Greg Poppleton

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Rudy Vallee, The First Teen Idol – Phantom Dancer 19 January 2021

Rudy Vallee was an American singer, composer, musician, actor and radio host. He was one of the first teen idols, the first to sing into a PA, the first to use a theremin and an electric banjo in a dance band, and one of the first to admit to using recording equipment in his daily music practice. He’s this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artist.

The Phantom Dancer is your non-stop mix of swing and jazz from live 1920s-60s radio and TV hosted by me, Greg Poppleton. Hear past Phantom Dancer online now at

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He was also ahead of his time regarding music and electronics. He introduced the electric banjo to radio on his Fleishman Yeast Hour. In 1931 his band included a theremin. Most famously, he was the first popular singer to sing into a microphone and PA to amplify his voice.

This seems a paradox since Vallee was most commonly associated with the acoustic megaphone. In fact, his megaphone, which he crafted between shows at America’s No. 1 vaudeville theatre, The New York Palais, inMay 1929, is on display in a glass case at The American Museum of Radio and Electricity.

He was one of the first crooners, the first to use a microphone to conjure intimacy in his singing. His trombone-like vocal phrasing on ‘Deep Night’ was an early example of singers phrasing like band instruments.


Vallée was one of the first celebrity pop stars. Flappers pursued him wherever he went. His live appearances sold out. Among screaming female fans, his voice failed to project in venues without microphones. Before he began using PA he sang through a megaphone so he could be heard. A caricature of him singing this way was depicted in the Betty Boop cartoon Poor Cinderella (1934).
The soundtrack to Rudy Vallee’s first Vitaphone soundie. The film is now destroyed by age



In his 1930 memoir, ‘Vagabond Dreams Come True’, Rudy Vallee relates how he used to play into cylinder recording machines as part of his daily saxophone practice so that he could hear his progress…

“MAKING phonograph records always had a great fascination for me. My first thrill of hearing my voice in song or saxophone in solo came when i was at the University of Maine in 1921.

The authorities of the University of Maine were interested enough in my musical efforts to allow me the use of some of the buildings on the campus for my practice. The agricultural part of the college had a large building known as Agricultural Hall where one learned all the science of the soil and animal life of the farm and barnyard.

High up on the fourth floor were large classrooms that were empty at night. In one of these I used to practice certain very disagreeable sounding exercises. For instance, for the development of saxophone tone I started with the lowest note on the sax and held it as long as the deep breath I had just taken would permit. I have held certain notes of the saxophone for two minutes.

Of course nothing could be more monotonous or unpleasant to hear than these long tone exercises since it took me one hour to come up the scale, holding each note as long as possible. Therefore, to avoid driving others to insanity, I sought complete isolation where I had the comfortable feeling that I was disturbing no one and likewise would not be disturbed.

In some of the various offices on this floor were Ediphones, or dictaphones, as they are more commonly known. Since a letter dictated into one of these could be reproduced for the stenographer’s ear, I saw no reason why I could not likewise reproduce music; and so I recorded on these round dictaphone cylinders several simple melodies on the saxophone, announcing them very much in the fashion the old Edison cylinders announced the name of the record.

Although the dictaphone is perfected for the recording of speech in letter form, it is far from perfect when one attempts to record a sustained musical note on it. The rotation of the wax disc upon which a musical sound has been recorded must be absolutely perfect and the tube, or horn, which leads the sound to the needle that scratches upon the wax disc must be of a certain type and size to catch all of the notes being reproduced. The dictaphone being imperfect in this respect proved to be quite unsatisfactory for perfect reproduction of my musical efforts. However, it still gave me some idea of phrasing, style and tone. I still have several of these old dictaphone cylinders stowed away and prize them very highly, perhaps as highly as some of our Victor records that today are so popular.”


According to George P. Oslin, Vallée on July 28 1933, was the recipient of the first singing telegram. A fan telegraphed birthday greeting, and Oslin had the operator sing “Happy Birthday to You“.


Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney, 



Community Radio Network Show CRN #471

107.3 2SER Tuesday 19 January 2021
12:04 – 2:00pm (+11 hours GMT) and Saturdays 5 – 5:55pm
National Program
5GTR Mt Gambier Monday 2:30 – 3:30am
3MBR Murrayville Monday 3 – 4am
4NAG Keppel FM Monday 3 – 4am
2SEA Eden Monday 3 – 4am
2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4pm
2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4pm
3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm
7MID Oatlands Tuesday 8 – 9pm
1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Friday 10 – 11am
2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm
5LCM Lofty FM Adelaide Friday 1 – 2pm
7LTN Launceston Sunday 5 – 6am
3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am
6GME Radio Goolarri Broome Sunday 5 – 6am
3BBR West Gippsland Sunday 5 – 6pm

Set 1
1940s Big Band Radio 
Open + Tea For Two
Anita O’Day (voc) Gene Krupa Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Palladium Ballroom
AFRS Re-broadcast
Open + Ain’t Misbehavin’
Louis Armstrong Orchestra (voc) Louis Armstrong
AFRS Hollywood
24 May 1943
Instrumental + Close
Eddie Oliver Orchestra
‘Spotlight Bands’
AFRS Re-broadcast
14 Aug 1944
Set 2
Stan Kenton Radio Transcription 
Marvin’s Mumble
Stan Kenton Orchestra
Radio Transcription
Los Angeles
Oct 1941

Take The A Train
Stan Kenton Orchestra
Radio Transcription
Los Angeles
Jan 1942
Tempo Di Joe
Stan Kenton Orchestra
Radio Transcription
Los Angeles
Nov 1941
Set 3
1950s Jazz Radio 
Open + Billie’s Bounce
Buddy de Franco
‘The Navy Swings’
Radio Transcription
I’m Lucky I Have You
The Inkspots
‘Guest Star’
Radio Transcription
New York City
One Mint Dulep + Close
Buddy Morrow Orchestra
‘Let’s Go to Town’
Radio Transcription

Set 4
Rudy Vallee 
Open + Everything’s In Rhythm With My Heart
Rudy Vallee (voc) his Connecticut Yankees
‘The Magic Key’
23 Feb 1936
I’m The Fellow Who Loves You + Close
Rudy Vallee (voc) his Connecticut Yankees
‘The Magic Key’
23 Feb 1936
I’ve Got an Invitation to a Dance
Rudy Vallee (voc) his Connecticut Yankees
‘The Fleischman Yeast Hour’
13 Dec 1934
Your Time is My Time (theme) + Fun To Be Fooled + That Woman of Mine + Close
Rudy Vallee (voc) Frank deVol Orchestra
‘Drene Program’
11 Jan 1945
Set 5
Don Redman and Claude Hopkins 
I Heard
Don Redman Orchestra (voc) Lois Deppe
Comm Rec
New York City
15 Oct 1931
Claude Hopkins Orchestra
Radio Transcription
New York City
18 Oct 1936
It’s a Great World Afterall
Don Redman Orchestra (voc) Harlan Lattimore
Comm Rec
New York City
28 Jun 1932
What’ll I Do?
Claude Hopkins Orchestra
Radio Transcription
New York City
18 Oct 1936
Set 6
Buddy Rich 
Rain on the Riff (theme) + Cool Breeze
Buddy Rich Orchestra
‘Spotlight Bands’
Phoenixville PA
Mutual Network
24 Dec 1945
Rhythm Man
Count Basie Orchestra (d) Buddy Rich
Los Angeles
Poon Tang
Buddy Rich Orchestra
Palladium Ballroom
27 Mar 1946
That’s It
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (d) Buddy Rich
‘Spotlight Bands’
Mutual Network
5 Nov 1945
Set 7
1930s Swing Radio 
Let’s Dance (theme) + Naughty Waltz
Benny Goodman Orchestra
Madhattan Room
Hotel Pennsylvania
6 Nov 1937
King Porter Stomp
Harry James Orchestra
‘America Dances’
Roseland Ballroom
WABC CBS NY and BBC London
19 Jul 1939
I Just Got a Letter
Glenn Miller Orchestra (voc) Marion Hutton
Meadowbrook Ballroom
Cedar Grove NJ
6 Dec 1939
Love Nest
Les Brown Blue Devils Orchestra
Blue Room
Hotel Edison
New York City
22 Nov 1938
Set 8
1950s Bop Radio 
Night in Tunisia 
Charlie Parker – Dizzy Gillespie Quintet
‘Symphony Sid Show’
31 Mar 1951
The Street Beat
Charlie Parker Quintet
‘Symphony Sid Show’
30 Jun 1950
Fine and Dandy
Slim Gaillard
‘Symphony Sid Show’
2 Jun 1951

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