Meredith Willson wrote a wonderful memoir, But He Doesn't Know the Territory, about the lengthy (lennnngthy) trials he went through writing The Music Man and trying to get it made. It was his first attempt at writing a musical, though he'd had a long career in music up to that point. (Little known, remarkable fact: he received an Oscar nomination for composing the score to Charlie Chaplin's film, The Great Dictator.) He wrote over 30 drafts of the script, and with his wife, Rini, the two of them would go from backers audition to backers audition in a relentless number of living rooms performing the score together. The backers audition tales are among the highlights in the book.
Two years after The Music Man finally made it to Broadway in 1957 and became the huge hit (when Willson was 55 -- ah, perseverance when you have something that good you believe in ...), the husband and wife recorded an album that sort-of duplicated their backers auditions. The album, ...And then I wrote The Music Man, is just Meredith Willson telling the story of the show, interspersed with them singing most of the songs, and him performing at the piano.
I happen to be the kind of lunkhead who likes to go on treasure hunts in used record shops, and found the album several years ago. Not surprisingly, it was a bit scratchy, but quite a discovery for a whopping three bucks. It's goofy and utterly charming and great fun. And using some audio software I have, I was able to get many of the scratches and pops out, when I converted it to digital.
Though most people know the score so well they can sing it in their sleep (even those who hate musicals), this particular number is one you likely have never heard. At least, in the form it's done here.
You probably do know the show's great counter-point number, "Lida Rose" and "Will I Ever Tell You." (And to a lesser extent, "Pick-a-Little" and "Goodnight, Ladies.") But Willson had the idea for another such number, with two songs overlapping one another. But it didn't quite work in the show, and so it was cut.
But let him tell you all about it. And with his wife, Rini (who's still alive and living in Los Angeles, and was even somewhat involved with the recent Broadway revival of The Music Man that starred Craig Bierko), let the two of them sing it. (So that his opening line makes sense, just know that this cut immediately follows him singing "The Sadder But Wiser Girl for Me") --
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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