Armed Forces Radio Service 12" Transcription DiscP 26543 - P 26544 — Basic Music Library [6 songs from album There'll Be Another Spring]   (1990)
h. Master Take (MusicMasters) Sans Souci - 3:06(Joseph F. "Sonny" Burke, Peggy Lee) / arr: Gordon Jenkins
i. Master Take (MusicMasters) Where Can I Go Without You? - 4:48(Peggy Lee, Victor Popular Young) / arr: Mike Renzi
j. Master Take (MusicMasters) Boomerang (I'll Come Back To You) - 3:26(John Chiodini, Peggy Lee) / arr: John Chiodini
Jazz Heritage Society/Amerco CD65064 2 — [Various Artists] Exclusively Yours; Jazz Heritage Romances   (2003)
k. Master Take (MusicMasters) Things Are Swingin' - 2:27(Peggy Lee, Jack Marshall) / arr: John Chiodini
Armed Forces Radio Service 12" Transcription DiscP 26543 - P 26544 — Basic Music Library [6 songs from album There'll Be Another Spring]   (1990)
Essential Jazz Classics Public Domain CD(Spain) Ejc 11443 — The Hits Of Peggy Lee - All Aglow Again (Collector's Digipack Series)   (2021)
Wax Time Public Domain Collectors' Pressing LP(Spain) 772294 — The Hits Of Peggy Lee - All Aglow Again   (2021)
l. Master Take (MusicMasters) Over The Wheel - 3:26(John Chiodini, Peggy Lee) / arr: John Chiodini
m. Master Take (MusicMasters) The Shining Sea - 2:35(Peggy Lee, Johnny Mandel) / arr: Johnny Mandel
Armed Forces Radio Service 12" Transcription DiscP 26543 - P 26544 — Basic Music Library [6 songs from album There'll Be Another Spring]   (1990)
All titles on:
MUSICMASTERS/Amreco CS/LP/CDCijd 40249l/20249/60249k/Reprints: 503422 4c/60340k/503424 2cTHERE'LL BE ANOTHER SPRING; THE PEGGY LEE SONGBOOK   (1990)
Musical Heritage Society/Amreco CS/LP/CDMhc 40249l[CS]/20249[LP]/912697z[LP]/60249k[CD] — There'll Be Another Spring; The Peggy Lee Songbook   (1990)
Jazz Heritage Society/Amerco CD515674h — There'll Be Another Spring; The Peggy Lee Songbook   (1999)

Songs And Songwriters

1. "Fever"
2. Peggy Lee
This session's version of "Fever" boasts a couple of verses never heard in previous versions. They were newly written by Lee for this occasion. Also included in this version are some -- not all -- of the verses that were first heard in Lee's 1958 version, and which have been wrongly credited to the original songwriters (Otis Blackwell and Eddie Cooley).


1. John Chiodini
2. Mike Renzi
John Chiodini and Mike Renzi were the co-conductors of this session's masters.

John Chiodini conducted "I Just Want To Dance All Night," "I'll Give It All To You," "Sans Souci," "Boomerang," "Things Are Swingin'," and "Over The Wheel."

Mike Renzi conducted "Circle In The Sky," "He's A Tramp," "There'll Be Another Spring," "Where Can I Go Without You?," and "The Shining Sea."

3. Victor Young
The credits in the album There'll Be Another Spring: The Peggy Lee Songbook correctly identify Victor Young (1900-1956) as the original arranger of "Johnny Guitar," but wrongly credit the long-deceased composer with conducting this 1989 version. The conductor must have been instead either Renzi or Chiodini.

4. Sanford Allen
Sanford Allen conductor of strings only.

5. Milton Grayson
Milton Grayson sings background vocals in "Sans Souci" only.

6. Sammy Cahn
Lyricist Sammy Cahn wrote the short but highly laudatory liner notes for The Peggy Lee Songbook. Though a good longtime friend of Lee's, Cahn makes a point of mentioning that the person who asked him to write the notes was Warner / Chappell's Frank Military (rather than Lee herself).

7. Jeffrey Nissim
Founder of MusicMasters Jeffrey Nissim is listed as the executive producer in the original album.

8. Peggy Lee
Notice that Peggy Lee receives producer credit on this session, along with John Chiodini and John Snyder.


1. Mixing And Mastering
According to the discographical notes that are part of The Peggy Lee Songbook, the album's masters were recorded on a Sony 48-track digital recorder, then mixed and mastered to a Sony PCM 1630. The mixing took place on December 4, 5 and 6, 1989, the mastering on December 7, 1989 and on January 10, 1990.

Arrangements (And Issues)

1. Arranging Credits
Contrary to what the credits in the album The Peggy Lee Songbook might seem to suggest, Gordon Jenkins, Johnny Mandel, and Victor Young were not present at these sessions. Instead, those credits point to the fact that their respective arrangements of previous Peggy Lee recordings were used by Lee and company.

2. MusicMasters CD
The original MusicMasters CD pressing carries two catalogue numbers. On the spine and on the booklet, it identifies itself as MMD 60249 K, but on the physical label of the disc it calls itself CIJD6 0249. (If the company's treatment of catalogue numbers elsewhere is any indication, CIJD6 0249 has a typo; it is likelier to be CIJD 60249.

3. Music Heritage LP
The Music Heritage LP pressing of this album does a slight alteration of the track listing. In the original MusicMasters LP, side A consists of six tracks, the last one being "Fever"; side B then starts off with "I'll Give It All To You." In this Music Heritage LP, side A has seven tracks, the last one being "I'll Give It All To You"; side B then starts with "Sans Souci."


1. Jeffey Nissim And The Peggy Lee Songbook Series
Peggy Lee told the press that the idea of doing an album consisting entirely of her lyrics had been suggested by MusicMasters' president Jeffrey Nissim. The vocalist made all the song choices in tandem with one of her right-hand musicians, John Chiodini. She also mentioned that the album had been conceived in commemoration of her 70th birthday, on May 26, 1990. (MusicMasters' original advertisement for the album actually lists it as "available March 13, 1990," a date which would have taken advantage of her concurrent engagement at The Ballroom, in New York City. Late March reviews of her Ballroom concerts indeed make mention of the album, thereby suggesting that it was already out. However, music sites and record guides generally give the album's official release date as June 25, 1990. Perhaps that summer date points to the national, wide release.)

Lee actually had plans to record a whole series of albums dedicated to the songs that she had written. In fact, the 1990 album was identified in some press reports as volume 1. (The album itself does not bear such a rubric, however.) MusicMasters' own press release refers to it as "a release of our first of multi-volume project entitled The Peggy Lee Songbook." For the second album, the singer-songwriter was contemplating recording just songs that she and Dave Barbour had written. (Lee's intention to carry out this plan is apparent from the fact that There'll Be Another Spring, the first album in the prospective Peggy Lee Songbook series, does not include any collaborations with Barbour.) Unfortunately, no other songbook albums were made, for reasons unknown.

2. The Album There'll Be Another Spring: The Peggy Lee Songbook At The Grammys
Both of Peggy Lee's albums for the MusicMasters label earned her Grammy nominations in the category of Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Female. In addition to repeat nominees Betty Carter, Carmen McRae and newly emerging Dianne Reeves, the other nominee in this category was the woman who had won the award on almost every single year in which she had been nominated: Lee's beloved friend Ella Fitzgerald. With her album titled All That Jazz, Fitzgerald did it again, for one final time.

This was also the last of Peggy Lee's 14 Grammy nominations (12 bestowed on her, including one win; two bestowed on others but pertaining to her records). Or almost her last. In 1995, Peggy Lee received a very significant honor: The Grammy's Lifetime Achievement Award.

A few years after Lee passed away, there were also two Grammy nominations in connection to her 2004 set The Singles Collection. (Details can be found in the notes under the Capitol session dated February 18, 1952.)

3. MusicMasters' Various Pressings Of The Peggy Lee Songbook [LP, CS, CD]
There'll Be Another Spring was originally sent to stores on CD and cassette. The LP version was at that time available only to members of the Columbia House Club.

Following the original 1990 release, MusicMasters did another pressing, to which it assigned a new catalogue number. That second pressing is from around 1992.

Somewhat mysteriously, I have also come across listings for a CD edition of The Peggy Lee Songbook which is credited to neither MusicMasters or to Musical Heritage, though it bears the same year as the original release. Its catalogue number is S&R 8208212. I presume S&R to be a licensee or a distributor.

Although the above-listed pressings of the album are the only ones known to me, I do not discard the possibility of others, which could also bear entirely different catalogue numbers.

As shown in the issue entries above, the album was reissued on MusicMasters' parent company, Musical Heritage, too. There are also non-USA (re)issues of There'll Be Another Spring: The Peggy Lee Songbook on labels such as Limelight, Polygram, Phonogram, and Venus. A listing can be found in the Foreign Pressings page of this discography's Miscellanea section.

Collectors' Corner

1. The Peggy Lee Rose
Gracing the cover of The Peggy Lee Songbook is a drawing of the Peggy Lee Rose, a flower that the American Rose Society officially named after the singer in 1983.

2. Slightly Different Album Covers On MusicMasters And Musical Heritage
The same front cover graces all pressings and (re)issues of The Peggy Lee Songbook, but some minor differences are evident among them. MusicMasters' cover is in color, the Musical Heritage cover in black & white. (This detail has been corroborated only for the LP format. I have not been able to inspect Musical Heritage's reissues in the compact disc and cassette formats.) The cover of the Jazz Heritage CD is also in color, and differs from the MusicMasters cover by the addition of a pink framing around all four sides of the drawing.

3. Lyrics Sheet
To my knowledge, all the editions and configurations of There'll Be Another Spring have all the lyrics printed. (I have yet to come across an item that does not have them.) In the CDs, they are printed in the booklets, as expected. Also as expected, the Musical Heritage LP features them in its back cover. But the original LP on MusicMasters does not follow expectations. Its lyrics are printed in a jacket insert: one sheet of high gloss paper, almost the same size as the LP's jacket.

Masters And Labels

1. Amreco
2. Amerco
All issues from the Musical Heritage family of labels bear two ownership credits, one for the label itself and another for a company that, curiously, seems to have changed its name at some point in time. The company's name was given as Amreco, Inc. until some time in the late 1990s or early 2000s, when it was changed to Amerco, Inc.

In the albums, Amreco/Amerco is usually tied to the sound recording copyright ( ℗ ), occasionally to the registered trademark ( ® ). The regular copyright symbol ( © ) is attached to the Musical Heritage labels.


Top: The Peggy Lee Songbook as released by MusicMasters, the label for which its tracks were recorded. The front covers of the cassette tape and the vinyl long play are pictured on their original 1990 editions. Not pictured herein, he CD was initially available as a "limited edition" from the Columbia House mail-order company. In the pictured form, it probably came to physical record stores only after Columbia House's contractual exclusivity agreement had lapsed. Middle row: One of at least two or three Japanese CD editions of the album. Issued by Phonogram and distributed by Nippon, the edition on display (Phce 5030) was the first one released in the Land of the Sun. Bottom row: actual photography of the Peggy Lee rose, whose semblance graces, in the form of a drawing, the front cover of the There'll Be Another Spring: The Peggy Lee Songbook. The last of these photos was taken at the patio of a Peggy Lee family member.

Date: Probably late 1989 or early 1990
Location: Carpenter Avenue Elementary School, 3909 Carpenter Avenue, Studio City, California , & Stagg Street Studio, 15147 Stagg Street. Van Nuys, California

Peggy Lee (ldr), Wendy Raksin (dir), John Chiodini (pdr), Glen Aulepp, Gary Denton, Joe Lopes, Jay Newland (eng), Unknown (afp), Dom DeLuise, Other Individuals Unknown (v), Peggy Lee (v, spk), The Carpenter Avenue Elementary School Chorus (bkv)

a. Master Take (MusicMasters) Everybody Needs A Santa Claus - 1:51(John Chiodini, Peggy Lee) / arr: John Chiodini, Peggy Lee
MUSICMASTERS Jazz Digital Download Album016126550046 — Everybody Needs A Santa Claus   (2020)
b. Master Take (MusicMasters) We Be Friends - 3:02(John Chiodini, Peggy Lee) / arr: John Chiodini, Peggy Lee
Both titles on:

At The Recording Session

Julena Stinson and Beverly A. West, both erstwhile members of the Carpenter Avenue Elementary School chorus, have kindly shared with me their memories of some events that transpired at this session and at its rehearsal.

Julena Stinson and I came into contact in 2004. Julena remembers rehearsing with both Peggy Lee and John Chiodini at one point, but believes that only Chiodini was present during the chorus' actual recording of its vocal part. Julena's understandably vague recollection is that Lee had become ill, and could not be present. (See second reminiscence, below, for a different take on this matter.) She further recalls that the session had been scheduled to be recorded at Stagg Street Studio, but plans had to be canceled when the permits for bus transportation could not get processed in time. Instead, the chorus recorded its vocal at the school's auditorium. A 22-year-old when she spoke with me in 2004, Julena believes that she was about 7 at the time of the recording session, a detail which would point to 1989 as the recording year for this session.

Beverly A. West contacted me in 2009. Beverly vividly remembers Peggy Lee as being present during the recording. Adds Beverly: "she was definitely ill — in a wheelchair, if I remember correctly. She apologized to us at one point because she had to stop to eat a sandwich because of her health. She was a very nice lady. Asked about the year in which the session took place, Beverly answered as follows: I was in the fifth grade at the time, so it would have been in fall 1989 or spring 1990. I suspect it was in the spring of 1990."


Above: The MusicMasters cassingle on which this session's numbers were issued. As of this writing, these two numbers are not commercially available in any other issue. Below: shots of Christmas trees at Peggy Lee's homes over years. Capturing Lee next to her daughter Nicki, the first shot is from the 1950s. The second shot may be from the 1960s, the third and fourth from the 1980s. As also shown in the front cover of the MusicMasters cassingle, the decoration of Lee's holiday tree with balloons was a tradition at the singer's home. The second pictorial row demonstrates how the tree looked once the balloons had been lighted.


This session's date remains unknown to me. The two possible years are 1989 and 1990, as suggested by the details given below.

The cassette single that contains these performances identifies 1990 as the year of copyright. (Some online servers give an October 12, 1992 release date to the cassingle, but I am inclined to think that the servers' information is erroneous. Or, otherwise, it could point to a re-release, although I have found no evidence of one.)

For the songs themselves, the following information is given in the cassingle: Words & Music: Peggy Lee/John Chiodini © 1990, 1989. It is clear that "We Be Friends" had already been written by early 1989: Lee was singing this song live, in concert, during April of that year, in San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel.

An article published in the December 1990 issue of Interview Magazine suggests that "Everybody Loves A Santa Claus" was written that same year. Interviewer Linda Ekblad quotes Peggy as saying that she was "writing a Christmas special called The Legend of Christmas .... Dom DeLuise is going to be one of the Santa Clauses. Won't that be perfect? We're trying to get Jonathan Winters. I have written a song for it: Everybody Needs A Santa Claus." (This prospective TV special probably did not come to fruition. Lee is known to have rehearsed for it, and a tape of the rehearsed songs has been preserved.)

To sum up, the circumstantial evidence at hand does not pinpoint the exact year on which the present session took place. Along with he cassingle's year of copyright, the recollections of Julena Stevenson and Beverly A. West allows us to narrow the date to either the winter of 1989 or the spring of 1990.


1. Dom DeLuise
Dom DeLuise participates in "Everybody Needs A Santa Claus" only.

2. Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee's speaking voice is heard only in portions of "Everybody Needs A Santa Claus."

3. Wendy Raskin
Wendy Raskin was musical director for The Carpenter Avenue Elementary School Chorus only.


1. Mixing
The cassingle credits the mixing of these performances to John Chiodini and Gary Denton.

2. Gary Denton
3. Glenn Aulepp
4. Joe Lopes
5. Gary Newland
Engineers Gary Denton and Glen Aulepp are credited for both masters. (Denton is the owner of Stagg Street Studio.) Aulepp is identified as the "2nd. engineeer." Joe Lopes and Gary Newland are credited for "Everybody Loves A Santa Claus" only.

Peggy Lee At MusicMasters And At Harbinger Records

In July 1985, Peggy Lee came to New York to sing, for the very first time, at The Ballroom. A supper club that had been operating at 253 West 28th Street since 1981, The Ballroom was to be Lee's return to an intimate New York setting since her last season at the Waldorf Astoria, back in 1976. (Between 1977 and 1984, Lee's Manhattan performances had been limited to one-night-only events in large venues such as Radio City, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Madison Square Garden. She had briefly appeared in Broadway, too.) The Ballroom engagement was a resounding success which turned Lee into one of the club's mainstays for the rest of the decade.

In 1988, her fourth visit to The Ballroom was promoted as a commemoration of her 50th anniversary as a professional vocalist, although by her own admission it was actually her 53rd or 54th. Such publicity, along with the sustained success of previous Ballroom performances, arose the interest of various record labels that were located in the New York and New Jersey area. Lee ended up accepting recording offers from two of them: MusicMasters and Harbinger.

Peggy Lee At Jeffrey Nissim's MusicMasters Records

MusicMasters was actually a branch of Musical Heritage Society, a New Jersey-based, family-run mail order company. Patriarch Albert and matriarch Dorothy Nissim were actually New Yorkers -- high school sweethearts who grew up in the Bronx, got married in 1936, and moved to New Jersey in 1953, due to a business job offer. Musical Heritage was yet another transplant from the neighbor state. Founded and operating in New York since 1962, the mail order label caught the attention of Mr. Nissim, who had no previous experience in the music world but had become increasingly involved with Direct Mail Order ventures through his job. After he purchased and relocated it to New Jersey in 1976, the label kept on growing. By 1980, it was considered the nation's largest independent classical music record club --with a catalogue estimated to contain over 3,000 licensed discs. (Music Heritage did licensing businesses with many labels, but appears to have had its strongest ties to the European mega-companies EMI and Polygram, as well as an array of small, non-long-lasting European classical labels. During the last two decades of the twentieth century, "labels were changing ownership and most [classical] decisions were made in Europe," Jeff Nissim would reminisce in 1995. )

The MusicMasters branch was created by two sons, Robert and Jeff, in 1981. Jeff is generally remembered as the company's main man -- publicly known, by the early 1990s, as the branch president. Two catalysts ignited the idea of a retail branch in the younger Nissim's mind. One pertained to the classical world, the other (which we will be covering a few paragraphs down below) to the jazz world. "It was a period when young American classical musicians weren't getting recorded, and I felt there was an opportunity to make wonderful recordings with them," Jeff Nissim told journalist Jim Bessman, during an interview for Billboard magazine. "I followed my instincts ... I made arrangements with them and the foundations that supported them to put out their records."

More generally, MusicMasters' mission became to generate product for retail, thereby moving past Musical Heritage's mail-order exclusivity model. Similarly, the prospective catalogue would promptly grow to include more than just classical music. The earliest batch of releases (six LPs) gingerly pointed to the expansion: recordings highlighting not only three great classical composers (Purcell, Schubert, and Schumann) but also material off the beaten path (bawdry from the Elizabethan age) and music from other genres (ragtime piano, Latin-styled guitar, the latter pointing to Jeff Nissim's personal affinity for the instrument, and his desire to promote the album's guitarist, Eliot Fisk). For the first half of the 1980s, excursions away from the classical world were few and rare gingerly made, but ten years later even rock and pop would begin to make its way into the catalogue. It is the middle years that concerns us the most here, though -- and, from those years, the label's embrace of the jazz-swing world.

The other catalyst leading to Jeff Nissim's creation and expansion of MusicMasters was the music of Benny Goodman. Around 1984, The King of Swing was shopping for a label on which some classical performances -- taped at a recital hall and featuring him with a string quartet -- could be released. Aware that Musical Heritage was primarily a classical music company, a mutual friend put Nissim and Goodman in contact. The resulting album, Benny Goodman Private Collection - Classical Chamber Music earned a Grammy nomination and facilitated a second outing, this time featuring big band performances from a WNET fund-raising concert (Let's Dance).

Meanwhile, Goodman spread the word. His alumnae and friends heard that all dealings with Jeff Nissim and his label had been to the bandleader's satisfaction. At least three of them bit, establishing contact with Nissim and going to do records on MusicMasters: saxophonist and Goodman archivist Loren Schoenberg, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and, of course, vocalist Peggy Lee.

In January 1988, a press release indicated that Lee would be "recorded in performance live by MusicMasters Records during several nights of her upcoming two-week engagement at The Ballroom ... Jeffrey Nissim, President of MusicMasters ... said: It is indeed an honor to add the legendary Miss Lee to our growing roster of classic jazz artists. It is our hope that this album will become only the first in a series of jewels Peggy Lee will favor MusicMasters with."

MusicMasters might have taped the Ballroom performances as planned, but ultimately no concert album came out. A studio album was issued instead. From comments that Lee made to New York Times arts critic Stephen Holden shortly before the start of the Ballroom five-week engagement, it is apparent that initially there were plans to do both albums. "She has plans to record four albums for two different record companies," wrote Holden, "including one live at the Ballroom. One of the others will concentrate on vintage blues songs of the Bessie Smith era."

Pleasant reminiscences, surrounding the making of that first album, were shared online by MusicMasters' Publicity Manager at the time. Her full name is unknown to me (possibly Suzie Wiley), but her comments, posted on June 2014, are worth quoting: "as Publicity Manager for MusicMasters, I got paid for rubbing elbows with the likes of Miss Peggy, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, Ruby Braff, Louie Bellson, as well as attend the 1988 Grammy Awards ... Daily chats with Miss Peggy Lee as she recorded Peggy Sings the Blues, is also a tremendous highlight, along with being able to work with Jazz PR legend Phoebe Jacob ... We brainstormed a number of cover ideas for this album. I think this [Hans Albers cover photo] turned out classy and dreamy at the same time. Phoebe taught me how to "speak Peggy." For example: I called her at the studio to see how her recording session was going, when she sighed and said, "Those mean clouds are hiding the sun today, Suzie." I learned that the best reply for this comment was to send an arrangement of sunny yellow flowers to the studio, along with a kind note.  She'd call and feign surprise and gratitude for "such a thoughtful and sweet gesture." There was also "Peggy speak" to arrange a delivery of her favorite tea and sweets. This may sound or seem demanding, but it really wasn't. Miss Peggy was very sweet, always gracious, and that Voice. She had it to the end.'

Peggy Lee's association with MusicMasters was a lasting and productive one. After the initial album, recorded in 1988, the association bore another album in 1989, whose concept was suggested by Nissim himself. (See sessions below, dated November 1, 2, and 3, 1989.) Plans to do more albums -- a series of Lee songbooks -- were made but, for reasons unknown, did not come to pass. In addition to the albums, Lee also recorded one MusicMasters single around 1990 and one guest performance in 1995. Her final studio recording (the 1995 guest performance) was in fact done for this noteworthy label.

The mutually beneficial relationship between Goodman and Nissim also granted the latter access to a fair number of hitherto unissued classical material that Goodman either has in its possession or had donated to Yale University. With most of it ready and available for his picking, Nissim continued releasing Goodman material after 1986 -- twelve volumes on the Yale Music series. It would be thanks to those Goodman albums, in particular, that a lot of jazz and swing music fan would first become acquainted with the company. MusicMasters ended up amassing a remarkable collection of albums by not only Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee but also Louis Bellson, Dave Brubeck, Benny Carter, Freddie Hubbard, Mel Lewis, Artie Shaw, Stanley Turrentine, and others. Most notably, Benny Carter's albums kept on generating Grammy-nominated performances, with two of them scoring award wins.

"If I can make a record that satisfies the artist and distributor and makes a couple of bucks for me, that's enough," Nissim cordially added in 1995. By then, other emerging record labels in LA and NY had been applying the same working model to operations, thereby giving strong competition by the New Jersey-based company. During the decade, Music Heritage had also faced crunching competition from BMG, once the major chose to aggressively move into the classical music business. Also needing to maximize the commercial viability of their jazz records, the independent label had cut a national distribution deal with BMG which doubtless had both pros and cons.

MusicMasters stopped releasing new music around 1999 and apparently went into a partial hiatus. Its catalogue lived on, though, for the next ten years, through CD reissues on the mother label and on a sister branch (Jazz Heritage Society, created in 1995). Then, in 2008, a deal was struck with a digital company, The Orchard, primarily to sell MusicMasters catalogue online, as music files. “Reviving the MusicMasters label has long been a hope of mine,” Jeff Nissim said to the press. He added: “these recordings have stood the test of time and to make them available again to a wide audience through The Orchard is gratifying and important to our company and the artists who made these recordings.” For his part, Brad Navin, executive vice president and general manager at The Orchard, contributed the following statement: “Musical Heritage Society has a long tradition of offering incredible classical and jazz recordings to the most committed and discriminating fans. We look forward to a long term relationship that brings these rare, never before heard recordings to the market for those fans, and helps to expose great historic recordings to new audiences.”

The family's hold over the various branches seems to have been brought to its end by the combined passing of the patriarch in 2010 and the fluctuating luck of old music businesses such as Direct Mail Order in the new, digital-download-oriented century. The Musical Heritage catalogue was purchased by another New Jersey-based digital company, Passionato LLC, in 2011. The catalogue track goes cold afterwards (perhaps absorbed by a conglomerate, just as it happened to The Orchard, now a Sony company?), and mentions of worthwhile executive Jeff Nissim are no longer forthcoming in the music press. We are better informed about the life of matriarch Dorothy (Dodie), who co-ran the family businesses. Married to patriarch Albert Nissim for 64 years, Mrs. Nissim survived both him and their business ventures, passing away in mid-2020, at the great age of 96.

Peggy Lee At Ken Bloom's And Bill Rudman's Harbinger Records

Harbinger was the other noteworthy company for which Peggy Lee recorded during her Ballroom years. The label had been set up in 1983 by a two-men team: Cleveland-based educator/radio broadcaster Bill Rudman and New York-based theatre historian/director Ken Bloom. Though variously active over the decades on radio, theater, and music consulting work, Bloom remains better known for the numerous music book which he has (co-)written, from Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time to American Songbook: The Singers, The Songwriters and The Songs. For his part, Rudman has been perennially involved in a plethora of music-related activities, most notably including the hosting of the nationally syndicated radio show Footlight Parade, Sounds Of The American Musical and the directorship of the Musical Theater Project, dedicated to the celebration of Broadway and Hollywood musicals. Harbinger is currently listed as a division or subsidiary of The Musical Theater Project.

Back in 1983, Harbinger's first release was Geraldine Fitzgerald In Streetsongs, an album based on a concert that the film actress-cabaret singer had given at Cleveland's Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival. Rudman was an associate director at the festival. After their live album was met with great critical success, the two men felt emboldened enough to produce their very first studio session. Aware that Francis Ford Coppola's much-buzzed-about period movie The Cotton Club was upcoming, Bloom and Rudman thought about recording an album of songs connected to that famous Harlem nightclub. They decided to concentrate on the numbers that the team of Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler had written during the period in which they worked for the club (1930-1934). To that end, they met with Arlen's friend and biographer Ed Jablonski. He acquainted Bloom and Rudman with a batch of song manuscripts which Arlen had kept in a storage unit, and which had barely ever enjoyed the light of day since the early 1930s.

Next, the producers set out to choose a suitable vocalist. They visited Tower Records to check the bins of LPs by Broadway and pop singers. Maxine Sullivan was their choice. A phone search and a subsequent call to the semi-retired singer was all it took. The resulting album (The Great Songs From The Cotton Club By Harold Arlen And Ted Koehler) garnered a Grammy nomination in 1984 and became the first of the producers' three songbook collaborations with Sullivan, who passed away in 1987 -- and who happened to be Peggy Lee's greatest vocal influence. (Due to Sullivan's illness, plans for a fourth songbook, dedicated to Hoagy Carmichael, and slated to be recorded in 1987, had to be cancelled.)

One year earlier, Harold Arlen had also passed away. While cataloging the deceased's collection, Jablonski had discovered another treasure trove of Arlen songs, most of them rare or even unpublished. Made aware of the discovery, Bloom and Rudman excitedly planned one full album of such songs. When the time to choose a singer came, the producers followed the same plan of action they had used for the Cotton Club project. "Ken and I went to the singers' section in Tower Records in New York and went through all the bins from A to Z," Rudman told reporter Rebecca Freligh of the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1993. "We got to Z, and said, 'it's Peggy Lee or nobody.' "

"In January 1988," states reporter Freligh, "Rudman called Lee at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, where she was performing. He told her he had a concept for an album. She didn't know him from Adam, and it seemed she didn't want to. I said, 'Just let me tell you what the idea is. The idea is, these are all unpublished songs by Harold Arlen. And there was this pause. And she said, Oh. Yes, I would be interested in talking to you. (Freligh's account has at least one erroneous detail. Lee had not performed at the Waldorf Astoria since the 1970s, although she could have been staying there in 1988.)

More recently, Bloom and Rudman were interviewed at length for a biography of Peggy Lee. The producers told biographer Peter Richmond that they had gone to see Lee at The Ballroom during her February 1988 engagement, and that the performance which they watched had further convinced them: she was the right choice for their project. Hence the team accosted the artist after the show, as she was about to be driven in a limo. A very interested Lee extended an offer to have them visit at her home in California. They ended up making three visits, the first just so that Lee could listen to the songs (April 1988) and the other two visits dedicated to rehearsals in the company of Keith Ingham. (The pianist and arranger had been the main musical collaborator on the albums that Maxine Sullivan had recorded for Harbinger, too.) Fourteen songs were ultimately chosen by the producers, and at least a couple more were considered but ultimately left unrecorded. For details about the recording dates, see session dated August 29, 1988.

Years later, Lee told the press that she had loved working with Bloom and Rudman, deeming them "very thoughtful and supportive and enthusiastic. I've never had more fun with anyone -- and I've had great producers." For their part, the producers told biographer Peter Richmond that Lee had had fun telling them obscene jokes: "[s]he was sort of like a little kid, mischievously telling these jokes." But at the sessions, they found her to conduct herself very professionally, and to give moving, nakedly heartfelt renditions of the performances. According to the producers, they made plans to record next an Alec Wilder songbook, "which never materialized due to her failing health."


Top row: from left to right, MusicMasters' Jeff Nissim in 1996, Harbinger's Ken Bloom in an undated picture (possibly 2000s), Harbinger's Bill Rudman around 2008, in front a neat record collection, and Nissim again, in 2005. Third row: Musical Heritage's Albert and Dorothy Nissim, he in a photo from his youth, she in a photo from her golden years; Ken Bloom in 2016 and a jolly Bill Rudman, around 2008.

Second row: from the 1988-1990 period of her career, these shots capture the version of Peggy Lee that female impersonators came to favor and imitate in subsequent years. Interest from both the New York press and the local gay community was probably sparked by the multigenerational crowds that came to see her each year at The Ballroom nightclub, from 1985 to 1990. The spark was then ignited by the sight of Lee's somewhat extravagant looks and sometimes intentionally kooky demeanor onstage. First we see backstage her in her dressing room at The Ballroom, in one of various shots taken during an interview for the Cabaret section of New York magazine (April 30, 1990 issue). Next we see her two years earlier, in her suite at the Ritz Carlton in New York, at a time when she was fulfilling another Ballroom engagement. This and other shots at her suite were taken during an in interview with gossip columnist Michael Musto, published on the February 9, 1988 issue of The Village Voice. Moving on, we now see Peggy Lee in performance at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1888. She is striking a typical pose from these later years of her career. Date unknown but from this same period, the remaining photo finds the (near)-70-year-old performer posing with a young, unconventionally dressed nightclub goer.

Bottom row: mementoes from two 1990 celebrations. First the singer poses solo at the March 13, 1990 publicity party for her album The Peggy Lee Songbook,then in the company of her daughter Nicki and granddaughter Holly (and the Peggy Lee Rose), at her 70th Birthday party, on May 26, 1990.

Sessions Reported: 5

Performances Reported: 43

Unique Songs Reported: 43

Unique Issues Reported: 18