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Christmas Music Guru
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  • Register:09/07/2005 11:04:22

Date Posted:08/02/2009 08:20:18Copy HTML


I received a phone call yesterday from the legendary RCA Records producer Ethel Gabriel who was told by a mutual acquaintance that I was trying to get in contact with her. As I said in a previous post on the message board, Norma Camby (daughter of the great Living Strings/Living Voices conductor-arranger Johnny Douglas) had asked me the other day during a telephone conversation if I knew whether Ethel was still alive here in the United States. Norma, who lives in the UK, said that the letter she had sent to her a few weeks ago announcing that her record company, Dulcima, was releasing three of the Living Strings/Living Voices Christmas LPs (which Ethel produced) had come back to her in the mail because the address was no longer valid. I told her that as far as I knew she was still alive and living in the Poconos. Well, after we spoke I put a couple of feelers out and luckily one got through to her and gave her my telephone number. She called me up and we ended up having an amazing 3½ hour conversation! A big part of the reason why we spoke so long is that I have family in the music industry myself, so we had a lot of stories to share about the business and various recording stars. I’ll share with you some of our conversation, but first, for those of you who not familiar with Mrs. Gabriel, a little background.

The legendary Ethel Gabriel was a pioneer: she was the first female record producer in the American record industry. Her official title at RCA Records was VP of Pop Contemporary A&R. In her 40-year career she produced over 2500 albums, won 6 Grammy Awards and earned 15 Gold Records. Among the leading artists that she worked with are Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Perry Como, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Chet Atkins, Al Hirt, John Gary, Kate Smith, Arthur Fiedler, Robert Shaw, Norman Luboff, Danny Davis, Floyd Cramer, Gisele MacKenzie, Roger Whittaker, Jack Jones, Charley Pride, Harry Belafonte, Marian Anderson, Henry Mancini, The Three Suns, Hugo Winterhalter, Ralph Hunter, George Melachrino, Walter Schumann, Morton Gould, Dick Leibert, Peter Nero, Neil Sedaka, among many, many more. She created RCA’s budget record label Camden Records in 1955. She also created all the “Living” groups that recorded on the Camden label and produced all their albums. The “Living” groups were The Living Strings, The Living Voices, The Living Trio, The Living Guitars, The Living Brass, The Living Marimbas, The Living Jazz, The Living Percussion and the Living Organ. One other thing of note; it was her 1955 #1 hit that she produced for Perez Prado, Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White, that kicked off the Mambo craze here in the United States.  

In the conversation we had she had nice things to say for just about everybody, except a select few which I won’t divulge here. She said she was particularly close to Elvis and his mother, Gladys. In fact, it was Ethel and her boss at RCA, Steve Sholes, who made the trip to Elvis’ home in 1955 sign him to an RCA contract. She also had close personal relationships with Perry Como, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Al Hirt and Frank Sinatra (who her husband Gus worked for). In fact, she told me that when her husband was dying, Mr. Sinatra sent autographed pictures to all the nurses in charge of his care at the hospital just to make sure he would be well taken care of. She was also a very close friend of composer Gladys Shelley, who wrote the great song Christmas Is Christmas All Over The World, which is iconic to the Yule Log soundtrack. She also had nothing but wonderful things to say about the three most prolific conductors of the Living Strings and Living Voices: Johnny Douglas, Hill Bowen and Geraldo. She said all three were perfect gentlemen as well as perfectionists in their craft; she loved working with them, and they with her.

Currently, Ethel is busy working on establishing a new museum of Woman in American Music that will be located in New York City sometime in the near future. One last thing: since she has not spoken to Norma Camby in quite a while, she had no idea that Dulcima Records is getting ready to release three of the Christmas albums she did with the Living Strings and Living Voices. She was very pleased to hear it.

As a result of our phone call, we have become good friends and plan on having dinner together sometime soon in the next few weeks.

 
Lawrence F. "Chip" Arcuri Owner/Webmaster | The Yule Log.com
JoeChristmas Share to: Facebook Twitter MSN linkedin google yahoo #1
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  • Register:11/14/2008 08:44:00

Re:Ethel Gabriel: The Legendary RCA Records Producer

Date Posted:08/08/2009 08:01:15Copy HTML

Hello Chip,

It's very nice to hear that first Ms. Gabriel is alive and well. It is also nice to know that you were able to make this connection and that a friendship has come about from it. She seems to be a very nice person and I can only imagine how exciting it must be to be able to converse and learn from a living legend. It's nice to know that she is working on something that can use more exposure like the role of women in American music. It's a subject that can be further explored and documented.

Thank you for giving us more details about this fascinating lady. Having read about her in a previous post and what she had went through, it is nice to hear good news. I hope you have a great dinner!
Christmas Music Guru Share to: Facebook Twitter MSN linkedin google yahoo #2
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Re:Ethel Gabriel: The Legendary RCA Records Producer

Date Posted:08/08/2009 09:14:33Copy HTML


Thanks Armando, actually Ethel and I got together for dinner yesterday. This ended up being a little sooner than we had originally anticipated, but since we found a mutual time in our schedules this week that worked well for both of us, we decided to capitalize on it. We were joined for dinner by her close friend, Gerry Larson. Gerry was a big band singer with the Vincent Lopez orchestra. In fact, Mr. Lopez used to introduce Gerry as “the singing Conover cover girl” because of her work with the legendary Harry Conover modeling agency in New York. In her career, Ms. Larson also sang for a time with the great bandleader Fred Waring.

 

It was a wonderful evening of good food, good music and a lot of great stories and memories which these remarkable ladies generously shared with me from their respective careers. As for Ms. Gabriel, besides her 40-year career with RCA Records, she also spoke proudly about her husband Gus Gabriel and his great career in the music publishing business, as well as the three music publishing companies that he created to work with each of the three major performance rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC). These three companies that her husband Gus created were Dunhill Music Publishing (for ASCAP artists), Weaver Music Publishing (for BMI artists) and Tribune Music Publishing (for SESAC artists). Among the many famous clients that Gus Gabriel represented were the legendary Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, as well as American music icon Frank Sinatra.

 

By the way, I told Ethel (she insists that I call her Ethel) of how many ardent fans there are out there of her classic “Living” (Strings, Voices, Trio, Guitars) Christmas albums that she produced -- many of whom, I told her, post on my message board. She wanted me to let you all know how much she appreciates your loyalty and that she is very pleased to know that there is still an interest and appreciation for this great music.

 

One last thing: I asked Ethel how she came up with the “Living” name for these RCA-Camden concept groups. She said that it was nothing complicated; the name just came to her one day and she thought it would be a great way to promote these new concept recordings. And just in case anyone doesn’t already know, in 1955, when she created RCA’s new budget label, she named it Camden after Camden, New Jersey -- which at the time was the headquarters for RCA Records.


**Message edited 08/08/09 to add a link for the new Living Strings/Living Voices Christmas CD: http://www.dulcimarecords.com/catalogue/22/the-spirit-of-christmas/



Lawrence F. "Chip" Arcuri Owner/Webmaster | The Yule Log.com
JoeChristmas Share to: Facebook Twitter MSN linkedin google yahoo #3
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Re:Ethel Gabriel: The Legendary RCA Records Producer

Date Posted:08/10/2009 12:04:01Copy HTML

Hello Chip,

I'm glad to read that you had a wonderful evening with Ms. Gabriel and Ms. Larson. I can imagine how exciting it must have been to discuss living history with these two ladies. It is good that you were able to get together for dinner as the two of you had agreed. Sometimes with schedules as full as yours and Ms. Gabriel are, it's usually later rather than sooner when you get to fulfill your promises to each other to get together. Thanks for sharing this with us!
Yulelights Share to: Facebook Twitter MSN linkedin google yahoo #4
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  • Register:11/18/2009 04:17:56

Re:Ethel Gabriel: The Legendary RCA Records Producer

Date Posted:08/22/2010 02:41:30Copy HTML

Hi Chip,

I found this multimedia article about Ethel Gabriel on the Pocono Record website. It was done in January 2007, when she had to auction her collection of memorabilia.

 http://www.poconorecord.com/_flash/soundslides/070118ethel/index.html
Christmas Music Guru Share to: Facebook Twitter MSN linkedin google yahoo #5
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Re:Ethel Gabriel: The Legendary RCA Records Producer

Date Posted:08/22/2010 03:43:06Copy HTML


Just to give everyone an update since this video was shot: Ethel has since recovered completely from her financial woes and is doing just fine. I will be seeing her again later this month, and when I do, I'll certainly let her know that folks on this board still think of her from time to time. Thanks Joe. 
 

Lawrence F. "Chip" Arcuri Owner/Webmaster | The Yule Log.com
Christmas Music Guru Share to: Facebook Twitter MSN linkedin google yahoo #6
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  • Register:09/07/2005 11:04:22

Re:Ethel Gabriel: The Legendary RCA Records Producer

Date Posted:11/16/2014 07:19:12Copy HTML


Just to give an update: I spoke to Ethel earlier today to wish her a happy 93rd birthday. I told her that I only hope to have half the energy that she does by the time I get to her age. I also told her that I wish she could use just half of that energy to produce more great Christmas albums. Oh well, we still have the dozen or so Christmas classics that she did produce; most of these, of course, by her "Living" groups that she created: The Living Strings, The Living Voices, The Living Trio and the Living Guitars.

In her 40-year career for RCA Records she produced over 2500 albums, won 6 Grammy Awards and earned 15 Gold Records. Not too shabby, I'd say.

Since our first meeting in August of 2009, we have become close friends and she is a dear.

Happy 93rd Birthday, Ethel!



Lawrence F. "Chip" Arcuri Owner/Webmaster | The Yule Log.com
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