“Theme from Adventures in Paradise“
Composed by Lionel Newman (1); arranged by Harry Betts.
Recorded by Harry Betts and His Orchestra for Choreo Records in 1962 in Hollywood.
Harry Betts, directing: Al Porcino, first trumpet; Conte Candoli, Don Fagerquist, and Jack Sheldon, trumpets; Milt Bernhart, first trombone; Bob Enevoldsen and Frank Rosolino, tenor trombones; Dick Leith, bass trombone; Red Callender, tuba; Bud Shank, first alto saxophone and solo flute; Herbie Steward, tenor saxophone and flute; Bill Perkins, tenor saxophone and flute; Bill Hood, baritone saxophone; Russ Freeman, piano; Al Hendrickson, guitar; Buddy Clark, bass; Jackie Mills, drums; Larry Bunker, percussion; Luis Miranda and Francisco Aguabella, bongo and conga drums.
I grew up in the Midwest in the 1950s and 1960s in a home where we had the basics, but no luxuries. In fact, although the popularity of television was exploding throughout the early 1950s, we didn’t get a TV until approximately 1954. It was a bulky old Emerson, which probably had a twenty-four inch screen. It was, as all early televisions were, a “black and white,” meaning all images on that TV’s screen were in black and white, even if the source, like the MGM movie The Wizard of Oz, was (mostly) in color.
The 1950s were a wonderful time to be a kid watching television. In many ways, it was my window on the outer, larger world. In what was my rather parochial life then, I learned a lot from television. I usually disliked the various kid shows on TV, which included those originating locally (that would have been in Cleveland, Ohio for me), and nationally from New York or Hollywood. But I liked some of the local adult programs, as well as many network TV shows. There were quite a few dramas presented live or filmed that were presented on TV in the 1950s. Although my parents would occasionally watch something like that, those kinds of shows were way over my head. My father was a devotee of Alfred Hitchcock’s television show, and he seemed to enjoy what he termed Hitchcock’s “English sense of humor.” Many of those shows were too creepy for me. Groucho Marx, on his quiz show You Bet Your Life, was more to my liking.
Various series came and went in the 1950s. Some, like Have Gun Will Travel, starring Richard Boone, or Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr, caught my fancy. I learned what an attorney was by watching Perry Mason, though I can now say after 45 years of law practice, that any resemblance between what I saw on Perry Mason and what I saw in my law practice was purely coincidental. All of these shows had theme and background music that I thought was wonderful.
It seems that by the late 1950s, the producers of television series were attracted to sun-drenched, tropical or semi-tropical settings as the background for their dramas. One such was Adventures in Paradise. This program starred Gardner McKay, as Adam Troy, the captain of the schooner Tiki III, which sailed the South Pacific (2) looking for passengers and adventure. The plots dealt with the romantic and detective adventures of Troy, who was a Korean War veteran. The supporting cast, which varied from season to season, featured George Tobias, Guy Stockwell and Linda Lawson.(3)
Today, sixty years after I watched my first episode of Adventures in Paradise, I remember almost nothing about the series, except that as a ten-year-old I liked it, and that it had good music, especially its theme song. But after that series disappeared from television, I more or less forgot about it.
Fast forward to the 1990s. I have been very fortunate to have had various friends throughout my life who were musical mentors. Invariably, those friends were older than me, indeed many were were old enough to have been my father. My father, by the way, was my first musical mentor. He planted seeds of musical interest in me that many others nurtured. One evening, when I was visiting one of my musical mentors, he began playing a CD called The Jazz Soul of Doctor Kildare, and other great television themes. In addition to very pleasantly reminding me of the themes of many TV shows that I watched as a child, the music on this CD was excellent – beautifully arranged and brilliantly performed. As I looked at the liner notes for the CD, I noticed that the man responsible for creating the musical settings for all of those vintage television themes was Harry Betts (shown at right in his days with Stan Kenton in the late 1940s), a very talented trombonist and arranger, who had worked with Stan Kenton. After Betts left the Kenton band, he laid aside his trombone and concentrated on arranging in Los Angeles.
Betts starts his arrangement on “Adventures in Paradise” quietly by using gentle rhythms created by a scratched wooden guiro, manipulated by Larry Bunker, and bongo and conga drums and (played by Luis Miranda and Francisco Aguabella), to evoke sunrise in an exotic tropical paradise. Then he adds a device similar to the one used by Artie Shaw in the introduction to one of his tropically themed hits “Jungle Drums” – a three note bass vamp. This will be a warm day in paradise, but it starts with overcast skies.
Suddenly, the clouds disappear as we hear one of the most opulent musical sounds to emerge from the swing era, that of four open trombones, here three tenors and one bass, playing Lionel Newman’s main melody for sixteen bars. The sky is now azure and the sun is shining brightly. Bud Shank (pictured at left), on flute, finishes each eight bar segment. The secondary bridge melody is played by Al Hendrickson on electric guitar, backed by a marimba and a tinkling celeste. The open trumpets then appear to create more warmth. Notice how Betts uses the four trombones and Red Callender’s tuba to provide the harmonic base in this sequence. Flutist Shank returns again to finish the eight bar melodic segment, this time after the hot open brass.
One of the other flutists (either Herbie Steward or Bill Perkins), takes the lead as the music transitions into a wildly rhythmic interlude where the mood and tempo of the piece change dramatically. Now we hear a romping big band swinging the melody with the woodwind players playing their saxophones forcefully, and the brass players blasting away on their open horns.
A brass fanfare then leads to a rhythmic ostinato over which the brilliant but tragically ill-fated trombonist Frank Rosolino (at right) plays wildly imaginative jazz solo, which slowly fades out.
The recording presented with this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.
Notes and links:
(1) Lionel Newman was a senior music director at the Twentieth Century Fox film studio in Hollywood, and was conductor and music supervisor for the Adventures in Paradise television series.
(2) The book Tales of the South Pacific, by James A. Michener, was published in 1947. Michener began his writing career during World War II, when as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy he was assigned to the South Pacific as a naval historian. He later turned his notes and impressions into Tales of the South Pacific. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1948. Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted the book into a Broadway musical called South Pacific, which was a blockbuster success starting in 1949. The musical was later adapted for a very successful feature film in 1958. South Pacific was redone as a film in 2001.
(3) This information comes from the Wikipedia post on the TV show Adventures in Paradise.
Many of the musicians who were involved in the TV themes project with Harry Betts were, like him, alumni of Stan Kenton’s orchestra. Here is a link to a swinging Kenton recording from the early 1960s: https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/08/12/reads-and-re-reads-straight-ahead-the-story-of-stan-kenton-by-carol-easton/