Retroscoop - Sunny Gale Biography Come go with me Part 1 RetroScoop
 
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 Sunny Gale
Come go with me / Part 1

 By: Benoit Vanhees © 2010
reworked in August 2017

     

For a short while, it just looked as though 5 feet 1 inch ´tall´ Sunny Gale was going to hit the jackpot with her very first single. In February 1952, her "Wheel of fortune" tumbled into the hitlists, and soon thereafter, the record seemed to be heading straight to the number one spot, and maybe even to become a million seller.

However, within the same week, that American dream exploded as a soap bubble hit by a speeding bumblebee. One of the competing record companies which had launched an other cover version, secured the #1 hit and the predicted million seller. Unfortunately, as a result, Sunny Gale missed her appointment with longstanding celebrity and a rewarding cash flow. What could have become an unsuspected but brilliant career debut, was reduced by some clever commercial sceming to merely a modest Top 20 hit.

This unlucky episode however also resulted in quite some positive publicity for Sunny Gale. Combining lots of talent, a pleasant personality and the blessings of several influential show bizz journalists, she managed to launch a very interesting singing career, which would span more than 2 decades.

And even today, she´s not forgotten... In 2009, the sound track of the American movie "Precious" surprisingly contained a song by ´la Gale´. Surprisingly, because all the other tracks from the OST were ´contemporary R&B´ songs. Furthermore, the song which had been selected was one of her very best ones, the very entertaining "Have you ever seen a dream walking". All of a sudden, there was a renewed interest in Sunny Gale´s musical output, including on Youtube.

For more than 5 years, I have been collecting records and other items about her. Checking the internet for more information about her life, I discovered that no one ever added an extensive biographical article on the blonde songstress with the happy sounding golden voice. 

The only interesting contribution was a short article written by J.C. Marion some years ago. This wasn´t enough to satisfy my curiosity about the female singer with the colorful stage name. So, I decided to retrace Sunny Gale´s musical career myself, by combining the information I have been gathering the past years and the newly available but scattered sources on the internet. The article you´re about to read still is unfinished business, work in progress, as many holes in Gale´s story remain. However, it is for the first time that so many details about her have been brought together. Therefor... Happy reading of my tribute to one of the finest but most underrated female singers from the 1950´s !

Structure of the article Part 1

1) Philadelphia... Something in the air
2) Jules Helzner and Hal McIntyre: the learning school
3) A first recording contract !
4) Sharks ahead !
5) A twist in the tale
6) Sunny´s big leap forward: the RCA Victor years
 

 

1) Philadelphia... something in the air 

 

Sunny Gale was born as Selma Sega on February 20th 1927 in Clayton, New Jersey, on the eastcoast of the United States. This small town in Gloucester county is situated halfway Atlantic City and Philadelphia. Her family moved westwards when she was 4, and settled down in Philadelphia, in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania.

Already as a child, little Selma adored singing. Being clearly gifted, she soon participated in all kinds of local singing contests for kids. Even at such a young age, competition can be extremely hard. And apparantly, Selma grew up in a neighborhood with a high density of other gifted kiddies. So much, that there definetely seemed to be something special in the Philly air... 

Just a few blocks away from Selma´s home for example, there was a young boy with a golden voice. he was the son of Russian immigrants. Dark haired Edwin Jack Fisher was one year younger than the blonde Selma. Although mainly girls participated in the singing contests, little Eddie seemed unbeatable, and almost each time he was around, he got the first prize. Eddie Fisher -as he later became known- would gain world fame, and certainly not just because of his marriages with Debby Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor. (1) Other gifted kids from the same area included Al Martino (1927-2009) and singer/pianopalyer Buddy Greco (°1926) 

With such a stiff competion, it was no shame that little Selma never managed to convince one of the local radio´s to take her on board as the captain of one of the many children´s programs. Programs for kiddies were booming business in those days. The formula was simple: one or more gifted children would perform a number of evergreens or popular songs. Of course, being able to do this, helped to acquire invaluable experience, which often paved the way to succesful singing careers.(2) 

This tough competion however didn´t cool down the enthousiasm of little Selma for singing. When she was 14, whatever occasion came along, she would grab it with both hands: marriages, block parties, in school, on improvised stages on the back of trucks... (3) This way, she gradually won more and more selfconfidence. Her looks surely didn´t hamper her efforts in finding her way under the spotlights. When she was about 16, she participated at the Miss Philadelphia contest. And indeed, the April 22, 1947 issue of the "Wilmington (Delaware) News Journal mentioned she was a runner-up in the 1944 Miss Philadelphia Beauty Pageant. (information provided to Retroscoop by Philadelphia born Murray Kirch, who lives in Egg Harbor, New Jersey today)


The three winners of the 1944 Miss Philadelphia contest
Article from the Philadelphia Inquirer Aug. 26th 1944
Copy provided to Retroscoop by Murray Kirch

As a finalist, she of course displayed her singing abilities. Although she didn´t win the crown of Philly´s beauty queen contest, her participation led to a number of contracts in the club circuit of this big town... The Wilmington (Delaware) News Journal mentioned in its 1947 article that she was featured at the Milton Berle´s  national network radio show. The same source informed its readers in December 1947 that Selma Gale  "handles the singing chores for the Jerry Fields Quintette", even mentioning that they performed in the Holiday Room of the Adams Hotel (in the Wilmington area of Delaware). Keep that name of Jerry Fields in the back of your head, he will pop up later again in this biography.... Until now, no picture of the Adams hotel was found. Perhaps it was located on the corner on which today the Double Tree hotel (Hilton) is located, this point still has to be clarified.

 

One contract led to the other. She remained singing for 5 years this way, building a solid launching platform for a musical career, that would soon take off...

Murray Kirch also did some research in local archives about the period before the singer took the stage name Sunny Gale. In May 2017 he wrote an e-mail to Retroscoop about his findings, which are indeed a very interesting addition to the original text. We´ll quote from this extensive e-mail:


"In November 1946, Tune-Disk Records was formed. It was a label based in Philadelphia and had a mailing address in nearby Collegeville, Pennsylvania. Towards the end of 1947, Tune Disk made a large number of recordings, in order to beat the Petrillo recording ban, which began at the end of that year."

James Petrillo was the president of a union called the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) between 1940 and 1958. During the war years, he initiated a number of strikes against the recording companies over royalty issues. In 1948, he organized yet another strike. Television was emerging as the new medium, and Petrillo wanted to make sure American musicians would get their fair share of the profits of TV performances. Murray Kirch again;

" In the January 24 (1948) issue of Billboard, Tune Disk ran an advertisement which listed a large number of recordings. However, no catalog numbers were provided, and, within a few months, the label was inactive. Many of the masters were sold to other labels. I suspect most of the items listed in the January 24 ad were never released on Tune-Disk. Here´s the interesting part concerning Sunny Gale. In the January 24, 1948 ad is (listed) the following item:
----------
Selma Gale
Maybe with you
You´re not the man you used to be
----------

Given that (Tune-Disk) was a Philly label, I think we can be rather confident that "Selma Gale" is in fact Sunny Gale. So, it looks like she eased into her stage name gradually. Moreover, she recorded commercially as early as late 1947. However, these recordings were probably never released."
   


Collection Retroscoop
Clearly the same glam picture as used in the News Journal from 1947

As the stunningly beautiful picture above, autographed in Aug. 1948 shows, Selma Sega already used the stage name Sunny Gale in this period. Strangely enough, as Murray points out in a second e-mail, the Philadelphia Inquirer of October 1, 1948 still used the name "Selma Gale" under a picture of Sunny Gale... The commuication strategy apparatly wasn´t working 100 % smoothly. Murray Kirch was able to add another very interesting fact about the year 1948 and Sunny Gale´s struggling early years in showbusiness:

" In 1948, ´Tea leaves´ was a big hit song. The original version appeared on the small Philadelphia label Algene, by the Emile Cote´ Serenaders. The B-side of the original Algene release was "Romance in a song" by Selma Sega and the Relatives. (...) The song was covered by many artists and the Emil Cote master was acquired by Columbia, who released it. Unfortunately for Miss Gale, her recording did not appear on the B-side of the Columbia release."

Pictures by seller Bartrade in 2014, as reproduced
on the Roots Vinyl Guide (see below)

As the Roots Vinyl Guide indicate, there has been indeed such a record released by Algene, with the Tea Leaves song having the catalog number 1933 A and the Selma Sega song 1931 B. However, Algene also issues Tea Leaves paired with another song, called "In Martha´s eyes" (cat. n° 1912). This singer was much better known in the Philly area.  It was this pair that later was released by Columbia (cat. n° 38230).

 

2) Jules Helzner and Hal McIntyre: the learning school

Somewhere around 1949, Selma Sega joined the orchestra of Philadelphia based clarinet player Jules Helzner (°1918). Helzner had played together with big names such as Bob Eberle (ex-Jimmy Dorsey), Perry Como and Cab Calloway. Apparantly, Selma Sega used her colorful stage name from that period onward, although it might be possible she already used it while singing in the club circuit. Anyway, in 2006, Helzner described Sunny Gale as "a great voice" and "a real nice person". (4) Than, Gale got a new and challenging opportunity, and joined bandleader Hal McIntyre´s orchestra. McIntyre, who was born in 1914 also was a clarinet player, as well as a saxophonist. As such, he had been a key member of the Glen Miller Orchestra between 1937 and 1941. (5)

This led to a long, exhausting but also very succesful serie of shows in the States and Canada. Than, 24 year old Gale decided it was high time to start thinking about a solo career. Such a move would allow her to piece together a repertoire of her own choice. In the summer of 1951, McIntyre had to let her go with pain in the heart. (6) Unfortunately, this very gifted musician and band leader would die 8 years later, while his house in Los Angeles burned down. He was only 45 y.o. (7)

   
Left: RCA Victor foto of McIntyre. Right: a poster from 1951 for a
concert during Gale´s McIntyre-period.(General Artists Corporation)

 

3) A first recording contract ! 

Flying on your own wings isn´t always as glamorous as one would think. So, only after having knocked at thirty something doors, Selma and her manager Gary Romero at last secured a record deal. And not with one of the major recording companies, but with the small independant label Derby from New York. Derby was a recent recording company, which had previously released a number of R&B songs. Its boss was former paratrooper Larry Newton. The fact that he too was from Philadelphia may have had its influence on him taking a chance with Sega. Maybe he even saw her, when she was working in the Philly club scene. (8)

Selma Sega retained her stage name Sunny Gale. (9) Hal Webman from Billboard Magazine reported about the start of her recording career in the following way in his Rhythm & Blues Notes:

« Derby Records signed Sunny Gale, fem chanter managed by Gary Romero, and booked by MCA. Trush cut her first sides this week with the Eddie Wilcox Ork. » (10)

This question of a stage name being solved, the other big decision to take was to decide which song Derby would release as Sunny´s first recording effort. Today, we now know that "Wheel of fortune" became that first attempt, but there´s still some uncertainty about who suggested this song in the first place. One source claims it was her first manager Gary Romero:

«(…) Gary Romero wasn’t satisfied in just discovering Sunny Gale; he went out and personally discovered her hit song.» (11)

Other sources though suggest it was Eddie Wilcox´s idea. Wilcox (1907-1968) was a jazz pianist from North Carolina. He too joined Derby in 1951. After a trial period of a few months, Larry Newton promoted him to the job of musical director. This function included the responsabilties of composing new music and inventive musical arrangements for existing songs. As Derby was only a small recording company, he also was responible for what is known as "A&R" duties, meaning the "Artistry and Repertoire" aspects. These aspects include finding new artists, and also suggest songs that are well fitted to the new recording artists singing abilities and style. So, it´s not unlikely that he was the one to advise to go for "Wheel as fortune". Still, it also might be that his choice was one from a number of songs suggested by Romero. (12)

Anyway, "Wheel of fortune" became Sunny Gale´s first recording, a choice that would lead to unexpected publicity, both for Derby, Sunny Gale and for the composers of this song from 1951. "Wheel" was written by Bennie Benjamin and George David Weiss. Earlier that same year, it already had been recorded by Johnny Hartman, a then not very well known jazzy crooner. In February 1951, the excellent doo-wop band The Cardinals from Baltimore too recorded it. Although they kept their nice version of the song for a short period in the R&B charts, it was but a modest commercial success for them. Things would change radically, after Sunny Gale took her place behind the microphone in the recording studio of Derby Records in December ´51.

"Wheel of fortune" is a slow song, and immediately, Sunny Gale displayed her ability to quickly alternate strongly sung parts with a more velvet approach. Eddie Wilcox was responsible for the musical arrangements. His Orchestra consisted mainly of trumpet and saxophone players. The text is about someone who´s hoping that the arrow of the wheel of fortune will point at love, rather than fame and fortune. Sunny´s "Wheel" was paired with "You showed me the way", a slow song in which the songstress expresses her gratitude for someone who helped her, "when I was someone in distress". (13)

1952

Derby´s boss Larry Newton of course was hoping for some success for his new secret weapon still hidden under Derby´s hat. He surely wasn´t prepared for what took place the following weeks. After a slow and hesitating take off, all of a sudden, sales of the record took off extremely rapidly. In two weeks times, 50 000 copies were sold, which was a very good result for a small record company with a limited distribution network. And then, as a result, on February 1st 1952, Sunny Gale entered the Billboard Best Sellers charts with her very first recording... A very big hit seemed to be in the making, possibly even a # 1 hit... (14) Billboard Magazine reported:

« Most talked of ‘sleeper’ of the day is the Derby disking of ‘Wheel of fortune’ by an unknown thrush, Sunny Gale, with the Eddie Wilcox ork for backing. ‘Fortune’ issued with intend of being a disking for the rhythm & blues market, took a fast hold in the pop field as well as the r&b field and has been reckognized by the major waxers as a leading current competitive item. » (15)

Unfortunately, show business is a hard business... Lots of talents, pleasant looks and even a clever marketing strategy aren´t enough to guarantee a fair reward for the efforts. The factor "luck" too is extremely important. Consumers can´t make a million seller of each song that deserves that status. Things become even more difficult, when the same song is released by different record companies in the same period. And that´s exactly what happened to Sunny Gale. 

As soon as other record companies detected the sales potential of "Wheel", several other artists where rushed to recording studios. Columbia gave it a try with Sammy Kaye, Mercury released a version sung by Dinah Washington and one by Bobby Wayne, Coral thought it would work better with Jimmy Scott, Arthur Prysock was Decca´s gamble, and there were also releases by Helen Humes and the Four Flames... Even RCA Victor, which already released the unsuccessful Johnny Hartman-version joined the commercial battle. They released a cover by the very young duo called the Bell Sisters, and another one by Frankie Carle... In England the funny Beverley Sisters too recorded it. (16)

However, the deadliest threat for Sunny Gale and Derby came from California. It attacked sneakingly and merciless, like a hungry shark...

4) Sharks ahead !

Indeed, from their excentric tower-shaped HQ, the staff of Capitol Records too had noticed the sales potential of "Wheel". Immediately after Sunny Gale reached the Best Sellers charts, singer Kay Starr was rushed into a Capitol recording studio.

   

Then already 30 years old Starr was a veteran with 6 Top 10-hits, including a #2-hit. (17) While Starr was already known to a large audience, Sunny Gale still was a largely unknown newcomer from a small record label from New York. To add insult to the commercial injury, the musical arrangements in the Capitol-release were quite close to those of Wilcox. However, a nice novelty was added in the Starr-version: the sound of a spinning wheel of fortune. (18)

But there was yet another clever move that would finally tip the balance in favor of Capitol to come. That trump card consisted in securing at the very last moment a TV-appearance for Kay Starr in the very popular Colgate TV-show. That way, an already well known Starr was able to reach instantly a large audience with her newest release. Knowing the impact such TV appearances could generate, Capitol also quickly produced large quantities of the record, which were then rushed to record shops, DJ´s and into juke boxes.

The week after Sunny Gale reached the Best Sellers charts, Kay Starr already joined her. That was on February 8th, 1952. Immediately, the Starr version starts a spectacular climb to the Top 10. (19) With its limited financial resources and its small network of DJ´s and record shops, there wasn´t much that Derby could do to stop that whirlwind from California. So... "Les jeux sont faits, rien ne va plus", as they say in casino´s. Kay Starr -and not the promising newcomer Sunny Gale- took "Wheel of fortune" to the #1 position in the Billboard Best Sellers list.

After having had a #2 hit, "Wheel" became Starr´s first number one hit. She would remain 9 weeks on that spot, from March 14th till May 9th 1952, and 22 weeks in the Top 40. In October, sales were once again stimulated, when the song was selected by CBS to become the tune of the TV amusement program with the same name. (20) In the end, Kay Starr sold more than 1 million copies of "Wheel"... !

It´s impossible to say what would have happened if the Kay Starr-version would not have appeared. Maybe her success even stimulated the sales of the other versions. In February and March 1952, 3 other versions were present in the Best Sellers charts: Bobby  Wayne (# 6), the two young Stother-girls, known as the Bell Sisters (# 10) and Sunny Gale, who would reached # 14.

Would Gale have had the backing of a large record company, maybe she would have been the one with a #1 hit. Still, given the size and limited influence of Derby, reaching #14 was a surpringly good result. Her first effort also resulted in a pool of enthousiastic fans, especially within the community of DJ´s and music reviewers. Her David vs. Goliath-fight also resulted in lots of positive publicity for her.

The first one to make a move in that sense was Leonard "Lenny" Litman. On February 23rd 1952, the owner of the Copa on the Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh proudly anounced that his posh nighclub had managed to book both Sunny Gale and Benjamin-Weiss. While Sunny appeared from March 10th onwards, the two composers of "Wheel" appeared two weeks later. (21)

    
The Paramount-building in New York, left while Lindbergh´s Spirit of St Louis is
flying above the Big Apple, right with Sunny Gale´s name for the very first time
on the marquee. In the same week as the concert took place, the movie Rancho
Notorious (with Marlène Dietrich) was shown.

In May 1952, Sunny Gale´s name appeared for the very first time on the marquee of the Paramount Building in New York. Even though she only was billed as an "extra", this was a very promising evolution. May 14th must have been an unforgetable evening for Sunny. She was part of a select group of artists, to perform in the Auditorium, with its 3654 seats. After Johnny Coy´s show, it was Sunny Gale´s turn to step into the spotlights, and grab the microphone. What happened next, was well described by a Billboard reporter who was among the enthousiastic crowd:

« Sunny Gale, blonde canary, who almost made it via her Derby recording of « Wheel of  fortune » , belted out a series of rhythm & blues tunes in pleasant fashion. Much of her phrasing was almost a carbon of Johnny Ray, but the similarity didn’t hurt her. In fact, the audience went big for it. The gal opened with « Please don’t talk about me », then went into « Out in the cold again ». Then came « Them their eyes », winding it up with « Wheel » for a good job. » (22)

In the aftermath of the "Wheel"-episode, Sunny also appeared a number of times on the TV and in radio shows. She was seen in the Break the bank-show, in the Arthur Murray Party, the Ken Murray show and in the Song for sale-show on May 10th, an episode in which singer Tony Bennett was the other guest. (23) She also appeared on Steven Allen´s CBS-radio show.


Tips for collectors

    
Extended play from 1954/55, issued by Royale 

  • "Wheel of Fortune" may be Sunny Gale´s best known contribution to show bizz. Although it is far from being her best song, since it is her very first effort, it should be part of every serious SG-collection... Even today, her "Wheel" still has dedicated fans, who add the song to their list of best R&B songs ever. (24)
  • The record is available as a 45 and as a 78 rpm. As far as I know, it has never been issued with a picture sleeve. I haven´t come across a company sleeve from Derby either, so you´ll generally find the single wrapped in a plain sleeve.
  • It´s quite easy to find this first single on auction sites like eBay USA, GEMM or Ioffer.com. Make sure you´re acquainted with the Goldmine Record Grading Scale, if you haven´t bid before. The record you´re bidding on should be at least VG+
  • The record also appeared in red vinyl, but these are very rare, and therefor more expensive.
  • The two songs of this single also can be found on an EP and a 10 inch issued by Royale in 1954 or ´55, so 2-3 years after Sunny Gale´s first release. Both the EP and 10" have the same title, "Sunny Gale with Orchestra". The interesting thing is, that these two Royale records also contain 2 songs which haven´t been released earlier. We´re talking about the swinging "Music makin’ mamma from Memphis Tennessee" and an excellent version of the R&B song « Tears ». Sunny´s first record company Derby issued 3 singles from her. We have reasons to believe these two other songs were meant for a 4th single, which has never been released by Derby. The EP can be found with at least two different colored cardboard picture sleeves. It is not excluded that they also have been issued in a light green and an orange sleeve. For more details on the numbers on the labels, please see Discography
  • "Wheel" can also be found on the CD "Sunny Gale sings" (see Discography)

  • While the single isn´t too difficult to find, apparantly no sheet music of "Wheel" with Sunny Gale on the cover has been issued. The only version I know doesn´t mention whatever performer. Once her second single was released however, a SM with Sunny Gale on the cover was available.

5) A twist in the tale

Larry Newton, the boss of Sunny Gale´s first record company Derby seems to have had quite a double feeling about the "Wheel" episode. At the one hand, he was quite happy with the unexpected success of his new protégée with her first attempt. On the other hand, and even though he knew all too well about the stiff competition between record companies, he couldn´t help wondering what the sales results would have been, if Capitol would not have stolen the cheese on Derby´s bread. He was particularly upset by the fact that Capitol had used rather comparable musical arrangements as those made by Eddie Wilcox. Kay Starr wasn´t to blame of course, and it is known now that she wasn´t happy with what had happened either. But then again, she later told she really liked the song very much. Furthermore, it would have been an ungrateful gesture to complain to a record company that had given her a first #1.

Newton didn´t forget nor forgive. The ex paratrooper started a one-man offensive the next year, to show how he felt about the cut throat competition. First at all, he managed to ´steal´ another excellent songtress called Trudy Richards from Decca. Than, he let her record the song "The breeze". And it surely was no coincidence, that this song was the same as the flip side of Kay Starr´s new and entertaining "Side by side"-single. Although Newton´s move didn´t stop Kay Starr reaching the #3 spot in the Billboard Best Sellers charts, Richards´ "Breeze" was a second modest hit for Derby. And Newton probably was convinced that without his Richards-move, Capitol would have gotten yet another #1 hit with Kay Starr. (25)

The 3 modest hits by Sunny Gale, Trudy Richards and Bette McLaurin couldn´t prevent Derby going bankrupt on October 1954. The total debt of the small record company was 214 000 $. (26) However, if one would think this meant the end of Newton´s career, one couldn´t be more wrong. He joined ABC Paramount, and he made a brilliant career as the new sales director of the record division. From January 1st, 1965 onwards, he was rewarded for his results by being promoted to become the new head of the vinyl division. (27)

Tips for collectors

  • For those who are interested in the output of Derby Records between 1949 and 1954, try to find for example the limited edition double CD which contains 58 songs issued by the small record company. The 2-CD contains Sunny Gale´s "Wheel", plus recordings by the Freddie Mitchell Orchestra (including "The Derby"), the Eddie Wilcox Orchestra, the Imperials, Bette McLaurin, Jaye P. Morgan etc. The 2 CD contains a booklet of 30 pages, which tells the story of the unfortunate R&B record label. (See Discography).

 

Before Gale´s "Wheel" started to turn slower and slower, Derby issued a second single. The two songs on this new attempt were "A lasting thing / I just can’t stand being lonely".

"A lasting thing" is once again a Benjamin-Weiss composition. Unfortunately, Sunny Gale´s second output received but a lukewarm reaction from spoiled American record buyers. Quite a pity, because the flip side is a very nice, uptempo performance. It´s already a preview of her best performances for her future employers. She sounds very confident, bridging quiet parts with a solid voice, until the orchestra joins in again. The Eddie Wilcox-arrangements sound ´fuller´ as on the first single, and more elaborated too. (28) So, if you plan to collect Sunny Gale items, don´t miss this one ! And why not complete your collection with the sheet music for "A lasting thing", the first one showing the blond trush on the front cover.

In june 1952, Sunny Gale was one of the guests of a gala evening in the Shalimar Cafe in New York. This joint belonged to Luther Randolph and Sally & Lucky Millinder.

The fact that Gale was invited for this event was somewhat unusual, since most of the guests belonged to the Afro-American jet set. They included people from the show business, like Sarah Vaughan, the business world, such as real estate man Joseph Steele and the sports world, like Jackie Robinson, the first Afro-American in the Major League of baseball. However, Sunny Gale was working for an R&B record label, which was well known within the Afro-American community of New York. The combination of her white R&B and her pleasant personality probably got her introduced in the Afro-American society life. She would return the favor, by participating in several benefit concerts for the poorest from that community. An article in the Afro-American magazine Jet reported that the jolly guest ate a 15 feet wide cake that evening. (29)

Derby released a third single, called "My last affair / Do you care"It are two well performed slow songs, with orchestral arrangements that sound very 1940´s. H. Johnson’s "Last affair" is about someone whose last romance is once more over, and who is now determined to stay away from love. Not a very happy theme, and the song reflects that mood all too well. This song was part of the regular repertoire of singers such as Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald. Billboard described Gale’s interpretation as a "mighty effective reading of the evergreen". (30) Still, our impression is that her version misses somewhat ´punch´. Furthermore, the song sounds too much as her previous releases, while something surprising might have sparked off some more enthousiasm from record buyers. 

Apparantly, Derby had plans to release a fourth single by Sunny Gale. Actually, the two songs for this fourth one, "Music makin’ mama from Memphis Tennessee" and "Tears" were recorded by Gale. However, with Sunny Gale moving to another record company, the production of the single didn´t go ahead. Two years later, after Derby´s bankruptcy, all their master tapes were bought by Eli « Obie » Oberstein. Oberstein was specialized in purchasing master tapes from record companies that ran into financial difficulties. Afterwards, he either sold them one by one to other companies, or he kept them for his own low budget records company, called Royale. After having bought the Derby  collection, he decided to re-release Sunny Gale´s 3 first singles, but also that 4th one. He grouped the 2nd and 3rd single on one EP ("Sunny Gale sings"), and the 1st and 4th on a second EP ("Sunny Gale and orchestra"). As we will see in a next chapter, he also released these 2 singles on a 10 inch.

Tips for collectors

 

  • While there are no difficulties to find Sunny Gale´s first single on eBay USA, it´s less easy to find the 2 others, being Derby 791 and 796. This is of course reflecting the less successful sales figures in the 1950´s.
  • Another possibility is to start looking for the EP released by Royale as "Sunny Gale Sings" (Royale EP 370). It contains the 4 songs from the 2nd and 3rd single. Although it isn´t easy to find this one, the bonus consisting of a very attractive picture sleeve, makes the hunt worth while
  • « My last affair » is also included on the CD called "A night at my pad". This CD contains 12 songs by 12 different performers, including Mel Tormé, Jaye P. Morgan, Johnny Desmond, Lena Horne, Ginny Simms etc. This one is very easy to find on eBay USA for a small price, ranging from 1 to 6 $. However, beware of the shipping rates some of the sellers -at first sight the cheapest-  apply...

.

6) Sunny´s big leap forward: The RCA Victor years

    
Two small RCA Victor promo cards + back (+/- 6 x 8,5 cm)

The "Wheel of fortune"-episode all of a sudden opened doors for Sunny Gale, that had been closed when she started her search for a first record company. Suddenly, the same companies discovered that the elegant singer with the youthful looks and very distinctive voice could be a good investment after all.

So, at the end of 1952, Sunny Gale thanked Larry Newton for having given her the so much needed break to record her first songs, and spread her wings. She flew right to one of the big record companies, RCA Victor. RCA had been the first company to have switched from 78 to 45 rpm´s. It´s also the company, that released three versions of "Wheel of fortune", including the very first one, sung by Johnny Hartman. "Little" Sunny had achieved quite big things in just 6 months !

     

The first two songs Sunny Gale recorded for the record company with its famous logo were « I laughed at love / Father time ».  In the Billboard Picks of June 28th 1952 the title track « I laughed » received following comments:

« Sunny Gale makes her bow on the label with a breezy rendition of a slick rhythmic item » In een andere bespreking in hetzelfde weekblad heet het : « Miss Gale is caught in a solid reading of a tuneful ballad that has the stuff of a big side »

These encouraging words were confirmed by a score of 86 % by a team of 4 Billboard reviewers. 
(31) 

Again, it soon became once more confirmed that record companies were keeping a close eye on what their competitors were doing, trying, releasing. As soon as Sunny´s version of "I laughed" started climbing in the charts, Decca came up with a version by none less than Louis "Wonderful World" Armstrong. This one though turned out to be no real commercial threat.

The flip side « Father time » was a slower song, somewhat in the same style as « Wheel of fortune ». It´s not the same song as the one released by the Poni-tails, also in the 1950´s.

« There’s some mighthy fine warbling there » according to the Billboard reviewers. (32)  The customers seemed to agree. This first Sunny Gale single for RCA became a Top 15 hit, and remained for two monts in the hitparade.(33)

 

Tips for collectors

  • In fact, almost all known Sunny Gale sheet music seem to be from her RCA Victor era. Not only were music and lyrics of the A sides released, but also the B sides, each time with different front covers.
  • Except for the most obvious hunting ground, eBay USA, there are also a number of specialized auction sites that are worth while exploring. Just to name one -a magicien can´t explain all his tricks in his trade- www.musicsongsheets.com certainly is a good place to complete the research.
  • "Normal" prices for Sunny Gale sheet music are around 6-7 $. However, while some of her sheet music appear regularly on auction sites, others almost never do. Some only appear once a year, some even less. Once you know which ones are common, which ones aren´t, you´ll know when your bids certainly shouldn´t stick to the 6-7 $ average price. Unless of course you have an endless patience to complete your collection. I´ve paid up to 12.50 $ for one or two copies, and never regretted it: no similar ones have appeared since then.
  • Notice that the Australian Sunny Gale sheet music sometimes have a different front cover than those of their American counterparts. Some of these will be shown in this article. The message for "completists" therefor is, check every now and then sites such as eBay Australia !
  • An interesting website to know in which year specific RCA Victor singles were released is 45rpmrecords.com.

 

   

During the month of August 1952, Sunny Gale recorded a second single for RCA Victor. The two songs selected for this second attempt were Tossin’ And Turnin’/You Could Make Me Smile again".  The instrumental parts were delivered by the Sauter-Finnigan combo. Again, the Billboard comments were very encouraging: “Miss Gale injects sincerity in this powerful rendition of the beautiful new ballad. Ork backing (…) is stylish.” according to the weekly magazine. (34)

This "stylish backing" by the orchestra is even more obvious in You could make me smile again”. The way the combo delivers its always difficult balancing act between power and restraint is absolutely top notch. Together with Sunny Gale´s wonderful vocals, it gives the song an extraordinairy dreamy atmosphere. The record buyers either didn´t notice it, or were taken away by other songs and singers. The single didn´t sell very well, and is therefor one of the more difficult ones to find. The same is true for the two sheet music connected to this effort. Especially "You could make me smile again” turned out to be a very difficult one to find. So, if ever it comes along, don´t hesitate to look beyond the 10 $ limit...(35)

The lack of commercial success however didn´t mean Sunny Gale started thinking about quitting or relaxing. On the contrary, the following months turned out to be quite hectic ones... (36)

 
coin for a jukebox or a jackpot at Palumbo´s,
with a 1 cent mounted in the center

In September 1952, the then 41 year old Frank Palumbo opened a third night club halfway South Street and the Italian Market, in South Philadelphia. Palumbo´s grandparents once started out with a boarding house for Italian immigrants. It actually was in that former boarding house, a large building that their grandson started with his entertainment imperium. He befriended Frank Sinatra, and was well liked for his philantropy. He bought animals for the local zoo, and financed parades for children. There´s also a playground in Philadelphia carrying his name.

The number of clubs he owned sometimes went up, then went down again. The club he opened in 1952 had the same address as his two other ones, the 20th Century and the Club 13. Each of these clubs had its own entrance, a different entrance policy and therefor a different public. Palumbo´s third club was situated on the first floor while Club 13 was in the basement and the 20th Century on the floor ground. His third club had a very elegant bar, room for 300 guests and a dancefloor. Palumbo planned to have two new artists each week to entertain his guests. During the opening week, he had managed to book the Dizzy Gillespie band and Bill Darnell, for the second week no less than the Art Tatum Trio and the heroin of this article. (37)

     
The Retroscoop Collection
Left: a rather odd singing duo
Right: A very (!) rare Australian sheet music

During the month of October ´52, a third record for RCA Victor was in the making. The management of the record company decided to try something new, and came up with the idea of a duet. The male counterpart would be Vaughn Monroe (°1911). The songs selected were « Jump back honey / So so »Billboard discovered « some exciting results » in the effort. (38) And indeed... Monroe may sound somewhat as a jolly good Santa Claus, but mixing those two different voices resulted in an OK output. In the mildly rocking « Jump back honey » (with a "twanging guitar !) the two are still searching in how to make it work. But in « So so », a slow waltz in 4/4 it began to work out fine indeed.

We can pick up again Sunny Gale tracks from November ´52 onwards. In that month, her name appeared once again on the marquee of the Paramount Building in New York, together with that of the enigmatic « Operation Secret » and that of the close harmony-group the Four Aces. Those who planned these concerts didn´t do their homework very well though. There were elections going on at exactly the same day in the Big Apple. As a result, the number of visitors of the concert hall was somewhat disappointing. (39)

Next important stop for Sunny was the 15th Midnight Benefit Show of the Amsterdam News on December 12tn. This annual happening in support of the Welfare Fund of this weekly publication took place in the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem. (West 125 th Street). Sunny Gale was one of the artists that would perform during that benefit concert.

The "Amsterdam News" was created in 1909 in Harlem, and its main public was the Afro-American community in New York. In the 1940´s, it was one of the four biggest newspapers for this cimmunity in the USA, with a circulation of more than 100 000 copies. Sunny Gale was in excellent company that night. Not only actor/comic Milton Berle was there, but also Ella Fitzgerald, The Ink Spots, Duke Ellington and Vic Damone used the same stage on that memorable night. The Apollo was a nice reference on Gale´s growing CV, although her being there might not have pleased everyone of course. Both Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan´s careers started in the legendary concert hall, that celebrated its 75th birthday recently. (40)

Also in December ´52, a one page advert appeared in Billboard. In it, the 3 leading figures of the non-profit organisation United Cerebral Palsy and presidential candidate Eisenhower expressed their grateful appreciation in the name of 500 000 children and adults to all the artists that took part in the « 18 hours celebrity parade ». One of those artists to have shown her kind heart  by putting her shoulders under this initiative by participating in this benefit concert was Sunny Gale.  (41)

      

To be as complete as possible, we also have to point at the so called ´telescription´ from 1952 in which we can see Sunny Gale performing the song "A good man is hard to find", a song that apparantly hasn´t been released on vinyl. (?) In another telescription, yet another title that hasn´t been released on vinyl, called "I wish I could Shimmy".

 

Telesciptions were short black & white films of less than 5 minutes, somewhat comparable to those made by the company Snader. These short films are in fact the precursors of the modern video clips. In 1952, Studio Films from Cleveland Ohio made about 500 telescriptions, starring Connee Boswell, Betty Clooney (Rosemary´s sister, both George´s aunts), June Valli, the Ink Spots etc. In June ´52, Studio Films signed a contract with United Television Programs (UTP), which became the sole distributor of those telescriptions. Studio Films´ catalogue consisted of 545 telescriptions, totalling 30 hours of television broadcast. The agreement stipulated that Studio Films would add 15 new telescriptions each month. Telescriptions allowed television companies to bridge the time between two programs, or to make musical programs.

We haven´t been able to find much information about Studio Films, UTP nor about the Sunny Gale telescription. I assume it has been made during her RCA Victor period, but I haven´t found any confirmation about it. It´s also strange that the song doesn´t seem to have been released on vinyl. Given the tricky copyright legislation, I can´t add the short film to this website, even if its purposes are solely didactic. But of course, if you represent a 10 digit company who wants to encourage such nice initiatives, or if you live next to Bill Gates or Tadashi Yanai, you can always contact me :-) I´d gladly seek a company who can put the 16mm film I own on CD rom, and add it to this tribute to Sunny Gale, to the delight of all her fans !

"A good man is hard to find » might be the Eddie Green composition from 1918. The short film shows Sunny Gale walking around in a room with the portrait of a dark haired man in her hands. (42)


1953

In January ´53, Sunny Gale´s new single was released. The two titles on this one were Teardrops on my pillow / A stolen waltz, and she was accompagnied by the Ralph Burns Orchestra.

   

Although the title suggests otherwise, Teardrops...is a happy uptempo ditty. It was written and composed by Fanny Wolff and Deborah Chesler. The latter was the manager of the top-R&B band The Orioles. As far as we have been able to retrace things, Sunny Gale was the first to record "Teardrops...". The Orioles recorded it the next month, and it became the flip side of “Hold me, thrill me, kiss me”. (43)

This time, sales are rewarding, especiallu in Washington and New York. Philadelphia and Chicago too gave it a good response, while the Middle West once again looked in other directions. RCA also encountered distribution difficulties in St. Louis. (44)


Billboard ad Jan. 3rd 1953 p 27 (1/2 page)

"Teardrops..." apparently was quite popular with DJ’s. On January 10th, the song is on the n° 1 spot in Billboard’s « disk jockeys pick », beating big shots as Vic Damone, Doris Day and Nat King Cole. In February, Sunny Gale was elected on the 2nd place in the list of "Most Promising Female Vocalist" by DJ´s. (45) "Teardrops..." reached the #12-position in Billboard´s Best Selller´s list, doing better than than "Wheel of fortune".

"A stolen waltz", the B-side of the single too was quite popular, and also reached the Top 20. (46) It´s a slow waltz, instrumentally somewhat in the same style as Patti Page´s "Tennessee Waltz", but with the distinctive vocals of Sunny Gale. The lark is accompagnied by some kind of barrel organ. This must have been a favorite song of many couples, romancing on the dance floor. Sales were very satisfying in her loyal hometown Philadelphia, but she also conquered many new hearts in Dallas and Pittsburgh.(47)

A report edited by the Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), one of the three American performing rights organizations along with SESAC and ASCAP gave "Unannimous approval" to Gale’s performing the "Stolen Waltz". Cash Box, a magazine for the juke box industry however, expected more from another version by Dick Thomas. (48)

 


The BAM in Brooklyn, NY in 1910 and in the ´30´s

On Febryary 6th, Sunny Gale was performing live ib the prestigious Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), in the Lafayette Avenue, NY. The BAM, is located in the Sharp Building, a neo-classical construction from 1907 generally used for opera and theatre shows. Other big names performing that same night were the Ink Spots, Count Basie, Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne, the Four Tunes, Willie Bryant and Red Buttons. (49) 

On March 7th, a horizontal ad of 1/3rd page in Billboard has real "Good news". And indeed, amidst the many new releases that month, there´s also the newest of "la Gale". With the  "How could you / I feel like I’m gonna live forever"-release, RCA has combined two happy sounding tunes on one vinyl disc.

The backing vocals on "How could you" start relatively modest, with some "doo-doo-doo’s" here and some "ohhhh’s" there, but play a much more important role in the second part of the song.


Billboard ad March 7th 1953

The same formula is used in the solid and happy tune "I feel like I’m gonna live forever". In this case however, it is the orchestra which first plays a modest role, and than joins in with much energy in the second part, producing a Sinatra-like instrumental back up, and is one of my favorite Sunny Gale songs. It´s one of the songs from the funny Broadway musical "Hazel Flagg".

Hazel is a young girl from a small town. One day, doctors think she´s going to die, because she is supposed to have been in contact with radio-active Radium. A magazine concentrates its attention on the tragic event, and offer Hazel a trip to New York. When it becomes clear that the diagnosis was a mistake, Hazel decides not to tell anyone, for fear of losing the opportunity to see the Big Apple. In the musical, one of the songs Hazel is singing is the vibrant and optimistic "I feel like I’m gonna live forever".

Strangely enough, the efforts of RCA to put a hype in motion with ads announcing "Sunny Gale with another big hit" didn´t caught the imagination of a large public. Quite a pity, because this is really a vibrant single, that deserves a place of honor in every good music collection. It certainly should be in whatever Sunny Gale collection ! 

  
Front and back of a rare RCA-Victor promo card (14 x 21,5 cm)
distributed by her official fanclub on Broadway

Tips for collectors

  • It´s really not understandable, why none of these two strong songs have been added to the 2 existing Sunny Gale CD´s. Especially because both added a not particularly convincing version by Gale of Noel Coward´s "Mad about the boy" in their playlist. But then again, as another Sunny Gale fan wrote: "Any Sunny Gale is better than no Sunny Gale at all"..  
  • What is quite strange is that -although the record didn´t sell very well, it´s not difficult to find the two sheet music linked to it. Both often appear on eBay USA, and you certainly should not pay more than about 4 to 6 $ for them.

RCA Victor had a sufficient number of top sellers working for them, to compensate for somewhat disappointing sales. A new attempt was launched in May ´53. The songstress was backed up by the Henri Rene Orchestra, and the RCA-staff gave it a try with the Bob Hilliard-Milton De Lugg tune "Send my baby back to me". (50) On the flip side, RCA added the song "Meanwhile".

Once again, RCA also put the money on the table for ads of 1/3rd of a page in Billboard. "Sunny sales weather ahead", the slogan told readers with a pun. A small photograph of a beaming Sunny Gale was surrounded by a drawned solar halo. (51)


Part of Billboard ad
May 16th, 1953 p. 31

The Billboard reviewers in the meantime kept believing in the sales potentional of the gifted songstress: "Send my baby back to me : Rhythmic item is projected strongly by the thrush. It has an infectuous beat and should do OK on the boxes. Meanwhile : the beautiful ballad is warbled simply and tastefully by the songstress." (52)

This single once again illustrates Gale´s vocal abilities to catch very different moods with brio. While "Send my baby" is yet another happy ditty, she brilliantly gives "Meanwhile the gloomy mood the lyrics and orchestral arrangements require. The lyrics are about a man who just can´t make up his mind whether he wants to settle down (or just go on enjoying his bachelor´s freedom). So, the songstress advices him to "to paint the town red with wine”, until he knows what he wants. It´s once again a slow waltz in 4/4, and the completely different mood compared to the A-side is really striking. While singer and orchestra are delivering a perfect job, the record buying audience however -once more- decided to spend its dollars to buy other records.

 
Large RCA promo photograph 
(+/- 20,5 x 25 cm)

The trail of Sunny Gale now leads us back to the town she grew up: Philadelphia. "Pop" Sciolla, the boss of Sciolla’s café, "one of the major nabe spots here" offered her a contract to perform in his establishment. Until then, "Pop" had allowed local bands to use the stage. In an attempt to attract a more select customer base, he decided to invest money in top notch performers. On May 4th, he invited Dolores Hawkins and Steve Gibson, while Sunny Gale and Tony Bennett gave a show that took place either in the last week of May or in the first week of June. (53)

Using the new medium television for promotional purposes became indispensable in the early 1950´s. (We already saw the might of this communication tool when we retraced the history of the Wheel of fortune episode). The fame and name of many artists was made (or broken) by television appearances. On June 6th, Sunny Gale was one of the guests of the "Saturday Night Revue". Host was the famous singer/piano player/actor Hoagy Carmichael, a prolific and very highly esteemed composer of popular songs. (54)

     
The two sheet music for Gale´s "seventh son"

In the summer of ´53, Gale´s "Seventh son" in a row for RCA Victor saw the daylight. "Love me again / Before it’s too late" was the next attempt to reach the top of the chart lists. Apparantly, the record company decided it should put more money into promotional efforts for their lark. On August 29th, a full page ad for the new release appeared in Billboard magazine. (55)

"Before is too late" is once again the result of the co-operation between Fanny Wolff and Deborah Chesler. (Earlier in her career, Gale already performed their "Teardrops on my pillow", while in the early 1960´s, she would once more record a Wolff-Chesler song called "Once in every lifetime") Yet another indication that RCA Victor was trying to help Gale find her way to the top of the charts was their decision to entrust their lark to one of their top band leaders, the well known Hugo Winterhalter. He already had contributed to the success of several songs, including for some hits by Eddie Fisher. (56)

On "Before it’s too late", the listener will clearly hear some tango-influences and even rhythms, while "Once in every lifetime" is a nice, slow ballad, convincingly performed by Sunny Gale. Note the resourceful "pizzicato"-passages, during which the violin playrs pluck the chords of their instrument.

Once again, reception is very well in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, with also good results in Boston. For the first time, Billboard also mentions a good result in Los Angeles. Until then, Sunny Gale mainly sold records on the east coast of the States. Billboard also notes that her sales are mainly concentrated in big cities. (57) Both songs reached Billboard´s Top 25.

In September, Sunny Gale is back in New Jersey, the east coast state where she was born in 1927. Gale was one of the guests of Charles Mathis from radio station WCMC in the little town of Wildwood. But although this town may not be known internationally, it seems that lots of Americans found their way to this place. Indeed, what would a small town with a limited population otherwise do with 150 clubs and night clubs ? And why would big names such as Bill Haley’s Comets, Louis Prima, Lionel Hampton, the Gaylords etc. bother to visit Mathis and Wildwood, if it wasn´t for the tens of thousands of tourists that were flooding Wildwood during the summer ? In that time, Wildwood had lots of motels, hotels, a nice pier and a famous amusement park. (58)

We haven´t been able to find out in which elegant clubs Sunny Gale performed in Wildwood, but it is more than likely that her radio interview with Mathis was meant to promote such shows. (59) 


Collectie Retroscoop
Superb photograph of Sunny Gale´s booking agency MCA. It was part of a press kit, that also contained a biograhy of 2 pages. On the back of this autographed copy, someone wrote down the name Mort(Nushbaum ???), than an address: 201 Humboldt Street, Rochester NY and the words "Radio Station WHAM". In 2010, this address still is linked to radio and TV-activities, but my e-mail to them didn´t get a reply or didn´t get through the spam filter.

The next month, Sunny Gale once again lend her support to a benefit concert. This time, she was one of the artists supporting the Jimmy Fund Show. The happening took place in the Baybrook nightclub in New Haven, the second largest town in Connecticut. (I was told that there´s still an old law that punishes all those who pronounce the name of this state incorrectly).

The JFS was a welfare initiative that supported the first hospitals that treated children with cancer. (60) One of the driving forces behind the show was redio station WAVZ. Other artists participating in this fund raising event were Bill Kenny (Decca), Ginny Gibson (MGM) and the WAVZ-orchestra conducted by Tiny Markie. (61)

    
Left: A sheet music without picture of the songstress,
only the reference "as sung by Sunny Gale" above the
songtitle. Right: Billboard ad and sheet music of the flip side

In the second half of November ´53, RCA´s A&R man Joe Carlton proposed a new formula for selling Sunny Gale to the record buying audiences : why not let her work together with the Du Droppers ? This was one of RCA´s pioneering groups, which was well established in R&B circles. (The name of the genre only appeared in the 1960´s). (62) The result of this experiment can be found on the single "Mama´s Gone Goodbye / The Note In The Bottle".

"Singing greater than ever before: Sunny Gale and the Du Droppers" and "Another RCA first exclusive", a rather small ad in Billboard anounces proudly and triumphantly. (63) Maybe RCA concentrated its promotional efforts in R&B magazines, since the Du Droppers were a well respected name in those circles. 

Pretending that the end result sounds revolutionarily different than other Sunny Gale singles, would be incorrect. The vocal back up on "Mama’s gone, goodbye" reminded me of the back up vocals on "How could you", with once again lots of "Doo doo doo’s". On the flip side, Sunny first sings 2/3 of the song, and only then we get a harmonious but rather modest R&B/gospel-like contribution by the Du Droppers. About 300 000 copies were sold. Certainly not bad at all, but not the million seller RCA Victor was hoping for either.

  

Tips for collectors

  • Even today, "Mama´s gone goodbye/How could you" remains a popular item for collectors of early R&B music (64)
  • An extremely interesting item is the Spanish RCA Victor EP from 1954. The very attractive picure sleeve makes it a very desirable collector´s item. The EP combines the two songs of the "Mama´s gone goodbye"-single with those from a more recent one, called "Smile".

 

Go to Part Two of this article

 

Bibliography and footnotes 

Remark: Texts which are underlined are links to other websites. The term op.cit. means it´s a textual quotation from the source mentioned in this footnote. 

1) His very public divorce from actress Debbie Reynolds didn´t do his career much good, and his new marriage to the fickle actress/widow Elizabeth Taylor didn´t last very long.

Philadelphia also fed Frankie Avalon (°1939) and Fabian (°1942) with this special component in the air.
 

2) Singer Kay Starr had -as a small child- her own radio program of 15 minutes. In the early 1930´s, when she was 10 years old, she earned 3 $ each night, which wasn´t bad at all in those Depression Days. 

3) Liner notes from Sunny Gale´s LP "Sunny and blue" (see discography for more details) 

4) Before Sunny Gale´s arrival, Estelle Taylor sang with Jules Helzner´s orchestra. Helzner (° 1918) came from a very musical Jewish family, which left Russia in 1921 for the States. He played clarinet in a band of which his brother Morry was the bandleader. Except for working together with Sunny Gale, he also worked with yet another very good singer from Philadelphia, Gloria Mann. 

5) You´ll find quite a variety of McIntyre-items on auction sites such as eBay USA, from sheet music to photographs, and from vinyl to CD´s. However, we haven´t managed to retrace whether some of the available CD´s contain recordings with Sunny Gale doing the vocal parts 

6) By 1953, Sunny Gale had memorised more than 1000 songs ! Often she only needed to hear a song once or twice, to remember both music and words... See:  Sunny Gale, the « Wheel of fortune »-girl Foto-rama March 1st, 1953 vol. 1 n° 2 p 36 

7) Hal McIntyre was one of the big American bandleaders. Being accepted to work with him was a very nice reference on Sunny Gale´s curriculum ! 

8) Derby Record´s logo was a bowler hat, known as a "Derby hat" 

For a short biography of Larry Newton, see: "Clark to head AB-PT; Top ABC-Para. Post to Newton”  Billboard 21 nov. 1964 pp 1 & 8 

9) We haven´t been able to establish whether a poem by the Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid entitled "Sunny Gale" served as inspiration for this colorful stage name. It even seems to be impossible to find on the internet in which year that poem was written. A Scottish organisation we contacted weren´t able either to pinpoint the year in which it appeared. Anyway, what is certain is that Selma Sega already used this name while singing with Hal McIntyre (see poster) and probable with Helzner, who refers to her as Sunny Gale, not Selma Sega. So, the stage name wasn´t invented at the time she got her first record deal. 

10) Billboard Dec. 29th 1951 p 22 op.cit. 

11) Liner notes from Sunny Gale´s LP "Sunny sings dixieland blues" op.cit. (See discography) 

12) Eddie Wilcox´s career began in the Swing Era, in the famous Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra, a top-ork that was able to compete with those of Duke Ellington or Count Basie. 

From 1929 onwards, Wilcox was responsible in the JLO for all the musical arrangements. When Lunceford died in 1947, the Orchestra tried to carry on without its charismatic bandleader, but disbanded about 2 years later. 

13) The most famous version of "You showed me the way" probably is the one by Billie Holiday 

14) A number of other small record companies had had lucky shots in the Bestseller´s Charts. The record label Tennessee had a bull´s eye with Del Wood´s "Down yonder", while the song "Sin" by the Four Aces was a similar stunt by record label Victoria. 

It would lead us too far away from the main subject of this article, the tribute to Sunny Gale, to start digging into the history of the hitparade as we know it today. In fact, other writers have done this already extensively and with the necessary accuracy. Let me just say this: until the first half of the 1950´s, there were two very import hitlists in the USA: the one by the weekly magazine Billboard and one by Cash Box magazine. While the first one mentioned was the best source for the general public, the latter was concentrating on the juke box industry. Indeed, except for record sales, success in juke box machines too was very important for the music industry. The results of records sales weren´t always reflected in the success artists had in joints equipped with juke boxes. 

The hitlist of Billboard in fact consisted of three separated lists: a Top 40 of the best selling artists, a hitlist provided by the juke box industry and a list of the favorite songs of the DJ community, the third and extremely important pillar of the music industry of those days. 

The formula of the Hot 100 only appeared in August 1958.

15) Billboard Feb. 2nd 1952  « Sleeper » slicings hype disk industry p. 15 / 39 op.cit.
 

16) Except for Sunny Gale´s and Kay Starr´s Wheel of fortune, there were a large number of other covers. 

17) An interesting biographical article on Kay Starr can be found in: "Starr billing : Kay Starr" in : Song Hits May 1952 p 12 (Song Hits magazine can be found for ex. on eBay USA 

18) So, this kind of funny experiences with sound samples took place long before Pink Floyd added their famous ones to "Money"...  

19) Bob Rolontz: "Video’s a song’s n° 1 hit-maker"  Billboard 27 feb 1954 p 1 and 20   "Derby waxing stoked up the excitement about 10 days ago, and since then, every major waxer and a number of lesser firms have moved quickly to cover on the Benjamin-Weiss song."  op.cit. 

Capitol already had done something similar in 1951, by getting Les Paul & Mary Ford in front of the cameras during the Ed Sullivan show, during which the Fords performed "How high the moon". The TV appearnce boosted solidly the record sale . Source: “Video’s a song’s n° 1 hit-maker” by Bob Rolontz in Billboard February 27th 1954 p 1 en 20 

20) Candidates of the TV game "Wheel of fortune" were ordinary people, who had distinguished themselves by an extraordinary, meaningful civic deed. A giant wheel of fortune would determine which trivia question they would get from host Todd Russell. If they answered this question correctly, they could win 1000 $. The program lasted until the end of September 1953. 

The Copa existed from 1948 until New Year´s Eve 1959. The club was situated in the Villa Madrid, 818 Liberty Avenue, near Nixon Theatre and accross its rival, the Carousel. Leonhard Litman died in 2002. 

« Pitt Copa builds week around team, songs »  Billboard March 1st 1952 p 15 

21) This was quite some stunt ! Benjamin and Weiss weren´t even registred as professional musicians. They first had to become members of the American Federation of Musicians or form the American Guild of Variety Artists to be allowed to perform in public. Apparantly, they performed during 1 week, and were paid 1000 $ eacht.You showed me the way" probably is the one by Billie Holiday. 

22) "Paramount, N.Y."  Billboard May 24th, 1952, p 45 op.cit.

This very detailed account even specifies the entrance prices for the happening: from 0,55 c to 1,60 $. In the same week, there also was a show with Nat
King Cole and Alan King.
 

"Movie review: Rancho Notorious"  New York Times May 15th, 1952. 

23) "Sunny Gale, the ‘Wheel of fortune’-girl"  Foto-rama March 1st 1953 vol. 1 n° 2 p 36 

New York Times ad for the Arthur Murray Party  Sunday March 30st, 1952 

See also: Internet Movie Data Base Imdb. 

24) See for ex. Top R&B hits of 1950-1969 

25)  "But Newton’s shootin’ with Trudy waxing of ‘Breeze’"  Billboard 18.04.1953 p 15 and p 43 

Nor the fuss due to the Trudy Richards-move, nor the strange behaviour of sheet music editor Leeds managed to keep Kay Starr out of the Top 10. Leeds, the editor of the sheet music for "The breeze" apparantly tried to cause confusion within the DJ-community, by trying to make believe "The breeze" and not "Side by side" was the actual A-side of the single. To do so, they send a mailing to several key DJ´s, which was formulated in such a way, as if Kay Starr had participated in writing it. When big money is involved, some really go to great lengths to get their piece(s) of the cake.

26) "Derby bankruptcy plea filed in N.Y."  Billboard Oct. 23rd, 1954 p 18
 

"Decca to get Eli Oberstein’s Derby masters" Billboard April 9th, 1955   p. 15 

“Derby hearing set Nov. 9; Oberstein bids for catalog” Billboard Nov. 6th, 1954 p 28. 

It was RCA Victor’s now I am/now I am no longer Artists & Repertoire-man Oberstein who bought the Derby-label and record catalogue for 5800 $. The catalogue consisted of 286 edited and 160 non edited mastersn wit catalgue numbers running from 701 to 863. 

"ABC Paramount Head is Rugged but Reasonable" Billboard 18 sept. 1965 p 32 & 48

ABC records existed from 1955 till 1979. The record company was bought that year by MCA, which was Sunny Gale´s booking agency in the 1950´s
 

 From the early 1950´s onwards, the importance of R&B began to rise. This was partly due to the fact that a growing white audience was opening up for it, partly because of better economic perspectives for a growing part of the Afro-Americans, allowing larger record sales. 

27) "Clark to head AB-PT ; top ABC-Para-post to Newton" Billboard  Nov. 21st, 1964 p 1 & p 8  

28) In May 1952, Georgia Gibbs had a #1 hit with « Kiss of fire » : on the flip side of that record, buyers got yet another version of "A lasting thing". It is not excluded that this fact too had a negetive impact on the sales of Sunny Gale´s A-side version: many people who bought Kiss of fire didn´t bother to buy Sunny Gale´s "Thing", since they already had the Gibbs version as a bonus.

29) Jet (Magazine), June 12th, 1952 p. 47 

Jet was a magazine for the Afro-American community. The writer of the article pointed to the fact that Bejamin nd Weiss, the two composers of "Wheel of fortune" were an interracial team.

30) Billboard  June 7th, 1952 p 36 op.cit 

Of course, the historical perspective is such, that the listener of the 21st century can listen to Sunny Gale´s complete output, and compare the different efforts within the same day, something the 1950´s listener couldn´t do. And although this remains a very personal opinion, not necessarily a very humble one, but to me, Sunny Gale´s voice was best suited for cheerful, happy ditties. Even though she certainly proved with songs such as "If I", that she was able to get completely immersed in songs with a different mood. So, maybe after all, it´s just me and my ears, who prefer cheerful songs... Someone who likes sad songs might adore Sunny Gale for her capacity to add drops of sadness between the music notes, while singing such songs. 

31) "Billboard Picks"  Billboard June 28th, 1952 p 40 op.cit.

32) "Record reviews"  Billboard July 12th, 1952  p 38 op. cit. 

33) J.C. Marion: "Remembering Sunny Gale"2003 

In October 1952, RCA Victor released a full page ad in Billboard, to promote their new releases, and a list of singles that were "Going strong". In this latter one, RCA Victor added at the bottom Sunny Gale´s "I laughed at love/ Father time"(RCA 4789). To introduce her to a larger public, a short text give readers some more information about the blonde tuneweaver: 

"Prettiest little Gale we’ve seen in a dog’s age is coming up fast in show business. We’re talking about Sunny Gale, whose RCA recording of I LAUGHED AT LOVE is currently spinning on the nation’s leading disc jockeys." 

“Gale coming fast”  Billboard Oct. 25th, 1952 p 55 

34) "Popular record reviews"  Billboard August 6th, 1952 p 68 op.cit. 

35) It is so scarce, that I only came across one copy, on which a creative American toddler had added some color to the two 1/8 notes on the cover. (actually it was the little son of the eBay seller who was responsible for this arts & crafts) I´ve removed most of it with the Photoscape program. Anyway, I´ve never seen another copy on eBay USA since I bought this one about 2 years ago...

36) J.C. Marion: "Remembering Sunny Gale" 2003

37) "3d room to open soon on Palumbo site"  Billboard Aug. 30th, 1952 p 18

Some of the other exclusive entertainment places Frank Palumbo owned at one time or another were the C.R. Club, the Palumbo´s Theatre-Resto, Frank Palumbo´s Click (with its musical band the Clickettes) etc.
 

Although some of his critics have dropped the word "maffia", there have never been any proof to substantiate this claim.

38) "Record reviews"  Billboard Nov. 1st, 1952 p 38 op.cit. 

39) “Election hurts stem combos” Billboard Nov. 15th, 1952 p 19 

40) Bob Rolontz : « Rhythm & Blues Notes »   Billboard Dec. 13th, 1952 p 52

41) Billboard Dec. 20th, 1952 p 1
3 

42) UTP to handle musical films Billboard June 28th, 1952 p. 10 & 20

43) Marv Goldberg’s R&B notes The Orioles discography, 1999 

44) "Late reports on « recent buys"  Billboard Jan. 10th, 1953 p 26 

Chesler also wrote to other songs, performed by -among others- Sunny Gale, « Before it’s too late » (1953) and « Once in every lifetime »  Billboard Jan. 3rd, 1953 p 26 

45) "1953 Artist Biography Section"  Billboard Feb. 28th, 1953 

46) "Remembering Sunny Gale" 2003

47) "Coming up in trade"  Billboard Jan. 17th, 1953 p 44/48 / Billboard Jan. 24th, 1953 p 32 "Remembering Sunny Gale" 2003

48) Billboard Jan. 10th, 1953 p 38 op.cit. 

49) Original Ink Spot activities by date Jan/48-Dec/53 

50) Billy Eckstine too recorded this song, but it appeared on the flip side of "I laughed to keep from crying". In the same period, Judy Garland too recorded a song with this title, but it´s not the same composition. The Garland song was written by Jessie Mae Robinson. 

51) Billboard  May 16th, 1953 p. 31 

52) Billboard  May 16th, 1953 p. 35 op.cit. 

53) "Disk acts for Philly nitery" Billboard  May 2nd, 1953 p 13. It brought Sunny Gale to Sciolla´s.

54) The prolific Hoagy Carmichael wrote such well known songs like  "Ole buttermilk sky" (1946), Dean Martin´s "In the cool cool cool of the evening" (1950) and the beautyful "Skylark", (1941), so beautifully sung by Linda Ronstadt. 

55) Billboard Aug. 29th, 1953 p 51  In the same Billboard, there were also full page ads for Dinah Shore (RCA Victor) and for Teresa Brewer and Eileen Barton (Coral)

56) "Remembering Sunny Gale" 2003

57) "This week’s best buys"  Billboard Sept. 5th, 953 p 28 

58) "Vox Jox"  Billboard Sept. 5th, 1953 p 34  It was in Wildwood N.J. that Bill Haley performed in 1954 for the very first time "Rock around the clock”.  The little town with its tens of thousands of tourists every holiday season therefor sees itself somewhat as the birthplace of rock´n´roll.

59) e-mails to an organisation which studies the history of the local radios in New Jersey unfortunately remained without a reply. 

60) The history of the Jimmy Fund clinics in itself is a very interesting subject !

61) "Vox Jox / Guesting" Billboard Oct. 17th, 1953 p 38

62) "Gale, Du Droppers paired in disk…" Billboard Nov. 14th, 1953 p 24.

63) Sunny Gale ad for "The note in the bottle" Billboard Dec. 5th, 1953 p 17

64) "Remembering Sunny Gale" 2003

 
 
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