Episode 110. Black Crooners

Episode 110. Black Crooners



Nat King Cole

Season Three of Countermelody begins with a potpourri episode of some of my favorite crooners of color. I begin with an example of Bert Williams, the first African-American superstar, and offer a few other examples of important precursors, but I focus on the heyday of the crooner, from the 1940s through the early 1960s, including such honey-voiced singers as Billy Eckstine, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis, Jr., Johnny Hartman, Lou Rawls, Brook Benton, and Arthur Prysock. Since I apply the term “crooner” fairly loosely, I am also able to present singers from outside the traditional repertoire of the standard crooner, including Josh White, Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson, Harry Belafonte, Barry White, Bobby Short, and Lamont Dozier.The episode concludes with a tribute to Broadway baritones of color and with a stunning live performance of Jackie Wilson singing “Danny Boy” in honor of my birthday. Vocal guest stars include Miriam Makeba, Linda Ronstadt, and Mabel Mercer.

Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.



Carl Fischer, Bill Carey: It Stared All Over Again. Sammy Davis Jr., Orchestra conducted by Sy Oliver [1956]

Franz Schubert, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Der Musensohn, D.764. Francisco Araiza, Irwin Gage [1983]

Bert Williams, Alex Rogers: Nobody. Bert Williams [1908]

Cole Porter: Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love). Hutch [Leslie Hutchinson] [1935]

Doris Fisher, Allan Roberts: You Always Hurt the One You Love. The Mills Brothers [1948]

Traditional, copyrighted by W.C. Handy: Careless Love. Josh White [1944]

Adam Salim, arr. Jonas Gwangwa: Malaika [My Angel]. Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makeba, Orchestra conducted by Howard A. Roberts [1965]

Traditional, arr. Brock Peters: St. James Infirmary. Brock Peters, Orchestra and chorus conducted by Jack Lewis [1959]

Merle Travis: Sixteen Tons. George Goodman [ca. 1965]

Cindy Walker, Eddy Arnold: You Don’t Know Me. Ray Charles, Orchestra and chorus conducted by Marty Paich [1962]

Joseph Kosma, Johnny Mercer (after Jacques Prévert): Autumn Leaves. Nat King Cole, Orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle [1953]

J. Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie: You Go to My Head. Leslie Scott, Billy Moore, Jr. and His Orchestra [1947]

Erroll Garner, Johnny Burke: Misty. Johnny Mathis, Orchestra conducted by Glenn Osser [1959]

Morgan Lewis, Nancy Hamilton: How High the Moon (Two for the Show). Marvin Gaye, Produced by Barry Gordy, Jr. [1961]

Sam Cooke (credited to L.C. Cook): You Send Me. Sam Cooke [1957]

Arthur Herzog, Jr., Billie Holiday: God Bless the Child. Billy Eckstine, Linda Rondstadt [Playboy after Dark telecast 1970]

Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart: It Never Entered My Mind (Higher and Higher). Johnny Hartman, Hank Jones, Richard Davis, Osie Johnson, Barry Galbraith [1964]

Andy Razaf, Roy Jacobs, William Weldon: I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town. Lou Rawls, Les McCann, Ltd. [Les McCann Leroy Vinnegar, Ron Jefferson] [1962]

Burt Bacharach, Hal David: A House Is Not a Home (theme from the film of the same title). Brook Benton, arranged and conducted by Alan Lorber [1964]

Quincy Jones, Ernie Shelby: It’s Just a Game, Love (The Split). Arthur Prysock, Orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones [1968]

Barry White: Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe. Barry White, arranged by Gene Page [1974]

McKinley Jackson, James Reddick: Fish Ain’t Bitin’. Lamont Dozier, arranged by H.B. Barnum, McKinley Jackson [1973]

Jon Hendricks: Tell Me the Truth. Jon Hendricks, Larry Vukovich, Hadley Caliman, Clint Mosely, Eddie Duran, Melvin Seals, Larry “Tricky” Lofton, Tom Rutley, Eddie Marshall, Benny Velarde [1975]

Anthony Newley, Leslie Bricusse, M. Mleinek: Was für ein Narr ich bin [What Kind of Fool Am I?] (Stop the World – I Want to Get Off). Owen Williams, Panorama-Sound-Orchester [1966]

Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Schwartz: A Simple Song (Mass). Bruce Hubbard, Dennis Russell Davies, Orchestra of St. Luke’s [1990]

George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin: The Man I Love. Brian Stokes Mitchell [2019]

Cyndi Lauper: Not My Father’s Son (Kinky Boots). Billy Porter [2014]

Traditional Irish, Frederick Weatherly: Danny Boy. Jackie Wilson [Shivaree telecast 1965]

Paul Simon: The 59th Street Bridge Song; Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh: Here’s to Us (Little Me). Bobby Short, Mabel Mercer, Beverly Peer, Dick Sheridan [live Town Hall 19 May 1968]

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