04 February 2011

Crushing the Velvet Frog





A publicist dubbed Mel Torme "The Velvet Fog" sometime in the late 1940s for the singer's signature smooth style. Torme hated the nickname, but it clung to him like ivy, as the poet once said, like a slug to a garden path, like toilet paper to a shoe, like a dryer sheet to a polyester pantsuit.

Torme would later joke about his "velvet frog voice." So it's hard to tell whether some drudge toiling away deep in the bowels of Amazon.com picked up on Mel's joke (see screen capture above). Or was just being sloppy. Probably the latter (although that person did go to the trouble of adding a diacritical mark to the final vowel of "Torme" up in the title tag, even if it is pointed in the wrong direction. But I obsess, and digress.)

According to my sources at the retail behemoth, this "bug" has been noted in the system and should one day soon be corrected. But maybe it would make Mel's ghost happier to let his joke stand. He does seem to have come to terms with the moniker, later titling his 1988 autobiography It Wasn't All Velvet.

Whether the Velvet is Foggy or Froggy, “The Very Best of Mel Torme” is an amazing deal. Fifty songs by one of the greatest vocalists who ever lived (and if his autobiography is remotely accurate, boy, did he ever live), working some of the best arrangers of the 20th century, all for $6.99. Smooth, man, real smooth.

Recommended reading:
"Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dek-tette" by Thomas Cunniffe

(Special thanks to Queenie Sunshine for the dryer sheet simile.)

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UPDATE: The bug report was entered on 31 January. As of 8 Feb, the page is still froggy.

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