Posted on Fri, Jan. 20, 2006

New theme song for Monterey?
Local writer re-works Sinatra favorite and turns it into
'It's Happening in Monterey'

By MARC CABRERA Herald Staff Writer

Somebody tell the visitors' bureau or the Monterey Chamber of Commerce: A clever re-working of a famous Frank Sinatra tune could become the new theme song for the city of Monterey.

From the mind of a former writer for Bob Hope and Ronald Reagan, and the voice of a local music luminary comes "It's Happening in Monterey," a tribute to the Peninsula's biggest city. Ripe with references to Cannery Row, cypress trees and the ever present morning fog (and that's just the first lyric), the tune is an updated version of the Sinatra standard "It Happened in Monterrey" -- with a few twists.

"In the original song, it talks about Monterrey, Mexico, and it's only one verse," explained Doug Gamble, the brains behind the song. "But there's so much to say about Monterey I wrote two verses."

Gamble is a former writer of humor and speech material for Reagan and President George H. W. Bush. He now writes for different corporate executives and politicians, as well as for the nationally syndicated comic strip "Jeff MacNelly's Shoe."

He also found success writing material for Hope's various television specials and live performances during a 10-year span from 1983 to 1993.

The idea for re-working the lyrics to "It Happened In Monterrey" occurred to Gamble one morning while listening to the radio station "Magic 63" in Monterey. After the station played the song, on-air guest Monterey Mayor Dan Albert expressed his desire to one day hear a remake of the song with lyrics that pertained to the area.

Gamble got the message and then got down to business.

"What I tried to incorporate into the lyrics were things that everyone who lives on the Peninsulas is familiar with," Gamble explained of his process.

He even considered writing lyrics that reached beyond the city limits, but couldn't get past one stumbling block.

"I was going to write about Carmel, but I couldn't find the right words to rhyme with 'stores too expensive to buy anything,'" he quipped.

Once the lyrics were committed to paper, he promptly shipped them off to the radio station "with no expectation they would do anything with them." Lee Durley, local musician and promotions director for Magic 63, changed all of that.

When the lyrics arrived at the station, Durley picked them up and immediately saw potential for a song. Using a home computer program and members of his Easy Street Band, Durley quickly put together a rough recording of the song.

In turn, the recording was used as the basis for a live version that Durley debuted at a radio-sponsored event, the 10th anniversary celebration for popular Magic 63 DJ Ed Dickinson.

"We were planning a big celebration over at the Hyatt (Regency in Monterey) and I thought what a nice way to celebrate it," Durley said.

The song was performed before 200 people, including the Monterey mayor, in late December. Gamble was also in the audience, "scared to death." The last time he had written song lyrics was for a Hope television special on soap operas.

That song was performed by a group of women portraying soap opera fans on an NBC sound stage in front of a studio audience. That was easier because, as Gamble put it, "it was just another Bob Hope assignment. "It's Happening" was more of a creative endeavor with no guarantees, he said.

"It was really beyond my wildest dreams that I would be in a room with 200 people, listening to it live," Gamble said. "I told people, including Lee, 'I'll be easy to recognize. I'll be the one sliding under the table.'"

Mayor Albert was delighted to hear somebody had taken up the task he had conjured.

"It really is clever. I found it very entertaining," Albert said of the song's debut. "It does reflect Monterey and it does include a lot of things that are familiar to Monterey. The way it fits the old tune is clever."

Albert was pressed about whether the city could adopt it as it's signature tune, to which he replied "I never even thought of that, to be honest."

Durley said the Easy Street Band plans on recording a better-quality version of the song, to be released on the band's next CD.

Whether the song winds up in some commercial with images of scenic sunsets and otters "cavorting," as the lyrics suggest, is irrelevant to Gamble. Although he cheekily brags that his royalties have "rocketed up to $1.17," he said just hearing it on the radio is worth it.

Durley said, "It's become a much bigger deal than I could ever imagine."

Marc Cabrera can be reached at 753-6755 or mcabrera@montereyherald.com