Category Archives: Popular singers

Mr Bing Crosby ‘Swings on a Star’

There are some problems for the 1944 chart details in that very few are available.  However, we do have the top five very clearly recorded.  These are:

At number 5 we have Ella Fitzgerald and The Ink Spots with ‘I’m Making Believe’ that entered the charts in November 1944 and for 2 weeks in December were at number 1.

Number 4 had Bing Crosby telling someone that ‘I Love You’.  It came into the charts in April 1944 and was 5 weeks at number 1 in May’.

Number 3 was also Bing – this time saying ‘I’ll be Seeing You’.  This hit the lists in May 1944 and was number 1 for 4 weeks in July

Number 2 has a slight change in that Bing here was accompanied with the Andrew Sisters who was asking Bing to ‘Don’t Fence Me In’.  This hit the charts in November and was number 1 for 8 weeks.

Number 1 had – surprise surperise – was Mr Bing Crosby ‘Swinging on a Star’.  That came to the charts in June 1944 and for 9 weeks in August 1944 and beyond was top of the list.

There was a link here.  ‘Going My Way’ was a 1944 movie that starred Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald and revolved around a young Priest played by Bing who comes, secretly, to the aid of an older priest who is about to lose his parish. The older Priest – Father Fitzgibbon – was played by Barry Fitzgerald and both asked “Would You Like To Swing On A Star?”. That and “Too – Ra – Loo – Ra – Loo – Ra”, were both part of this motion picture that was not a musical as much as a film that involved music.

The story of “Would You Like To Swing On A Star?” became the key to getting money to save the parish and the song has an interesting history. Jimmy Van Heusen, a song writer who was working on the film was at Crosby’s house for dinner one evening. One of the Crosby’s sons complained of not wanting to go to the school the next day. Crosby looked at his son and said to him, “If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule. Do you wanna do that?” The rebuke became the inspiration that would inspire an Academy Award Winning song!

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A British Prime Minister; a German Chancellor and a USA Ambassador in the background – and we can listen to music!

 

We now read and write today in the year 2018 – but for today I want to take you back 80 years to the year 1938 and see what was happening in Britain.

On 17th January 1938 Joseph P Kennedy had been appointed United States Ambassador to the UK while, on 20th February, Anthony Eden had resigned as Foreign Secretary over Chamberlain’s policy towards Italy.  Lord Halifax took over Eden’s role and just under 2 months later, on 16th April 1938, the Anglo-Italian Treaty and Britain recognised Italian government over Ethiopia in return for Italian troops withdrawing from Spain.

In a different field – from the 13th to 20th August 1938 – Great Britain and the United States contested the inaugural Amateur World Series in baseball, played in the north of England. Britain won every match! This was closely followed on 23rd August when English cricketer Len Hutton scored a record Test score of 364 runs in a match against Australia.

Let’s finish this look at 1938 from a different angle that we shall return to later.

On 13th September 1938 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met German Chancellor Adolf Hitler in an attempt to negotiate an end to German expansionist policies.  On 29th September Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement and a resolution with Germany determining to resolve all future disputes between the two countries through peaceful means. On 30th September Neville Chamberlain returned to the UK from Munich, memorably waving the resolution signed the day earlier with Germany, and later in Downing Street giving his famous ‘Peace for our time’ speech.

We’ll have to wait for the stories above for different places but we can clearly enjoy the musical delight that was available in the year of 1938…

Just outside the top 5 were “A Gypsy Told Me” by Ted Weems and his Orchestra with Perry Como; “Cry, Baby, Cry” by Larry Clinton and “Don’t Be That Way” by BennyGoodman.

In 5th place we have Roy Acuff with the ‘Wabash Cannonball’. – In 4th place are Bob Hope & Shirley Ross saying ‘Thanks for the Memory’ while in 3rd place has Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb telling us all about ‘A-Tisket A-Tasket’.   At number 2 we find, we find  the Andrew Sisters going German with ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen’ and, at number one we have Artie Shaw telling us all to ‘Begin the Beguine’.

BUT – when we look at the music of 1938 in a different way – the creators – we get a different scene.  There we find: “The Biggest Aspidistra in the World” by Tommie Connor, W. G. Haines & James S. Hancock and “Boomps-A-Daisy”, with words and music by Annette Mills.  There is also “Cinderella, Stay in my Arms” with words by Jimmy Kennedy and music by Michael Carr.

“Dearest Love”;   “I went to a Marvellous Party”;   “The Stately Homes of England” and “Where are the Songs we Sung?” were in words & music by Noël Coward.

You’re what’s the Matter with Me” was on words and music by Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Carr and was introduced by Harry Richman and Evelyn Call in the film ‘Kicking the Moon Around’

Next week we could be kicking something much more serious.

Music and other aspects of the 1930s

For a great many the 1930s were remembered for mass unemployment with unemployment in Britain at the start of 1933 at 22.8%.  However, by January 1936 it had eased to 13.9% and in 1938 it was down to around 10%.  There was still a semi-permanent depression area in the North of England, Scotland and South Wales but new industries, such as car and aircraft manufacture, and new electronics were prospering in the Midlands and the South of England where unemployment was relatively low.

The 1930s were the great age of cinema going in Britain with many people going at least once and sometimes twice a week. The early films were black and white but in the 1930s the first colour films were made – although it was decades before all films were made in colour.  Radio broadcasting had begun in 1922 in Britain when the BBC was formed and by 1933 half the households in Britain had a radio. Television began in Britain in 1936 when the BBC began broadcasting.

From the mid-1920s to 1946 the most popular form of music in the UK was that produced by dance bands. The British bands never quite adopted the kind of USA “Swing” and “Big Band” jazz and during the 1930s the most popular form of music in the UK was that produced by dance bands – quite tame compared to American jazz and was generally sweeter.  Non-the-less Billy Cotton began in the 1930s and still had a prime-time TV programme until the late ’60s and Ted Heath’s fame lasted until 1964. Many others carefully adjusted as time passed.  For instant – Jack Hilton’s band was “hot” until 1933, but then became sweeter as their success grew.  Some of the lead singers also enjoyed fame on their own. Most famous were Al Bowlly and Leslie `Hutch` Hutchinson.

I’ll close off for this week with something very different from music – but something that people could nibble while they listened their music of choice …..

This decade also saw sales of ice cream boom and many new kinds of sweets introduced. Jaffa cakes had gone on sale in 1927 and Twiglets and Crunchy Bars in 1929.  Milky Way had been on sale in 1923 in the USA and arrived in Britain in 1935. Other UK arrivals included:  Snickers (1930), Mars Bar (1932), Whole Nut (1933), Aero and Kit Kat (1935), Maltsters and Blue Riband (1936) and Smarties, Rolo and Milky Bar (1937).

1930 Britain and musicians from Grenada and South Africa

There had been mass unemployment in the 1920s in Britain with most of the decade it hovered between 10% and 12% unemployed.  However that was nothing to the early 1930s when the economy was struck by depression. By the start of 1933 Britain’s unemployment was 22.8% but over the following years unemployment fell substantially and by January 1936 it stood at 13.9% and by 1938 it was around 10%.  However, although a partial recovery took place in Britain in the mid and late 1930s there were semi-permanent depression areas in the North of England, Scotland and South Wales.  Depression and unemployment are one side of the story – but there is another side. During this decade most people with a job found that living standards rose significantly.

From about 1925 to 1946 the most popular form of music in the UK was that produced by dance bands.   The British bands never quite adopted the kind of “Swing” music that was generally associated with American “Big Band” jazz. It was quite tame compared to American jazz and was generally more sweet.  Billy Cotton had perhaps the longest fame, as he still had a prime-time TV programme until the late 1960s while the fame of Ted Heath lasted until 1964. Fans tended to divide them into “Sweet” such as that of Ambrose; Geraldo and Victor Silvester and the “Hot” of Harry Roy and Nat Gonella.  The Jack Hylton’s band was “hot” until 1933 – and then became sweeter as their success grew.

Some of the lead singers enjoyed fame on their own – and two of the most famous of the time were Al Bowlly and Leslie “Hutch” Huchinson.  Let’s take ‘Huch’ first:

Leslie Huchinson was born in Grenada in 1900 to George & Marianne Hutchinson.  As a child Hutch took piano lessons.  In 1916, he moved to New York City with the intent to study for a degree in medicine – he had won a place due to his high aptitude – but instead he began playing the piano and singing in bars.  He joined a black band led by Henry “Broadway” Jones, who often played for white millionaires such as the Vanderbilts.  This attracted the wrath of the Ku Klux Klan and, in 1924, Hutch left America for Paris.  There he had a residency in Joe Zelli’s club and became a friend and lover of Cole Porter.  There were regular visitors from England and, in 1927, Huch was encouraged by Edwin Mountbatten to come to England in 1927 to perform in a Rogers and Hart musical.  ‘Hutch’ soon became the darling of British society and the population in general. Hutch became a favourite singer of the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) and became one of the biggest stars in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s – and was, for a time, the highest paid star in the country.

He was regularly heard on air with the BBC and one of his greatest hits was “These Foolish Things”.  However – in spite of his popularity – Hutch could not escape racial prejudice.  He bought a Rolls-Royce, a grand house in Hampstead, patronised London’s best tailors, spoke five or six languages and was on friendly terms with the Prince of Wales – but he was still a black man in an era of racial discrimination. When he entertained at lavish Mayfair parties, his fee was large, but he was often obliged to go in by the servants’ entrance. This embittered him.  None-the-less Hutch stayed on in England and we’ll come back to him at a later time.

Albert Allick Bowlly was a Mozambican-born South African/British singer/songwriter, composer and band-leader who became a popular jazz crooner during the British dance band era of the 1930s. He later worked in the United States and is recorded as making more than 1,000 records between 1927 & 1941.  He was born in Lourenco Marques, in what was then the Portuguese colony of Mozambique to Greek and Lebanese parents who met en route to Australia and moved to South Africa. He was brought up in Johannesburg and, after a series of odd jobs across South Africa in his youth, including being a barber and a jockey!  He gained his musical experience singing for a dance band led by Edgar Adeler on a tour of South Africa during the mid-1920s. However, he fell out with Adeler and was fired from the band in Indonesia and, after a spell with a Filipino band in Surabaya he was employed by Jimmy Liquime in India. Bowlly worked his passage back home by busking.  Next stop was Berlin where he recorded Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” with Edgar Adeler! Bowlly arrived in London for the first time as part of Fred Elizalde’s orchestra – but he nearly didn’t make it after foolishly frittering away the fare money he had sent to him by Elizalde.

That year, “If I Had You” became one of the first popular songs by an English jazz band to become well known in America as well, and Bowlly had gone out on his own by the beginning of the 1930s. First, however, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 resulted in Bowlly being made redundant and returning to several months of busking to survive. In the 1930s, he signed two contracts—one in May 1931 with Rox Fox, singing in his live band for the Monseigneur Restaurant in London, the other a record contract with Ray Noble’ orchestra in November 1930.

During the next four years, he recorded over 500 songs and by 1933 Lew Stone had ousted Fox as bandleader, and Bowlly was singing Stone’s arrangements with Stone’s band. After much radio exposure and a successful British tour with Stone, Bowlly was inundated with demands for personal appearances and gigs – including undertaking a subsequent solo British tour – but continued to make the bulk of his recordings with Noble.] There was considerable competition between Noble and Stone for Bowlly’s time as, for much of the year, Bowlly would spend all day in the recording studio with Noble’s band, rehearsing and recording, only then to spend the evening playing live at the Monseigneur with Stone’s band.

The man’s called BING

Harry Lillis Crosby – better known as Bing Crosby – was an American singer, actor, and song writer that achieved great popularity in radio, recordings, and motion pictures. He became the archetypal crooner of a period when the advent of radio broadcasting and talking pictures and the refinement of sound-recording techniques made the climate ideal for the rise of such a figure. His casual stage manner and mellow, relaxed singing style influenced two generations of pop singers and made him the most successful entertainer of his day.

He had acquired the nickname ‘Bing’ when he was in elementary school although it is unclear whether it came from a prank on a teacher or from a love for the comic strip of the time The Bingville Bugle. He came from a musical family and began to sing and to play the drums while studying law in Washington.  In the late 1920’s he was singing with the Paul Whiteman orchestra and, in 1931, he appeared in the early sound film King of Jazz. In 1932 he got his own program on the CBS radio station in New York City and began appearing in more films, so much so that by the late 1930s his records were selling millions of copies.

But let us take him back the late 1920s.

Bing and music really began when he started singing and playing drums in a small band called ‘Musicaladers’ that played at school dances and in social functions.  Bing and Alton Rinker – the brother of singer Mildred Bailey – dropped out of college in 1925 to try to make a success as a singing duo. Their target was West Coast – the home of Mildred and vaudeville theatres!  Mildred had contacts and introduced Bing and Alton to ‘a very big theatrical agent’ – they were on their way.  Some 18 months later the pair was hired by Paul Whiteman – at the time the leader of the most popular dance orchestra in the country!

Soon the two became three when Harry Barnes – a singer-pianist – joined them.   The Rhythm Boys developed a lightly swinging, easy-going vocal style that soon became one of the most popular elements of Paul Whiteman’s stage shows – AND his radio programs and recordings.

Bing had the most distinctive voice of the trio and, increasingly, was given chances to ‘go solo’ within the three.  He began developing a following from the younger members of the audience – so much so that he was assigned a key solo spot in a major production number.  The number was ‘Song of the Dawn’ which the Whiteman band filmed in Hollywood in 1930.

But …… things didn’t quite go to plan – but we’ll worry about that next week!

Singers and songs are moving on towards the 1930s.

Albert Alick Bowlly [Al Bowlly] was born to Greek and Lebanese parents who had met en- route to Australia.  They moved to South Africa and their child was brought up in Johannesburg! After a series of odd jobs across South Africa, including being a barber and a jockey!  At the same time Al gained his musical experience singing for a dance band led by Edgar Adeler on a tour of South Africa.  That tour expanded to Rhodesia, India and Indonesia during the mid-1920s but in Surabaya, Indonesia Al fell out with Adeler and was fired from the band. After a spell with a Filipino band in Surabaya he was then employed by Jimmy Liquime in India. Al worked his passage back home by busking and, in 1927he had a date in Berlin, where he recorded Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” with Edgar Adeler.

Albert’s next move was to London for the first time as part of Fred Elizade’s orchestra. That nearly didn’t work as Al foolishly frittered away the fare money sent to him by Elizalde!  However – that year “If I Had You” became one of the first popular songs by an English jazz band to become well known in America as well.  First, however, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 resulted in Al Bowlly being made redundant and returning to several months of busking to survive.

In the USA a male singing duo began performing together in 1925.  In late 1926 they were recruited by Paul Whiteman to join his band. They were called The Rhythm Boys and were now three as, in 1927, pianist/singer/song writer Harry Barris had joined the pair of Al Rinker and one Bing Crosby. They made a number of recordings with the Whiteman Orchestra and released singles in their own right with Barris on piano. In Mau 1930, after three and a half years with Paul Whiteman the ‘Rhythm Boys’ moved on – and we’ll come back to them later.

Let’s end this session with two individuals whose names still ring in Britain today. 

Noel Coward was stage struck from childhood and, by the age of 20, was already writing plays.  By 1923 he enjoyed his first West End success with ‘London Calling’ and over the next 20 years, enjoyed continues success.

Our other is Gertrude Lawrence who had many similarities to Noel Coward.  Her multi-talent was ‘discovered’ by the time she was 18.  She made her name in Coward’s ‘London Calling’ in 1923 and then shared top billing with Beatrice Lillie in ‘Charlotte’s Revue’ in New York in 1924.  A true product of ‘the revue’ she had that ‘star’ quality that made her popular across the entertainment spectrum.

 

Buddy and ‘Peggy Sue’ leave memories

In my younger days – the 1950’s that is – I was one of those thousands, or maybe millions, of British teenagers who latched on to the US ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ performers. Elvis was my number one with Buddy Holly a close second.  I can remember hearing – and then getting dad to buy – ‘Peggy Sue’ as Christmas got close in 1957. It reached number 6 in the charts – Harry Belafonte was at number 1 from 22nd November until Jerry Lee Lewis took the number one slot on 10th January1958!  Buddy had 3 hits in 1958 – ‘Listen to me’ [2 weeks & peaking at 16]; ‘Rave On’ [14 weeks & peaking at 5] and ‘Early in the Morning’ [4 weeks & peaking at 4]. In January 1959 he had a brief – one week hit – ‘Heartbeat’. While I was enjoying ‘Heartbeat’ – and hoping that Buddy would be over here soon – Buddy was getting on a plane and moving on to another show.

He was in ‘The Winter Dance Party’ tour that had begun in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 23rd January 1959. The amount of travel involved created logistical problems.  The distance between the venues had not been considered and, adding to the problem, the unheated tour buses broke down twice in the freezing weather.  Added to this was Buddy’s drummer, Carl Bunch, had been hospitalized for frostbite to his toes which he had suffered while aboard the bus!  As a result Buddy decided to organise other form of transportation so, before their next appearance – planned for 2nd February in Iowa – Buddy chartered a four-seat Beechcraft from Dwyer Flying Service in Mason City with Jennings, Allsup, and himself.  His idea was to depart after the Clear Lake Surf Ballroom show and fly to their next venue, in Moorhead, Minnesota via Fargo, North Dakota.  This would allow them time to rest and wash their clothes.  It also meant that they could avoid a rigorous bus journey.

It was just before midnight when the Clear Lake show ended just before midnight.  There were some discussions on who was joining Buddy in the flight.  Allsup agreed to flip a coin for the seat with Ritchie Valens – he took out a brand new half-dollar and Ritchie called heads. Heads it was. Richie reportedly said “That’s the first time I’ve ever won anything in my life.”  Allsup later opened a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas called ‘Heads Up’. Waylon Jennings also voluntarily gave up his seat – this one to J. P. Richardson (the Big Bopper) who had influenza and complained that the tour bus was too cold and uncomfortable for a man of his size.

Roger Peterson, the pilot, took off in inclement weather, although he was not certified to fly by instruments only.  Shortly after 1:00 am on Tuesday 3rd February 1959, Holly, Valens, Richardson, and Peterson were killed instantly when their plane crashed into a cornfield five miles northwest of the Mason City, Iowa airport shortly after take-off. The bodies of the entertainers were all ejected from the plane on impact while Peterson’s body remained entangled in the wreckage.  Buddy Holly had sustained fatal trauma to his head and chest and numerous lacerations and fractures of his arms and legs.

We will be attending the funeral in a few days time.

Popular music that helped me through the 1950s

It was on Friday 14th November 1952 that the British singles music charts were first published – but I knew nothing about it!  It was not until Friday 23rd October 1953 that I really ‘hooked into’ popular music of the day.  I kept notes and I played records – and I was told by my parents quite often to ‘turn that noise down’.  Sometimes I did as they asked!  Below are the records for the first 8 years that I made sure I heard who was holding the number one slot on the Friday nearest that magical first date above

1953 – Frankie Laine with ‘Hey Joe’ [2 weeks]

1954 – Don Cornell with ‘Hold My Hand’ [4 weeks]

1955 – Jimmy Young with ‘The Man from Laramie’ [4 weeks]

1956 – Frankie Laine again, this time with ‘A Woman in Love’ [4 weeks]

1957 – Paul Anka with ‘Diana’ [9 weeks starting on 30th August]

1958 – Connie Francis with ‘Carolina Moon’ with ‘Stupid Cupid’ on the flip side of the double ‘A side’ [6 weeks from 26th September.

1959 – Bobby Darin with ‘Mack the Knife’ [2 weeks]

1960 – it’s a new decade and Roy Orbison has ‘Only the Lonely’ at number 1 for 2 weeks

Let’s just roll forward 40 years to the 23rd October 2000 and we find U2’s version of ‘Beautiful Day’ holding the top spot – for me another special number.

So that’s me – do you have musical memories like this?  I’d love to know if you have.

1920s music and some rather good performers

Paul Samuel Whiteman was an American composer, orchestral director and violinist as well as being the leader of one of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s.  Bing Crosby and Al Rinker had been together in a Jazz band in Spokane, Washington while in college. However, the band was so popular that the two dropped out of college and drove Rinker’s Model T to Los Angeles where Rinker’s sister, Mildred Bailey, who was a Jazz singer, was working. Shortly after their arrival in Los Angeles they landed a gig on the vaudeville circuit, as a vocal act. Some members of Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra caught their act and recommended them to Whiteman. Nothing appears to have happened.

Don Clark was a former member of the Whiteman band and, in 1926, offered the two individuals that were waiting & hoping to join Paul Whiteman the chance to make their first record.

They said ‘YES’ and, on Monday 18th October 1926, accompanied by Don Clark’s Biltmore Hotel Orchestra in Los Angeles, Bing Crosby and Al Rinker recorded “I’ve Got the Girl”.  The song was recorded using an electrical, not acoustic, microphone and “I’ve Got the Girl” was released on a 78rpm disk as Columbia #824-D. On the flip side was Don Clark’s instrumental version of “Idolizing”. Two months later Bing and Al joined the Whiteman Orchestra in Chicago, where, on December 22nd 1926, they cut their first records with Whiteman — “Wistful and Blue” and “Pretty Lips”.

I think it’s safe to say that the ‘rest is history’.

‘It’s number 1 – it’s Top of the Pops!’ in 1969.

Many in Britain will know this headline coming across the airwaves.

In July 1969 the charts for 5th July showed the Edwin Hawkins Singers ‘Oh Happy Day’ at number 5; ‘Living in the Past’ by Jethrow Tull at 4; ‘The Ballard of John and Yoko’ by the Beatles at 3; ‘In the Ghetto’ by Elvis at 2 and ‘Something in the Air’  by Thunderclap Newman at 1.

12th July has Thunderclap, Elvis and the Beatles in situ but ‘Hello Susie‘ by Amen Corner had shot up from 14 to 4 pushing Jethro Tull to 5.

19th July still has no change at 1 and 2 but last week’s number 9 – the Rolling Stones ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ is now at number 3; the Plastic Ono Band has shot from 21 to 4 with ‘Give Peace a Chance’ causing ‘Hello Susie’ to slip down 1 to 5.

But we are looking at the situation on 26th July 1969 and at Number One – Top of the Pops is/are the Rolling Stones with their …….

‘Honky Tonk Woman’

This will stay at number 1 until 30th August when Zager & Evans’ ‘In the Year 2525’ knocks them down – to number 2!