CLIFF EDWARDS: Cliff Edwards started in show business as a teenager in St. Louis, where he sang in movie theatres and saloons. While singing in saloons, he began to accompany himself on the ukulele and developed a style of singinghe called "effin".
"Effin" is the human voice imitating a hot trumpet or kazoo solo. Edwards had a three octave range and he would inject his "effin" solos into his songs. Edwards' 1922 recordings may be the first recorded examples of scat singing, but some critics point to Gene Greene's 1911 Victor recording "King of the Bungaloos".
Between 1913 and 1918, Edwards struggled, traveling with carnivals and doing menial labor. In 1917 he moved to Chicago, where he took a job as a singer in the Arsonia Café, going to tables and playing the ukulele for tips. It was here he started using the stage name of "Ukulele Ike".
The club pianist was Bob Carlton who had written a novelty song he called "Ja Da". Cliff became a sensation singing the song and he and Joe Frisco, a stuttering comedian and dancer, formed a vaudeville act successful enough to play at the Palace in New York City.
After appearing in Ziegfeld Follies, Edwards and Frisco's act came to an end and Cliff teamed with another dancer and singer named Pierce Keegan. They billed their act as "Pierce Keegan "Jazz Az Iz" and Cliff Edwards "Ukelele Ike" and toured the vaudeville circuit, performed in Zeigfeld's Midnight Frolic in 1919 and recorded five songs for Columbia which were never issued. The act broke up in mid-1920 and Edwards teamed up with Lou Clayton (who later worked with Jimmy Durante).
In 1922, Edwards recorded his first records with Ladds Black Aces and Bailey's Lucky Seven. In 1924, Edwards hit the bigtime when he appeared in George Gershwin's "Lady Be Good" on Broadway and introduced the song "Fascinatin' Rhythm" and stole the show. He went on to score other big successes in Broadway productions and become a major vaudeville star.
Throughout the 1920s, Edwards recorded with top Jazz talents like Adrian Rollini, Red Nichols, Miff Mole, Vic Berton and Joe Tarto. The records, released under the name "Cliff Edwards and his Hot Combination" are of particular interest. In 1929, Edwards scored another hit with his version of "Singin' In The Rain" in the movie "The Hollywood Revue Of 1929" and this role established him as a film star. He went on to appear in more than 100 motion pictures.
Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, Edwards remained a sought after actor in Hollywood. This led him to be cast as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in the Disney feature "Pinocchio". Cliff sang "When You Wish Upon a Star" in the film and it won the 1940 Oscar for Best Song. His rendition is one of the great vocal performances of the 20th century and became the theme of the Disney Corporation.
Edwards went on to be the voice of Jim Crow in the animated feature "Dumbo" and star in Durango Kid "B movie" westerns. It is estimated Edwards sold 74 million records during his recording career.
Despite all of this success and earning millions of dollars, he filed for bankruptcy several times due to alimony payments, income tax troubles, gambling, alcoholism and drug addiction. His star faded in the 1950s and 1960s and Edwards died broke and on welfare in 1971, a nearly forgotten man.
The Walt Disney Corporation, upon discovering his death, paid for his burial.