Your Grampa's Favorite Songs, Singers -- With 34 Music Videos
Below Are Biographical Sketches And Videos of 34 Great Singers -- Including One of Billy Eckstine Singing 'I Apologize'
Roaring 20s: 'Broadway Melody'
Ben Selvin, known as “The Dean of Recorded Music,” was a musician and bandleader whose single recording of “Dardanella” sold 5 million copies. It was the biggest seller of the first quarter of the 20th Century. His output was both innovative and prolific, and he recorded under many different names and labels.
Rudy Vallee Sings 'I'm Just a Vagabond Lover'
Rudy Vallee was a popular American singer and bandleader. He formed his own band, “Rudy Vallee and the Connecticut Yankees,” and – reluctantly in his thin, wavering tenor voice – he began singing vocals. His boyish looks and suave manner made him a hit with the ladies. He was credited with inspiring the crooning style of singing and influencing such greats as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.
Andrews Sisters Sing 'Rum and Coca Cola'
The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters – LaVerne, Maxene and Patricia – were a very popular close harmony singing group. They became a household name in the late 1930’s notably with their Gold Record hit, “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön.” The sisters entertained Allied troops extensively during World War II and encouraged the sale of war bonds. They started their career as imitators of the Boswell Sisters.
'Toot, Toot,Tootsie Goodbye'
Al Jolson was often referred to as “the world’s greatest entertainer.” His brash, extroverted style featured a sentimental, melodramatic approach. Bing Crosby and Bob Dylan were among those influenced by him. He was the most famous entertainer of the 1930’s. He had the leading role in the first talking movie, “The Jazz Singer.” In 1946 Larry Parks played the title role in “The Jolson Story."
Jack Smith Sings 'Whispering'
Whispering Jack Smith
Whispering Jack Smith, a popular radio and recording star in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, was a baritone singer who hailed from The Bronx, New York. His distinctive “whispering” style of singing combined talking with singing -- proving effective in contrast to the common style of “belting out” a song. The style came from a war injury from poison gas that suppressed his volume, but won him praise for his intimate delivery and stage presence.
Spike Jones: 'Sheik of Araby'
Spike Jones was a popular musician and bandleader who specialized in satirical arrangements of popular songs that were often punctuated by gunshots, whistles, cowbells and ridiculous vocals. The band, known as “Spike Jones and the City Slicker,” was popular on radio in the ‘40s and on television in the ‘50s and 60s. They had numerous hits, including “Der Führer's Face,” “Cocktails for Two” and “My Old Flame.”
Connie Francis Sings 'Who's Sorry Now'
Connie Francis was a chart topping pop singer in the 1950’s and ‘60s. “Who’s Sorry Now?” and “Where the Boys Are” were among her many hits. She debuted on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand television show. By 1967 she had 35 top 40 hits including three that made No. 1. She performed for the U.S. troops at the height of the Vietnam War.
Gene Autry Sings, 'Back in the Saddle Again'
Gene Autry, “The Singing Cowboy,” was famous for more than three decades on radio, in movies and, later, on television. His signature song, “Back in the Saddle Again,” was among a large number of hits including “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Early in his career he performed on radio as “Oklahoma’s Yodeling Cowboy.” He made dozens of “B” movies with sidekick Smiley Burnett and Gene's horse, Champion.
Billie Holiday: 'I Cried for You'
Billie Holiday, known as “Lady Day,” was a jazz and pop singer and songwriter whose vocal style was inspired by jazz instrumentalists. Her intimate, personal approach to singing was widely admired. Her autobiography of her troubled life, “Lady Sings the Blues,” was ghostwritten by William Duffy and published in 1956.
'So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together'
The Rhythm Boys
The Rhythm Boys were a singing group created by orchestra leader Paul Whiteman, who put Bing Crosby, Al Rinker and Harry Barris together as a trio in the late 1920s. They appeared in “King of Jazz” in 1930 singing “Mississippi Mud” and “So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together.” Before disbanding in 1931 they performed at the Coconut Grove with Gus Arnheim’s orchestra.
Nat King Cole: 'Sweet Lorraine'
Nat King Cole
Nat “King” Cole became prominent as a jazz pianist before becoming one of America’s most popular singers. He was the first black to host a television variety show. His career began in the 1930s when the King Cole Trio was formed. One of his first big hits was “Straighten Up and Fly Right” as well as “Sweet Lorraine.” Among his greatest hits are “Mona Lisa,” “Unforgettable” and “Nature Boy.”
Ted Lewis Sings (Or Speaks): 'When My Baby Smiles at Me'
Ted Lewis, known as “Mr. Entertainment,” was a popular bandleader, singer and musician. His band offered schmaltzy sentimentality and hokey comedy. His famous catchword was "Is Everybody Happy?” He wore a top hat and featured sentimental, hard-luck tunes. Ted called himself “the high-hatted tragedian of song.” He often sounded like he was “speaking the song.”
Ruth Etting: 'Ten Cents a Dance'
Ruth Etting was a singing star whose signature tunes were “Ten Cents a Dance,” “Shine on Harvest Moon” and "Button Up Your Overcoat.” She made her Broadway debut in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927. She made a large number of movie shorts. She starred with Bing Crosby in “I Surrender Dear” in 1931. Her life was fictionalized in “Love Me or Leave Me” in 1955.
Maxine Sullivan Sings 'When Your Lover Has Gone'
Maxine Sullivan, an American blues and jazz singer, had a unique, intimate vocal style. She recorded numerous Scottish ballads after her successful reading of the song, “Loch Lomond.” Some of her songs were “Annie Laurie” and “Molly Malone” as well as “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and “Blue Skies.” She was one of the first black stars to have her own radio show, with her husband, John Kirby.
Tex Beneke Sings 'Chattanooga Choo Choo'
Tex Beneke, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, often worked with bandleader Glenn Miller. He was a singer, saxophonist and bandleader whose solos with Miller include the hit songs “In the Mood” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” He appeared with the Miller band in “Sun Valley Serenade” and “Orchestra Wives,” both movies helping to propel Tex to the top of the Metronome polls.
'I'm Sitting on Top of the World'
Les Paul and Mary Ford
Les Paul and Mary Ford were a popular husband-and-wife team. They had 16 top-10 hits in the early 1950’s. Les Paul was an innovative guitarist while his wife sang. Some of their big hits were “Tennessee Waltz,” “Mockin’ Bird Hill” and “How High the Moon.” Les Paul hosted a radio show in 1950. Later the “Les Paul and Mary Ford Show” was widely syndicated with “Vaya Con Dios” as their theme song.
Boswell Sisters Sing 'Sleepy Time Down South'
The Boswell Sisters
The Boswell Sisters, a close harmony trio consisting of Martha, Connee and “Vet,” inspired the Andrews Sisters, who began their career by imitating the Boswells. The Boswells were noted for intricate harmonies and rhythmic experimentation. They began in radio and later had success in records. Their 1934 song “Rock and Roll” refers to the “rolling rocking rhythm of the sea.” The sisters had 20 hits during the 1920’s, including “The Object of My Affection.”
Ink Spots Sing 'If I Didn't Care'
The Ink Spots
The Ink Spots, along with the Mills Brothers, define the genre that led to rhythm & blues and rock and roll. In the late 1930s the group had a smash hit with “If I Didn’t Care.” That was followed rapidly by “Whispering Grass,” “Do I Worry,” “Java Jive” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Lead tenor Bill Kenny joined the group in 1936, Other hits were “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall,” “I’m Making Believe” and “The Gypsy.”
Vera Lynn Sings 'The White Cliffs of Dover'
Dame Vera Lynn
Dame Vera Lynn, nicknamed “The Forces’ Sweetheart,” was an English singer whose voice inspired millions during World War II. Her wartime version of “The White Cliffs of Dover” and “We’ll Meet Again” helped her career flourish. She sent messages to our troops on her radio program and toured Egypt, India and Burma entertaining the troops.
Frankie Laine Sings 'Ghost Riders in the Sky'
Frankie Laine, known as “Mr. Rhythm,” was one of the biggest hit-makers of the late 1940s and early ‘50s. He had more than 70 charted hits, including 41 Gold Records. The singer and songwriter’s career spanned 75 years. Among his many hits were “That’s My Desire,” “That Lucky Old Sun,” “Jezebel,” “Cry of the Wild Goose” and “Mule Train.”
Bing Crosby Sings 'My Ideal'
Harry Lillis 'Bing' Crosby
Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby was one of the most successful singers, recording stars, actors and entertainers in history. His career in radio, television, movies and personal appearances stretched for more than half a century and was unrivaled in record sales. He inspired most male singers of the century including Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. He won the Academy Award in 1944 as Father O’Malley in “Going My Way.”
Frank Sinatra Sings 'My Way'
Frank Sinatra, "Ol' Blue Eyes," was a popular singer, actor and entertainer who became a "bobby soxer" idol in the early to mid-'40s and remained highly successful until his death in 1998. The Hoboken, N.J., songster was known as "the chairman of the board" and was the leader of the "Rat Pack," which included Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
Dean Martin Sings 'Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime'
Dean Martin was a singer, actor and comedian who reached great success throughout his career as a recording artist and on television and in movies. He gained fame as a comedian with Jerry Lewis before skyrocketing to success with his own television show. He was one of the members of Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack." Among his many hit records were "That's Amore" and "Everybody Loves Somebody."
Sammy Davis, Jr. Sings 'The Candy Man'
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sammy Davis, Jr. was a multi-talented entertainer, dancer, singer, recording star and actor who was a member of Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack." He started as a child vaudevillian. He was a headliner at the Frontier Casino in Las Vegas for many years. Among his many hit records were "The Candy Man," "I've Gotta Be Me," and "What Kind of Fool Am I."
Billy Eckstine Sings 'I Apologize'
Billy Eckstine was a smooth baritone singer and bandleader who was very successful from the 1940s to the '90s. He had a distinctive vibrato which accelerated in his later years. He had many hit songs, including "I Apologize," "Prisoner of Love," A Cottage for Sale" and "My Foolish Heart." He started with bebop and became a solo performer in 1947.
Rosemary Clooney Sings 'Mambo Italiano'
Rosemary Clooney, an American singer, jazz vocalist and actress, came to prominence in the early 1950s with such hit songs as "Come On-a My House," "Hey, There" and "Half as Much." She starred in Bing Crosby's 1954 movie "White Christmas." After a lull relating to depression and drug addiction, her career was revived in 1974 when Bing invited her to appear with him in his 50th Anniversary show at the Uris Theater in New York City.
The Sons of the Pioneers Sing 'Tumbling Tumbleweeds'
The Sons of the Pioneers
The Sons of the Pioneers, an American cowboy singing group founded by Roy Rogers, is said to be the oldest continually performing private musical group in history. Led by Rogers and often featuring the lead vocal of Bob Nolan, the Pioneers had many hits including "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," "Cool Water" and "Blue Shadows on the Trail."
'You Can Always Tell a Yank' (Dennis Morgan and Joe E. Brown)
'A Little Bitty Tear Let Me Down'
Dennis Morgan, a Wisconsin-born leading man at Warner Brothers through the 1940s, was an American actor and singer. He starred and sang in many movies, including “The Desert Song,” “God Is My Co-Pilot,” “Perfect Strangers,” “My Wild Irish Rose,” ”Captains of the Clouds” and “Christmas in Connecticut." He has a star on the Hollywood Boulevard "Walk of Fame."
Burl Ives, whose hit songs included both popular and country, was an American folk singer, actor and writer. His began as an itinerant singer in the 1930’s playing banjo. His biggest hit songs were “Blue Tail Fly,” “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and “Lavendar Blue.” His movie credits include “East of Eden,” “Our Man in Havana” and “The Big Country,” for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
'Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy'
Red Foley, a major country music star for more than two decades, was an American singer and musician on radio and television. He sold more than 25 million records. A longtime Grand Ole Opry veteran, his 1951 gospel hit “Peace in the Valley” sold over a million copies. Other big hits include “Tennessee Saturday Night” and “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy.”
Josephine Baker Sings 'Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup'
Josephine Baker, nicknamed the “Bronze Venus,” was the first African-American to star in a major motion picture. The American-born French singer and dancer became a world-famous entertainer noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Born and raised in the slums of St. Louis, her career began at age 15 dancing on street corners. She became successful in Paris as a dancer in 1925. She later was featured in three films and became a star singer and dancer.
Helen Morgan Sings 'Bill'
Helen Morgan, a torch singer who began her career in the early ‘20s in Chicago speakeasies, was also an actress who starred on Broadway and in motion pictures. Her alcohol-plagued life was portrayed in 1957 by Polly Bergen in Playhouse 90 and, also in ’57, by Ann Blyth in the movie, “The Helen Morgan Story.” Her “draped-over-the-piano” signature style has been attributed to her alcoholism. Among her early hits were “Bill” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” performed in “Love Boat.”
Andy Russell Sings 'Besame Mucho'
Andy Russell, a Los Angeles native born to Mexican immigrants of Spanish descent, was a popular vocalist who began his career as a teenager with the local Don Ramon Cruz band. He worked as vocalist and drummer with several bands including Gus Arnheim's. Later he had his own radio show and signed with Capitol Records. Among his big hits were “Amor” and “Besame Mucho.” In 1946 he replaced Frank Sinatra on radio in “Your Hit Parade” and appeared in the early ‘50s on Sid Caesar’s “Show of Shows, later finding success in Mexico and Argentina.
Eddy Howard Sings 'It's No Sin'
Eddy Howard, a native of Woodland, California, was a popular band leader and singer of romantic ballads on radio. He started his own band in 1939 and had his first hit single two years later with “To Each His Own.” He also had hits throughout the '40s and '50s with “It's No Sin” and “Teen-Agers Waltz.” Earlier he had hits singing with other bands, including “My Last Goodbye” and “Careless,” which later became his theme song.
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My favorite vocalists reflect the fact that I was brought up in Yonkers, N.Y., in the 1940's, but the fabulous music of the '20's, '30's and '40's still ring in my ears. Enjoy the youtube videos.
Here's a compilation of some of the great songs and singers that your grandfather knew and loved a few decades ago. If you're not familiar with these artists, you have a treat in store for you.
Irish lightweight boxer Shamus O'Brien aka Michael J. Hogan, buried in an unmarked grave in 1959, now rests in Yonkers beneath a beautiful tombstone -- his dignity restored by the boxing community.