- If I Were Only A Swallow by Gloria Jean (Originally released on Brunswick (2970) in 1940). Gloria Jean was born in Buffalo, New York in 1926. She began her career at an early age, making her radio debut at the age of three, and singing with Paul Whiteman’s band. At the age of 12 she became the youngest person to be engaged by an Opera Company, and at 13 was signed by Universal, and appeared in her first film, The Under-Pup. Further film roles followed, and she starred with Bing Crosby in “If I had my way” (1940), and WC Fields in “Never give a sucker an even break” (1941). By 1949 she had appeared in 23 films. During the ’50s she appeared more on TV and stage than in film, and by the early ’60s film work had dried up. She gave up acting and worked for a cosmetics firm until her retirement.
2. The Blue Danube by Musical Dawson and his Famous Choir of Canaries (Released by Broadcast (910) in 1932). Possibly the epitome of a novelty act, Musical Dawson’s Famous Choir of Canaries nevertheless managed a sustained career, appearing on stage, record and Pathe newsreels from the early ’30’s well into the ’40s. Their other records include “Bells across the meadow”, “Barcarolle”, Love’s old sweet song”, “Londonderry air” and “Liebestraume”. You can see Musical Dawson and his canaries from 1938 in a Pathe film Here
3. The Parrot (On The Fortune Teller’s Hat) by Ethel Smith (Released by Brunswick (3632) in 1946.) Ethel Smith was born in 1902 and began her musical career early in life, becoming an accomplished organist. She travelled widely and while in South America learnt to play Latin music, for which she is best remembered. Her recordings include “Tico-Tico” (1945), “Toca Tu Samba” (1947), “Easter Parade” (1948), “The Harry Lime Theme” (1950), and “I’m walking right behind you” (1953). She died in 1996.
4. The Woody Woodpecker by Anne Shelton (Released by Decca (F 8951) in 1948.) 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 she had a regular BBC radio show with band leader Ambrose and then her popularity spread to America, and she toured the US in 1951. In 1956 she had a UK number one single with “Lay down your arms”. She made regular appearances on radio and TV all through the ’50s and ’60s; in 1961 she hosted her own TV show, “Ask Anne”. In 1978 she appeared on the Royal Variety Performance, and in 1984 presented a TV tribute to Glen Miller. She continued performing until her death in July 1994.
5. Goosey Gander by Woody Herman and his Orchestra (Released by Parlophone (R 2990) in 1946). Woody Herman was born in 1913 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. He began as a child performer, singing and tap dancing, before learning to play the clarinet and saxophone. He joined the Tom Gerun band as singer before fronting his own band which signed with Decca Records in 1936. It was, however, two and a half years before they scored their first hit with “Woodchopper’s Ball” in 1939. Other hits followed, such as “Blues in the night” (1942), “Do Nothing till you hear from me” (1943 ) ,and “The Music stopped” (1944). Although Herman’s heyday was in the ’40s and ’50s, he continued performing up to his death in 1987.
6. The Ugly Duckling by Danny Kaye (Released by Brunswick (5031) in 1952) Danny Kaye was born (as David Daniel Kaminsky) in Brooklyn, New York in 1911. In his early 20s he joined a vaudeville dance act, The Three Terpsichoreans, with whom he toured America and Asia. In the mid to late ’30s, now a solo act, he worked on stage and appeared in a few short films. His growing success on Broadway led to his first feature film, “Up in arms” in 1944, which led to a series of successful films, including “The secret life of Walter Mitty” (1947), “On the Riviera” (1951), “Hans Christian Anderson” (1952), “White Christmas” (1954) and “Merry Andrew” (1958). At the same time he also had a successful radio and recording career, his records including “Tubby the Tuba” (1948), “I’ve got a lovely bunch of cocoanuts” (1949), “Love me or leave me” (1950), “Wonderful Copenhagen” (1952) and “I love you fair dinkum (Dinky di I do)” (1955). In the ’50s and ’60s he moved into television, including his own “Danny Kaye Show” (1963-1967), as well as appearing on “What’s my line?” and “Here’s Hollywood”. He died in 1987.
7. Cuckoo by Leslie Sarony (Released by His Master’s Voice (B. 2391) in 1927. Leslie Sarony was born in Surbiton, Surrey on 22 January 1897 and was Christened Leslie Legge Tate Frye. After serving in the first world war, he took his Mother’s maiden name as his surname and began a long career in entertainment, which took in radio appearances, appearances in films (the first being Hot Water and Vegetabuel in 1928), and recordings of mainly humourous songs, many of which he wrote himself. According to the sleeve notes of his 1980 album “Roy Hudd presents Leslie Sarony”, Leslie said “I recorded for every company in the country”, and there are a bewildering amount of 78s on a multitude of different labels to collect. The same sleeve notes state that there were over 350 Leslie Sarony recordings, but that he recorded many more under assumed names (including Layton and Victor Payne). Some of Leslie’s best known songs from this time include “Jollity farm” (later covered by The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band), “Ain’t it grand to be bloomin’ well dead”, “I lift up my finger and say “Tweet Tweet”” (also recorded by Gracie Fields among others), “Fourteen Rollicking Sailors” and “Rhymes”. In 1934 he teamed up with Leslie Holmes to form The Two Leslies, a partnership which lasted until 1946. Apart from the previously mentioned Roy Hudd album, Leslie stopped recording in 1939 and later moved into acting, appearing in TV shows such as The Passing show (1951), Dial 999 (1959), Crossroads (1964), Steptoe and Son (1965), Z-Cars (1962 and 1969), Nearest and dearest (1969), The Sweeney (1975), I didn’t know you cared (1979), Minder (1982) and Victoria Wood as seen on TV (1985). He also appeared in the Monty Python short film “The Crimson Permanent Insurance” (1983). Throughout his life he had a lengthy stage career, lasting from around 1922 right up to his death, on February 12th 1985, aged 88. Here he is in a British Pathe film from 1932 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ywR6IqaVcU
8. Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five (Released by Brunswick (3778) in 1947). Louis Jordan was born in July 1908, in Arkansas, USA, into a musical family, his father being a music teacher. He learnt the clarinet at an early age, playing with his father’s band. In the early ’30s he began playing with the Clarence Williams band, and in 1936 joined the Savoy Ballroom Orchestra, where he became lead male singer (alongside Ella Fitzgerald). Two years later Jordan went solo with his own band, who were initially called the Elks Rendezvous band, before changing to the Tympany Five. They signed to Decca in the US, and over the next 15 years released many records, including “Mama Mama Blues” (1941), “G.I. Jive” (1944), “That chick’s too young to fry” (1946), “Pettin’ and Pokin'” (1947), “Saturday night fish fry” (1949), “Dad gum ya hide, boy” (1954), and “I want you to be my baby” (1955). After declining popularity in the early ’50s, he left Decca in 1954,and had a series of short lived recording contracts on smaller labels, never regaining his previous popularity. He died in 1975.
9. When The Swallows Say Goodbye by The Stargazers (Released by Decca (F. 10696) in 1955). The Stargazers were formed in 1949 by Cliff Adams and Ronnie Milne. Dick James, later a solo singer and then music publisher for The Beatles, was also an original member. The group went on to big success in the UK-their first two hits were number 1s- “Broken Wings” in 1953 and “I see the moon” in 1954 and they also backed Dickie Valentine on the 1954 number 1 “The Finger of suspicion”. Other hits included “The Happy Wanderer” (1954), “Close the door” (1955), and “Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom” (1956). The group also served as backing singers on recordings by many artists including Petula Clark, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Jo Stafford.
Interlude Record : Nightingales recorded in Beatrice Harrison’s garden, Oxted. (Released by HMV (B. 2469) in 1927). Beatrice Harrison was born to British parents in India in 1892. The family moved back to the UK and Beatrice studied at the Royal College of Music in London. She became an accomplished cellist, and became known for her performances of the works of Delius, being the first performer of his Cello Sonata in 1918, and his Cello Concerto in 1921. Her garden in Oxted was home to many nightingales, and she made radio broadcasts from her garden playing cello accompanied by birdsong. She died in 1965.