Tune in to hear our favorite versions of “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” as presented by Rodney Franks on Stories of Standards on weekday mornings at 7:50 and 8:50 am beginning Monday, March 8.

Stories of Standards is sponsored by ListenUp.

“The Surrey With the Fringe On Top” was written for the 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma.” First performed by by Alfred Drake, Joan Roberts & Betty Garde, Miles Davis adopted it into his repertoire in the 1950s and many others followed. Sonny Rollins recorded it in 1959; Mel Tormé in 1961. Wes Montgomery and Marian McPartland are among those who have included this song in their repertoire.

Richard Charles Rodgers (Jun 28, 1902 – Dec 30, 1979) was the first composer to win an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), plus a Pulitzer. In the 1920s, with Lorenz Hart, he averaged two new Broadway shows per season. A four-year stint in Hollywood was followed by a return to Broadway, where they composed the score for Billy Rose’s extravaganza “Jumbo”. This partnership ended with Hart’s death in 1943, having created 28 stage musicals and more than 500 songs. Rodgers returned to working with Oscar Hammerstein II, forming a partnership that revolutionized musical theatre in which song, dance, book and plot formed a fully integrated piece. After Hammerstein’s death, Rodgers wrote both words and music for “No Strings”, a Broadway musical, and two songs for “The Sound of Music”, adding the ones previous written in collaboration with Hammerstein. Together, Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals earned a total of 37 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy Awards, and two Emmy Awards. Alec Wilder wrote of Rodgers “Of all the writers whose songs are considered and examined in this book, those of Rodgers show the highest degree of consistent excellence, inventiveness, and sophistication … [A]fter spending weeks playing his songs, I am more than impressed and respectful: I am astonished.”

Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II (Jul 12, 1895 – Aug 23, 1960) was named for his grandfather, a German-born businessman, theater impresario, and composer, who greatly contributed to the popularity of opera in the United States. Hammerstein’s father, William, was a theater manager and vaudeville producer, who disapproved of Oscar’s participation in the arts; subsequently, Oscar studied law until his father’s death in 1918, after which he engaged in his first play, with Columbia’s Varsity Show. He wrote his first musical in 1920 with Herbert StothartOtto Harbach and Frank Mandel and worked with Harbach for the next 20 years. In 1921 Hammerstein joined the Lambs Club, America’s oldest theatrical organization. His creation, with Jerome Kern, of “Show Boat”, based on Edna Ferber’s book, is considered the start of the musical play, as distinguished from musical comedy. Stephen Sondheim, a family friend since childhood, has attributed his success in theater, and especially as a lyricist, directly to Hammerstein’s influence and guidance. Hammerstein was a member of the American Theatre Hall of Fame. He is still the only man named Oscar to win an Oscar.

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