The Old Redhead : Arthur Godfrey©2008JCMarion


Arthur Godfrey was born in New York City in August of 1903. After stints in the U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard where he received training as a radio operator, he began his career in commercial radio in Baltimore in 1930. Mostly working in the Washington D.C. area, his heartfelt tribute to FDR on the occasion of the funeral precession of the former president led to his hiring by the CBS network in 1945. He soon had a morning radio show for the network and moved into television in 1948 with a simulcast of "Arthur Godfrey Time" in the mornings and a night time show called "Talent Scouts" that headlined new entertainers. He was a pilot and an avid supporter of commercial aviation as well as a superb pitchman for sponsors of his programs. But it is his efforts as a recording artist that we highlight in this piece.

He went into the studio for Columbia Records in the fall of 1947 to try his hand at popular music. The result was a novelty song called "Dance Me Loose" on # 37921, with the pop oldie "For Me And My Gal" on the flip side. Surprisingly the record was a huge hit across the country getting as high as the number two seller in the country and remaining on the charts for more than four months. The ukulele playing redhead proved that he was a man of many talents. "A Porter's Song To A Chambermaid" and "I'm A Ding Dong Daddy" on # 37986 did not sell but Columbia went back to its past success. By February of the following year Columbia decided to duplicate the style of the hit with another folksy, somewhat cornball song called "Slap 'Er Down Again Pa" with The Too Fat Trio on # 38066. The other side was the song "I'd Give A Million Tomorrows". The novelty song again registered with the record buyers and Godfrey had another top ten seller on the national charts.

Now in addition to all his other activities, Godfrey was a hitmaker on the record scene. The Columbia recordings came throughout the late forties. "I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover" and "The Thousand Islands Song" (from the Broadway musical "Angel In The Wings") on # 38081 both charted in the top fifteen sellers. That was was followed by "You're Over The Hill" and "Mother Never Told Me" on # 38195, "The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine" and "Turkish Delight" on # 38246, "Waiting At The Church" and "Take 'Em To The Door" on # 38322, "Little Guy" and "I'm A Lonely Little Petunia" on # 38390, "Grandma's Minuet" and "Ten Pretty Girls" on # 38597, and in March of 1950 "Candy And Cake" (recorded with The Mariners) was a top twenty seller across the country on Columbia # 38721 ("Dear Old Girl" on the flip side). "Go To Sleep Go To Sleep" recorded with Mary Martin on # 38744 was a top ten national hit record. Later in the year "Drifting Down The Dreamy Lane" and "Hawaii" on # 38882, and "The Ukulele Song" and "I Wish I Had A Girl" on # 38946 were also released. Godfrey joined The Chordettes, a female quartet featured on his radio program with "Down By The Old Mill Stream" and "Oh Joe" on # 38949.

1951 became a big year for Arthur Godfrey on the recording front. First came "The Thing" a cover of Phil Harris hit version, and "Yea Boo" on # 39068, "Love Is The Reason" and "I Love The Wide Open Spaces" (with Laurie Anders) a play on a tag line from Ken Murray's hit TV show on # 39404 which became a national best seller. Following was "What Is A Boy?" and "What Is A Girl?" on # 39487 recorded with Mitch Miller and his orchestra. Both sides sold well enough to make the hit charts. "Slow Poke" and "Dance Me Loose" (with The Chordettes) on # 39632 resulted in a huge two sided hit record with each side close to the top ten in the country during the holiday season of 1951 and into the next year. "Busybody" and "Can You Whistle Johanna?" on # 39755, and "I Love Girls" and "Honey" on # 39792 were next, with "Girls becoming Godfrey's last nation wide best seller getting into the top fifteen in sales.

Along with pop hit records Godfrey also recorded a series of sides aimed at kids for Columbia Playtime Records. These included "The Animal Farm" / "Bullfrog On The Bank", and "I've Been Working On The Railroad" / "Oh Susannah". The efforts for Columbia Records continued with "Easter In Waikiki" and "It's The Irish In Me" on # 40018, "Wait Till The Sun Shines Nellie" and "Don't Tell Me The Same Old Thing" on # 40083, and a series of seasonal tunes with "Here Comes Santa Claus" / "Winter Wonderland" on # 40109, "Jingle Bells" / "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" on # 40110, "The First Noel" / "Adeste Fidelis" on # 40111, and "Silent Night" / "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" on # 40112. Then came a series where Godfrey recorded one side and one of the cast of his radio show recorded the flip side. They were "The First Snow Of Winter" with "Look Ahead" by The Mariners on # 40117, "Appreciation" with "Give A Cheer" by Janette Davis on # 401118, "It's Too Soon Old Und Too Late Shmart" with "After You're Gone" by Janette Davis on # 40251. Next for Godfrey was "Moon June Spoon" and "Soft Squeeze Baby" by Janette Davis on # 40183, "In The Chapel In The Moonlight" and "Oh Mo Nah" with The Mariners on # 40271, "Lazy Bones" and "Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep" on # 40321"Somebody Bigger Than You" and "Old Pappy Time" on # 40398, and "Little Child" and a re-issue of "What Is A Boy" on # 40656.

By the later fifties he still was putting out records for Columbia despite the changes in the recording industry and the direction that popular music had taken during these years. "Marian The Librarian" and "76 Trombones" from the Broadway hit show "The Music Man" was released on Columbia # 41113. That was followed by "Pale Potomac Moon" and "The Waiting Game" on # 41240. Finally Godfrey and Columbia called it a day and he moved to Decca Records for a few sides. "Back Home On Sunday" and "I'd Love To Love You" on # 29588 and "Lay My Head Beneath A Rose" and "I'd Give A Million Years" on Decca # 29765 were the result. Beside the single records Godfrey also recorded a number of other projects such as the narration on "O'er The Ramparts We Watched" for a program on the history of our national anthem, "A Visit To New York" LP with other members of the regular cast from his TV show, and a real collectors item on "Bu Deedle Um" and "I'm Looking For A Riff" with an all star jazz combo recorded for Signature as part of the "Jazz For The People" album.

By the late nineteen fifties Godfrey's time as a major television personality. His radio program remained as one of the last bastions of network radio in the early sixties. During that decade he still appeared to the public on a number of motion pictures such as "Four For Texas", "The Glass Bottom Boat" and "Where Angels Go Trouble Follows". Godfrey passed away in March of 1983. He had a number of hit records, but he will be best remembered for his radio and television programs and his style of seemingly talking to each individual in the listening audience which made him a very successful pitchman for various products.

There are a few cds of Godfrey that are available. Please be advised there is a modern folk-blues performer also named Arthur Godfrey whose music has no relation to the "Old Redhead". The most complete version is "Arthur Godfrey And Friends" for Jasmine from 2007 with 61 tracks featuring Godfrey and many members from his radio and TV show over the years such as Julius LaRosa, Marion Marlowe, Ju Ann Sims, Frank Parker, etc. A shorter version is "The Calandar Show" for Collectables in 2003 with 25 tracks. Two cds with Godfrey recordings from the Columbia years are "Arthur Godfrey Time" for Living Era in 2003 with 27 tracks and "The Best Of . . . . ." with Collectors Choice in 2001 with 22 tracks.

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