It costs an arm and a leg to catch today’s concert headliners. The general fare for tickets seems to be $50-$100 today. But many years ago, one could literally fill a good section of the theater for that kind of money; especially if you were a Saturday morning groupie.
The Palace Theater, in what is now called Playhouse Square, was the favorite site. All of the biggies in entertainment played there. Right at the top was the number one recording artist Glen Miller, and he would open with “Moonlight Serenade” and follow with his big hits like “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “In the Mood,” “Tuxedo Junction,” “String of Pearls,” and “Little Brown Jug.” Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly and the Modernaires fronted the band with their hits. And all that entertainment cost less than $2.
Every Saturday, the best in the land performed. I was there for Harry James who led the orchestra with his trumpet and “One o’clock Jump.” There was the madman Gene Krupa on the drums, Kay Kyser and his “School of Knowledge” band with lead lady singer, Ginny Sims and comic singer, Ishka Bibble. A favorite of mine was Vaughn Monroe who opened with “Racing with the Moon” and got the audience on their feet with his “There I’ve Said it Again.” Another bargain was Tommy Dorsey and his soft trombone playing “I’m getting Sentimental over You.” When I saw him, Frank Sinatra was not his front man.
Concerts by great entertainers continued on with the likes of Benny Goodman, Louie Prima, Sammy Kaye, Freddie Martin, and Woody Herman.
Saturday morning laughs were provided by Spike Jones. His band of horns and noisemakers clinked and clanked and recreated the popular songs of the day. You left the Palace happy as a lark.
My favorite celebrated singers were Nat King Cole with his “I’m Confessing” and “Nature Boy” renditions. Years later I caught him at Arthur Drake’s east side Café Tijuana. The Mills Brothers were another Saturday choice singing their hits “Till Then” and “Up a Lazy River.” Sadly, I didn’t get any Saturday specials for other renowned ones like Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Frankie Laine, Jerry Vale, Al Martino, and Tony Bennett. They came later and certainly at higher prices.
In my time, we got plenty of entertainment for “the buck.” Today, you need to give up a full day’s pay to hear the top performers.. With a bit of editing on my part, like Rudy Vallee used to croon, “My time was better than your time.”