Dream On : The Pied Pipers©2008JCMarion


The Pied Pipers came to be in the late nineteen thirties originally with eight members. After the group had been whittled down to a quartet the members were Jo Stafford, John Huddleston, Billy Wilson, and Chuck Lowery. Soon Wilson was replaced by Clark Yocum as the group signed on with the Tommy Dorsey band. In June of 1940 the group backed up the Dorsey band's new singer Frank Sinatra on the song "I'll Never Smile Again" on RCA Victor # 26628. It was a huge hit across the nation and was the number one seller in the country for three months. The group had a number of hits backing up Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Jo Stafford has always recalled the hard work put in by the young Sinatra to blend his voice with that of the group with proper phrasing and intonation to make the sound unique. After a disagreement with the bandleader, the Pied Pipers left the band and RCA Victor Records and signed on with Capitol Records. Also at that time Jo Stafford left the group to pursue a solo career and was replaced by June Hutton.

In the spring of 1944 The Pied Pipers hit the best seller charts with "Mairzy Doats" on Capitol # 148 which was a top ten seller. They outdid that effort late in the year with their version of "The Trolley Song" (on # 168) made famous by Judy Garland in the film "Meet Me In St. Louis". The record got all the way to number two in the country and was a mainstay on the hit charts for four months. In 1944 the group began a six year reign as the top vocal group in the country as voted by the readers of Downbeat in their annual poll. In march of 1945 they took the final step in achieving the number one seller in the country and a gold record effort on the song "Dream" on # 185. That song was the theme music for Johnny Mercer's radio program on which the group appeared often.

For the next three years The Pied Pipers had a string of chart hits for Capitol Records. "Lilli Belle" on # 207 and "Aren't You Glad You're You?" on # 225 from the film "Bells Of St. Mary's" were top twenty sellers in late 1945. In 1945 The Pied Pipers are part of the regular cast on Frank Sinatra's radio program. The following year saw the group open up with the flip side of #225 outsell the 'A' side. The song was "In The Middle Of May" and it topped out at number 14 nationally. In April "In The Moon Mist" on # 243 was a strong seller getting well into the top ten and remaining a best seller for the month of May. In 1947 The Pied Pipers had their version (like everyone else it seemed) of the novelty song "Open The Door Richard" originally by Dusty Fletcher. Again the record (Capitol # 369) was a top ten seller on the national pop charts. They followed that up with another famous song of 1947, "Mam'selle" from the film "The Razor's Edge" on # 396. This time it was a solid hit for the group getting to number three and remaining on the hit charts for more than three months.

They closed out the year with Penny" on # 478 which charted briefly as did "Ok'l Baby Dok'l" on # 495. In June of 1948 The Pied Pipers had one of their biggest hit records ever with "My Happiness" on # 15094 ("Highway To Love" on the other side). The record got to the number three position in the country but had tremendous staying power as it remained on the best seller lists for an astounding eight months. This was the last chart hit for the group and they certainly ended their run with a bang. During the late nineteen forties the Pied Pipers recorded often with Johnny Mercer. Some of these Capitol records were "Winter Wonderland" / "A Gal In Calico" on # 316, "I Do I Do I Do" / "Movie Tonight" on # 367, "Cecelia" / "Tallahassee" on # 422, "Why Should I Cry Over You" with a Mercer solo on "Sugar Blues" on # 448, and in September of 1949 "Jamboree Jones" and "Dixieland Band" on # 853. An interesting collaboration was "The Freedom Song" along with Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman, and Margaret Whiting along with Mercer. The flip side on # 15003 "God Bless America" with Margaret Whiting joining Mercer and The Pipers. The seasonal tunes "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" on # 15004 followed. "That's The Way He Does It" on # 15016 continued the ensemble vocalizing with Mercer. Following were "Goofus" / "Hills Of California" on # 15051, "Sweetie Pie" and a Mercer solo on "My First Baseball Game" on # 15096, "Limehouse Blues" and a Mercer solo on "I Don't Care If It Rains All Night" on # 15134, "Love That Boy" and "Louisville Lou" on # 15152, "Down Among The Sheltering Palms" and "One For My Baby" on # 15241, "Winter Wonderland" and "If I Knew Then" on # 15276, "Tailgate Ramble" and "Tuscaloosa Blues" featured Wingy manone with the singers on # 15285, "Memphis Blues" and a reissue of "Sugar Blues" was released on # 15318.

The singles recorded with Johnny Mercer continued with "Would You" and "Let's Fly" on # 15337, and "I've Been Hit" and "Glow Worm by Mercer & The Blue Rays on # 15412. The Pied Pipers also recorded a couple of sides with Andy Russell. "Underneath The Arches" a big song from 1947, and "Just For Me" on # 15183, and "It's Too Soon To Know" and "If We Can't Be The Same Old Sweethearts" on # 15281. Some other recordings for Capitol included "Just Plain Love" / "The Riddle Song" on # 429, "Just Around The Corner" / "I Wanna Be A Friend Of Yours" on # 456, "The Lady From 29 Palms" and "I Have But One Heart" with the Ernie Fellice Quartet on # 469, "Mary Lou" and "Rhode Island Is Famous For You" on # 489, "At A Sidewalk Penny Arcade" and "Crying For Joy" on # 15057, Judaline" and "Smiles" on # 15103, and "Goodbye Romance" and "With All My Heart" on # 15142. Continuing on in mid 1948 "Mind If I Love You" and "Rendezvous With A Rose" on # 15216, "Yes We Have No Bananas" and "It's What 'Cha Do With What 'Cha Got" on # 15235, and a reissue of "The Whiffenpoof Song" and "Dream" on # 15246.

In 1949 The Pied Pipers moved to RCA Victor Records and recorded a few singles for the label. Among them were "You Broke Your Promise" and "Tennessee Saturday Night" on # 20-3360, "Little Lost Dreams" and "You Don't Have To Tell Nobody" on # 20-3404, "Kiss Me Goodnight" and "Gone To Chicago" on # 20-2444, and "Reckon I'm In Love" and "Somehow" on # 20-3515. Continuing on in 1950 "Check Cigars" and "Sleepy" on # 20-3533, and "Just A Kiss Apart" and "S'Wonderful" on # 20-3592. This was also the time when June Hutton left the group and was replaced first by Virginia Maxey, and then by Sue Allen. Clark Yocum, Allan Davies, and Lee Gotch are the other members. By the early nineteen fifties The Pied Pipers began to focus more on in person appearances and soon, recording in the new LP album format. One of their earliest efforts was "A Tribute To Tommy Dorsey" released on the budget Tops label. One of the finest musical presentations by the group came in 1962 for the Warner Brothers label called "Let Yourself Go - Singing And Swinging With The Pied Pipers" recorded with the orchestra of Jerry Gray. At times Deborah Tompkins and Marge Gibson are part of the group as they soon become a wonderful memory of the Interlude Era.

There are a variety of cd recordings documenting the musical history of The Pied Pipers. The best of these is probably "Dream With The Pied Pipers" from Living Era in 2006 which captures the complete range of the group's abilities. The two disc set includes three songs with Johnny Mercer, three with Jo Stafford, and five with Sinatra. "Dreams From The Sunny Side Of The Street" on Jasmine in 2005 is a two disc set as is "The Dream Team" on Sepia from 2005 which contains nine solos from Mercer and five from June Hutton, and the other fourteen tracks are by the group. Some more specific cds are "Good Deal MacNeal" on Hep (UK) from 1996 which consists of radio broadcast air checks from 1945-47, and "What 'Cha Know Joe" from Razor & Tie in 1999 with twenty one tracks documenting the years with the Tommy Dorsey band. Still others are "Best Of . . . " featuring Jo Stafford on Collector's Choice in 1998 with twenty five tracks and "Smooth Stylings Of The Pied Pipers" for Sutton. The incomparable sound of The Pied Pipers whether out front as a quartet or backing some of the very best vocalists in pop music history, is one to be treasured and one to be remembered.

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