Saturday, July 8, 2017


Billy Eckstine was part of the soundtrack of my boyhood. From his earliest records with his own band, the first big band of what was still The Swing Era to play the most progressive music of that time, bebop, to the lush studio orchestras that backed him in his solo career, every time he opened his mouth to sing radio audiences swooned.

Frank Sinatra, Jersey homeboy and incredible musical artist, was always my favorite along with Nat King Cole, but "Mister B" as he was known to many of his fans, was right up there with them. The only one to give Sinatra compeition with "the bobbysocksers" as the teenage girl fans were known, was Eckstine, and this at a time when most of the USA was still living in either legal racial segregation or de facto. Just look at the photo above and imagine what that was doing to racists as the time.

The best musician in our family, my second oldest brother "Buddy" (born James and we sometimes called him Jimmy too) used to do a spot on imitation of Mister B. And I attempted it too as best I could with my little boy's soprano and then tenor voice, as opposed to Eckstine's bass sound. It always intrigues me as a devout student of cultural history when someone so prominent in his day can be so forgotten. But I'll never forget.

Here's an example of one of his radio hits that made the charts when I was a nine-year-old:


AlamedaTom said...

Exactly the song I would have chosen! If you were 9, I must have be 7 and I remember my Dad actually owning a 78 rpm platter, which he played sometimes, perhaps after ticking off my Mom, who knows... But the song has been in my musical memory banks since then. Thanks for the link.

~ Willy

Lally said...

great minds, when I listened to it again the other day I couldnt believe how moved I was by it, and all because of his tone and intonation...what a delivery...hadn't listened to him in years and was overwhelmed with respect...