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28 May 2024

(Until 28 May)

Helen Forrest Most Popular U.S Singer – Phantom Dancer

Phantom Dancer Radio Show

Helen Forrest was a big band singer with Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Harry James. She was the most popular female singer in the U.S and recorded over 500 songs. She guided her own career to longevity and success and is your Phantom Dancer feature this week.

The Phantom Dancer is your weekly non-stop mix of swing and jazz from live 1920s-60s radio and TV every week.

LISTEN to this week’s Phantom Dancer mix (online after 2pm AEST, Tuesday 28 May) and weeks of Phantom Dancer mixes online at, at https://2ser.com/phantom-dancer/

HELEN

Helen Forrest said of her career, “I live for today, but it is nice sometimes to look back to yesterday. We did not know that we were living through an era – the Big Band Era – that would last only 10 years or so and be remembered and revered for ever…it’s hard to believe, but the best times were packed into a five-year period from the late 1930s through the early 1940s when I sang with the bands of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and Harry James. The most dramatic moments of my life were crammed into a couple of years from the fall of 1941 to the end of 1943. They seem to symbolise my life…that was when the music of the dance bands was the most popular music in the country, and I was the most popular female band singer in the country and Harry had the most popular band in the country. It didn’t last long, but it sure was something while it lasted. Everyone should have something like it at least once in their lives. I’m grateful I did.”

In Helen’s early teen years her mother married a house painter. They turned the family home into a brothel.

At 14, Helen her stepfather attempted to rape her. She defended herself with a kitchen knife, injuring him.

After this, Helen’s mother let her live with her piano teacher, Honey Silverman, and her family.

Teaching her piano, Honey noticed Helen’s singing ability and encouraged her to focus on singing. Keen to find a career in singing, Helen dropped out of high school to follow her dream, first singing in her brother, Ed’s, band.

She went to New York City and in 1934, the 17-year-old Forrest sang in 15 minute shows for WNEW in New York, and then over WABC (CBS) as “Bonnie Blue, the Blue Lady of Song.”

Singing at the Madrillon Club in Washington, D.C., in 1938, she was talent-spotted by swing band leader, Artie Shaw.

BIG BANDS

Artie Shaw asked her to go on tour with him. She recorded 38 records with Shaw’s band. Two of her biggest hits with Shaw were, “They Say” and “All the Things You Are.” During her time with Shaw, Helen Forrest became a national favourite.

Helen joined Benny Goodman in December 1939. She recorded 55 records with Goodman.

She told the Pop Chronicles radio series: “Benny used to drive me crazy by ‘noodling’ behind me on clarinet while I sang.” Goodman was also reported to have been a perfectionist and a very difficult man to work with. In August 1941, Forrest quit the orchestra “to avoid having a nervous breakdown”.

After leaving Goodman, Forrest briefly recorded with Nat King Cole and Lionel Hampton.

In 1941, she approached Harry James, offering to work for him under the condition that she be permitted to sing more than one chorus. Although James was looking for a more jazz-oriented singer, he allowed Forrest to audition. The band voted her in and she was hired.

Forrest explained, “Harry James was wonderful. When I joined him, I said, ‘There’s only one condition, I don’t care how much you pay me, I don’t care about arrangements. The one thing I want is to start a chorus and finish it. I want to do verses, so don’t put me up for a chorus in the middle of an instrumental.’ He said, ‘You got it,’ and that was it.”

Her biggest hits with James included “I Had the Craziest Dream” in 1942, and “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You.” in 1941.

In 1942, she appeared with the Harry James Orchestra in the Hollywood film Springtime in the Rockies, starring Betty Grable.

In 1942 and 1943, Helen Forrest was voted best female vocalist in the United States in the annual  Down Beat magazine poll.

FORREST

Forrest left Harry James in late 1943 for a solo career.

She signed a record contract with Decca and co-starred with Dick Haymes on The Dick Haymes Show (CBS) from 1944 to 1947.

Helen’s first Decca disc, “Time Waits For No One”, reached number two in national polls.

Haymes was also contracted to Decca, and from 1944 to 1946 the pair recorded 18 duets, 10 of them reaching the top ten, including “Long Ago and Far Away”, “It Had To Be You”, “Together”, “I’ll Buy That Dream”, “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” and “Oh, What It Seemed To Be”.

In 1944, she made an appearance in the Esther Williams movie Bathing Beauty with Harry James and his orchestra.

She also appeared in the film Two Girls and a Sailor.

During the late 1940s, Helen Forrest headlined at theatres and clubs.

In 1955, Helen joined Harry James in the studio for the swing album,, Harry James in Hi-Fi, which became a bestseller.

By the end of the 1950s, Helen’s solo career waned as rock’n’roll became increasingly popular. Helen’s manager, Joe Graydon, said, “She was at an `in-between’ stage in her career. Not young enough to be current. Not old enough to be nostalgia.”

After a dip in recording in the 1950s, including a stint with the startup Bell Records, Helen sang with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra, led by Sam Donahue, in the early 1960s.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Forrest performed in supper clubs on “big band nostalgia” tours, including appearances with Harry James and Dick Haymes.

In 1977, Helen was part of a television reunion of herself, James, and Haymes on The Merv Griffin Show. This led to a touring production called The Fabulous 40s (1978), followed in 1979 with a similar revue entitled The Big Broadcast of 1944.

In 1980, Helen suffered a stroke, but recovered to resume performing and recording.

Her autobiography, I Had the Craziest Dream, was published in 1982, dedicated to her only son.

Helen released her final album in 1983: Now and Forever. She also starred with Vivian Blaine and Margaret Whiting in the stage revue, A Tribute to Dick Haymes.

Despite an unhappy childhood, frequent illness, and personal disappointments, Forrest remained dedicated to her musical profession. She continued singing until the early 1990s when rheumatoid arthritis began to affect her vocal chords and forced her to retire.

Forrest had scarlet fever as a child, which left her with a hearing loss. The loss of her hearing worsened as she became older.

However, she was still able to perform her old standards because she remembered where the notes for them were.

28 May PLAY LIST

Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney
LISTEN ONLINE
Community Radio Network Show CRN #656

107.3 2SER Tuesday 28 May 2024
12:04 – 2:00pm (+10 hours GMT)
National Program
5UV Adelaide Monday 2:30 – 3:30am
5GTR Mt Gambier Monday 2:30 – 3:30am
3MBR Murrayville Monday 3 – 4am
4NAG Keppel FM Monday 3 – 4am
2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4am
2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4am
2BRW Braidwood Monday 3 – 4am
2YYY Young Monday 3 – 4am
7RPH Hobart Monday 3 – 4pm
3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm
7MID Oatlands Monday 3am – 4 and 6 -7pm
2MCE Bathurst Wednesday 9 – 10am
1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Friday 10 – 11am
and Sunday 11pm
Reading Radio (QLD) Friday 1am – 2
2RRR Ryde Friday 11am – 12
2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm
5LCM Lofty FM Adelaide Friday 1 – 2pm
6GME Radio Goolarri Broome Saturday 4am – 5am
Denmark FM (West Australia) Saturday 10 – 11am
Repeat: Wednesdays 10 – 11pm
7LTN Launceston Sunday 5 – 6am
3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am
3BBR West Gippsland Sunday 5 – 6pm
2SEA Sapphire Coast Eden Sunday 9 – 10pm

Set 1
Harry James Orchestra directed by Tommy Dorsey
Cirribirribin (theme) + I’m Satisfied
Harry James Orchestra directed by Tommy Dorsey
Casino Gardens
Ocean Park Ca
KECA ABC LA
12 Feb 1944
Sweet and Lovely
Harry James Orchestra directed by Tommy Dorsey (voc) Buddy deVito
Casino Gardens
Ocean Park Ca
KECA ABC LA
12 Feb 1944
Somebody Loves MeHarry James Orchestra directed by Tommy Dorsey (voc) Kitty Kallen
Casino Gardens
Ocean Park Ca
KECA ABC LA
12 Feb 1944
Easy StreetHarry James Orchestra directed by Tommy DorseyCasino Gardens
Ocean Park Ca
KECA ABC LA
12 Feb 1944
Set 2
Gene and Dizzy
Open + Drum Boogie
Gene Krupa Trio
‘World Jazz Series’
Madison Square Garden
WCBS CBS NYC
5 Jun 1960
Dizzy Gillespie Quintet
‘World Jazz Series’
Madison Square Garden
WCBS CBS NYC
5 Jun 1960
Set 3
Helen Forrest
A Table in a Corner
Helen Forrest (voc) Artie Shaw Orchestra
Cafe Rouge
Hotel Pennsylvania
WEAF NBC Red NYC
20 Oct 1939
Cirribirribin (theme) + You’re in Love with Someone Else
Helen Forrest (voc) Harry James Orchestra
Comm Rec
Berlin
29 Nov 1941
Melancholy Lullaby
Helen Forrest (voc) Artie Shaw Orchestra
Cafe Rouge
Hotel Pennsylvania
WEAF NBC Red NYC
21 Oct 1939
Where Do I Go From You? + Goodbye (theme)
Helen Forrest (voc) Benny  Goodman Orchestra
Peacock Court
Hotel Mark Hopkins
KFRC Mutual-Done Lee San Francisco
28 May 1940
Lilacs in the Rain
Helen Forrest (voc) Artie Shaw OrchestraCafe Rouge
Hotel Pennsylvania
WEAF NBC Red NYC
20 Oct 1939
Set 4
Glen Gray 
Open + Smoke Rings (theme) + A Sure Thing
Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra (voc) Eugenie Baird
‘One Night Stand’
Tune Town Ballroom
St Louis MO
AFRS Re-broadcast
5 Apr 44
It’s Mellow
Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Tune Town Ballroom
St Louis MO
AFRS Re-broadcast
5 Apr 44
Long Ago and Far Away
Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra (voc) Bob Anthony
‘One Night Stand’
Tune Town Ballroom
St Louis MO
AFRS Re-broadcast
5 Apr 44
Fifth Avenue Sax
Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra (voc) Eugenie Baird
‘One Night Stand’
Tune Town Ballroom
St Louis MO
AFRS Re-broadcast
5 Apr 44
Set 5
Our Orchestra
Theme
Our Orchestra
Transco Radio Transcription
Los Angeles
1931
Two Hearts in Three-Quarter Time
Our Orchestra
Transco Radio Transcription
Los Angeles
1931
When It’s Sleepy Time Down South
Our Orchestra
Transco Radio Transcription
Los Angeles
1931
Good Night, Sweetheart + Close
Our Orchestra
Transco Radio Transcription
Los Angeles
1931
Set 6
Gene Krupa
Apurksody (theme) + Murdy Purdy
Gene Krupa Orchestra
Palomar Ballroom
KFLJ Los Angeles
28 Nov 1938
Wire Brush Stomp
Gene Krupa Orchestra
Palomar Ballroom
KFLJ Los Angeles
28 Nov 1938
Wire Brush Stomp
Gene Krupa Trio
‘Spotlight Bands’
Newport RI
Blue Network
2 Oct 1944
Futurama
Gene Krupa Orchestra
‘Spotlight Bands’
Newport RI
Blue Network
2 Oct 1944
Set 7
1930
Wailing Blues
The Cellar Boys
Comm Rec
Chicago
24 Jan 1930
Dancing with Tears in My Eyes
Ruth Etting
Radio Transcription
NYC
1930
Nervous Tension
Tiny Parham
Comm Rec
Chicago
4 Nov 1930
Black and Blue + Ain’t Misbehavin’
Red Nichols Orchestra (voc) Dick Robertson
‘Heat’
Radio Transcription
NYC
3 Aug 1930
Set 8
Jazz Moderne
I’m Confessin’ That I Love YouLester Young Sextet‘Symphony Sid Show’
Royal Roost
WMCA NYC
4 Dec 1948
I Cover the WaterfrontLester Young Sextet
‘Symphony Sid Show’
Royal Roost
WMCA NYC
4 Dec 1948
Fine and DandySlim Gaillard Quintet‘Symphony Sid Show’
Birdland
WJZ ABC NYC
2 Jun 1951
All Gigs
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Radio 2SER 107.3 Sydney
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