Search This Blog

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Pied Pipers...With Johnny Mercer, Jo Stafford, Frank Sinatra........

The Pied Pipers

From Wikipedia:

The Pied Pipers were a popular singing group in the late 1930s and 1940s. Originally they consisted of eight members who had belonged to three separate groups: Jo Stafford from The Stafford Sisters, and seven male singers: John Huddleston, Hal Hopper, Chuck Lowry, Bud Hervey, George Tait, Woody Newbury, and Dick Whittinghill, who had belonged to two groups named The Four Esquires and The Three Rhythm Kings. Multi-instrumentalist Spencer Clark was also a member at one point.

Paul Weston and Axel Stordahl, who were arrangers for Tommy Dorsey's big band, heard of the group through two of The King Sisters, Alyce and Yvonne. Weston had a jam session at his home and a visiting advertising executive signed the octet for Dorsey's radio program, broadcast in New York City. They sang with Dorsey's orchestra for about six weeks before a British representative of the sponsor objected to some of the songs in their repertoire and fired them. They went back to California, but in the time they had been in New York had recorded two records for RCA Victor Records.

In Los Angeles, the group was reduced to a quartet: Jo Stafford, her then-husband John Huddleston, and Chuck Lowry from the original eight, and Billy Wilson. They were getting very little work, however, and were on the threshold of disbanding when they received a call from Tommy Dorsey (in Chicago). Dorsey said he could not afford to hire eight Pipers but would be happy to have them join him if they could cut the number down to a quartet. As they had already done that, and with only one unemployment check remaining, they were happy to comply.

In 1939, they moved to Chicago, with Clark Yocum, who had played guitar and sung for Dorsey, replacing Wilson. Although Paul Weston left Dorsey to become Dinah Shore's music director about that time, he was to figure in the fortunes of the group again.

In 1940, Dorsey hired another vocalist, Frank Sinatra, who had previously sung in a quartet, The Hoboken Four, and later with Harry James' orchestra. Sinatra and the Pipers teamed to record a major hit, I'll Never Smile Again, in that year. The group had twelve more chart hits with Dorsey, ten of them with Sinatra. Also, Jo Stafford herself had a solo hit, Yes Indeed, in 1941.

Around Thanksgiving, 1942, Tommy Dorsey (who was prone to incidents of bad temper) became angry at one of the Pipers for sending him in the wrong direction at a railroad station in Portland, Oregon, and fired him. The Pipers, out of "team loyalty," resigned en masse. At that moment, the #1 record on the charts was There Are Such Things sung by Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers, the last RCA record they did with Dorsey.

They returned to Los Angeles and signed with Capitol Records, where Paul Weston was now working, and he became the arranger and orchestra leader for most of the Pipers' recordings. Huddleston left to join the war effort (also about that time, he was divorced from Jo Stafford), and Hal Hopper rejoined the group to replace him. And in 1944 Jo Stafford had a hit on her own, ahead of the Pipers, and after a couple more hits, she left for good to pursue a solo career. June Hutton replaced her, leaving another group, The Stardusters.

The Pipers had twelve charted hit singles on Capitol, including Dream and ending up with My Happiness (biggest hit version by Jon and Sondra Steele, later made popular again by Connie Francis) in 1948. They also continued a relationship with Frank Sinatra, doing a number of tours with him starting in 1945, and becoming a regular on his radio program from 1945 to 1947.

In 1950, June Hutton left the group, to be replaced by Sue Allen, and later Virginia Marcy. She married Axel Stordahl, the other half of Dorsey's original arranging team. Just as Jo Stafford (who had married Paul Weston) had her husband's orchestra accompany her on her solo hits, June Hutton's solo hits on Capitol in the 1950s featured Stordahl's orchestra as backing group.

The Pied Pipers were voted Top Vocal Group in Downbeat Magazine‘s annual poll every year from 1944 to1949.The Pied Pipers were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.....why'd it take so long, hmmmm?

It's funny...these days, we tend to look fondly and unrealistically back at the '40s....everything seems to be one long episode of "Homefront", or the soundtrack to a Ken Burn's documentary...corny, quaint....we don't always realize that this was the music that people liked, danced to, bought the records of. We sometimes "err on the side of cool", and idolize artists who didn't always get their due recognition at the time...mostly because of the prevailing racial attitudes of the time. It's important to recognize and respect those artists...God knows, I post a lot of it for those very reasons...good music is good music...but, I just want to note here that vocal groups of of the importance of The Pied Pipers don't deserve to be marginalized as "corny and whitebread", or viewed through a gauzy, cutesy, WWII lens........give it a listen and just dig it! :)

Now, as I posted before, I've been planning both a Jo Stafford list, and a Johnny Mercer list. Doing a Stafford list is pretty easy...Johnny Mercer not so easy. Johnny Mercer wrote a MASSIVE amount of you do a post of his tunes, as recorded by others? or do you concentrate on what HE recorded? I'm going to go with the second option....more my style.  When you look at the careers of both Jo Stafford, and Johnny Mercer...Hell, even when you look at Frank Sinatra's early career...... you're gonna see that many of their recordings are with the Pied Pipers. we go. In advance of both of those upcoming lists, I'm going to start here.......

A Pied Pipers list..........enjoy!

In a little Spanish town w/ Jo Stafford
Aren't you glad you're you
Charming little faker
Come rain or come shine
Come to baby do
Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief
Doin' what comes naturally
Dolores w/ Sinatra, the TD Orch.
Easy street
Embraceable you w/ Jo Stafford
Free for all
Friendship (The "mountain branch" of the Dorsey Family....funny!!)
Funny little Pedro (not to risk "historic revisionism", but God! these lyrics are cringe-worthy!)
Gotta be this or that
I love it so (don't ask why...probably don't need to, but I don't care for this one
I'll buy that dream
I'll take Tallulah w/ Frank Sinatra
I've got the sun in the morning
In the middle of May
Isn't that just like love
It's only a paper moon
On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe w/ Johnny Mercer
Blues in the night w/ Johnny Mercer, Ella Mae Morris (09/09/1943 Command Performance-Armed forces radio)
Just A-sittin' And A-rockin'
Let's get away from it all w/ Frank Sinatra
Linger in my arms a little longer
Love sends a little gift of roses
My gal Sal
My my
My sugar is so refined
Nine old men
Freedom train (Paul weston orch beny goodman margaret whiting pied pipers johnny mercer)
Besame Mucho
Can't get stuff in your cuff (04/17/1943 Command Performance-armed forces radio) **too funny
Dream (4 April 1945  Mail Call radio show extract)
I know why (4 April 1945  Mail Call radio show extract)
Marzey Doats 1944
Medley w/ Connie Haines, Jo Stafford (8 Mar 1944 Mail Call-radio)
Lullaby of Broadway w/ Jo Stafford, Johnny Mercer (27 Sept 1944 Mail Call show-radio)
Ragtime cowboy Joe
The night we called it a day w/ Jo Stafford
Embracable you  radio w/ intro by Bob Hope
My sugar is so refined w/ Johnny Mercer
Candy w/ Johnny Mercer, Jo Stafford

You and your love w/ Jo Stafford
I'll never smile again  Tommy Dorsey  Orch. w/ Frank Sinatra/Pied Pipers
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah w/ Jo Stafford, Johnny Mercer
Route 66
Sentimental journey
Sweet potato piper
The trolley song
You grow sweeter as the years go by w/ Jo Stafford
There's a boat dats leavin' soon for New York
There's good blues tonight
What a deal
What can I say afer I say I'm sorry
What ya gonna do (featuring an incredibly cheezy Ink Spots
Whatcha know Joe w/ Jo Stafford
Why does it get so late so early
Winter weather
You might have belonged to another w/ Frank Sinatra
You say the sweetest things, baby w/ Connie Haines
You won't be satisfied


  1. Hi Barberella, really enjoyed this set of music histories. Really good points you make about dismissing or embracing music based on superficial or marketing terms. well said.

    I came to your blog via Mister anchovy...looks real cool and cozy around here!


  2. Excellent! Thank You. Finally...posting since March, and finally I feel like I'm beginning to find my niche....Hell, I'm just glad someone is reading,for that matter. Finding out that someone is perhaps actually listening to the same stuff as I do is an even better feeling :)
    Tausend Dank! -Laura

  3. Btw, Ms. Minx...might I add a blog link for yours on my page? Nice, I was just over there.

  4. Why is the reason to name the tracks like this example? JohnnyMercerEllaMaeMorrisPiedPipers-BluesInTheNight1943.mp3. I really don't understand why the names aren't written in the proper way, with separations between words.


  5. I'm sorry about that. I had the track titles edited properly in my media device, but some of these track were not encoded by me originally. Some files that I have received from other sources and from friends have occasionally come titled in this manner, and sometimes with no information whatsoever (in which case, I have had to listen, and research the information on my own). As a result of this, I have posted the tracks in the correct order, with the information on the page. I hope that helps.

  6. Good stuff! Been collecting 78s since my teens, and been into the music since forever. I'm now 33. Pied Pipers are one of my favorite groups!

  7. it just doesn't get any better than the warm tones of the pied pipers,thank you for this,and your time and effort in putting together this amazing collection.