Archive for the 'gay and lesbian' Category

Ray Bourbon - Forbidden Broadcast

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Now we bring you a disc that isn't a radio broadcast, but is a bit of obscure radio-related memorabilia.

"Forbidden Broadcast" is a comedy record made by nightclub performer Ray Bourbon sometime in the 1930s.  Ray got his start in vaudeville, was a bit player in silent movies at Paramount and was friends with Rudolph Valentino and William Boyd, and made a name for himself with his outrageous improvised comedy.  He was also a sexually ambiguous "drag queen" that wasn't afraid to do gay humor at a time when homosexuality was illegal and gay clubs were regularly raided by police.

Ray Bourbon

Ray's career would extend from the 1920s until his death in 1971 in prison.  He was convicted of the murder of the owner of the Pet-A-Zoo, a business in Big Springs, Texas.  When Ray left his dogs with the owner, Roy Blount, and couldn't pay the bill, Blount sold the animals for medical research.  But, during Ray's storied life, he appeared on stage with such stars as Mae West and helped composers Chet Forrest and Robert Wright and actor Robert Taylor get started in the business.  Even Robert Mitchum, when he was breaking into the business, wrote songs for Ray's nightclub act to pick up a few dollars in the 1940s.  Ray travelled all over the US and Europe, performing well into his 70s.

Despite Ray's reputation as a "smutty" comedian, his material is rather tame and coy today and he did appear on radio a few times.  In May 1933, his San Francisco revue "Boys Will Be Girls", was carried live on the radio - and, in a twist that made headlines at the time, the show was raided by the police and the raid was carried live on the station.  I've also found documentation on program schedules that Ray appeared on radio three times in December 1938 on Los Angeles radio station KTMR in a 15 minute show.  Ray was regularly working in Los Angeles nightclubs during this period and may have bought the time to promote his stage act.

record label

Researching Ray's life and work and collecting his recordings and other memorabilia has been another one of my hobbies over the past decade.  I was lucky enough to obtain the original typed manuscript of Ray's incomplete memoirs that he was working on when he was in prison in Texas.  If you'd like to learn more about Ray's very strange life, check out my website on this unique performer.  Also, sixties underground cartoonist Skip Williamson had a fascinating blog post a few months ago on working as a publicist for one of Ray's productions.

"Forbidden Broadcast" is one of over 150 recordings Ray made from the 1930s to the 1960s.  He was a true "do it yourself" artist, contracting to have 78s and lps produced and selling them at his shows and via mail order.  Some were sold "under the counter" at record shops and the discs are well known to "party record" collectors today.

So, in this post, give a listen to "Forbidden Broadcast" by Ray Bourbon, originally released on Western Record Company Bourbana, matrix number WR-716-A.

My sincere thanks to collector Sara Hassan for providing a tape copy of this 78 used as the basis for this mp3 file.

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Hildegarde - Pgm 17

Friday, September 18th, 2009

I recently obtained a few rare episodes of this rare comedy-variety series with the Incomprable Hildegarde.  In this post, we give a spin to program 17 in the series as it was heard on the Armed Forces Radio Network.  The show was originally broadcast as "The Raleigh Room" on May 15, 1945 on NBC.

transcription label

Hildegarde's first song on the show is "Who?".  Patsy Kelly tries to get a date with Xavier Cugat and Clifton Webb gives her some advice, putting in a few plugs for his new movie, "Laura".  Hildegarde and Cugat sing "Take It Easy", with lyrics making fun of Patsy's man-chasing.  In the cast are Hildegarde, Patsy Kelly, guests Xavier Cugat and Clifton Webb, and Harry Sosnik and His Orchestra.

The show was transferred from original AFRS vinyl transcription, matrix numbers HD5-MM-7476-1 and HD5-MM-7477-1, probably pressed by RCA.  Date is also on the transcription matrix.

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Guest Star, Pgm 17

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Up next on the blog is an early episode of the long-running Treasury Department public service series, "Guest Star" that promoted the sale of US savings bonds.

transcription label

In this show, Kenny Delmar plays host to Hildegarde who sings "Among My Souvenirs" and "My Belle Aime".  The Savings Bond Orchestra with Miklos Schwab as the piano soloist gives us a short piece based on themes by Paganini.

The mp3 was taken directly from a Treasury Department vinyl disc, matrix number ND7-MM-5434-1C, probably pressed by RCA/NBC.  The show is dated January 18, 1947 in the vinyl trail-off area, which likely indicates when it was recorded.

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Hildegarde’s Radio Room - AFRS Pgm 26 - Oct 16, 1945

Friday, April 25th, 2008

In this post, "Hildegarde's Radio Room", AFRS Pgm 26 in the series, originally broadcast on NBC, October 16, 1945 as "The Raleigh Room". The guests include Jackie Keck of "The Aldrich Family", Ned Sparks, Hank Greenburg, and Paul McGrath, the host of "Inner Sanctum"; the music is by Harry Sosnick and his Orchestra.

Hildegarde got her start in vaudeville and first gained fame in Europe, signing a contract with the BBC in the 1930s. She returned to the US in the late 1930s and gained a Time magazine cover and even had a lipstick and nail polish color named after her. Walter Winchell dubbed her "The Incomparable Hildegarde". Her signature song was "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup", written by her manager and companion of twenty years, Anna Sosenko. Sosenko's NY Times obituary noted,

"No one knows why she and Hildegarde parted in the mid-1950's, but they eventually made up. Two days after she turned 85, Hildegarde was performing at the Russian Tea Room in 1991 and, of course, offered a rendition of her 1934 signature song, ''Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup.'' She observed that it was a song she never grew tired of singing. Ms. Sosenko, who had composed it and was one of many friends and well-wishers in the audience, brought down the house when she countered, ''But I'm tired of it.''"

By the late 1940s, Hildegarde was the highest paid caberet singer in the world, released dozens of LPs in the 50s and 60s and sold out Carnegie Hall on her eightieth birthday. The Wisconsin Historical Museum has a photo of Hildegarde appearing on her radio show, circa 1945, on this page. There's also info on a record Hildegarde made to promote her home state that included the song "My Milwaukee".

Hildegarde has a wonderful singing voice, but the constant smiling and upbeat tone and that little laugh can get a bit grating sometimes, at least to me.

Post updated with corrected date of Oct 16th. - 28 April 2008

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