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Friday, April 29, 2011

Jo Stafford Part 1.........and a Jonathan and Darlene Edwards list...

Jo Stafford

Jo Elizabeth Stafford (November 12, 1917 – July 16, 2008) was an American singer of traditional pop music and jazz standards whose career ran from the late 1930s to the early 1960s. Stafford was greatly admired for the purity of her voice and was considered one of the most versatile vocalists of the era. She was also viewed as a pioneer of modern musical parody, having won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album in 1961 (with husband Paul Weston) for their album Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris. She was also the first woman to have a No 1 on the UK Singles Chart. Stafford's work in radio, television and music is recognized by three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Stafford was born in Coalinga, California in 1917 to Grover Cleveland Stafford and Anna York Stafford, a second cousin of World War I hero Sergeant Alvin York; both parents enjoyed singing and sharing music with their family. Her father had hopes of being a success in the California oil fields when he moved his family from Gainesboro, Tennessee; what he found instead was a succession of various jobs. When he worked for a private girls' school, Grover was allowed to bring the school's phonograph home on Christmas. Stafford remembered hearing "Whispering Hope" on it as a small child. Her mother was an accomplished banjo player, playing and singing many of the folk songs which would become an influence on her daughter's later career.
Stafford's first public singing appearance came in Long Beach, where the family lived when she was 12. She sang "Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms", a Stafford family sentimental favorite.  Her second was far more dramatic. A student at Long Beach Polytechnic High School with the lead in the school musical, she was on stage rehearsing when a 1933 earthquake hit, destroying the school.  Originally, she wanted to become an opera singer and studied voice as a child. However, because of the Great Depression, she abandoned that idea and joined her sisters Christine and Pauline in a popular vocal group, "The Stafford Sisters", which performed on Los Angeles radio station KHJ. The sisters got their start on KNX as part of The Singing Crockett Family of Kentucky program when Jo was 18.

The sisters managed to find work in the film industry as backup vocalists. Jo went straight from her high school graduation into working on film soundtracks. The Stafford Sisters made their first recording with Louis Prima in 1936. In 1937 she worked behind the scenes with Fred Astaire on the soundtrack of A Damsel in Distress and created the arrangement and, with her sisters, the backing vocals for "Nice Work If You Can Get It". She claimed that her arrangement had to be adapted as Astaire had difficulty with some of the syncopation, in her words: "The man with the syncopated shoes couldn't do the syncopated notes".

By 1938, they were involved in the Twentieth Century Fox production of Alexander's Ragtime Band. The studio brought in many vocal groups to work on the film, among them were The Four Esquires, The Rhythm Kings and The King Sisters. With plenty of time between takes, the various groups sang and socialized while waiting to be called to the set. It soon worked out that The Four Esquires and The Rhythm Kings became a new vocal group, The Pied Pipers, which Stafford joined. This group consisted of eight members besides Stafford: John Huddleston (who was Stafford's husband from 1941 until their divorce in 1943), Hal Hooper, Chuck Lowry, Bud Hervey, George Tait, Woody Newbury, and Dick Whittinghill. As the Pied Pipers, they worked on local radio and movie soundtracks. When Alyce and Yvonne King had a party for their boyfriends' visit to Los Angeles, the Pied Pipers were invited, speedily eating all of the party's food. The King Sisters' boyfriends were Tommy Dorsey's arrangers Axel Stordahl and Paul Weston, who became interested in the group after meeting them there.

After Weston persuaded Dorsey to audition the group in 1938, the nine drove cross-country to New York together for the chance. Dorsey liked them enough to sign them for ten weeks, but after the second broadcast the sponsor heard them and disliked them, firing the group. They stayed in New York for several months, but landed only a single job that paid them just $3.60 each, though they did record four sides for RCA Victor Records.

The Pied Pipers returned to Los Angeles. Soon after getting home, Stafford received a phone call from Dorsey, saying he could use the group, but four members of it only. Half of the group, including their only female vocalist, arrived in Chicago in 1939; this led to success, especially for Stafford, who was also featured in solo performances. The group also backed Frank Sinatra in some of his early recordings.

In 1942, the group had an argument with Dorsey and left. By this time, it was successful enough in its own right; The Pied Pipers appeared on the radio shows of Sinatra, Bob Crosby and Johnny Mercer. It became one of the first groups signed to Johnny Mercer's new label, Capitol Records. Paul Weston was Capitol's music director; he had left Tommy Dorsey's band to work with Dinah Shore shortly after Dorsey re-hired the smaller version of the Pied Pipers.

In 1944, Stafford left the Pied Pipers to go solo. Her tenure with the USO, in which she gave countless performances for soldiers stationed overseas, led to her acquiring the nickname "G.I. Jo."   On returning from the Pacific theater, a veteran told Stafford that the Japanese would play her records on loudspeakers in an attempt to make the US troops homesick enough to surrender; she personally replied to all letters she received from servicemen.

Beginning in late 1945, she hosted the Tuesday and Thursday broadcasts of an NBC musical variety radio program — The Chesterfield Supper Club.  Stafford moved from New York to California by 1947, but continued to host Chesterfield Supper Club from Hollywood. She also had her own radio show which went on the air later on Tuesday nights when she joined the "Supper Club". In 1948, she cut her "Supper Club" appearances to once a week (Tuesdays), with Peggy Lee becoming the host of the Thursday broadcasts. During her time with Chesterfield Supper Club, she remembered and revisited some of the folk music she had heard and enjoyed as a child. Paul Weston, who was the conductor of her "Supper Club" broadcasts, suggested using some of them on the program. With the rediscovery of the folk tunes came an interest in folklore; Stafford established a prize which was awarded to the best collection of American folklore submitted by a college student. The awards were handled by the American Folklore Society.

In 1948 Stafford and Gordon MacRae had a million-seller with their version of "Say Something Sweet to Your Sweetheart" and in 1949 repeated their success with "My Happiness". Stafford also recorded the "Whispering Hope" of her childhood memories with MacRae in the same year. Stafford began hosting a weekly Radio Luxembourg radio program in 1950, recording the voice portions of the shows in Hollywood. She contributed her disk jockey talents without pay.  At the time, she was also hosting Club 15 for CBS radio, sharing those duties with Bob Crosby much as was done with Perry Como on Chesterfield Supper Club.  By 1951, Stafford was also doing weekly radio work for Voice of America. Collier's magazine published an article about the program in its April 21, 1951 issue entitled: Jo Stafford: Her Songs Upset Joe Stalin; this earned Stafford the wrath of the Communist newspaper, the Daily Worker. The newspaper published a column critical of Stafford and VOA.

In 1950, she left Capitol for Columbia Records, later returning to Capitol with Weston in 1961. While at Columbia she was the first recording artist to sell 25 million records for that company. Also now at Columbia was Paul Weston, who moved to the label from Capitol. Weston and Stafford were married in a Roman Catholic ceremony on February 26, 1952. Stafford converted to Catholicism prior to the marriage. Stafford and Weston left for Europe for their combination honeymoon-business trip; Stafford had an engagement at the London Palladium.  They went on to have two children, Tim and Amy.

In the 1950s, she had a string of popular hits with Frankie Laine, six of which charted; their duet of Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'" making the top ten in 1951. It was also at this time that Stafford scored her best known hits with huge records like "Jambalaya," "Shrimp Boats," "Make Love to Me," and "You Belong to Me". The last song was Stafford's all-time biggest hit, topping the charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom (the first song by a female singer to top the UK chart).

Stafford hosted the 15-minute The Jo Stafford Show on CBS-TV from 1954 to 1955 with Weston as her conductor and music arranger. While doing her CBS television show, Stafford was named to the 1955 list of Best Dressed Women by the New York Fashion Academy.  She appeared as a guest on NBC's Club Oasis and on ABC's The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, as did many of the popular singers of the late 1950s. In the early 1960s, she hosted a series of television specials called The Jo Stafford Show, centered around music. The shows were produced in England and featured guests, both British and American, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé and Rosemary Clooney.

In 1960, Stafford related there were good and bad points to working closely with her husband. She said that Weston's knowing her so well made it easy for him to arrange music for her, but that it also made it difficult at times, as Weston knew her abilities and would either write or arrange music that was elaborate because he was aware she was capable of performing the song ably. She also said she did not believe she could perform in Broadway musicals as she believed her voice was not powerful enough for stage work.

During her second stint at Capitol, Stafford also recorded for Frank Sinatra's Reprise label. These albums were released between 1961 and 1964, and were mostly retrospective in nature. Stafford left the label when Sinatra sold it to Warner Brothers. In late 1965, both Stafford and Weston left Capitol again, this time for Dot Records.

Stafford briefly performed comedy under the name "Cinderella G. Stump" with Red Ingle and the Natural Seven. She recorded a mock hillbilly version of Temptation, which she pronounced "Tim-tayshun."  That was not planned - she met Red Ingle at a recording studio and he told her that his female vocalist had been unable to make the session. She asked if she could help and although Ingle told her it wasn't her sort of thing, she stood in and in a completely impromptu performance, was brilliantly funny, a remarkable example of how a true singer could adapt to any theme and style. It was not generally known for some years that it was her voice on the record.  Because she had done it in fun on the spur of the moment and accepted standard scale pay, Stafford waived all royalties from the record.  Stafford, along with Ingle and Weston, made a personal appearance tour in 1949, turning herself into Cinderella G. Stump to perform the song. Stafford and Ingle performed the song on network television in 1960 for an NBC special on swing music. Further success in the comedy genre came about again accidentally.

Throughout the 1950s, Stafford and Paul Weston would entertain guests at parties by putting on a skit in which they assumed the identities Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, a bad lounge act. Stafford, as Darlene, would sing off-key in a high pitched voice; Weston, as Jonathan, played an untuned piano off key and with bizarre rhythms. It was Paul who innocently began the act at a Columbia Records sales convention, "filling time" with his impression of a dreadful lounge pianist. His audience was very appreciative and continued to ask for more even after the convention was over.

Finding that she had time left over following a 1957 recording session, Stafford, as a gag, recorded a track as Darlene Edwards. Those who heard bootlegs of the recording responded positively, and later that year, Stafford and Weston recorded an entire album of songs as Jonathan and Darlene, entitled Jo Stafford and Paul Weston Present: The Original Piano Artistry of Jonathan Edwards, Vocals by Darlene Edwards. As a publicity stunt, Stafford and Weston claimed that the Edwardses were a New Jersey lounge act that they had discovered, and denied any personal connection. The ruse triggered a national sensation as the public tried to identify the brazenly off-key singer and the piano player of dubious ability. (Some guessed Margaret and Harry Truman, Time magazine noted.) Much time would pass before people realized (and Stafford and Weston admitted) that they were in fact the Edwardses. The album was followed up with a "pop standards" album, on which the pair intentionally butchered popular music. The album was a commercial and critical success; it proved to be the first commercially successful musical parody album, laying the groundwork for the careers of later "full time" musical parodists such as "Weird Al" Yankovic. In 1958, the Westons brought the pair to the television screen for a Jack Benny Shower of Stars.

They continued recording Jonathan and Darlene albums, with their 1960 album, Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris winning that year's Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album (they "tied" with Bob Newhart, as the Grammys decided, in a rare move, to issue two comedy awards that year. Newhart was given an award for "Spoken Word Comedy.") It was the only major award that Stafford ever won.

The couple continued to release the albums for several years, and in 1979 released a final single, a cover of The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" backed with "I Am Woman."  The same year also saw a brief resurgence in the popularity of Jonathan and Darlene albums when their cover of "Carioca" was featured as the opening and closing theme to The Kentucky Fried Movie. Their "sing-along" album was blamed by Mitch Miller for putting an end to his sing-along television show and record albums.

Saying she no longer found it "fun", Stafford went into semi-retirement in the mid 1960s, retiring completely from the music business in 1975. Except for the 1979 Jonathan and Darlene Edwards version of "Stayin' Alive" and a recording of her favorite "Whispering Hope" with her daughter Amy, also a singer, Stafford did not perform again until 1990, at a ceremony honoring Frank Sinatra. The Westons then devoted more of their time to a charity that aids those with developmental disabilities; the couple had been active in the organization for many years. Concord Records attempted to get Stafford to change her mind and come out of retirement, but she remained adamant.

Stafford won a breach-of-contract lawsuit against her former record label in the early 1990s, which won her the rights to all of her old recordings, including the Jonathan and Darlene recordings. Following the lawsuit, Stafford, along with son Tim, reactivated the Corinthian Records label, which began life as a religious label, that the devout Paul Weston had started. With Paul Weston's help, she compiled a pair of Best of Jonathan and Darlene albums, which were released in 1993.

In 1996, Paul Weston died of natural causes. Stafford continued to operate Corinthian Records. In 2006, she donated her library and her husband's to the University of Arizona. Stafford was inducted into the Big Band Academy of America's "Golden Bandstand" in April 2007.

Jo Stafford died in Century City, California of congestive heart failure on July 16, 2008, at the age of 90. She was interred with her husband Paul Weston at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.

Ok....Jo Stafford has  popped up on quite a few lists that I have posted in the last year, especially her work with the Pied Pipers. She has also been on lists of OTR shows, and in some compilations.  Here is a list today of some of her solo work, a few duets, and lastly, a separate list of some of her work as Darlene Edwards with Paul Weston (Jonathan Edwards).....Enjoy!

Here's Part 1..........

All night long 
Allentown jail
April and you
As I love you
Baby won't you please come home
Back where I belong
Better luck next time
Bewitched (b'cast) w/ Dick Haymes
Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo w/ Gordon MacRae
Blue moon
Blues in the night 2 w/ Johnny Mercer/Pied Pipers
Blues in the night w/ The Starlighters
Broadway babies (b'cast)
But never like this (b'cast)
Day my day
Diamonds are a girl's best friend
Every night when the sun goes down w/ The Starlighters
Floatin' down to cotton town w/ Frankie Laine
Fools rush in
Goin' like wildfire
Good nite w/ Vic Damone and The Mellomen
Goodnight Irene
Hambone w/ Frankie Laine
Haunted heart
Here I'll stay
The best things in life are free
The gentleman is a dope 2
The gentleman is a dope

And now, just for fun....a little "taste" (**cough...Hack...uggghhhhh**) of Jonathan and Darlene Edwards ;)
Alabamy bound
April in Paris
Autumn in New York
Be my little baby bumble bee
Cocktails for two
Dizzy fingers
Don't get around much anymore
Honeysuckle Rose
I am woman
I love Paris
Stayin' alive
Take the A train
The last time I saw Paris
You're blase

 Jo and Paul


  1. barberella... do you have the complete "sing along with jonathan and darlene?

  2. Ahhh, I did...once. Don't have a copy anymore. I do have most of the songs on the 1962 LP, just not the record itself. I can do a little looking and probably locate it, though, if you'd like.

  3. that would be fantastic. i love jonathan & darlene (AND your blog...)

  4. .... i wanted to hear what pissed off mitch miller so much! ;)

  5. Ha!!!! Yes, I imagine that title pissed off Maestro Mitch. I can't find a copy offhand, I could, however, do a Jonathan and Darlene list for you if you like :)

  6. i think i read it on wiki about mitch.

    he also hated r&r and passed on signing elvis.

    i have a couple of j&d cds (i'm pretty sure - - - i think)

    i gotta hear the sing along stuff though...

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