42nd Street  

The Encyclopedia of American Songs and Musicals

in the "Thirties"

 Heading for a second term

1936 appears as a paradoxical year. After the Supreme Court cancelled the Agricultural Adjustement Act, everyone would have thought it as announcing the end of the New Deal and of the politics initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt but he is triumphantly re-elected in November for a second term.  It is even a plebiscite, only two States having chosen the republican candidate.

Despite the halftone recovery in economic

activity and a limited decline of

joblessness, the confidence

enjoyed by the President since 1932

even seems to have strengthened. Some

symbolic measures as the bonus granted

to the veterans of World War I have

moreover been welcomed by the

opinion. For its part, the business world

will have devoted itself in vain to a true

war of attrition to protect its interests,

for despite an unprecedented

increase of the federal budget deficit

and the conservative orientations of the

Supreme Court , the social policy

started up by the government had

yielded positive results, enough

anyway so that the American citizens renew

Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House.

It was it or as hammered the slogan,

restoring the power to the " business and

financial monopoly, speculation, reckless

banking ".

March 3rd occurs the executing of Bruno

Hauptmann, convicted of kidnapping and

murder of Lindbergh baby perpetrated in

1932. This tragic case had at the time deeply moved the public opinion. In spite of the discovery at home of a part of the ransom and obvious evidence, Hauptmann will have until his death protested to be innocent, claiming that there was another man since disappeared. It will result from the investigation to set up kidnapping as a federal crime without raising any doubts about the real guilt of Hauptamnn.

We shall also retain of this year two images included

in the collective memory as those of the shame:


 - The refusal of chancellor Adolph Hitler to

congratulate the black runner Jesse Owens,

quadruple gold medallist in the Olympic Games of

Berlin, a highly symbolic gesture of state racism

pervading  the Nazi ideology.

The public hanging of Rainey Bethea in front of

20 000 persons at Owensboro, Kentucky. Bethea was

sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a

70-year-old woman. It was certainly a sordid crime

but which had unfortunately nothing exceptional.

What was it, in contrast, came from the fact that

Florence Thompson, the County sheriff where took

place the execution was a woman and that it was her

duty to go on hanging. As it was an unprecedented fact in the history of the American justice, the media were passionate about the case and journalists were mobilized for covering the event, bringing with them thousands of onlookers.

The presented show was on the other hand quite pathetic. In place of the sheriff, the execution was assigned to a dead drunk deputy during a ludicrous staging. The press was for its expenses and hastened to disapprove this pitiful killing. Embarrassed, the general assembly of Kentucky took the wise decision to prohibit public executions and hanging.

1936 will certainly remains in weather recordkeepings as the one of extremes. During winter, a polar cold beats down on the Midwestern States, dropping to ever seen levels. The thermometer even falls below -58Β°F in the Dakotas. In July, the Midwest is on the other hand concerned with an unprecedented heat wave. Temperature rises 122Β° F, what represents a differential of 180Β° from a season to the other.

The Olympics taking place this year in Berlin, all eyes are turned towards Europe which gives once again worrying signs of restlessness. Germany has just concluded a pact with Mussolini of whom it may be feared that ideological closeness does cause short-term expansionist impulses. Meanwhile, the civil war rages in Spain. Regarding both traditional allies, France where Popular Front allows working class to enjoy for the first time paid vacations, while England which, having attended the crowning of King Edward VIII sees him a few months later renounce the throne for the woman he loves. His younger brother George VI succeeds to him.

At the same time, in USSR, Stalin begins his housecleaning by eliminating at first the friends who brought him to power.

The musical year


  2   It is January 4 that Billboard publishes its first chart.

Founded in 1894 in Cincinnati, the Billboard firm which initially printed billers and cashbooks expanded its activity in other sectors by distributing professional magazines dedicated to the theater and the film. From 1936, Billboard publishes on a regular basis a ranking of the records sales, becoming gradually a reference indicator for the entertainment industry.


This year is especially marked by the lightning arrival of a certain Robert Johnson, guitarist and singer since unanimously considered as the ultimate reference in the blues area. But while, at that time, fans are day after day more numerous, the audience remains mainly fond of fashionable tunes. Swing clearly keeps leadership around personalities such as Benny Goodman or Tommy Dorsey almost systematically included among the best sales. They know moreover how to diversify their repertoire by alternating with the same comfort lively tunes and sentimental ballads.





This year confirms the return of the big bands, indicating an improvement in the economic situation. Bob CrosbyBing's younger brother is often in the headlines. Charlie Barnet and Andy Kirk also feature in the leading group. Facing the ascendancy of the bands appear however a few individuals and especially some young talents able to satisfy the versatility of the public's tastes. The music business is such that it constantly requires newness. It has been six years since Bing Crosby occupies the center stage without real competitors. No candidate "crooner" has not yet had the opportunity to compete with him, certainly for lack of a good song or a good support.

Ted Weems, precisely, of whom the least we can say is that he is not a newcomer thinks of having unearthed the rare pearl in the person of Perry Como, a young singer met in Ohio whose voice immediately seduced him. This one gets certainly closer to the style of Bing Crosby but he has  also something personal, unique.

All this, however, is  nothing next to the shock wave looming towards MGM. The young Frances Gumm, recently known as Judy Garland records her first songs and appears in musical shorts in which she already displays an incredible talent. It is enough to see her performing in Every Sunday a ten minutes movie in which she stars with soprano Deanna Durbin to understand that something is happening. Farewell old scores, old tunes, the whole world starts to swing and Miss Garland sings it like nobody else.






















Waltz with a Swing/Americana (Roger Eddens) - Judy Garland performs the song with Tommy Dorsey and his band. 


  3   Another highlight of the year is none other than the recording of Summertime by Billie Holiday. From the opera Porgy and Bess released at the end of the previous year, this song at first a lullaby performed in the African American spiritual style, has a slow harmonic progression that also makes it a tune of blues. The song was soon adopted by the public and appeared among the best sales of the year, a bet finally so daring as successful for Billie Holiday knowing that Gershwin’s opera was since its release the subject of a real controversy.






Some successful musicals are released during the year among them obviously emerge Follow the Fleet and Swing Time starring the duet Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers, but also Show-Boat starring Irene Dunne and Paul Robeson, noteworthy for his rendition of’Ol’Man River, Anything goes starring Bing Crosby et Ethel Merman, The Great Ziegfeld with William Powell and Mirna Loy, Born to Dance  directed by Roy Del Ruth featuring the energetic Eleanor Powell and a great James Stewart (already), and at last Poor Little Rich Girl starring Shirley Temple and Frances Langford.




Tommy Dorsey & Edythe Wright - Will I ever know it

Hoover Dam, the gigantic structure built on the Colorado River in the borders of Arizona is inaugurated in 1936. Begun under the former presidency, it was part of the big works programed to fight against the effects of the Great Depression.

Fred Astaire - Let's face the music and dance

                        Follow the Fleet



Movie credits

Direction: Mark Sandrich

Screenplay: Alan Scott (based on the play Shore Leave By written by Hubert Osborne and created in 1922)

Score: Irving Berlin

Actors: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard, Lucille Ball, Betty Grable

Distribution: RKO

It must be a sign of the times or how to read the fact of inviting the filmgoer to follow, even in songs, the Navy in its operations otherwise than as a form of psychological preparation for a coming war. Everyone knew then the threat represented on the one hand by Nazi Germany and on the other by the ruthless occupation of China by the Japanese troops.

Featuring Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard  justifies certainly he plot but in the same way as what happens in Roberta and Top Hat released a year earlier, the purpose of the movie is firstly to highlight the pair Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers through a series of outstanding dance numbers.


We find also a mushy atmosphere, a very

comfortable universe free from the concerns of everyday life, a wardrobe worthy of the greatest fashion designers, tasty dialogs, in short, a series of ingredients appropriate to generate dream and enjoyment. To note however that Fred Astaire ( Bake Baker) impersonates perfectly the sailor by munching conspicuously a chewing gum during a good part of the movie (it was well known that the U.S. army gave chewing gum to soldiers to improve their concentration and chase away the stress).

The choreographies made undoubtedly of Follow the Fleet a success. It seems that the couple Astaire-Rogers reaches there a kind of perfection far from some hesitation felt previouly in Ginger's Rogers's performances. These have disappeared, giving way to more sophisticated figures and sequences of a rare quality level.


The movie is also successful thanks to the songs of Irving Berlin.

Retain among these:

" We saw the sea "

Get Thee Behind Me Satan nicely performed by Harriet Hillard

Let Yourself go, in which Ginger and Fred compete against two other couples of dancers.






I’m putting all my eggs in one basket, Let’s face the music and dance, two song to be covered over time by major artists like Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald

 5    Let yourself go - Ginger Rogers and and the chorus girls including in the middle Betty Grable surrounded byJoy Hodges (left) and Jennie Gray.

 Follow the Fleet - Let yourself go (music and lyrics byIrving Berlin)  terrific!

It's about a dance contest by elimination. And Fred Astaire does not stop munching his  chewing-gum.....like a true marine.

Fred Astaire - I'm putting all my eggs in one basket

Let's face the music and dance (Irving Berlin) - An extremely difficult dance number but a very interesting dramatic progress in symbiosis with the music.



Fred Astaire later admitted that he was so strict with his partners that he made all them cry except one, Ginger Rogers. She knew during the endless rehearsals how much it was difficult to stick perfectly to choreographies designed by Fred Astaire. Some required

such a technique that she needed to draw up the exhaustion on her resources to achieve the expected result. Ginger Rogers showed however such a professionalism and stage presence that she compensated with her actress's qualities the fact that she did not have the same opportunities for the dance as her prestigious partner.

Get Thee Behind Me Satan (Irving Berlin) - performed by Harriet Hilliard.

She kept her maiden name although she has been for one year the wife of the bandleader Ozzie Nelson.

               6    Swing Time


The movie credits

 Direction : George Stevens

Distribution: RKO

Screenplay : Howard Lindsay and Alan Scott  based on the novel Portrait of John Garnett  written by

Erwin S. Gelsey

Music: Jerome Kern, lyrics: Dorothy Fields

Actors: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Helen Broderick, Victor Moore

Once again, the various plots of the movie serve in fact as interludes between the dance numbers

performed by the pair Astaire-Rogers. Hardly excited by the scenario, the critic considered

however this musical as the most accomplished regarding choreography.

It is true that the show still exceeds the technical qualities of Follow the Fleet. Once again, the

complicity between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers allows them to push back the limits of

their capabilities, providing movements increasingly worked out and complex with seemingly

always more ease and looseness. Swing Time is of all the Fred Astaire's movies the one who

will have had most success. Ranked second movie of the year by the number of entrances,

it will win the Oscar for Best Original Song for The Way You Look Tonight. Despite the

qualities of the performance, the only downside, however, remains the sequence in honor

of Bojangles in which Fred Astaire is blackface made-up, the genre standing rather aside

since the 20s

TrailerThe way you look tonight  (Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields) - Fred Astaire demonstrates once more that besides his dancer's qualities, he has no need to force his voice  for generating emotion.

Pick yourself up (Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields) - Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers offer there one of their most brilliant performances. Perfect complementarity, perfect harmony! Not to miss the final and the acrobatic barriers crossings.


Waltz in Swing Time - Jerome Kern was reluctant composing in the Swing style, preferring to it more sophisticated orchestrations. It emerges from it a waltz of anthology whose lesser qualities are the way it occupies the space and a set of tap-dancing all in smoothness and discretion. Elegance in its pure form, in fact.

A Fine Romance - A scene of heartache in the sweet and sour sauce of words which leave no doubt about the couple's relationship  β€œyou' re as cold as yesterday's mashed potatoes”.....

With his bowler screwed on the head, Fred Astaire reminds by certain sides Stan Laurel, don’t you find?

     7     Billie Holiday reshapes Summertime

Must we only to George Gershwin's genius to have introduced into his opera Porgy and Bess the emblematic tune which was to become a major jazz standard? Is it not somewhere Billie Holiday who, by her ability to personalize her reditions, managed to operate the necessary alchemy? Bob Crosby had a few months earlier released a rather good instrumental version of it but an outstanding voice was missing to win the public's heart.

For the circumstance, it was essential that Billie Holiday be surronded with top-flight musicians. Bunny Berigan is on the trumpet, sending the intro to which answers Artie Shaw's clarinet. He reaches to create a growling effect in the New Orleans style announcing clearly the jazz coloration given to the song. Joe Bushkin is on the piano, Dick McDonough on guitar, Pete Peterson on double bass and Cozy Cole William on the drums.

      8    The essential hits of the year (1)

01 – Tommy Dorsey (Shenandoah (PA ) 1905 – Greenwich (CT) 1956) feat. Edythe Wright (Bayonne (NJ) 1914 – Manasquan (NJ) 1965) - Will I ever know it? 3:19 (Mack Gordon/Harry Revel)

The voice of Edythe Wright helps to create an atmosphere of

nostalgia that sums up the so particular image that left over

these years.

02 – Benny Goodman (Chicago (IL ) 1909 – New York (NY)  1986) feat.

Helen Ward (New York (NY) 1916 - Arlington (VA) 1998) – There’s a

small hotel  2:30 (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rogers

Song composed for the musical On Your Toes.

03 – Billie Holiday (Philadelphia (PA) 1915 – New York (NY ) 1959) –  

Summertime 2:55 (George Gershwin)

04 – Fred Astaire (Frederick Austerlitz – Omaha (NE) 1899 – Los Angeles

(CA) 1987) – Let’s face the music and dance  2:34 (Irving Berlin)

05 – Charlie Barnet (New York (1913) – San Diego (CA) 1991) –  Until

the real things  come along 2:50 (Sammy Cahn/Saul Chaplin/L.E.

Freeman/Mann Holiner/Alberta Nichols)

This song which had been introduced by Ethel Waters in 1931 was still

never recorded. Andy Kirk is the first to cover it in March, 1936

a few weeks before Charlie Barnet.

06 – Judy Garland (Frances Ethel Gumm – Grand Rapids (MN) 1922

– Chelsea, (England) 1969) – Swing, Mr Charlie 2:57 (Irving Taylor/

Harry Brooks)

B side of the Decca 78 rpm  recorded in  New York, June 12

by Bob Crosby and his orchestra.

07 – Bing Crosby (Tacoma (WA) 1903 – Madrid (Esp) 1977) –

I’m an old cowhand (from the Rio Grande)  2:42

(Johnny Mercer)

Song introduced by Bing Crosby in the Western musical movie Rythm on the Range.

08 – Alice Faye (Alice Jeanne Leppert – New York (NY) 1915 – Rancho Mirage (CA) 1998) - This year’s kisses 2:57 (Irving Berlin)

Song introduced by Alice Faye in the movie On The Avenue.

09 – Lil' Armstrong (Lilian Harding – Memphis (TN) 1898 _ Chicago (IL) 1971) – My Hi-De-Ho-Man  2:43 (Lil Armstrong)

She sends a wink to Cab Calloway who invented the character and to her ex-husband whose imprint is still present. 

10 – Mary Lou Williams (Mary Scruggs -Atlanta (GA) 1910 - Durham (NC) 1980) with Andy Kirk Orchestra  feat. Pha Terrell – The Lady who swings the band 2:47 (Sammy Cahn, Saul Chaplin)

The sound of Kansas City which has been an active jazz center since Prohibition.

11 – Bob Crosby & his orchestra (Spokane β€˜WA) 1913 - La Jolla (CA) 1993) – It’s been so long 2:51 (Harold Adamson, Walter Donaldson)

12 – Benny Goodman with Helen Ward – The glory of love 2:36 (Billy Hill/Alexander Hill)

One of the biggest hits of the year. Six weeks NΒ°1.

      Judy Garland (Frances Ethel Gumm – Grand Rapids (MN) 1922 – Chelsea, (England) 1969)

She was applauded from the age of two singing Jingle Bells on the stage of the Grand Rapids theater where occurred her parents. Both vaudeville actors, they had the idea to form a vocal group with their three daughters but it was Frances, the last one, who impressed especially by the amazing maturity of her voice. The family left Michigan in 1926 to California where the Gumm Sisters appeared from time to time on the radio or in musical short movies. They took the more newsworthy name of Garland in summer, 1934 during a tour in Midwest but the group broke out a year later further to Marie Jane's marriage, the eldest of the three.

Judy Garland with Bob Crosby Orch.- Stompin' at the Savoy

Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin

Judy auditions successfully for MGM with which she obtains her first contract. She makes some film tests before recording in June, 1936 her very first song Stompin ' at the Savoy and shoots in November beside Stuart Erwin and Patsy Kelly in her first feature movie Pigskin Parade, a musical directed by David Butler. A star is born.

    10   The sound of Kansas City


Kansas City was then called the " celestial city" by the jazz musicians. It had indeed benefited from the influence and tenacity of the politician and businessman Tom Pendergast whereby it had so well escaped the effects of  Prohibition that there were not less than fifty clubs where one could drink liquors and devote

to gambling. Its nightlife kept attracting musicians from South West or Midwest.

The city was considered for that reason as one of the cradles of Hot Jazz, a

reference place where was to occur in

particular the transition from the big bands

structured style to that of improvisation,

typical of bebop.

Bennie Moten was one of the first to allow the

jazz of Kansas City achieving a national

reputation but the city really starts to occupy

the heart of music news after record producer

John Hammond discovered in 1936 a certain

Count Basie. This one has been since a few

years the official pianist of Moten but the

sudden death of the latter has just decided

him to form his own band under the name

of The Barons of Rhythm.

The musicians include in particular 

saxophonist tenor Lester Young. Count Basie

leaves in October to Chicago for his first

recording, the best of what will have been

allowed to hear, will later recognize John Hammond.

One cannot of course refer to Kansas City without mentioning Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds of Joy. He found himself at the head of the band in 1929 and he since occurs in Pla-Major Ballroom located at the crossing of Hand Avenue and 32nd

Street. He started recording for Brunswick but it is after having signed with Decca that he makes in 1936 a real breakthrough. He is also assisted by some outstanding musicians as pianist Mary Lou Williams who is morecer a brilliant arranger, saxophonist Buddy Tate who will not delay joining Count Basie and singer Pha Terrell, native of the city.

   11    Benny Goodman, the King of Swing (Chicago (IL ) 1909 – New York (NY)  1986)


Dubbed The King of Swing, he remains one of the most leading characters of the big bands' era .

He is 10 when his parents, humble Russian immigrants, decide to make him give clarinet's lessons at the synagogue. The young Benjamin quickly masters the instrument and combines his classic training with jazz tunes from New Orleans clarinetists as Johnny Dodds who works at the time in Chicago. He chooses at the age 14, to give up middle school to venture into the musical world. He makes effectively promising debut by recording from 1926 with the band of Ben Pollack and then some time later under his own name. After a brief stay in Los Angeles, he moves in 1929 to New York where he begins by offering his services as a studio musician. This gives him the opportunity to be known with trendy bandleaders such as Nat Shilkret, Ben Selvin, Red Nichols, Isham Jones or Ted Lewis. He also meets talented young musicians including Glenn Miller with whom he writes Room 1411. In 1933, producer John Hammond made ​​him sign a contract with Columbia that brings him closer to artists such as Jack Teagarden, Mildred Bailey and the young Billie Holiday that he will soon accompany for a series of recordings.

He decides then to form his own big band and enlists in a series of broadcasts entitled Let's Dance organized by NBC. Two other bands occur alternately including Xavier Cugat. The adventure is not however really conclusive and the following tour is for him a failure. He is about to give up when the public finally gets on in August, 1935, during a dance party in Oakland. Many young people are in the audience and these are obviously conquered by the rhythm. Benny Goodman and his musicians including drummer Gene Krupa, trumpeter Bunny Berigan and vocalist Helen Ward renew the experience a few days later at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. The public is this time truly unleashed, the swing era has just begun.

It is at the same time that he had the idea to form a trio with two of his friends, Gene Krupa and Teddy Wilson. This small group breaks straight away an old convention which prohibited the bands to be interracial. Benny Goodman doesn't care and goes even further by making come the vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. The trio becomes now a quartet.























1936 is in a way the year of recognition. Gigs succeed each other, as well as radio programs in particular Camel Caravan on CBS, considered by some as Benny Goodman's best show.

Count Basie

Mary Lou Williams & Andy Kirk

The Benny Goodman Quartet

Teddy Wilson (piano), Gene Krupa (drums), Lionel Hampton (vibraphone)

  12   The essential hits of the year (2)


01 – Benny Goodman feat. Helen Ward – You turned the tables on me  2:31 (Ralph Rainger, Leo Robin)

02 – Fred Astaire with the Johnny Green Orchestra – I’m putting all my eggs in one basket 2:49 (Irving Berlin)

03 – Ella Fitzgerald (Newport News (VA) 1917 –Beverly Hills (CA) 1996) & Teddy Wilson Orchestra (Austin (TX) 1912 6 New Britain (CT) 1986) – My melancholy baby 3:03 (Ernie Burnett, George Norton)

This song created in 1912 by William Frawley has a strange and beautiful history. Wounded during the First World War, his composer Ernie Burnett suffered from amnesia when he heard one day a pianist playing his sheet and exclaimed suddenly " That's my song! ". He had just found memory.

04 – Henry β€œRed” Allen (Algiers (LA) 1908 –New York (NY) 1967) feat. Harold Arnold – In the chapel in the moonlight 2:43 (Billy Hill)

This song almost unnoticed at the time would have to wait the 1950s' to become a hit. 

05 – Jimmie Lunceford (Fulton (MS) 1902 – Seaside (OR) 1947)– (This is) My last affair 2:50 (Haven Johnson)

06 – Red Norvo & His Orchestra (Kenneth Norville – Beardstown (IL)

1908 – Santa Monica (CA) 1999) feat. Mildred Bailey  

(Mildred Rinker - Tekoa (WA) 1907 - Poughkeepsie (NY) 1951) –

Now that summer is gone 2:55 (Seymour Simons)

07 – Cab Calloway (Rochester(NY) 1907 –

Hockessin (DE) 1994) – Love is the reason  3:15

(Leon Rene, Otis Rene)

08 – Louis Armstrong (New Orleans (LA) 1901 –

New York (NY) 1971) – Lyin’ to myself 3:16

 (Hoagy Carmichael, Stanley Adams)

09 – Fats Waller (Thomas Wright Waller -

New York (NY) 1905 – Kansas City (MO) 1943) –  

It’s a sin to tell a lie 2:56 (Billy Mayhew)

10 – Connee Boswell (New Orleans (LA) 1907 –

New York (NY) 1976) – On the beach at Bali-Bali 3:05

(Al Sherman, Jack Meskill, Abner Siver)

11 – Willie Bryant (New Orleans (LA) 1908 -  Los Angeles

(CA) 1964) – Is it true what they say about Dixie?  2:18 (Gerald Marks, Irving Caesar, Sammy Lerner)

12 – Bing Crosby (Tacoma (WA) 1903 – Madrid (Esp) 1977) – Pennies from heaven 3:09 (Johnny Burke, Arthur Johnston)

   13   Henry Red Allen (Algiers (LA) 1908 –New York (NY) 1967)

Son of a bandleader, he learns the trumpet from Peter

Bocage and Manuel Manetta before

starting a professional career at 18.

He occurs at first on Mississippi

steamboats after which he leaves for 

Chicago where he joins King Oliver's band.

He works then a while with

Clarence Williams before going back to

New Orleans where he is offered a first

recording contract by Victor Records.

This leads him to New York where Luis

Russell hires him as  trumpeter

soloist and vocalist, the chance for him

to assert his personality against Louis

Armstrong's dominance.

He leaves in 1933 to work with Fletcher Henderson and ends up in the Mills Blue Rhythm Band with which he already recorded in 1931, at the time of Don Redman.

Red Norvo (Kenneth

Norville – Beardstown (IL)

1908 – Santa Monica (CA) 1999)

He became known in 1925 in

Chicago by playing the marimba

with the Collegians, a group that

occured in vaudeville. He also

plays xylophone, a rare enough

nstrument in jazz not to be

noticed. He works in particular

with Paul Whiteman but it is

with Benny Goodman that he

really gets promotion. He

performs in 1933 his

first recordings under his name

with Brunswick but the modernity of his style is worth to him some trouble with Jack Kapp, the manager of the firm.

He turns then to Columbia and Decca for which he records a number of songs and forms in 1936 his own swing band with the vocalist Mildred Bailey, meanwhile become his wife.

Born to Dance (MGM)

  14    Born to Dance (MGM)


Movie credits

Director: Roy Del Ruth

Producer: Jack Cummings

Screenplay: Jack McGovan, Sid Silvers

Actors: Eleanor Powell, James Stewart, Virginia Bruce, Una Merkel, Frances Langford, Buddy Ebsen

Score: Cole Porter

Aside from its obvious concern to achieve whenever a form of perfection, the Hollywood musicals combine repeatedly love affairs and entertainment, enjoying the audience with series of misunderstandings and crispy dialogs. Born to Dance is of course no exception to the rule but the interest of the movie comes not only from the amazing performance of Eleanor Powell, revealed the previous year in Broadway Melody of 1936 and who fault of singing (she is dubbed in the movie by Marjorie Lane) has the set of tap-dancing technically the most accomplished that an actress still never produced on the screen, but also of the magnetizing presence of James Stewart in the uniform of a U.S. Navy CPO. It cannot be said whether he is really comfortable in such a register but he has a go at the ditty and performs enough few dance steps to reveal the extent of his qualities as an actor.

James Stewart would have wanted to become a military pilot but landed at Princeton University in architecture. He was however quickly noticed for his musical talents and a true gift for comedy. After a period of breaking-in with the university troupe, he accompanied his friend Henry Fonda in New York with the hope of finding a commitment in theater. He had still only got some minor contracts on Broadway when he was invited to join the MGM studios in Hollywood. After two discreet appearances, Born to Dance offered him the opportunity to hold finally a leading part.

Among the songs written by Cole Porter:

Rolling Home (The Foursome, Buddy Ebsen, Sid Silvers, James Stewart)

Rap, Tap on Wood (Eleanore Powell, the Foursome)

Hey, Babe, Hey (Eleanor Powell, James Stewart, Una Merkel, Budy Ebsen, Sid Silvers, Frances Langford)

Entrance of Lucy James (Raymond Walburn, Virginia Bruce)

I've got you under my skin (Virginia Bruce)

Easy to love (Eleanor Powell, James Stewart, Frances Langford, Buddy Ebsen)

Swinging in the Jinx Away (Frances Langford, Buddy Ebsen)

After Follow the Fleet, the Navy and its cannons are once again in the spotlight. A Dixie cap well swept-back, bell bottomed trousers in the wind and some odd dance figures, here is a good way of re-militarizing by having fun. Real message or simple red herring?

Frances Langford     Eleanor Powell        Una Merkel

                   Buddy Ebsen        James Stewart          Sid Silvers

   15   The essential hits of the year (3)


01 – Benny Goodman feat. Helen Ward – These foolish things  2:45

(Harry Link, Holt Marvell, Jack Strachey)

02 – Fred Astaire – A fine romance 2:57 (Dorothy Fields,

Jerome Kern) A standard introduced in Swing Time

03 – Jones-Smith Incoporated – Evenin’ 2:57

(Mitchell Parish, Harry White)

The quintet gathers around Count Basie,

saxophonist Lester Young, drummer Jo Jones,

double bassist Walter Page and vocalist Jimmy

Rushing. A tune never heard until then.

Jazz ceased to be a musical trend to become

an art.

04 – Billie Holiday – Did I remember  2:52

(Harold Adamson, Walter Donaldson)

05 – Bob Howard (Newton (MA) 1906 – 1986) –  

Let’s not fall in love 2:34 ()

06 – Woody Herman (Milwaukee (WI) 1913 – Los

Angeles (CA) 1987) feat. Virginia Verrill 

– Tormented 3:00 (Will Hudson)

07 – Willie Bryant (New Orleans (LA) 1908 - Los

Angeles (CA) 1964) – All my life

3:26 (Sam H. Stept, Sidney Mitchell)

Cover of a hit performed by Louis Armstrong to which Willie Bryant  adds a quite honorable personal touch.

08 – Judy Garland (Frances Ethel Gumm – Grand Rapids (MN) 1922 – Chelsea,England) 1969) with Bob Crosby Orchestra – Stompin’ at the Savoy 2:22 (Andy Razaf, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb, Edgar Sampson) - The very first recording of Judy Garland.

09 – Charlie Barnet (New York (1913) – San Diego (CA) 1991) – Sing, baby, sing 2:47 (Channing Pollack, Jack Yellen) -  It was certainly due to the fact that his family belonged to the upper-class that Charlie Barnet took liberty of transgressing the racial conventions by integrating black musicians in his bandHe performs generally himself the lyrics in a relaxed way somewhere reminding  Jack Teagarden.

10 – Wingy Manone (New Orleans (LA) 1900 – La Vegas (NV) 1982) – Shoe shine boy 2:47 (Sammy Cahn, Saul Chaplin)

11 – Andy Kirk & His Clouds of Joy (Newport (KY) 1898 - New York (NY) 1992) with Mary Lou Williams (Atlanta (GA) 1910 - Durham (NC) 1980) feat. Pha Terrell (Kansas City (MO) 1910 – Los Angeles (CA) 1945) – Until the real thing comes along 3:25 (Sammy Cahn/Saul Chaplin/L.E. Freeman/Mann Holiner/Alberta Nichols)

12 – Bob Crosby & His Bobcats (Spokane (WA) 1913 - La Jolla (CA) 1993) – Swingin’ at the Sugar Bowl 3:08 (Bob Crosby, Bob Haggart, Gil Rodin, Nappy Lamare)

The Sugar Bowl was since 1935 the trophy rewarding the winner of the university football championship, an event which took place in the Tulane Stadium of New Orleans.

16  The essential hits of 1936 (4)

01 – Frances Langford (Frances Newbern – Lakeland (FL) 1913 – Jensen Beach (FL) 2005) -  Easy to love 2:45 (Cole Porter)

Song introduced in the movie Born to Dance performed by Eleanor Powell (dubbed by Marjorie Lane) and James Stewart.

02 – Tommy Dorsey (Shenandoah (PA ) 1905–Greenwich (CT) 1956) feat. Edythe Wright (Bayonne (NJ) 1914 – Manasquan (NJ) 1965) – Robins and Roses  2:10 (Edgar Leslie, JoeBurke)

This song was since its publishing to be covered by many artists including Bing Crosby, Stuff Smith, Lee Wiley or Dolly Dawn.

03 – Billie Holiday (Philadelphia (PA) 1915 – New York (NY ) 1959) – Let’s call a heart a heart 3:02 (Sonny Burke, Arthur Johnston)

Alongside Billie Holiday perform Bunny Berigan on trumpet,  Dick McDonough on guitar, Irving Fazola on clarinet, Clyde Hart on piano, Artie Bernstein on double-bass and Cozy Cole on drums.

04 – Louis Armstrong (New Orleans (LA) 1901 – New York (NY) 1971) – Rhythm saved the world  3:06 (Irving Berlin)

This song written by two renowned authors from Tin Pan Alley would pass almost to be committed at a moment when persists uncertainty  over the future of the civilizing values. According to the lyrics, it is not to rifles but rather to music for making the world better. A mild wish for some, a plea of circumstance against the enserfing of the people for the others, or merely a fashionable tune?  Louis Armstrong as much as the Mills Brothers who covered this song had no ambition to meddle in politics but their timeless peace message survived whereas those who claimed their inerrancy were wiped out.

05 – Fred Astaire (Omaha (NE) 1899 – Los Angeles (CA) 1986) – Let yourself go 2:38 (Sammy Cahn/Saul Chaplin/L.E. Freeman/Mann Holiner/Alberta Nichols)

06 – Eddy Duchin (Cambridge (MA) 1909 - New York City, 1951) feat. Jerry Cooper – It’s De-lovely 3:07 (Cole Porter)

Song from the show Red, Hot and Blue released in october at the Alvin Theatre on Broadway

featuring  in the leading roles Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante and Bob Hope.

07 – Buddy Clark (Samuel Goldberg – Dorchester (MA) 1912 – Los Angeles (CA) 1949) – Midnight

Blue  3:25 (Edgar Leslie, Joe Burke)

Song introduced by Buddy Clark in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936.

08 – Henry β€œRed” Allen (Algiers (LA)1908 – New York (NY) 1967 ) – When did you leave heaven

3:06 (Walter Bullock/Richard A. Whiting)

Song introduced by Alice Faye in the 20th Century Fox movie Sing, Baby, Sing directed

by Sidney Lanfield starring among others Adolphe Menjou, The Ritz Brothers and Tony


09 – Bing Crosby (Tacoma (WA) 1903 – Madrid (Esp.) 1977) – Empty saddles 3:00 Billy Hill,

Keirn Brennan)

By chance, Empty Saddles is the name of a western movie released the same year but it is in

Rhythm one the Range that Bing Crosby performs this nostalgic cowboy ballad. 

10 – Stuff Smith & The Ony Club Boys (Spokane β€˜WA) 1913 6 La Jolla (CA) 1993) – I don’t want

to make history 3:01 (Harold Adamson, Walter Donaldson)

A cover of the song introduced by Frances Langford in the comedy Palm Springs

11 – Charlie Barnet (New York (NY) 1913 – San Diego (CA) 1991) – You do the darndest

things, baby 2:38 (Ralph Rainger, Leo Robin)

12 – Duke Ellington (Washington (DC) 1899 6 New York (NY) 1974) feat. Ivie Anderson

(Gilroy (CA) 1905 – Los Angeles (CA) 1949) – Love is like a cigarette 2:36 (Walter Kent/Jerome

Jerome/Richard Byron)


Bing Crosby - Empty Saddles
























Excerpt of Rhythm on the Range, directed by Norman Taurog for Paramount.

Bing Crosby plays a cowboy there but the movie is less a western in the conventional acceptance of the term than a love story on a background of ranch and horses. The song written by Billy Hill and Keirn Brennan will be since considered as the masterpiece of the genre

  17   Mae West changes clothes in Klondike Annie


Mae West has continued from the early decade

to evolve in the register of provocation,

displaying the charms of her generous womanhood

while distinguishing herself by resolutely

non-conformist standings.

She holds a series of movies in Hollywood where

she excels in the roles of fatal seductress, of man-eater

over which she exerts a real fascination. Equally

comfortable in the dramatic as in the comic register,

she has kept of her training on the vaudeville stage a

scenic versatility. In 1936 is released Klondike Annie,

a comedy directed by Raoul Walsh for Paramount in

which Mae West plays the main part alongside

Victor McLaglen.

She portrays a kept woman forced to run away after being accused of the murder of her keeper. She finds herself on board of captain Brackett's ship together with sister Annie, a nun heading for Klondike where she faces a mission in trouble. This one dies during the journey and Mae West, aka Frisco Doll decides to impersonate her. She proves very convincing and achieves to put the mission in order before deciding to return to San Francisco for proving her self-defense.


The movie was the taste of the public but instead variously welcomed by the critics. Some even condemned forcefully the fact that Mae West, usually known for her pranks dared to disguise as a nun. The censorship cut even 8 minutes of the movie deemed offensive, including the moment when Mae West  puts on Sister Annie's Salvation Army uniform in exchange for her prostitute's clothes.

Mae West performs several songs among which Mr Deep Blue Sea, written by Gene Austin and James p. Johnson in which she demonstrates, despite her approximate guitar playing, that she does not need to be dubbed to assert her singer's qualities.


  18   The night when blues was born

In this year 1936, all eyes are turned towards the South and particularly the Mississippi Delta where Robert Johnson is said not only as the worthy successor of Charley Patton but also as an outstanding character. Great seducer to the tormented lyrics, it is according to him from the devil himself that he holds the way he gets sounds from his guitar.

One might think, however, that the other bluesmen seized up at the same moment. There is nothing of it, the year being certainly less prolific than the previous one and recordings fewer, but not less rich in quality. Artists such as Kokomo Arnold, Memphis Minnie, Peetie Wheestreaw, Tampa Red, Roosevelt Sykes or Blind Boy Fuller confirm their talent while sharpening their repertoire. All of them are moving towards a more fluent music and more sophisticated arrangements resulting from a new urbanity.


It is now in Chicago that focuses a wide part of the creation. Others, however, having reached maturity, finally access to a certain fame. It is the case of Casey Bill Weldon, Memphis Minnie’s first husband, of the harmonicist of the Delta Jazz Gillum who involves in his songs elements borrowed from the folk culture, of mandolinist Carl Martin who occurs on the Tennessee roads or else of the mysterious Walter Coleman from Cincinnati.

Among revelations, include especially the pianist and songster Bill Gaither who is meant to be the heir to Leroy Carr, vocalist Rosetta Howard who has primarily a jazz repertoire and especially the Harlem Hamfats that contrary to what suggests their name are a pure Chicago product .

  19    Blues: the essential hits of the year (1)

01 – Robert Johnson (Hazlehurst (MS) 1911- Greenwood (MS) 1938) - Kind hearted woman

blues 2:53(Johnson)

02 – The Harlem Hamfats (forms in Chicago (IL) 1936) feat. Kansas Joe McCoy (guitar, vocals),

Charlie McCoy (mandolin, guitar), Herb Morand (vocals trumpet), John Lindsay (bass),

Horace Malcolm (piano), Odell Rand (clarinet), Fred Flynn (drums) – Oh, Red!  2:42 (McCoy)

03 – Blind Boy Fuller (Fulton Allen – Wadesboro (NC) 1907 – Durham (NC) 1941) – Truckin’my

blues away 3:07 (Fuller)

04 – Robert Johnson – Cross Road blues 2:29 (Johnson)

05 – Memphis Minnie (Lizzie Douglas -  Algiers (LA) 1897 –Memphis (TN) 1973) – I’m a

bad luck woman 3:03 (Douglas, McCoy)

06 – Kokomo Arnold (James Arnold – Lovejoys Station (GA) 1901 – Chicago (IL ) 1968 ) –

I’ll be up someday 3:05 (Arnold)

07 – Bill Gaither (Belmont (KY) 1910 – Indianapolis (IN) ?) – How long, Baby, how long 

2:42 (Gaither)

08 – Bo Carter (Armenter Chatmon - Bolton (MS) 1893 – Memphis (TN) 1964) – Pussy

cat blues 2:51 (Chatmon)

09 – Casey Bill Weldon ((AR)1909 – Detroit (MI) 1960’s) β€“ Somebody changed the lock

of my door 3:22 (Bill Weldon)

10 – Jazz Gillum (William McKinley Gillum – Indianola (MS) 1904 – Chicago (IL) 1966) – Sarah Jane 3:05 (Gillum)

11 – Tampa Red (Hudson Woodbridge Whittaker – Smithville (GA) 1904 – Chicago (IL) 1981) – She don’t know my mind 3:02 (Whittaker)

12 – Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter -Mooringsport (LA) 1888 - New York (NY) 1949) – Irene (Goodnight Irene) 1:54 (Walter Kent)

  20    Blues: the essential hits of the year (2)

01 – Robert Johnson (Hazlehurst (MS) 1911- Greenwood (MS) 1938) – I believe I’ll dust my broom 2:59 (Johnson)

02 – Peetie Wheatstraw (William Bunch – Ripley (TN )1902 – East St Louis (IL) 1941) – Cut out blues  3:22 (Wheatstraw)

03 – Roosevelt Sykes (Elmar (AR) 1906 – New Orleans (LA) 1983)  β€“ Night time is the right time 2:54 (Roosevelt Sykes, Bill Broonzy, Lew Herman)

04 – Tampa Red (Hudson Woodbridge Whittaker – Smithville (GA) 1904 – Chicago (IL) 1981) – Let’s get drunk and truck 3:09 (Whittaker)

05 – Walter Coleman (active in Cincinnati (OH) during the 30’s) – Mama let me lay it on you 3:04 (Coleman)

06 – Big Bill Bronzy (Lake Dick (AR) 1898 – Chicago (IL) 1958) – W.P.A. blues 3:10 (Bill Broonzy)

07 – Blind Willie McTell (Thomson (GA) 1901 – Almon (GA) 1959 ) – Hillbilly Willie’s blues  2:42 (McTell)

08 – Rosetta Howard (Chicago (IL) 1914 – Chicago (IL) 1974) & the Harlem Hamfats– If you’re a viper 3:22 (Horace Malcolm, Rosetta Howard)

09 – Robert Johnson – Terraplane Blues 3:01 (Johnson)

10 – Carl Martin (Stone Gap (VA) 1906 - Pontiac (MI) 1979) – Badly mistreated man 2:56 (Martin)

11 – Bumble Bee Slim (Amos Easton – Brunswick (GA) 1905 –

Los Angeles (CA) 1969)  β€“ Slave man blues 3:01 (Bumble Bee Slim)

12 – The Harlem Hamfats (formed in Chicago (IL) 1936) feat. Kansas Joe McCoy (guitar, vocals), Charlie McCoy (mandolin, guitar), Herb Morand (vocals, trumpet), John Lindsay (bass), Horace Malcolm (piano), Odell Rand (clarinet), Fred Flynn (drums) – Weed’ smoker’s dream 3:21 (Harlem Hamfats)


                             Robert Johnson



     21   Robert Johnson (Hazlehurst (MS) 1911- Greenwood (MS) 1938)

The fact to have been called from his first record King of

the Delta Blues might seem presumptuous but his style

showed straightaway such a maturity that he not only marked

his time but also generations to follow, overshadowing the others,

despite their talent. His brief career actually left a so strong

print that more than 70 years after his death, he is the

required reference of all the musicians of blues.

Robert Johnson's life already flirted with the legend when his

sudden death at the age of 27, happening some would say ,

at the height of his fame, gave birth to a myth, as for Charlie

Parker, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly and those to which it only

took a short time to engrave for ever their name in history.

Composer, vocalist and guitarist, he recorded only 30 tracks

but there is no blues player who does not know them by heart.

How music so inspired, so accomplished could suddenly 

arise from the soul of a musician who, in the opinion of 

all, had previously never produced anything transcending?

Robert Johnson claimed that it was having crossed the

devil and having signed a pact with him that he had

received a gift. He was not the first one to claim such

a relationship. Peetie Wheatstraw also asserted to be

the son of the devil but well before even, it was all

the blues that was considered as the music of the devil.

The so-called "Father of the blues", W.C. Handy himself,

told from the beginning of the century how he had been

impressed by the weird and upsetting sound that he had heard from a mysterious musician sliding the blade

of a knife along the strings of his guitar.

Robert Johnson followed a trail similar to most of southern African American musicians: first an uncoordinated

family, then a childhood disrupted by ceaseless movings, a hard-working and penniless youth studded with the

hope to make a musical career for escaping a life without outcome.

Brought up in Memphis by her mother and his stepfather, the little Robert had left living with them to

Robinsonville in northern Mississippi where he would spend the rest of his childhood. He worked as

the members of his family in cotton fields but was especially attracted by music. He was trained at

first to harmonica then to guitar, helped in it by bluesmen of the neighborhood as Willie Brown. His

debut was however laborious. Son House who heard him playing, showed even so little enthusiasm that he

advised him to do something else.

Annoyed, Johnson left Robinsonville for Hazlehurst, his birthplace, in the hope to find the traces of a father

that he had never known. He made there acquaintance of Callie who soon became his wife and began

to set up the scene which would build his legend. He told his friends that one night, while he had got lost

at a crossroad north of Clarksdale, he met the devil in the form of a giant shadow wearing a huge hat.

This one borrowed his guitar and extirpated some absolutely crazy tunes. He tried since this meeting

to recreate in an obsessional way the disorder that he had felt, both through his lyrics as in his way of

working his voice or to make sounds from his instrument. Another musician namesake, Tommy Johnson,

claimed to have sold his soul to the devil in similar circumstances. Robert Johnson began to be reckoned

in the Delta and met Charley Patton whom he kept the impressive guitar playing and rythmic sense.

After a few missed appointments, he finally managed to record for ARC in their studio in San Antonio.

The success was immediate.

Clarksdale (MS) 1936 -  plantation manager

and his workers (photo. Dorothea Lange)

  22   Kansas Joe McCoy and The Harlem Hamfats

Formed in 1936 by producer J. Mayo Williams, the group aims to back jazz bands or blues singers. Their name is not there to see them appearing in the foreground and worse yet none of the members comes from Harlem. But they are actually musicians of exception including the brothers Joe and Charles McCoy.

Composer and renowned guitarist, Kansas Joe McCoy launched in particular the career of his former spouse Memphis Minnie. His younger brother, mandolinist Papa Charlie McCoy, passes as for him to be a slide guitar specialist. The trumpeter and vocalist Herb Morand is also in the band, as well as pianist Horace Malcolm, clarinetist Odell Rand or drummer Fred Flynn. They support artists to the very different style like Frankie Jaxon, Johnny Temple, Rosetta Howard what allows them to provide a very personal sound mixing the various trends of blues and jazz.

They record in April under their own name Oh, Red, a song soon to know a true popular success, confirmed some time later by Why Don't you do right? displaying already modern jazz accents and Weed Smoker’s Dream whose clear allusions to Mary Warner arouse so much controversy as they needed to change the lyrics. The Harlem Hamfats can be considered as one of the most innovative bands of the time, and even if they deliberately limited the extent of their possibilities by provocative texts on sex, alcohol or drug, they contributed to lay the foundations of rhythm and blues and by extension rock n’ roll.


 23    From Kentucky hills to the plains of Texas


Since the untimely death of Jimmie Rodgers, Country Music could have seen  its run up restrained but artists like Cliff Carlisle (Taylorsville (KY) 1904 - Lexington (KY) 1983) and at the moment Ernest Tubb (Crisp (TX) 1914 - Nashville (TN)1984) persevere successfully in the way he has just drawn. Meanwhile, the dance bands continue to provide the heyday of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville while giving sometimes the feeling to be a hotbed of resistance to modernity. It is moreover in this register that evolves the Carter Family which, year after year and away from the swing fever that took

over the cities, revives the patrimony of  traditional

popular music.

The novelty comes in part from where we finally had to wait

for it, that is to say from the film. Hollywood Westerns indeed

aroused the public enthusiasm for a musical genre

featuring, just like Gene Autry (Tioga Springs (TX) 1907 -

Los Angeles (CA) 1998), an actor's style called the singing

cowboy. Scarf tied around the neck and wearing the

necessary "Tom Mix Stetson", they wield as well the

Colt 45 and the Winchester 73 as the guitar with songs

reminding wide outdoors, wedding promises and

adventure. They are certainly in tune with the

times but rather make yelling some purists

who see it as a corruption of traditional values.

Those will nevertheless have to adapt


A few daring musicians like Roy Acuff

(Maynardsville (TN) 1903 - Nashville (TN) 1992)

and his Smokey Mountains Boys have however

showed since a few years the dynamism expected to take out the

hillbilly sound from the Appalachian valleys where it remained confined.

These are however Texan artists who enjoy the most of the open breach, such as the fiddler Bob Wills (Kosse (TX) on 1905 - Fort Worth (TX) on 1975) and especially Milton Brown (Stephenville (TX) on 1903 - Crystal Springs (TX) on 1936), dubbed the King of Western Swing, an exceptionally talented singer who does not only hesitate to marry jazz or swing rhythms but is also mostly the first to introduce into his band a guitar to electric amplification.

Made fashionable by Jimmie Rodgers, the yodelling is ensuring the success of singer Patsy Montana (Ruby Rose Blevin - Hot Springs (AR) 1914 - San Jacinto (CA) 1996) whereas the Hawaiian guitar (steel guitar) and its sound variations, commonly referred glissandi is to become thanks to Cliff Carlisle, Bob Dunn (Netherlands 1908 - Houston (TX) on 1971) and all others the major signature of Country Music. The sound of the Hawaiian guitar gets closer to the slide beloved by the blues musicians unlike that it provides wrapped harmonics, without attack effect. Milton Brown goes from recordings to gigs, at a furious pace. He became with his musicians, the Brownies, the most popular singer of Texas. But now everything stops abruptly in April after a terrible car crash. Exhausted by his timetable, he fell asleep driving his car and collided with a phone booth, unfortunately crushing a girl. He died five days later of pneumonia, leaving somehow the field open to his rival Bob Wills.

A young mandolinist named Bill Monroe (Rosine (KY) 1911 - 1996) performs in 1936 his first recordings of which a song of gospel inspiration What woud you give in exchange for your soul becomes fast a hit. Accompanied with his brother Charles, he foreshadows a style derived from folk music characterized both by a vocal chorus work and the supremacy of stringed instruments such as  guitar, mandolin, banjo and fiddle.

1936 also marks the debut of promising artists like Red Foley who has just left the Cumberland Ridge Runners to dash into a solo career or the Canadian Hank Snow (Brooklyn, (NS Canada) 1914 - 1999) who makes his first recordings in Montreal for Victor Records.

24   Hillbilly & Western, the essential hits of 1936

01 – The Sons of The Pioneers (formed in Central Valley (CA), 1934) – Hills of Old Wyoming 3:06 (Leo Robin, Ralph Rainger)

Song introduced in the movie Palm Springs by Smith Ballew and Frances Langford.

02 – Gene Autry  (Tioga (TX) 1907 – Los Angeles (CA)1998) – Red River Valley 2:23 (Traditional)

The origins of this song well known by boy scouts in the world are in fact debated. Some people think that they would go back up to an expedition led along the Canadian Red River in 1870. Written by an unknown author, the lyrics were published for the first time in 1896. Gene Autry performs it in the B-movie of the same name directed by B. Reeves Eason.

03 – Patsy Montana  (Ruby Rose Blevins  - Hot Springs (AR) – San Jacinto (CA) 1996) & The Prairie Ramblers – Montana Plains 2:53 (Traditional)

The plains of Miss Montana are of course those of Texas.

04 – The Monroe Brothers (Bill Monroe  (Rosine (KY) 1911 – Springfield (TN) 1996 / Charlie Monroe (Rosine (KY) 1901- Reidsville (NC) 1975) – The Long Journey Home 2:27 (Monroe)

05 – Bob Wills  (John Lee Williamson – Jackson (TN) – Chicago (IL) 1948) & His Texas Playboys – Trouble in mind  2:59 (Richard M. Jones)

Western  dstyle cover of a song composed in 1924 by the jazz pianist

Richard M. Jones et first introduced by the vocalist Thelma La Vizzo.

06 – Hank Snow (Louisa Dupont – New Orle ans (LA) 1913 – 1998) – The Prisoned Cowboy  3:02 (Snow)

07 – Roy Acuff (Maynardville (TN) 1903 – Nashville (TN)  1992) & His Smokey Mountains – Wabash Cannonball  2:47 (Traditional)

This song telling the journey of an imaginary train across the United States  had been originally composed in 1882  and rewritten in its final form in 1904. The Carter Family recorded a first version in 1929 but Roy Acuff's cover remains the best known.

08 – The Carter Family (Formed in Virginia , 1926) – Jealous hearted me 2:40 (Lovie Austin)

Composed in 1924, it was originally a blues song that Ma Rainey had been the first to record. 

09 – The Blue Sky Boys (Earl Bolick (East Hickory (NC) 1919 – Suwanee (GA) 1998 / Bill Bolick (East Hickory (NC) 1917 – Hickory (NC) 2008)  β€“ Are you from Dixie  2:38 (Bolick)

10 – Ernest Tubb  (Crisp (TX) 1914 – Nashville (TN) 1984)  β€“ The  passing of Jimmie Rodgers 3:14 (Tubb)

11 – Milton Brown (Stephenville (TX) 1903 – Fort Worth (TX) 1936) & His Brownies – Easy ridin’ papa 2:36 (Milton Brown)

We hear Bob Dunn and his amplified steel guitar. The sound is yet experimental and arouses curiosity but  it mostly emerges from it a style already foreshadowing the coming changes.

12 – Tex Ritter  (Murvaul (TX) 1905 – Nashville (TN) 1974) – Melody from the sky  2:42 (Sidney Michell, Louis Alter)

Tex Ritter has just started in Hollywood a singing cowboy's career  in the B-movie. Melody from the Sky  has on the other hand been introduced in The Trail of the Lonesome Pine  directed by Henry Hathaway, in which he does not play.

  25   The Blue Sky Boys


(Earl Bolick (East Hickory (NC) 1919 – Suwanee (GA) 1998 / Bill Bolick (East Hickory (NC) 1917 – Hickory (NC) 2008)

Born in a family where religious education was of the most stringent, the Bolick brothers were, from their childhood, been used to sing canticles and gospels. They were especially lucky to have a neighbor musician who taught them to play the guitar, mandolin and banjo. From 1935, their first performance on Asheville (NC) radio station allowed them to be sponsored by the Goodson Coffee Company and to form a group with fiddler Homer Sherill.

They were invited next year to an audition in the RCA studios in Atlanta and recorded after their first album to Charlotte ( NC).

They then chose to take Blue Sky Boys's name by avoiding

that of brothers become all too common at the time. Thanks to the complementarity of their voices and a perfectly mastered instrumental playing, success was instant and they soon were dubbed "The New Hillbilly Kings ."

 26   The Sons of the Pioneers or the Conquest of the West in singing

These sons of the pioneers

widely contributed to the

spread and the fame of the

Western style through the

Hollywood film.

They actually brought the

genre to a high degree of

quality, not only through

their vocal performances

but also by innovative

touches as well as by the

special atmosphere of their

songs. It all began with the

arrival in California of

Leonard Slye, a young guitar

player native from Ohio, pushed 

 westward like many others because of the crisis. He worked at first as truck driver before winning a song contest in Los Angeles where he impressed the jury with his yodeling ability and his tenor's qualities. This win earned him to join a group of vocalists named  The Rocky Mountainers. The band did not last but with Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer, two other singers native for one from Canada and the second from Missouri, Leonard Slye founded in 1933 The Sons of the Pioneers. The group was reinforced the following year with the arrival of fiddler Hugh Farr and saw its popularity grow gradually according to its numerous appearances in the Californian radio shows.

The Sons of the Pioneers started from 1935 a film career first appearing in short movies. The legend will really begin  three years later when Leonard Slye takes on screen Roy Rogers's name, The King of Cowboys, the idol of a whole generation and undoubtedly one of the icones of the western series of the years 30-50.



Leonard Slye (aka Roy Rogers - Cincinnati (OH) 1911 - Apple Valley (CA) 1998)

Bob Nolan (Winnipeg (Manitoba, CAN) 1908 - Newport Beach (CA) 1980)

Tim Spencer (Webb City (MO) 1908 - Apple Valley (CA) 1974)

 27    Ernest Tubb (Crisp (TX) 1914 – Nashville (TN) 1984)

Later dubbed the Texan Troubadour, it is

in 1936 a very young man who arrives in

the studios of RCA, guitar in the hand

and in the head tunes inspired by Jimmie

Rodgers, his idol. Born into a family of Texan

sharecroppers, he especially learnt most of

the farm work and it is in his spare time

that he trained in yodeling and guitar.

He began, in exchange for misery wages,

to sing on a radio station in San Antonio

while living on various jobs.

He then went to the widow of Jimmie

Rodgers so that she gives him an

autographed photo of the missing singer to whom he will dedicate his first recordings. These will unfortunately have no success and it will take a few years before his style is recognized by the public.

Ernest Tubb is considered as one of the major initiators of the honky tonk style (term associated with the bars attended by mostly men of the popular class, a genre derived from Country music which mainly developed in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and characterized by a rough sound and pounding rhythm whose favourite themes are whisky, drinking companions, loneliness, adultery and more generally women).


Tex Ritter (Maurice Woodward Ritter - Marvaul (TX) 1905 – Nashville (TN) 1974)

Brought up in a ranch of Beaumont, he was at first a brilliant student, earning him out majored in law from the University of Texas. But as he had especially at heart to become one day an actor, he left in this purpose in 1928 to New York where he succeeded to be hired in a troupe of actors. The rough arrival of the crisis quickly compromised his chances and it is broke that he had to take a few months later the way back.

Eager however to persevere in the way that he had chosen, he managed to assert his singer's qualities on the local radios and succeeded in 1931 to win his first leading part on Broadway.

It was the opportunity to confront on stage to the audience, helped with his only guitar. He was actually recognized for having a true talent and a bass voice interesting enough to catch the producers' attention.

He made his first recordings in 1933 and aroused Edward Finney's interest, a producer of Hollywood specialized in Westerns who sought precisely a singing cowboy in the style of Gene Autry. This is the way his film career began in 1936 with the release of his first movie Song of the Gringo.

The Sons of the Pioneers - Cool Water

           28   The Big Show, Musical Western of the Year


Director: Mack V. Wright

Screenplay : Dorrell McGowan, Stuart E. MacGowan

Music: Sam H. Stept, Ned Washington,Ted Koehler

Actors: Gene Autry (Tom Ford), Smiley Burnette (Frog), Kay Hughes (Marion Hill),…

Distibution: Republic Pictures

The action has for background the Texas Centennial celebration held this year in Dallas. It is moreover in the Fair Park of this city that the movie was mainly shot. The screenplay is fully dedicated to Gene Autry, the singing cowboy who performs at the same time his own character and the role of Tom Ford, a fictional Western movie star. The latter having declined the invitation to take part in the Big Show of Dallas, his producer asks discreetly to his look-alike Gene Autry to impersonate him. He agrees and gets noticed by introducing a song that quickly becomes a hit. A love affair comes to intensify the whole whereas the confusion settles down between the real Gene Autry and his double. A blackmailer and his sidemen would try in vain to take advantage of the deception until the truth is revealed. Noticed as a satire of show business, this full-length B-movie mingles genres with a certain achievement and allows especially to see Gene Autry and his guitar walking it from song to song, including Western ballad, Country blues (scratching by the way Jimmie 

 Rodgersand fashion tunes (resuming some notes of Honeysuckle Rose). He has for acolyte Smiley Burnette whose comic effects get strengthened up through his inimitable way of coming down his voice to the ultra-bass. He is moreover frequently accompanied by The Sons of the Pioneers where we notice the performance of certain Leonard Slye, soon called to be famous under the name of Roy Rogers. It is however strange in this traditional Texan atmosphere  to see the Jones Boys, a group in the vein of the Mills Brothers led by singer Jimmy Springs. They perform in a quirky but truly attractive way The Lady Known as Lulu, a R&B song written by Sam H. Stept and Ned Washington


42nd-street.fr - Gerard Tondu

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