During the 1950s, in a cultural era nearly impossible to explain, professional bowling was a very popular televised activity. All manner of bowling shows with creative names like “Let’s Go Bowling” and “Make That Spare” made their appearances on the three networks. Names like Buddy Bowmar, Carmen Salvino and Dick Weber were nearly as well known with the public as Mickey Mantle or Floyd Patterson. The most well-known bowler was a sprawling, ungainly Midwesterner named Don Carter. How popular was he, you ask? Popular enough to have an album featuring a cover that deserves to be seen, and tunes that would be, if not for the fact that there’s nothing ironic about them, quintessential lounge music. Even though it’s likely that Mr. Carter’s participation in this project consisted of nothing more than having his picture taken holding a bowling ball, he would have approved of what he heard on the album bearing his name. But I like to picture his having been there in the studio, leisurely smoking a Camel as the boys sight read through a snappy arrangement of “One O’clock Jump,” a mentholated “Mr. Lucky Bossa Nova,” and the mandatory concession to a current popular dance craze, “Raunchy Twist.” It’s easy to imagine Don lining up his roll to the beat of “Green Eyes Cha-Cha.” It would be interesting to know who wrote Music for Swingin’ Bowlers‘ glossy arrangements. I doubt the budget would have allowed for Nelson Riddle or Henry Mancini, but whoever took their places knew his business.
Music for Swingin’ Bowlers might have be a cash-in quickie, but the orchestrations are all imaginative (within their idiomatic limitations), fully realized and flawlessly executed by a good-sized band featuring crack soloists. Listeners have to allow themselves a little bit of era readjustment to completely appreciate the album’s charms. I’d suggest buying colorful bowling shirts, popping a couple of TV dinners into the oven (no microwaving allowed), and grabbing some 7-Ups and a big bag of potato chips while you wait for those dinners. You might also want to occasionally get up to bop around the room in time to the music. Like bowling, it’d be good exercise.