Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hal Pearl remembered




Hal Pearl at the Aragon Ballroom WurliTzer

Hal also played the organ for presidents Harry Truman and Richard Nixon, and at the 
tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Bill Rieger recalled that 
Mr. Pearl would play at the Aragon for the "corn beef and cabbage" fund- raisers held 
by Mayor Richard J. Daley. 
During the 1970s, WTTW produced "The Toy That Grew Up," featuring Pearl's accompaniment
to classic silent films. The show was broadcast on more than 30 public television stations.
More recent, Mr. Pearl was the headliner of organists at the reopening of the Chicago

My story of Hal Pearl might begin as any other with a persistence and determination to find out about a legend. My call began to the Chicago Tribune when realized that Ken Griffin was from the same city (or had passed here) and Ken was friends with Hal Pearl not Ray Pearl the great jazz orchestra leader (also from Chicago), to whom I was first told.  You remember Ken Griffin was born in Columbia, Missouri. His biggest hit was "You Can't Be True, Dear" (1948),  my favorite is The Cuckoo Waltz (flip side of "You Can't Be True Dear" (1948), composed by Emanuel Jonasson, which you can read the WHOLE story on this blog. "You Can't Be True Dear" which was first released as an instrumental, and later that year re-released with a vocal by Jerry Wayne dubbed in. Both versions became popular, selling over 3.5 million copies. He also starred in a 1954-55 syndicated television series, 67 Melody Lane. He recorded on a variety of recording labels, especially Columbia.It was in the 1940s in Aurora, Illinois, that Griffin broke into the nightclub circuit, playing at the Rivoli Cafe nightly. The sessions at the Rivoli cafe were broadcast on the radio station, WMRO, and the program became popular. Griffin died on March 11, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 46, of a heart attack and was buried at Lincoln Memorial Park in Aurora. Columbia had many hours of Griffin's unreleased recordings on tape, and continued to release "new" recordings of Griffin's music for a number of years after his death. I found out what Hal Pearls phone number was and called that October morning of 1998.  He was a delight to speak with, told me stories that including drinking, partying and most of all "enjoying life". Most of all Hal shared with me his passion for playing organ.  He boasted about being better than Ken Griffin even though Ken did release several albums. I laughed and then we both did. I knew he was lonely and wanted to talk music as I spent most of my lunch hour on the phone with this legend of delight.  Most of his pictures are posted here that he sent me and I will never forget that wonderful conversation with him. A couple years later (2000) I'd find out from his nephew he'd passed away and Chicago morns a great legend but his music will float in our minds for years.

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