Friday, January 16, 2009

Toby Deane

As promised in a previous post, today I'm writing a tribute to a woman whose name I'd never heard six months ago, but whose records I've been collecting ever since finding out who she was, back around August.

It was some time last year, I think, that I posted a recording of an obscure 78 that I've loved since childhood, a version of The Three Little Pigs, which I only had on a reel to reel tape. I have long been head over heels in love with the singer on that 78. When I asked the readers of this blog who the singer might be, I got no answers, so I turned to the readers of the WFMU blog.

I was quickly informed to seek out an online children's record expert, who just as quickly told me that the woman's name was Toby Deane. After further contact with Irwan Chusid of WFMU, I learned that she had died earlier this decade, and that she had made at least one other amazing record, "Alice in Christmas Wonderland", which I shared a few weeks ago.

This set me off searching for more Toby Deane records. I immediately found out that another of my childhood 78's, one greatly loved by my mother and sister, of the story of Peter Pan, also featured Toby Deane, and then I started buying records.

Just recently, after I wrote about her, a fellow named Thomas contacted me, and has sent me a photo of Toby Deane, with Benny Goodman, which appears above. Many thanks to him.

The following is the story in sound. While I think most of these are great, I will also admit that not all of these are good - in fact, I'd say a couple of them are downright bland, and one really grates on me. But I'll get to that, later. First, the record I grew up with, which I've always adored. Even if you've heard this before, when I've posted it, have a listen - I've found a 10" 78 of the record, which not only doesn't stop in the middle, but also is in MUCH better shape. Toby Deane, with Bob Mallit, sing about The Three Little Pigs:

Next, although I just posted it a few weeks ago, for the sake of completeness, here is Toby Deane and the Hummingbirds, with "Alice in Christmas Wonderland":

Here's a remarkable record, which I mentioned above. Victor Jory narrates the story of Peter Pan, while Toby Deane performs as both Peter and Wendy, using completely different voices for each. This is a fairly scratchy, much loved record:

For a change of pace, here she is, singing a major hit from the early 1950's, on one of those budget label EP 78's which contained the hits of the day, sung by people no one had heard of, in this case, a fairly complete reworking of Rosemary Clooney's Come On-a My House. I would assume that this was her "normal" singing voice:

Moving into a somewhat less-than-great category, here's a Toby Deane record from a little 7" picture disc from the Voco label (the same label which supplied the first three tracks posted above). "'Round and Round the Village" is no great shakes, but there remains something quite magical about her voice, which gives this record a sweetness and pull on me that most other vocalists would have been unable to provide with such material:

Another record which might be consider more than a little cloying is "Jingle Dingle", another 7" 78, in this case on both sides of the record. There are moments here, again, where Toby Deane's vocal magic lifts this above the mundane material. She's actually credited as "Toby Dean" on this record:

Moving another step down, the following track, "Songs of the Farm", is the B-Side of "The Three Little Pigs". It's really nothing special, except again, the voice draws me in here and there:

Next up is a track from an apparently much beloved 1950's children's Christmas album, "Christmas is For Children". Toby Deane is credited on the cover, and this is the only track where it sounds remotely like she might be involved. Curiously, this is a much sought-out track among those of a certain age - repeatedly asked for and posted on blogs, and the album sells for many dollars on eBay.

I say "curiously" because, to be honest, I found the album wholly wretched, and the best things I can say about this track is that it isn't as bad as most of the others, and more than that, that it plays up her strengths as a voice actress - in this case, portraying a boy of about eight, yet another characterization! It's called "I've Got 18 Cents":

Finally, a change of pace. A decade or more after all of these records were made, Toby Deane took part in a sort of "answer record" to the massive hit album "The First Family". This was called "The Other Family", and she appeared on about half the tracks, playing Mrs. Kruschev to Larry Foster's Nikita. While I didn't find this album funny, perhaps you hadda be there, and it's worth hearing her do a version of the original "First Family" album's Jackie, reimagined as a Russian Woman. This is called "Another Saturday Night":

And here is a picture and some text about Toby Deane, from the back of that album:

I sure wish I'd known of Toby Deane and her work earlier. I'd have loved to be able to contact her, as I have with some of the other wonderful singers I've been able to reach via my posts - I'd like nothing more than to tell her home amazing and wonderful I think her work is. Anyone having more knowledge of and/or recordings by Toby Deane is welcome to contact me either by posting to this blog or by writing me at or


Anonymous said...

Beautiful voice. I'm sitting here with my grandson playing these tones to him. Seeing a big smile on his face. Thank you bob, you have been a blessing to me.I hope more people become aware of her talent. Thomas

Bob Purse said...

Wow - what a nice comment. I'm glad you and your grandson liked these so much. Thanks so much for telling me.

superior said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Wow this is awesome! my cousin just sent me this photo and i did some reasearch and found this blog. Toby is by great aunt! this is awesome you did so much research about her! she was a very talented woman! contact me at if you want . i prob have very little info for you but can find out more from my grandfater, tobys brother. If you would like!

marlin said...

very nice to hear her voice...thanks...i have a 6 inch record, old mcdonald had a farm, by toby deane [which i have for sale]...i don't even know if it is a 45 rpm or 33 1/3 has a hole in the center like a 33 1/3 rpm...copyright 1948, voco-list #604......yes, the wonderful and obsure!...marlin []

Sammy Reed said...

"Alice in Christmas Wonderland", "Jingle Dingle", and "Songs of the Farm" aren't working.

Sammy Reed said...

Thanks VERY MUCH again for getting these fixed!

Anonymous said...

I just recently urchased a copy of the three blind mice with would you rather be an elephant.cured

Matthew Callow said...

Hello, I'm Toby's grandson, Matthew. I just wanted to say thank you for posting this: it makes me very happy to know that someone noticed her, and she would have been over the moon. Thanks again

Marcia Purse said...

Thrilled to find this post, Bob. You're so right that I loved the Peter Pan record! When I see the Disney version, I keep waiting for THAT music to be in it.

How marvellous that two of Toby's relatives found your post about her, too. I hope you contacted them.

Love, Sis

Anonymous said...

Hi All. I just was going through my collection of old records. I found a 78 from 1948 by Toby Deane. It is essentially cardboard with a outside coating of plastic. One side is Dinky the Doggie and the other is I Tisket, I Tasket. I digitized the audio and photographed the record. probably the last time I will play it. So fine and so rare. Happy to share with anyone interested. Feel free to contact me at

Dean Rogers, San Diego

Brian O'Neil said...

We had would you rather be an elephant as kids in early '50s, one of my favourites. I remember arguing with my younger brother
As to gender of Miss Deane. I said a lady and I was right. She had a great character voice