All the Kings Men

Here I am very early in the morning, nursing a cold which must be gone in three days, and I am taking comfort in this beautiful clip from a period I so wished I lived in.  Aside from some advancements in medicine,  and computers bringing the world information and closer together, we hope, this is not a time period I feel comfortable in.        Listen to these really beautiful voices and harmonies. 


 The King’s Men Quartet. Unissued recording from 1934. Sheet music and photographs represent films in which the quartet was heard and (usually) seen. Many are not familiar with the King’s Men Quartet, even though they are seen or heard in some very famous motion pictures. They formed in 1929 when Paramount was recruiting a quartet for the film “Sweetie” with Nancy Carroll. By 1934 the personnel became permanent: Ken Darby, Arranger & Bass; Rad Robinson Baritone; Jon Dodson, Lead Tenor; (Grafton) Bud Linn, Top Tenor.    After appearing on and off camera in several important musical films (including “Let’s Go Native,” “Hollywood Party,” “Murder at the Vanities”) Darby shipped an audition recording (a 16″ transcription) to Paul Whiteman, who hired the quartet the same year, 1934. While with Whiteman, the King’s Men made hundreds of radio appearances (Kraft Music Hall), RCA-Victor records and films, such as “Thanks a Million” (they are seen in the number “New O’leans”). In the film “Honolulu” the King’s Men play the Marx Brothers with two Grouchos. They subsequently appeared with many other orchestra leaders, including Rudy Vallee.   They were heard, and sometimes seen, in many feature films, including “Belle of the Nineties” (Troubled Waters), “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Murder at the Vanities” (Lovely One) and notably “The Wizard of Oz,” in which they are the off screen voices for the Lollipop Guild. “Wizard…” is Darby’s first screen credit.   This led to vocal direction on more films, including Frank Sinatra’s first, “Higher and Higher.” When John Charles Thomas starred on the Westinghouse Hour, Ken Darby formed the Ken Darby Choir, which was the basis for his chorus in the movies he made for 20th Century Fox and others. A smaller group, the Ken Darby Singers, made a commercial record set of “The Wizard of Oz” and “Pinocchio.” These stayed in the catalogue for years, because MGM refused to produce a sound track album on Wizard until thirty years after the film was released.    In the 1940s the King’s Men were remembered as the singing cowboys of the Hopalong Cassidy films. For a few years they were associated with the Music Department at Disney Studios (“Make Mine Music,” “Pinocchio”), and on the long-running radio show “Fibber McGee & Molly.” The King’s Men group was the basis for the Ken Darby Singers, featured on John Charles Thomas’ “Westinghouse Broadcasts” and on many Decca phonograph records, such as Bing Crosby’s original recording of “White Christmas.” While each member of the quartet kept busy in the entertainment field, it was Ken Darby whose name will last longest in movie music history. With collaborators Alfred Newman and Victor Young, he won three Academy Awards for his adaptations of musicals.



~ by aprilemillo on November 9, 2007.

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