It's spring! Hooray! Time for happy, sun-shiny things, like Miss Sunny Gale, the long-forgotten, pint-sized singer (she stood only 5'1") who, for a brief period, had a shot at the brass ring - and almost grabbed hold of it. Born in the early 1920s, she was already thrilling crowds as a fourteen year-old belter in her native New Jersey. By the 1950s, after extensive touring with numerous swing and rockabilly bands, she released an LP on a small indie label.
Unfortunately, her first single, "Wheel Of Fortune," abruptly nose-dived when the already well-established Kay Starr was ordered by Capital Records honchos to release her own version of the song - simultaneously. Kay's "Wheel Of Fortune" was a nationwide smash, all but obliterating Sunny's (it was also a song which Kay has long stated she never liked). Though Sunny released a few more LPs thereafter, her career was basically over as soon as it had begun.
Which, in hindsight, is a bit strange, since Sunny and Kay share many vocal similarities (they're both instantly accessible, with a laid-back, easy-going timbre). We'll never know if Sunny was as versatile as Kay, but on the basis of her 1961 LP "Sunny" - a Sunny For Springtime Cheerful Exclusive! - she distinguishes herself with a no-holds barred raucousness, especially on her versions of "Everybody Loves My Baby" and "Did You Ever Seen A Dream Walking." Her career may not have lasted all that long, yet I like to think she's still triumphant (we're still listening to her, right?).
Behold Peggy Lee doing the Lady Gaga monster-rawr pose long before Gaga was even a stye in her mother's eye.
Our friend George Shearing is at it again, this time with Peggy Lee in 1959's "Beauty And The Beat," an alleged "live set" recorded in Miami and wonderfully restored in the early aughts. I say "alleged," because though the LP originally claimed to be a live recording, audience applause and ambient noise were added to studio recording sessions which Peggy and George did before and after their Miami performance. Pretty sneaky, sis. But, really, who cares? Peggy and George's quintet sound terrific together. I only wish they'd paired up more often.
Speaking of springtime 'n' such, bunnies had a whole new meaning in 1960 when Hugh Hefner first opened his Playboy Club in Chicago.
Anyone who was anyone was there. Look, amidst that gaggle of giggly bunnies, isn't that The Candy Man? Why, yes, yes, I think it is.
Depending on your point-of-view, the Playboy Club was either a sexist horror show or a wow-za good time (it was probably a bit of both). But there's one thing no one can deny, it was tops in music; both in terms of their star singer bookings and their heralded orchestra, which, in the early days, was commanded by Kai Winding. A Danish-born jazz whiz, Kai arrived at Playboy in the nick of time; it was the last heyday of cool be-bop and lounge as the premiere party music before rock edged it off the map (forever). This CD transcends kitsch, the usual zone occupied by lounge tunes, instead giving you music which sounds as sensational as the day it was recorded. I'm not kidding. This is real deal - at its height.
Is there anything springier for spring than Connie Francis? Look into her eyes. She's daring you to disagree.
Yet another New Jersey native - like Sunny! - Connie broke though in the 1950s when she sashayed onto Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" TV show, after decades of false career starts and stops, and sang "Who's Sorry Now?" That's all it took. American was in love and Connie finally had the success she long sought, especially with teenagers. In fact, many consider her the first female teen star. Extending her reach into the 1960s, the hits just kept coming - and in multiple tongues, since she sang convincingly in many languages, endearing her to an international audience.
What's striking about this terrific compilation - at least for me - is her versatility, from pop to torch to jazz and more. Oh, and get this, despite having countless chart busters over at least two decades, she's still not in the Music Hall Of Fame. What the hell? As late as 2013, she was still performing. Go, Connie, go!
Now he has a spanking new compilation CD. So throw open your doors, let the springtime in and blast his music, because nothing says "spring" like a "nu" electro-bash. Ama'rite? But be careful. If you saunter outside and contemplate walking on water, remember, Jesus knew where the rocks were.
Have a Happy Hippity-Hoppity Spring!
Make everyone giggle like a bunny in the comments, if you like!