Flying : Remembering Betty Jane Rhodes ©2001
Betty Jane Rhodes was born in 1921, and while still a teenager began her career in show business, first in motion pictures and then in the medium of radio. At the age of sixteen she appeared in the movie serial "Jungle Jim" with Grant Withers. Two years later she had her own musical show for the Mutual-Don Lee Network. In 1940 she was part of the cast for the radio program "California Melodies" with band leader David Rose. A year later she appeared with Bing Crosby, Johnny Mercer, and many others on the "Birth of the Blues" radio review. She then appeared on a number of variety shows in the early nineteen forties such as Fred Allen, Red Skelton, and finally a show called "Meet Me At Parky's" which was built around Harry Einstein's long running radio character Harry Parkyakarkus. Rhodes personality and singing talents led her to appear in a number of musical comedy motion pictures during these years. Among them were "Along The Rio Grande", "The Fleet's In", "Star Spangled Rhythm", "Sweater Girl", "Salute For Three", and "You Can't Ration Love." As you can see Rhodes seemed to be a part of the cast of every wartime movie musical made. From radio and the screen, Betty Jane turned to records and originally signed with Decca Records.
In 1944 Decca released "I Don't Want To Walk Without You" and "I Said No" on #4186, but sales were minor among the many versions of the 'A' side, one of the big tunes that came out of WWII. Decca passed further efforts and Rhodes was now on RCA Victor. The first two releases for Victor were "This Is Always" / "Somewhere In The Night" (1885), and "I'd Be Lost" / "What Has She Got That I Haven't Got? " (1886). Both were promising but mostly remained undiscovered. Betty Jane Rhodes first hit the best seller charts in a big way with a song that was one of the big hits of 1946. The tune was "Rumors Are Flying" written by the team of George Weiss and Benny Benjamin (who were also responsible for another of the year's big hit songs "Oh, What It Seemed To Be"). Betty Jane's version of the song remained on the hit parade for three months and got into the top five best sellers in the country. This top hit was followed by "Bless You" / "You'll Always Be The One I Love" (2043), and "Maybe You'll Be There" (the version by Gordon Jenkins / Charles Lavere became a hit a year and a half later) on 2189,
One record in each of the following two years kept Betty Jane Rhodes in the public eye on the popular music scene. In 1947 her recording of "Tonight Be Tender To Me" with the Charles Dant Orchestra was a top twenty seller for RCA Victor (2227). "Why Should I Cry Over You" / "These Things Money Can't Buy" (2547) followed, as did "Just Around The Corner" / "Put Yourself In My Place" (2559) and "I Remember Mama" / "Long After Tonight" (2735) into the year of 1948. Then again Betty Jane Rhodes made the best seller charts with one of the big songs of the year. It came from the popular musical comedy picture "The Paleface" with Bob Hope and was called "Buttons And Bows" recorded with the orchestra of Harry Zimmerman and released on RCA Victor 3078. Betty Jane's version got into the top ten best sellers nationally and remained on the charts for more than two and a half months.
Betty Jane Rhodes was certainly not a major player in the entertainment field of the 1940s, and is not a memorable consistent chart topping singing star, or an academy award winning actress in the motion picture field. But - she was part of that great number of people who made us laugh and sing along during some of the most trying times in America. For that and her lasting contributions to the history of entertainment she deserves some pleasant memories and a smile or two.
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