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Torpey's Favorite Vocalists -- With 23 Music Videos
Bing Crosby, Singer, Actor, Academy Award Winner 1944
The Golden Years
I was born in 1935 in Yonkers, New York, so my favorite vocalists, of course, reflect that era. But, on top of that, my father, Joe Torpey, played piano all his life. As a boy my father's friends often visited our home where the air was always filled with music. Family and friends sang "That Old Gang of Mine" and all the old favorites of the 1920s, '30s and '40s while my fathers fingers slid up and down the piano keyboard. He initially learned to play "by ear," but after a stint in the U.S. Army he studied at the New York School of Music. He was very talented. It was the Golden Age of Hollywood -- and of radio.
My favorite singers, and many of my favorite songs, grew from this musical background, although I, personally, never became a musician. Throughout my life, however, anyone within earshot could hear me singing my favorite tunes day and night -- most frequently the songs of my all-time favorite singer, Bing Crosby, who was also the favorite of millions. But here you will find a number of my other favorites.
It is my hope that those who are unfamiliar with these singers will take a few moments to "give a listen." I feel sure you'll find these singers worth listening to -- again and again!
Harry Lillis 'Bing' Crosby
Bing Crosby, 1903-1977, was the most popular, most influential, most successful singer of the early and mid-20th Century. More importantly, I believe, he had the most beautiful voice in history -- and he knew how to use it. He was a longtime radio star who left us more than 2,000 songs on records (22 of them Gold), including his immortal "White Christmas," recognized by Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling single of all time. He was an Academy Award winning actor -- "Going My Way" (1944) -- who made some five dozen movies, including seven "Road" pictures with Bob Hope. Yank Magazine named him the entertainer who did the most to boost the morale of our troops in World War II.
'Der Bingle' Sings 'Brother, Can You Spare a Dime'
'Mama Beth' Torpey Revels
Beth Torpey Revels – A Maine resident and native of Darien, Conn. Beth, this writer's daughter, is a former Bluegrass Performer of the Year in Maine and performs with the Windy Ridge Band as well as "Bitter Brew," an Irish group. Beth's "Mama's Midcoast Bluegrass" radio show can be heard on WBOR 91.1 FM out of Bowdoin College in Brunswick and online at http://www.wbor.org/schedule A U.S.Navy veteran, Beth wrote “Bitter Times” for the 2011 Ossipee Valley Music Festival songwriting contest. She is a former chairman of Maine's Bluegrass Music Association.
'Bitter Times' Written and Performed by 'Mama Beth' Revels at Ossipee Valley Songwriting Contest with Jim Chard and Margaret Riggin
Michael Torpey, cousin of this writer, is a classical vocalist from the shadows of New York City (Westchester) who trained professionally as an operatic tenor. He is a versatile actor and singer with a long list of credits in musical and dramatic theater. He has peformed in Carnegie Hall and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. An operatic tenor, he studied at the Suny Purchase Conservatory of Music and performs as tenor soloist at Mt. Kisco Presbyterian Church.
Michael Torpey Sings 'My Way' playing the role of Frank Sinatra
The Ink Spots
The Ink Spots were one of the most influential singing groups in American music. Tenor Bill Kenny, my favorite, joined the group in 1936. The Ink Spots charted more than 80 hits and they have been popular for decades. I saw them perform live in the 1970s in Norwalk, Conn. Over the years they've changed personnel many times, but Kenny's superb voice and style, combined with the unique spoken base narrators, can't be beat. The group is often mentioned in the same sentence as The Mills Brothers, who also made close harmony their forte. "If I Didn't Care," was their first million-selling record.
Ink Spots Sing 'If I Didn't Care'
Dame Vera Lynn
Vera Lynn was born on March 20, 1917. Her career skyrocketed during World War II when the British vocalist was nicknamed "The Forces Sweetheart." No one captured the feeling of those war years more than she, especially with songs like "The White Cliffs of Dover" and "We'll Meet Again." To this day, her voice and her songs bring a tear to my eye.
'The Forces Sweetheart'
Rosemary Clooney, whose best-known movie role was with Bing Crosby in "White Christmas," was a prominent "girl singer" for decades. Rosemary, sister of George Clooney, had a magnificent voice and was a premiere popular and jazz singer. She suffered a breakdown in the late '60's and retired, but made a comeback in 1976 when she joined Crosby on his 50th Anniversary Tour, which I was lucky enough to see "live" with my family at the Uris Theater in New York.
'I Remember You'
Laine, Como and Sinatra Perform an Andrews Sisters Skit on the Frank Sinatra Show
Frankie Laine, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como
Frankie Laine was often called "America's No. 1 song stylist who had big hits with "That's My Desire," "Jezebel" and "Mule Train." Frank Sinatra, idol of the "Bobby Soxers" in the 1940s and later affectionately known as "the chairman of the board," rivaled Bing Crosby, who said, "Frank Sinatra is the kind of singer who comes along once in a lifetime, but why did it have to be my lifetime?" Perry Como was born on May 18, 1912. His career spanned a half century. "Mr. C," a nickname he shared with Crosby, gained popularity as a recording artist and through his television variety show. His low-key personality and superb voice were matched only by his good character..
Billy Eckstine, born on July 8, 1914, had an incredibly smooth baritone voice and a vibrato that grew more pronounced in his later years. A bandleader, Billy was an American ballad singer of the swing era. My favorite Eckstine song is "I Apologize." As a youngster I did a fairly good (I think) imitation of his unique voice. Among his other hits were "Prisoner of Love," "A Cottage for Sale," "My Foolish Heart" and "Everything I Have Is Yours." His 1950 appearance at the Paramount in New York drew a larger audience than Frank Sinatra had at his legendary Paramount performance.
Swing Era Bandleader Performs 'I Apologize'
Patsy Cline was born on Sept. 8, 1932. She was a great country music singer who died on March 5, 1963 in a plane crash. Cline was one of the most influencial and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century. Her story has been portrayed in a number of movies and books. She has a magnificent style, and a wonderful voice. Her rich tone and expressive contralto voice have been an inspiration to many vocalists.
Patsy Cline Sings 'Crazy'
Hank Williams, a great American singer and songwriter, was born on Sept. 17, 1923. He was one of the most influential country singers ever. Hank was a pioneer in the "Honky Tonk" style of music. His death at only age 29 in 1953 boosted his legend. His unique style and superb songwriting have resulted in many big hits, including "Hey Good Lookin', "Your Cheating Heart," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Jambalaya" and "Long Gone Lonesome Blues."
Hank Williams Sings 'Lonesome Whistle'
The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters, who worked often with Bing Crosby, sang in close harmony and had many big hits in the 1940s, several with Bing. The group consisted of LaVerne, Maxene and Patty, all born in Minnesota.They started their career as imitators of another great group, the Boswell Sisters. Their first big hit was "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön." They became the first female group to achieve a Gold Record. The sisters had 113 charted Billboard hits, 46 in the top 10 -- more than Elvis and the Beatles. A longtime fan of theirs, I sang their "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" to my kindergarten class at No. 9 School in Yonkers.
The Andrews Sisters Sing 'Rum and Coca Cola'
Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Va., on April 25, 1917. Known as the "First Lady of Song", she was one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century. Her range spanned three octaves, her notes were pure and she had great improvisational ability and phrasing. Scat singing was one of her talents. Ella lived in my hometown, Yonkers, N.Y., and my mother, who loved her singing, often spoke of her. She won many awards over her 59-year career, including 13 Grammys and awards from both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
'First Lady of Song' Performs With Louis Armstrong
Sons of the Pioneers
The cowboy singing group Sons of the Pioneers was founded by Roy Rogers (Leonard Slye) in 1933 when Roy was featured with Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan. I was a big fan of Rogers as a boy, but became an even bigger fan of Bob Nolan later in life. The group, with its new members over the years, continues today and performs regularly at Branson, Missouri. Among their great hits were "Cool Water," Tumbling Tumbleweeds," "Way Out There" and "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky."
A Medley of Some of the Sons of the Pioneers Hit Songs
Al Jolson was born on May 26, 1886 and died on Oct. 23, 1950. He had a unique voice. He also was an actor and comedian. Jolson was called "the world's greatest entertainer." He was a favorite of Bing Crosby, who saw him as a youngster when Al appeared in Spokane, Wash. Jolson influenced a number of singers besides Crosby, including Judy Garland and Bob Dylan. I became his fan as a boy when I saw two movies that portrayed his life: "The Jolson Story" (1946) and "Jolson Sings Again." (1949)
'World's Greatest Entertainer'
Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole was a leading jazz pianist before he became famous as a singer. His soft baritone voice captured the hearts of his many fans when he sang in the big band and jazz genres. I remember watching his television show when, as the first black American to host a variety show, he initially had to perform without sponsors. He maintained worldwide popularity for decades and became an important musical personality in United States history.
The Unforgettable Nat King Cole
Ethel Waters, born on Oct. 31, 1896, was an American blues and jazz vocalist as well as an actress. She sang big band and popular music and performed on stage in concerts and on Broadway. Her career began in the 1920s singing the blues. Her best known recording was "His Eye on the Sparrow," a spiritual, but my favorite Waters song is "Am I Blue?"
Ethel Waters Sings 'Am I Blue?'
Ernie Tubb was born on Feb. 9, 1914. The Texas troubadour died on Sept. 6, 1984. He was one of the pioneers of country music as a singer and songwriter. One of his most famous songs was "Walking the Floor Over You." (1941) His "Waltz Across Texas" (1965) became one of his most requested songs. His recorded duets with Loretta Lynn in 1960s were big hits, among them, "Sweet Thang."
The Texas Troubadour
Marty Robbins was born on Sept. 26, 1925. He was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and one of the most popular country and western singers of his era. Several of his country songs became pop hits, including "A White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation)" and "El Paso," for which he won a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. His "Big Iron (on his Hip)" is one of my favorites.
Marty Robbins Sings 'Big Iron'
Billie Holiday, one of America's greatest jazz singers in the '30s and '40s, sang with deep emotion. Her sound and phrasing were unique. She worked in small nightclubs and later with big bands, including those of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman. She toured with Artie Shaw's orchestra and pioneered race relations as the first African-American to sing with a white band. Her signature song was "Strange Fruit" about lynchings.
Jazz Singer 'Lady Day'
Morton Downey (Sr.)
Morton Downey, born in 1901 in Wallingford, Connecticut, was nicknamed "The Irish Nightingale." He was a popular American singer-songwriter in the '30's and '40s. He was voted "Radio Singer of the Year" in 1932. My family (of Yonkers, N.Y.) often mentioned that Downey, father of former right wing television personality Morton Downey Jr., could be seen singing in several Yonkers nightclubs in those days. In the '20's he sang with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, as Bing Crosby did a few years later.
Morton Downey 'The Irish Nightingale'
Arthur Tracy, known as "The Street Singer," was an internationally famous American singer (born in Moldova) whose popular radio show featured his theme song, "Marta, Rambling Rose of the Wildwood." In the 1920s he often performed in vaudeville. He was featured with Bing Crosby in "The Big Broadcast of 1932." Among his many hit songs were "When I Grow Too Old to Dream," "Trees," "Shake Hands With a Millionaire" and "Red Sails in the Sunset."
'The Street Singer' Arthur Tracy: 'Shake Hands With a Millionaire'
Betty Hutton, born on Feb. 26, 1921, was a unique personality who had a lot of tragedy in her life, but was a first-class singer and a good actress. She was especially good at novelty type songs like "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief." Hutton was very talented. Her best role was as the star of "Annie Get Your Gun," replacing Judy Garland in the lead role. Other Hutton hits include "Murder, He Says" and "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun."
Novelty Singer, Movie Star
Marlene Dietrich was an actress and singer who was named the ninth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. She began her career in silent movies and gained popularity in her native Germany in the early 20th Century. Dietrich became a U.S. Citizen in 1939 and was popular throughout her long career. She was a high-profile front line entertainer who also made occasional films after World War II. Dietrich toured the world throughout the '50s, '60s and 1970s.