Thursday, July 12, 2012

Song Recommendations...

By Anant Mathur (July 12, 2012)

Everyone is usually quite familiar with current music, but I find very few people who know about old songs from the 20s to 50s. So from time to time I like to let my readers know about old classics which they may or may not have heard of. If you like old songs or if you wish to learn about old music here is a list of some nice ones. You probably know some of these artists and there are some you've probably never heard of - all of them were very big in their time. In any case, I hope you will give them a listen and enjoy them as much as I do. 
- Eileen Barton

Pop songstress Eileen Barton remains best known for her 1949 novelty blockbuster "If I Knew You Were Comin', I'd've Baked a Cake." Born in Brooklyn, NY, on November 24, 1929, she was the daughter of vaudeville song-and-dance duo Benny and Elsie Barton, joining the family act at age two-and-a-half with a show-stopping rendition of "Ain't Misbehavin'." The Bartons appeared twice daily at Broadway's Palace Theatre, sharing marquees with the likes of Eddie Cantor, Rudy Vallee, and Milton Berle. "If I Knew You Were Comin'" proved an overnight sensation that topped U.S. charts for three months, fending off competing versions from singers including Ethel Merman and Georgia Gibbs.

- Fred Astaire

Dancer, actor, and singer Fred Astaire worked steadily in various entertainment media during nine decades of the 20th century. The most celebrated dancer in the history of film, with appearances in 31 movie musicals between 1933 and 1968 (and a special Academy Award in recognition of his accomplishments in them), Astaire also danced on-stage and on television (garnering two Emmy Awards in the process), and he even treated listening audiences to his accomplished tap dancing on records and on his own radio series. He appeared in another eight non-musical feature films and on numerous television programs, resulting in an Academy Award nomination and a third Emmy Award as an actor. His light tenor voice and smooth, conversational phrasing made him an ideal interpreter for the major songwriters of his era, and he introduced dozens of pop standards, many of them written expressly for him, by such composers as Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Burton Lane, Frank Loesser, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Arthur Schwartz, Harry Warren, and Vincent Youmans. Although his efforts as a dancer necessarily overshadowed his purely musical work, he made hundreds of recordings over a period of more than 50 years, resulting in several major hits.

- Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians

Lombardo began his musical career in 1924, when he and his brothers Lebert, Carmen, and Victor -- who joined slightly later -- formed a big dance band. Originally, Guy was a violinist for the band, but he soon became its leader and conductor. The band received a moderate amount of success in Canada and soon went to the United States, where they landed a regular gig in Cleveland, OH. While they were performing in Cleveland, they began using the name Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians. After their Cleveland engagement, they moved to Chicago and then New York City, which became their home base after a successful stay at the Roosevelt Grill.

South of the Border Medley
- Charlie Kunz

Charlie Kunz, "the Medley King," was born in Allentown, PA, on August 8, 1896. His father was a master baker who blew the French horn. As a youngster Charlie played piano, church organ, and E-flat alto horn. In 1914 he switched from playing classical to popular dance music. He worked as a milkman, cobbler, ribbon weaver, bookseller, and mechanic. During the First World War he was a boiler riveter and a bombshell builder. By the age of 19 Charlie Kunz was leading his first band and opening for Paul Whiteman and Vincent Lopez at a ballroom in Allentown. He came to England in 1921 with a group led by percussionist Ed Krick. The following year he led Paul Specht's Criterions at the Trocadero Restaurant in Piccadilly. Remaining in England after his friends had all gone home, Kunz formed his first all-British band and began performing at the Lyons Corner House in Piccadilly Circus. He then expanded his ensemble to 14 pieces and played the Grafton Galleries. Kunz sat in on piano with the Dix Band at the Olympia Dance Hall in West Kensington and tickled the ivories at Ma Merrick's 43 Club, an infamous sporting house and all-night den of iniquity operating on Gerrard Street, Piccadilly. Kunz then played the Chez Henri Club in Long Acre, found it to his liking, and stayed on for eight and a half years.
- Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby was, without doubt, the most popular and influential media star of the first half of the 20th century. The undisputed best-selling artist until well into the rock era (with over half a billion records in circulation), the most popular radio star of all time, and the biggest box-office draw of the 1940s, Crosby dominated the entertainment world from the Depression until the mid-'50s, and proved just as influential as he was popular. Unlike the many vocal artists before him, Crosby grew up with radio, and his intimate bedside manner was a style perfectly suited to emphasize the strengths of a medium transmitted directly into the home. 

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

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