- Well, Did You Evah by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra (Released by Capitol (CL. 14645) in 1956). From the film “High Society”. Francis Albert Sinatra was born in December 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey, US. As a teenager he became interested in music, and was a fan of the then up and coming Bing Crosby. He began singing himself and in 1935 joined The 3 Flashes, a vocal group-with the addition of Sinatra they changed their name to the Hoboken Four. They won a major talent contest and began touring the US, with Sinatra gradually becoming the lead singer. In 1939 he began singing with the Harry James band, and made his first recordings with them, although they weren’t big sellers. After about 6 months, frustrated at their lack of success, Sinatra left Harry James and became the singer with the Tommy Dorsey band-it was with Dorsey that he had his first US hit record in April 1940 with “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”. Over the next two years Sinatra scored several other hits with Dorsey’s band, before deciding to go solo in 1942, which led to an acrimonious split. Once solo, Sinatra became America’s biggest singing star, idolised by the teenage “bobby soxers” who made up a large proportion of his fans. He signed to Columbia Records in June 1943, where he stayed for a decade, releasing such hits as “A lovely way to spend an evening” (1945), “Nancy (With the laughing face” (1946), “Goodnight Irene” (1950), and “Hello Young lovers” (1953). Towards the end of his time with Columbia, his popularity began to wane but his career was revitalised by the success of the film “From here to eternity” (released in August 1953), and his new recording contract with Capitol Records. The new contract co-incided with the rise of vinyl records, and in 1954 Sinatra recorded the first of a series of hugely successful albums, “Songs for young lovers” followed by “In the wee small hours”, “Songs for swingin’ lovers”, “A Swingin’ Affair!”, “Come fly with me” and “Nice ‘n’ Easy” among others. Despite his huge success with the label, Sinatra grew disenchanted with Capitol and in 1961 formed his own label, Reprise. Further successful albums and singles followed, including some of his biggest hits- the duet with his daughter Nancy (who also recorded for Reprise), “Something stupid”, and the song he is most associated with to this day, “My Way”. He briefly retired in the early ’70s before returning with another hugely successful album, “Ol’ blue eyes is back” in 1973. During the later ’70s and ’80s his recordings became more sporadic but he continued to play live, mainly in Las Vegas. His final concerts were in Japan in December 1994 and he died in May 1998. “High Society” was directed by Charles Walters and, alongside Frank and Bing, starred Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm and Louis Armstrong.
- The Flies Crawl Up The Window by Jack Hulbert (Released by His Master’s Voice (B 4263) in 1932). From the film “Jack’s the boy”. Jack Hulbert was born in 1892 in Ely, Cambridgeshire. He studied at Cambridge University where he made his first stage appearances in the Cambridge Footlights. After leaving Cambridge he made a name for himself appearing in stage plays and revues. In 1916 he married Cicely Courtneidge, an aspiring actress and they began appearing together regularly. Despite his success on stage he didn’t make his film debut until 1930, when he appeared in Elstree Calling, alongside his wife. He appeared regularly in films from then on, including “The Ghost Train” (1931), “The Camels are Coming” (1934), “Jack of all trades” (1936) and “Under your hat” (1940). He later appeared in many TV films, plays and programmes, including a stint in the BBC soap opera “Compact” in 1964-65, and a cameo in the ITV series “Father dear Father” in 1972. He died in March 1978. “Jack’s the boy” was directed by Walter Forde and starred Hulbert, Cicely Courtneidge, Winifred Shotter and Francis Lister.
- Why Can’t It Happen To Me by Anne Shelton (Released by Decca (F. 8243) in 1942). From the film “King Arthur was a gentleman”. Anne Shelton was born in South London in November 1923, and began singing on the radio show “Monday night at eight” aged 12, gaining a recording contract 3 years later. During the war she appeared many times on the BBC’s forces radio service, often alongside Vera Lynn. After the war her popularity spread to America, touring the US in 1951. In 1956 she had a UK number one single with “Lay down your arms”. She continued performing until her death in July 1994. “King Arthur was a gentleman” was directed by Marcel Varnel, and also starred Arthur Askey, Ronald Shiner, Max Bacon and Vera Frances.
- I Could Make A Good Living At That by George Formby (Released by Decca (F. 3377) in 1932). From the film “Boots! Boots!”. For more info on George Formby see podcast 8 blog (September 2016). “Boots! Boots!” was Formby’s first film, released in 1934. It was produced by John E. Blakeley and directed by Bert Tracy on a shoestring budget at the Albany studios ( a cramped area with no soundproofing above a garage) in London. By the time of release, Formby’s stage and recording career was beginning to take off, and the film proved to be a huge success. It also starred his wife Beryl, as well as Betty Driver (later of “Coronation Street” fame) and Harry Hudson and his Orchestra. The original film was 80 minutes in length, but a cut down 55 minute version was released in 1938 to capitalise on Formby’s continuing success, and it is this version which was the one seen in future screenings, the original being thought to be lost for decades. The Betty Driver scene was cut from the shortened version, and for many years she denied ever appearing in the film but a complete version was discovered in 1999, which restored her to the film. You can see Betty in the film performing Leslie Sarony’s “The Alpine Milkman” Here (note the close spotlight-due to the cramped conditions in the studio this was the only way they could give the illusion of being in a nightclub).
- Theme From The Man Between by Cyril Stapleton (Released by Decca (F. 10208) in 1953). From the film “The Man Between”. Cyril Stapleton was born in December 1914 in Nottingham, UK. He began playing violin at the age of 7, and by the time he was 12 was playing on local radio. He began playing in Henry Hall’s band, before forming his own orchestra, which began playing regularly on the BBC in 1939. During the war he joined the RAF, and played in the RAF Symphony Orchestra. After the war he briefly played for the London Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra before reforming his own Orchestra in 1947. Soon signed to Decca, over the next few years The Cyril Stapleton Orchestra released regular records, including “Zip a dee doo dah”, “Lazy Mambo”, “Elephant Tango”, and “Teenage Lullaby”. He continued touring and recording into the ’70s, and died in February 1974. “The Man between” was directed by Carol Reed and starred James Mason, Claire Bloom and Hildegard Knef.
- River Of No Return by Tennessee Ernie Ford (Released by Capitol (CL. 14005) in 1954). From the film of the same name. (For more info on Tennessee Ernie Ford see blog for podcast 12, Dec 2016). “River of no return” was directed by Otto Preminger, and starred Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe.
- Painting The Clouds With Sunshine by Jack Hylton and his Orchestra (Released by His Master’s Voice (B 5722) in 1929). From the film “Gold diggers of Broadway”. Jack Hylton was born in July 1892 in Bolton, UK. His Father was an amateur singer, and Jack learnt to play piano to accompany him. Later, Jack started singing himself, in his Father’s pub. In 1922 he released his first records under the name Jack Hylton’s Jazz Band for the Zonophone label, then the following year he moved to His Mater’s Voice, where he released dozens of records until 1931, as Jack Hylton and his Orchestra, including “It ain’t gonna rain no mo'” (1924), “Chick, Chick, Chicken” (1925), “Ain’t She Sweet” (1927), “Forty-Seven ginger headed sailors” (1928) and “Mucking about the garden” (1929). In 1931 he moved to Decca Records, where he was a director, where he stayed until 1934, when he re-signed to His Master’s Voice. He continued recording until 1940, and after the war became an impresario, managing new talent and producing theatre, radio and film productions before forming his own TV production company. He died in January 1965. “Gold diggers of Broadway” was directed by Roy Del Ruth and starred Nancy Welford, Conway Tearle and Winnie Lightner, and was shot in Technicolour, one of the earliest colour films.
- I Used To Be Colourblind by Fred Astaire (Released by Columbia (DB 1809) in 1938). From the film “Carefree”. Fred Astaire was born (as Frederick Austerlitz) in 1899 in Omaha, US. His career began when his older sister, Adele, began taking singing and dancing lessons, and Fred started mimicking her, which led to a brother and sister child double act. It was during this period that both took the stage surname of Astaire. The pair carried on as a double act into adulthood in the 1920s, appearing on both Broadway and the London stage. In 1932 the pair split when Adele married Lord Charles Cavendish. Fred appeared in his first film, “Dancing Lady” the following year, the first of a series of hugely successful song and dance films. His second film, “Flying down to Rio” also starred Ginger Rogers, and the two then appeared in a string of films, including “The Gay Divorce” (1934), “Top Hat” (1935), “Follow the fleet” (1936), “Shall we dance” (1937) and “Carefree” (1938). He split with Rogers in 1939 (although they briefly reunited for the 1949 film “The Barkleys of Broadway”, but continued to appear regularly on the big screen throughout the ’40s and ’50s in films such as “You’ll never get rich” (1941), “Holiday Inn” (1942), “Blue Skies” (1946), “Easter Parade” (1948), “Wedding bells” (1951) and “Funny Face” (1957). His film roles became less frequent from the late ’50s onwards and he worked more in television, but he did appear in the films “Finian’s Rainbow” in 1968 and “The Towering inferno” in 1974. His final film role came in 1981 with “Ghost Story”, and he died in June 1987. “Carefree” was directed by Mark Sandrich, and as well as Fred and Ginger, starred Ralph Bellamy, Jack Carson and Kay Sutton.
- All By Myself by Bing Crosby (Released by Brunswick (3672) in 1946). From the film “Blue Skies”. Bing Crosby was born in May 1903, in Tacoma, Washington, US (originally named Harry, he was nicknamed Bing as a child and the name stuck). As a teenager he saw singers while working at his local auditorium, but it wasn’t until he was 20 that he started singing in a band himself, called The Musicaladers. Two years later this band split and he started singing with a vocal trio, The Three Harmony Aces. He then formed a duo with Al Rinker, with whom he made his first record, “I’ve got the girl” in 1926. The act then expanded to a trio again, with the addition of Harry Barris, and were rechristened The Rhythm Boys. Several successful records followed before Bing was offered a solo recording contract in 1931 with Brunswick records. Over the next decade he became one of the most successful American singers worldwide, with hits such as “Stardust” (1931), “Please” (1932), “Let me call you sweetheart” (1935), “Basin Street Blues” (1937) and “My melancholy baby” (1939). It was during the ’30s that Bing also started appearing in films, such as “College Humor” (1933), “She loves me not” (1934), “Anything goes” (1936), “Sing, you sinners” (1938) and “East side of heaven” (1939). As well as appearing in films and releasing records, Bing also had his own US radio series. In 1942 Bing released what would become his most famous recording, “White Christmas”, which was also used in the film “Holiday Inn”. He re-recorded the song in 1947 after the original master became damaged and the record still sells more copies every Christmas. Bing continued recording, appearing in films, radio and TV into the 1970s, right until his death in October 1977 (he gave his last live performance 4 days before his death, and recorded his last radio session and interview the following day.) “Blue Skies” was directed by Stuart Heisler and Mark Sandrich and starred Bing, Fred Astaire, Joan Caulfield, and Billy De Wolfe.
- I’m 21 Today by Jack Pleasants (Released by The Winner (2089) in 1912) Jack Pleasants was born in Bradford in 1874 and was a music hall star of the early 20th century, billed as “The Bashful Limit”. His other recordings include “Where do the flies go in Winter”, “Feeding the ducks on the pond”, “Watching the trains come in”, and “I deserve a good slapping”. He died in 1924.
- Always Jolly by Billy Whitlock (Released by Beka-Grand Record (203) in 1912) Billy Whilock was born Frederick Penna in 1874, in Cheltenham. He began his recording career in the early 1910s, and continued recording into the 1940s. Other recordings include “Chuckles” (1915),”Billy Whitlock’s Aeroplane” (1926), and “Scotch Hot” (1949). Whilock was, like Charles Penrose, a singer of “laughing” songs and he teamed up with Penrose for some recordings, including “The Yuletide Coach” (1925) and “Two old sports” (1920). Whitlock died in 1951.
- Squeeze her Ebeneezer by Billy Williams (Released by Zonophone (1012) in 1913) Billy Williams was born Richard Banks in Australia in 1878, but moved to the UK in 1899, becoming an entertainer and changing his name to Billy Williams. He made his first recordings in 1906 and over the next 9 years became a huge star and prolific recording artiste, making over 500 recordings. He died in March 1915 aged 37. Among his most famous records are “When Father papered the parlour”, “Little Willie’s Woodbines” and “John go and put your trousers on”.
- The Wibbly Wobbly Walk by Fred Elliott (Released by Scala (305) in 1913) Fred Elliott was actually a pseudonym for Jack Charman (see below). Other recordings under this name include “Hush! Here comes the dream man” and “You taught me how to love you”.
- Cohen on telephone deportment by Joe Hayman (Released in 1913) Joe Hayman was born Joseph Hyman in the US in 1876, and for a while partnered with a young Harry Houdini. After they split, Hyman added an a to his surname and shortened his first name to become Joe Hayman, and moved to the UK where he recorded “Cohen on the telephone” in 1913 for Regal Records. In the US it was released by Columbia and became the first record to sell a million copies. This success inevitably led to the recording of several sequels, including “Cohen calls his tailor on the phone” (1918), “Cohen ‘phones for a phone” (1923), and “Cohen phones the gas co.”. Hayman died in 1957.
- Hello, hello, who’s your lady friend by Jack Charman (Released by Coliseum (662) in 1914). Jack Charman was actively recording from around 1911-1924 and his other recordings include “He played on his fiddle-dee-dee”, “Hello old whats-a-name”, “Father went down to Southend”, and “Who were you with last night?”.
- Take me back to dear old Blighty by Florrie Forde (Released by Zonophone (1725) in 1916. For more information on Florrie Forde see blog for Podcast number 1 (March 2016).
- I had no mother to guide me by George Formby (Senior) (Released by Zonophone (1831) in 1917. For more information on George Formby Senior see blog for Podcast number 8 (September 2016).
- Sensation Rag by Original Dixieland Jazz Band.(Released by U.S. Victor 18483, 1918). The Original Dixieland Jass Band (as they were originally known) formed in 1916 and made their first recordings in 1917, when “Livery stable blues” became the first ever jazz record. Over the next few years the band made many recordings and were so successful they spawned a boom in jazz music. Other recordings include “Tiger Rag” (probably their best known record), “Skeleton Jangle”, “At the Jazz band ball”, and “I’m forever blowing bubbles”. The band broke up in the late ’20s but reformed in 1936 and carried on with varying line ups during the ’40s and ’50s.
Tracks on the album are :
1. The Music Goes ‘Round and Around-Nat Gonella and his Georgians (Parlophone F 386, 1936)
2. A Fly’s Day Out-Leonard Henry (Sterno 993, 1932)
3. Gertie, The Girl With The Gong-Anona Winn (Rex 8466, 1935)
4. Smile, darn ya, Smile-The Hottentots (Eclipse 105, 1931)
5. The Left Hand Side of Egypt-George Formby (Regal Zonophone MR 3521, 1941)
6. The Fleet’s in Port Again-Billy Cotton (Regal Zonophone MR 2190, 1936)
7. Steamboat Bill-Paul Tremaine (Columbia CB 138, 1930)
8. Henry’s Made A Lady Out Of Lizzie-Jack Hylton and his Orchestra (His Master’s Voice B 5485, 1928)
9. Lost-George Elliott’s Hawaiian Novelty Quartette (Regal Zonophone MR 2108, 1936)
10. You And The Night And The Music-Debroy Somers Band (Columbia FB 1027, 1934)
11. How to make love-Bud Billings (Zonophone 5399, 1929)
12. What can you give a nudist on his birthday-Gracie Fields (His Master’s Voice B 8232, 1934)
13. Oh! Henry What A Lad You Must Have Been!-Randolph Sutton (Decca F 3779, 1933)
14. I’m a Daddy at 63-Charlie Higgins (Rex 8065, 1933)
15. If A Grey Haired Lady Says “How’s Yer Father ?” (That’s Mademoiselle from Armentieres)-Jay Wilbur And His Band (Rex 9691, 1936)
16. John, Give Over Teasing Me-The Spoofums (Eclipse 269, 1932)
17. Rose O’Day-Flanagan and Allen (Decca F 8067, 1942)
18. There’s Another Trumpet Playing In The Sky-Bobbie Comber (Broadcast 896, 1932)
19. Sleepy Rio Grande-Bud and Joe Billings (Zonophone 5465, 1930)
20. Tiptoe Through The Tulips With Me-Sid Garry (Imperial 2218, 1929)
George Formby senior was born James Lawler Booth on 4 October 1875 in Ashton-Under Lyne, Lancashire. His childhood was harsh, his Mother was an alcoholic who sometimes worked as a prostitute. His Father was a coal miner and his parents married when he was six months old, but had a turbulent, violent marriage, leading to neglect of George. He began earning money for himself by singing on street corners for pennies. His health was affected by his poor upbringing, as he regularly ended up sleeping outdoors when his Mother didn’t come home at night. He stopped attending school before he was ten years old, and his Father died when he was just 15, by which time he had started developing his act and singing in pubs, performing with another boy as The Glen Ray Brothers for a while. Until 1897 he was billed as J. H. Booth, then he changed his stage name to George Formby. In the same year he married for the first time, to Martha Salter. This marriage was unsuccessful but the couple never divorced, meaning that Formby’s marriage to Eliza Hoy two years later was bigamous. Formby continued polishing his act, inventing characters such as John Willie who became one of his staples, and in 1902 appeared for the first time in London where he soon became a success in the music halls. In 1904 the couple had their first son, George Hoy Booth. Two years later Formby senior made his first recordings on wax cylinder for the Louis Sterling Cylinder Company. A year later he signed a contract with the Zonophone label, who he stayed with until his death. His fame continued to grow and in 1913 performed before King George V and Queen Mary in a Royal Command Performance in Liverpool. When war broke out in 1914 he was unable to enlist because of his health problems but instead appeared at recruiting rallies. In the same year he also appeared in his only (silent) film, “No fool like an old fool”, which, like many films of the time, has been lost and is presumed not to exist.
Formby’s stage act, and many of his recordings, referenced his ill health; he would often cough on stage and used the phrase “Coughing well tonight”. In 1916 his health was affected again by an on-stage accident during rehearsals at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane when a stage collapsed onto him. This caused further lung damage which was then exacerbated by the onset of tuberculosis. In 1918 he also caught influenza during that year’s pandemic. All these worsening health problems meant that he cancelled more and more performances, although he continued recording. Things got so bad an oxygen tent would be erected off stage during his performances, and he would suck ice to prevent internal bleeding. Formby collapsed early in 1921 after a performance of the pantomime Jack and Jill in Newcastle. He died on 8 February of pulmonary tuberculosis, aged just 45.
Formby senior recordings on this Podcast are :
- John Willie, Come on (Jumbo, 1909, recorded 1906 for release on Wax Cylinder)
- Commercial Traveller (Zonophone, 1914)
- Looking for mugs in the strand (Zonophone, 1919)
- Weeping Jinnie (Zonophone, recorded 1919, released 1920)
As noted above, George Formby junior was born in 1904,in Wigan. Due to his Father’s burgeoning fame and fortune he had an easier childhood than his Father and he originally wanted to be a jockey, working as a stable boy from an early age. This suited his Father, who didn’t want him to have a stage career. He did, however, appear in a 1915 silent film, “By the shortest of heads”, which, like his Father’s film of the previous year, no longer exists. The younger George continued his career as a jockey but was largely unsuccessful, never winning a race. When his Father died in 1921, he decided to carry on his act, initially appearing under the name George Hoy (using his Mother’s maiden name). Initially he was unsuccessful, but by 1923 he felt he was sufficiently popular enough to take his Father’s name. Around this time he met Beryl Ingham, who he married in 1924. She became his manager and revamped his stage act and it was from this point that he started to become popular enough to warrant a recording contract. Thus, in 1926, he recorded 3 records (6 songs) for the Edison Bell Winner label (of his Father’s old songs). No other recordings were made until 1929, when he recorded a one off 78 for the Dominion label (“In the congo”/”All going back”). Another 3 years passed until, in 1932, he signed a record deal with Decca and his career really took off. Several of Formby’s best known songs were recorded for Decca, including “Chinese Laundry blues”, “Why don’t women like me ?”, “Swimmin’ with the wimmin” and “Fanlight Fanny”. During his time with Decca, Formby began his film career, appearing in two low budget independent films, “Boots Boots” (1934) and “Off the dole” (1935). Towards the end of 1935 Formby signed an 11 film, 7 year deal with ATP (Associated Talking Pictures) and the first of these, “No limit” was released in December 1935. Shortly after this, with his Decca contract expired, he signed to the Regal Zonophone label and with films and records being produced simultaneously he began his period of greatest success. Over the next few years records such as “The Window cleaner” (aka “When I’m cleaning windows”), “Leaning on a lamp post”, “Our Sergeant Major”, “Grandad’s Flanelette nightshirt” “With my little stick of Blackpool rock”, and “Oh! Don’t the wind blow cold”, alongside films such as “Turned out nice again”, “Trouble brewing”, “It’s in the air” and “Keep your seats please” made George the biggest UK star of the time. During the war George spent much time entertaining the troops and raising moiney for charity. In 1941 he signed to Columbia for his film work, the first under the contract being “South American George.” He made several more films for Columbia, but in 1946 made his final film, “George in Civvy Street”. This coincided with the expiry of his Regal Zonophone contract, and the songs from this film were released on 2 78s on Columbia.
Although George made no more films, he carried on with stage appearances, including pantomimes, and foreign tours, then in 1950 re-signed to Decca Records where he re-recorded a few of his former hits. The following year he recorded a couple of 78s for His Master’s voice, featuring songs from his stage shows. He made many TV appearances during the ’50s (few of which survive) then in 1960 made his final record for the PYE label, a 7″ Single (78s having just about died out by then) coupling “Banjo boy” and “Happy go lucky me”. His final TV appearance was in December 1960 on “The Friday Show” (which survives in the archives). He died a matter of weeks later, on March 6 1961, aged 56.
Formby junior recordings featured on this podcast are :
- John Willie, Come on (Edison Bell Winner, 1926)
- Why don’t women like me ? (Decca, 1933)
- Keep your seats please (Regal Zonophone, 1936)
- The left hand side of Egypt (Regal Zonophone, 1941)
- We’ve been a long time gone (Columbia, 1946)
A Complete list of George Formby junior’s Recordings, Films and TV appearances can be found HERE