Remembering Bea Wain

For a brief period of time prior to World War II, Beatrice “Bea” Wain was America’s most popular female vocalist.  Fronting Larry Clinton’s big band act, Wain’s voice graced no less than four number one hits, including the biggest selling recording of “Deep Purple.”

Wain’s other #1 hits include “Cry, Baby, Cry,” “My Reverie,” and the original hit recording of the classic “Heart and Soul.”  All of these hits charted in 1938-39, when Clinton’s band rivaled Artie Shaw, Guy Lombardo and Bing Crosby in popularity.  In 1939, when “Deep Purple” was the year’s penultimate hit, Wain topped a national popularity poll.  The top selling song of that year, incidentally, was the Ink Spots “If I Didn’t Care.”

Her popularity continued into the early 1940s, but stalled with events of December 7, 1941.  Bandleader Clinton quit the music business at the outbreak of war, and Wain found herself adrift.  At the time, female vocalists were mostly regarded as “girl singers” and were under contract to one bandleader or another.  This would change dramatically in the next few years, thanks partly to Wain going out on her own and touring as a soloist.  Although she remained popular in theater shows well into the 1950s, her day at the pinnacle had passed.

At the peak of her career, Wain married radio announcer Andre Baruch.  She may not have remained in the public eye, but Bea was certainly in the public ear as the husband-and-wife team became popular radio personalities in 1946.  Working at a top station in the top market, Baruch and Wain were known as “Mr. and Mrs. Music” and were key influencers in the New York City music scene.

baruch and wain advertisement from billboard magazine 1947

Celebrated above in a 1947 Billboard magazine advertisement placed by station WMCA.  In the lingo of the times,  “most interesting disc shows over WMCA” meant “most interesting disc shows broadcast over the WMCA airwaves.”   It was spelled out as a “disc show” to differentiate it from live performance broadcasts.  Baruch and Wain pioneered the practice of having top artists visit the studio to chat between recorded songs rather than play in person.

In the early 1970s they sort of retired to Florida, where they did a nostalgic version of the “Mr and Mrs Music” show.  Bea continued to perform from time to time well into her 80s, and claimed that she thoroughly enjoyed it.

Although her time at the top was brief, Wain’s influence — and some wonderful recordings — remain a key part of the Great American Songbook.

August 23, 2017 — Bea Wain, 1930s era songstress and more recently a radio personality, passed away a few days ago at the age of 100.