Sunday, February 17, 2008

Popsie's Pix Book

If you've been to Gregory's Garden Room for lunch or dinner or for a Blue Moon Jazz event in the past year, you've noticed the photos on the wall of jazz, pop and rock stars, which were taken by Mike Randolph's pop back in the days of Big Band, Be Bop, pop, rock & roll and rock.

Mike and Walt Greg are pals, and Walt and his gal went to NYC for a special party at a Manhattan book store to celebrate the publication of a book of Popse's Pix.

Popsie was there when anything of significance happened in the world of entertainment from the mid-30s to the 70s, and got it all on film.

Many of the best of Popsie are in the book, though I haven't seen it yet, I'm sure it's terrific, as I am quite familiar with the story.

I've written a half-dozen stories about Popsie over the years, and here's one of the first, which was originally published in the Atlantic City in the 80s.

Salute to 'Popsie' Randolph

As a sentimental salute, Benny Goodman's traditional concert-ending song, "Goodbye" played softly in the background as they lowered 'Popsie' Randolph into the Arizona desert.

The song was a familiar tune to all the mourners, who knew Popsie as Goodman's road manager, as well as a good musician and great photographer.

Someone placd the mouthpiece of Popsie's horn into the grave, given to him by Louis Armstrong, Popsie's hero. Mentor and good friend, the mouthpiece was one of his most prized possession. Most of Popsie's friends were, like Goodman and Armstrong, musicians and peple in the entertainment business.

Since he had his picture finger on the pulse of popular music for 45 years, Popsie will probably be best remembered as a photograher.

He left us with his unique view of his friends, and litrally thousands of other musicians, singers and show business personalities. Once-popular songs seem to touch off th rembrance that dates periods and recalls particular episodes worth reminiscing about.

And at the sound of an old song, Popsie's son Mike Randolph, will take out and sort through his father's pctures.

Containing more than 10,000 negatives, Popsie's Archives is the most extensive collection of photographs of entertainers and musicians known to exist. It covers many generations and styles of music - rhythm and blues, jazz, swing, big band, rock and roll, Motown, disco and contemporary rock. What Matthew Brady did for the Civil War, Popsie Randolph did for popular music.

Born William Seezenias in New York City, Popsie got his start in the entertainment industry as a band boy for the Ina Ray Hutton orchestra. He later became road manager for the ever popular Benny Goodman....

It is said that because people couldn't pronounce Seezenias, once when when making reservations for the band, he was asked his name, he looked up to the street sign that read: "Randolph St.," and made the reservations under the name Randolph. And now there is Mike Randolph and Randolph's Marine Electronic Store on the Bay at 8th Street in Ocean City. Mike Randolph works on marine electronics during the day, and at night he sorts through the file cabinets of negatives and photos in his garage.

The old Randolph home in Ocean City was once a retreat for many of the famous big band leaders and musicians of the era. They frequently left the hasles of the big city or the tired routine of touring the backwaters of America to rest at the Randolph home at the Jersey Shore. The famous personalities of the day liked Ocean City because they could walk about town without being recogized as the superstars of their day.

It was while working as a road manager for Goodman when Popsie began to do publicity and take photos of the band and the musicians that he could have published in the local papers before a concert.

It was while working for Goodman when Popsie decided he wanted to take photographs full time and become a professional photographer, so the big band leader and his wife financed the venture. Mike Randolph still has one of his father's first primative large wooden box cameras lying about the shop among all the modern electronic gagetry. Photography was just a hobby at first, but after working with Goodman for seven years he became road manager for Woody Herman before devoting his ful time to taking pictures, with a camera that Goodman bought him.

Setting up a studio in New York City next to Jack Dempsey's taproom, Randolph became a prolific photographer of the many musicians, entertainers and celebrities that passed through town. His pictures were disctinctly marked by his signatire "Popsie."

Popsie worked out of New York until 1975, photographing subjects in his studio or going backstage to get exclusive photos at shows.

Popsie had the exclusive rights to photograph the Beatles when they first arrived in the United States on January 17, 1963 to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Popsie's photographs of the big band era include many pictures of Benny Goodman (from 1938-1972), the Dorsey brothers (1938-1952), Woody Herman (1940-1961) and Frank Sinatra (1939-1945). His rare collection of photos of blues and jazz artists include Louis Armstrong (1952-1973), Pearl Bailey (1944), Count Basie (1940-1967), Ella Fitzgerald (1947-1964), Billie Holliday (1936-1949) and Thelonius Monk (1956).

Of the more contemorary Rock and Roll genre, three are pictures of Chubby Checker (1961), Chuck Berry (1955-1958), Bill Haley and the Comets (1955-56), Jethro Tull (1969), Kris Kristoferson (1970), the Beatles (Jan. 1963-Feb.1964), the Rolling Stones (1964-65) and many other groups that remain unidentified.

Mike Randolph is preparing his father's photos for eventual publication and cataloguing them for a television documentary.

Someday soon, at the sound of an old tune, anyone will be able to dip into Popsie's Archives and review som eof the old photos of an era worth recalling.


Popular Music

Through the Camera Lens of

William “PoPsie” Randolph

By Michael Randolph

Foreword by Quincy Jones

At Chartwell Booksellers

55 East 52 Street

In the Arcade of the Park Avenue Plaza building

Between Park & Madison Avenues

New York City


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