John Fricke (born November 30, 1950) is a historian/author on The Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland. He has been a major figure in the Oz community for many years. He recently served as consultant for every aspect of the new 2005 deluxe DVD set(s) of M-G-M's The Wizard of Oz, released by Warner Home Video. This includes his participation and appearance in the accompanying L. Frank Baum documentary, The Man Behind the Curtain.
Fricke's four books include 100 Years of Oz (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1999)—an overview of both Baum's career and the entire Oz phenomenon—and The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History, most recently reissued in 1998 by Warner Books. Fricke has served as lecturer/moderator and/or master of ceremonies at all the major Oz and Baum festivals, celebrations, and conventions, from Frank Baum's hometown in Chittenango, New York, to Chesterton, IN; Wamego, KS; Judy Garland's birthplace in Grand Rapids, MN, and at conventions, conferences, and symposia everywhere from New York to Chicago to California. He is an active member – past president and past editor – of The International Wizard of Oz Club, frequently appearing on programs at Club events. He portrayed Tik-Tok in the first (and so far only) presentation of The Tik-Tok Man of Oz since its original run in 1913 at Club presentations in 1982 and 1984.
He has discussed Baum, Oz, Garland or all three on literally hundreds of international media outlets including the NBC-TV Today Show, the A&E cable network Breakfast With the Arts, the syndicated Entertainment Tonight, CNN, and National Public Radio. He has appeared on many occasions as spokesman for Warner Bros., Turner Entertainment, Rhino Records, Capitol Records, and MGM/UA Home Video.
For the International Wizard of Oz Club, Fricke has served as president, vice-president, a member of the Board of Directors, and as editor in chief and contributing editor of its magazine, The Baum Bugle. He is a recipient of the group’s L. Frank Baum Memorial Award. He is presently consultant to both The Land of Oz Preservation Company in Syracuse, NY, and The Judy Garland Heirs Trust.
In 1999, Fricke assisted songwriter Hugh Martin in writing new lyrics for Garland's classic Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas as a religious song, "Have Yourself a Blessed Little Christmas". The song was recorded by gospel vocalist Del Delker and sung in concert by other Christian artists and is available in sheet music. Martin credits Fricke with the idea of writing a sacred version of the song in his 2010 autobiography "The Boy Next Door".
Fricke received a 2004 Emmy Award as coproducer of the two-hour, PBS American Masters program, Judy Garland: By Myself. This was his second recognition by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; he won similar honors in 1997 as coproducer and cowriter of the A&E Biography special, Judy: Beyond the Rainbow, which was based on his acclaimed book, Judy Garland: World's Greatest Entertainer (Henry Holt, 1992). His most recent book, Judy Garland: A Portrait in Art and Anecdote, was published in 2003 by Bulfinch Press and includes a foreword by Garland's daughter, Lorna Luft. It was the first such participation in any author's treatise on their mother by one of Judy's children.
Fricke received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Album Notes for the compact disc, Judy Garland: 25th Anniversary Retrospective (1996), which he produced for Capitol Records. In 2004, he served as DVD on-camera host for Warner Home Video, writing and delivering introductions to three classic Garland films (Love Finds Andy Hardy, Ziegfeld Girl, In the Good Old Summertime); he also recorded complete historical commentary for the alternate audio tracks of two of other Garland titles in their DVD debut, Meet Me in St. Louis and For Me and My Gal, and is similarly heard throughout Easter Parade, which was released on DVD in March 2005. Earlier, he was co-producer of the highly acclaimed laser disc box sets, The Ultimate Oz (1993) and Judy Garland: The Golden Years at M-G-M (1995).
Between 1995 and 2002, Fricke wrote the extensive booklets for the Turner Classic Movie Music/Rhino Movie Music series of Garland Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer soundtrack compact discs, thus providing detailed histories of The Wizard of Oz, Babes in Arms, Strike Up the Band, Babes on Broadway, For Me and My Gal, Girl Crazy, The Harvey Girls, The Pirate, Easter Parade, In the Good Old Summertime, and Summer Stock. Fricke provided similar notes for the 2004 Sony compact disc of Garland's A Star is Born.
Associate producer and writer for the two sold-out 1998 concerts, Carnegie Hall Celebrates the Music of Judy Garland, Fricke also co-produced the 1992 Garland exhibition at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. That ten-week display drew the largest crowds for any such retrospective in the history of the venue.
Fricke was, respectively, associate producer and creative consultant for the CBS-TV documentary, The Wizard of Oz: The Making of A Movie Classic (1990) and the PBS-TV Great Performances program, Judy Garland: The Concert Years (1985), both of which received Emmy Award nominations. He was consultant to virtually all production departments for Life With Judy Garland/Me and My Shadows (2001), the ABC television motion picture. Fricke also wrote, hosted, and codirected the Telly Award winning home video documentary, We're Off to See the Munchkins in 1992.
Most recently he compiled and annotated the Savoy Jazz CDs, That Old Feeling/Classic Ballads from The Judy Garland Show and Judy Garland and Friends: Duets, both of which were released in summer 2005. Fricke's profile about the career association of Garland and Oz/A Star Is Born composer Harold Arlen appeared in the April 2005 issue of The Cue Sheet/Quarterly Journal of The Film Music Society. He has also written for TV Guide, People, and Memories magazines, among many others.
Fricke also appeared in the 2007 documentary Return To Oz: The Joy That Got Away.
In late 2008 and early 2010, Fricke picked out songs selections and achivial film material for the traveling Judy Garland in Concert where live performances were projected on huge screens as Boston Pops and many other state orchestras cued up music to her legendary voice.
Fricke co-authored a coffee table book, "The Wizard of Oz: An Illustrated Companion to the Timeless Classic," with Jonathan Shirshekan, printed and released in 2009.
John Fricke was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he attended John Marshall High School and worked in advertising at the Melody Top Theater. He majored in Journalism at Northwestern University,
List of Audio Commentaries
- Babes in Arms
- Easter Parade, with actor Fred Astaire's daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie
- For Me and My Gal
- Girl Crazy
- Meet Me in St. Louis, with actress Margaret O'Brien, composer Hugh Martin, screenwriter Irving Brecher, and producer Arthur Freed's daughter Barbara Freed-Saltzman
- The Pirate
- The Wizard of Oz, with other participants
- John Fricke at the Internet Movie Database
- Judy Garland Database
- Video Clip of Various Oz Interviews, Including John Fricke