Who was/is Ann Margret & Al Hirt ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
The collaboration of both RCA Victor stars Ann-Margret and New Orleans band leader Al Hirt.
In the just over two years since Ann-Margret and Al Hirt had been alternating sets in a Las Vegas lounge, both their fortunes had changed for the better. This time they knocked off an impressive fourteen songs in the two days' four-hour sessions.
Al 'Jumbo' Hirt, a New Orleans trumpet virtuoso, dedicates himself to a sort of 'symbolization in sound' of sex-bomb Ann Margret, some twenty years his junior, on songs like My Baby Just Cares For Me or Baby, It's Cold Outside. Despite numerical evidence to the contrary, 'jazz' was not a four letter word back then, and even 'entertainment' did not smell funny, yet. The motto was 'anything goes' rather than 'is that allowed ' This artistic free-for-all and high quality craftsmanship produced songs that had every right to be called 'standards'. Artist-arrangers like Marty Paich or Juan Esquivel, for instance, not only showcased the abilities of some of the best studio musicians of their time, but also the songwriters.
A note on Ann-Margret:
Gustav Olsson was an electrician, nearly 40 years old, when he married 21-year-old Anna Aronsson. Though they lived in Stockholm at the time their daughter, Ann-Margret (named after a popular skating star) was born on April 28, 1941, they soon moved to Valsjobyn, a town of 150 people 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle and bordering Norway.
Gustav had emigrated to Canada as a teenager, subsequently moving to Chicago, Illinois, before returning to Sweden and marring Anna. And while Ann-Margret was still very young, Gustav moved back to the United States, hoping to find work, and left his wife and daughter to live with Anna's mother. The two women ran a restaurant and bakery, where tiny Ann-Margret would sing and dance to entertain the local farmers, lumberjacks and soldiers.
Eventually, Gustav sent for his family, and Anna and Ann-Margret sailed to the United States on the steamer Gribsholm, arriving in New York on November 29, 1946. Before returning to Illinois, Gustav took his wife and daughter to Radio City Music Hall, where they saw the feature film 'The Jolson Story,' and a stage show featuring the leggy Rockettes dance troupe.
The family settled in Fox Lake, ("a woodsy fishing resort," she reports in her autobiography) about 45 miles from Chicago, whose population included many Swedish emigrants, including some Olsson relatives. Gustav commuted to his job during the week, returning to their one-bedroom home on weekends. In two years, they were able to afford a two-bedroom home. Ann-Margret was shy and spoke little English, at first, but by second grade she'd won her first spelling contest. Anna enrolled Ann-Margret in the Marjorie Young School of Dance in an effort to raise her daughter's self-confidence. Those lessons were baby steps on the road to a career as a performer.
Within a relatively brief time from her arrival in Hollywood, Ann-Margret was soon signed to film and recording contracts; between 1961-'66, she recorded several pop albums for the RCA label, as well as soundtracks for films including 'State Fair', 'Bye Bye Birdie', and (heating up the screen with Elvis Presley) 'Viva Las Vegas.' She was even animated, by the Hanna-Barbera Studios, and appeared as 'Ann-Margrock' in 'The Flintstones', where she wound up singing a lullabye, The Littlest Lamb. During this time, Ann-Margret worked with many of the finest producers, arrangers and musicians in Hollywood and Nashville, and held her own with all of them -- recording pop standards, rhythm and blues, Dixieland jazz or anything else that her producers would give her.
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