This & That : Random Memories ©JCMarion


Martha Stewart ? No not THAT Martha Stewart ! This Martha Stewart was a vocalist for a time with the Claude Thornhill orchestra and also was a singer in the Thornhill ensemble The Snowflakes. She was married to vocalist Buddy Stewart who was also a vocalist with the Thornhill band. He moved on to the Gene Krupa band in the mid forties, and then tragically was killed in an auto accident in 1950 at the age of 28. Martha Stewart had one record that charted, in 1945 - "All Of A Sudden My Heart Sings" on Bluebird Records. The song is from the film "Anchors Aweigh".

There seems to be no family ties between Buddy Kaye and Mary Kaye (the musician). Buddy Kaye, a sax player and talented lyricist ("A You're Adorable" , "Till The End Of Time" and "Full Moon And Empty Arms") also wrote for films ("Not As A Stranger", "Treasure Of Sierra Madre" and the Little Lulu and Popeye cartoon series). He had two charted records - "Thoughtless" with vocal by The Tunetimers in early 1948 and "A Your Adorable" with vocal by Artie Malvin in mid 1949, both on MGM Records. Mary Kaye also charted twice : in 1952 with the oldie "Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" on Capitol, and "Do You Believe In Dreams?" on RCA in 1954, both with her trio.

And what about the similarities with the Frank Petty Trio and the Norman Petty Trio ? The Frank Petty small group featured the piano of Mike DiNapoli and had two charted records for MGM - "Rain" in 1950 which did well, and "Down Yonder" (a cover of the hit by Del Wood), which charted briefly the next year. The Norman Petty Trio came along later in the fifties and recorded for the RCA offshoot label "X". "Mood Indigo" was a good sized hit for the group and was followed up by "On The Alamo" which spent only one week on the list. The most important part of the story is that the success of the trio allowed Norman to build a recording studio in his hometown of Clovis, New Mexico, and it was here that the world discovered the music of Buddy Holly one of the most important figures in the history of rock music.

Another forgotten name from the pop music golden era is Al Morgan. He was a singer and pianist from Chicago (not to be confused with another Al Morgan who was a jazz bassist with Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan, Eddie Condon, etc.), and his debut on the pop charts was big time indeed. He recorded the song "Jealous Heart" for Universal Records during the spring of 1949. It became such a big seller that the master was turned over to London Records where it continued to sell. The record stayed on the best sellers list for an incredible six and a half months and reached as high as number four. He had lesser followups and three other records that made the national pop charts, all for London. "Half A Heart Is All You Left Me" in early 1950, "The Place Where I Worship Is The Wide Open Spaces" with John McCormick later in that year, and finally "My Heart Cries For You" (a cover of the hit by Guy Mitchell) with the Key Tones and the orchestra of Jack Pleis.

Another forgotten Chicago native is singer Jane Turzy. Those that were musically aware during the decade of the Interlude would have a hard time placing her name or remembering her music. All of her recording success is centered on a single year, that of 1951. Three fair sized hit records were produced for Decca Records, and all featured the orchestra of Remo Biondi a well known guitarist (who would play an important part in the success of blues singer Jimmy Reed-certainly a world away from 1951 mainstream pop music). "Good Morning Mister Echo" using the overdubbing style popularized by early Patti Page and Mary Ford was the first and just missed entering the top ten best sellers in the country. The second release that year was the well known folk song "Sweet Violets" which became a solid hit, and that was followed by "I Like It" which made the top twenty. That is the short and sweet legacy of Jane Turzy on record.

I have been unable to find any information on a recording group that had two hit records in the early fifties for the Coral label. They are called The Pinetoppers. The first record is their early 1951 version of "Mockingbird Hill" which was then a huge hit for Les Paul & Mary Ford. The Pinetoppers record featured vocals by The Beaver Valley Sweethearts (whomever they were), and it must have been a good one because despite the prominence of the Paul-Ford Capitol side, this version stayed on the best seller charts for more than four months and was in the top ten ! A second Coral release followed called "Lonely Little Robin" with vocal by The Marlin Sisters and Ray Smith. This too was a solid hit, though not as big as the previous one. The Marlins had charted three records in 1948 including one with a then unknown Eddie Fisher. But The Pinetoppers ? I have no recollection of them at all.

How's this for a long shot double ? Ken Griffin was an organist who played in the simple nostalgic style that broke no new ground and was unremarkable in its sound. He had played for silent films in Denver and later played waltzes in hotel rooms and of course, was a regular at skating rinks. Get the picture ? I think the operative word would be 'schmaltzy' ! After military service in the second world war, he resumed his career, and one day recorded a tune he had been playing at rinks called "You Can't Be True Dear". Someone at the independent label Rondo Records thought the song would be better off with a vocal chorus, and so singer-actor Jerry Wayne dubbed a vocal on the organ instrumental and the Rondo record was released in the spring of 1948. What must the odds have been against this record, being the original made no provision for a vocal, the English words were ad libbed at the vocal session, and the song was not in Wayne's vocal key ? Somehow it all worked - did it ever ! It was an instance of being in the right place at the right time. The record was heard and took off running and never looked back. It was on the hit charts for six months and went to number one for almost two months. The sales numbers are not exact but most put the figure at three and a half million copies ! But that's only one part of the story. While the vocal version was sitting at n umber one, Rondo took a chance and released the original instrumental version in July. Again, what were the odds ? Four months on the charts and seven weeks in the number two position, perhaps kept out of the top spot by the vocal version ! Quite a double play, and the only comparable situation remembered is the 1949 swap of competing versions of "Cruising Down The River" in the number one position from week to week by the Blue Barron and Russ Morgan orchestras.

And finally there is the baritone singer groomed by Columbia Records in the early fifties with the Hollywood name of Champ Butler. The big things never worked out for Butler, and now he too is a seldom remembered post script to the pop music years. He had three charted records for Columbia, the first being a cover of Billy Eckstine's "I Apologize", recorded with the orchestra of Skippy Martin in May of 1951. The second was a vocal version of "Down Yonder", a ragtime piano tune which was a substantial seller for Butler remaining on the charts for over four months. The following spring Butler's version of Eddy Howard's "Be Anything But Be Mine" recorded with Percy Faith barely charted and later records for Columbia such as "Night Of My Nights" and "I'm Coming Over To Love You Tonight" were not successful at all. So Champ Butler became another fleeting memory of the Interlude Era.

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