Mickey Rooney: Musician (And Blues Shouter!)

Monday, 07 April 2014 06:16 AM Written by 

Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney, who died yesterday at 93, left his mark on American film and stage acting along with various TV roles. One thing not so well known today were Rooney's musical skills, more substantial than many realized. He was skilled on drums, piano, vibes and vocals. Virtually all movies featuring actors as musicians had professionals record for the soundtrack, but Rooney was the rare one able to it himself.  Check out these examples.

Strike Up The Band (1940) was one of the many Rooney-Judy Garland movies of the era including the Andy Hardy series. Strike Up was not a Hardy film. In it, he played Jimmy Connors. The band was portrayed by the real-life Paul Whiteman Orchestra.

The Strip (1951) starred Rooney as jazz drummer Stanley Maxton. The pianist and nightclub owner in the film is played by actor William Demarest, known 15 years later as "Uncle Charley" on TV's My Three Sons. The song is the traditional jazz favorite "Ja-Da." A professional pianist almost surely dubbed in Demarest's playing.

"Alimony Blues" (1954) Mickey shouting an original satirical blues alluding to his many marriages, with a killer 50's R&B band and issued on a top R&B label: King Records, home of James Brown and Wynonie Harris.  Note the allusion to "Jack Webb," Dragnet's Sgt. Joe Friday.

With Garland on her 1963 TV show, alluding to some of their movie work including the Andy Hardy films and Strike Up The Band.

From a Today Show appearance at the piano, singing another original, "Judy," a tribute to their friendship. With him is Gene Shalit.

The man had a lot of marriages and a long career, with ample accolades. This side of his talent is often overlooked.



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