For many years, I've always been attached to what they call the Great American Songbook, and Kern was a great leader of that because he had the classical training of Europe. He impressed all the greatest composers, like Cole Porter and Gershwin. They couldn't believe he was writing the songs he was writing.
Every week, as an 11-year-old kid, I would tune in to what was really the first American Idol-type program, a radio show called 'Major Bowes' Amateur Hour.' The winning group on the evening of September 8, 1935, was called the Hoboken Four, and their spokesman was Frank Sinatra, then aged 19.
In America, at the beginning of talkies, they pulled Fred Astaire from the theaters and put him on the screen and had all of these great composers write songs for him. They call it the Great American Songbook; I call it the Fred Astaire Songbook because they were written for him.