BRIAN 10.7.6 -- Mac OS

The Peggy Lee Bio-Discography:
An Overview Of The Singer's Work On Radio, Television, Film, And Onstage

by Iván Santiago

Page generated on Jul 8, 2021

Scope And Contents

The Peggy Lee Bio-Discography consists of three main parts and a variety of miscellaneous pages. One of the three main parts concentrates on Lee's studio sessions (i.e., the masters that she recorded for commercial release, under contract with record companies such as Capitol). Another main part deals with transcription sessions (i.e., numbers that she recorded for playing on the airwaves, under contract with syndicated radio services such as the MacGregor Company And Studio).

The third and last of the bio-discography's main parts covers the remainder of the artist's vocal output: nightclub performances, radio broadcasts, soundtrack work, theater appearances, rehearsals, telescriptions, et cetera, et cetera. The present page is an index and introduction to all of that third-category material, which can be more evenly divided into four blocks: radio, television, film, and concert work. Peggy Lee's radiography will receive coverage first.

Since online writing and research is all too often grabbed by viewers who re-use it without giving any attribution, I would like to point out that the work presented herein covers virgin territory. No overarching categorization of Peggy Lee' radio material had been carried out before the one being offered in this discography. Similarly, my paragraphs below (first published online in 2013 and 2014) constitute the very first written overview of the radio world of Peggy Lee.

Radio Index

Peggy Lee did a fair amount of radio work. The amount of retrieved radio material has turned out to be so extensive that it has been distributed over more than ten pages. Below is an index to these pages. The first five are named after radio shows that Peggy Lee hosted or co-hosted; the last five explore her non-hosting work -- i.e., guest appearances and collaborations with (or under) other artists.

1.  Rhapsody In Rhythm (1947)
2.  The Summer Electric Hour (1947)
3.  Chesterfield's Supper Club (1948-1949)
4.  The Peggy Lee Rexall Show (1951)
5.  Club 88 Starring Peggy Lee (1952)
6. The New Borden Summer Show (aborted hosting experience, 1945)
7.  Appearances With Benny Goodman (1941-1946)
8.  Appearances On Bing Crosby Shows (1946-1953)
9.  Appearances On Jimmy Durante Shows (1947-1948)
10.  Appearances On Other Artist's Shows (currently under construction, 1944 onwards)
11.  Appearances On Governmental And AFRS Shows (currently under construction, 1943 onwards)


Above: shots of Peggy Lee in the company of two well-known disc jockeys from the LA area: KLAC's Peter Potter (1945) and KMPC's Bill Leyden (1946).

Peggy Lee's Radio Years: An Overview

After honoring her matrimonial vows and fulfilling maternity duties for a two- year period, Peggy Lee officially came out of a self-imposed semi-retirement in 1945. With the blessing and in the company of her guitarist-husband, Lee then proceeded to fully re-activate her professional career. The reactivation relied on two key components: the artist’s signing of a contract with a record label and her immersion in the world of musical variety radio. The former resulted in a steady flow of singles, many of which became chart hits. The latter kept the singer in tune, as it were, with the pulse of the nation. Throughout the decade, the radio airwaves ranked as the premier showcase for artists and personalities in search of national exposure. Radio maintained such an exceptionally influential position until the early 1950s, when a fresher medium (television) started to monopolize the attention of audiences seeking to be entertained at home.

During the period that began with her comeback (mid-1940s) and closed with the decline of old-time radio (mid-1950s), Peggy Lee guest-starred in a wide assortment of radio programming, most of it naturally falling within the category of musical variety. The music programs visited by the artist ran the gamut from network shows such as Songs By Sinatra, Kraft Music Hall Starring Al Jolson, and The Ford Show With Dinah Shore to some of the more notable series that the US Government and the Armed Forces Radio Service were producing at the time -- among others, Jubilee, Command Performance, Guest Star, and Let's Go To Town.

Additionally, a syndicated program called Songs By Peggy Lee was assembled out of her frequent contributions to Capitol's transcription library. She provided a total of 72 transcriptions for the library, all of them recorded between 1946 and 1949. Naturally, each installment of Songs By Peggy Lee consisted of such musical performances, culled from Lee's catalogue of transcriptions and combined with patter that she had also been asked to pre-record. The patter served to create the illusion of the singer's "live" presence at the broadcasting station, while the show was being heard over the airwaves. (The nature of transcription shows such as Songs By Peggy Lee probably needs clarification. Once the artists had finished recording the transcriptions and some spoken material -- greeting, intros, promotional spots, goodbyes -- they were no longer actively involved in the process. From then onwards, the show's episodes would be assembled by Capitol's producers with the help of Capitol engineers. Once assembled, the episodes were sent out, usually on a monthly basis, to the radio stations that subscribed to the company's library-like transcription service.)

Peggy Lee's radio activities actually grew in relevance, as the years under consideration went by. Besides the exposure received from Capitol's syndicated programming and from her numerous guest appearances, she went on to fulfill the coveted role of in-house girl singer for two highly popular radio personalities of the day (Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante). As early as 1945, she was already receiving offers to host, co-host, or be the regular "girl singer" in various radio shows. The July 1945 issue of Capitol News stated that, in June, she had "refused a spot on an NBC nightly stanza sponsored by a cigarette manufacturer." A comment from a later issue points to Songs By Sinatra as the show in question. Alternatively known as The Old Gold Show, this program appears to have asked Lee to serve as Sinatra's summer replacement. (She would accept the offer two years later, thus becoming part of the show that aired on that slot over the summer of 1947, Rhapsody In Rhythm, though the preceding season would actually be Sinatra's last with Old Gold. He had just signed with a competing sponsor, Lucky Strike.)

For the rest of the decade, further offers were received and mostly rejected. The October 5, 1946 issue of Billboard reported that Lee had "turned down offers to take over singing spots on the Hit Parade and the Chesterfield Supper Club air shows in favor of returning to her native California." In January of 1947, she was also asked to become the female vocalist of Bob Hope's show. Around March of 1947, the Barbours were offered to take over the summer edition of Bing Crosby's Philco radio show. The year 1948 brought pitches from yet two more summer radio shows, both of which they refused after making the decision to go on the road instead.

But some offers were accepted. In the end, Peggy Lee hosted five radio series. A couple of those hosting gigs took place simultaneously in 1947, and a third extended from 1948 to 1949. Her two other hosting jobs date from the early 1950s. Fittingly known as The Peggy Lee Show and Club 88 Starring Peggy Lee, both programs receive ample attention in this bio-discography.

By the time that Lee's Club 88 show retired from the airwaves (late 1952), entertainment variety radio was well on its wane, and singers were pursuing other venues far more avidly. For viable stars, opportunity were still available, however. The April 1, 1953 issue of Variety reported that ABC was actually courting Lee for a radio show. Talks between ABC and General Artists, Corp. (Lee's management agency) were being conducted for what was envisioned as a "four-a-week 15-minute musical stint" to do an initial run during the summer, and to subsequently become "a permanent airer for the web." No actual program materialized, for reasons unknown. One factor could have been Lee's busy concert, recording and television schedule around that time. Or negotiations between ABC and GAC could have simply fallen through.

Lee did work on one last radio series, though. The Hour Of Stars was, like the aforementioned Songs By Peggy Lee from the 1940s, a transcribed program. She was one of the four artists who regularly hosted the Hour, during which each host was allotted a quarter of the 60 minutes. A sign of the times in the world of radio, her main Hour Of Stars role was not as a singer but as a disc jockey, announcing and commenting about records to be played. This nationally distributed, syndicated program (featuring Tony Martin, Dick Powell, and Ginger Rowers as well) began to air in November of 1953, and continued to run for all of 1954. Details about its subsequent scheduling are more nebulous, but there are vague indications of episodes being aired into October or even November of 1955.

Photos. In the set of shots displayed above, Peggy Lee is the only female amidst a bevy of radio, film and record personalities of the 1940s. The bevy includes Gene Norman and Garry Moore (first picture), Peter Potter (second picture), Paul Weston, Dave Dexter Jr, and Gene Norman, among others (third picture), Frank DeVol, Al Jarvis, and Dave Dexter Jr. (fourth picture).

On the matter of the third picture, I have yet to definitely identify the two gentlemen on the right. For the man sitting, my strongest candidate so far is bandleader-composer-pianist David Rose. A second candidate is conductor-composer-pianist Skitch Henderson. For the man standing, the strongest candidate is actor Hollywood actor Brian Donlevy. I do have two additional candidates, but neither fits the bill in full. They are music columnist Louis Serrano, possibly born in 1913; and Peruvian disc jockey-columnist Pepi Ludmir, allegedly born in 1932. The latter is possibly the same big Peruvian personality known as Pepe Ludmir; his alleged birthdate means that he would have been too young to be the man in this photo. (Yet another candidate, actor Cesar Romero, seems to have been much younger than the man in this photo.) In short, Dave Rose and Brian Donlevy are the tentative choices that I am proposing for the time being. Any further proposals, reactions, or comments would be appreciated.

Jockeying Around

Photos. Capitol labelmates Peggy Lee and Kay Starr share an appreciative laugh while under the umbrage of radio announcer Carl Bailey (1948). Make believers Peggy Lee and Bill Leyden pretend to blow brass (1947). A playful Peggy Lee is nearly deafened by comedian Jerry Colonna's record-breaking performance, played on the head of Ira Cook (1946). In the mid-1940s, Bailey was working for KXLA, Leyden for KMPC, and Cook for KFAC.

Other Indexes. Indexes consisting of links to television, film and concert pages will be added to the present write-up only after I have fully finished working on those three areas of Peggy Lee's music career. For the time being, they remain under construction.