MARTHA TILTON: Martha Ellen Tilton was born on November 14, 1915 in Corpus Christi, Texas. While still at high school, she sang with a small band on a local radio station where she was heard by an agent who got her a job with the Sid Lippman band, singing in the Cocoanut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel.
In early August 1937, Martha became a member of the Meyer Alexander chorus providing vocals for the Benny Goodman band on their "Camel Caravan" radio shows. After a confusing audition (Benny had walked out during her singing of her second song), Martha began singing for the Goodman organization on August 24, 1937, singing "Sailboat in the Moonlight" which had been introduced by the Guy Lombardo orchestra.
When not performing on Camel Caravan, the band traveled extensively, broadcasting and making records. During a 14-week engagement in New York, the broadcast from the Madhattan Room.
In 1940, Martha married and radio now occupied much of her time. She appeared on the "Fibber McGee and Molly" show in 1941 and hosted her own show called "Liltin' Miss Tilton Time." She was signed by Capitol in 1942 and in 1943 toured with Jack Benny's USO company. She later recorded with Paul Whiteman, Ray Bloch and Alex Stordahl. Later, a series of successful duets with Curt Massey also led to a popular radio show and albums.
She would dub the singing of many film stars (notably, Barbara Stanwyck in 1941's "Ball of Fire"), and played herself in the Carnegie Hall sequence of the biopic "The Benny Goodman Story" in 1955. In 1955, she partially retired to devote her time to family life and charity work. She would occasionally appear on public service broadcasting and took part in a few big band tours as late as the mid-1990s.
She died peacefully at her home, happily married to the last, on December 8, 2006.
CAMEL CARAVAN: The Camel Caravan broadcasts began in December 1933, the brainchild of William Esty Company, advertising agents for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. The Goodman band had a regular Tuesday night slot on CBS, continuing for three years until June 20, 1939 (although Martha Tilton had left the band by this time).
MADHATTAN ROOM, NY: The Goodman band broadcast from the Madhattan Room down in the basement of the Hotel Pennsylvania, during a 14-week stay in New York. The day after they ended their engagement (Saturday, January 15, 1938), they held their legendary concert on Sunday, January 16 at Carnegie Hall.