“In your Easter bonnet,
with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
I’ll be all in clover,
and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade.”
I’ll bet many of our readers have no trouble singing the melody of that old tune.
It was in 1933, near the beginning of the big band era, that renowned songwriter Irvin Berlin penned the above lyrics for bandleader Leo Reisman. Reisman’s song, “Easter Parade,” with the vocal by Clifton Webb, became a hit that year after the song appeared in the Broadway musical “As Thousands Cheer.”
In the late 1930s and ’40s, Berlin’s song “Easter Parade” also became a cover sensation for a number of other artists, including Guy Lombardo, Harry James and Bing Crosby — just to name a few. To this day, “Easter Parade” remains a favorite sing-along song for both children and adults.
My favorite version of “Easter Parade” was recorded in 1949 by this week’s music trivia artist.
Before the rock & roll revolution, this singer was one of the most popular female singers in America, rising to superstardom during the golden age of adult pop. Like many of her peers in the so-called “girl singer” movement of the late 1940s and early ’50s — Kay Starr, Peggy Lee, Jo Stafford, et al. — her style was grounded in jazz. She sang with an effortless, spirited swing, and was everything a great pop singer of her era should have been.
She was born May 23, 1928, in Maysville, Ky. Her childhood was a difficult one; her father was an alcoholic and her mother’s job required extensive traveling, so she and her siblings were shuffled back and forth between both parents and assorted relatives. When she was 13, her mother remarried and moved to California, leaving her and her younger sister, Betty, in the care of their father.
At first, he supported the girls by working in a defense plant, but his troubles got the better of him, and he abandoned them at the end of World War II. At first, she and her sister supported themselves by collecting cans and bottles, and entered amateur talent contests as a singing duo (she had grown up idolizing Billie Holiday).
They were saved from poverty (and likely eviction) when they successfully auditioned for a Cincinnati radio station in 1945. The two sisters gave weekly radio performances until they were discovered by bandleader Tony Pastor. In 1948, when Betty decided to stop touring with Pastor and return to Cincinnati, this week’s trivia artist stayed with Pastor for another year before heading to New York and signing a solo record contract with Columbia.
In 1951, she began working with producer Mitch Miller. As he did with many other artists, Miller pushed her to record novelty numbers, specifically an Italian-dialect song called “Come On-a My House.” She reportedly hated the song and held out for weeks before finally giving in. Despite her lifelong distaste for it, “Come On-A My House” was her biggest hit; it sold over a million copies and topped the charts for eight weeks in 1951, instantly making her a household name.
She was wildly popular in the years leading up to rock & roll, scoring hit after hit with the chart-toppers “Half as Much,” “Hey There,” “This Ole House” and the Italian-style tunes “Botch-a-Me (Ba-Ba-Baciani Piccina)” and “Mambo Italiano.” Several other cornerstones in her repertoire include “Tenderly” and “If Teardrops Were Pennies.”
Is this week’s “Easter Parade” music trivia artist: A) Rosemary Clooney, B) Patti Page, C) Doris Day or D) Lucille Ball?
This week, if you are the sixth caller with the correct answer, you’ll win two complimentary tickets to next week’s Payson High School musical, “All Shook Up,” featuring the songs of Elvis Presley. Performances are on Thursday, April 12 at 7 p.m., Friday, April 13 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, April 14 at 7 p.m.
Now, let’s check out how we did with last week’s music trivia question: Can you name the country-folk-rock band who scored mid-1980s number one country hits with its songs “Long Hard Road (The Sharecropper’s Dream),” “Modern Day Romance” and “Fishin’ In The Dark?” Was this band A) The Eli Young Band, B) The Band Perry C) The Zac Brown Band or D) The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band?
The right answer was The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The other three country bands, each of which has had their own number one hits, have been recording only since 2005 or later.
Congratulations to this past week’s music trivia winner, Aaron Chernov, who won a Best of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band CD and two complimentary tickets to “All Shook Up,” Payson High School’s spring musical. Aaron has won several times in the past.
Lastly, new pictures I’ve added to my Web site are from this past Saturday’s Kids Fishing Festival at Green Valley Park. More than 335 anglers (I can attest to that — I was the 335th person to register) came down to the lake to enjoy the mild temperatures, sunny skies — and most of all — a great day of family fishin’.
Phone: (928) 468-1482