There's Music In The Land : Art Mooney©2005JCMarion


Art Mooney was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1911. He developed an interest in music at an early age and as a teenager became a moderately proficient tenor saxophone player. In his mid twenties he became a musician with a number of bands that crossed the country during the nineteen thirties. He landed in Detroit and took over a local territory band playing in the sweet band style of Guy Lombardo where he remained until entering the military service during World War II. After his discharge he went to New York City and formed a new band, this time more in the modern swing style. For a short time a member of the band's saxophone section was Sid Caesar who would become world famous during the early days of television on "Your Show Of Shows". He used band charts by noted arrangers Jimmy Mundy and Neal Hefti, and featured vocalist Fran Warren. By mid 1945 his unit received job offers and record companies began to show interest In 1946 the Art Mooney band filmed a short featurette called "Film Vodvil" which also featured a song from then unknown vocalist Dean Martin. In 1947 a vocal quartet from Massachusetts joined the band for a time - they were known as the Ames Brothers. It was about this time that Art Mooney began a prolific recording career with MGM Records.

An early effort from the band in 1946 was "Stars Fell On Alabama" on # 9045. A cover of Frankie Laine's "That's My Desire" coupled with "Mahzel Tov" was released by MGM on # 10020, followed by "You Should Have Told Me" and "As Long As I'm In Love With You" on # 10030 and "As Long As I'm Dreaming" and "You Should Have Told Me" on # 10034. Mooney's take on a big pop tune of 1947 "Pass The Peace Pipe" and "I'm Waiting For You" on # 10112 led up to his big break. Late in 1947, Mooney tried something a bit different. He tried capturing the sound of the Philadelphia Mummers, which had been around since the early 1900s. This strange combination of marching bands, saxophones, and banjos, is unique to American music and is on parade every New Year's day in a big celebration that includes competition between the bands. Using that sound featuring the great banjo strumming of Mike Pignatore (who had been a fixture in the band of Paul Whiteman for over twenty five years) on an old time song called "I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover" with a unison chorus vocal, seemed like a big stretch for a hit record ( "Memories Of You" was on the flip side). Well someone must have known something because the recording on MGM # 10119 was an enormous success. The record was a million seller, stayed on the best seller charts for five months, and was the number one selling record in the country for five consecutive weeks. After more than a decade on the periphery of big band music Mooney was a star and a hot commodity. He would be a recognizable name from that one recording for the rest of his career.

Later in the spring of 1948 Mooney and MGM would piggy back the huge hit status of "Clover" and try the same fashion with another old pop standard called "Baby Face". Once again it proved to be what post war America wanted to hear. "Baby Face" on MGM # 10156 ( "Encore Cherie" on the other side) was a top three selling smash that remained on the charts for four months topping the million mark in sales. Continuing his big year of 1948, in late summer the semi-classical "Bluebird Of Happiness" on # 10207 was given the Mooney rendition with vocal by Bud Brees and the Galli Sisters with poetic recitation by Art Mooney. Once again Mooney came up with a winner. "Bluebird" got as high as number five but had lasting power. It was a mainstay on the best seller charts for six months and gave Mooney his third million seller of the year. It was quite an impressive stretch for the man who had toiled at the helm of orchestras in virtual obscurity since the mid nineteen thirties. "There's Music In The Land" and "Chillicothe, Ohio" was released on # 10230. The amusing song "There's A Barber In The Harbor Of Palermo" with a vocal by the Galli Sisters and "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" with Bud Brees on vocal was released on # 10260. "In The Market Place Of Dreams" on # 10298 was followed by "Where The Gypsy Fiddler Plays" and "Oh Ma Ma" on # 10331

In 1949 Mooney began with a two sided top twenty record hit. "Beautiful Eyes" and "Doo De Doo On An Old Kazoo" on # 10357 were both on the charts with "Eyes" the stronger side that was a two month top seller. In May Mooney had a strong seller in "Again" from the film "Road House" with a vocal by Johnny Martin and Madely Russell. The record for MGM on # 10398, got to number seven in the country and stayed on the charts for four and a half months. "The Merry-Go-Round Waltz" on # 10405 charted briefly ("Heart Of Loch Lomond" was the flip side) , but "Twenty Four Hours Of Sunshine" on # 10446 was a strong seller topping out at number thirteen that charted for two months. "Canadian Capers" and "Yum Yummy Yum" on # 10466 was not a success but September provided another big seller for Mooney with the old "Scotch Hot", renamed "Hop Scotch Polka" on # 10500. A three month top twenty seller, the band was now much in demand owing to its string of hits over the last year and a half. MGM released # 10522 for the Christmas season with "Jingle Bells" and "Mistletoe Kiss". A song revived in the film "The Jolson Story" called "Toot Toot Tootsie (Good Bye)" was given the Mooney treatment on # 10548. The flip side was another old time tune, the type that Mooney was turning into hit after hit - "I Never See Maggie Alone". Both sides were top twenty sellers. "Shenanigans" and "The River Seine" on # 10564, "There's Something About A Home Town Band" and "There's A Lovely Lake In Loveland" was issued on # 10588.

Two years of top selling records made Art Mooney a familiar name on the American musical scene. "Lili And Rose" and "Monday Tuesday Wednesday" on # 10626,"Zither Serenade" and "Truly" both featuring vocals by Johnny Martin on # 10636, and Johnny Martin again doing the vocal on a cover of Frankie Laine's "Cry Of The Wild Goose", and the flip side "Flying Dutchman" featured a vocal by Tod Manners on # 10651 were next. In the early fifties he had moderate success with a cover of Eileen Barton's "If I Knew You Were Comin I'd've Baked A Cake" with vocal by Betty Harris on # 10660. "Stay With Happy People" was released on # 10676. Another tune from 1950 was "M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I" with vocal by Alan Brooks and The Four Clovers on # 10721. For a time during 1950, the band's featured vocalist was Bob Manning who would later have a big hit with "The Nearness Of You". "You Forgot About Me" and "Little Jig" was released on on # 10748, and was followed by the former Glen Miller hit "Serenade In Blue" and "Aren't We All" on # 10822. MGM issued "I'll Never Be Free" and "To Think You've Gone" on # 10839, then Alan Foster and Rosetta Shaw did the vocals on the tunes "Beautiful Brown Eyes" and a cover of Guy Mitchell's "Sparrow In The Tree Top" on # 10924. "Just For Tonight" and "Faithful Soldier" were issued on # 10906, followed by "Goodnight Cincinnati" on #10969, and "Love, I'd Give My Life For You" on # 10984

"What You Do To Me" and "I'm Gonna Send You A Horseshoe Of Roses" on # 11084, "The Cloverleaf Special" was released on # 11542, Betty Harris did the vocal on "The Twinkle Song" on # 11072 with "Daddy" on the flip side, "Oh How I Love You" on # 11033, Mooney did his version of the Peewee King country and pop hit "Slow Poke" with vocal by Tony Alaimo, and the old Carter Family tune "Keep On The Sunnyside" with Jack Day & The Mooney Men on vocal for # 11115. Mooney recorded a fine cover of Bette McLaurin's "I May Hate Myself In The Morning" on # 11258 with a Betty Harris vocal. In late 1952 "Lazy River" with vocal by Cathy Ryan & The Clover Leafs on # 11347, and "Heartbreaker" on # 11386 ("Winter" on the other side) both got into the top twenty five in the country. Joan Durell was a vocalist with Mooney in 1952 (she would marry Australian jazz musician Med Flory). "I Played The Fool" and "I Just Couldn't Take It" were released on # 11434, "All Night Long" and "Baby Don't Do It" on # 11456 showed a more modern approach by the band edging into the R & B sound sweeping the country. "Mogambo" and a cover of Leo Diamond's "Offshore" on # 11610 Mooney recorded his version of "The Creep" a dance hit from England that was a pop hit in the U.S. by The Three Suns on MGM # 11651 backed by "Flirtation Waltz". Sounding like a Spike Jones double opus, the band recorded "Cornbelt Symphony" and "Mothballs" on # 11722. Continuing in the more contemporary direction the band recorded "Bip Bam" on # 11871.

In 1955 Art Mooney and his orchestra returned to the pop charts in a big way just as rock 'n roll was beginning to take over American popular music. A song he had written was used in the motion picture "Battle Cry" and soon was a best seller for MGM. "Honey Babe" on # 11900 ("No Regrets" on the flip side) spent more than four months on the best sellers charts and reached the top five in the country. He still had the hitmaker's touch after all those years. That was his last big seller but he remained part of the musical scene for years to come. Late in 1955, a song written by Art Mooney became a big seller for the holidays. "Nuttin' For Christmas" sung by seven year old Barry Gordon on MGM # 12092 became the big seller for that Christmas(The flip side of the record was "Santa Looks Just Like Daddy"). "Nuttin'"was also recorded by Joe Ward, Mickey Zahnd, and the grown up Fontaine Sisters. Art Mooney and his orchestra played many hotel rooms the into early sixties such as The Shoreham in Washington D.C. In 1956 Mooney played himself in the motion picture "The Opposite Sex", a remake of "The Women" which starred June Allyson and Joan Collins.

Mooney and his orchestra continued to record for MGM in the late fifties. They produced two old time tunes - "Paddlin' Madeline Home" and "Alabama Jubilee" on # 12000,"Sinner's Train" and "Wheeling, West Virginia" on # 12043, "Tally Ho" and "You Are The One" on # 12219,"Daydreams" and "Somebody Stole My Muchacha" on # 12277,"I Never Had A Worry In The World" on # 12435,"Mama Guitar" on # 12461,"Merry Merry Christmas To You" on # 12487,"The Parade Is Passing Me By" on # 12503, "Let The Rest Of The World Go Away" on # 12545,"The River Kwai march (Col. Bogey)" on # 12590,"Something Always Happens" on # 12649, "Autumn Sunset" and the novelty "I Saw My baby On TV on # 12703,"Bye Bye Blackbird" on # 12744,"Smile" and the Art Mooney Theme "Sunset To Sunrise" on # 12802, "Good Time Special" and "Diddy Boppin" on # 12869, "Captain Buffalo" and "Banjo Boy" on # 12908, "I Ain't Down Yet" on # 12957, and "Malibu" on # 12989. The Mooney Orchestra also recorded the movie themes "Giant", "East Of Eden", and "Rebel Without A Cause". In 1958 "Night Train" (from the Mercury hit for Buddy Morrow) and "A Fiddle, A Rifle, An Axe" was issued in stereo 45 rpm format.

By the dawn of the next decade, Mooney had recorded a number of LP albums including "Hi Fi Dixieland", "The Happy Minstrels", and "The Greatest Minstrel Show" for MGM. Detroit produced the exotic Vogue picture records that are today highly sought after collector's items, and Art Mooney was recorded on "Seems Like Old Times" / "Warsaw Concerto" on # 711, and "I've Been Working On The Railroad" / "You're Nobody Til Somebody Wants You" on # 713. In the early sixties Mooney moved on to other labels after his long stay at MGM. He recorded "The Liechtenstein Polka" on Decca # 31318, and "Tea For Two" / "Warm Kisses And A Cold Heart" on Decca # 23842, and LP albums "Cha Cha With Art Mooney", and "Dance Time", for Spin-O-Rama, "Jump For Joy", "Satin Doll", and "Sentimental Songs Of WWII" for Kapp, "Songs Everyone Knows" for Decca, "Sing Along" for Promenade, "Dance And Dream" for Coronet, and "The Best Of Art Mooney" for RCA.

Into the nineteen sixties Art Mooney had run a restaurant in his native state of Massachusetts, performed extensively in Las Vegas, and then moved on to South Florida. In the early seventies he did a national tour with a package show called "The American Big Band Cavalcade". He still continued on at the helm of the Guy Lombardo Orchestra in 1982 for a number of years. Art Mooney passed away at the age of 82 in Florida in 1993. He certainly had a long and varied career and will always be remembered for that magical year of 1948.

Unfortunately, the only available CD of Art Mooney's music is from Circle - "Art Mooney 1945-46" This CD has seventeen tracks and features The Galli Sisters, Ames Brothers, Bud Brees, and Johnny Darcy on vocals. Many pop music compilation Cds from the nineteen forties will feature one or two of Mooney's hits. As of right now there are no comprehensive collections of late forties-early fifties recordings by the band. There are also recorded airshots from live radio remotes featuring the band from the Hotel Lincoln in New York from July and October of 1945.

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