Monday, November 22, 2010
The One-shot Wonder of It All
Setting out to track down elusive recording artists of an earlier era, one can never quite gauge how long it might take to arrive at the other side of the equation. In the case of one vocalist from the mid-1950s, Carole Creveling (SSJ Records XQAM 10121), it required a year’s worth of emails and phone calls on my part, and even a trip to the singer’s hometown before I was able to get to the bottom of things. In the instance of Patty McGovern and her One Shot Wonder, Wednesday’s Child, I mentally prepared myself for a possible similar saga.
Phone call # 1, in late June 2010---and first of many to come?--- found me ringing up the widow of jazz arranger Tom Talbert (1924-2005) whose charts are central to the artistic success of the recording. Inasmuch as Ms. Talbert’s marriage to her musician husband took place nearly forty years after the making of the album (1956), it’s understandable she didn’t possess a great deal of knowledge on the subject. Most helpfully, however, she put me in touch with someone who would know, Bruce Talbot, executive producer of the Smithsonian Collection of Recordings record label, and author of the 2004 biography Tom Talbert: His Life and Times: Voices From a Vanished World of Jazz. I rang him up, and he was immediately forthcoming with answers to my questions about Wednesday’s Child, an album that many devotees of the art of jazz vocal recording consider a landmark in the field.
“She [McGovern] went to New York from Minneapolis to further her career as a singer, did a lot of session work, and joined the group, The Honey Dreamers. She was married at the time to disc jockey Leigh Kamman, also originally from Minneapolis, and who came to New York with his wife and secured a radio job in the city.”
Thus was the scene for Wednesday's Child set:
Talbert and McGovern had known each other back in Minnesota and now were both in New York City. Says writer Talbot, “Tom’s first album was a critical success and he was looking around for something else to do and so Wednesday’s Child just kind of fell into place. This was the second album that Tom Talbert made. He used some of the same musicians who were on his first album, Bix, Duke, Fats. . Both were for Atlantic.”
Several minutes into the phone call, however, Talbot caught me up short with his answer to my query: “Do you know whether McGovern continued singing after the release of her album with Talbert?”
“I’m not exactly sure what happened next. Perhaps Patty can answer that question better than I can.”
Had I heard correctly? I HAD!
Talbot supplied me with the singer’s phone number and, within a few minutes, I found myself in a spirited conversation with McGovern from her home in Wisconsin. All within the space of a half-hour and three phone calls! (Instead of a year as with Carole Creveling.) As it t turned out, the singer was equally amazed at the ongoing interest in something she had been a part of, she said, “so many years ago.”
Here is a little bit about the singer’s life and times as recounted in that phone conversation:
“My love of music was from day one. My brother was a piano player. There was music in the house all the time. He was my idol. When I was in college I began playing [piano] and singing around Minneapolis and St. Paul.”
“Although the Honey Dreamers and I are all from Minnesota, I joined them in New York when two of the singers who had been in the group, Keith and Sylvia Textor, left to go with Fred Waring and his television show. I knew Art Ward, their manager, and was familiar with the group. My former husband [Kamman] was in the jazz business and this is how it all came about. The told me that they had auditioned about three hundred people. This was from about 1951 through 1956. I recorded Wednesday’s Child immediately after I left the Honey Dreamers. Then I did some TV work. I was a candidate to become a regular on the Eddie Fisher TV program, Coke Time, and even appeared on the show. But I really didn’t want that. I was kind of a snob. Earlier, in 1953 when I was still with the Honey Dreamers, I filled in solo for Teresa Brewer, when she became ill, on a TV show that she did with Mel Torme. Summertime USA. That was a lot more fun than the one with Eddie Fisher.”
“Eventually, though, I came back to Minneapolis where I did some singing. But by this time I was raising two daughters. I made the choice to focus on that. I don’t regret it. I had arrived back in Minneapolis in 1958. I divorced, eventually remarried and we’ve been together for forty years. And I keep myself busy teaching voice and piano. And I still write songs. [Jazz pianist-broadcaster] Marian McPartland and I have been friends for a long time and she called me up a while backand asked for the sheet music for one of my songs, “Your Laughter.“ She had Helen Merrill on her radio show and wanted to have her sing it. But Marian called me up at the last minute. It never happened.”
Her voice began to trail off:
“I wish I could think of more things to tell you. . ..”
Assuring Ms. McGovern that she’d “performed” quite nicely I soon rang off, left with the feeling, though, of how unfortunate it was that she was never again able to venture into a recording studio with Talbert or---for that matter---any other musicians.
--- Bill Reed
Liner notes written for---but unused--- SSJ Records' (Japan) 2010 reissue of Wednesday's Child
Posted by Bill Reed at 9:39 PM