THE CHARIOTEERS: The Charioteers were a black gospel group formed in 1930 by Billy Williams (1911-72). By 1937, the group consisted of Williams (lead tenor), Eddie Jackson (second tenor), Ira Williams (baritone), Howard Daniel (bass) and James Sherman (piano).
They recorded mostly negro spirituals for the Vocalion label until they signed with Columbia in 1940; Columbia wanted a pop rival to Decca's Ink Spots. Soon the Charioteers were in the pop music charts with their recording of Russ Morgan's 1940 song "So Long." Although they never achieved the success of the Ink Spots, the Charioteers' sound did produce 7 hits of their own in the 1940s and two more in support of other artists.
The Charioteers became regulars on Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall during the fall 1942 season. They stayed with Bing on the radio through most of the next 5 years, including the first season of the Philco show. Although the Charioteers did not commercially record with Bing (they were under contract to different record companies), they did record with top vocalists, and produced hits with Sinatra ("Don't Forget Tomorrow Night") and Buddy Clark ("Now is the Hour").
GINNY SIMMS: Ginny Simms was born in San Antonio, Texas, 1915 but raised in California. At age 20, Simms joined the Tommy Gerun band and then the Kay Kyser orchestra in 1938. With her own radio series (sponsored by Philip Morris), Ginny became a popular figure during WWII, interviewing servicemen from all over the globe, who sent messages to their families over the air.
She went on to appear in lightweight MGM film fare such as "Here We Go Again" (1942, with Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy and Fibber McGee & Molly), "Hit the Ice" (1943, with Abbott & Costello) and "Broadway Rhythm" (1944).
Following Louis B. Mayer's divorce, she often escorted him. Unfortunately MGM never promoted her as a bankable star, and her last film with them was in 1946.
Simms was married three times, and passed away in 1994.
JUNE VALLI: June Valli, the stage name of petite, heart-faced June Foglia, was born June 30, 1928, on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, New York. Her Italian-speaking parents were musically inclined and it wasn't long before June began singing along. The shy girl from the Bronx was discovered quite by accident. In late 1950, June's mother couldn't attend a friend's wedding, so June went to represent the family. After the ceremony, someone invited June up to the microphone. Although she was terrified, never having sung in public before, June managed to get through a couple choruses of the one song she knew well enough, "Stormy Weather."
Sid Gilbert, uncle of comedian Abe Burrows, was at the same wedding and was so impressed with June's singing he arranged an audition for Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts T.V. show, a program dedicated to discovering talent.
LILY ANN CAROL: Vocalist Lily Ann Carol sang with Louis Prima's orchestra in the mid-1940s. During the late 1940s and the 1950s she performed solo, recording on Prima's Robin Hood label and the Bruce label. She also sang for Charlie Ventura's big band and worked a nightclub act with partner Joe Barone.
RICHARD HAYES: Born January 5, 1930, in Brooklyn, New York, Richard Herbert Hayes began his recording career during the golden age of pop singers. Richard tell his story this way:
"When I was 14 years old, I listened to Bob Emery's "Rainbow House" on WOR radio out of New York I wondered, "How do kids get on that show?" So I wrote a letter to the station and I got an answer, which was come down and audition. I sang in the chorus. I didn't do it for money or anything, because you didn't get paid. I just wanted to be on for, you know, the notoriety of being on the show."
Just 19 years old, Richard was signed to a recording contract with the fifth "major" label, Mercury Records, discovered in 1948 while singing in a New York nightclub called Leon & Eddie's.
His first three recordings for Mercury didn't make much noise; it was the fourth time that was the charm. This recording turned out to be the blockbuster hit so few aspiring singers ever achieve.
The song "The Old Master Painter" was recorded by notables Dick Haymes, Peggy Lee and Mel Torme, Phil Harris, Snooky Lanson -- even the "Voice" himself, Frank Sinatra. But it was teen newcomer Richard Hayes who led the pack as his version of the song (Mercury 5342) rose to #2 on December 17, 1949, and remained on the Billboard chart for 12 weeks.
Less than a month before his 20th birthday, Richard Hayes was a bona fide star.
ROBERTA LEE: Roberta Lee was an R&B singer on the Decca label who had scored a minor success in 1951 with her cover of "Slow Poke." Whatever her roots, she had no trouble handling country material like "Give Me That Old Soft Shoe."
TONI ARDEN: Born Antoinette Ardizzone, Toni Arden became a big band singer in the 1940s, singing with Al Trace, Joe Reichman, Ray Bloch and Shep Fields. She started as a soloist in 1946 for the National Records company, and signed her first recording contract with Columbia Records in 1949, where she had several low-charting hits, including "I Can Dream, Can't I?" (which reached #7 on the Billboard charts), "Too Young" (which reached #15), "Kiss of Fire" (which reached #14) and "I'm Yours" (which reached #24).
In the mid-1950s she moved to Decca Records and she also briefly recorded for RCA Victor Records. Her biggest selling record (her only million-seller) was "Padre" in 1958.
As of 2007, Arden lives in Florida (near her brother and sometimes co-performer Jan Arden, born Frank Ardizzone) and still performs occasionally.