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Pete Brady: Exciting New Voice

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Pete Brady
Frank Sinatra's Capitol Records comeback in the 1950s had a profound effect on a generation of male songbook singers. Many of them identified with Sinatra's solitary cool, his ring-a-ding swing and his middle-age male push-back against Elvis Presley and the rise of rock 'n' roll. The launch of the 12-inch pop album mid-decade also offered many of these vocalists recording opportunities and hope that they'd become the next singing sensation. When Sinatra started Reprise Records in 1960, these male singers saw an opening. Capitol began shopping around for Sinatra's successor or at least his rival.

One of these vocalists was Peter Brady. Born in Toronto and raised in Indiana and North Carolina, Brady studied to be a medical doctor at the University of Indiana and sang his way through school at Chicago clubs. One thing led to the next and he recorded his first album—How the West Was Swung—for RCA in 1962. The album was arranged and conducted by Bob Florence and featured members of the Tonight Show and Woody Herman bands.

In 1963, Brady brought a tape to Capitol of him singing 11 songs backed by a band. He had made the spec tape on his own for $10,000 ($80,000 in today's dollars). Capitol executives liked what they heard. The label not only refunded Brady the cost of the album but also paid him $5,000 to re-record his vocals at Studio A in Hollywood with fresh arrangements.

Here's where the story gets interesting, musically. The label assigned the album to Bill Miller (above), a Capitol producer at the time (not the same Bill Miller who was Sinatra's pianist). Miller hired Shorty Rogers and Marty Paich to arrange the songs. He also brought in top band musicians, including Al Porcino and Conte Candoli on trumpets, Urbie Green on trombone, Jimmy Rowles on piano and Joe Mondragon on bass.

When the album was completed, it was released in 1965 as Peter Brady: An Exciting New Voice on the Move. As Brady told Philip Booth of the St. Petersburg Times in 2002, Capitol provided heavy marketing and ensured that the single released from the album—The Masquerade Is Over—received heavy radio rotation in key markets. They also placed Brady on TV's Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show and The Merv Griffin Show. Then Brady hit the nightclub circuit.

But Capitol's interest in Sinatra-like stylists faded fast as the label became preoccupied in '65 with the Beatles and the Beach Boys among a growing stable of rock artists aimed at the teen market.

In 1970, Brady was appearing in the lounge at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas when he played in a celebrity tennis tournament. During a doubles match, Brady's partner went for a backhand shot and accidentally hit him in the throat with his aluminum racket. The blow damaged Brady's larynx, an injury that hampered his vocal range for decades and prevented him from singing.

As you might imagine, An Exciting New Voice on the Move is superb. Brady's voice has a swinging casual warmth and plenty of power, akin to Dick Haymes and David Allyn. I suspect that Marty Paich (above) handled the string charts while Shorty Rogers took on the brassy numbers. The orchestral ballads include Who Are We (new at the time from Jerry Livingston and Paul Francis Webster), Here I'll Stay, For All We Know, Young and Foolish and Mam'selle.

The band numbers include Something Happens to Me, Things Are Swinging, Funny, Secret Love and Lillette. The Masquerade Is Over is a mid-tempo swinger with brass and strings. The fact that Paich and Rogers arranged and conducted makes this little-known album significant. Add Porcino, Rowles and the rest of the musicians and it's an album that deserves to be preserved in the digital age. [Photo above of Shorty Rogers and the Monkees' Michael Nesmith in 1967]

As far as I can tell, Peter Brady lives in Florida today.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved.

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