A heady mixture of gum-shoe jazz, space age pop, B-movie soundtracks, bossa nova, and all manner of musical exotica, Retro Cocktail Hour is hip, arch, and cool from a place that few would apply these adjectives to - Kansas! The program describes itself as being the home of "incredibly strange music." Hosted by Darrell Brogdon and a sultry-sounding woman with a tiki torch, this is two hours of Public Radio with a smile on its face.
Every program begins with the sound of a cocktail shaker in action. Said cocktail shaker is a fixture of the Underground Martini Bunker where the martinis are always dry.
When stereo was introduced in the 1950s, it had to be sold to a public happy with the sound equipment they already had. Companies that sold both equipment and the records to play on it moved aggressively to promote it with in store demonstrations of sound moving from left to right and back. Stereo required to customers to buy new record players. A new musical genre was created to show off the new technology: RCA called its version "Living Stereo." This movement began in the 1950s so there had to be an underground bunker in there somewhere.
Jazz musicians moonlighting under such bizarre names as the Waitiki Orchestra and the Italian Secret Service punctured any stuffed shirts who might wander in and also protected the reputations of the pseudonymous players, Latin percussion played a prominent role via such musicians as Perez Prado, Juan Esquival, and Tito Puente; it punctuated the fun while providing an antidote to the all too serious Cold War. Easily the most recognizable tune is the 1959 hit Quite Village by Martin Denny. Denny used almost entirely percussion instruments to exotic effect.
Contemporary practitioners of the genre include Big Kahuna and the Copa Cat Pack and my personal favorites - Pink Martini.
Lately vinyl records are making an unexpected comeback, so everything retro is new again. Wonder where my Dual turntable is now.
You can listen to the Retro Cocktail Hour here.
Image: unidentified maker - Cocktail ensemble, Bamberger bequest, Newark Art Museum, Newark, NJ.