(Speaking of Kraft Music Hall show) For this particular show, I arrived on Saturday, the eighteenth of January, and had a talk with the producer and director about the people who were going to appear on the show and, roughly, what we were all going to do. That first day, we did considerable reshuffling. For one thing, we threw out the idea of introducing the guests with a song, and decided to billboard them instead.
Originally, we were going to write some special lyrics for "Hey, Good Lookin'," in order to introduce Polly Bergen, but we decided I'd just announce each guest instead. The camera would hit each one, and then come in on me as I started to sing "They Just Don't Make Love Like They Used To." That's a song I really like, and it's one that is identified with me.
Then we would go into a commercial, and I'd introduce my first guest, Johnny Puleo and his Harmonica Rascals, except it didn't work out quite that way. Johnny got sick and wound up with 104° fever. We had planned for me to introduce Johnny; then he and the Rascals would play, and then I'd join them in a song. I like Johnny a lot; he's a great little guy, so naturally I was sorry he was sick, but I felt a bit bad myself about not bein' able to play the harmonica. Back on the farm, even before I got the guitar, I had a harmonica, and I had a lot of fun playing "Darlin' Nellie Gray," and the likes of that.
After Johnny, or his substitute, I was to introduce Polly Bergen next. We'd chat, and then she'd sing. After another commercial Polly and I would do a medley for four and one-half minutes.
We scheduled the Cowsills next. First they'd sing, then we'd talk, and we'd go into a song together, and then another commercial.
After that I would introduce a newcomer (I try to balance my shows as much as I can with old talent and new), eleven-year-old Browning Bryant from South Carolina. He's supposed to surprise me by singin' "Make the World Go Away." Maybe I'd join in? Then I go into a little funnin' with him and little Susan Cowsill and we'd all sing a song together. For the finale, we would all sing "Lay Some Happiness on Me."
Next day, the nineteenth, we started on the numbers, the medleys, and we worked on the angles and camera shots from there on out. Now I know that the camera on you, and the camera busy photographing, has a small red light on it; but when I first started off in television it was pretty rough to get acclimated to all that, and to learn which camera was on you, and still not let your viewer know that you knew. Even today, it's not too easy with three or four cameras to work with, but it's necessary in order to get all those different angles and shots of your face.
During all this, the director sits in the control room and watches. He blocks out your positions on a piece of paper, "dry blocking" they call it, without the camera. Then, when he comes to rehearsal, he goes over his ideas about angles and cameras. He may change his mind. He may say, "Oh, no, that doesn't look right. I'll try another angle." If he does, he'll talk to the cameraman; not so that anyone can hear him but them, of course. They have gadgets in their ears, so he can speak directly to them without interrupting the performer at all. Even during the final show, the director is calling those shots; he really has to be on his toes every second he's in the control room, watching as many monitors as he has cameras, so that he sees every shot and every move that a cameraman mates.
The cameramen have a lot of special techniques these days. I don't understand most of it, but I do know sometimes they use three cameras at once to give you different angles. It's a pretty complicated business.
If you saw and heard the January 29, 1969 Kraft show, you know that everything didn't go quite as we planned or rehearsed it, but that's about par for the course, I guess. As I remember it, we introduced the Cowsills first, then Polly Bergen, Jackie Vernon and Browning Bryant; but I could be wrong.