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Walter Willison, from the liner notes of the CD "A Bag Of Popcorn And A Dream":
"I will always be especially grateful to Karen Murphy because it was she who introduced me to her extraordinarily talented musical director-arranger-orchestrator Fred Barton -- the man Bob (Wright) and Chet (Forrest) have dubbed "the best musical director-orchestrator since our days at MGM!"
Fred Barton:  Well, thanks to my sluggish ancestors, I missed out on Rodgers & Hart. I didn't get to work with the Gershwin brothers. I overlapped with Rodgers & Hammerstein, but they didn't want to take a chance on a two-year-old whose first piano lesson was four years away.
"Dear Fred—Here we are in 1939—
the year we wrote "The Donkey Serenade."
The other pix reveals us in 1989—the year
we wrote "GRAND HOTEL"—the musical!
Love, Bob + Chet"
But I got to work with Wright & Forrest.
In the summer of 1998, as described above, one of my favorite divas extraordinaires, Karen Murphy, introduced me to Walter Willison, who introduced me to Wright & Forrest, and the rest is history. The project: A Bag Of Popcorn And A Dream, a CD compendium of twenty-five previously unrecorded Wright & Forrest songs.
Wright & Forrest's Manhattan apartment is bedecked with posters, album covers, mementos and photographs spanning their seventy-year career, of which only a few notable highlights are known to the average maven. In this setting, a parade of performing talent met with me at the grand piano to create their arrangements for the album. Bob Wright & Chet Forrest were on hand to hear the revival of their long-buried treasure, culled from a vast trunk of material accumulated from their seven-decade collaboration.
The recording sessions were hair-raisingly basic and a little unusual: the album was conceived as a piano album with bass, drums and saxophone, with 25 songs recorded in a single day; but after the fact, I post-dubbed additional orchestration with my Electronic Orchestra (mixed too far in the background -- wish I'd been there).
Most people know or have heard of Kismet, Song Of Norway, and Grand Hotel. I'll let Walter Willison fill you in on the rest (from the CD liner notes):
"The composers met while attending Miami High School in 1929, at ages 14 and 15. During their teens, they played piano in nightclubs for such stars of the day as the legendary Helen Morgan; and toured the US with notorious comedian/female impersonator Ray bourbon. Bob & Chet arrived in Hollywood in 1935, and almost immediately landed a contract at MGM. As thge studio's youngest songwriting team, they wrote aongs and scores for 61 films (many uncredited), including a series of box-office bonanzas for Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy (Maytime is their personal favorite). They turned out hits like "The Donkey Serenade" (Allan Jones in The Firefly) and their three Academy Award nominated songs: "It's A Blue World" (Toony Martin in Music In My Heart, 1938), "Always And Always" (Joan Crawford in Mannequin, 1940), and "Pennies For Pepino" (Flying With Music, 1942). From Hollywood they segued to Broadway, where they wrote music and lyrics for shows including Song Of Norway; the Tony-Award-winning score for Kismet; Kean (the latter two written for their favorite leading man, Alfred Drake); Magdalena; Timbuktu! (Geoffrey Holder's acclaimed African-based restaging of Kismet); and the landmark Grand Hotel:  The Musical, directed by Tommy Tune, which garnered five Tony Awards and numerous other honors.
"In between Hollywod and Broadway, Bob & Chet supplied special material and wrote and directed acts for some of the most popular nightclub stars of the 1950's, including Jane Froman, Celeste Holm, Anne Jeffreys and Robert Sterling, and Gloria DeHaven. They also wrote a weekly radio show, U.S. Treasury Star Parade, with Janet Gaynor, Frederic March, Ethel Merman, Danny Kaye, Mary Martin and others; wrote and produced their own weekly TV variety show, Star Time; and produced, wrote and directed The Camp Tamiment Revues of 1942 (a series of revues at the famous summer camp which proved a playground for many top entertainers, including Imogene Coca, Danny Kaye and Betty Garrett), as well as The Copacabana Revues of 1943 at the legendary New York nightclub."

FRED BARTON: And oh, the stories. Bob Wright is a brilliant and vivid raconteur, a walking encyclopedia of show business history and anecdote, from his first encounters with Jeanette MacDonald and a twelve-year-old Judy Garland (whom they watched audition for Louis B. Mayer) to the colorful backstage activities of Alfred Drake, not to mention the dozens of Broadway and Hollywood personalities who peopled the Golden Age of Entertainment. I sat mesmerized for many an hour, pumping Bob for more, more, more.... too bad I had an album to finish, or I would have gotten a few dozen more sensational stories from him. Chet Forrest died some time after the release of the album; I'm thrilled to have been able to play his songs for him in that living room, while he watched with keen eyes and keener ears. Years before, Chet had survived a brutal attack on the streets of New York, but lived decades beyond, to experience a return to Broadway with Grand Hotel. After Chet's death, Bob Wright came to hear me play at Judy's Supper Club one night, and I sang him a tribute to Chet: their Academy-Award-nominated song, "It's A Blue World (...without you)."
"Dear Fred -- From MGM onward,
God has always blessed us with "THE BEST."
Now he has given us you—which is even "BETTER!"
Love, Bob + Chet"
I accompanied Wright & Forrest to a production of their Kismet at the North Shore Music Theatre, and watched them electrify a press conference before the show with their personal recollections, including the stories of how they became masters of musical adaptation (in the operetta days in Hollywood). They are erroneously known exclusively as musical adaptors (Borodin, Rachmaninoff, Grieg, etc.). Less well known is their vast output as original songwriters in their own right (one of the best-known songs from Kismet is pure Wright & Forrest -- "Rahadlakum" -- you can hear the original novelty song's lyric on Bag Of Popcorn And A Dream).
The following year Bob Wright had me direct the music for a reading of Kean, at the York Theatre in New York. Wright & Forrest wrote a vivacious, completely original score for this 1961 gem, to a brilliant and sophisticated book by a newcomer named Peter Stone. The show starred Alfred Drake and got brilliant reviews, and generated a double fold-out record album which remained a prized collectors' item until its recent CD re-release. Alfred Drake's frequent absences and frequent cutting of songs from night to night were a possible contributing factor to its short run. The York Theatre reading starred the smashing Christiane Noll (with whom I'd worked in her first major show, the national tour of City Of Angels), Walter Willison, Susan Watson (of No, No, Nanette fame), and 35 years later, Arthur Rubin recreating his original role.
Walter Willison enlisted me for our next Wright & Forrest album, Friends In Paradise, which, similar to the Frank Sinatra duets, was conceived to use rare archival recordings of Wright & Forrest performing their own material, overlaid with my orchestration and live superimposed performances from a cast of current Broadway talent. In a shocking scandal, the notorious young record producer stiffed the entire cast and production team just as the album was nearing completion and it has been consigned to the shelf.
My last project for the Wright & Forrest Co. consisted of creating piano/vocal songbooks for A Bag Of Popcorn And A Dream and their musical Anastasia (with music adapted from Rachmaninoff, based on the mysterious Anna Anderson, who some still believe was the Czar's daughter.) Unfortunately, legal and publishing affairs were in chaos at that moment and the songbooks have yet to reach the public.
I've had some great showbiz encounters in my day, but I'll always treasure my hours in the living room of Wright & Forrest, sitting under the early Hollywood photo portraits of two smashingly handsome, ludicrously young men, while the actual subjects of the photos, still fine-looking in their eighties, listened to me bring back to life their collection of long-lost songs, and play through the scores of their unproduced shows (you should hear the one adapted from Saint-Saens). Just call me a stranger in paradise.