Thursday, January 16, 2014


In years gone by there was a bandleader of great renown called Ted Lewis [pictured left, as well as below]. Lewis, who was born in Circleville, Ohio in 1890, is sometimes referred to as the ‘King of Jazz,’ and in many respects he was the originator of the ‘Big Bands.’ He was also billed as 'Mr Entertainment,' 'The High-hatted Tragedian of Jazz,' and 'The Medicine Man for Your Blues,' but he liked to refer to himself, on and off-screen, as the 'Dispenser of Happiness.' I like that, for what could be nobler than that---dispensing much-needed happiness.

With his battered, tilted top hat and cane, he was certainly the most successful, the highest paid, and arguably the best-known, bandleader, musician (a clarinetist, but not a great one) and showman extraordinaire of the 1920s, ‘30s, and '40s, and his long career in showbiz 
(beginning in 1910, when he organized his first band) spanned some 60 very prolific years with innumerable appearances in vaudeville, theatres, concert halls, ballrooms, hotels and nightclubs (the last being the Desert Inn, at Las Vegas, Nevada in 1967), on Broadway, in films, and on radio and television (the latter until as late as 1969) ... not to mention lots of recordings (from 1917 to at least 1957). At his 80th birthday party in 1970 he played the clarinet with a local Circleville, Ohio jazz band. He left us the very next year but I can still hear in my mind’s ear his famous catchphrase, ‘Is everybody happy?’

Ted Lewis and His Orchestra

You can find a lot of Ted Lewis’s music, and some of his film and TV performances, on the internet, and there is even The Ted Lewis Museum in Circleville, Ohio. I first became aware of who he was when I was a kid watching Abbott and Costello films on TV. (I still love A&C.) In one of their classic films, Hold that Ghost, Ted Lewis appeared with his orchestra. One of the musical numbers performed by Lewis in that film was ‘Me and My Shadow’---his signature tune. In the following clip from Hold That Ghost you can see and hear Lewis performing the number with his African-American ‘sidekick’: 

Now, first try to overlook the racist overtones of a bygone era (although the act wouldn't have been seen as racist at the time, but that doesn't mean much). Note how Lewis’s ‘shadow' follows and mimicks Lewis’ gestures. In all, it's a fascinating musical number, and the lyrics [more-or-less but not exactly as 'sung' by Lewis here] are interesting, if not curious, to say the least:

Me and my shadow
Strolling down the avenue
Me and my shadow
Not a soul to tell our troubles to

And when it's twelve o'clock
We climb the stair
We never knock
For nobody's there
Just me and my shadow
All alone and feelin' blue

And when it's twelve o'clock
We climb the stair
We never knock
For nobody's there

Just me and my shadow
All alone and feelin' blue.

Who or what is your ‘shadow’? Now, I am not so much referring to the concept of the ‘shadow’ in Jungian psychology. That perhaps is too narrow a concept for present purposes. The fact is each one of us has one or more shadows which follow us around, leaving us at times ‘all alone and feelin’ blue.’ 

The shadow may be some failure or disappointment from the past, the memory of a failed relationship or a deceased loved one, an actual person (living, dead or entirely imaginary and fictitious), a hurt or resentment, anger, a sense of inferiority or insecurity, loneliness, fear, anxiety, or practically anything that is capable of holding us back. Here’s another common shadow---tired, worn-out beliefs and belief-systems. In fact, all beliefs prevent us from seeing and experiencing life as it really is, that is, as it unfolds from one moment to the next.

Now, I am not one to say, ‘Forget the past.’ I would never want to forget certain wonderful things and people from the past. For me, they are a present reality through the faculty of memory. Never forget that our remembrance of things and people past is a present one---a present experience. It is never 'just' the past. Then, again, there are some less pleasant things that ought to be left in the past---period. They are our ‘shadow.’

What is your shadow? Perhaps you have more than one. First, work out what are your shadows, and then decide whether they are holding you back. (Be very honest with yourself about that.) Then make a decision---there is great power in so doing---to set yourself free from all that is holding you back from seeing and experiencing life as it really is. Next, start to live differently, that is, as a free man or woman, unencumbered by the failures and disappointments of the past as well as all negative thoughts and emotions. If you are painstaking about all that, then you will be able to ‘stroll down the avenue’ ... without your shadow. And oh yes, it also helps---both you and others---if you make it a habit of dispensing happiness wherever you go. That's what Ted Lewis did ... very successfully.

And then you will no longer feel blue.

Ted Lewis performing 'Me and My Shadow'
at the Hollywood Canteen





Grateful Acknowledgments
Acknowledgments are made to the Estates of the Late Bud Abbott and the Late Lou Costello in respect ofcopyrighted, trademarked and other controlled material of the Estates. All rights reserved. The licensable images of Abbott and Costello, the routine ‘Who's on First’ and other routines and materials of and by Abbott and Costello are controlled material of the above mentioned Estates. The video clip (courtesy YouTube) as presented in this post is for entertainment, nonprofit and non-commercial purposes only. There is no intention to infringe copyright or any other controlled material. This post, and the blog itself, are solely for informational and educational purposes that are entirely nonprofit and non-commercial in nature, intent and actuality.

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