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Rudy Vallée, “The Fleischmann Hour,” rudyvallee.com

When people hear the term “Crooner,” they often think of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, or Bing Crosby. Although these singers could be categorized as the crooning type, their music was largely influenced by the works of an even earlier set of singers who popularized “Crooning” as a genre. Today’s episode focuses on these earlier Crooners, from Gene Austin, to Russ Columbo, to Rudy Vallée to Whispering Jack Smith. 

Crooning led to interesting pivots in popular music. Whereas previous singers sang at an audience, these singers would sing to audience, leaning quite heavily on the romantic nature of their songs. They would often sing more delicately, which in turn brought about the more frequent use of microphones to project their voices.

In this episode, you’ll hear Mike explore the lives and early careers of these original “Crooners,” each with their own unique stories and voices.

Newspaper headline of Russ Columbo’s Death, New York Times, 1934

If you’d like to learn more, read The Rise of the Crooners: Gene Austin, Russ Columbo, Bing Crosby, Nick Lucas, Johnny Marvin and Rudy Vallee by Michael Pitts, Frank Hoffman, Dick Carty and Jim Bedoian. 

We’ve created a companion playlist which includes the songs featured in today’s episode as well as some extra treats. Check it out on Spotify

A transcript of this episode can be accessed here.

Song Credits:

  • All or Nothing at All, Performed by Harry James and His Orchestra featuring Frank Sinatra, Written by J. Lawrence & A. Altman, Columbia Records, 1939
  • Sweet Sue, Just You, Performed by Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra, Written by Victor Young and Will J. Harris, Columbia Records, 1928
  • If I Had You, Performed by Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees, Written by Shapiro, Campbell, and Connelly, Columbia, 1929
  • My Time is Your Time, Performed by Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees, Written by Eric Little and Leo Dance, Victor, 1929
  • Grand Old Ivy, Performed by Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee, Written by Fran Loesser, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, RCA Victor/BMG, 1961
  • Winchester Cathedral, Performed by The New Vaudeville Band, Written by Geoff Stephens, PolyGram Records, 1966
  • Me and My Shadow, Performed by Whispering Jack Smith, Written by Rose, Jolson, and Dreyer, Pavilion Records, 1927
  • I Kiss Your Hand, Madame, Performed by Whispering Jack Smith, Written by Erwin,Rotter, and Ross, Pavilion Records, 1927
  • My Blue Heaven, Performed by Gene Austin, Written by Whitting, Moret, Take Two Records, 1928
  • My Fate is In Your Hands, Performed by Gene Austin, Written by Razaf & Waller, Take Two Records, 1929
  • Did You Ever See a Dream Walking, Performed by Gene Austen, Candy and Coco, Written by Gorden, Revel with Candy and Coco, Film: Sitting Pretty, Take Two Records, 1933 
  • All of Me, Performed by Russ Columbo, Written by Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks, BGM Music (RCA Music Group), 1931
  • Prisoner of Love, Performed by Russ Columbo, Written by Russ Columbo, Leo Robin, and Clarence Gaskill, BMG Music (RCA Music Group), 1931
  • Snuggled on Your Shoulder, Performed by Bing Crosby, Written by Carmen Lombardo and Joe Young, Brunswick 6278, 1932
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