A great jewish yiddish entertainer.
"Mickey Katz (June 15, 1909 - April 30, 1985) was a U.S. Jewish comedian who received his first moments of fame in the 1940s as a member of Spike Jones and His City Slickers where he was most famous for his "glugging" vocal sound effects on tunes like "Cocktails for Two" and others. He later went on to perform his own parodic musical review and record highly popular "ethnic" comedy albums on the Capitol label where he would perform English-Yiddish parody songs. He was also recognized as a master of Klezmer style clarinet and had several hits during his long career. Though Katz sang primarily in Yiddish, he is often as recognized as one of the godfathers of American song parody which would later be advanced by the likes of Allan Sherman and, in the 1980s, Weird Al Yankovic.
Katz and his group can be seen in the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie accompanying Julie Andrews as she sings a Yiddish song at a Jewish wedding.
Katz is the father of Broadway legend Joel Grey and a grandfather of the actress Jennifer Grey. In the early 1980s he told the story of his life in a biography called Papa Play for Me.
Jazz musician Don Byron recorded a tribute to Mickey Katz in 1993 entitled Don Byron Plays The Music of Mickey Katz."
Born 1909, Cleveland, Ohio
Mickey Katz's unique blend of Spike Jones, klezmer music, and Borscht Belt humor proved a successful formula for much of the space age pop era. Studying the clarinet as a child, Katz began a proficient performer and was playing with local bands in his teens. He started introducing comic routines into his act and attracted the attention of Spike Jones, who hired him into his City Slickers band in 1946. Katz can be heard on a number of classic Spike Jones recordings, most notably making the astounding poly-glottal "glug-glug-glugs" on Jones' version of "Hawaiian War Chant".
Katz eventually mentioned to Jones' RCA producers that he had been working on his own parody tunes, combining popular tunes with Yiddish lyrics and instrumentation. RCA decided to record Katz and released his first single, "Haim Afn Range" backed with "Yiddish Square Dance." It proved a surprise hit, selling over 30,000 copies in one month.
Like Jones, part of Katz' success was due to the very high quality of musicians he used. Fellow City Slicker Mannie Klein (later replaced by the great Ziggy Elman) played trumpet, the young Si Zentner played trombone, and Sam Weiss played drums, and Nat Farber, a studio orchestrator, provided the arrangements.
The popularity of his RCA singles led Katz to organize a road show, which he called "The Borscht Capades." Among the cast was Katz' own son, who later became famous as Joel Grey. Ironically, one place the show never appeared was the Borscht Belt itself.
Katz switched to Capitol Records in the early 1950s, and remained with the label until he retired in the late 1960s. Most of his material remained the same throughout his albums--Yiddish interpretations of American tunes, rendered in Katz' heavily-inflected comic Jewish accent ("ecch-sent"). But he did play it straight for the album, Mickey Katz Plays Music for Weddings, paying homage to the klezmer music he heard as a child. He also recorded one straight comedy album, Mickey Katz at the U.N., and The Katz Pajamas, a collection of fairy tales told in fractured Yiddish.
Katz reprised the "Borschtcapades" idea in the mid-1960s with a Broadway revue titled, "Hello, Solly," but the show was short-lived. He published an autobiography, Papa Play for Me in 1977. In the early 1990s, black clarinetist Don Byron, who had learned klezmer music as a member of the Klezmer Conservatory in the mid-1980s, paid tribute to Katz's work by recording the well-received Music of Mickey Katz.
For more information on Mickey Katz, check out Haim Afn Range: The Mickey Katz Haim Page.
Borscht, RCA Victor LPM 3193
The Family Danced: American-Yiddish Folk Music and Dances, Capitol H 457
Mickey Katz and his Orchestra, Capitol T 298
Mish-Mosh, Capitol T 799
Katz Puts on the Dog, Capitol T 934
Mickey Katz Plays Music for Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and Funerals, Capitol T 1021
The Most Mishige, Capitol T 1102
The Katz Pajamas, Capitol W 1257
Comin' Round the Katzkills, Capitol W 1304
The Borscht Jester, ST 1445
Katz at the U.N., Capitol ST 1603
Sing-Along with Mickele, Capitol ST 1744
Fiddler on the Roof, Capitol ST 2387
Hello, Solly, Capitol SW 2731
The Hits of Mickey Katz, Capitol Starline T 298"
Yiddish humorous version of THE BALLAD OF