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Singers

The February 22 1930 Toronto Globe contained two references to singers.

The first was for a concert at Massey Hall:

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Cyrena van Gordon was the stage name of Cyrena Sue Pocock, a contralto who performed in Chicago and other major American cities from 1913 to at least 1935. She can be found on YouTube.

The second was a photograph of a soprano scheduled to perform on the Canadian National Railways All-Canada Symphony Hour:

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A Google search for Marjorie Candee turned up nothing, and I couldn’t find her in the Toronto city directories or on YouTube. (The only Candee I could find in the Toronto city directory was Charles N. Candee, the president of the Gutta Percha and Rubber company, who unfortunately passed away around that time; he is in the 1933 directory, but his widow is listed in 1934.) Ms. Candee appears to be lost to history.

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Dante

The February 22 1941 edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail contained this ad:

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“Dante” was the stage name of Harry August Jansen (1883-1955) who first toured the world at the turn of the century before Howard Thurston hired him to star in Thurston’s #2 touring company and gave him his stage name. “Sim-Sala-Bim” is from the lyrics of a Danish children’s song; Dante used to say these words when acknowledging applause.

Dante’s career stalled when television became popular in the late 1940s; he retired to Southern California at that time.

Moi-Yo Miller (1914-2018) was the stage name of Mona Miller, an Australian who worked for years as Dante’s assistant. She was highly regarded for her magician’s assistant abilities, and once estimated that she had been “sawn in half” over 11,000 times during her career. She lived to be 104, passing away just last month.

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Entertainment in 1949

The February 17 1949 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained two interesting ads for entertainers. One was for all the way out in Burlington, and featured that weird disembodied head look that sometimes appeared in ads at that time:

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The other featured more conventional headshots:

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Both of the entertainers featured here were (arguably) on the downside of their careers when they appeared live in the GTA. Sully Mason (1906-1970) was one of the singers in Kay Kyser‘s band during the Second World War, and Valaida Snow (1904-1956) was a multi-instrumentalist (focusing on trumpet), singer, and dancer who toured the world in the late 1920s and 1930s. Tragically, both of them died relatively young with the same cause of death: a cerebral hemorrhage.

I could find nothing definite about Dusty Brooks. I’ve found links on IMDb and AllMusic, but I don’t know if either of them are for this Dusty Brooks.

Of course, YouTube has links:

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Baby Rose Marie

The September 7 1933 edition of the Toronto Daily Star had this ad for an in-person appearance:

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Baby Rose Marie, later known as simply Rose Marie, started performing in 1926 at the age of three. At her peak as a child star, she had her own radio show, was a successful recording artist, and appeared in a number of movies. YouTube has a lot of footage and audio of Baby Rose Marie, including Don’t Be Like That (1929) and Take A Picture Of The Moon (1932).

As an adult, Rose Marie starred in several television series and touring plays, including the Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961 to 1966. People who grew up in the 1970s will remember her as a regular on The Hollywood Squares. She passed away in 2017 at the age of 94.

International House (1933), mentioned in this ad, was basically a collection of comedy and musical acts tied together with a thin plot. Many famous stars of the day appeared in it besides Baby Rose Marie, including George Burns and Gracie Allen, Cab Calloway, W.C. Fields, and Peggy Hopkins Joyce (previously mentioned in this blog here). YouTube doesn’t have the complete movie (oh well), but it does have a trailer.

As for Morning Glory, also mentioned in this ad: it’s quite possible that Katharine Hepburn became a lot of people’s favourite star after they watched this movie, as she won an Academy Award for it.

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Peggy O’Neil

Before radio and record players were common, the only way for people to listen to music in their homes was to buy sheet music and play it themselves. The May 26 1921 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained an ad for sheet music for a popular song, which printed the song’s chorus to entice the reader to buy it:

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The song is inspired by an actual person: Peggy O’Neil was a stage actress who performed on Broadway, and in London in a show titled Paddy The Next Best Thing that ran for 850 performances. She was apparently the first person ever to be interviewed on television. Pathé Films has footage of her from 1925.

Naturally, there are a number of versions of “Peggy O’Neil” on YouTube:

  • Billy Jones recorded a version in 1921. His style contains a lot of old-fashioned flourishes, and the mid-song patter appears to contain some Irish stereotypes about Peggy’s brother Dan that I could not find in printed lyrics anywhere.
  • Charles Harrison recorded a version, also in 1921, that sounds quite similar but is somewhat faster, and has an instrumental break instead of the mid-song patter.
  • Slim Whitman recorded it as a country and western song. It doesn’t really fit in that genre.
  • Tony Williams, the frontman for the Platters, recorded a slowed-down version of this song that turns it into a 1950s-style show tune. It doesn’t really fit this sound either, but Williams does have a wonderful voice.
  • Jack Smith and the Clark Sisters recorded a lounge-singer version in 1947. It’s very white-bread, and it’s interrupted in the middle by some mock-Irish dialogue that is painful to listen to. I couldn’t finish this one.
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Popular records from 1924

Here’s an ad from the February 15 1924 Toronto Daily Star for 10-inch double-sided phonograph records.

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What’s interesting here is that the records have a numbering system for Fox Trot, Waltz, and Vocal, but do not list who actually recorded the songs.

Apex Records was founded in 1921, and released recordings from American labels, as well as original English Canadian and French Canadian music. The label name was dropped in 1935, and revived in 1942; in 1952, it resumed re-releasing recordings from independent American labels. The label name was phased out in the 1970s.

YouTube lists a number of versions of “I’m Sittin’ Pretty (In A Pretty Little City)”, all recorded in about 1923, so I have no idea which one is for sale here.

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Entertainment in 1923

I never get tired of looking at old entertainment ads. Here’s some listings from the August 11 1923 edition of the Toronto Globe:

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The Royal Alexandra was air-conditioned to 65 degrees, which seems quite cool today!

Here’s what I could find about the various performers listed here:

I could find nothing about Snell and Vernon, Sally Beers, the Four Juggling Nelsons, Robert Reilly, or Billy Hallen.

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Lorne Dennie

The February 15 1930 Toronto Globe included this ad in their entertainment section:

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I could find out nothing at all about Lorne Dennie. He doesn’t appear in any Google search that I could find, and he recorded nothing that appears on YouTube. The whispering vocalist appears to be lost to history.

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Doles Dickens and The Whispers

The January 23 1951 edition of the Toronto Daily Star featured this ad:

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I’m not sure why the ad cropped Mr. Dickens’ head so that it looks disembodied – that just looks weird.

Doles Dickens (1916-1972) was a jazz musician and bandleader based mostly in New York. When not touring, he was a session musician for many famous recording artists of the 1950s, including Bill Haley, Mahalia Jackson, and LaVern Baker.

YouTube includes a few songs of his, including Rock And Roll (1949), which is a cover of an earlier version by Wild Bill Moore. Some people consider this to be the first rock and roll song ever – I think that the evolution was too gradual to name one song as the first, but Moore’s version reminds me a lot of early Bill Haley and the Comets.

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A night out in 1951

Here’s an ad for an evening of entertainment at the Prince George Hotel, featured in the Toronto Daily Star on November 30, 1951:

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The Prince George was one of the oldest hotels in Toronto. Originally known as the Rossin House Hotel, it was renamed in 1909. It was torn down in 1969 when the Toronto-Dominion Centre was built.

YouTube has footage of Arthur Lee Simpkins singing on the television show You Asked For It in 1951 (I love footage from old TV shows). His voice apparently had tremendous range – based on what I heard, he certainly could hit the high notes!

“Chop Chop” was the stage name of an Australian magician named Al Wheatley (1901-1964). Charlene was his wife. Here is a picture of them.

Chicho Valle (1922 or 1924-1984) was a Cuban bandleader who became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1961. He was invited to Canada to sing in 1946 and just stayed. I guess he liked it here.