FRANCES FAYE: Born Frances Cohen (November 4, 1912 to November 8, 1991), Frances Faye was a cabaret singer and pianist born to a working-class Jewish family in Brooklyn, NY.
Faye's showbiz career began at age 15 and Faye made her recording debut in 1936. Her act became infamous for double entendres and references to homosexuality; Faye was bisexual, hinting at this frequently in her act (she would playfully alter pronouns in love songs or weave her girlfriend's name into lyrics).
Frances recorded for many different companies, including Capitol, Imperial, Verve and Bethlehem Records. She appeared in the 1937 film “Double or Nothing” with Bing and Martha Raye. Faye also wrote "Well All Right," recorded by the Andrews Sisters.
Faye was married twice, but in the late 1950s met Teri Shepherd, the woman who would become her manager and lifelong partner.
In the 1960s, Faye experienced health problems from a hip accident in 1958 but continued touring into the 1980s. She returned to film in 1978, playing a madam in “Pretty Baby.” At the time of her death in 1991, Faye was living with Teri Shepherd.
These recordings are taken from rare radio, record and film appearances of Frances Faye.
PEGGY LEE: Lee was born Norma Deloris Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota, the youngest child of seven. She first sang professionally with KOVC radio in Valley City, North Dakota and soon landed her own series on a radio show sponsored by a restaurant that paid her "salary" in food. The program director of WDAY in Fargo (the most listened-to station in North Dakota) changed her name from Norma to "Peggy Lee."
While working a gig at The Buttery Room, a nightclub in Chicago, Lee recalls: "Benny's then-fiance, Lady Alice Duckworth, came into the Buttery, and she was very impressed. So the next evening she brought Benny in, because they were looking for replacement for Helen Forrest. And although I didn't know, I was it.
“He was looking at me strangely, I thought, but it was just his preoccupied way of looking. I thought that he didn't like me at first, but it just was that he was preoccupied with what he was hearing."
Peggy joined Goodman's band in 1941 and stayed for two years, with the band then at the height of its popularity.
She is most famous for her cover version of "Fever" and Leiber and Stoller's "Is That All There Is?" Her recording relationship with the Capitol label spanned almost three decades.
DAVE BARBOUR: In March 1943, Peggy Lee married Dave Barbour, the guitarist in Goodman's band. Because Benny didn’t allow fraternizing with the girl singer, he fired Barbour, which caused Peggy to quit. Peggy and Benny made up and sang with Benny Goodman again, although Barbour never did again.
When Barbour left the band, the idea was that he would work in the studios and she would keep house and raise their daughter, Nicki. Barbour did write and work as a successful studio musician. However, Peggy’s continuing success as a songwriter kept her from a “true” retirement.
DESI ARNAZ: Desi Arnaz (born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III) (March 2, 1917 to December 2, 1986) was a Cuban-American musician, actor, comedian and television producer.
He was born in Santiago de Cuba to a wealthy family and his ancestors were among the recipients of the original Spanish land grants in the 18th century.
He began his career as a professional musician in 1936, playing guitar and percussion for a Latin orchestra. He took a pay cut to work in New York City for Xavier Cugat, his mentor; he later described Cugat as a world-class cheapskate but excellent teacher. Arnaz returned to Miami (where he was raised) to lead his own combo. It was there he introduced American audiences to the Conga Line, which became a national rage. He formed his own orchestra and returned to New York.
Arnaz was also a successful recording artist, beginning in 1937, and had a hit with the Santeria-flavored "Babalu" (1946), his signature song, which was recorded at RCA Victor.
He is perhaps most famous for his marriage to Lucille Ball and their successful "I Love Lucy" television program, which they produced under their own company, Desilu Productions.
SONNY BURKE: Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, composer/arranger Sonny Burke studied piano and violin as a child. He later switched to the vibes, which would become his signature instrument.
Playing in dance bands at an early age, led to Sonny leading a group at Duke University. When orchestra leader Sam Donahue left his outfit in 1938, Burke inherited the band.
When Sonny brought the orchestra to New York, they landed a booking at the Roseland Ballroom and a recording contract with Okeh Records. The band never achieved stardom but produced some nice sides in its short life.
Leaving that orchestra behind, Burke went on to have a very successful career, serving as chief arranger for both Jimmy Dorsey and Charlie Spivak and also composing and arranging for television and film. Perhaps his most famous work was for Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp.”
JOHNNY DESMOND: Johnny Desmond (November 14, 1919 to September 6, 1985) was born Giovanni Alfredo De Simone in Detroit, Michigan. As a boy, he sang on a local radio station but quit at age 15 to work at his father's grocery. He retained his love of music and attended the Detroit Conservatory of Music briefly before heading to the night club circuit.
In 1939 he formed a group called the Downbeats. After being hired to work with Bob Crosby's big band in 1940, the group was renamed the Bob-O-Links. The group appeared on 15 commercial recordings by the Crosby orchestra.
In mid-1941, Johnny left to go solo. He became the featured vocalist for Gene Krupa's band, replacing Howard Dulaney. In 1942 he enlisted in the U.S. Army, but his service was a continuation of his singing career. He became a member of Glenn Miller's Army Air Forces Orchestra and from November 1943 until 1944 toured Europe, serving as a replacement for Tony Martin. He made a number of radio broadcasts with the Miller band and was even given his own show by the British Broadcasting Corporation, "A Soldier and a Song."
When the war ended, he took a job on “The Breakfast Club,” a radio variety program out of Chicago. He also switched recording companies frequently. His 1946 recordings were made for RCA Victor, 1949-51 recordings for MGM, and 1953 recordings for Coral Records.