rand’s esoteric otr

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Reminiscin’ with Singin’ Sam - Pgm 103

July 1st, 2009

A few months ago, I picked up several discs of "Reminiscin' with Singin' Sam" that don't appear to be in circulation, so I'll be putting one up on the blog now and then.  The July 4th weekend seems like a perfect time to dive into this little slice of Americana.

transcription label

Harry Frankel, aka "Singin' Sam", was a native of Kentucky.  Starting in minstrel shows and vaudeville, he got his big break on radio in 1930 on WLW in Chicago.  He show was heard throughout the thirties and he became known as "Singin' Sam, the Barbasol Man" and he'd keep the "Singin' Sam" name for a series he did for Coca-Cola from 1937 to 1942.  Sam passed away in 1948 and his sheet music collection and personal papers and records are housed in the Morrisson-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.  The Library has an online digital collection of his 78 rpm recordings, photographs and memorabilia.

"Reminiscin' with Singing' Sam" was a syndicated series he produced through his own company in the 1940s and preserves his unique singing style and radio presence.  Frankel possessed one of the largest private collections of sheet music in the country and the focus of his show were long-forgotten popular songs that were "oldies", some reaching back to the late 19th century.  With his warm, "down home" manner, he'd invite the parents and grandparents to pull up a chair in front of the radio and remember the good old times and songs of long ago.  The fun for listeners today is rediscovering long-forgotten tunes.

Program 3 in the series kicks off with what sounds like an old minstrel show tune,  "When I'm Walkin' With My Sweetness", and we also hear "My Little Mule Wagon".  Sam is backed by the Charles Magnante Trio and the Mullins Sisters.  You might remember Charles Magnante from his work on the Jack Berch Show, heard previously on the blog.

Our mp3 was transferred from original Transcription Sales, Inc vinyl disc, matrix number L-19667-A1.  The original "Singin' Sam" discs I obtained were stored without sleeves for many years and were pretty scuffed up; I've run the file through some click reduction software to make it more listenable.

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  • Dave White

    Randy, your blog is a high point of my week. You have a great ear for interesting material, and I am so grateful that you are willing to share these gems. By the way, WLW was (and is) in Cincinnati. Keep up the wonderful work! Dave

    Jul 2, 2009 at 4:48 am
  • Nemo

    About 35 years ago, when I was in my early teens, one of my first exposures to OTR was a OTR rebroadcast program on a local station. The host used Singin’ Sam’s opening of “Reminiscin’” as the opening of his program every week. However, he never played (as best I recall) an actual Singin’ Sam program. So it is good after all these years to finally hear the rest of the program.

    Jul 2, 2009 at 8:39 pm
  • randsesotericotr

    I had a similar experience. I was first exposed to OTR at my local public library and wound up getting a Radio Yesteryear catalogue. It include a flexi-disc of old time radio themes and show openings - “Singin’ Sam” was the first one on the disc. I always wondered what one of the shows sounded like!

    Jul 2, 2009 at 9:32 pm
  • Jim Widner

    Hi Randy, a few corrections on the life of Harry Frankel, aka “Singin’ Sam.” Frankel wasn’t a native of Kentucky, but rather was born in Hillsboro, Ohio on January 27, 1888. However, he moved to Danville, Kentucky when he was a toddler. I guess it would depend on your definition of “native.” When he was eleven, the family moved from Danville to Richmond, Indiana.

    In 1928 he signed a contract with the Great States Lawn Mower Company of Richmond through the urging of his friend and vice president of the company - Tom Nickel, for broadcast over WLW, Cincinnati. He took on the name “Singin’ Sam” and for this WLW program, Lawn Party, he was known as “Singin’ Sam, the Lawn Mower Man.” In off season from the broadcast, he would be sub-contracted by Nickel to other sponsors, e.g. “Singin’ Sam the Coffee Man” for Standard Brands.

    He had been contacted by Barbasol, an Indianapolis-based company but didn’t sign fully with them on his own until his contract with Great States ran out in 1931. In July, 1931 “Singin Sam the Barbasol Man” aired nationwide over the CBS network. In late 1931, he was also signed by Barbasol to do a program over NBC called “The Old Singing Master” Most of his beginning radio success was broadcast out of studios in New York City. He finally convinced his sponsors to let him broadcast from the studios of WKRC in Cincinnati starting in 1933. This way, he could live on his farm in Centerville, Indiana and commute to Cincinnati to do the show.

    In 1942, James Petrillo’s ban on making transcription recordings hit Singin’ Sam hard as by then he was working for Coca Cola doing a program he transcribed in New York City while continuing to live in Indiana. When Petrillo’s ban was lifted, Frankel formed the Transcription Sales Company with headquarters in Springfield, Ohio and an office in New York City. Through this he recorded his 15 minute “Reminiscin’ with Singin’ Sam” transcriptions recording 260 of them. On the transcriptions he was backed, as you mention by Charlie Magnante Trio and the Mullen Sisters (note corrected spelling).

    Aug 23, 2009 at 9:49 pm