Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Favorite Christmas Song This Year

After I posted a 78 of "The Three Little Pigs" both to this site and to WFMU's blog, asking who knew the name of the singer, I was quicly able to learn that it was Toby Deane, a specialist in the fields of both children's records and unique vocal performances. I will do an entire multi-song post about her, soon, as she is my 2008 chioce for the greatest singer I'd never heard of before.

Many thanks to Irwin Chusid, who sent me what appears to be Toby Deane's greatest moment, a Voco records 78 from the late '40's, which is quite unlikely anything else I've ever heard. It's called "Alice in Christmas Wonderland", and it's been in nonstop rotation here in my world, since I first heard it, in late August of this year.

There is so much I love here, I don't know where to start. The whole arrangement is so beautifully odd, what with the multiple female backing singers, who sound at one moment like they are in a halloween cartoon, and another moment like they belong in the "You're Out of the Woods" scene from "The Wizard of Oz". Then there's the one singer who swoops in with descending broken chords (then echoed by the clarinets) at the 1:30 point.

Speaking of those clarinets, the sheer business of this track is a wonder to behold. The various sections played by the piano, in particular, just takes my breath away at times. And the double bass adds a lovely feel, too. All that work, for a children's record. I would LOVE to have been at this session.

Then there's the song. Most songs of this type would wear out their welcome with me by the end of the first minute, but somehow, this one is a joy in that area, too.

And all of that leaves out the main show, which is the lead vocal. I've not grown the least bit tired of listening to this, over the past four months, primarily because of Toby Deane's stunning and wonderous singing. There are moment, such the second time she sings "Alice", about 25 seconds in, that just give me chills.

The ability of a singer, who was apparently in her 20's or 30's at this time, to fully and convincingly sing as if she was, oh, about 12, astonishes me. And the little laugh on her voice, as heard at about 1:16, and again at 1:43 - well, I don't think that's something that can be taught.

I suspect I like this more than anyone who may hear it here on my site, but that's okay. Hopefully, you'll like enough to make my lengthy post worth reading.


Alex said...

Very cool and bizarre!

Sounds like something you'd hear in a cartoon after someone had too much to drink. :)

Anonymous said...

I am thrilled that I found your blog and this Christmas song by Toby Deane. I've been looking for her material for a long time. When I lived in Philadelphia, I found a collection of 78 records and a photograph of her with Benny Goodman. I've been searching for her ever since. Does she have a web site or someway that I can contact someone about this material? I am interested in returning it. Just post a comment if you may and I will forward my e-mail address. Thanks again...

Bob Purse said...

Hey there,

Thanks so much for your comment. Unfortunately, Toby Deane died earlier this decade - not quite sure of the year - she was living in England, I believe, at the end of her life. I would love to hear from her family, but have not heard from anyone who knew her, yet. I intend to make a post with about 6-8 other tracks by Toby Deane, some time this month.

I would LOVE to see the picture that you found. I have one picture of her, from the back of an album from 1963, and it's not a very good one - it's from an angle, and she's not looking at the camera. So if you can send me a scan of that picture, I'd be much obliged.

I'd also love to know what records you found. Keep watching this space for more Toby Deane.

And please do write me - I am at either or

splendid said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sammy Reed said...

This song isn't working now.

Byron Werner said...

My copy of the 78 which I most likely sent Irwin a copy back in the day, lists the act as "Toby Deane and the Hummingbirds". Don't know how much of a clue that'll be for you. Found it originally at a Great 78 store in Los Angeles, The Jazz Man, where I bought a lot of my early Raymond Scott 78s. Sadly, it is gone now.