David Merrick Presents Hits from His Broadway Hits
Presenting David Merrick Presents
By 1964, thousands of long-playing record albums had showcased Broadway musicals and performers, but there had never been one that had celebrated a Broadway producer – until October 1, 1964 when RCA Victor released David Merrick Presents Hits from His Broadway Hits.
Merrick was that famous. No other producer of his day – or after – was one of Johnny Carson’s guests on The Tonight Show or a “mystery guest” on What’s My Line?
In Valley of the Dolls, Neely O’Hara is starring in a musical called Take Me, Darling. Its producer is named by name: David Merrick.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show had an episode in which Murray has received form letters from producers who’d rejected his play. Mary wonders why producers “can’t include a nice handwritten note saying, ‘Good work, Murray! Nice try! Love, David Merrick.’” The studio audience laughed loudly. They knew the name. If Mary had mentioned any other producer then working on Broadway, the audience would have silently wondered about whom she was speaking.
Soon after Merrick had opened his biggest hit – Hello, Dolly! – record producer George R. Marek thought an album should celebrate the producer. Marek used his recording artists John Gary, Ann-Margret, and The Merrill Staton Voices to give lush treatment to a dozen songs from a dozen different Merrick musicals – eight of which, starting with Gypsy, received Tony® nominations for Best Musical.
The songs range from standards (“Small World”, “Make Someone Happy”) to hits (“Take Me Along”, “Love Makes the World Go Round”) to not-famous songs that deserve another listen (“Anyone Would Love You”).
The album begins with the title song from Fanny – it was Merrick’s first musical (and first hit) in 1954. By advertising with the then-scandalous “Have you seen Fanny?” Merrick saw it become the eleventh longest-running musical in Broadway history.
Merrick carried his passport with him at all times so that if he heard about a British hit, he needn’t return to his apartment and get the necessary papers; he could cab it to the airport. If he hadn’t beaten his Broadway competitors, he might not have landed such big fish as Stop the World – I Want To Get Off, Irma La Douce, and Oliver! – all well-represented on this album, by “What Kind of Fool Am I?”, “Our Language of Love” and “As Long As He Needs Me.”
And while Merrick was known for his resourcefulness and unerring business acumen, he was not known for saintliness. Tom Jones learned this when writing 110 in the Shade (from which “Is It Really Me?” comes). Years later, Jones penned Celebration, in which his stage directions described the villain as a “madman or a dictator. He has a moustache, which makes him look like someone out of the pages of the American magazines and newspapers: some famous entrepreneur.”
Jones eventually confessed that he meant David Merrick.
That brings us to Subways Are for Sleeping. For that musical, Merrick enlisted seven people who happened to have the same names as seven drama critics to rave about the show – and fooled one paper into running his full-page ad. Here, from Subways, the Staton Voices sing “Comes Once in a Lifetime.”
Of David Merrick, that was indeed true.
– Peter Filichia
The Merrill Staton Voices
Arranged and Conducted by Henri René and Joe Lipman