Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Yippie! I can't tell you how thrilled I was to read a bit about Mildred Bailey in one of your June columns.

I have always considered Bailey to be among the most overlooked of all pop and jazz singers, even though she dominated the charts in the mid-'30s.

Not totally unlike Elvis in 1956 and the Beatles in '64, it seemed like Bailey had a new hit every month back then. No female singer was more popular!

As one who graduated in 1938, it would bring back wonderful memories if you would list Mildred's top recordings that year.
—Glenn Dubois, New Orleans, La.

DEAR GLENN: First, I am positive yours is my first letter ever to begin with Yippie!

As for Mildred Bailey, she certainly is overlooked in the music mainstream, but perhaps no more so than many of the top acts of 70 years ago. The passage of time has a way of doing that to even the brightest of stars.

Nevertheless, students and devotees of the great big band era, be they fans of swing, jazz, pop, or dance bands, have an immense regard for Bailey. Count me in with that crowd, as Mildred's songs play quite regularly in this office!

On the scene and on the charts years before either Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald, this “Hip White Chick,” as she was affectionally known, paved the way for female singers being the featured vocalists for the big bands.

More than just being in the right place at the right time, Bailey also possessed a magnificant voice and a captivating style.

Just one of her little gimmicks was to suddenly jump a full octave for only one word, then drop back again to the previous range.

An excellent example of this trick is with the word “song” in “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart,” which just happens to be on that list of 1938 hits you seek.

Other '38 hits for Mildred include: “Thanks for the Memory;” “Small Fry;” “So Help Me;” “Don't Be That Way;” “Right Or Wrong;” and “My Reverie.”

These and more than 100 other Bailey tracks are now easily available on various CDs.

In the grand scheme of music history, Mildred Bailey deserves a spot among the 20th century's most significant women.

DEAR JERRY: The late Burl Ives made an album in the 1950s or '60s, about sea songs. One track in particular on this LP is “The Chivalrous Man Eating Shark,” or at least I think that is the title.

This tune tells the story of a man-eating shark who would not eat women or children.

Do you have any information about the album?
—Una Chiodini, Seminole, Fla.

DEAR UNA: The LP you recall is “Women By Burl Ives (Folk Songs About the Fair Sex)” (Decca DL-8246), which came out in early 1956. Now you know the theme here is tunes about women rather than the sea.

Ives did do an album of sea songs, “Down to the Sea in Ships” (Decca DL-8245), but it does not include the chivalrous shark number.

Though you accurately recollect the theme of this novelty tune, as well as the shark's dining preference, the correct title is “The Woman and the Chivalrous Shark.”

Never one to slight other portions of the human race, Burl recorded two other concept albums: “Songs for and About Men” (Decca DL-8125) and “The Best of Burl's for Boys and Girls” (Decca DL-4390).

IZ ZAT SO? Burl Ives has over a dozen hits to his credit, most notably “A Little Bitty Tear; Call Me Mr. In-Between;” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas.”

But Burl also carved out an impressive acting career, having appeared in about four dozen films and TV shows.

Among those are several titles that most everyone knows: “East of Eden; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; The Big Country; Let No Man Write My Epitaph;” and “Roots.”

Burl is also the narrator of the ever-popular “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

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