Help Local Man Save Our Music
By Tom Leyde


I’ve been listening to Dennis Murphy’s new album, “Rediscovery,” a collection of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra.

The Salinas bass player does a wonderful job on such vocals as “Come Fly With Me,” “Lady is a Tramp,” “The Best is Yet to Come” and “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Unless you’re a Sinatra fan or you listen to a radio program that plays these standards, you don’t hear them very often.

They’re part of the American Songbook, a large group of songs that include Tin Pan Alley tunes and the great New York and Hollywood musicals, a period from the 1920s through the 1960s.

Like a lot of Americana, this cultural legacy seems to be fading from the nation’s collective consciousness. How can we keep it from fading into black?

Enter Ronald Kaplan, founder of the American Songbook Preservation Society. The Aptos insurance agent and jazz singer has launched a quest to raise $25 million to do just that.

“It started out about me and became more about the music,” said Kaplan, who has his own record label. “It’s something bigger than me. I’d love to spend the next 25 years of my life making this a really solid proposition.”

Kaplan has laid the groundwork for the American Songbook Preservation Society. He received a certificate of nonprofit management and has organized as a nonprofit in California. And he has received pledges of support from jazz writer Nat Hentoff and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis.

He now is courting a major donor, and the manager of the Algonquin Hotel in New York also has pledged his support. The plan is to make the hotel a home venue for the society and for young singers to perform there.

“I’m very excited about that,” Kaplan said.

Other plans are to present singers of the American Songbook in high-profile concerts and jazz festivals throughout the United States and overseas and to work for lower ticket prices.

“I feel like somebody in the world has to step up and make it happen,” Kaplan said. “That’s my great hope, to keep this (the songbook) alive in perpetuity.”

If it all unfolds as Kaplan believes it will, new generations will come to know and appreciate the music of such great American songwriters as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hammerstein, Duke Ellington and many others.

“It’s our gift to the world,” Kaplan said.

The 411

Make a donation to the American Songbook Preservation Society and find out more about it at