Saturday, June 14, 2008

In Or Out, and Don’t Slam That Door!

Reflections on today’s song made me realize that I have featured just three female acts in 47 posts: Patti Page, the Pixies Three, and Connie Landers. Here’s number four, and they have one thing in common: their 45s all had black labels with silver writing. Boy, that’s some connection.

There’s a stronger connection between Patti Page and today’s vocalist, Gloria Wood. The single, “Close the Door Gently” (Diamond 3005) exhibits some of the playful lyrical style that wove through Page’s career. The song is a fast waltz, not unlike some Page hits, but avoiding the tone of such morose tunes as “Tennessee Waltz” and “Mama from the Train.”

“Close the Door Gently” is, in fact, one of the cheeriest-sounding breakup songs I know. Three-year-old caithiseach played this song a lot; it has to be close to the Top Ten in all-time caithiseach plays. I liked the clear, sweet vocals, the whimsical orchestral arrangement, and the message.

How many times did you get told to close the door, stay in or out, we’re not heating/cooling the outdoors, and were you raised in a barn? (Actually, I knew one guy who was raised in a barn, but he doesn’t figure in this blog.) If you heard these clichés as often as I did, the song will click for you as it did for me.

As has so often happened this year, I have learned that Gloria Wood was not a complete obscurity despite the lack of success her single had on this small label. Gloria (1919-1994) got her start in the 1940s when she joined her older sister, Donna Wood, as a singer for Horace Heidt and His Orchestra. Donna sang on a #1 Heidt hit from 1941, “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire.” Donna died of an apparent heart ailment in 1947 at age 29, leaving Gloria to develop her career without the support of her sister.

Gloria doesn’t seem to have charted any hits with Heidt’s outfit, but by 1947, Gloria was singing with Kay Kyser. In June of 1948, she sang the vocals on a huge #1 hit, “Woody Woodpecker.” She sang some successful duets with Harry Babbitt as well, as part of her Kyser experience.

Gloria had a four-octave vocal range, which worked against her when it came to singing opportunities. She sang thousands of commercials, including Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Rice-A-Roni, and she voiced Minnie Mouse. She sang in the 1948 short animated film Wet Blanket Policy, which launched the Woody Woodpecker theme. In 1953 she recorded “Hey! Bellboy!” for Capitol, and you can hear that one here:

Her range is evident here; other recordings show her matching a trumpet as it climbs higher and higher, and “Close the Door Gently” includes a number of key changes that Gloria handles without breaking a sweat.

More on Gloria in a moment, but I want to mention details of the song. Written by Maxine Bamford and Dorothy Wright. Their collaboration figures as one of the few all-female writing credits on my 45s. Wright co-wrote “Cinco Robles,” a 1957 hit for Russell Arms and also for Les Paul & Mary Ford. Bamford wrote a few more tunes, but nothing as notable as “Cinco Robles.”

The recording itself was orchestrated by Ivan Scott, with “bum-bum-bum” backing vocals by the Four Jewels. Pete Lofthouse created the whimsical arrangement. Lofthouse logged ten years as a trombonist for Lawrence Welk’s orchestra, and Scott backed a number of underrepresented vocalists. The Four Jewels seem to have sung with the amazing Billy Stewart on a couple of his sides around 1962, but I can’t find a lot of work that features them.

I should note that the other side of “Close the Door Gently,” “Wear a Smile,” is designated as Diamond 3005-A, while today’s tune is 3005-X. Not one to respect musical conventions when I was a three-year-old DJ, I never played “Wear a Smile.” If I pull out my turntable and give it a spin this year, I’ll let you know what’s going on with it. It turns out that Billy May arranged that side, so it may have some redeeming qualities.

Now, back to you, Gloria. I would be remiss if I did not report that Gloria and her sister, Donna, have been spied post-mortem by a ghost hunter named Leslie Siegel. You can find details on that matter via your favorite search engine.

Despite the possibility that Gloria is haunting Hollywood, I have always found that the song lifts my spirits. I hope it does the same for you. Coming Wednesday is a song that was a huge hit, sung by an enormously successful music legend. This artist became part of my musical heritage early on, and he’s probably part of yours. See you Wednesday!

Gloria Wood, Close the Door Gently


Scripts_Online said...

Leslie Siegel Ghost hunter and spirit follower of obscure singer Gloria Wood wants to say that her real date of birth is September 8, 1923 not 1919! There was another actress named Gloria Stevens, but it's not the singer Gloria Wood whose sister was Donna Wood of Horace Heidt big band. Leslie Siegel ghost hunter novelist feels that all data on Gloria Wood should be correct not be mistook for Gloria Stevens!!!!!!

caithiseach said...

I agree that all data on all artists should be correct. I took my birth year information from the All Music Guide, so I did not mistake one Gloria for another. If AMG got it wrong, you should direct your criticism to that source.

stackja1945 said...

The singer Gloria Wood is new to me. But the songs sounds familiar. Like an early Doris Day.

Scripts_Online said...

Didn't intend to make my post seem like criticism just thought it was something you could correct and I do see Glora Wood's name sometimes credited to some silent actress named Gloria Stevens. Gloria Wood is all her own and was so obscure due to the fact that she was black balled in the industry and banned to the voice over bin until her death March 25, 1995! Leslie Siegel has Gloria Woods diaries of those days and that is how I learnewd about the blackballing that went on behind the scenes of Gloria Woods career and it was most apparant in a video clip I will one day put on youtube of Gloria Wood appearing on the Larry Findley show ABC's Music Is Your Beat where they were joking about a racy looking album cover and sponsors getting mad, then they had Gloria singing under huge stage ladders and then in a bird cage and the lighting on her was terrible and done on purpose because she mocked someone at the top and also stole away her brother's wife's sister's husband around that time! Very sad, but you know how the industry is! I love your site, keep it flowing and didn't mean to offend.