The Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra, a contemporary 1920s and 1930s style dance band based out of Los Angeles, has released a much anticipated CD featuring recordings of the band with vocals by Johnny Crawford recorded during live performances at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and at the historic Gold Room of the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel. You can purchase and stream tracks from the CD on its page at CD Baby.
Those unfamiliar with the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra might not be aware that they may already be familiar with its leader who was a 1950s and 1960s child television star and recording artist. Born into a show business family, Johnny got his television break at the age of 9 as a Mouseketeer on the Mickey Mouse Club. Big time fame and teen-idol status came with his role playing the son, Mark McCain, in The Rifleman which aired from 1959 - 1964 and for many years afterwards in reruns. During The Rifleman years, Johnny also had a record contract and one of his recordings "Cindy's Birthday" became a top ten hit.
On the band's myspace profile, Johnny describes how he became interested in 1920s and 1930s music.
But what I loved most during my youth, was acting in a western tv series, having my own horse, learning to rope, and playing Red River Valley on my harmonica. In my head, I was actually living in the 1880s, and I continued to live there even after two years in the army; as a young veteran, I couldn't resist the allure of rural America, and the excitement of participating in cowboy events at dusty arenas. My family was a little concerned.I certainly can relate to being lost in a time warp. And, happily, Vince Giordano's Nighthawks are still going strong.
Then, in my 26th year, I began a road trip from which I have never returned.
An antique automobile put me in touch with the spirit of my grandfather, Bobby Crawford (1889-1941). A former jockey from Chicago, the "dynamo song plugger" married the young pianist at Woolworth's and soon became vice president of Irving Berlin's music publishing company. Not satisfied, he left Berlin to form De Sylva, Brown & Henderson as well as Crawford Music Corporation, and moved his office into the penthouse of New York's famous Brill Building ("Tin Pan Alley"). He made a quick fortune. Then he lost it, even quicker, about the time my old car was rolling off the assembly line, in the "fall" of 1929.
I became possessed by my grandfather's spirit. I would find myself driving around in the middle of the night, hearing forgotten dance bands and singing songs I didn't even know I knew. Instead of the 1880s, suddenly I was living in the 1920s. I thought this was considerable progress, but my family was still a little concerned. So, after word got around, arrangements were made and two years were spent in an institution on the east coast known as Vince Giordano's Nighthawks, the notorious asylum for musicians lost in time.
In addition to the band, Crawford owns Crawford Music Services, a music booking agency. On its website is a form where you can subscribe to a mailing list for updates about Crawford's activities.