Friday, February 01, 2008

The Happiness Boys!

I came across "Hobo" Jack Turner recently on a 78. I get curious about these things and wondered if he was actually a hobo in any sense of the word. He wasn't. But he was a radio man. He recorded under dozens of names as a soloist: Wallace Daniels, Arthur Grant, Henry Jones, Robert Judson, Walter Lang, Walter Leslie, Frank Mann, Roy Roberts, Bob Thomas, Bob Thompson and surely others. Who is this man? He has more pseudonyms than me. More here.
Thomas Ernest Hare was born in 1883 in Queens, New York. He was a singer who performed with vocal groups in the 1920s and 1930s. He recorded with the Cleartone Four, the Crescent Trio, the Harmonizers Quartet and the Premier Quartet, and he also recorded with Al Bernard. his recording career began on Brunswick records in 1918. Fred Rabenstein of Brunswick records introduced him to Billy Jones the following year and a duo was born. They would become the Happiness boys and record several LPs together on Edison and Brunswick. More here.
Like other acts of the day they borrowed branding from the products that sponsored them. The insecticide Flit underwrote them and they were the Flit Soldiers. They performed as The Interwoven Pair on WJZ to hock Interwoven Socks and eventually as The Happiness Boys for Happiness Candy Stores a small chain owned by Irving Fuerst. Those radio spots started in 1923 on WEAF. They went from $100 a week to over $1,200 per week in less than 5 years. they continued to record under their own names and various pseudonyms, but on the radio they were known as The Happiness Boys and that's the name that made them famous. they sang comic songs like "Since Henry Ford Apologized to me" It was a tune that mocked the anti-semitic rants of the famous automaker. It went like this:
Oyoy gevalt gevalt
Vuts de mattuh, Abram?
Did you see the Yiddishe Joinal this morning Dovid?
No, vut did it say?
Well I don't mind telling you that I'm so happy I could cry
You're looking simply great, why don't you celebrate?
I bought maynself a quart of hooch, a collar mit a tie
Well if I see you making voopie, what's your alibi?
But fame fades. By 1930 the Victor Label cut their last record under that name. By 1932 they dropped the name entirely. In 1933 they were still together but using the name The Taystee Loafers, from yet another sponsor, the Taystee Bread Company this time on WOR. In 1936 they were still in radio but now The Gillette Gentlemen, promoting razorblades on the CBS network. They faded slowly into obscurity. Hare died in 1939 of pneumonia, Jones died the following year. If you check under all their pseudonyms apart or together in the American Premium record guide you'll find the same entry "Note: Various recordings issued on Decca, Harmony, and Velvet Tone under this name are of little interest or value." So sad.