Highlights from the Ethnomusicology Archive: the Mickey Katz collection

Mickey Katz (June 15, 1909 - April 30, 1985) was a clarinetist, comedian, bandleader, songwriter, and producer.  He recorded Yiddish parodies of popular American (U.S.) songs from the 1940s to the late 1960s for RCA Victor and Capitol Records.  He was the father of inventor Ron Katz, Tony and Oscar®-winning actor Joel Grey, and grandfather of actress Jennifer Grey. 

Ron Katz said of his father's music, "He was a musician first and foremost, but he also loved to make people laugh, and he was a great user of the Yiddish language and the Yiddish accent to have fun and create a bridge to the audience."

In honor of his father, Ron Katz and his late wife, Madelyn, donated $1 million to the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music (HASOM) to establish the Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music at UCLA, to preserve and expand the study of Jewish music at UCLA.

As Ron Katz said in an interview with the UCLA Newsroom, "This music was played all the time in our homes growing up — it means a lot to us," Ron Katz said. "Maddie and I felt it would be sad if the legacy of Jewish music, especially Jewish music reinterpreted in America, were to be lost. A whole new generation of musicians and scholars are being drawn to the work my father did, the music he created, and it just makes sense for UCLA to be at the forefront of this resurgence."

Said Timothy Rice, HASOM DIrector and Professor of Ethnomusicology, "Mickey Katz's music fascinates composers and jazz musicians, music historians interested in American popular music of the last century, and ethnomusicologists interested in music as the expression of cultural life and social groups."

Recently, Ron Katz donated a collection of 78 rpm audio discs of his father's music to the Ethnomusicology Archive.

I thought I would share some audio samples of Mickey Katz's music via the Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries.  For those unfamiliar with the JSA, its primary mission is to collect, preserve, and digitize Judaica sound recordings; to create educational programs highlighting the contents of this rich cultural legacy; and to encourage the use of this unique scholarly resource by students, scholars and the general public.

Select Mickey Katz recordings...

The Baby, The Bubbe and You, a parody of The Magic Song, 'Bibbidi-Babbidi-Boo'

Yiddish Mule Train, a parody of Mule Train

Haim Afen Range, a parody of Home on the Range

Tico Tico, in Spanish and Yiddish

Mañana, written by Peggy Lee and Dave Barbour, Peggy's version

Haimish Memories, klezmer

If you want to hear more, come into the Archive and ask for Collection 2013.01.  We have digitized the 78s and the listening copy is on CD.

Excerpt from a Mickey Katz interview, 1979

And I should add, there is a film about Mickey Katz in the works, "The Mickey Katz Project."  Check out the Mickey Katz Project: Indiegogo Trailer (some photos and samples of Mickey's music began at 0:48).

 

 

 

 

 

Show In Slideshow: 
No
Volume 18 Sounding Board Piece: 
Yes
"Sounding Board" is intended as a space for scholars to publish thoughts and observations about their current work. These postings are not peer reviewed and do not reflect the opinion of Ethnomusicology Review. We support the expression of controversial opinions, and welcome civil discussion about them. We do not, however, tolerate overt discrimination based on race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, and reserve the right to remove posts that we feel might offend our readers.