You might or might not remember Art Lund, but I’m willing to bet that you’d recognize his 1947 chart-topping “Mam’selle” if you heard it. (And you can, below.) But Lund was in no way a one-hit wonder. He was actually a multi-talented guy with a long performing life that began with success as a big-band crooner, followed by a string of best-selling pop records, Broadway stardom, and eventually a career as a busy character actor.
A native of Salt Lake City, Arthur London first began to make his mark in the music business in the early 1930s when he landed a job as a young singer with one of the many second-tier bands that toured the country at that time. Within a few years he’d managed to work his way up to one of the best around — Benny Goodman’s band — where he spent more than a decade, interrupted only by his World War II service.
London changed his name to Lund during his time with Goodman, and became a very popular performer on some of the band’s biggest sellers, including “Blue Skies.” He also teamed up with Peggy Lee, the band’s songbird at the time, spinning out hits like “Winter Weather.” All of it led to his breakout as a solo recording artist, peaking in 1947 with his #1 hit on “Mam’selle” and other big records like “Peg O My Heart” (a chart-topper that same year for the Harmonicats).
But even though Lund remained on record charts well into the 1950s he also kept an eye open for other opportunities, and he soon began finding good parts in Broadway musicals. His best-remembered role is probably as Joey in The Most Happy Fella, but he made appearances in a number of shows before then turning his attention to acting. He subsequently spent more than two decades as a character actor in dozens of TV shows and movies before finally slowing down, spending his final years in semi-retirement while sometimes singing in personal appearances. He was 75 when he died in 1990.
Art Lund – “Mam’selle”
Most of us probably don’t remember a songbird named Dolly Dawn, even though she was very well known during the 1930s and 1940s and was a fan favorite. However, you might remember her biggest hit — “You’re a Sweetheart” — which was one of the most popular songs in the U.S. for a while, not only because of her record but because of a movie of the same name that starred Alice Faye.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that Dolly Dawn wasn’t her real name, and it wasn’t even her first stage name. Jersey girl Theresa Anna Maria Stabile was the daughter of Italian immigrants, and was still a teenager when she began her career in the mid-1930s by singing on local radio under the name Billie Starr. Before long she changed it to Dolly Dawn, and not too much later was able to latch onto a job singing with George Hall’s Orchestra, which was based at New York’s Hotel Taft.
Hall’s orchestra was decidedly a second-tier group that had enjoyed only limited success, but things began to change when the lively and talented young singer came along. Hall became her biggest fan and he made her the star on the band’s CBS radio appearances, leading to higher record sales. Although “You’re a Sweetheart” was the biggest hit, several other records did very well, including “Every Minute of the Hour,” “When the Poppies Bloom Again,” and “Says My Heart.”
Things went very well for the next few years but by 1941 George Hall was ready to retire, and he turned everything over to his young singer, who was the most important member of group anyway. She continued to perform as Dolly Dawn and the Dawn Patrol, but over the course of the war many of her musicians got drafted, and in subsequent years her career wound down. She made somewhat of a comeback in the late 1970s after a newly-released collection of her early music created interest, and she continued to work from time to time in her later years. When she died in 2002 she was in her eighties. (Sources vary about her date of birth.)
Dolly Dawn – “You’re a Sweetheart”
The subject of silly songs has come up from time to time here on the GMC, beginning as early as 2006 with a post about some of the best practitioners of the art. That post also mentioned a goofy tune that was a hit for several bands, including one led by today’s spotlighted artist. But “Mairzy Doats” wasn’t bandleader/composer Al Trace’s only big record. He had a number of solid sellers, many of them silly (he sometimes even called his band the Silly Symphonette). But his career was topped off in 1948 by his #1 record of “You Call Everybody Darlin’,” which was a little more serious even if it wasn’t exactly a classic ballad.
A Chicago native, Trace first began to make a name for himself in the early 1930s when he formed his own band and appeared at the World’s Fair. He was in his thirties by then and had already logged some time as a drummer who occasionally sang, but he soon became a regional favorite as a bandleader who specialized in lively, upbeat music.
For the next couple of decades, Trace’s band found a lot of success while mostly sticking around the Chicago area. Featuring vocalists like Toni Arden, Red Maddock, and Bob Vincent (and sometimes Trace himself), the outfit had many successful records that brought them a national audience, including “Brush Those Tears From Your Eyes” and “Wishin,’’ culminating with the chart-topper “You Call Everybody Darlin'” in 1948. The band also appeared regularly on radio and eventually starred on the very popular show, It Pays To Be Ignorant.
Meanwhile Trace himself flourished as a songwriter, eventually publishing more than 300 songs, writing or co-writing some of them under pseudonyms like Clem Watts, the name he used on a silly song featured in a recent GMC piece about Eileen Barton. It was his songwriting skill that he would fall back on more and more after he retired from leading the band in the late 1950s, moving to California where he also worked in the managing side of the business. He continued part-time when he eventually retired to Arizona, where he died at age 92 in 1993.
Al Trace Orchestra – “Mairzy Doats”