.. and I shame to say that I did it for the money .....
ANNETTE HANSHAW - I hated those records
The twenties may have been the Era of Wonderful Nonsense, they sometimes roared, but for every noisy extrovert there was at least one quiet, unassuming level-headed type. So it was with singers: they weren't all noisy declaimers of mammy songs and bawdy blues. There were Whispering Jack Smith, who used no megaphone, and Rudy Vallee, who did; there was a young chap called Bing Crosby just starting out with Paul Whiteman. There was also Annette Hanshaw. ( liner notes The Recordings of Annette Hanshaw vol. 1 ( Fountain FDV-201)
Annette Hanshaw ( 1901 - 1983)
In July 1926 she got a contract from Pathé Records after she had played some test recordings. She ended her second test with the catchphrase: That's All.
Love to share with you both tests in one compilation. The first test had been posted in the previous blog too, but here both test, in a sing-along-version for you. Mind the neighbours!:
Medley: What Can I Say After I Say I'm Sorry / Bye Bye Blackbird / The Day That I Met You ( E-2476-2) = Medley: I Don't Want nobody But you / I Wonder What Becomes of Joe / Five foot Two Eyes Of Blue ( R-2477-2) - both recorded 28th of July 1926.
Annette sings and plays the piano.
The catchphrase "That's All" became her great signature phrase and she had to repeat it after (almost) each recording - and so she did!
She became immense popular for almost a decade. She became a star in radio programs and billed as the Personality Girl. During the 1930s she got a relation with Herman Rose, the man who had discovered her and who was her manager. They married in 1934. From that date, she "retired" from show business - frustrated and ready for her new role to be Mrs. Annette Rose, a decent housewife. In an interview with Jack Cullen (1972) she says that she earned in the 1930s when she stopped US $1500 for 12 minutes, refering to the popular Camel Show, one of her most famous radio programs from the 1930s. We made actually two versions, she told, one for the East coast and one for the West coast. But few people know that she continued to sing in some commercials; transcriptions for firms like Chevrolet, De Soto cars and Rexall Drug Stores. She really stopped singing in 1938 and refused any comeback that was suggested. A few private recordings from the 1950s that survived show that she still sung very well at informal performances. The sound quality of these private recordings are rather low-fy, but enjoy one of the selections:
This all happened more then 75 years ago and she should have become a forgotten legend, an icon of the Roaring Twenties, if Brian Rust, the well known English discographer and record collector, didn't refound her in 1959 when he visited the States. He met her and talked to her and
wrote some interesting liner notes ( together with Tony Skyrme) for a series of Fountain / Retrieval Records ( FV 201 - ( FV 202 ) - FV 205 ). Annette was very surprised to hear that Brian was interested in her career as a jazz singer. Looking back at her recordings, made more then 50 years ago, she was unsatisfied with the results. The oldest ones are the worst ones, she said in the 1972 Jack Cullen interview. And when Cullen asked her, what records she was proud of, she answered: At a matter of fact, I dislike all of them. I disliked the business intensely and I shame to say that I did it for the money. I loved to sing and jam with the members of the band, but I was terrible nervous when I had to play in public. As she was a perfectionist she still hated some of the recordings sessions which didn't turn out as she had wanted. She still remembered Eddie Lang, she told Brian, the then famous guitar player, as the man she could appeal to. It was Eddie Lang, she told Brian, refering to a chaotically recording session, who came to rescue, and that of the session generally. Calmly, he organised order out of chaos, and in a few moments, everything was sunny again. Brian told Annette that people collect her records. You mean there are people who collect these things? In Cullen's interview she told that she had heard that someone had paid US$ 20 for one of her records. Rediculous
It seems that she became good friends with Helen Kane, the pop star / comedienne which could be best labelled as the Madona or Lady Gaga of the 1920s and 1930s. As Annette's baby voice from the 1920s had developed into a more darkened sweet and wholesomely seductive sound, it is said that Helen stated that Annette sounded more like Helen Kane than Helen Kane. Annette admired singers like Ruth Etting, Ellen Logan and Connie Boswell. Although she seems to have been present on some short films, the only one I found is part of the film Captain Henry's Showboat (1933), in fact a popular radio show. She sings We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye.
Annette never really wanted to become a star. I never thought I was very good and when it got to where I had people depending on my work for a living, musicians, arrangers etc. I didn't like that. I loved getting the offers but I loved turning them down even more, she told Brian.
In the previous blog I told about the fact that Annette had said to be born in 1910, although her birth certificate says 1901. In the 1972 interview it is remarkable that she can't tell the year that she started singing professionally. Some record sleeves say 1927, but they want to look those records older - it must have been 1928 ( her first commercial record was recorded in September 1926 for Pathé Actuelle six weeks after the test records.) You know when you lie about your age ..... she says meaningfully. Jack asked her when she did retired. She told that she can't remember the year but pointed to Brian Rust who produced several albums in England and he mentioned the year that I retired. ( 1934) You must have been in your 20s? Jack Cullen remarked and suddenly she made a complete turnabout in the conversation: Will you tell me your name again? You know this is a terrible connection ( Jack interviewed her by phone)) and doing so she avoided the subject completely. A very remarkable signal!
Love to share with you one of those numerous great recordings. I've selected I'm Somebody's Somebody Now with the Four Instrumental Stars featuring Joe Venuti on violin, Eddie Lang at the guitar, Adrian Rollini on bass-sax and Vic Berton drums and tympani. Recorded New York, June 1927
Annette Hanshaw's career had a brief recording span for almost eight years. When she started her career in 1926 she was 25 years old, but she was billed as a young 16 year flapper girl. Even decades later, when she spoke to Brian Rust late 1950s she preserved up to be born in 1910. Maybe she wanted to keep up the myth of her eternal youth or she was ruled by a selective memory. Well never mind - her great voice and charisma is still fascinating numerous (aged) jazz fans. If you are afraid to miss other great contributions like this one, follow the Keep Swinging blog at Twitter or ask for its free newsletter.
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