Saturday, June 27, 2015

Voices of Innocence and Experience: Hear Ed Ames Sing “Try to Remember” at 36, and Watch Him Sing It Again at 80 (Photoessay and Videos)


As a young man (30?)

By Nicholas Stix
Expanded at 3:23 a.m. on Saturday, August 15, 2015
Ed Ames was born Edmund Dantes Urick, on July 9, 1927 in Malden, Massachusetts to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants.

Ed Urick grew up poor, one of nine kids. He and his brother Joe both attended highly selective Boston Public Latin School. The Urick brothers were immensely talented at music, athletics, comedy and academics.


The Ames Brothers

During the late 1940s through the 1950s, Ed and his brothers Vic (May 20, 1925–January 23, 1978), Gene (February 13, 1923–April 4, 1997), and Joe (May 3, 1921–December 22, 2007) had great success singing as The Ames Brothers in clubs, theaters, and on TV, both as a guest act and with their own variety show. They had a string of hit records, largely in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, with “Rag Mop” probably their biggest hit.

In the early 1960s, Ed decided to become an actor, took acting lessons, and enjoyed success off-Broadway in the legendary musical, The Fantasticks, and on Broadway in Carnival, and in Kirk Douglas’ production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

“Try to Remember” was the signature song from The Fantasticks, which was ultimately the longest-running show in theatrical history. In Cuckoo’s Nest he played “Chief,” which led to his being offered the supporting role of the Ivy League-educated Indian “Mingo” on Daniel Boone, starring Fess Parker, which ran from 1964-1968. Ames still speaks of Parker as “my friend.”


As “Mingo,” on Daniel Boone

No Ukrainian Jew, no matter how talented, or how much he looked the part, would ever get such an offer today.

In his prime, Ames stood a strapping 6’3.”

When Daniel Boone ended its run, Ames was only 40, and yet, though he and his fans didn’t know it, his TV career was over. An actor could have great success for years on the boob tube, have a show end its run, and suddenly find fickle producers ignoring him.

Starting with “Try to Remember” in 1964, Ames had success as a solo singing act. Ames’ singing career was greatly aided by Johnny Carson, and his name recognition through the TV series. Carson reportedly scheduled him to sing one night on the show in 1964, and then had him come back every night that week. However, Ames never enjoyed success as a solo performer on the level of the brothers act.

On April 29, 1965, Ames had one of the most memorable appearances in the history of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Ames showed Carson how to throw a tomahawk. His throw elicited what is supposed to have been the longest sustained laughter in the history of the show, and a response from Carson that would be verboten today, “I didn’t even know you were Jewish!”



Ames continued singing and performing for many years, but like so many wonderful singers of the Great American Songbook (think of Jack Jones), he flew under the radar of the MSM, which promoted first the British invasion and “rhythm & blues,” followed by punk and rap.

During his sixties, Ames became a horse rancher.

In recent years, he has served as President of the Los Angeles chapter of the Zionist Organization of America.

The 1964 version of “Try to Remember” displays Ames’ bass-baritone to full effect, and yet…


In June 2007, on the eve of his 80th birthday

Watch him perform as an old man, at 79 or 80 years old. He’s still a big, handsome, powerful man, with a big, powerful voice. You wouldn’t want to tangle with him. See how he interprets the song, slowing it down at times, and his stage presence, with the business he does with his hands. As impressive as it is that his voice is still so powerful, it is the tenderness of his performance that is even more remarkable, a tenderness that is lacking in the earlier performance, or anyone else's.

“Try to Remember” is one of the most beautiful songs of the era of recorded music. I believe that the 2007 performance is scored closer to the original version than the 1964 version, or any other version I know, outside of cast recordings of the show itself. Not only did the 80-year-old Ed Ames give the most moving performance of this song, but one of the greatest vocal performances I’ve ever heard of any song.

The Boss said he reminded her of Sinatra. But, of course—Frank Sinatra taught generations of great singers how to do it. Gene Lees wrote that while Sinatra had hoped that his method of musical interpretation would be his legacy, once Sinatra had established himself, men singers had the choice between interpreting songs as Sinatra had taught them, and being dismissed as Sinatra-imitators, or going a different route, and being dismissed as inferior. My chief of research borrowed Ronan Farrow’s quip, “Frank Sinatra is the father of us all.”

On July 9, Ed Ames is due to turn 88 years old.

Try to Remember
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Lyrics by Tom Jones

Try to remember the kind of September,
When life was slow, and oh, so mellow,
Try to remember the kind of September,
When grass was green, and grain was yellow.

Try to remember the kind of September,
When you were a tender and callow fellow,
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Try to remember when life was so tender,
That no one wept, except the willow,
Try to remember when life was so tender,
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.

Try to remember when life was so tender,
That love was an ember about to billow,
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow ... follow ... follow.

Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
Although you know, the snow will follow,
Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
Without the hurt, the heart is hollow.

Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
The fire of September that made us mellow,
Deep in December, our hearts should remember…
And follow.

Innocence: Ed Ames at 36, Singing His Single of “Try to Remember” (1964)
Try to Remember (from The Fantasticks)


Experience: Ed Ames Singing the Same Song Before a Live Audience, in 2007, on or About His 80th Birthday


The extroardinary Ed Ames singing a great song.

Uploaded on Nov 29, 2008 by Mountain Poet.


Anonymous said...

Ed Ames is Jewish? Like Charles Bronson [also Jewish] he was able to act the role of the American Indian. And I think most persons DO believe they had some American Indian blood in them.

David In TN said...

I well remember Ed Ames on the Daniel Boone TV show. There was a minor dust up when a Kentucky State Senator complained that Mingo wasn't a "realistic" Indian. Fess Parker had a typically dignified response, something like: "An august body like the Kentucky State Senate certainly has better things to do than concern themselves with a television program."

I alwys liked Ed Ames' songs and Jack Jones as well.

Nicholas said...


The notion that Bronson was a brother Jew is news to me. He came from a family of Latvian coalminers.

He did, however, play at least one Indian or half-breed. It was on an episode of Bonanza called, IIRC, The Underdog. He played this little guy (somehow, they managed to make him look skinny) who always seemed to be facing off against bullying and injustice. He meets Little Joe, to whom he tells his tale of woe, and Little Joe falls for it, and brings him home as a new ranch hand.

Before long, Mr. Underdog is trying to rob and murder everyone, including Little Joe. He’d never been the vic, but always the perp. Imagine trying to make an episode like that today!

Nicholas said...


If the Senator was talking about depicting an Injun as having attended Harvard, he was right. That was very diplomatic of Parker who, by the way, is still alive. I think he’s 89.

Jack Jones and Ed Ames were born too late. The tastemakers had levied a death sentence on the music they loved.

David In TN said...

Charles Bronson was not a Jew. I just remembered when Bronson was in the news after the Bernard Goetz Affair. The press was comparing it to the Death Wish movie and someone contacted Charles Bronson at his New England estate and asked him what he thought about would-be muggers being shot. Bronson answered as I recall:

"Where I grew up if we had snakes in the garden, We stomped 'em."

I've always remembered Charles Bronson, in a fashion, taking up for Bernard Goetz.

Anonymous said...

Also by Charles Bronson in the role of American Indian.

Teclo in "Guns for San Sebastian."

Blue Buffalo in "Run of the Arrow."

Chato in "Chato's Land."

Blacks especially liked Chato's Land. The whitey all getting their comeuppance. When riding the train to downtown Chicago I saw the graffiti, "Chato's Land".

Anonymous said...

@ Nicholas - Parker died 5 years ago ( In his prime Ames was 6' 4" or at least he claimed it. Agree that his voice is amazing - very few vocalists still have it into their 80s. His voice reflects his age, but still has a wonderful quality that any singer would die for. Magnificent!

Thanks for the post!