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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Allan Sherman born 30 November 1924


Allan Sherman (November 30, 1924 – November 20, 1973) was an American comedy writer and television producer who became famous as a song parodist in the early 1960s. His first album, My Son, the Folk Singer (1962), became the fastest-selling record album up to that time. His biggest hit single was "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah", a comic novelty in which a boy describes his summer camp experiences to the tune of Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours.
Arguably the most successful musical humorist in pop history, song parodist Allan Sherman was born Allan Copelon in Chicago on November 30, 1924. After entering show business as writer for the likes of Jackie Gleason and Joe E. Lewis, Sherman attempted to mount his own career as a performer, but initially found little success; "A Satchel and a Seck," a 1951 duet with comedienne Sylvia Froos satirizing Frank Loesser's "A Bushel and a Peck," went nowhere, and an ambitious attempt to release a full-length Jewish parody of the musical My Fair Lady met with legal resistance from the estate of composers Lerner & Loewe.
Sherman consequently turned to television, creating and producing the long-running quiz show I've Got a Secret. A tenure as the writer-producer of The Steve Allen Show followed, but when the series ended in 1961, Sherman found himself on the unemployment line. After signing a contract with Warner Bros., he released the parody collection My Son, the Folk Singer in 1962. To the shock of the recording industry, radio quickly picked up on the album despite Sherman's obscurity as a performer; according to legend, even President John F. Kennedy was spotted in a hotel lobby singing the cut "Sarah Jackman" (a parody of "Frere Jacques"), further boosting the record's popularity.
Ultimately, My Son, the Folk Singer topped the charts, and spawned a cottage industry of copycat releases. Nonetheless, Sherman remained the unquestioned king of the parody hit, and in late 1962, he returned with a follow-up, My Son, the Celebrity, which, like its predecessor, reached the number one spot. 1963's My Son, the Nut was even more successful, topping the charts for eight consecutive weeks on the strength of the Top Five novelty hit "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh," a summer camp-themed take on Ponchielli's 1876 composition "Dance of the Hours."
 


If, as legend dictates, President Kennedy helped establish Sherman as a star, he also inadvertently contributed to the comedian's drop-off in popularity: following Kennedy's assassination in November, 1963, the nation became serious and solemn, with little interest in the breezy fun offered by song parodies. Released in early 1964, Sherman's fourth album, Allan in Wonderland, reached only number 25 on the pop charts; issued later that year at the height of Beatlemania, the concurrent For Swingin' Livers Only! and Peter & the Commissar (recorded with Arthur Fiedler & Boston Pops) fared even more poorly, with the latter record failing even to crack the Top 40.
1965's My Name Is Allan was his last chart effort, reaching only number 88. Still, Sherman soldiered on, recording Live in front of a Las Vegas audience. After 1966's Togetherness, he was dropped by Warner Bros., effectively ending his career as a performer. Late in his life, Sherman drank and ate heavily which resulted in a dangerous weight gain; he later developed diabetes and struggled with lung disease. In 1966, his wife Dee filed for divorce and received full custody of their son and daughter.
Sherman lived on unemployment benefits for a time and moved into the Motion Picture Home near Calabasas, California for a short time in order to lose weight. After publishing an autobiography, A Gift of Laughter, he died of emphysema at home in West Hollywood ten days before his 49th birthday. He is entombed in Culver City, California's Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery. (Info edited from Wikipedia & All music)


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Peanuts Wilson born 29 November 1935



Born Johnny Ancil Wilson, 29 November 1935, Riversville, West Virginia Died September 1980.
Peanuts Wilson, apparently so nicknamed because he was a small man (5 feet tall), was definitely no midget in the talent department, with a career spanning from his teens to his death in 1980. Wilson was born in West Virginia, but his family moved to Odessa, Texas, whilst he was still an infant.
By 1956 he was playing guitar in the Teen Kings, which was Roy Orbison’s second group formed in Texas while Orbison was studying geology in college and working oil fields at night (Pat Boone was there at the same time, and soon left to start his own recording career).
The Teen Kings recorded Ooby Dooby, under their first contract with Sam Phillips, and for a brief time rode a decent-sized wave, touring with Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, writing and recording Go Go Go (Down the Line) and (the great song) Rockhouse.
During the rehearsals for "Sweet And Easy To Love" and "Devil Doll" on December 14, 1956, Orbison split with the Teen Kings. "It happened right in the studio", recalled Sam Phillips. "They had some difficulty among themselves, and the band broke up then and there. Really it was nothing more than their being extremely young." The Teen Kings went back to West Texas and formed another group for a few months  before Peanuts went solo in 1957.
 

 
Wilson's first solo session took place on May 26, 1957, at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico, and generated two versions of "Cast Iron Arm", plus "You've Got Love", which was Wilson's first attempt at song writing. Two of the Teen Kings (Kennelly and Ellis) provided the accompaniment and the sax player is either James Morrow or Jimmy Seals. The lead guitarist is possibly Roy Orbison. "Cast Iron Arm" was released on Brunswick 55039 on November 27, 1957, and credited to "Peanuts Wilson", as there was already another recording artist called Johnny Wilson. The disc was also issued in the UK on Coral Q 72302.
There were two other recording sessions by Wilson, on November 10, 1957, and September 8, 1958. Four tracks from these sessions, which are not bad at all, finally saw the light of day in 1999, when they were released on the splendid Ace CD "West Texas Bop", which also includes "Cast Iron Arm" and "You've Got Love". Wilson's version of "Paper Boy" predates the Roy Orbison version, which came out on the B-side of Roy's first Monument single in September 1959 (recorded on April 23, 1959). The other three tracks are "I've Had It" (not the Bell Notes hit), "My Heartbeat" and "You've Got Everything". Four takes of "Silly Lilly" remain unissued. "This song has totally inane lyrics but is a superb rocker," according to John Ingman.
Peanuts recorded one more single, "Little Miss Fortune"/"Twi-Light Zone" for the small Odessa-based Coronodo label in the autumn of 1963 before establishing himself as a successful writer of country songs.
Among his compositions that made the country Top 10 are "Easy As Pie" by Billy "Crash" Craddock (# 2, 1975), "Roses For Mama" by C.W. McCall (# 2, 1977) and "It's Too Late" by Jeanne Pruett (# 9, 1980). Wilson died of a heart attack in September 1980, just when Kenny Rogers was providing him with his biggest ever hit composition, "Love the World Away" (# 4 country, # 14 pop). Other stars who have recorded his songs include Conway Twitty, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Mickey Gilley, Faron Young, Bobby Vinton and Tommy Overstreet.
(Info edited from  liner notes for "West Texas Bop" (Ace CD) & Speakeasy, a wordpress blog).

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Robert Goulet born 26 November 1933


Robert Gerard Goulet (November 26, 1933 – October 30, 2007) was a Canadian American entertainer as a singer and actor. He rose to international stardom in 1960 as Lancelot in Lerner and Loewe’s hit Broadway musical Camelot. His long career as a singer and actor encompassed theatre, radio, television and film. His face was more famous than his voice, but Robert Goulet recorded a string of popular albums for Columbia during the 1960s, striking the pop charts with several hits and earning a 1962 Grammy Award.
He was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph and Jeannette Goulet. His father died when he was 13 and he moved to Edmonton, Canada, a year later. Goulet won a singing scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of music in Toronto and in 1951 made his concert debut at Edmonton in Handel's Messiah. Goulet was also a DJ on Canada's CKUA in Edmonton for two years. He appeared on Canadian television in the early '50s, but moved to New York and by the end of the decade was fit into a prime Broadway role: Sir Lancelot, in Lerner & Loewe's Camelot (with Julie Andrews and Richard Burton). A starring role in several films proved less than successful, however.
He began singing in the early '60s as well, and after an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Goulet signed to Columbia in 1962. His single "What Kind of Fool Am I?" became a modest hit later that year, and early in 1963 he won a Grammy for Best New Artist.
 


Like many vocal artists of the day, however, Goulet became a bankable LP seller rather than a chart success, and though he made a surprise Top 20 showing of "My Love, Forgive Me (Amore, Scusami)" in 1964, it was his last hit. The album My Love Forgive Me reached number five and became a gold seller, and Goulet continued recording until 1970, when he moved into concert and television work.
Goulet began working in films in 1962, providing the voice of one of the characters in the animated feature Gay Purr-ee opposite Judy Garland. His first acting role was in His and Hers (1964), but it was not until a cameo appearance as a singer in Louis Malle’s Atlantic City (1980) that Goulet was given critical acclaim. In 1968, Goulet was on Broadway in the Kander and Ebb musical, The Happy Time. . He recorded the song Atlantic City (My Old

Friend) for Applause Records in 1981. He appeared in a 1982 production of Rose-Marie with Inga Swenson.
He and first wife Louise Longmore had one daughter, Nikki. His second wife, actress and singer Carol Lawrence, produced two sons, Christopher and Michael. In 1982, with Glenn Ford giving the bride away, he was married in Las Vegas to Vera Novak, a Yugoslavian-born writer, photographer and artist. When not living at their home in Las Vegas, they resided on their yacht "Rogo" in Los Angeles. Goulet has performed at the White House for three presidents as well as a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II.
He was absent from the screen for seven years until he was cast by Tim Burton as a houseguest blown through the roof by Beetlejuice and also played himself in Bill Murray’s Scrooged (both 1988). In 1990, he sang the Canadian national anthem at the beginning of WrestleMania VI, which was held at the Toronto Skydome in Toronto, Ontario Canada.
In 1993, Goulet mounted a production of Camelot, this time trading roles to play the more aged King Arthur. That same year he appeared, in animated form, on an episode of The Simpsons. In 1996 he starred in the film Mr. Wrong and three years later he was the singing voice of Wheezy the Penguin in the animated feature Toy Story 2. The year 2000 found him in a revival of South Pacific and in 2005 he was back on Broadway starring in La Cage aux Folles. In 2006 he was given a spot on Canada's Walk of Fame. A year later he was featured in a bizarre and hilarious commercial for the Emerald Nut Company that aired during Super Bowl XLI.
On September 30, 2007, he was hospitalized in Las Vegas, where he was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, "a rare but rapidly progressive and potentially fatal condition." On October 13 he was transferred to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after it was determined he "would not survive without an emergency lung transplant."
Goulet died on October 30, 2007 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, while awaiting a transplant.(Info edited mainly from Freebase, IMDB and Last fm)


Thursday, 24 November 2016

Wild Bill Davis born 24 November 1918


Wild Bill Davis (November 24, 1918 – August 17, 1995) was the stage name of American jazz pianist, organist, and arranger William Strethen Davis.
 
Davis was born in Glasgow, Missouri but the Davis family moved to Parsons, Kansas, while Bill was still a baby. His mother was a piano teacher and she taught her son intermittently - he was never very interested - until an orphaned relative came to live with the Davises and brought a Victrola with him, along with some Fats Waller records. 
 
In 1937 Davis won a music scholarship to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, after two years transferring to Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. Davis originally played guitar and wrote arrangements for Milt Larkin's Texas-based big band during 1939–1942, a band which included Arnett Cobb, Illinois Jacquet, and Tom Archia on horns. After leaving the Larkin orchestra, Davis worked in Chicago as a pianist, recording with Buster Bennett in 1945. He also he wrote arrangements for Earl Hines and for Sarah Vaughan. 
 
He played a crucial role as the pianist-arranger in Jordan's Tympany Five (1945–1947) at the peak of their success. After leaving Jordan, he returned to Chicago for a time, recording again with Buster Bennett and working with Claude McLin. After switching from piano to organ, Davis moved to the East Coast. In 1950, he began leading an influential trio of organ, guitar, and drums, which recorded for OKeh Records. 
 
 
 
Davis led the way for Milt Buckner, Bill Doggett, Jimmy Smith and the multitude of pianists who switched allegiance. In the early days Davis suffered criticism from churchgoers who considered the instrument had sacred connections. "Who wants a church organist in a night club?" But the church organ is a mere wind instrument and the Hammond could achieve all-pervading power through the use of electricity. 

Bill Davis, paradoxically, was a quiet and gentle person who completely belied his nickname "Wild Bill". But when it came to music Davis was transformed. He will best be remembered for his foundation- shattering arrangement of "April In Paris", written for and recorded by the Count Basie band of the Fifties. The arrangement alone forced the band to swing, not that it needed any coercion, and the recording was probably Basie's biggest ever hit, copied to this day by big bands across the world.  

But Davis was best known for his friendship with and employment by Duke Ellington. Davis's first records under his own name were made in 1951 for Ellington's own record label Mercer and, uniquely for a non-Ellington musician; he had Ellington to accompany him on piano. British fans were dismayed when the Ellington band of 1969 arrived with Wild Bill added to its ranks.   

In Britain the organ was regarded as vulgar, and potentially destructive of the fine-tuned sound of the world's greatest jazz orchestra. They need not have worried. Davis's was a token role and in fact Ellington had employed him mainly for his company, for his writing abilities (he wrote arrangements for the band) and to be the pianist when Ellington, as sometimes happened, failed to arrive in time for the beginning of a concert. 
 
Since the organ was such a brute to transport, Bill Davis owned several of them, keeping one in California, one in New York and another for when he had to take it by road. 
 
As the leading player of the Hammond, Davis became much in demand in the recording studios and made fine albums with Ella Fitzgerald (1963) and with another long-time friend, the Ellington alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, with whom he worked often during the Sixties. Hodges liked the freedom of working with the Davis trio as opposed to the more demanding surroundings of the Ellington orchestra. Davis made several albums with his friend Johnny Hodges, leading to tours during 1969–1971 with Duke Ellington.
 
In the 1970s he recorded for the Black & Blue Records label with a variety of swing all-stars, and he also played with Lionel Hampton, appearing at festivals through the early 1990s. Davis died in Moorestown, New Jersey, August 17, 1995. (Info mainly from a Steve Voce article for the Independent)
 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Fred Buscaglione born 23 November 1921


Ferdinando "Fred" Buscaglione (23 November 1921 – 3 February 1960) was an Italian singer and actor who became very popular in the late 1950s. His public persona – the character he played both in his songs and his movies – was of a humorous mobster with a penchant for whisky and women.
Ferdinando Buscaglione was born in Turin, Italy on 23 November 1921. The son of a porter, his great passion for music appeared at a very young age. When he was 11, his parents enrolled him at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Turin. During his teen years, he performed at night clubs in Turin singing jazz and playing double bass and violin.
During World War II, he was incarcerated in an American internment camp in Sardinia. His musical talent was apparent and he was allowed to join the orchestra of the allied radio station of Cagliari. This permitted Buscaglione to continue to make music and to experiment with new sounds and rhythms coming from the U.S. (Most foreign music had been officially forbidden by the Italian Fascist regime.)
After the war, Buscaglione returned to Turin and resumed working as a musician for various bands. He then formed his own group, the Asternovas. During a tour in Switzerland in 1949 he met and married the half-German half-Moroccan entertainer Fatima Robin. In the meantime he was gradually creating his public character, inspired by Clark Gable and Mickey Spillane's gangsters.

His friend Leo Chiosso, a lyricist who wrote many of his songs, told him stories about gangsters and their babes, New York City and Chicago, tough men who were ruthless with enemies but easily fell victims to a woman's charms. Together they wrote the hits that brought nationwide fame to Buscaglione: Che bambola (Whatta babe!), Teresa non sparare (Theresa, don't shoot!), Eri piccola così (You were so small), Guarda che luna (Look, What A (beautiful) Moon), Love in Portofino, Porfirio Villarosa (a caricature of Porfirio Rubirosa), Whisky facile (Easy Whiskey).
 
 



After perfecting his routine in night clubs and theatres he started recording his songs in 1955; the first single (a shellac 78rpm record containing 'Che bambola' and 'Giacomino') sold 1,000,000 copies with close to no promotion, propelling him to a degree of fame he never considered possible.
By the end of the 1950s, Buscaglione was one of Italy's most wanted entertainers. He appeared on advertising campaigns, on television, in movies.
At 38 years of age, he was killed in a car accident when his pink Ford Thunderbird collided with a truck in the early hours before dawn in Rome, of all places, right before the U.S. embassy. Only hours ago he had dinner with some friends at a restaurant in Rome and met future Italian pop diva Mina Mazzini who made her Sanremo Music Festival debut earlier. The two discussed future collaboration that sadly never materialized.
Alongside his legacy, in songs and movies, Buscaglione deserves mention for having encouraged musicians and singers from the newer generation (the one influenced by the earliest forms of rock and roll) to stand up against the conservative producers and discographers of the time, demanding recognition for their art and their style. In this role he proved instrumental in the rise of the "yellers" scene which from the early 60s started to revolutionize the Italian popular music panorama. (Info Wikipedia)
 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Royal Torrence born 22 November 1933

 
Royal Torrence (22nd* November 1933, Durham, North Carolina - 29th September 2016, Washington) was an American 'soul' singer, with 'Little Royal and The Swingmasters'. He is often referred to as 'James Brown's little brother'.
Royal Torrence was born in Washington DC, USA, on November 22th 1933.It’s difficult to imagine that he had no idea what rhythm and blues was as a young boy in the south. When the singer joined his Uncle Bill Weaver’s Washington, DC gospel group in his twenties he only knew spiritual songs. Torrence became the leader of the group, which transitioned to rhythm and blues at Weaver’s suggestion, and was therefore known as Little Royal and the Swingmasters.
Torrence had a following in soul music circles and is often credited with discovering Teddy Pendergrass, who was a waiter at Edgehill’s Club in Atlantic City when Torrence held auditions for his band. Pendergrass won over the job as drummer, which gave him his first break touring. His work with the Swingmasters led to a future opportunity with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and his entry into stardom.
One evening in 1963, Torrence had a chance encounter with James Brown at The Howard Theatre. The Godfather of Soul told him they looked like brothers and introduced Torrence to promoter James Dudley. Soon Little Royal and the Swingmasters were touring with Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and The Temptations.
In 1967 Torrence released his first 45—“I Can Tell”/ “You Made Me Love You” on Carnival Records. In 1972 Little Royal and the Swingmasters, which featured horn player Andrew Sims, Marvin Shears on drums, and Burnett Jackson on bass, released their “Jealous” LP on Torrence and producers Huey P. Meaux and Stanley Little’s Tri-Us label. The LP contained the hits “Jealous,” “I’ll Come Crawling,” “Razor Blade,” “Panama Red,” and “Soul Train.”
 



“Jealous” was produced by Meaux and Little in Houston, Texas and recorded in Norfolk, Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee, and distributed by Starday-King Records, James Brown’s former label. It reached No. 15 on the Billboard R&B Chart on August 5th 1972, but generally it has been said that Torrence had a sound probably much too derivative of others to elevate him from the "B-list" of 'soul' artists - unlike his relative Brown, who would go on to super-stardom.
Despite this, he recorded fairly frequently during those two decades (some of his other labels included 'Carnival' and 'Excello). One of his most memorable records was "Crazy Cajun", produced by Huey P Meaux. The B-side to the "Jealous" single, "Razor Blade", would later be sampled by a total of 16 modern 'electronic' artists, including 'Ice-T', 'Lord Finesse' and 'J Dilla'.
Torrence created a popular dance for the instrumental track “Razor Blade” when he appeared on the Cincinnati, Ohio television program, “Soul Street.” In 1973 Torrence released another 45 on Tri-Us—“Keep Pushing Your Luck”/”(I Want To Be Free) Don’t Want Nobody Standing Over Me.”
Beginning in 1983 Torrence released several crossover beach music singles including “Groovin” and “Down On The Sand” on Firestone and Flame Records respectively, which played from Virginia to Florida. His band also backed many of the biggest stars of the world when they toured through his adopted home of Washington, DC.
This decade he cut back to doing a few performances a year, mostly at the “Blue Monday Blues” nights at Westminster Church in Southwest. Even after suffering a stroke, Royal energetically sang and strutted at these events. His daughter said “entertaining was his passion. He was content with what he had done. He had an amazing life.”

 
Though he was never a huge charting star, Little Royal maintained a following, particularly in Europe and in the DC area, right up through the time of his death at the Washington Hospital Center ICU, Washington D.C., U.S.A. on September 29th 2016, at the age of 82.
(Info edited mainly from Soultracks.com & Soul57.com) (* a few sources give birth date as 20th) 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Arthur Schutt born 21 November 1902


Arthur Schutt (born Reading, Pennsylvania - November 21, 1902. Died San Francisco, California - January 28, 1965) was an American jazz pianist and arranger.
An important pianist during the 1920s, appearing on many key recordings, Arthur Schutt faded out of the spotlight during the swing era. He was taught piano by his father and started playing for silent movies when he was just 13 in 1915. It was at a movie theatre that Schutt was discovered in 1918 by bandleader Paul Specht, who quickly hired him. Schutt was with Specht for six years (including a visit to London in 1923). After that period ended, Schutt worked for Roger Wolfe Khan and Don Voorhees, and then became a busy studio musician, appearing on many jazz-influenced dates headed by Fred Rich and Nat Shilkret.

  On the platform, left to right, Tommy Dorsey, Fuzzy Farrar, Stan King, Jimmy Dorsey. In front, left to right. Eddie Lang, Al Duffy, Arthur Schutt. 
A major novelty ragtime pianist (recording eight piano solos in 1923, 1928, and 1929), Schutt worked with the Georgians (the small group taken out of Paul Specht's Orchestra) during 1922-1924, and recorded with the Charleston Chasers, Red Nichols (1926-1929 and 1931), the Dorsey Brothers' Orchestra (1928-1931), Benny Goodman, and most significantly with Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke in 1927. 
 

 
Schutt composed a jazz tune "Delirium" in 1927, which was widely recorded and enjoyed a fair amount of popularity. Schutt's unusual chord voicings and percussive solos were a standout during the era, although they ended up not becoming all that influential. He headed groups for 18 selections that were recorded during 1929-1930, and stayed busy in the studios as a sideman (cutting two final piano solos in 1934). After that period, Schutt maintained a lower profile, occasionally leading his own band and, in 1939, playing for a short while with Bud Freeman.
In 1934, Schutt co-wrote "Georgia Jubilee" with Benny Goodman which, while a hit, was also recorded by Isham Jones's band. Schutt also composed the ragtime "piano novelty" piece "Bluin' the Black Keys", considered one of the most difficult traditional, period rags ever written. Also during that year Arthur and his wife had moved to Hollywood where Arthur spent much of the next two and a half decades working in recording studios.
Even though he was sought out often for his solid work, he was rarely featured in such session. In 1939 he spent a few months playing with Bud Freeman's group. He was on the music staff doing and some film soundtrack work with MGM from 1934 to 1949, but rarely in the jazz idiom where he had showed so much promise. There are some exceptions, however. In 1936 Arthur did some live radio broadcasts of piano duets with Peggy Keenan.


Arthur Schutt with Peggy Keenan in 1936.
While Schutt was rarely if ever directly involved in films during his tenure in Los Angeles, he finally did make it into one somehow. In the summer of 1959 the movie The Five Pennies was released from the independent company Dena Productions. Starring Danny Kaye as the band's leader Red Nichols and Louis Armstrong as himself, jazz pianist and composer Bobby Troup (Route 66) played the part of Schutt on screen. It was difficult to determine if Arthur played for any of the soundtrack, but he may have already left town by that time.
The Schutts moved to San Francisco sometime in the late 1950s, home to some of the great jazz revival bands of that time. There Arthur worked literally until the day he died for a lunch crowd in the financial district. Some July 1961 notices in the Los Angeles Times show him playing intermissions at Jim's Roaring 20s, a Los Angeles jazz club.
A few final recordings of Schutt's solo work were made in the early 1960s at private parties, largely of 1920s novelties and standards. Arthur Schutt died at age 62 after a long illness. He had been cared for in the end by Dr. Benny Zeitlin, who was also a jazz pianist in the 1920s and 1930s. The music union honoured Arthur by having a string quartet play at his funeral which sadly only a few close friends turned up for.
 (Info edited mainly from professorbill.com with some info from All Music & Wikipedia)

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Fran Allison born 20 November 1907


Frances Helen "Fran" Allison (November 20, 1907 – June 13, 1989) was an American television and radio comedian, personality and singer. She is best known for her starring role on the weekday NBC-TV puppet show Kukla, Fran and Ollie, which ran from 1947 to 1957, occasionally returning to the air until the mid-1980s. The trio also hosted The CBS Children's Film Festival, introducing international children's films, from 1967 to 1977.
The open-faced blonde singer, actress and comedienne was born on November 20, 1907, in La Porte City, Iowa and graduated in the late 1920s from Coe College in Cedar Rapids with a teaching degree. After spending a couple of years as a rural school instructor, she left her position after her brother, who was a musician, put together an orchestra and hired her on as a singer.
By 1934 she had moved into radio singing work in Cedar Rapids and later in 1937 became a staff singer for NBC in Chicago. Her talents as a comedienne were also discovered and utilized. Most notably, she originated a gossipy radio character called "Aunt Fanny" that was a hit with audiences. Her Aunt Fanny character also appeared on the ABC-TV series, Ozark Jubilee, during the late 1950s.
Fran met puppeteer Burr Tillstrom during WWII when they toured together in hospitals and orphanages on the same bill. Tillstrom thought Fran would be ideal as a genteel, prettified and sensible foil for his Kuklapolitan puppets, and on October 13, 1947, she made her series debut with Kukla, Fran and Ollie (1947).
The shows were, for the most part, done live and Fran was a charming and glamorous delight opposite Kukla, the bald, arch-browed, bulb-nosed leader of the troupe and Ollie, the droll, single-toothed dragon. Nominated for an Emmy in 1949 as "Most Outstanding Personality", the show received frequent Emmy nominations during its 1950s run. In 1953 it won as the "Best Children's Program".
 

 
 Allison made records for the RCA Victor label. She had two minor pop hits. In 1950 her recording of "Peter Cottontail" charted at #26 around Easter of 1950. The next year her recording of "Too Young" achieved position #20. In both recordings she is backed by Jack Fascinato, who was the orchestra leader of Kukla, Fran and Ollie.
Her television career continued after the initial run of Kukla, Fran and Ollie: in the late 1950s, she hosted The Fran Allison Show, a panel discussion TV program in Chicago (1958-1960); and appeared in television musical specials including Many Moons (1954), Pinocchio with Mickey Rooney (1957),Damn Yankees (1967) and Miss Pickerell (1972).
The syndicated version of the puppet show went off the air in 1976. The threesome also served as hosts for The CBS Children's Film Festival, which introduced international children's films, from 1967-1977. In addition, Fran also was the official pitchwoman for Whirlpool appliances in the years to come. In the 1980s, she hosted Prime Time, a show for senior citizens, on KHJ-TV in Los Angeles.
Married to music publisher Archie Levington, the couple had no children and eventually settled in Los Angeles. In her own mind, Fran felt like she was the mother to the millions of children who tuned in religiously to the show. Her husband died in 1978. In later life, Allison lived in Van Nuys, California, and died in 1989 from myelodysplasia, a bone marrow disease, at the age of 81 in Sherman Oaks. She was buried back in her home state of Iowa, at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cedar Rapids.
For contributions to the television industry, Allison was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6763 Hollywood Boulevard.Iowa.       (Info mainly edited from IMDB & Wikipedia)