Judy Garland wasn't even 35 years of age when she quipped on the stage of Las Vegas' New Frontier Hotel, "That's the noisiest, loudest opening number...I'm getting a little old for it! Without taking a step, I get tired!" If the superstar was, in fact, tired, she hardly showed it. Thanks to the High Definition Tape Transfers label, the opening night of Garland's first Las Vegas engagement is now available in sparkling sound for all to enjoy. The Lost Vegas Show premieres the ebullient performance of July 16, 1956 in various high-resolution digital formats and on CD, as transferred from an original quarter-inch mono tape long rumored to exist but never before released to the public.
Though Garland had performed in vaudeville and on concert stages including the Palace Theatre on Broadway and the London Palladium, nightclubs were unfamiliar territory. But the deal offered by the New Frontier - $55,000.00/week per liner notes author Lawrence Schulman, the largest such sum offered to a nightclub entertainer to that point - was too appealing to turn down. She would perform two 68-minute shows nightly (7:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.) in the Venus Room, supported by eight singer-dancers and the orchestra of her brother-in-law Jack Cathcart, for four weeks. The demand was so high that a fifth week was quickly added. Audiences and critics alike were captivated, and thanks to this electrifying live document, it's not hard to see why.
Garland was at her full-throated, emotionally invested best both on the nostalgic moments ("Judy's Olio," featuring her MGM classics "You Made Me Love You," "The Boy Next Door," and "The Trolley Song") and the songs she had recently recorded for Capitol Records (a number of which she would be performing for the first time live onstage). She plugged her recent Capitol release Judy with sizzling renditions of the bright "Lucky Day" and two torrid Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer standards from the score of St. Louis Woman, "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home," introducing the former with praise for Arlen, "just about the greatest living composer." She also performed his and E.Y. Harburg's "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe," a highlight of her 1955 Capitol long-player Miss Show Business, dedicating it to her 15-month son Joey Luft. Roger Edens' swingin' adaptation of the Irish folk ballad "A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow," introduced by Judy onscreen in 1940's Little Nellie Kelly, was likewise reprised from Miss Show Business.
Judy enjoyed a handful of breathers with Roger Edens and Kay Thompson's special material performed by The Eight Boyfriends ("A Hot Time in the Old Town," "This Is Our Spot," "What's Next? What'll She Do Now?") and remained in high spirits and good humor throughout the concert. The inevitable "Over the Rainbow" can't help but be affecting in its sheer vulnerability and raw emotion. Sadly, Garland's three encores ("Liza," "After You're Gone," and "Swanee") have not survived, although her introduction and the few surviving seconds of "Liza" are included as bonus tracks.
The original mono tape has been painstakingly restored for this release by Robert Witrak and mastered by John H. Haley. There are some inherent deficiencies in the recording itself; Garland performed "Over the Rainbow" off-microphone and the voices of her "Boyfriends" are occasionally distant. There's never any doubt, however, that the historical significance of this recording far outweighs any sonic shortcomings. The clarity of this restoration is often stunning.
Judy Garland took the New Frontier act on the road, recreating it at the Palace in September 1956. The Lost Vegas Show fills a major gap in her discography and is surely a release to be savored. It's available for order now directly from High Definition Tape Transfers at the link below; you can peruse the track listing and digital liner notes there (including a recreation of the original menu at the Venus Room - a prix fixe for $7.50!). Miss Show Business is back!
Judy Garland, The Lost Vegas Show - New Frontier Hotel, July 16, 1956 (High Definition Tape Transfers, 2023)
- A Hot Time in the Old Town
- This Is a Party
- Judy's Olio: You Made Me Love You/The Boy Next Door/The Trolley Song
- Come Rain or Come Shine
- This Is Our Spot
- Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home
- A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow
- Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe
- Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody
- What's Next? What'll She Do Now?
- Lucky Day
- Orchestral Interlude: The Trolley Song
- Over the Rainbow
- Orchestral: Over the Rainbow
- Dialog Introducing Encores
- Opening Notes of 'Liza'/End of Tape