Jack Webb of Dragnet recorded a bizarre album of jazz standard covers
No, he doesn’t sing – they’re all spoken word. Hear Sgt. Joe Friday reciting "Try a Little Tenderness."
Image: Warner Records
In 1958, the original Dragnet series began its final season. Jack Webb had successfully transitioned his LAPD detective drama from radio to television and shepherded the production for eight seasons. It was already the project that defined his career, a fact further cemented by later iterations of his straightforward, buttoned-up portrayal of Sgt. Joe Friday. But Jack Webb had a different side.
1958 was also the year Mr. Webb released a jazz album — of sorts. He was a lifelong jazz enthusiast, so recording an album was a next step. Webb enlisted prolific composer Billy May to arrange and conduct lavish orchestral instrumental versions of "You’re My Girl," "When Sunny Gets Blue" and "Try a Little Tenderness," among others. Billy May, who worked with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and many more, was a natural choice.
Somewhat less conventional was how the songs were put together. Webb spoke the lyrics for each song in his trademark monotone voice. These “vocals” were put together with the full orchestral accompaniment to form an absurd, poetic masterpiece.
The album contained twelve songs and was appropriately titled You’re My Girl: Romantic Reflections by Jack Webb. In 2000, Rhino Entertainment released You’re My Girl and Jack Webb Presents Pete Kelly Lets His Hair Down, a series of instrumental jazz tunes inspired by the colors blue and red, as a collection called Just the Tracks, Ma’am. Pete Kelly was the name of Jack Webb’s jazz ensemble. The moniker came from Webb’s character in the 1955 movie Pete Kelly’s Blues.
Sit back, relax and enjoy Jack Webb’s strange yet soothing rendition of Try a Little Tenderness.