I have found that most monster movie kids like me have some diverse yet similar tastes in other films and personal collecting. Most enjoy classic comedies from legends like the Marx Brothers or Laurel and Hardy. Many also find collecting albums to be an enjoyable past time. For me, both of these additional habits give me great joy. Groucho Marx always makes me smile and finding a cool album in the bins at Half-Price Books is as good as finding gold. When you can accomplish both in the same act, it’s priceless.
In the late 60s, the Marx Brothers were having a resurgence in their popularity. Most of their films were being broadcast on television and the college-age crowd couldn’t get enough of flicks like Horse Feathers or Duck Soup. Sadly, Chico and Harpo never really got a chance to see this as Chico had died in 1961 with Harpo followed soon after in 1964. Zeppo and Gummo had long left the act decades earlier but Groucho was still alive and ready to take the stage again.
By the early 70s, Groucho was done with Hollywood but through his friendship with talk-show host Dick Cavett and companion Erin Fleming, he was convinced to do several performances of a one-man show with Groucho mostly recollecting stories and anecdotes interspersed with an occasional tune such as Timbuctoo or Lydia, The Tattooed Lady, accompanied by Marvin Hamilisch no less.
Dick Cavett was on hand to introduce Groucho when the most famous of these shows was recorded at Carnegie Hall in New York on May 6, 1972. His voice had been weakened with age (he was 82 at the time) and he would sometimes forget a line or two of a song. But the wit was still there, he was still the one and only Groucho. Thankfully, this was preserved for the ages courtesy of a two-record set released by A&M Records entitled An Evening with Groucho. Unfortunately, this has never been released officially on CD, so being able to listen to this show has been a challenge for collectors. Perhaps, this is another reason to once again start collecting albums. So many great recordings have never been released on CD and deserve to be heard by future generations.
The album credits two other performances as Groucho also visited the C.Y. Stephens Auditorium at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa sometime in 1972 as well as the Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco on August 11. It’s hard to tell what parts of the album are from which recording but it doesn’t really matter. It’s Groucho and that’s all you need to know. He had a few awards and accolades left in the forthcoming years before his death in 1977 at the age of 87 but this was one of the bright spots in the twilight years of his career.
An Evening with Groucho is a perfect example of why albums are so much better than CDs and MP3 audio recordings. It folds out and features a plethora of pictures and quotes from such legends as Charlie Chaplin, George Burns and Jack Benny. You can never get that with an MP3. From a collector’s perspective, albums were the pinnacle of audio collecting, another reason for their renaissance in the 21st century.
If you aren’t as lucky as I to have this in your collection, the recording is out there at archive.org and is well worth the listen. After being aware of this performance for so many years, it was an absolute pleasure listening to it on this sunny and cool Sunday morning. Sometimes, a monster movie kid just needs to smile and Groucho always does the job.