PopularSong.org has been continuously publishing essays (originally as magazine articles) on key artists and their contributions to the craft since 2007. These are not biographies as such, although some contain brief biographical info where it is necessary to develop further understanding. Rather these essays seek to explain the significance of a given artist, and further define their place in the Great American Songbook.
Although many of these artists transcended eras, their most significant contributions — or the focus of a particular essay — is generally based on their activity prior to 1960.
Please click the links below….
Tex Beneke Saxophonist and vocalist, probably best known as male lead vocalist on Glenn Miller’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”
Les Brown Bandleader who fronted “The Band of Renown” provided seamless instrumentation for Doris Day, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Steve Allen, Julie London and others. Well known hits include “Sentimental Journey” with Day on lead vocal.
Perry Como Known as Mr. C — which could stand for calm, cool, casual — popular vocalist from the late 1930s through the 1970s; best known songs include “Till the End of Time,” “Catch a Falling Star,” and “And I Love You So.”
Eddie Fisher 1950s crooner, arguably better remembered for his wives and loves. Great stylist and entertainer, memorable hits include “Oh My Papa” and “Cindy Oh Cindy.” Fisher was a rock star before there were any.
Dick Haymes Handsome tenor who fronted the Tommy Dorsey band for a while, starred in the film version of State Fair, and later enjoyed a career resurgence as a 1970s TV actor. Most memorable hit was “It Might As Well Be Spring.”
Kitty Kallen “Pretty Kitty Kallen” was female vocalist for Harry James. Struck a chord at the end of World War II with “It’s been a Long, Long Time.” A decade later as a solo performer she had one of the all-time chart topping songs with “Little Things Mean A Lot.”
Howard Keel Outstanding vocalist, star of Broadway and West End musicals who went on to immortalize a number of roles in films that include Annie Get Your Gun, Kismet, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Kiss Me Kate, Calamity Jane, and the 1951 version of Showboat.
Frankie Laine Known by his fellow crooners as “ol’ Leather Lungs,” his unmistakable style made a lot of songs better than they would’ve been otherwise. Best known hits include “Mule Train,” “That’s My Desire,” “Jezebel,” “Rose, Rose I Love You” and of course, themes from Rawhide and lest we forget, Blazing Saddles.
Julius LaRosa 1950s era crooner who got his start as a regular on The Arthur Godfrey Show and became a popular MOR radio jock in the 1960s. Possessing a nearly operatic voice, Julie is best remembered for the novelty hit “Eh, Cumpari!”
The McGuire Sisters Filling the void left by the enormously popular Andrews Sisters, the McGuires were the quintessential female vocal group of the 1950s. Best known hits include “Sincerely” and “Sugartime.”
Ethel Merman Arguably the most important female vocalist of the Great American Songbook, Ethel’s booming personality and voice defined some of the greatest leading female roles in Broadway history. If you had to make a short list of songs identified with Merman, you might say “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” But that would limit her significance.
The Mills Brothers Musical group popular from the 1920s to the 1960s who had an uncanny ability to record huge hit songs with just a guitar and vocal effects to back their smooth and seemingly effortless harmonies in the midst of the big band era, and then later adapting to full orchestration and even more hits in the 1950s and 1960s. Best known recordings arguably include “Up A Lazy River,” “The Glow Worm,” and “Daddy’s Little Girl.”
Vaughn Monroe Big band trumpeter whose handsome looks and rich baritone forced him to the microphone, where he recorded a number of hits including “Ghost riders In The Sky,” “There I’ve Said It Again,” and the ubiquitous “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow.”
Dinah Shore Probably the most pitch-perfect singer of the 1940s, later known as a TV hostess. Memorable songs include “Love and Marriage,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Buddy Clark, and of course “Buttons and Bows.”
Frank Sinatra So what else needs to be said about the Chairman of the Board? How about…the songs he didn’t sing, and we wish he had. If you’ve ever heard his incredible take on “Mrs. Robinson,” you’ll know why we did this.
Bea Wain The most popular female vocalist of the late 1930s. Fronting the Larry Clinton Orchestra, her notable recordings include the original #1 versions of “Deep Purple” and “Heart and Soul.” In the mid 1940s became a key figure in the New York radio scene, co-hosting a program with husband Andre Baruch.
Margaret Whiting Daughter of one of the true icons of American pop songwriting, Margaret wasn’t a perfect singer, and she certainly wasn’t pin-up material during the 1940s. But industry execs helped her out of respect for her father, and there was something about her voice that just caught the ear and sold millions of records. Best known of these are “A Tree In The Meadow,” “Moonlight In Vermont,” and her early version of the oft-recorded “That Old Black Magic.”