Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Ridin'High, Sep 4, 2016.
All ladies are welcome to the Obscure & Neglected Female Singers Forum-Encyclopedia.
"Rules are made to be broken"
To argue with folk wisdom is the same as urinating against the wind. So, I agree.
I also have a mother at the same age. She does not remember much, but still enjoys music on TV.
I hope that the love to the Music will keep us all alive longer than those who do not have it.
Thank you for your effort and finding so interesting info on the artist.
You're welcome. And here's still more:
Assuming this is the right Helen Carr, and not the "other one", there are two songs on CD from her time with Stan Kenton (which was one month in 1952):
"Everything Happens To Me" is on the CD "Stan's Singers"
Stan Kenton - Stan's Singers - Amazon.com Music
"Don't Worry 'Bout Me" is on "Stan's Singers Volume 2"
Stan Kenton - Stan's Singers Vol. 2 - Amazon.com Music
They were performed on the Bob Snyder show on June 22, 1952:
Stan Kenton - Radio Broadcasts
Here is the back of Stan's Singers:
And the back of Volume 2:
I'm pretty sure "You Made Me Love You" can be eliminated, so now there could be 29 songs (or 28, if "Gilly Gilly Wish Wash" isn't her.) Although Dr. Chilledair's quote from Scott Yanow at People vs. Dr. Chilledair: Helen Carr does say she sang with Chuck Foster.
Here's Scott Yanow's website: Page Title
I have two more songs to add to your ongoing list. They are in these CDs:
Both are live, concert performances, captured through radio remotes. (Details in upcoming post.)
I have put together a somewhat long chronology of what we know about Helen Carr so far. I was about to post it when I caught your more recent messages about her. Good thing that I did, because the existence of that other Helen is brand news to me, and further complicates things. So, I'll probably post the chronology later tonight or tomorrow, since I have to check how the details about this other Helen affects it.
(I do have the screenshot from the telescription, and had previously seen the Copacabana poster, though not in the larger size that you thankfully transferred from eBay. And I too found out about the MGM single; thanks to an ad that listed "MGM Records" among her "engagements." But the existence of another Helen Carr ... Oy!)
This was written long, long ago. Now that many years have passed, and as the internet keeps on providing us with more and more information, it might be safer to say that there is no Helen Carr EP. I mean, have anyone ever seen the thing? I haven't. If it doesn't exist, Bethlehem simply made a mistake.
Yep--I just found the Stan Kenton CDs too---in the post right before yours. Of course I just bought both Cds. And yeah--the ep has to be a mistake.
I was wondering if I would get a cd-r with a single page list but I’m happy to report that Canadian Divas - Swinging Easy is a legitimate and well produced VA cd. It comes from a Gala Records, but has CBC and Public Archives of Canada support. There is a 24 page booklet with info about the artists and also the recordings. An individual named Jean-Pierre Sevigny seems to be the person most responsible for what is obviously a labour of love.
There isn’t much jazz on board, and some of the recordings are from 40s radio, but there are some tracks I am enjoying very much.
1. Let's Call It A Day - Sheila Graham 2. When The World Was Young - Sheila Graham 3. You Wonder Why - Babs Babineau 4. P.S. I Love You - Norma Locke 5. Won't You Love Me - Joan Fairfax 6. Try To Remember - Monique Leyrac 7. The Turntable Song - Deanna Durbin 8. Parlez-Moi D'Amour - Catherine McKinnon 9. Too Close For Comfort - Gisele Mackenzie 10. Besame Mucho - Dorothy Collins 11. Fact Of The Matter - Terry Dale 12. The Man I Love - Phyllis Marshall 13. Heart Of Mine - Georgia Dey 14. I Like It, I Like It, I Like It - Joan Fairfax 15. The Nearness Of You - Gisele Mackenzie 16. Something Old, Something New - Norma Locke 17. Until It's Time For You To Go - Juliette 18. How Will I Know - Babs Babineau 19. You'll Never Get Away - Juliette 20. Chica Chica Boom Chic - Alys Robi 21. Speak Low - Lorraine Macallister 22. He Was A Gentleman - Beatrice Lillie 23. It's Foolish But It's Fun - Deanna Durbin 24. The Party's Over Now - Beatrice Lillie
What of them can you refer as Jazz?
Giselle Mackenzie does well on Too Close for Comfort, but it is a short clip from a performance. Dorothy Collins on Besame Mucho and Georgia Dey on Heart of Mine are good as torch songs. Jean Fairfax on I Like It, I Like It reminds me of a smoother voiced Blossom Dearie.
And SPEAK LOW by Lorraine MacAllister is pretty nice, but the lyrics make it jazzy anyway..
I haven't been able to find out anything else about the other Helen Carr. The only other references to her and Hal Curtis I can find are in newspapers like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Here's one mention of her, from the November 20, 1953 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, from
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on November 20, 1953 · Page 25
" . . The old Tenn Theater in -Ambridge has been converted .Into a ballroom (The Melody) and Hal Curtis plays there on Sunday. Curtis, by the way, Is now featuring Helen Carr, of New Castle, on the vocals"
And this one from the December 5, 1953 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 5, 1953 · Page 22
"On Tuesday night, Hal Curtis and his band, featuring Helen Carr, will be the attraction"
The article at:
http://bbdb.us/c6.html says "Curtis led a predominantly "territory" band that traveled the Midwest. It is not presently known if they ever recorded." (Although that website hasn't been updated since 2008)
So we now have at least 31 or 30 Helen Carr songs-- I found another one:
She sings "No Baby, No" on the album "Chuck Foster: One More Time: The Big Bands", from the US Jazz re-issue label Blue Heaven Records (BH3-304) (Series 3 volume 4)
Here's the front and back:
I'm still not sure about "You Made Me Love You". I'd like to find out if Helen is credited on the King Curtis CD from Real Gone Music - "The Complete Atco Singles"
"Born Frances Wolfe, Fran Warren grew up in love with swing music, spending a lot of time listening to the radio. Her interest in singing went back to her days entertaining at school assemblies in the Bronx, New York. She had the voice, however, and the inspiration to grab a piece of the tail end of the big-band era, racking up one major hit and a legion of fans, even as she branched into theater to keep working at the level her ability commanded.
She was singing in local jazz outfits in her mid-teens, auditioned for Duke Ellington at age 16, and got her first professional break at 18, when she joined a new orchestra being formed by bandleader Art Mooney. She was making $65 a week, a more-than-decent amount of money for a single woman in 1945, and was broadcasting on the radio three nights each week. She also idolized Billie Holiday, and preferred jazz over pop.
It was Billy Eckstine, after inviting her to sing with his band, who gave her the stage name Fran Warren, under which she subsequently became a star. Warren got her wish when saxman Charlie Barnet heard one of her broadcasts with Mooney's band and offered her a spot in his group, replacing Kay Starr. Warren loved her 18 months with Barnet's orchestra, but found their pace killing -- she was fired by choice, and moved on to a spot singing with Claude Thornhill 's orchestra. The pivotal moment in her career came when their first record together, "A Sunday Kind of Love," became a huge hit and her signature tune. She made an impression on Thornhill as well, who later gave her a $5,000 bonus for the single.
Warren moved into a solo career, recording first with RCA Victor and then MGM. She also made her theatrical debut in the mid-'50s, in the cast of the musical The Pajama Game. She later played the title role in Mame, and toured with the Harry James Orchestra in the mid-'60s. She remained a successful vocalist for 50 years, and continued to perform into the late '90s.
Fran Warren died at home in Brookfield, Connecticut on her 87th birthday, March 4, 2013".
Fran said that beside Billie Holiday, Jo Stafford and Helen Forrest were her favorite singers. And guess what... she took Joe Stafford perfect phrasing added Helen Forrest cuteness and cemented all of that with her own lush and smoky timbre - unique and irresistible mixture.
I have 5 CDs and this one I would highly recommend:
The Complete Fran Warren with Claude Thornhill by Collector Choise/Sony 2000.
Early Autumn (1947)
Love For Love
I Remember Mama
A Sunday Kind Of Love (1946)
1947 HITS ARCHIVE: A Sunday Kind Of Love - Claude Thornhill (Fran Warren, vocal)
You're Not So Easy To Forget
For Heaven's Sake
Don't Call It Love
Many of her solo RCA Records still didn't find its way to CD:
Don't Say Goodbye (1950) - Fran Warren
You Don't Know What Love Is (1950)
You Don't Know What Love Is
Any Time At All (1951) - Fran Warren
You're In Love With Someone
Fran Warren-You're In Love With Someone RCA Records-78
Just About This Time Last Night
I Need Your Love (1955) - Fran Warren
Second CD would be:
Hey There! Here's Fran Warren (1957) Flare 2009. CD has 12 bonus tracks, and about 5-6 of them are good.
This album clearly shows why critics named Fran Warren one of the best American Song stylist.
Style, however, has changed: cuteness has gone, but appeared to be more of deepness, confidence and control. Her distinctive lush timbre is here. Add to it very tasteful arrangements, better recording and you've got a winner:
You Don't Know What Love Is
(from the comment)
Thanks for the opportunity to hear another of Fran Warren's style of delivery. What a lovely delivery, I have ordered a CD of this singer, which will fit nicely into my collection of singers worth listening to.
Fran Warren - Imagination - YouTube
I'm In The Mood For Love
Bewitched Bothered And Bewildered
They Can't Take That Away From Me
Fran Warren - They Can't Take That Away From Me
(from the bonus tracks)
Two more CDs I have by Flare Records:
It's Anybody's Heart Flare 2007 comes recommended too.
"What a fine artist. Coming onto the Big Band scene in its last years, Fran Warren nevertheless made her mark with her stunning voice and warm, sensitive style."
"Fran Warren, one of the finest singers to emerge from the last years of the big band era, proved herself a stylist of the highest rank. With exemplary pitch and tone, she also had the most sensitive way with a
lyric. But she has been much neglected in CD releases. However, Flare is now offering a second volume of her recordings, selected from her early days with RCA Victor through to her later recordings for MGM. Concentrating mostly on the ballads, this new compilation includes notable duets with Tony Martin and Lisa Kirk. And just listen to Fran singing the classic "Temptation", against an accompaniment only of drums......very special!"
"An interesting compilation of songs by Fran warren culled from her early days with RCA and MGM. The compilation is varied with some well known standards and a few numbers that may even be new or forgotten to some of us. Easy background listening, more for the daylight hours than cocktail time.
The restoration is good with only occasional and slight noise from the source material.
A good collection from a well acomplished songstress
whose work from the evergreen era deserves more exposure today."
First tune is taken from the radio shows, while CD has 78 versions:
(1952 Bing Crosby Show radio program)
I Hear A Rhapsody (1952) - Fran Warren
Let's Make Love
It's Anybody's Heart (1949)
Fran Warren - It's Anybody's Heart
If I Could Have You Back Again
Unless You're Near Me (1953) - Fran Warren
It's All Over But The Memories
Blame It On Yourself
Homework (1949) - Fran Warren
I wouldn't recommend Love For Love - A Program Of Love Songs from One Of America's Top Stylists Flare 2007 - too much weak musical stuff and dull duet numbers.
Another recommended CD: Fran Warren - Let's Fall In Love Vocalion 2002 - set of 25 Early RCA Recordings (1947-1951), probably the best what came out from the Broadway. Fran did god job to make them sound jazzy as possible.
I selected 5 of my favorites from this CD:
I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues (1951) - Fran Warren
(When I Lost My Babe) I Almost Lost My Mind (1950)
I ALMOST LOST MY MIND by Fran Warren c1950
Another 3 songs: 'Who Cares?', 'Why Can't You Behave?' and 'One for My Baby' I couldn't find.
So, I took 2 others which illustrate the rest of the CD material. While they're not so strong, I enjoyed Fran voice any way. (By the way, 'Stormy Weather' is here too):
Tryin' Too Hard (1951) - Fran Warren
Let's Fall In Love
Obscure and Neglected Essential Master
Fran Warren Tribute
Although I recommended 2 of my 3 Flare CDs, I should warn everyone that they look like a CD-R for me. In the description of the CD there are no comments. This is not an Amazon remake - the CD was sealed with a label advertisement inside. Although the sound quality is good, the CD-R will not last as long as the factory pressed discs.
Therefore, I would recommend them only at an inexpensive price.
Fran Warren became third victim (after Nina Simone and Billie Holliday) who was chosen for DJ remixes. (It's hard to recognize her voice):
Belong to No One
(Prepared by Ivan Santiago on July 15, 2017. Posted at the Steve Hoffman Forums,
on the thread Obscure And Neglected Singers Of Standards, 1930s To 1960s)
This is an informal gathering of bio-discographical details about the singer Helen Carr.
All details were found either online or on the liner notes of CDs and LPs.
Corrections and additions will be very welcome.
An ideal follow-up to this writeup would be consulting the book Leave It To Me ... A Life In Music, an autobiography that Donn Trenner wrote with Tim Atherton. (I don't have it, but I am planning to get it in the future. The book includes many interesting anecdotes about not only Mr. Trenner but also the many jazz stars and TV/film celebrities with whom he has worked during his very long music career.)
Of course, hearing one day from Mr. Trenner himself, as JBeck has already pointed out in this thread, would be great. There could hardly be anyone more qualified to make corrections and fill gaps.
Different sources give different years for Helen's birth: 1922, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1928. I am not finding confirmation for any of these dates. We do not know, either, if "Helen Carr" is her birth name, or a stage name. At least, there is consensus about her place of birth: Salt Lake City, Utah.
The existence of numerous birth dates is particularly intriguing. I am left to wonder if Helen herself could be responsible for the uncertainty. A habit of shaving a few years off one's age is relatively common in show business (and not too rare, either, among "regular mortals").
In Helen's case, being married to a younger man could have been a further incentive to make modifications to her age. All biographical accounts of pianist Donn Trenner consistently state that he was born in 1927 -- on March 10, to be exact. (I hasten to add that the scenario painted in this paragraph is merely speculation, and hence possibly off the mark. The fact remans that we still do not know if Helen was younger, older, or of the same age as her husband.)
If born in 1922, Helen was 29 or 30 when the following picture was taken (ca. early June 1952). If born in any of the other claimed years, she would be even younger, of course.
Is it my imagination & eyesight, or does our singer look well past her 30s in this photograph? Could she have been a lot older than what all reports indicate?
Then again, other extant photos do show a woman seemingly in her twenties. So: maybe this particular shot caught Helen at an unflattering angle. Or maybe she was tired on the night the pic was taken, and the fatigue was showing. (She could have also been ill and somewhat undisposed ... I'm bearing in mind the claim that she died of cancer eight years later.)
Addendum, July 17, 2017: Fellow poster JBeck57143 has reported about the existence of a second singer who also used the name "Helen Carr." JBeck's source is the online American Bands Alphabetical Index, in which we are told that, in 2007, the daughter of this second Helen Carr was queried on the subject of her mother's career. She is quoted as follows:
"I can not give you an accurate birth date for my mother Helen, but she sang with
Hal Curtis from the mid-1940's to the mid-1950's. She had her own weekly radio show
at 14 years of age in the mid to late 1930's in New Castle, PA. She may have sung
under the name of Helen Carr?? She once told me she auditioned for Sammy Kaye
and was accepted, but decided against touring with him, choosing to stay local because
she had a young child at home. It was just after this that he became well known. She
did not, to my knowledge, sing with any other orchestras and I was told that she
refused other offers for the same reason. She is in her 80's, now."
The existence of a second Helen could partially explain the multiplicity of birth dates, though not the "dual" cause of death. (I mean: this second Helen was alive in the 2000s. Not to complicate matters or create more of a mystery, but there is a Donn Trenner remark that is worth mentioning in this context: in 2015, when an interviewer asked Trenner if Helen was a singer, he answered with, "yes, she is." Presumably, though, he was speaking in what we could call, for lack of a better word, the immortal tense.)
Could this second Helen be responsible for some of the recordings and concert dates that will be discussed below? ... My present opinion is that she was not involved in any of them. I will grant that her daughter could understandably be unaware of some traveling or recording activities. But, for the time being, I see no actual evidence leading in that direction. The second Helen seems to have limited her musical activities to the greater Pittsburgh area (or just to Pennsylvania, at any rate), and her body of work also seems to be tied to a territorial band (Hal Curtis).
In early 1945, a 17-year-old Donn Trenner was traveling with the Ted Fio Rito band. When he turned 18 (March 10), the band was playing at the Golden Gate in San Francisco. Next up, they moved on to an engagement in Oakland, California, at a place called the Mandrake (sp??) Cafe. It was at this point that the youngster and a bandmate went on a double date. In Donn's own words: "a friend of mine from New Haven that I got on the band and I had a date with a couple of girls. However, I don't remember whose car we were in. I just remember that I was driving. I was looking in the rearview mirror because the girl he was with was the one I wanted to be with. And I married her."
Yes, that was Helen, in the rearview mirror.
Since the pianist recalls being drafted right after he became of age, the marriage might or might have not taken place in 1945. He served for 15 months.
Whichever year the marriage actually took place (the options being 1945, 1946, or 1947), Donn and Helen became an inseparable music pair from that moment onwards. The reason: she refused to allow him to work (or to go on the road) unless she was also present. So, they must have often operated as a "package deal."
1946 and/or 1947
After returning from service in the Air Force, Donn had a couple of very short-lived job experiences (Blue Barron, Tommy Dorsey), and then joined Buddy Morrow And His Orchestra. (Back when Donn was still in high school, he and Morrow's brother had worked and played together.) In the liner notes for Helen's albums, Buddy Morrow's orchestra is also mentioned. It is said to have been one of the bands with which she sang, although no year is given. We might assume that Helen was with the band at the same time as Donn, and that they were already married -- or, at the very least, a pair -- by that time. (Jazz writer Leonard Feather gave 1947 as the year in which Trenner was working with Morrow. A review of Trenner's book also leads me to think that he himself gave the year as 1947. Even so, I am wondering if the pianist actually joined in 1946, and continued in 1947. Or, given the next entry, he could have taken a break from the band in early 1947, returning to it later that year..)
(January or February)
The next concrete piece of information at hand finds Helen functioning as vocalist for a jazz trio put together by Donn.
They are also seen in the ensuing pic, which is said to have been taken around February of 1947. (That date might be based on the apparent publication of the photo in an issue of Downbeat magazine.) The other two musicians are identified as Sammy Herman and Joe Bianco, the venue as Nola's in New York City. I assume that the Nola in question is the recording studio, located down on the depths of the 17th floor penthouse in 57th Street.
Helen is the female singer at a live engagement with the Chuck Foster Orchestra at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.
(possibly December, or late November)
Helen records the novelty "Gilly Gilly Wish Wash" with Chuck Foster And His Orchestra. Mercury releases it on a 78-rpm disc. (See scan in post #903, page 37.) The recording date is not known to me; one online site speculates that it took place in December 1947.
Addendum, July 18, 2017: fellow poster JBeck has located one additional vocal: "No, Baby, No," on the Blue Heaven LP One More Time (BH3-304), credited to Chuck Foster And His Orchestra. This vocal presumably comes from a concert date.
Addendum, July 17, 2017: JBeck has brought up the possibility that the Helen Carr who recorded with Chuck Foster was "the second Helen." I think that we can confidently assume that "our" Helen was the one who did this recording, and who was at the aforementioned engagement in New Orleans. My reasoning: according to a review of his autobiography, Trenner worked with Chuck Foster for a few months. Although Trenner apparently writes that his work with Foster happened in late 1946 or early 1947 -- i.e., not in late 1947 -- the important point for us is that there was a working connection between Trenner and Foster. As we know, where there was Trenner, there was Carr, too.
Helen Carr records one vocal, "Say It Isn't So," for a Charles Mingus 78-rpm disc. (See scan in post #903, page 37.) Here we have yet another case in which there are multiple online dates for an event. Many sites claim a 1946 date for this recording; far fewer give an approximate 1948 or 1949 date. The most trustworthy source at my reach is Todd S. Jenkins' book I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus. He says that Mingus put together a new band that made their first recordings in February of 1949. Shortly after that date, Jenkins adds, Mingus went on s second date, which featured Helen. Jenkins also states that Donn Trenner was the session's pianist -- contrary to other sources, which list a different pianist. Hence, once again, this seems to be a project in which Donn and Helen participated together as a package. Here is the audio:
Reviewers of Helen's Bethlehem albums point out that she was influenced by Billie Holiday in particular. This early recording makes the influence amply clear. I would say that Helen had been closely listening to Anita O'Day as well.
Performs as Charlie Barnet's vocalist in one of his Snader telescriptions, "My Old Flame." A snapshot can be seen below. (For a different and larger one, check post #921, page 37).
Barnet experts list his telescription as recorded in November of 1950. Not surprisingly, Donn Trenner is the pianist seen in Barnet's batch of telescriptions. Several sources claim that he worked for Barnet in 1950 and 1951. So, it looks like Helen might have been with Barnet for at least part of 1950, and perhaps part of 1951, too.
(April 6 and thereabouts)
A review of a concert given by Paul Nero And His Orchestra reveals that Helen and Donn were among the band's members at this point in time. The concert was at the Trianon Ballroom in San Diego, California.
(late May or early June)
Helen sits in for at least one night (maybe more) at a two-week-long Charlie Parker engagement which opened on May 29. The venue was the Tiffany Club in Los Angeles. Naturally, Donn Trenner served as pianist. Donn was behind the whole shebang, having done double duty as the engagement's contractor. At the request of an agent from the agency to which Parker was signed, the pianist had put together the ensemble who played with Parker -- i.e., Harry Babasin, Chet Baker, and Lawrence Marable. (See the photo at the start of this message.)
Donn has said that, a couple of weeks later, he played with Stan Getz at the same club. We do not know if Helen sat in with Getz as well, but it would not be surprising to learn that she did.
Helen becomes Stan Kenton's canary. The most widespread and general reports state that she lasted one month, but a more specific source says that Helen was "enlisted" for a shorter time span, just as "a short term replacement" when regular vocalist Jerri Winters had to depart. According to this source, Helen worked with Kenton from about July 14 to July 28. So, about two weeks. (The next Kenton vocalist, Kay Brown, is reported to have lasted somewhere between four and six months.)
A radio remote featuring Helen with Kenton has been preserved. Two of Helen's vocals from this NBC remote have been commercially released: "Everything Happens to Me" and "Don't Worry 'Bout Me." They are on the Dynaflow CDs Stan's Singers, Volumes 1 and 2. In these CDs, the venue is given as the Town Casino in Cleveland, Ohio; the date as June 22, 1952. (The latter contradicts the 'strictly July' itinerary mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The CD's dating could be wrong, but so could be my other source.)
Early this year, Helen as well as Donn and his trio were set to records for the Trend label. If it happened (and it might have not), the resulting Carr recordings were left unissued. (Meanwhile, Trenner definitely played in the June 1954 Trend dates that resulted in the instrumental album The Dave Pell Octet Plays Rodgers & Hart.)
Bethlehem album sessions, resulting in eight songs. They were for the Helen Carr 10" LP ... down in the depths of the 90th floor (BCP-1027).
Helen guests on the sessions for the 10" album Max Bennett (BCP-1088, 1955), which would later be expanded into the 12" LP Max Bennett Plays (BCP-50, 1957). Helen sings just one vocal, "They Say."
Bethlehem album sessions, resulting in twelve songs. They were for the Helen Carr 12" LP ... why do i love you (BCP-45).
A poster for a Jane Powell engagement at the Copacabana in New York lists a Helen Carr among the lesser acts also scheduled to appear. (I am not including a scan because forum posts have a limit of five pictures, and there are other photos worthier of inclusion. Fortunately, you can still see this poster right here in this thread: post #921, page 37.)
MGM Records records a Helen Carr 45-rpm single, released in November of this year. The songs on the single are "Love Is a Serious Business" and "It's Beautiful."
Late 1957 or Early 1958
In September of 1957, song publicist Sidney Mills leaves Mills Music, going on his own. He sets up a new label called Diana Records.
In late February of 1958, it is announced that he has also become Helen Carr's manager. I do not know if Mills' label actually got off the ground, or if Helen recorded anything for its vaults.
Helen and Donn perform at an after-hours music party in Yale College. (He is a New Haven, Connecticut native, having gone to a high school near Yale.) See A Fasching party at HGS | Memories | Yale Alumni Magazine .
Manager Sidney Mills succeeds at signing Helen with Atlantic Records, though it is not clear if this was a long-term contract or merely a trial date. On July 1, King Curtis' band records three songs on its own and then, following those three numbers, accompanies Helen at her own date. The latter resulted in two songs, "Right Kind of Love" and "Are You Ready, Freddy?" The small amount of songs from the session suggests to me that Atlantic planned to release a Helen single, perhaps aimed at the r&b market. However, both songs remain unissued to date. (Note: two of the three songs from Curtis' own session were released on a single. A jazz reviewer has wrongly credited Helen with singing on them, and his error can be found in at least two online sites. One of the songs, "Ific," is an instrumental. The other song, "You Made Me Love You," is identified on the label of the single as an "instrumental with vocal trio." The Cummings Sisters are the trio in question. There is no good reason to believe that Helen joined the sisters on this master take. The remaining, unreleased number is titled "King," and is likely to be an instrumental as well.)
Helen Carr is scheduled to appear at the then brand new Greg's Hi-Life Supper Club in Bakersfield, California. A publicity photo accompanies the ad for the engagement (visible at the bottom of this scanned page):
The hard-to-read print in the ad says something along these lines: "Two nights only! Starting tomorrow, the Beautiful Helen Carr, fabulous vocalist with a terrific record: she has starred with Stan Kenton, Vito Musso, Charley [sic] Barnet, Georgy [sic] Auld, Skinny Ennis, Bob Hope (2 seasons). Engagements include Crescendo, The Haig, The Black Hawk and MGM Records. Remember, here for two nights only."
This ad gives us one additional clue of Helen's career. She worked with Bob Hope in some unknown context; the allusion to "seasons" suggests that it could have been either radio or television. It is known that Donn worked with Hope for a long term, but I do not know the precise timeline. It seems to me that their time together happened mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, by which time Helen was no longer alive. (Check this quote, from a newspaper article: "he worked with Bob Hope for seven years as his personal accompanist and occasional music director, participating in six of the Bob Hope International Christmas tours." Or this one, which indirectly suggests that Donn's work with Hope went back to the 1950s: "While with the Les Brown Orchestra, he worked with Bob Hope for seven years as his personal accompanist and occasional music director, participating in six of the Bob Hope International Christmas tours." As will be further explained in the next paragraph, Trenner's on and off work with Brown began in 1953.)
Another avenue of interest -- pointed out not only by the ad under discussion but also by many other sources -- is Helen's alleged time spent with George Auld's orchestra. I have found no helpful details about it. (One exception: music critic Leonard Feather includes Auld in a list of jazz names with whom Trenner worked between 1952 and 1953. He alludes to work for Jerry Gray and Jerry Fielding within the same period, too. Feather then points out that, starting in 1953, Trenner worked on and off with Les Brown for years to come. Another source further clarifies that Trenner stayed with Brown until 1961.)
This is the year in which Helen Carr is reported to have died. Some reports claim that the cause was breast cancer, while others refer to a fatal car accident. I have found no clues as to which one was the actual cause of death -- if either. (We could reconcile the two views by suggesting that she might have been fighting cancer when she was lost to a automobile accident. Who knows, though, how accurate either claim is.) This is actually a mystery that may be easy to solve. All it might take is to consult Trenner's autobiography.
Here a couple of things from Billboard:
The Dec 13, 1947 issue, on page 45, lists her as part of the cast in a Broadway production of Caribbean Carnival:
And in the June 7, 1952 issue, on page 37, there's mention of a recording of "Sittin' Neath The Willow Tree":
So now we have one more title. With the elimination of "You Made Me Love You", that's 30 recordings known to exist (counting the video clip), and 1 more--Sittin' Neath the Willow Tree"--that may be out there somewhere, plus the 2 unreleased songs with King Curtis and the Cumming Sisters.
Here's a bigger image of the Copacabana poster from ebay (I had made it smaller when I posted it before):
There was also "Do You Know Why"--at least I hope it's her. I don't have the CD yet.
I'll take an attempt at Helen Carr as well.
According to the Oakland Tribune, Friday, July 22, 1949, "pretty Mrs. Helen Trenner, 25, former night club and hotel vocalist, was today awarded custody of her son for five weeks". The article states that "Mrs. Trenner and her former husband, Walter A. Carr, 33, Orinda chef, were divorced on November 24, 1947" and that their six-year old son, Gordon W. Carr, was living in a foster home and with Mrs Blanche Lago, his father's sister if I remember correctly. "Mrs. Trenner and her present husband, Donald Trenner, 26, told the court they were eager to care for the child." Trenner was named as leader at the New Orleans Swing Club in San Francisco. The Oakland Tribune, Thursday, November 27, 1947, shows the final divorce decree of Walter from Helen Carr.
The California Birth Index shows Gordon William Carr born on August 2, 1942 with his mother's maiden name Huber. Gordon Carr died in December 1988.
The Oakland Tribune, Friday, June 13, 1941, recorded a marriage license issued to Walter Carr, 25, and Helen M. Huber, 19, both of Oakland.
So we now have the singer as Helen M. Huber, born about 1922 (I'd trust the age in the marriage license more than the later article).
Helen M. Huber born in Utah is shown in the 1930 U.S. Census living in Danville, Illinois, age 7, daughter of Horace V. and Anise (Gaddey) Huber. She is shown in the 1940 U.S. Census living in Seattle, Washington, with her widowed mother, age 17. By that time she had two years of a high school education and was working as an usherette in a theatre. They were living in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1935. Helen's father, Horace Vincent Huber, died at age 50 on May 7, 1936, according to his obituary and death notices in the Kansas City Star on May 8 and 9, 1936. Mrs. Anise Huber and Mrs. Helen M. Carr both were registered to vote living at the same address at 1111 Masonic in Alameda County, California in 1944.
The earliest I have seen Helen Carr listed singing is in the San Luis Obispo Telegram of Monday, November 19, 1945 at Nina's Shell Beach Cocktails. "Nightly starting Monday - Helen Carr Vocalist. A cute little blond singer who has been with name bands in Seattle and the best spots in San Francisco. You'll really enjoy her."
She gets another advertisement on December 20, 1945 as shown below
Among other appearances found later are a return engagement at Nina's Shell Beach in 1949 after "an engagement at the Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans", in 1950 as featured vocalist with Charlie Barnett at Sweet's Ballroom in Oakland and then at the Rainbow Garden in Pomona, again in 1950 at Buddy Baer's in Sacramento plus Donn Trenner, in 1951 at Johnnie Walker's Ron-D-Voo Club in Sacramento, in 1952 at the Triannon Ballroom in San Diego with Paul Nero and His 10 Piece Orchestra.
I'd like to solve the mystery of her death, but at least we know a little more about her origin. I suspect she might be found in Seattle newspapers if I had access.
Great work Eric!
I forgot the Donn Trio with Helen Carr at the Havana Room of the Bakersfield Inn noted in the Bakersfield Californian, Monday, March 28, 1949, with this advertisement
As a supplement to this chronology, here are dates I saw Helen Carr performing. I'm sure there are more.
11/19/1945 - Nightly at least through December at Nina's Shell Beach in San Luis Obispo, California
05/21/1947 - Vocalist with Buddy Morrow on the Indiana Roof in Indianapolis, Indiana
06/30/1947 - Featured with Buddy Morrow and his Orchestra in the Maryland at Cumberland, Maryland
10/22/1947 - With Chuck Foster at the Roosevelt Hotel's Blue Room in New Orleans for 3-week engagement
01/22/1948 - Chuck Foster "followed by vocals from rhythm singer Helen Carr" for the week in Grand Theater in Evansville, Indiana
12/23/1948 - Donn Trio and Helen from the Sonoma at Christmas party at Elks Headquarters in Reno, Nevada
03/28/1949 - Playing as Donn Trio and Helen in the Havana Room of the Bakersfield Inn in California
10/03/1949 - Return engagement by "popular request" at Nina's Shell Beach in San Luis Obispo, California
06/04/1950 - With Charlie Barnet at Louanns in Dallas, Texas
06/15/1950 - With Charlie Barnet at Pine Creek Country Club in Longview, Texas
06/24/1950 - Songstress with Charlie Barnet at the Fox in Hutchinson, Kansas
10/16/1950 - Featured with Charlie Barnet at Sweets Ballroom in Oakland, California
12/15/1950 - With Charlie Barnet at Rainbow Gardens in Pomona, California, next Saturday
12/22/1950 - Appearing with Donn Trenner at Buddy Baer's in Sacramento, California
02/17/1951 - Formerly of Charlie Barnet's Band at Johnny Walker's Ron-D-Voo Club in Sacramento, California
03/29/1952 - Two nights with Paul Nero Orchestra at Trianon Ballroom in San Diego, California
07/25/1952 - Featured for a week with Stan Kenton at Marine Ballroom on Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey
08/16/1952 - Replaced in Stan Kenton Band by Ann (Kay?) Brown (recent bride of Maynard Ferguson) at Lancaster, Ohio, Buckeye Lake Park Crystal Ballroom
09/12/1952 - Direct from the "Blue Note" in Chicago with Stan Kenton for a "Negro dance" at the Evansville, Indiana, Coliseum
12/11/1952 - Featured with Stan Kenton at Lake Club in Springfield, Illinois
What a great thread this is. Hat's off to the people doing the contributing. I have learned so
much from this thread.
Thanks, I dug that.
It's funny, when Duke's arm enters the shot, conducting, it feels so special but when she's givin' it her big finish and all of a sudden, Jackie Gleason's all up in there, I was like "Ahhh! Where'd he come from?! Kinda creepy.
All this wonderful Helen Carr effort reminds me the character of TV series 'Criminal Mind' computer wizard Garcia, upon who's research all cases were closed.
Thank you everyone.
That's a glaring mistake on my part -- and a lesson in the dangers of cutting and pasting, especially if you are half asleep. (To save myself time, I pasted an already written sentence about Mingus and Helen's one vocal for him, "They Say." My intention was to modify that sentence to "Bennett and two vocals." But intentions do not always translate into action, alas ...)
Rest assured that, as you expect, Helen is the singer of "Do You Know Why." I gave both vocals a listen a few days ago. Besides, the back cover of the 12" LP confirms it:
As long as we are talking about that 12" LP again, let's also show the original 10" LP:
I'm copying the above again to see if the scan becomes viewable, this time around. In my original post, it was visible at first, but then it "vanished." (If anyone here subscribes to an "old newspapers" service -- I don't -- you might be able to provide us all with a far nicer, better scan of this page. It's from the Bakersfield Californian, October 8 1959, page 37: Bakersfield Californian Newspaper Archives, Oct 8, 1959, p. 37| NewspaperArchive® )
I did see the Caribbean Carnival entry, but decided to not mention it, because in my mind it belongs to a more minutely detailed document than what I was trying to put together. (Glad that you have now added it to the thread.)
The "Sittin 'neath the Willow Tree" is, on the other hand, news to me. Great to learn about yet one more vocal!
For anyone else keeping tabs, this particular vocal is from a Paul Nero Orchestra single, on an obscure label called Rhythm Records (#1002). We had mentioned before that Helen had worked with this band, but there had been no previous mention of recordings.
Wonderful. As with the earlier messages about Mary Lou Brewer, it's fantastic to be able to count on you for access to old newspapers, and it's very nice of you to spend time researching these singers of our common interest. Our knowledge of Helen's life and career is now vastly improved.
I'm specially thrilled that we now know her maiden's name, and can feel reasonably certain that her birth date was 1922. That's the year to which I was originally leaning, if only because it was the one that made her the oldest, out of the various options.) So, she was indeed five years older than Donn. When they met on the double date that he described, Donn had just turned 18, while she was about 23 and already a singer. She was also a mother, and had -- presumably -- separated from her husband. (Yes, the divorce decree, indicating that Walter was the one to whom it was awarded, opens room for imaginative scenarios. So does the fact that the child had to stay at a foster home, and/or with relatives. But, well, we just don't have any clarification on these matters. Every human life is met by a different combination of circumstances ... Talking about circumstances, the Huber family seems to have gone through a sad thread of people dying at a relatively young age: Mr. Huber at 50, Helen at 38, and her son Gordon at 46.)
The concert dates go a long way toward the goal of clarifying Helen's timeline with each big band, which was one of my main points of interest. The Kenton dates lead to the conclusion that she worked with him over two time periods -- a "double duty" which could explain why there are differing accounts about the total amount of time that she spent with the band.
Not having access to Seattle newspapers (nor to any other ones, for that matter), I can't be of further help in determining cause of death. But, once again: I think that anyone who owns Trenner's autobiography might be able to check in there, and see if he tells us how she passed away.
Here's a photo of the single from
Roots Vinyl Guide
(The B side was "Whistler's Father")
Eric Carlson said: ↑
According to the Oakland Tribune, Friday, July 22, 1949, "pretty Mrs. Helen Trenner, 25, former night club and hotel vocalist, was today awarded custody of her son...
Ridin'High, it makes her birth date 1924... Do you think that 1922 is the more correct date?
I love how deep this thread is getting with Helen Carr and other singers. I'll continue to cast wide, rather than deep, since there are still dozens of artists who belong in this thread who have yet to be mentioned.
Annie Fratellini came from a famous French clowning family. She ended up becoming most famous for her clowning talents also, but before that she was a successful singer and actress. Here's her 1958 recording of "It Had To Be You," sung with her irresistible French accent. Enjoy!
Separate names with a comma.