Google+ Followers

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Arthur Tracy born 25 June 1899

Arthur Tracy (25 June 1899 – 5 October 1997) was an American vocalist, billed as The Street Singer. His performances in theatre, films and radio, along with his recordings, brought him international fame in the 1930s. Late evening radio listeners tuned in to hear announcer David Ross' introduction ("Round the corner and down your way comes The Street Singer") and Tracy's familiar theme song, "Marta, Rambling Rose of the Wildwood."
He was one of the most famous of all recording stars of the 1930s and '40s. With his suave style and sentimental ballads he captured the hearts of housewives in both America and Great Britain. His voice was both a baritone and a tenor, which he described as "bari-tenor", and he claimed that the biggest influence on his singing was Enrico Caruso.
He was born Abraham Tratserofski, in 1900, in Ukraine, and at the age of six was taken to the United States with his parents - the name Tracy was bestowed upon the family by immigration officers. He received an elementary education and, without any formal theatrical or musical training, produced and acted in school plays in his early teens.
His leaning towards show business took him into the Yiddish Theatre, as Yiddish was his first language. After winning a singing competition in Philadelphia, he was engaged by the eminent producers the Shubert brothers and played the leading roles in the operettas Blossom Time and The Student Prince. After touring the US and Canada, he returned to the Yiddish Theatre under the direction of Boris Thomashevski (the grandfather of the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas). He later worked as a solo artist in vaudeville but would return to his first love, the Yiddish Theatre, from time to time.


In 1931 Tracy was offered a recording contract with Columbia Records, for whom his output was prolific. His signature tune, which he used until the end of his career, was a romantic ballad called "Marta, Rambling Rose of the Wild Wood". When radio beckoned, he felt that he would benefit from a little mystery in his professional persona and adopted the name of "The Street Singer". However, a play of the same name by the British playwright Frederick Lonsdale was being presented on Broadway at that time, and so he titled himself "The Street Singer of the Radio" to avoid confusion (later abandoning the final three words).
He enjoyed great success on radio and soon returned to vaudeville, but this time as a headliner. He also appeared in Hollywood films, notably in The Big Broadcast (1932) with Bing Crosby.
Tracy came to Britain in 1932 to fulfil an engagement as top of the bill at the London Palladium. Instant success brought him bookings throughout Britain, starring at all the principal variety houses. Radio Luxembourg soon called for his services and he was engaged to do many series of programmes, notably commercials for a ladies' cosmetic product, "Tokalon Face Powder". He was a smooth talker and a natty dresser and soon became one of the smart set, enjoying a friendship with the Prince of Wales. He stayed in Britain, continuing his radio and music-hall career, and made four films, including Limelight (1936), with Anna Neagle as his leading lady, The Street Singer (1937), with Margaret Lockwood, and Follow Your Star (1938), with Lilli Palmer, which were very successful.
He returned to the US in 1940, continuing his career until his age and the emergence of the rock 'n' roll era made his particular image unfashionable. Nevertheless, his records still sell in great numbers today and his fan clubs in Britain and the US still kept in touch with him at his Manhattan West Side apartment, a veritable museum of posters, sheet music, records, tapes and press material. In 1996 he was presented with a gold CD to mark the extraordinary sales of his work over 60 years; he was the oldest star to receive such acclaim.

He visited Britain in the spring of 1995, making a live broadcast on Radio 2 on the John Dunn show. It transpired that the news of his broadcast had been announced a day earlier and there was a crowd of his fans waiting for him, requesting autographs, taking photographs and cine films.

His English recording manager visited him and said: "Arthur, you're going to make it to 100 and when you do we will make a special album to commemorate the event." It was not to be. Tracy had been living quietly in a luxurious apartment on New York City's West Fifty-Seventh Street when he died from a heart attack at the age of 98.
(Info various, mainly edited from an obit in the  Independent by Bernard Mendelovitch)
Here's a clip from 1957 

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Connie Hall born 24 June 1929

Connie Hall (b. June 24, 1929 in Walden, Kentucky) is an American country music singer, who had brief success as a country music artist in the late 1950s and 1960s. She is also a songwriter. 

Connie Hall had a brief career as a country music artist in the late 1950s and 1960s. This was helped by her two hits "Fool Me Once" and "It's Not Wrong". Hall was born in Walden, Kentucky, but she grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. She started singing and performing as a teenager. At age 21, Hall worked at the Jimmie Skinner Music Center in Ohio. She soon got a spot on a radio show, on "WZIP" in Covington, Kentucky, the birthplace of popular 1960s Country singer Skeeter Davis. It was In 1954, that Jimmie Skinner hired Hall to sing on his radio show at "WNOP" in Newport, Kentucky, and Hall soon accepted. She appeared on his show and others regularly for several years and also worked as a weather girl on Jimmy Skinner's television show. 

In 1957, Connie Hall signed a recording contract with Mercury Records. Her recording debut came that same year. The debut single was a duet with Jimmie Skinner called "We've Got Things In Common". The song was very successful, climbing to Top 10 in Billboard. She released her first single as a solo artist in 1958, with the song "I'm the Girl In the USA". Once again, her single climbed onto the charts.
The following year, 1959, proved to be more successful than the previous two years. The single she released that year called "The Bottle or Me" peaked in the Country Top 40, and came close to making the Top 20. In 1960, Hall signed on with Decca Records (which would become the future home of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn). Her producer Harry Silverstein promised Connie would have a hit. With his help, she soon achieved one.

He produced Hall's first two singles, which were released on a back-to-back single. The A-side of the single was the song "There's Poison In Your Hand". The A-side made it all the way to the Country Top 25 in 1960. Its B-side "It's Not Wrong" (which was an answer song to the 1958 Warner Mack hit "Is it Wrong (For Loving You)?"), became Hall's biggest hit. The song reached the Country Top 20, meaning Connie Hall finally achieved an official hit song. 

For three more years, Hall remained under Decca Records, making seven more respectable hits, like "Sleep, Baby Sleep" and "Fool Me Once". Also during this time, she performed on the Grand Ole Opry, Louisiana Hayride, and Midwestern Hayride. 

In 1964, Hall left Decca Records and switched to Musicor Records, where she remained until 1967. Married in 1950, Hall continued to reside in Independence, Kentucky, until 1970, when she and her husband moved to the Louisville area, where she resides today. (Info Wikipedia)

Friday, 23 June 2017

Dave King born 23 June 1929

Dave King (23 June 1929 – 15 April 2002) had one of the most remarkable careers in show business. Quite apart from his brief, but enviable, chart career with pop records, he was a successful comedian in both the UK and the USA, and subsequently a brilliant and much sought after serious actor. 

Born David Kingshott in Twickenham, Middlesex, England, King left school at 12 and joined the Morton Fraser Harmonica Gang at 15. He did his National Service in the RAF and was in the unit's repertory company, returning to variety on demob and later becoming a solo act. An appearance on Television Music Hall led to compeering Show Case and being given a monthly series on the BBC in 1955.  

The next year he turned to singing while continuing to perform on television. During the seaside summer season of 1956 he performed at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool. He starred in "The Dave King Show". During the 1950s he also starred in the same show alongside Shani Wallis. In 1958 King moved to ITV with The Dave King Show which was song, dance and comedy with famous guests of the day. 
As King was fond of impersonating Bing Crosby, it made sense that he should follow this route by making records. His first record, "Sweet Kentucky Rose", for Parlophone, in 1955 did not sell but a move to Decca resulted in his achieving several chart entries. King scored four hits on the UK Singles Chart in the middle of the 1950s. His biggest hits were "Memories Are Made of This" (No. 5, 1956) and "You Can't Be True to Two" (No. 11, 1956), both of which featured a backing group called the Keynotes. He also charted with "Christmas and You" (No. 23, 1956) and "The Story of My Life" (No. 20, 1958). He appeared on Decca Records' All Star Hit Parade charity record in 1956 along with other major Decca artists Dickie Valentine, Joan Regan, Winifred Atwell, Lita Roza and David Whitfield.

In 1959, he went to the United States and hosted the country's high-profile Kraft Music Hall on 19 occasions, but otherwise had limited success despite Mel Brooks joining his regular writers Sid Green and Dick Hills. He appeared on television with Bing Crosby in 1961 and then had a small role in his film The Road to Hong Kong. On returning to the United Kingdom, he found that the public's taste in comedy had changed. Dave's Kingdom ran on ITV in 1964, again made by ATV, but was less successful than King's earlier TV work. 

King became a straight actor with some success, starring in the films Pirates of Tortuga (1961), Go to Blazes (1962), Strange Bedfellows (1965), Up the Chastity Belt (1971), The Ritz (1976), The Golden Lady (1979), Cuba (1979), The Long Good Friday (1980), Warren Beatty's Reds (1981) and Revolution (1985). He also appeared in a number of TV series including The Sweeney (episode: "Pay Off", 1976), Hazell (1978), Pennies From Heaven (1978), The Professionals (episode: "Hijack", 1980), Rumpole of the Bailey (episode "Rumpole and the Blind Tasting" 1987) and Coronation Street (1994–95). He also appeared in a stage version of Arsenic and Old Lace, playing Mortimer Brewster. 

He married a dancer, Jean Hart, and they had two daughters, Cheyenne and Kiowa. They lived in South Cerney in Gloucestershire. His hobbies included model railways and American folklore. King died after a short illness in London on 15 April 2002, aged 72.  

(Info various mainly Wikipedia)

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Ella Johnson born 22 June 1923

Ella Johnson (June 22, 1919 – February 16, 2004) was an American jazz and rhythm and blues vocalist who spent her entire professional career of almost two decades as a featured singer with the orchestra led by her brother Buddy.  Her singing drew comparisons to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Her sweet, soulful voice features on many of the band's finest recordings. 

While some sources list her birth year as 1923, most cite 1917. Like her older brother Buddy, Ella had an early interest in music. By 1939, Buddy, who had left South Carolina for New York City, had made his first record for Decca, a major label that handled popular artists of the 1930s and 1940s including Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and the Andrews Sisters. Buddy's first single, "Stop Pretending (So Hep You See)," was a success. While still a teenager, Ella followed her brother's footsteps to New York City, where Buddy immediately found a place for her in his band, which also included singers Arthur Prysock, Nolan Lewis, and Floyd Ryland. 

Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra became a mainstay act in New York City, where they regularly performed at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, and they also became a popular national touring band. Ella earned praise for her ability to sing uptempo, jazzy blues tunes called "jump blues" as well as luscious ballads. In 1940 she recorded her first hit single with "Please, Mr. Johnson," a song written by Buddy. With this hit, Ella stood out among the numerous female vocalists of the era. 


For the rest of the 1940s, and into the 1950s, the Johnsons were a leading act in black music. The orchestra was popular not only in New York, where it caught the ear of dancers at the Savoy ballroom with its enticing walk 'em rhythm, but up and down the east coast and across the south, winning a trade award in 1949 as Kings of the One-Nighter Circuit.

Ella's contribution to its success can be gauged by its hit-list: several of the band's most popular numbers were vocal features for her, such as When My Man Comes Home (No 1 in the R&B chart in 1944) and That's The Stuff You Gotta Watch (No 2 in 1945). She also gave a gorgeous reading of Buddy's song Since I Fell For You, now a standard.
Like many black bandleaders, Buddy Johnson was threatened by rock'n'roll in the mid-1950s, but he had a rare skill of adapting to changing styles and made a number of rock'n'roll-oriented recordings that were quite well received at the time and are not embarrassing today. Ella showed some of the same versatility, and had a further chart entry in 1956 with I Don't Want Nobody. It was their nonstop touring, however, that kept the band fresh. 

By the 1960s, the era of the big band became over-shadowed by the popularity of rock and roll, and the Johnsons could no longer book shows on the dance-hall circuit because that venue was disappearing. Buddy broke up the band, and with this move Ella's singing career effectively ended. Many have speculated why Ella Johnson never achieved the celebrity status of other female singers of her time period. Some critics have felt that she may not have had the confidence to perform without Buddy.  

In the 1960s, Ella Johnson retired from music to take care of Buddy, who was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. After Buddy died in 1977, Ella lost a legal battle over her brother's copyrighted material and gained very little from his estate. And a short time later, her only son became the victim of murder.  

Admirers tried to persuade Ella to make a comeback, at least on record, but, as the R&B historian Peter Grendysa wrote in 1978, "the changes that have come about in studio techniques since her last session are bewildering to her, especially without Buddy's reassuring presence and direction".  

Ella never did return to the studio, and, by the mid-1980s, researchers who visited her Harlem apartment found her memory failing. Ella's condition declined in her later years as her memory lapsed. Despite fading from the public eye, her work was not forgotten. In 1992 the Rhythm & Blues Foundation honored Ella with a Pioneer Award and $15,000, in recognition of her singing career during the 1940s.

Ella Johnson died in New York of Alzheimer's in February, 2004; she was 84 years old.

 (Info edited from Gale musician profiles & The Guardian)

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

O.C. Smith born 21 June 1932

O.C. Smith (June 21, 1932 – November 23, 2001) was an American musician. His recording of "Little Green Apples", went to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968, and sold over one million records.
Born Ocie Lee Smith in Mansfield, Louisiana, Smith moved with his parents to Little Rock, Arkansas, and then moved with his mother to Los Angeles, California after his parents divorce. 
After completing a psychology degree at Southern University, Smith joined the Air Force, and served throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. While in the Air Force, Smith began entering talent contests and toured with Horace Heidt. After his discharge in July 1955, Smith went into jazz music to pay the bills. 
Smith gained his first break as a singer with Sy Oliver and made an appearance on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. His success on that show led to a recording contract with Cadence Records. Smith's debut release was a cover of the Little Richard hit "Tutti Frutti" in December 1955. The song was not a hit, but convinced MGM Records to sign Smith to a solo contract, resulting in three more releases, but still no hits. 
In 1961, Smith was recruited by Count Basie to be his vocalist, a position he held until 1965. He also continued to record with different labels, but a hit remained elusive. By 1968, Smith's then label, Columbia Records, was ready to release him from his recording contract, when he entered the charts for the first time with "Son of Hickory Holler's Tramp", which reached number 2 in the UK Singles Chart and also broke the Top 40 in the United States. In 1976 Kenny Rogers revived the hit as a country song.
Smith changed the first part of his name to O.C. and recorded the Bobby Russell written song "Little Green Apples," which went to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won Russell the 1969 Grammy Award for Song of the Year. It received a gold record from the R.I.A.A. for sales of one million records.

He continued to record, reaching the R&B, Adult Contemporary and pop charts in his home country with the likes of "Daddy's Little Man", "Friend, Lover, Woman, Wife", "Me and You" and "Love To Burn". He also returned to the UK Singles Chart in 1977 with "Together", reaching a Top 30 position. 
After CBS, Smith united with Charles Wallert, who wrote and produced the title track as well as the album for "Dreams Come True" that returned Smith to the national charts. The Whatcha Gonna Do album, resulted in three nationally charted singles for a total of 40 weeks. This album contained "Brenda", "You're My

First, My Last My Everything" and "Spark Of Love". Additional hits "The Best Out Of Me" and "After All Is Said And Done" established Smith as a Beach Music star. Nominated for six awards at the third Beach Music Awards, Smith captured five. 

Barry White & O.C. Smith
Smith became pastor and founder of The City Of Angels Church in Los Angeles, California where he practiced for 16 years until his death in 2001 from a heart attack. Four thousand people attended his funeral. One of his last recordings, "Save The Last Dance For Me" reached the number one position on the Rhythm n' Beach Top 40 chart. 

Shortly after his death, Governor Jim Hodges proclaimed June 21, 2002, 'O.C. Smith Day' in the State of South Carolina. Smith was posthumously elected to the Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame in November 2002. His book Little Green Apples: God Really Did Make Them that he co-wrote with James Shaw was published posthumously in 2003. (Info mainly Wikipedia)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

T. Texas Tyler born 20 June 1916

 David Luke Myrick (June 20, 1916 – January 28, 1972), known professionally as T. Texas Tyler, was an American country music singer and songwriter. 

He was a successful figure from the late '40s through the mid-'50s, often credited with helping to popularize the sentimental country "recitation" -- a storytelling composition partly or completely spoken by the performer -- with his massive 1948 hit "Deck of Cards."  

He was born David Luke Myrick in Mena, AR, and from childhood aspired to become a country performer. As a young man, Tyler moved to Rhode Island to live with his brother, who was stationed there while serving in the Navy. He got his start working in radio in the early '30s and then spent much of the decade touring and performing on the radio, creating his stage name by combining the names of cowboy crooners Tex Ritter and Tom Tyler.  

His travels took him as far as Newport, RI, and Los Angeles. While performing in Charleston, WV, in 1939, Tyler teamed up with fiddler Clarence Clere to form Slim and Tex. They remained together playing radio stations in West Virginia until 1942, when Tyler landed a spot on the Shreveport, LA, radio station and consistent talent incubator KWKH. Tyler served in the U.S. Army during World War II.  

Following his discharge in 1946, Tyler went to Southern California and began appearing daily on the radio in Long Beach and Los Angeles. He recorded first for Black & White Records as a member of The Six Westernaires. His proximity to the new record labels that were springing up in Southern California helped his career along, and he signed with the small but growing Pasadena label Four Star. Soon he had moderate hits with several covers of widely performed country songs of the day: "Filipino Baby" (1946), followed by "Remember Me" and Jack Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills."

Tyler had his biggest single in 1948 with the enormously popular "Deck of Cards," which peaked in the Top Three, continued to sell for years, and spawned numerous imitations. The piece had perhaps an older pedigree than any other in the country repertoire; similar poems in which a soldier uses a deck of cards as a set of religious symbols have been found dating back to the medieval era.
Tyler followed up that smash with another recitation: the tear-wrenchingly sentimental Mary Jean Shurtz composition "Dad Gave My Dog Away." His popularity resulted in a booking at New York City's Carnegie Hall, and in 1949 he sang a song in the Western Horsemen of the Sierras. Later that year, he had a Top Five hit with a cover of Hank Williams' "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It."

He was a frequent performer on the Grand Ole Opry and Louisiana Hayride, as well as hosting his own television “Range Round Up”, in Los Angeles, and in the early '50s he favoured an upbeat, folksy style in which sung phrases were frequently introduced by a hearty, guttural swoop. He had two more major hits in 1953, "Courtin' in the Rain," and then went into a personal and professional slump with the advent of rock & roll. 

A marijuana possession arrest in Texas slowed his career, but many of his recordings were collected in the newly popular format of the LP album. He signed with the Starday label and performed several times on the Grand Ole Opry. In the '50s he became a gospel singer and Assembly of God minister, recording the all-gospel album, The Great Texan, for King in 1960.  

Tyler spent the bulk of the 1960s touring and preaching; he also recorded a gospel album for Capitol, a secular country album for Starday (Sensational New Hits of T. Texas Tyler, 1964), and three independently produced gospel albums that he sold at his revivals. 

Following the death of his first wife, Claudia, in 1968, Tyler remarried and settled down in Springfield, MO, where he preached to a local congregation and also performed occasionally. In 1971, radio personality Paul Harvey announced to his listeners that T. Texas Tyler had cancer of the stomach and had only a short time to live. Later, from Cox Medical Centre in Springfield, Tyler confirmed the report in letters sent to churches, in which he encouraged them to buy his records so that he could pay his mounting medical bills. 
“The man with a million friends,” who had held services in churches across America and in Canada, died on January 23, 1972, in Springfield. He is buried in Huntington, West Virginia. (Info edited from All Music & Wikipedia)

Monday, 19 June 2017

Al Wilson born 19 June 1939

Allen LaMar "Al" Wilson (June 19, 1939 – April 21, 2008) was an American soul singer known for the million-selling #1 hit, "Show and Tell". He is also remembered for his Northern soul anthem, "The Snake".He made a total of five albums over the course of a 13-year recording career before becoming a successful touring artist, playing at some of America’s most prestigious venues to wide acclaim.

Wilson was born in Meridian, Mississippi. He showed little interest in education but performed in school plays, sang in talent shows and won first prize in a local art contest.
He began his career at the age of twelve leading his own spiritual quartet and singing in the church choir, and performing covers of country and western hits. While he was in high school, Wilson and his family relocated to San Bernardino, California, where he worked three jobs as a mail carrier, a janitor, and an office clerk, in addition to teaching himself to play drums. After graduation he spent four years touring with Johnny Harris and the Statesmen, before joining the U.S. Navy, and singing with an enlisted men's chorus. He also developed his stand-up comedy routine in case he did not succeed as a singer. 

After a two-year military stint, Wilson settled in Los Angeles, touring the local nightclub circuit before joining the R&B vocal group the Jewels; from there he landed with the Rollers, followed by a stint with the instrumental combo the Souls. In 1966, Wilson signed with manager Marc Gordon, who quickly sought his client an acappella audition for Johnny Rivers.  

Wilson was signed to the Soul City imprint and Rivers produced the sessions that yielded the 1968 U.S. R&B hit single "The Snake" (U.S. Pop #27), which became popular on the Northern Soul circuit in the United Kingdom. It also provided Wilson with his only UK Singles Chart hit, reaching #41 in 1975. The minor hit "Do What You Gotta Do" appeared that same year. In 1969, Wilson charted with his cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi" (U.S. #67), and Rivers' own "Poor Side Of Town" (U.S. #75).
Wilson disappeared from the music industry until 1973, when he released his major hit, Show And Tell, written and produced by Jerry Fuller, the man behind Union Gap's run of hit songs in the late 1960s. Topping the Hot 100, the song on the Rocky Road label, owned by his manager, Marc Gordon, also reached #10 in the Billboard R&B chart. The resulting album's success was matched by the single, which sold well over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in December 1973. 
"The La La Peace Song", released in 1974, was another success, although O. C. Smith also recorded a version and sales suffered as a result. Two years later in 1976, Wilson recorded "I've Got a Feeling, We'll Be Seeing Each Other Again" for Playboy Records, produced by his manager, Marc Gordon. Although it reached #3 on the R&B chart, Wilson tried to leave Playboy Records, but was unable to get a release from his recording contract. Two years later, the label folded.

With 1979's "Count the Days" recorded in Philadelphia for Roadshow Records, Wilson scored his final chart hit and he spent the next two decades touring clubs and lounges. In 1999, Al was honoured by the California State Assembly in the First Class of Freedom Fighters for Musical Arts. In 2001, he re-recorded his hits for the album Spice of Life. 

In March 2007, many of his original master tapes were lost to a fire that swept through his home garage which he had converted into a recording studio. 
Wilson died on April 21, 2008 of kidney failure, in Fontana, California, at the age of 68. He was buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Riverside, California.  (Info  mainly Wikipedia)