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.