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Listen Up!: Bob Merlis’ Top Ten Dinner Companions

In the current issue of Elmore, our Listen Up! column featured Arnold Goodman’s list of the top ten people from the world of music with whom he would have most liked to have had dinner. Top music publicist Bob Merlis offered his list as well. Here, again, are Merlis’ picks, and the reasons behind them:

1. Sam Cooke—Who wouldn’t want to break bread with soul music’s founding father? He had an ebullient personality and I’m sure it would be fun to hang out with the guy who wrote and sang “Good Times.”

2. Sam Phillips—I actually met him a few times and found him to be tremendously engaging. He’s the single most important catalyst in terms of fusing rock, blues, R&B, rockabilly, folk and whatever else you can name into something that changed all of our lives.

3. Maria Callas—The term “diva” is thrown around today to describe just about any woman who can vaguely carry a tune. But Callas was the real deal on just about every level. I’d do my best not to be too intimidated. 

4. Louis Armstrong—I have to admit that I’d be tempted to share some herbal materials with him before chowing down. He had an enlightened world view and a singular style. 

5. Kurt Weill—He was born in 1900 and died in 1950 but accomplished so much over a very short period. If any piece he had a hand in composing is performed anywhere nearby, I make it my business to attend. In fact, I went across the country to catch a production of The Threepenny Opera not all that long ago. “Pirate Jenny” has been in heavy rotation in my head for more than 50 years. 

6. Dusty Springfield—I just love her voice and her presence so much it would be a thrill to spend some time with her and that pile of hair. I’d do my best to sing her own song to her because it underscores my admiration—“I’ll Try Anything (To Get You).”

7. Howlin’ Wolf—He was a genius, the anthropomorphic voice of the Mississippi Delta, transported to Chicago and the world, and championed by Sam Phillips. Would it be sacrilege to have “Little Red Rooster” on the menu?

8. June Carter—She was fun on stage and off. Her daughter, Carlene, is an apple that hasn’t fallen far from the tree and a friend, so I’ve already had the appetizer, so to speak.

9. Burt Bacharach—The greatest melodist of the 20th century. I can’t get through a day without thinking of his music. I had the good fortune to see him in concert just a few weeks ago. He’s a force of nature but I doubt he’d eat very much at dinner—he’s looking fit at 85 and is rail thin.

10. Johnny Hallyday—It’s as if Elvis were still alive—at least for the French-speaking world. I saw him a year or so ago and was blown away. He is a real rock star; the charisma just radiates out of him. I’d let him order.


Leonard Bernstein—I saw him conduct a few times when I was a kid and, as I get older, I get more blown away by the breadth of his artistry. We’d pick a restaurant on the West Side.

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