BBC KENNEDY BROADCAST IS HOT ITEM . . . DECEMBER 14, 1963 – Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Memories From the Soundtrack of Your Life


November 29th, 2013

Motor City Radio Flashbacks logoFrom the MCRFB NEWS archive: 1963


Saturday, November 23, 1963




NEW YORK — The record and radio industries were caught up in a hot controversy last week over the propriety recording and broadcasting the song “In The Summer Of His Years,” the John F. Kennedy tribute which was first sung on the BBC program, “That Was The Week That Was. NBC rebroadcast the BBC program.

The BBC's tribute to John Fitzgerald Kennedy THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS Saturday, November 23, 1963

The BBC’s Tribute to John Fitzgerald Kennedy – THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS – Saturday, November 23, 1963.

At press time, some seven single recordings of the song had been issued, and more were scheduled. In addition, Decca Records acquired the rights to release the soundtrack of the BBC show — originally broadcast on November 23 — and rushed out the album (see separate story).

Millicent Martin, the EMI artist who sang the song on the BBC show and whose performance is included in the Decca album, was also represented on a single released here by ABC-Paramount. Other singles as of press time were Kate Smith on RCA Records, Connie Francis on M-G-M, Mahalia Jackson on Columbia, Tony Arden on Decca, Hettie London on Palance Records.

Despite the fact that some of the royalties accruing from the song are to be given to charities or various causes, some stations refused to expose the disks. However, the diskeries involved felt in the main that their records were in good taste and indications were that they would not be withdrawn. Several of the labels involved said that they had already seen considerable action on the disk as a result of airplay on out-town-stations.


In New York, Varner Paulsen, Program Director of WNEW, said: “The records are a blatant attempt to try to commercialize on a national tragedy. The song as sung in the BBC-TV show of ‘This Was The Week That Was’ was a heart-rendering and sincere performance. Taken out of the context of the show it becomes something different.”

Mark Olds, general manager of WINS, stated: “The song was part of an almost extemporaneous serious program tribute to the late President of the United States with no thought of commercialization of material. Station policy forbids capitalizing commercially on such a tragic event.”

Ruth Myer, WMCA program director, said: “WMCA does not believe in banning records. We played the original version from the BBC program the day it was released. We felt it was of some interest to our audience. It isn’t anymore . . .  so we stopped playing it.”


Meanwhile, an astute observer noted the curious fact that the controversy was not an outgrowth of Tin Pan Alley activity. Two Brits wrote the song as part of the BBC tribute. Herbert Kretzmer wrote the words and David Lee the music. Lou Levy, president of Leeds Music, happened to be in a London apartment when the program was performed over the BBC.

He felt the song was a great piece of material and he acquired the copyright. Several artists, according to Levy — among them Connie Francis, queried the BBC to ascertain the publisher — and in this way the initial disks were cut. Levy notes he made no effort to promote the song — he merely urged that artists bear in mind the dignity of the material and exercise care care in their choice of material for the flip side. Even if the publisher wished to stop the flood of records, this was impossible owing to the compulsory or automatic license  provision of the Copyright Act.

Levy stated in part: “No one has ever been able to explain the creative process. Whatever magic is involved . . . touched two young songwriters in London . . . when the news about President Kennedy came to them over the air it was part of the BBC’s tribute . . . “

“But songs are not made just to be sung and heard; they are created to be sung over again and again. And so many fine artists have recorded this song: Connie Francis, Mahalia Jackson, Tony Arden, Kate Smith, Millicent Martin. Translations are being made in many languages; it is a song to be heard ’round the world . . . it will be part of every remembrance . . . royalties are being donated by many of those involved. Our part in making this song is small, but we feel well rewarded.”

As the week closed, discussions reached a high point, centered around the theme of what was the proper role of the music-record industry — and the radio industry — with regards to “event songs,” in this specific instance a song dealing with one of the most tragic events in the nation’s history. END


(Information and news source: Billboard; December 14, 1963)



CHICAGO — “In The Summer Of His Years,” taken from the BBC-televised tribute to the late President Kennedy on the program “That Was The Week That Was,” will have a tough time getting airplay here, a check by Billboard indicated here last week.

Though many local stations still haven’t had time to review the numerous versions of the tune, those that did turned thumbs down.

At WIND, a Westinghouse Group W station, Guy Harris termed the disk “lousy and mauldin.” He said it was “hard to get specific . . . we reject a lot of records each week, this is one of them.”

Gene Taylor, at WLS, the ABC powerhouse, said he had heard only the Connie Francis version and that he just “wouldn’t touch it.”

At WGN, Bob Bradford said he hadn’t heard the record and would have to listen before making up his mind. He said the original was “beautifully done,” but felt the record might be “out of context” on a commercial radio station.

Floyd Brown at WYNR, the big McLendon corporation rocker, said he though it in “poor taste to capitalize on such a tragic situation.”

At WBBM, the CBS outlet, Len Schlosser said the records haven’t been screened as yet. At WVON, the city’s biggest R&B outlet, Lloyd Webb said the station had not made up its mind yet, though he did feel it was a good tune. END


(Information and news source: Billboard; December 14, 1963)

BBC TV logo 1964


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Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Memories From the Soundtrack of Your Life