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Actor Feeling His Oats as Singer : Wilford Brimley will perform with a jazz band at a benefit concert Saturday for a new CSUN scholarship fund.

February 26, 1993|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Actor Wilford Brimley will sing with the Cal State Northridge Jazz Band at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Campus Theater in a ben efit concert for the newly established Jazz Endowment Scholarship Fund.

Brimley is best known for his roles in such films as "Cocoon" and "The Natural" as well as being a spokesman for Quaker Oats cereal.

And can he sing? Joel Leach, director of the CSUN Jazz Band, says Brimley is a fine singer with a warm, rich voice and a unique insight into the lyrics of the songs he performs. Brimley's conductor/arranger, Northridge resident Don Bagley, who also has been his friend for more than 20 years, said: "He has a vast knowledge of the composers of the best music of the 1940s and '50s. He's extremely knowledgeable."

Leach said when he approached Brimley with the idea of a benefit concert, Brimley was so enthusiastic he offered to perform for free and insisted on picking up all related concert production costs. He's even bringing in his own rhythm section to augment the CSUN Jazz Band. Brimley is also interrupting filming of "The Firm," a movie he's working on in Tennessee, to fly here for the concert.

Contacted by phone in Tennessee, Brimley, who has made a career of portraying lovable curmudgeons, stayed in character. He expressed dismay that his generosity had been made public. "I've worked with the rhythm group that's going to be there," Brimley said crustily. "We make music."

Bagley said that although the CSUN date is Brimley's first college concert, the actor is no musical novice. Brimley has recorded an album and performed on television several times, including appearances on the Jerry Lewis telethon and "The Pat Sajak Show."

Brimley grew up in Santa Monica where his mother was a piano teacher. He left high school to join the Marines during the Korean War. He worked at a variety of jobs, as a ranch hand, blacksmith and wrangler. He spent three years as a bodyguard for Howard Hughes.

Bagley said songs slated for Saturday's concert include "Blame it on My Youth" by Oscar Levant, "I Wish I Knew" by Harry Warren, and "This Time, The Dream's On Me" by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.

Where and When Who: Wilford Brimley with the CSUN Jazz Band. Location: CSUN Campus Theater, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. Hours: 8 p.m. Saturday. Price: $8, $4 students and senior citizens, $20 VIP tickets include an after-concert reception with Brimley. Call: (818) 885-3093.

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