Tea for Two | Doris Day
Gene Nelson | Page Cavanaugh
In 1950, Warner Brothers released a movie musical called Tea for Two, starring Doris Day and Gene Nelson. Columbia Records also released this 10 inch LP which includes 8 selections from the movie. This is not a soundtrack album. It's a "songs from" record and along with star singer, Doris Day, features three tunes with Gene Nelson singing and tapping like he did in the movie. The stars are accompanied by the Page Cavanaugh Trio.
Anyone watching this movie quickly learns that Gene Nelson was a great dancer. He won a Golden Globe award for Tea for Two as New Star of the Year, in 1950. For more on Gene Nelson, the dancer, please visit my special Gene Nelson tribute page. I want to include a list of good Gene Nelson links here, but where are they? This under-appreciated tapper is also poorly represented on the Web, but we're working on it.
On this 10-inch LP, Tea for Two, Doris Day is the main performer and Gene is featured on three of the eight tracks: I Know That You Know begins with Doris Day's vocal for one chorus, then the Page Cavanaugh Trio does a chorus, after that Gene taps for one chorus. Gene sings Oh Me, Oh My with Doris and finally they both are joined by the trio again for Crazy Rhythm.
My Tea for Two LP is a US release but I also have a 78 rpm recording released in Japan, of this same version of Crazy Rhythm and a Columbia Records (Japan) catalogue booklet from the 78s era. These are Japanese issues and they are special pieces in my collection. When I was in high school my father bought an old wind-up phonograph for me, a Victrola 1-90, serial number 13227. That player started me collecting 78s and this record of Domino and Crazy Rhythm is one of my early acquisitions.
Shortly after the end of WWII American popular music became available in Japan once again, Columbia Japan began to release popular recordings under a new "L" series. My Crazy Rhythm record is L-65. When I bought this record I became fascinated by the sound of Gene Nelson tap dancing. I know if this music is famous now, at all, it is because of Doris Day, but for me it's Gene Nelson. This rendition begins with the cool sound of Page Cavanaugh's intro, Gene comes in tapping clearly, even on the 78, and then Doris's bright happy singing follows. The second chorus is Gene's tap solo. This part of the arrangement is particularly nice. In the movie, Gene does the Crazy Rhythm number in a jungle setting and actually does not tap. So when you get down to it, the record is not totally connected to the movie really. I hadn't seen Gene Nelson in the movies yet when I bought it so I didn't know him very well, but this record was good enough to make me a fan and after I saw him in those great films, I was hooked.
In the late 80's I was living in San Francisco and went to visit Rusty Frank one night. Rusty is the author of a great book, TAP! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and Their Stories 1900-1955, and she knew I was a big fan of Gene Nelson. While we were talking Rusty picked up the phone and gave Gene a call. It was kind of a casual thing for her, but quite amazing and wonderful for me. Gene and I eventually exchanged some gifts and the whole experience became a great memory in my tapping life.
Tea for Two also introduced me to The Page Cavanaugh Trio which has became one of my favorite cool jazz trios, with Page Cavanaugh on piano, Robert P. Morgan on guitar and Charles S. Parnell on bass. Their music is similar to the Nat King Cole Trio in a way, with no drums so they sound great with a tap dancer supplying the rhythm. You can also see Gene Nelson and the Page Cavanaugh Trio in the movie Lullaby Of Broadway (Warner Brothers, 1951). Tea for Two (the movie) is also available through Amazon and the Tea for Two recording is available on CD. It's terrific!
— Shinichi Matsumoto