11:05am

Wed May 18, 2011
Kentucky Arts and Culture

Book Highlights Clooney Music Footnotes

Tapping the roots of how the late Rosemary Clooney's family got to Kentucky and where her musical career traveled in her early days, author Malcolm Macfarlane has traveled from his home in England to Las Vegas and Augusta in a quest for answers. Spending Monday visiting Augusta, and interviewing Clooney's brother, Nick Clooney, on Tuesday afternoon, Macfarlane and his wife, Pat also toured Maysville.

Clooney's family, along with her Guilfoyle ancestors have roots in Ireland, he said.

"Rosemary wrote a couple books about her life, but they concentrated on her family and personal life," said Macfarlane during a visit to The Rosemary Clooney House Museum in Augusta. "We wanted to do a book that contained more on her musical career, from Maysville and beyond."

Following a career as a banker in England, and as an avid Bing Crosby fan, Macfarlane decided he was fed up with less than factual accounts of Crosby's life in print and set out to research and write what would become the book Bing Crosby: Day by Day.

He is also the editor of Bing magazine for the International Club Crosby.

The Crosby book led to meeting another Crosby author, Ken Crossland, Macfarlane said.

The two collaborated on a book about entertainer Perry Como, then a chance meeting with Clooney's daughter, Maria Ferrer Murdock inspired the current project, he said.

"(Clooney's) career and what she did with it was quite remarkable," Macfarlane said.

Following a resurrection of her career, through an invitation from Crosby to his 50 years in entertainment party/performance at Dorothy Parker Pavilion in 1976, Clooney continued as a prolific entertainer, he said.

Macfarlane was also able to sit down in London, England, for an interview with Michael Feinstein, noted musician who hosts the American Songbook series on PBS, which has included Clooney memories and music.

"We had a lovely interview with him; he is very knowledgeable about her music," Macfarlane said.

Macfarlane does most of the research and passes the writing portion on to Crossland, he said.

"He already has about seven chapters of the book written, but we have some new information for him to inject," Macfarlane said.

"We had originally wanted to have the book completed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of her death, but instead settled on what would have been her 85th birthday (2013)."

From road manager Allen Sviridoff's vision of Clooney going solo during her Four Girls Four period, to the influences of agent Roger Vorc, Macfarlane has tried to interview people who worked first-hand with Clooney in the musical side of her life.

"I have an interview with Debbie Boone (Clooney's daughter-in-law) and really want to get some insight from John Otto; that is critical," he said. "We are trying our best to get it right."

Included in the book will be a chronology and appendix for cross referencing.

"Rosemary Clooney's life in music is a remarkable story and we want to tell it the best we can," Macfarlane said.

"And revive her memory," Pat Macfarlane said.

During the recent trip, which began on May 3, Crosby's birth date and scheduled to return home on May 23, Clooney's birth date, Macfarlane met another former visitor to the museum and entertainer at the annual Rosemary Clooney Concert in Maysville.

"We got to spend some time with Rich Little," Macfarlane said. "He is so funny to talk to because he does the voices for who he is talking about. He knows so many people who also had connections to Rosemary."

The museum intrigued Macfarlane, giving him a view of how svelte Clooney had been in her early days, and a peek at memorabilia his favorite, Crosby, had worn in the movie "White Christmas" with Clooney.

"The dresses, her waist size at 24 inches, the whole ambiance of the photos, and posters with costumes and the music playing makes you want to know more about her," Macfarlane said.

Macfarlane and his wife planned to tour sites in Maysville, Tuesday and today, including Clooney's burial site in St. Patrick Cemetery and take a peak at sites around the city.

"The floodwalls are such dreary grey, then you get to the murals and they are magnificent," Pat Macfarlane said.

The couple visited the Maysville murals, including the two panels dedicated to Clooney at Limestone Landing, during a dinner outing to Caproni's Restaurant on Monday with Nick and Nina Clooney, she said.

After Maysville, the couple will travel to a couple more sites where Clooney had first moments in her career, including a stop in Philadelphia, Penn., and Atlantic City, N.J.