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Frank Loesser

Frank Loesser

Frank Loesser’s first careers were in writing words: newspaper reporter, sketch and lyric writer for vaudeville and radio shows. Moving to Hollywood in the late ‘30s, Loesser had a successful career writing lyrics for Jule Styne, Burton Lane and other composers. Fourteen movie musicals in five years featured Frank Loesser lyrics. His chance to write both music and lyrics came in the late ‘40s when he scored two movies before moving to Broadway to try his hand at musical theatre. Although his first show, Where’s Charley? ran for almost 800 performances, it was his second show that is known as one of the classics in American musical theatre. The 1950 show, Guys and Dolls, was an adaptation of a Damon Runyon short story “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown.” Loesser’s masterpiece is filled with gangsters, gamblers, show girls, and a mission band from the Save-A-Soul mission. The two couples around which the story centers eventually find a way to get together in the end. The show was filled with wonderful dance sequences choreographed by legend Michael Kidd, including the “Crapshooter’s Ballet” held in the sewers. “Fugue for Tinhorns,” “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” “If I Were a Bell,” and the classic “Luck Be A Lady” were just some of the rousing and wonderful songs sung by the low-lifes and the do-gooders of Loesser’s show. Guys and Dolls won five Tony awards in 1951 including awards for Best Musical, Best Direction, and Best Choreography.

Original Cast Recording, 1950

In addition to being a lyricist for movie musicals and writing a handful of musical theatre works, Loesser’s importance to musical theatre is also built on the support and encouragement he provided to younger songwriting talent of the late ‘50s and ’60s. Meredith Willson (The Music Man – 1957) and Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (The Pajama Game – 1954, and Damn Yankees – 1955) all created successful shows in the mid-‘50s that ran over 1,000 performances each.

Frank Loesser’s final major contribution to American musical theatre was the tongue-in-cheek story of a young man’s rise in the competitive world of commerce from mail room to board room. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 1961 was a refreshing and innovative look at the modern American world of business including iconic subjects like nepotism, the office water-cooler gossip, the executive men’s restroom, oldboys network, and sycophantic yes-men. The musical starred young actor, 30-year-old Robert Morse as J. Pierpont Finch, corporate climber. Six years later, Morse reprised his role in the movie version of the Broadway musical. In a wonderful twist of casting, the highly successful 2007 television series, Mad Men, cast an aged, 76-year-old Robert Morse as the patriarchal head of a Madison Avenue advertising agency set in the early 1960s. Loesser’s musical ran over 1,400 performances on Broadway and was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Direction in a Musical, and a Best Actor for Robert Morse. Revivals of How to Succeed in the last 15 years have starred Matthew Broderick (1995) and Harry Potter film star, Daniel Radcliffe (2011).


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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

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