The Soundtrack For The Baby Boomer Generation

Step back to a time when singers were as bright as the stars in the heavens
and the music they sang was really swingin'. Stacks of wax to fit every occasion!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Her Nibbs, Miss Gibbs

Artist: Georgia Gibbs
Song: Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe (b-side) (a-side is Happiness Street)
Label: Mercury 70920X45
Number: YW13032
Songwriters: Arlen - Harburg
Time: 2:43
Released: July 12th, 1956

Today's artist is the epitomy of what Music For Every Mood is all about. Trust me, you're going to want this one for sure! Georgia Gibbs was a singer who was known historically - and controversially - as one of the whites who gained success in the 1950's covering rhythm and blues hits by black artists. Sometimes, her versions, which included sanitized lyrics, even upstaged the originals. In reality she was a genuinely talented pop vocalist, whose jazz-tinged approach reflected years of experience in the big band era, a period when there was no stigma attached to covers.
Georgia Gibbs was born Frieda Lipschitz, in Worcester, Massachusetts on August 17th, 1919. Her father died when she was six months old, and she spent her first seven years in an orphanage in Worcester, separated from her other siblings. She revealed a natural talent for singing at a very young age and was given the lead in the orphanage's yearly variety show. She began her professional career at the age of thirteen, and was singing in Boston's Raymor Ballroom the following year. She soon found steady work on radio and began freelancing with big bands such as Frankie Trumbauer, Hal Kemp, Tommy Dorsey and Artie Shaw. It was with Shaw's band (then billed as Fredda Gibson) that she scored her first hit, Absent Minded Moon (1942).
In 1943, she changed her name to Georgia Gibbs and began appearing on the popular Camel Caravan radio program, hosted by Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore. It was Moore who bestowed the famous nickname "Her Nibs, Miss Georgia Gibbs" upon her; the nickname is a playful reference to her diminutive stature of barely over 5 feet. She was a regular performer on this show until 1947. Gibbs signed with Majestic Records in 1946, and while she recorded many great records, she would have to wait until 1950 for her first hit single, If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd Have Baked A Cake (on the Coral label). Her most successful record was Kiss Of Fire which reached the #1 position on the pop music charts in 1952. Other notable songs included Melancholy Baby, I'll Be Seeing You, Autumn Leaves, You Keep Coming Back Like A Song, Red Hot Mama, A-Razz-A-Ma-Tazz, Ol' Man Mose and Shoo Shoo Baby. Covers of Dance With Me, Henry and Tweedle Dee saw her popularity rise to new heights in the mid-1950's, only to fade toward the end of the decade when she had her final hit with the novelty number The Hula Hoop Song, in 1958. She cut her final album, Call Me, in 1966 and rarely performed after that. Georgia Gibbs died of leukemia on December 9th, 2006, aged 87, at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Despite all the different song genres she employed throughout her career, I think today's record defines her sound the best. Singing the classic 1940 pop song Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe, written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, she seems well at ease with herself, her talents and her voice. The subdued arrangement by Glenn Osser smolders in the background while she is allowed to shine vocally front and center. If one only heard this solitary record of hers, they would believe she deserved a place in the pantheon of great torch singers. But, in reality, she excelled at singing Popular music, R&B, Rock and Roll and Big Band Swing just as easily. Some night when the rain is pouring down outside and you're all alone with that special someone, make sure your fireplace is crackling warm and low, snuggle up with a light wine and listen to Georgia Gibbs singing Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe. It's moments like these you'll treasure forever.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Woman In The Banner

No, it's not the title to some grade b-movie from the late 1940's! It's a reference to the woman who has graced this blog with her presence ever since the beginning. I mean, of course, the blonde in my banner at the top of every page. I posted a song by Janice Harper yesterday and remarked how she resembled that woman. A regular reader posted that perhaps she also resembled Doris Day, as she looked on her Day By Day album cover. Looking through my pictures, I came up with one other person she resembles, so I will post the three images and let my regular readers decide for themselves if perhaps the artist that drew her in the 1950's may have had some particular person in mind when he created her.

Doris Day, as pictured on her Day By Day album cover.

Janice Harper, who you may remember from this post.

And lastly, Sunny Gale, who you were first introduced to in this post here on Music For Every Mood. So, how about it? Do you think any of these three women were the inspiration to the artist who drew the woman pictured in my banner?


Just a quick post to upload a few images of the labels from the 45's I use here at Music For Every Mood. They're interesting to look at and if I can't find an image of an upcoming artist, I might have to resort to posting only the label image. I figure, it's better than no image at all in the post. Well, enjoy these records!

How many of these have you downloaded and listened to already?

Ella Mae Morse - I'm Gone.

Julie London - It's Easy.

Patti Page - The Wall.

Didn't You Used To Be....?

Artist: Janice Harper
Song: Love Me Now, Love Me Never (b-side) (a-side is Only Once)
Label: Capitol 4401
Number: 45-22844
Songwriters: Barry Sanford - Sanny Barkan
Time: 2:15
Released: 1960

Today's artist is another one I couldn't find out much about on the internet. I was thankful that I could at least find a couple images and a few references to Janice Harper. I wasn't able to find much biographical information about her, so I'm not certain if she's living or deceased. If anybody out there can fill in some facts about her, it would be greatly appreciated. She had such a fine voice!
Originally, Janice had her heart set on an operatic career, but she switched to popular music and had no regrets. A native New Yorker, she would sing for her high school buddies who insisted that she study voice and making singing her career.
Janice Harper first broke onto the Pop charts in 1957. Seeing as how Rock and Roll had begun to dominate the music scene by then, it's not surprising that there isn't much known about her. But, don't think that's because she didn't try. Even though teenagers were buying most of the music in the late 1950's, there were still fans of the Popular singers. Singers such as you may have heard on Music For Every Mood before. Patti Page, Peggy Lee, Julie London, Dean Martin, all these singers were still beloved by their fans and continued to have hits into the Rock and Roll era. One specific reason why Janice Harper isn't a huge star like she deserved to be was that, during her most popular period, when she was signed to Capitol Records, they had a stable of artists such as the aforementioned Peggy Lee, June Christy and others. Janice preferred a direct approach to her singing over the cool-school aesthetic of her rivals. Her finest LP, Embers Of Love, remains a potent evocation of perseverance in the face of romantic dissolution, celebrating the dawn rather than the darkness. Paired with arranger Stan Applebaum, Harper infuses melancholy ballads like Cry Me A River, The Thrill Is Gone and For All We Know with a warmth and sincerity bordering on naïvete. For all their smoky, late-night ambience, the songs possess an undercurrent of optimism that softens their impact, divining solace from the sorrow.
Some of her songs included Bon Voyage (1957), Devotion (Number 179 of WMGM's top 200 songs of 1958), I'm Making Love To You and I Was Hoping You'd Ask Me (both January 1959), Let Me Call You Sweetheart (May 1959), Just Whistle (May 1959), Forever, Forever (1960), Just Say I Love Him (1960), Cry Me A River (1960) and Where Shall I Find Him and 'Til Tomorrow (both from 1962). For other labels, she recorded Moonlit Sea and That's Why I Was Born (recorded for the Prep label in 1957), and He Just Checked In and Take Me In Your Arms (for RCA). Evidently, she recorded a handful of albums, with the previously mentioned Embers Of Love being her biggest. Because of that album's success, she secured a guest appearance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand program on February 2nd, 1960, where she sang the song Cry Me A River, which had been included on that album. She also appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Steve Allen Show, and worked with a diverse group of performers such as Eddie Albert and Buddy Hackett.
Other than that, I couldn't locate any clues or biographical information about this fine singer. So, despite the meager facts about her life and history, just enjoy the big voice she had and the easy delivery she used. Today's song Love Me Now, Love Me Never, is one of those big band arrangements with an orchestra directed by Stan Applebaum. It has the full compliment of instruments, string section and background vocalists, something uncommon for the songs typically being released in 1960. If you like moving themes, strong vocalists and really good arrangements, please download Love Me Now, Love Me Never by Janice Harper. Like me, you'll wonder why her name isn't a household word and why she didn't become a huge star. Listening to this record proves she had everything it took to be famous, for some unknown reason things just didn't work out for her.
I'm reminded of the line Lucy Van Pelt used when Schroeder always talked about Beethoven in the Peanuts cartoons. She said, "Beethoven wasn't so great. He never got his picture on a bubblegum card, did he?" Well, Janice Harper was great because she got her picture on a bubblegum card! That's her card below:

I just thought I'd throw this out there, but have you noticed how much Janice Harper looks like the woman in my banner? There's an amazing resemblance between the two, don't you think!?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Looked Over Jordan And What Did I See? Jordanaires!

Artist: The Jordanaires
Song: Girl In The Valley (b-side) (a-side is Sit Down)
Label: Capitol 4431
Number: 45-18919
Songwriters: John Lovis - Ib Glindeman
Time: 2:05
Released: 1960

In my last post, I mentioned how this group sang background vocals with Betty Johnson's family band. Well, this group has sang background vocals for just about everybody in the music business! However, they are probably best known for the work they did with the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Despite the work they've done in the shadows of other artists, they themselves have had a stellar career that began in 1948 and lasts through today.
Formed in Springfield, Missouri, in 1948, the group originally consisted of Bill Matthews (first tenor), Bob Hubbard (second tenor/lead), Monty Matthews (baritone), Culley Holt (bass), and pianist Bob Money. After three years, Money was replaced by new pianist Gordon Stoker. This lineup lasted until 1952, when Bob Hubbard was drafted. He was replaced with Hoyt Hawkins. Later that year, the Matthews Brothers left the group and were replaced with Hawkins switching to baritone and new lead vocalist Neal Matthews, Jr., and Don Bruce as first tenor. Bruce was also drafted, in 1953, so Gordon Stoker moved over to first tenor.
The lineup changed again in 1954, with Culley Holt leaving and new bass Hugh Jarrett coming in. Jarrett remained until 1958. At that time, he was replaced by Ray Walker. This lineup, consisting of Gordon Stoker, first tenor and manager, Neal Matthews, Jr., second tenor and lead, Hoyt Hawkins, baritone, and Ray Walker, bass, would be the group's most stable lineup, lasting throughout the 1960's and 1970's.
The group changed again in 1982, when Hoyt Hawkins died. His replacement was Duane West, formerly of Sonny James' backup group, the Southern Gentlemen. The lineup remained constant for another two decades, with West leaving due to illness in 1999 (he died in 2002). His replacement was Louis Nunley. Neal Matthews died the next year. He was replaced by new lead vocalist Curtis Young.
In 1955, The Jordanaires were performing a show in Memphis, Tennessee with Eddy Arnold, to publicize his television show, Eddy Arnold Time. When the show was over, a young man, quiet and courteous and with plenty of combed-back hair, came backstage to meet them. He was Elvis Presley, a practically unheard of singer just getting his start in the area. There were a few polite exchanges, then Presley said, "If I ever get a recording contract with a major company, I want you guys to back me up." He was on Sun Records at that time. On January 10th, 1956, Elvis was recording his first session for RCA Records with Scotty Moore, Bill Black and D. J. Fontana. That day, I Got A Woman, Heartbreak Hotel and Money Honey were recorded. True to his word, Elvis asked his new label if The Jordanaires could appear on the recordings. The next day Gordon Stoker was called by Chet Atkins to do a session with a new kid, named Elvis. RCA had also just signed "The Speer Family". Chet asked Gordon to sing with Ben and Brock Speer so he could use them. On that day, I'm Counting On You and I Was The One made history by being the first recording session that Elvis did with a vocal background group. Afterwards, Elvis took Gordon aside and told him (not knowing, at the time, why all the Jordanaires were not there) that he had wanted "The Jordanaires." This time, Stoker saw to it - and Elvis used the Jordanaires on nearly every one of his recording sessions for the next 14 years. The Jordanaires also appeared in several movies with Elvis and because of their association with him, they received Group Of The Year awards well into The Beatles' era.
Throughout the years, The Jordanaires have been one of the premier backup vocal groups, performing in a wide range of musical genres and with artists such as Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton, Kenny Rogers, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Julie Andrews, Connie Francis, Ringo Starr, Ricky Nelson, The Grascals, The Tractors, Ween, Shark, Henry Golis and have even sang in the off-Broadway musical Violet.
If you thought that The Jordanaires only sang gospel music or were merely the backup singers for Elvis, you're in for a nice surprise today! The song, Girl In The Valley is a mid-tempo recording, in the Popular style and if you've heard The Jordanaires sing before, you almost won't recognize them. Sounding quite like The Four Aces, The Crew Cuts or The Four Freshman, they will amaze you with their Pop abilities. The song itself is a nice number and makes me feel good when I listen to it. But, don't just take my word on it. Download and listen to The Jordanaires singing Girl In The Valley. You might just see them in a whole new light!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Heeeere's.... Betty!

Artist: Betty Johnson
Song: Dream (a-side) (b-side is How Much)
Label: Atlantic A-3049
Number: 45-1186
Songwriters: Johnny Mercer
Time: 2:25
Released: 1958

This second post for today features an artist who, although she recorded for the well-known R&B label Atlantic, was firmly entrenched in the Popular sound. And another special thing about her - she's still living and performing regularly! Be sure to check out her website after you finish here.
Betty Johnson was born on March 16th, 1929, in Guilford County, North Carolina. Her professional debut was in a family group, The Johnson Family Singers, including her parents and three brothers, singing a repertoire primarily of religious material. The group won a singing contest in Charlotte, and was signed to a contract on a WBT-AM, a major radio station in that city. By 1948, Betty had her own 15-minute radio show. While still a teenager, she was signed to Columbia Records, but no hits resulted. But, thanks to having been at Columbia, Percy Faith tried to convince Mitch Miller to sign her and work with her, but he already had Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney, among other artists, and saw no need.
She recorded a children's record with Eddy Arnold and eventually signed with first, Bell Records, then RCA Victor Records, which resulted in them asking her to relocate to Chicago, Illinois. Once arriving in the Windy City, she worked again with Eddy, on his syndicated television show, Eddy Arnold Time. She was backed by a group that had performed with her family years earlier, and who would achieve world-wide recognition in coming years singing back-up for Elvis Presley, The Jordanaires. She also did some work on Don McNeill's show, The Breakfast Club, in 1955. This led to her being hired by Jack Paar for his show, Tonight. She worked alongside him from 1957 until 1962, when Johnny Carson took over. Johnny's girl singer is somebody already well-known here at Music For Every Mood, so be sure to look up Jill Corey. In 1964, Betty married an investment banker in New York City named Arthur Gray. They had two daughters and Betty mostly retired from the music business until 1993, when she appeared at the Algonquin Hotel in New York and subsequently started her own record label, Bliss Tavern Music, for which she continues to make recordings to this day.
Some of the songs she recorded are Red Sails In The Sunset, The Dark At The Top Of The Stairs, I'll Follow You, For You, Always, In Other Words, Wrong, There's Never Been A Night, Mr. Brown Is Out Of Town, Together, Once In A While, The Very Thought Of You, Dancing In The Dark, Goodnight Sweetheart, I Want A Good Home For My Cat, You Can't Get To Heaven On Roller Skates, Manuel Cho Cho Cho And Pedro, Hoopa Hoola, Just One More Time, I Get The Blues When It Rains and her biggest hit, I Dreamed. Other hits included 1492, Little Blue Man, Little White Lies, The Song You Heard When You Fell In Love, I Want Eddie Fisher For Christmas, Slipping Around and today's song, Dream.
Which brings us full circle to the subject of this post. Listening to the dreamy arrangement of Dream, with an orchestra conducted by Charles Grean, one can instantly tell where Betty wears her heart. She is a dyed-in-the-wool Pop vocalist, and her singing on this record proves it. With the slimmed down sensabilities of a rock and roll combo, featuring a sax and piano, she really shines with this Johnny Mercer classic. If you like the smooth voices of Pop Singers, which is probably why you're reading this right now, then be sure and listen to Betty Johnson as she sings one of her classic songs, Dream. Then go check out all the wonderful recordings she offers on her website!

The Dallas Dark Horse

Artist: Ella Mae Morse
Song: I'm Gone (a-side) (b-side is Sway Me)
Label: Capitol White Label F3759 (Promotional Record - Not For Sale)
Number: 45-17188
Songwriters: Quincy Jones - King Pleasure
Time: 3:00
Released: August 1st, 1957

This post gets back to some real jazzy roots. In fact, today's artist blended jazz, pop and R&B to create her unique sound. I'm speaking, of course, about Ella Mae Morse, one of the most talented and overlooked vocalists of the 1940's.
Ella Mae Morse was born in Mansfield, Texas, on September 12th, 1924. She was hired by Jimmy Dorsey when she was 14 years old. Dorsey believed she was 19, and when he was informed by the school board that he was now responsible for her care, he fired her. In 1942, at the age of 17, she joined Freddie Slack's band, with whom in the same year she recorded Cow Cow Boogie, Capitol Records' very first gold single. Mr. Five By Five and Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet were two other hits Ella Mae and Slack released. By 1943, she was singing solo and reached #1 in the R&B charts with Shoo-Shoo Baby. Also in that same year, she had a cameo in the film Reveille With Beverly. Despite appearances on the big screen and the pop and R&B charts, Ella Mae Morse never received the popularity of a major star.
Other songs she released was Love Me Or Leave Me, Blacksmith Blues, The House Of Blue Lights, which saw her as one of the first white artists to perform what is now seen as Rhythm and Blues, and Down The Road A Piece. She also recorded a version of Oakie Boogie for Capitol, which reached #23 in the charts and was one of the first songs arranged by Nelson Riddle. She was married twice, first to Marvin L. Gerber, and later to Jack Bradford. She had six children. Her last recordings were for Capitol Records, in 1957, but she continued performing until 1987. Sadly, Ella Mae Morse died on October 16th, 1999, in Bullhead City, Arizona, of respiratory failure. She was 75. For her contributions to the entertainment industry, she was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is located at 1724 Vine Street.
Seeing as how Ella Mae stopped recording completely in the year 1957, today's song could very well be her final recording! I suppose the call of motherhood became too strong for her to overcome and she retreated from the glare of the spotlight. What a tragedy that was for all her fans. I'm Gone proves that she still had the talent and ability to hold her own with any of the Jazz greats from that era, or any other era, for that matter. Her natural inflection and toning proved that she had mastered Jazz, just as she had risen to the top in the Pop and R&B fields, too. So, please download and listen to Ella Mae Morse, one of the great stylists of the 1940's and 1950's as she declares I'm Gone. In the parlance of the Jazz set, I can say she's gone, man - totally gone!