by Warren Schroeger
The year was 1982: The Cardinals win the World Series, a first class stamp costs 20 cents, and 61 year old Nelson Riddle appears as a guest on a New York City radio station.
I was living at the time in New Jersey near Rutgers University. A frequent listener to the great standards radio station WNEW, and as a lifelong fan of Nelson Riddle, I was fully aware of his upcoming appearance with DJ Jonathan Schwartz. So there was no doubt that I’d be by my radio with my Advent 201 cassette tape deck ready to record it. The date was September 12 and Riddle was in the New York metropolitan area to perform at an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of Capitol Records. Schwartz, intimate with the world of American popular standards was the ideal choice to conduct the interview. The connection continues as Mr. Riddle has arranged songs composed by Schwartz’s father, Arthur.
Anyway, the two hour plus interview, peppered with musical samples, commercials and newscasts, begins with Riddle’s own composition, Brother John, relentless in motion and instrumental color. The discussion ensues about this piece, backs up to Riddle’s childhood exposure to music, and continues on through the adult years with which we are acquainted. By the end of the interview I have filled 3 cassette tapes which I promptly labeled and tossed in a drawer, safe for future re-listening. Little did I know that a quarter century later I’d discover a way to share these recordings with the world.
Fast forward 20 years or so: I am listening to Jonathan Schwartz, still on the radio and still in New York City, and I remember those three cassettes in a drawer (or somewhere). So I sent an email telling him I had a high quality recording of the complete interview with Nelson Riddle in 1982. He responded with interest and asked if I would send it to him. Subsequently, I spoke with Christopher Riddle and mentioned the interview and he, too, was eager to receive a copy of it which I had by now telescoped down to eliminate the commercials and newscasts. Next, I discovered through the official Nelson Riddle website a way to contact Rosemary to let her know that I had a Riddle treasure. In her reply she indicated she had a copy but that it may have been of poor quality. So I ripped another copy and off it went.
Oddly, being not so pop culturally up-to-date, it did not occur to me that there existed a way to share audio and video with the world via the internet, specifically through “YouTube.” Many years ago, I used to be in the radio business and more recently in the commercial voice-over business. As a result, I still had on my computer a digital audio editor Cool Edit Pro, software that replaces a roomful of expensive recording gear. Eventually, I do realize that I possess the abilities and wherewithal to create a polished remixed version of that Riddle/Schwartz radio interview. I could have taken the easy way out and simply posted the interview recording in its original form. But being as I like to fiddle with audio production, I dug in, took the raw material and made it a production of my own, adding relevant musical underscore and creating a video track to complement the discussion. Schwartz played, in their entirety, the songs used as examples during the interview. To compact the length and for added dramatic value, I mixed these songs in the clear and under while the conversation proceeded.
As of this writing, I have completed production of three parts of the interview which are currently posted on “YouTube” as “Arranged by Nelson Riddle.” It would appear that there is enough material to create three more parts. Although it can be at times a daunting task, I am truly happy to be able to share these recordings with my fellow Nelson Riddle fans throughout the world. I should also note that there is, beyond my contributions, considerable “YouTube” material involving Nelson Riddle. Just enter his name in the search window at youtube.com.