I fell for Cliff as a result of hearing the version of "Singin' in the Rain" that he did on the "That's Entertainment!" soundtrack. I found it exciting in a way that most people my age reserve for Nirvana or something... I mused on how I was going to track down this talented African-American performer. I didn't have any luck until I visited Canterbury Records in Pasadena, CA. I saw a divider for Cliff. I dived in and grabbed a slab. I must have pulled a misfiled record - who could this round-faced white guy be??
Well, I haven't stopped buying Cliff since I listened to that first album, "Ukulele Ike/Cliff Edwards - The Hottest Man In Town" on Living Era Records.
You may know him better as the voice of Jiminy Cricket
I guess you could say that one thing many of my icons have in common is that they have often been the subjects of ridicule. That probably has something to do with why I can relate to them.
Carmen Miranda was quite simply one of the most compelling performers of the 20th Century. It's too bad that she was pigeonholed into the gringos' idea of what a "Latin" woman is. Her acting aside, I was won over by her music. I don't know if I would say that she had one of the great voices of the century, but she sure knew how to use it. The icing on the cake was the great skill of her band, O Bando da Lua. I'd like to get more of their stuff, but for now they have a track on Mambo Fever.
Ahhh...such a crush I had on Danny Kaye when I was younger. I've always really fallen for talented comedians. Chronically depressed, I appreciate someone who can make me laugh. Although he was a smash hit in his day, most of his filmed work does not bear insistent scrutiny. Just as they do nowadays, Hollywood would rather put a star in a "vehicle" than come up with a decent story in the first place. Although his most successful appearance (in a film with plot, yet...) was in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, my favorite appearance of his would be either in Wonder Man or The Court Jester. I fell hard for Wonder Man when I was 11 years old cuz I was and still am a sucker for anything that has to do with twins, ghosts or witches.
I grew up listening to my parents' copy of the soundtrack to "Destry Rides Again". I remember staring at the early 60's-style cover with the very Technicolor figures of Dolores Gray and Andy Griffith on a stylized Warner Bros. Cartoon-like cowtown background. Like so many of the records I grew up with, I got embarrassed about it once I hit puberty and didn't listen to it again 'til just after college. Upon these later listens, I realized what a wonderful, powerful voice Dolores Gray has. She exhibits the best traits of a singing actress. In fact, judging by the straight singing album she did for Capitol (Warm Brandy), she is really in her element when she has to convey the strong emotions of musical theater.
Unfortunately, very little of her work is in print. You can hear her on the soundtrack to "It's Always Fair Weather". If you keep your eye out at thrift stores, you can get "Destry Rides Again", her best in my opinion. I have a rudimentary discography. Please send in corrections if you know better.
Any fool who has the temerity to say that women can't rock has surely never heard the woman of whom Nick Tosches has said "she sounds as if she could fry eggs on her mons veneris ". Best known for her version of "Let's Have a Party", she rocks harder on "Fujiyama Mama" and "Riot in Cell Block #9". As a vocalist myself, I can assure you that it ain't easy to belt and scream and growl like that and not get nodes on your vocal cords. Probably because of the massive sexism that still exists in rock'n'roll, she couldn't quite make a living in rock and reverted to country. Although she has a nice country singing voice, it's nowhere near the standout that her rockabilly voice is.
If you're on the ball, you can still catch this tremendously entertaining performer in person. I saw her in 1995 at Bimbo's in San Francisco playing on a bill with Rosie Flores. I'm still in awe. Let's thank the Goddess that she has decided that she still has some rockabilly in her heart.
Back to the chain gang...
Yak Back to Spidra Webster: spidra at speakeasy dot net
I used to update something on this site about every two weeks. Unfortunately, things are probably going to be mothballed for a while due to a hellacious flareup of Repetitive Strain Injury. I also had some bad data loss, so if you wrote in before with a suggestion or comment, please write again! There are some folks I would love to keep in touch with, but whose addresses I've lost.
Last modified on 7/20/98
All prose © 1997 Megan Lynch except where obviously not.