Sunday, 30 June 2019

Stuart Foster born 30 June 1918

Stuart Foster (born Tamer Aswad, born June 30, 1918 in Binghamton , New York , † January 8, 1968 ) was an American big band singer with a magnificent baritone voice. Once called the “greatest unsung singer,” he had a long and distinguished career. Though he never achieved anything more than a moderate level of fame, Foster worked with some of the biggest names in the business and earned the respect of critics and colleagues alike over his thirty years as a vocalist.

Stuart and Bubbles
He joined Ina Ray Hutton’s new all-​male orchestra in 1940, where 
he received feature billing and appeared with the group in the 1944 Columbia film Ever Since Venus. He remained with Hutton for four years until Hutton, citing a need for rest, temporarily disbanded in August 1944. (While he was working with Hutton at the Astor Roof in NYC, NY, he met Patricia "Bubbles" Louie from the Kim Loo Sisters. They married April 15, 1946 in Cambria Heights, NY. They had one child together born in NYC, James "Jimmy" Tamer.)


Foster then joined Guy Lombardo’s orchestra, where he had his only chart success, singing on two of the band’s hit songs. “Always” peaked at the number ten spot for one week in February 1945, and “Poor Little Rhode Island” reached number eleven on the jukebox charts in May 1945. The former was recorded in early November 1944, and the latter on December 1st. Hutton announced her reorganization the following day, and Foster returned to her band, where he stayed only briefly. By early March 1945, he’d joined Tommy Dorsey.

At the time Foster joined, Dorsey had been having trouble finding and keeping male vocalists. He’d gone through a slew of singers since Skip Nelson had left in October 1944, some of them only staying a few days. With Foster, Dorsey found stability. The baritone stayed with the orchestra until Dorsey disbanded in November 1946. When the bandleader put together a temporary orchestra the following month for a four-​week engagement, Foster returned, as he did when Dorsey permanently reformed in May 1947. In August 1947, Foster was voted best-​liked male vocalist in Billboard magazine’s first annual DJ poll. He appeared with the band in the 1947 film The Fabulous Dorseys.

Foster remained with Dorsey until mid-​1948, when he’d left by June to begin a solo career. He soon found himself in high demand on both the airwaves and in the recording studio. Foster worked on several radio shows. During the 1950s, he also had his own program, which first ran on ABC and later on CBS from at least 1952 to 1958. He also appeared on Drake’s 1957 ABC television program.

Stuart & family
Foster recorded with Hugo Winterhalter’s orchestra on MGM in early 1949. During the last half of that year, he became vocalist for that label’s house orchestra, led by Russ Case. The grouping was an attempt to mimic Decca’s success with using Gordon Jenkins to do quick recordings of popular songs that otherwise weren’t being done by the label’s stars. In 1950, Foster recorded with Shep Fields on MGM and Billy Butterfield’s band on the London label. He also recorded solo on both the London and Eastly labels that year.

In 1951, Foster recorded several more times with Winterhalter again as well as with Bob Dewey’s orchestra, both on Victor. He recorded solo on the new indie PAB label and did one side for Atlantic that same year. Foster signed with the Abbey label in early 1952 and again recorded with Winterhalter late that year. In 1953, he recorded with Xavier Cugat on Victor and Gordon Jenkins on Decca. In 1954, he recorded for Bell and RCA’s Camden label as well as on the Italian Nightingale label. Foster sang with the Chappaqua High School Kids choir on Coral in early 1955 and both Jenkins and Art Mooney later that year. He was back in the studio with Jenkins in 1956 and then did solo work on Coral.

1957 saw Foster singing on Camden’s low-​priced Hits of ’57 album. He went in the studio with the Dick Jacobs Orchestra in 1959, on Coral, and sang on the 20th Century Fox concept album Rain in 1960. Every song either had rain or suggested rain in the title. He recorded solo on Jubilee in 1960 and Mohawk in 1962. He also appeared on a special album of Academy Award winning songs put out by Doubleday Books in 1961. Foster’s last recording was for the Gold Coin label in 1965.

From the late 1950s onward, Foster worked as a staff vocalist at CBS, often appearing on the network’s special programs, singing with their house orchestra. Foster did go on the road one last time, in 1965 with Skitch Henderson’s orchestra. Stuart Foster died from heart failure in New York on 8 January, 1968 at the young age of 49.  (Edited mainly from Band Chirps.  † other sources give February 7th as date of death)

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Nelson Eddy born 29 June 1901

Nelson Ackerman Eddy (June 29, 1901 - March 6, 1967) was an American singer and movie star who appeared in 19 musical films during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as in opera and on the concert stage, radio, television, and in nightclubs. A classically trained baritone, he is best remembered for the eight films in which he co-starred with soprano Jeanette MacDonald. He was one of the first "crossover" stars, a superstar appealing both to shrieking bobby-soxers as well as opera purists and in his heyday was the highest paid singer in the world.

Born Nelson Ackerman Eddy and named for his paternal grandfather, he was the only child of an impoverished family. His father, Bill Eddy, was a drummer who performed in many bands, and a singer who performed in church choirs. His mother, Isabel Kendrick, was a southern belle born in Atlanta, Georgia, but raised in Philadelphia. Stationed in Georgia during the Spanish American War, Bill Eddy had become ill with typhoid fever and was nursed by Isabel, a volunteer nurse at the military camp. They were married the next year, with young Nelson born eighteen months later, their only child. Working as a toolmaker and machinist in Philadelphia and in Providence, Rhode Island, Bill Eddy never achieved much in life, and in 1915, he abandoned his family, becoming divorced two years later. His mother never remarried.

Young Nelson worked as a teenaged telephone operator for a Philadelphia Iron Foundry and later sold newspaper advertising. Working in local amateur musicals, he met Dr. Edouard Lippe and William Vilonat; both men coached him and gave him the money to study music in Paris and Dresden. He began to develop a singing career, and in 1933, while performing a concert recital with the Philadelphia Civic Opera, an assistant to famous movie director Louis B. Mayer saw him and signed him to a seven year contract with MGM.

When his first movie "Broadway to Hollywood" (1933) was less than memorable, Nelson contemplated returning to the concert stage. Nelson met Jeannette MacDonald for the first time at a dinner reception in 1933; for Nelson it was love at first sight, but for Jeannette, she had reservations about him, considering him rude and fresh. In 1933, he met up with an old girlfriend, Maybelle Marston, and had an affair with her, and she gave birth in June 1934 to a son, Jon Eddy. 

But life dramatically changed for Nelson in 1935, when Nelson was paired with Jeannette MacDonald in "Naughty Marietta" (1935), where their on-screen chemistry made them an instant hit with the audience, and made the film a block-buster. Nelson immediately dropped Maybelle, who had moved to Chicago to give birth to Jon, to pursue Jeannette. They were paired several more times, in "Rose Marie" (1936), "Maytime" (1937), "Girl of the Golden West" (1938), "Sweethearts" (1938), "New Moon" (1940), "Bitter Sweet" (1940), and "I Married an Angel" (1942; it was their last work together).

After Jeannette married actor Gene Raymond in 1937; a year and a half later, on January 19, 1939, Nelson married Anne Franklin, in a marriage that lasted 28 years until his death in 1967. Both Nelson and Jeannette were serious about their careers, and not willing to risk a scandal that would endanger their chosen careers, even though they loved each other deeply. Ideally suited for each other, they would become secret lovers, keeping it hidden from the Hollywood tabloids. The Hollywood publicity moguls would spin the myth that they had a pure, platonic love, both on-screen and off, that endures today; both would deny having any romance between them in their later years (when they were both married to other people). Their last film together was in 1942, and their careers took them in different directions.


Eddy made more than 290 recordings between 1935 and 1964, singing songs from his films, plus opera, folk songs, popular songs, Gilbert and Sullivan, and traditional arias from his concert repertoire. Since both he and Jeanette MacDonald were under contract to RCA Victor between 1935 and 1938, this allowed several popular duets from their films. 
In 1938, he signed with Columbia Records, which ended MacDonald-Eddy duets until a special LP album the two made together in 1957.

In 1946, Nelson worked with Walt Disney to produce an animated feature "Make Mine Music" (also known as "Willie the Operatic Whale") about a whale who wanted to sing at the Met. This film, often overlooked, reveals a sense of humor about him that seldom crept into his other movies. In 1953, he began a successful nightclub routine with Gale Sherwood, which continued until his death in 1967. His last movie, made for television, was "The Desert Song" (1955).

Gale Sherwood & Eddy arriving in Sydney, 
Australia for the final tour there in 1967
 just weeks before Nelson’s death.
In March, 1967, Eddy was performing at the Sans Souci Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida when he was stricken on stage with a cerebral haemorrhage. According to Gore Vidal, in Myra Breckinridge, he was singing "Dardanella" when he collapsed. His singing partner, Gale Sherwood, and his accompanist, Ted Paxson, were at his side. He died a few hours later in the early hours of March 6, 1967, at the age of 65.

During his 40-year career, he earned three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one each for film, recording, and radio), left his footprints in the wet cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater, earned three Gold records, and was invited to sing at the third inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.    (Edited mainly from Wikipedia)

Here's Nelson Eddy in an excerpt of The Danny Thomas Show (S4 Ep 2) original airdate Oct. 8, 1956. Nelson sings "Great Day" then does a hilarious parody of a rock-n-roll singer.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Doc Williams born 26 June 1914

Doc Williams (June 26, 1914 – January 31, 2011) was an influential American country music band leader and vocalist who became the longest performing member (61 years) of W.W.V.A’s “Wheeling Jamboree.”

Doc Williams was born Andrew John Smik Cleveland, Ohio, the son of parents who immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Andrew Sr. and Susie would have five children--Doc the oldest. When Doc was two years old, the family moved to a farm in Cowansville, Pennsylvania. Six years later, the family moved to the little village of Tarrtown, on the Allegheny River. Mud roads, coal oil lamps, pot-bellied stoves, swimming and fishing in the river, and country music on the radio were all part of his growing-up years.

Doc's father taught him most everything he knew about music; and there was always an old fiddle, a cornet, and other instruments around their home. By age 12, Doc had learned to play the cornet by note, and could play many songs from the family hymnbook. He also played the trumpet, accordion, and guitar and had a natural love for music. His father bought him a guitar for $3.00 at a pawnshop, and brother Cy, who was six years younger than Doc, got a fiddle.

In 1929, as he was about to enter the 10th grade, Doc had to quit school so that he could help support his family. He would work alongside his father for a couple years in the coal mines, which he left to pursue his dream of becoming a country music entertainer.

He got his professional start playing with the Kansas Clodhoppers during the early 1930s. Doc eventually formed his own band, Doc Williams and the Border Riders. The group went on the air on WWVA Wheeling in 1937. They won the Silver Trophy as the most popular act during the radio station"s on-air popularity contest from March 14-19, 1938.

Doc met his future wife at the Reawood Dance Hall in Hickory, Pennsylvania, when she wrote to him requesting a personal appearance there. It was love at first sight for Doc and in 1939, Williams married Jessie Wanda Crupe, who soon adopted the stage name Chickie Williams (February 13, 1919 – November 18, 2007).They made their home in Wheeling, and had three daughters, Barbara, Madeline, and Karen. The girls were known over the radio and on stage as Peeper, Pooch, and Punkin, and made their debut on the Jamboree at ages, 7, 5, and 4. They also travelled with their parents' show during school vacations.


"Doc Williams and the Border Riders" became a household name in the heavily populated Northeastern United States and Canada, due to their broadcasts over power-station WWVA. Marion Martin, "Famous Blind Accordionist," joined Doc's show after World War Two, and played harmony to Cy Williams' "silver voiced" fiddle. Thus the "Doc Williams Sound" was born. The radio listeners loved this traditional country music sound.

In 1949, Doc started his pioneering road tours. His was the first WWVA act to tour long-distance out of Wheeling. Their first tour took the group 1000 miles to Aroostook County in northern Maine with no guarantee that even expenses would be met. However, Doc had not anticipated the popularity of his radio shows as heard over the Wheeling Jamboree in those days. The crowds were huge throughout the 10-day tour, and two shows had to be scheduled each night. When Doc returned home, he bought a new car. (The trip to Maine was in a borrowed car with its driver.)

Later tours took the Doc Williams Show to the Maritime Provinces in Canada, then to Ontario, to Quebec, and to New England. In 1952, the show toured the island of Newfoundland for three weeks (the people there were avid listeners of the Wheeling Jamboree).

The Williams' were popular performers but although the couple and their band the Border Riders recorded, performed live and appeared on the radio for over five decades, they never had a national hit. Doc Williams founded Wheeling Records in 1947 and through it released all of his and his wife's albums; occasionally, they sang together, and sometimes with their three daughters. Among his best-known songs are "Willie Roy the Crippled Boy" and "My Old Brown Coat And Me".

Williams officially retired from WWVA in 2006 when he published his autobiography, “Looking Back.”He died on January 31, 2011 in Wheeling, West Virginia, aged 96.

(Edited from Wikipedia &

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Clifton Chenier born 25 June 1925

Clifton Chenier (June 25, 1925 – December 12, 1987), a Louisiana French-speaking native of Opelousas, Louisiana, was a Singer, guitarist, and harmonica and accordion player and known as the King of Zydeco music’. He was also billed as the King of the South.

The son of sharecropper and amateur accordion player, Joe Chenier, and the nephew of a guitarist, fiddler, and dance club owner, Maurice "Big" Chenier, Chenier found his earliest influences in the blues of Muddy Waters, Peetie Wheatstraw, and Lightnin' Hopkins, the New Orleans R&B of Fats Domino and Professor Longhair, the 1920s and '30s recordings by zydeco accordionist Amede Ardoin and the playing of childhood friends Claude Faulk and Jesse and Zozo Reynolds. Acquiring his first accordion from a neighbour, Isaie "Easy" Blasa in 1947, Chenier was taught the basics of the instruments by his father. By 1944, Chenier was performing, with his brother Cleveland on frottoir (rub-board) in the dance halls of Lake Charles.

Moving to New Iberia in the mid-'40s, Chenier worked in the sugar fields cutting sugar cane. After moving, to Port Arthur, TX, in 1947, he divided his time between driving a refinery truck and hauling pipe for Gulf and Texaco and playing with his brother. In 1954, Chenier signed with Elko Records. His first recording session, at Lake Charles radio station KAOK, yielded seven tunes including the regional hit single, "Cliston's Blues" and "Louisiana Stomp."


Chenier's first national attention came with his first single for the Specialty record label, "Ay Tete Fille (Hey, Little Girl)," a cover of a Professor Longhair tune, released in May 1955. The song was one of 12 that he recorded during two sessions produced by Bumps Blackwell, best known for his work with Little Richard. 

By 1956, Chenier had left his day job to devote his full-time attention to music, Touring with his band, the Zydeco Ramblers, which included blues guitarist Philip Walker.

The following year, Chenier left Specialty and signed with the Chess label in Chicago. Although he toured, along with Etta James, throughout the United States, Chenier's career suffered when the popularity of ethnic and regional music styles began to decline. Although he recorded 13 songs for the Crowley, LA-based Zynn label, between 1958 and 1960, none charted.

In April 1966, Chenier appeared at the Berkeley Blues Festival on the University of California campus and was subsequently described by Ralph J. Gleason, jazz critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, as "... one of the most surprising musicians I have heard in some time, with a marvellously moving style of playing the accordion ... blues accordion, that's right, blues accordion."

The turning point in Chenier's career came when Lightnin' Hopkins' wife, who was a cousin, introduced Chris Strachwitz, owner of the roots music label, Arhoolie, to his early recordings. Strachwitz quickly signed Chenier, producing his first single, "Ay Yi Yi"/"Why Did You Go Last Night?," in four years. Although they continued to work together until the early '70s, Chenier and Strachwitz differed artistically.

Chenier was the first act to play at Antone's, a blues club on Sixth Street in Austin, Texas. Later in 1976, he reached a national audience when he appeared on the premiere season of the PBS music program Austin City Limits. Also in 1976, Chenier recorded one of his best albums, Bogalusa Boogie, and formed a new group, the Red Hot Louisiana Band, featuring tenor saxophonist "Blind" John Hart and guitarist Paul Senegal. In 1979 he returned to the Austin City Limits show with his new band.

Chenier reached the peak of his popularity in the '80s. In 1983, he received a Grammy award for his album, I'm Here!, recorded in eight hours in Bogalusa, LA. The following year, he performed at the White House.

Although he suffered from kidney disease and a partially amputated foot and was required to undergo dialysis treatment every three days, Chenier continued to perform until one week before his death on December 12, 1987. Following his death, his son, C.J. Chenier, took over leadership of the Red Hot Louisiana Band.

In 1989, Chenier was inducted posthumously into the Blues Hall of Fame, and in 2011, was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. In 2014, he was a recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

(Edited from Wikipedia & All Music bio by Craig Harris)

Monday, 24 June 2019

Joey Castle born 24 June 1942

Joey Castle  (24 June 1942 – 15 Dec 1978) was like a lot of the kids who came up in the wake of Elvis Presley, trying to sound like him and not making it, but with a difference -- Castle left behind a dozen or so records that are well worth hearing.

Among the ranks of Elvis Presley sound-alikes, there are the imitators who came along in the wake of his death in 1977 and then there are those who came to the sound a little more honestly, back in the formative days of rock & roll. Joey Castle, aka Cliff Rivers, real name Jospeh Fohn Castaldo, fits into the latter category -- he was even signed to RCA. He never had the chance to cash in on Elvis' death as a sound-alike artist, succumbing to brain cancer less than 18 months after the demise of his onetime idol.

Joseph Castaldo was born in the Bronx, NYin 1942 and was 13 years old when rock & roll broke nationally -- the family was a musical one, his uncle Lee Castle having become famous as a bandleader in the 1940s, but Joey took to the new music. By the end of 1957, at 15, he was ready to take the plunge, and a year later his demo tapes landed him a contract with RCA.

1958 and RCA Victor’s best selling recording artist – Elvis Presley – goes into the Army. For two years. What to do? Since 1956 – Elvis has been a goldmine for the record label. Elvis has some songs in the can. so the record company will have it covered. But what if they bomb? Everyone knows Elvis is in the Army! Answer – come up with a new star. Joey Castle. He sounds like Elvis and can gyrate with the best of them. RCA took out a record ad – and proclaimed Joey Castle, “The New King of Rock ‘N’ Roll.”

His first and only RCA release, "Come a Little Bit Close Baby" b/w "That Ain't Nothing But Right," failed to chart, and he was dropped from the label at the end of the year. Joey next turned up on the Headline label with a rockabilly screamer, "Rock 'N Roll Daddy-O," backed with the brooding "Wild Love," both extraordinarily effective rockabilly tunes to come out of New York City -- it didn't sell, but it did become a highly prized collector's item.


Castle kept performing locally but didn't record again until 1963, when he hooked up with entrepreneur Sid Prosen, who had previously recorded the teenaged Simon & Garfunkel as Tom & Jerry. Castle cut a series of sessions that yielded one single, "Marsha" b/w "True Lips," on Prosen's Thanks label, credited to 
"Cliff Rivers" -- intentional or not, it was an Elvis homage, recalling the latter's performance as "Deke Rivers" in the best of his early movies, Loving You, as well as alluding to English rock & 
roller Cliff Richard. The A-side sounded like Elvis Presley crossed with Del Shannon, while the B-side recalled the Elvis of 1956 in a softer moment. Ironically, it was his best-selling record, although it never moved more than a few thousand copies and most of those in England -- too far away to do Joey Castle/Cliff Rivers any good.
Apart from a handful of unreleased tracks that year and the demos that got him signed to RCA in the first place, much of Castle's work consisted of cutting demos for publisher Hill & Range. He made his last single in the late '60s, still true to his rock & roll roots even amid the changing tastes of the era. During the 1970s, he re-emerged in a rock & roll/variety act featuring music and comedy, and put out an album of his own under the name of Cliff Rivers. Joey evidently had enough of a following locally to perform at least part-time and sell the album after his shows.

Joey Castle died of a brain tumour on December 15, 1978 at the age of only 36 years old. The bulk of his discography was published by the German Bear Family Records

(Edited mainly from Bruce Eder @ AllMusic, with info from Wikipedia &

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Helen Humes born 23 June 1913

Helen Humes (June 23, 1913 - September 9, 1981) was an American jazz and blues singer. The versatile Humes was successively a teenaged blues singer, band vocalist with Count Basie, saucy R&B diva and a mature interpreter of the classy popular song. Equally adept at ballads, blues, swingers, and pop, Humes' voice enlivens any situation imaginable.

She was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Emma Johnson and John Henry Humes. She grew up as an only child. Her mother was a schoolteacher, and her father was the first black attorney in town. Humes was introduced to music in the church, singing in the choir and getting piano and organ lessons given at Sunday school by Bessie Allen. Humes began occasionally playing the piano in a small and locally travelling dance band, the Dandies. This constant involvement in music would lead to her singing career in the mid-1920s.

Her career began with her first vocal performance, at an amateur contest in 1926, singing "When You're a Long, Long Way from Home" and "I'm in Love with You, That's Why". Her talents were noticed by a guitarist in the band, Sylvester Weaver, who recorded for Okeh Records and recommended her to the talent scout and producer Tommy Rockwell. At the age of 14 Humes recorded an album in St. Louis, singing several blues songs.

Two years later, a second recording session was held in New York, and this time she was accompanied by pianist J. C. Johnson. Despite this introduction to the music world, Humes did not make another record for another ten years, during which she completed her high school degree, took finance courses, and worked at a bank, as a waitress, and as a secretary for her father. She stayed home for a while, eventually leaving to visit friends in Buffalo, New York. While there, she was invited to sing a few songs at the Spider Web, a cabaret in town. This brief performance turned into an audition, which turned into a $35-a-week job. She stayed in Buffalo, singing with a small group led by Al Sears.

Sears wanted her to sing at Cincinnati's Cotton Club which was an important venue in the Cincinnati music scene. It was an integrated club that booked and promoted a lot of black entertainers. Humes moved to Cincinnati in 1936 and sang with Sears's band again at the Cotton Club.

Count Basie first heard and approached Humes while she was performing at the Cotton Club in 1937. He asked her to join his touring band to replace Billie Holiday., but Humes moved  to New York City, where John Hammond, an influential talent scout and producer, heard her singing with Sears's band at the Renaissance Club. Through Hammond, she became a recording vocalist with Harry James's big band. Her swing recordings with James included "Jubilee", "I Can Dream, Can't I?", Jimmy Dorsey's composition "It's the Dreamer In Me", and "Song of the Wanderer". In March 1938 Hammond persuaded Humes to eventually join Count Basie's Orchestra, where she would stay for four years.


She sang few blues during her three years with Basie because he already had a blues singer, Jimmy Rushing. Humes had two Top 10 r&b hits: 1945’s “Be-Baba-Leba” (covered by Lionel Hampton as “Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop”) and 1950’s “Million Dollar Secret.”

Jimmy Rushing, Count Basie & Helen Humes

In 1950 Humes recorded Benny Carter's "Rock Me to Sleep." Most of her performing was done in the company of jazz musicians, and she made three albums for Contemporary Records between 1951 and ’61 that featured such players as Benny Carter, Teddy Edwards, Wynton Kelly, Barney Kessel, Art Pepper, André Previn, and Ben 
Webster. She managed to bridge the gap between big band jazz swing and rhythm and blues. She appeared on the bill at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1960.

 She settled in Australia in 1964 but returned to the U.S. three years later to care for her ailing mother. The singer staged a triumphant career comeback in 1973 and toured and recorded prolifically for the remaining eight years of her life. She moved to Hawaii, and to Australia in 1964, returning to the U.S. in 1967 to take care of her ailing mother. Humes was out of the music industry for several years, but made a full comeback in 1973 at the Newport Jazz Festival, and stayed busy up until her death.

Equally at home with ballads, to which she brought faultless jazz phrasing, blues shouting and R&B rockers, Humes was one of the outstanding singers of her day. Her light, clear voice retained a youthful sound into her 60s, and her late-period recordings were among the best she ever made.

Helen Humes died of cancer, at the age of 68, in Santa Monica, California. She is buried at the Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California.(Edited mainly from Wikipedia)