note: In 1957, an album was released
called Jo Stafford and Paul Weston
Present: The Original Piano Artistry of
Jonathan Edwards; Vocals by Darlene
Edwards. Careful listening revealed
that both Jonathan and Darlene had an
uncanny knack for just missing beats,
falling a bit flat on notes -- if not
leaving them out entirely -- and
occasionally stumbling over timing, so
that either the singer or the pianist
periodically would have to race to catch
up with the other. Rumor had it at the
time that the Edwards were, in fact,
Stafford and husband Weston, re-creating
on wax a bit that they did as a joke at
small parties -- and the album became a
cult classic, to be followed by the likes
of Songs for Sheiks and Flappers
and, most recently, Darlene
Remembers Duke, Jonathan Plays Fats.
Except for a rare TV appearance, the
Edwardses have never toured in concert,
and what follows is, in fact, their
very first interview.
very first interview with a true cult
hardly surprising that Jonathan and
Darlene Edwards owe their special fame to
the albums they so infrequently produce.
There have been but five (and one single)
over a quarter century. But, beginning in
1957 with the robust Original Piano
Artistry, the couple have tirelessly
challenged the conventions of popular
music, flaunting musical taboos and
surprising listeners. As a result, in
1960, they were awarded a Grammy for their
second album, Jonathan and Darlene Edwards
Edwardses credit their special talent to
having roots in Trenton, New Jersey --
removed as it is from the restraining
contemporary mainstream -- and to
Darlene's late start in show business.
While Jonathan had played cocktail-lounge
piano for years in their home state and
was thoroughly schooled in the nuances of
popular music, his wife waited until their
children had grown and moved out of the
family home before singing professionally.
It was no simple matter, of course, for
such a unique musical vision as the
Edwardses' to endure until discovery, and
the Edwardses freely acknowledge that
their patrons, Paul Weston and Jo
Stafford, share equal credit for their
success. The Edwardses, in fact, still
reside at the Westons' home in Century
City, where we met.
baseball game was on TV, but the sound was
turned off. Jonathan, restless and perhaps
a bit suspicious, paced and glared but
gave full answers to every question.
Darlene sat composed, hands folded in her
lap, and rarely spoke unless asked a
direct question. The couple began by
playing me their new single, an
imaginative rendering of the Bee Gees' hit
from Saturday Night Fever, "Stayin'
Alive." It is their first foray into
"contemporary" music after a lifetime
absorbed with more familiar pop and jazz
are certainly some interesting things I
can hear in there that I haven't heard in
"Stayin' Alive" before.
I invented this thing called the "disco
rest," where halfway through the selection
I can play some of my own piano stylings
unencumbered by the rhythm of disco. Some
carping critics have said that I invented
this only so I have free rein for my
remarkable artistic abilities.
insensitive of them.
Definitely. But the disco rest has worked
out beautifully, and the dancers get to
stand around and admire my
there any special problems, Jonathan, that
you as producer encountered in reworking a
recent hit song?
The band that played on the record
did the best it could, but the boys were
very frightened because they weren't
accustomed to dealing with 7/4 bars and
sudden changes in tempo which are part of
my style . . . my actual trademark.
it's probably pretty difficult for any
musician to really follow you. After all,
you've invented your own style.
That's true, and we've had other problems
in the past. We had to let Jack Sperling
go, one of the top drummers in the
country, because for some strange reason,
he found what I was doing to be
funny! He laughed -- actually
cried! -- and I had to let him go.
But then I found another drummer who
thought it was pretty normal, although I'm
not allowed to use his name.
artists in the vanguard do
sometimes shock and surprise
I suppose. I can remember pictures of
Wagner assaulting the human ear with an
icepick and hammer. I've felt like that a
lot of times myself. I've felt, too, that
I'm out in front of the world.
about you, Darlene? How did you feel about
recording "Stayin' Alive"?
Darlene resisted doing "Stayin' Alive."
She thought that the words were too fast.
But I was pleased because a lot of young
people now will know what the words are.
Although Darlene was out of breath most of
the session, she got through it okay.
D.E.: Well, I felt just as Jonathan
said. Some of the 7/4 bars tend to be
constricting, and they weren't suited to
my particular talents as a vocalist. I was
just trying to get through that song. I
didn't really have enough time to let my
vocal talents come through because there
were an awful lot of words. I think I'm
pretty well pleased with the result, and
if Jonathan is happy, so am I.
know your fans are pleased with it. Have
you gotten much reaction?
Quite a bit.
J.E.: The D.J., what's his name,
Dr. Demento. He loved it and plays it a
lot. But at the same time that he plays
out stuff he plays an awful lot of other
stuff that sounds funny to me. I sort of
resent our being in among that, rather
than on a real good rock 'n' roll program
where we belong. This Dr. Demento also
made some rather disparaging comments. He
thought we were great, but he called
attention to some things he thought were
mistakes that were really deliberate,
imaginative outpourings on my part.
Darlene, this is the time to ask the big
question, the one many of your fans want
answered. Haven't lots of people accused
you and Jo Stafford of being the same
Really? Well, maybe the mistake is natural
because we've been houseguests of Jo and
Paul for many years.
J.E.: We live with them, you see.
There are times when the food isn't all
D.E.: But you understand that it's
J.E.: We're grateful to them, I
suppose, but, of course, artists aren't
supposed to be grateful. In the old days,
a prince or a baron would have a court
musician, and I've always felt we were the
Westons' court musicians, and they owed
D.E.: They're our patrons.
J.E.: The only problem is, they
don't allow me to practice to the extent
I'd like to. He keeps wanting the piano
for some of the dumb things he does. Our
lights have been kind of hidden under
under the Westons' bushel -- is that the
real reason you haven't given an interview
in all these years?
I think so. They're not really too much
for it, and what's the saying? Don't bite
the hand that feeds you!
J.E.: It's kind of like a family
having an uncle they don't think is rowing
with both oars, and he's kept in a back
room. Lots of times when media people have
come to the house, we've been asked to
stay in the bedroom or in the
get back to your music, Darlene, what are
your favorites out of all the songs you've
Well, I like the really, really chic
songs, which is really why I resisted
"Stayin' Alive." A lot of my favorites
were in the first album, like "You're
Blasé." Marvelous lyrics. And
J.E.: Songs that have
rendezvous and sophisticated words
D.E.: There are a lot of
sophisticated words, in "You're
Blasé": . . . You're deep just like
a chasm . . ."
I must say, Darlene, that your delivery,
your phrasing, allows you to dwell on some
of those lyrics we might otherwise
I do, I really do, dwell on them,
J.E.: Darlene really does handle
those sophisticated words well, and in the
future it might be a good idea for her to
do a whole album of Noel Coward. But I
personally am so pleased with all the five
albums that I couldn't be restricted to
any one choice. We were really bitter
about the Sing Along with Jonathan and
Darlene album, though, which is one of
the best technically we've done, but Mitch
Miller's "singalong" craze went right down
the tubes right after we put the album
out, and that destroyed its sales.