Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bob Grimes (1922-2011) - An Appreciation

Bob Grimes, photographed by Basya Petnick in "Bob Grimes - The Music Man," Nob Hill Gazette (January 1999), p. 20.

Musicians all over the world lost a dear friend when Bob Grimes passed away recently at the age of 89. We miss him at the Library as well. A recent obituary by Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle of October 14, 2011 provides a nice appreciation of Bob Grimes and his life.

Bob Grimes was a legendary collector of sheet music - his collection consisted of more than 34,000 pieces until he sold it to the Michael Feinstein Foundation near the end of his life. While Bob was happy to be known as a collector, his true passion was for the songs themselves. He wanted to play whatever part he could in bringing back what he saw as a Golden Age of American music. To that end he shared his collection and knowledge of this rich repertoire with countless singers and other musicians.

The Sheet Music Mogul of Post Street, source: Youtube - Channel 3 Evening News (2007).

In addition to possessing such a marvelous collection, he was a living encyclopedia, an endless font of knowledge about the songs of American film and stage. We librarians often called upon him to help library patrons. When you told him a song title he’d say, “That’s from [movie title], I pretty sure I’ve got it here, hold on a minute.” Or he’d answer “Oh, that one was never published.” Then you knew you were sunk.

He could recall significant details about every song often about their setting and creation. Today the internet, databases and recent reference books have made it much easier to track down an elusive piece of sheet music. But a mere twenty years ago the amazing memory of collectors like Bob Grimes and dealers like Dorothy Starr were absolutely essential.

Bob was always delighted to hold court and share his enthusiasm and knowledge with anyone who was interested. I’m sure many others can recount instances of Bob introducing them to some obscure, wonderful number captured on celluloid. I remain grateful for Bob playing me a movie scene where Lyda Roberti as Mata Machree sings the over-the-top number “It’s Terrific (When I Get Hot)” from the delightful W. C. Field’s vehicle Million Dollar Legs (1932). According to Frederick Nolan, famed lyricist Lorenz Hart anonymously contributed these lyrics to Ralph Rainger’s melody. But I’m sure Bob must have first told me that.

Matta Machree, The Woman No Man Can Resist (source bunæn’s Flickr photostream).

Bob was very generous with the Library and its patrons. Often after learning that Bob indeed did have a copy of a very elusive song, I would walk up to his apartment on Post Street where he would a have a copy awaiting me that I could provide for an astonished and grateful library patron.

We continue to aspire to provide what Bob Grimes did -- access to the vast ocean of American popular song. Our collection of sheet music is vast, if less focused than Bob’s. In 1990 we were fortunate have community members raise money to acquire the stock of Dorothy Starr’s music store. We have a database consisting of nothing but vocal sheet music that presently has more than 35,000 unique items. This supplements our already extensive collection of songbooks and piano / vocal scores to Broadway shows and film musicals. While we cannot provide this service with the same charm and aplomb that Bob did, we hope we aspire to continue his legacy of helping to unite singers with songs.

For those interested in learning more about Bob Grimes the Art, Music and Recreation Center has newspaper clippings about Bob Grimes spanning more than 30 years in our Musicians and Performing Artists File.


Bob Grimes biography at the Internet Movie Database.

Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway by Frederick Nolan (Oxford University Press, 1994).

Monday, October 17, 2011

An Audio History of the San Francisco Symphony

Victor Records advertisement from the San Francisco Symphony programs, 1929-1930.

Scott Foglesong, musicologist and chair of the San Francisco Conservatory department of musicianship and music theory, has spent the last two years unearthing rare recordings and broadcasts by the San Francisco Symphony. On Tuesday night, October 18, 2011, from 6:00 - 7:30 in the Koret Auditorium, Foglesong will lead a fascinating curated musical journey through time, from 1925 to the present.

** Rumor has it that there will be an audio demonstration of the "Hertz lunge."

Foglesong has also compiled a complete discography of the San Francisco Symphony that is available on the Symphony's website. For related reading, check out Larry Rothe's new centennial history of the Symphony entitled Music for a City, Music for the World: 100 Years with the San Francisco Symphony (Chronicle Books, 2011).

When you visit the Library don't forget to visit our two Symphony-related exhibits, Music for a City, Music for the World in the Jewett Gallery on the Lower Level and The San Francisco Symphony in the Library’s Collections in the Steve Silver Beach Blanket Babylon Music Center here on the 4th floor.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

High Volume: Rock Art From The Chuck Sperry Archive and Firehouse Goldenvoice Poster Series

High Volume: Rock Art From The Chuck Sperry Archive and Firehouse Goldenvoice Poster Series will be on display on the 4th floor in the Art, Music and Recreation Center from October 7 through January 6, 2012.

An auburn-haired songstress holds a fawn. Shocking magenta hair falls to the shoulders of a blue nude strapped with artillery. A 1950s-model cop car rests peacefully at the bottom of the sea, washed in blues and purples revealing a silent white angel. Each outstanding print on display represents a prominent rock band. Each was created by Chuck Sperry.

In early 2011, Chuck Sperry, San Francisco artist and co-owner of Firehouse Kustom Rockart Company, made an unprecedented donation to the Library's Art, Music and Recreation Department of over one-hundred limited edition, hand-printed rock art posters. Officially entitled The Chuck Sperry Archive, this collection comprehensively documents the Goldenvoice Music Series (at the Regency and Warfield Theaters) from 2008 to present, as well as selected Firehouse productivity related to the cultural-life of San Francisco.

This collection is exciting in both use of color and variety of content. Each silkscreen print is comprised of up to sixteen colors, applied as individual layers. The pieces reference styles ranging from Japanese nishiki-e, Austrian Expressionism, 1960s psychedelia, to the provocative punk poster tradition of Sperry’s youth. Musicians such as Neko Case, Danzig, Bad Religion, Nick Cave, Sound Garden and The Black Keys are represented, as are a talented group of Bay Area graphic artists (Ron Donovan, Alex Fischer, Gregg Gordon, Dave Hunter, Alan Hynes, Scott Johnson, Dennis Loren, Chris Shaw, Frank Zio, and Zoltron) who contributed to the Firehouse Goldenvoice Poster series under the art direction of Chuck Sperry.

An opening reception will be held on Thursday, October 20th from 6-7 p.m. in the Latino/Hispanic Room A & B.

Related reading:

Eyesore: Recent Litter from the Firehouse Kustom Rockart Company by Chuck Sperry & Ron Donovan (Coniglio Editore, 2002).

Monday, October 3, 2011

San Francisco Symphony at 100

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra playing at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium [1935] (image source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection)

On Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 6 PM, the San Francisco Public Library will screen the film San Francisco Symphony at 100 in the Koret Auditorium of the Main Library.

This one hour documentary film screening paints a portrait of the role of an orchestra in its community and the power of music to inspire--from the Symphony's founding in the wake of the 1906 earthquake through the Symphony's multimedia initiatives in today's fast-paced world. The film is narrated by author Amy Tan, a longtime friend and fan of the Symphony.

An audience Q & A with producer Janette Gitler will follow the screening.

Be sure to visit to on-going exhibits at the Library -- Music for a City, Music for the World in the Jewett Gallery in the Library's Lower Level and The San Francisco Symphony in the Library’s Collections in the Steve Silver Beach Blanket Babylon Room on the Fourth Floor.