Sentimental Journey: Working with the Big Band Sound Once Again


It almost seemed inevitable: Having Rosemary Clooney stand before a 12-piece band and sing as well as she ever has. When the singer first heard of the Big Kahuna and the Copa Cat Pack, a melding of forces was not unexpected. Matt Catingub, who wears the title of the Big Kahuna, has been a busy musician in Hawaii for years. And since both Clooney and Catingub share the same manager, the eventual combination seemed a sure thing.

 The explosive result of putting America’s premiere singer together with one of the most exciting bands in decades is called Sentimental Journey (CCD-4952).

 “I started working with the band and the whole premise of it, the fact that they’re young musicians who decided to listen to big bands and work that way,” Rosemary said. “Jobs for aspiring big band players are hard to come by these days.”

 Clooney confesses that to have a band that plays and records as often as they do is “simply a kick. The band came to New York with me and worked at Feinstein’s at the Regency, the intimate club owned by pianist/singer Michael Feinstein. It’s a small, small room and here we were with seven brass. I got their attention.”

“I have great admiration for the band and for working with them,” she said. Rosemary thinks at some point in her past, she may have recorded a version of “Sentimental Journey” but naturally shied away because of the great version by Doris Day and the Les Brown Orchestra. “That’s the definitive one,” she said. “Perhaps I stayed clear of the song for a few years.”

 On the new album, Rosemary’s longtime pianist/arranger John Oddo created the arrangement. “The guys tried so hard,” she said. “When we were recording together at a place up in Northern California, band members asked if I could come in and sing along. I had planned to lay in the vocal later in the recording process, but they said, ‘It really makes a difference when we can hear your voice,’ which was a very nice thing to say.”

 “Because Matt’s such a fantastic musician and conductor, he has worked for many famous singers, including Jack Jones,” Clooney said. “I had remembered working with the Philharmonic in Honolulu and knew Matt was from Hawaii, so I suggested to my manager that Matt try for the Philharmonic job. Matt got the job and that’s wonderful, in addition to his being leader of the Copa Cat Pack.”

When she’s standing in front of a huge crowd at this year’s Rosemary Clooney Music Festival, scheduled for late September in Rosemary’s home town of Maysville, Ky., her thoughts will inevitably turn to those early days when she and younger sister Betty traveled the nation with the Tony Pastor Orchestra. “I think about it all the time,” she said. “It’s especially so with this band, since they’re the same age as we were and the guys in the Pastor band were.”

Performing with the Copa Cat Pack, Rosemary admits that she feels simply great. “It’s absolutely wonderful.”

 Meanwhile, several of her five children have had successful ventures into show business. Son Miguel Ferrer, who once was the drummer on the road with his mom, launches a new television series this fall.

She has 10 grandchildren. Her son Rafael Ferrer, who does television voiceovers, and his wife are the parents of Isabella, who represents the youngest Clooney grandchild. Her grandson, Jordan Ferrer (son of Gabriel Ferrer and singer/actress Debby Boone) just turned 21.

 Rosemary was asked if she ever wondered what she would have done had she not left Maysville, Kentucky to achieve global fame. She said she’s never been asked that question, but “at every step of my career, I was happy. I was happy working at WLW in Cincinnati, I was happy standing in front of Tony Pastor’s band. I realized that things were beginning to happen, which was a half surprise.”

 One thing’s certain, a careful listening to this magnificent album, Sentimental Journey, will make it a keeper in most CD collections.