Salem announced it was opening for business in the last week of October 1956 (Steve Schickel, "The Disk Derby," Chicago Daily Tribune, October 27, 1956, part 1 p. 18). Unusually for a Chicago indie of the period, it began its life as an LP label. Singles were introduced after four months and two 12-inch LP releases.
Salem was founded and run by Mort Hillman. Its address, at 64 West Randolph Street in the Loop, suggested a nexus with song publishing or music promotion.Morton C. Hillman had seen a lot of the music business before he tried his own label. He was born in Cincinnati in 1926. He started on bugle and trumpet as a boy, graduated from Norwood High School, then performed in the USO during World War II. He was in Tommy Dorsey's trumpet section in 1947. He did radio and TV work in Cincinnati (he was the floor manager for WKRC-TV), then joined a touring vocal group called the C-Notes that appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Show in 1952 (James Wilber, "the Popular Beat," Cincinnati Enquirer, June 30, 1968, p. 9G; "The C-Notes," December 6, 2008, people vs. dr. chilledair, http://people-vs-drchilledair.blogspot.com/2008/12/top-to-bottom-78-rpm-acetate-label-mort.html.
The C-Notes did a small amount of commercial recording. They appeared on Jubilee 6002 with big band veteran Dolly Dawn (it was reviewed in Billboard on April 4, 1952, p. 56). They could also have been the C Notes who appeared on a Rosalind Paige single (Decatur 1005, reviewed in Billboard on July 26, 1952, p. 94). Mort Hillman said he sang backup on Eydie Gormé's first single.
By the time he arrived in Chicago, Hillman had already done some work for record companies. We would be interested in knowing which ones.
According to the liner notes on the back of Salem SLP-1 (written by the man himself), Mort Hillman was visiting Hal Kaitchuck at Boulevard Recording when Kaitchuck happened to be testing his studio speakers by playing a tape of Corky Shayne singing. This may or may not be true, but Hillman decided to record her and he used Boulevard for the first two Salem LPs.
Corinne Shayne was born in Chicago in 1932. She sang with high school dance bands and then began working with Dick Marx (she considered him her coach) and Johnny Frigo, at supper clubs and hotels. She also made some local TV appearances before Hillman asked Kaitchuck how to contact her. For a brief biographical sketch, see "And MORE! from SSJ in October," October 5, 2009, people vs. dr. chilledair—http://people-vs-drchilledair.blogspot.com/2009/10/and-more-from-ssj-in-october.html).
Hillman recruited bassist and arranger Johnnie Pate, who was leading his own group at the time and had already started a couple of record companies to present his music (the liners drop a footnote indicating that Pate appears courtesy of Gig Records).
The Corky Shayne album was announced in the Tribune item from October 26, and was given a display ad in Cash Box for November 17, 1956 (p. 21). The LP helped Shayne land a three-week gig in January, in St. Louis at the Crystal Palace. Cash Box noted that she was drawing there (January 19, 1957, p. 16). "Many her anxious to see her in Chi nite spot…."
Unfortunately, that didn't happen for a while. Shayne did a lot of traveling to promote her record. Hillman announced she was flying to Los Angeles in February to make some TV appearances, and that she was "tentatively" scheduled to open in New York on March 7 ("Salem Signs Johnny Pate as Musical Director," Cash Box, February 9, 1957, p. 24). Cash Box ran a photo of her appearing on a TV show in Providence, Rhode Island (March 9, 1957, p. 26). But as Hillman was gearing up to release singles, he promised that nearly everybody then on Salem's artist roster would make a personal appearance at a series of Teen Record Hops. These were Sunday afternoon affairs at the Aragon Ballroom, run by Jim Lounsbury, Jerry Leighton, and Steve Schickel (Schickel, who had a column in the Tribune, had run a story announcing the formation fo the label). We don't know how many of these took place, and who really showed up. We know the Cheer-Ups, the Off-Beats, Shirley Forwood, Corky Shayne, and Bobby Christian had all been volunteered (Steve Schickel, "The Disk Derby," Chicago Tribune, April 6, 1957, p. 14).
We haven't spotted another notice on Corky Shayne in the Chicago papers before August 11, when the Tribune noted that Johnnie Pate and trio would be doing Mondays and Tuesdays at the SRO, and Shayne would be singing with them (pt. 7 p. 10). Pate had recorded his own LP for Salem by then; the Wednesday through Sunday headliner at the SRO was Gene Esposito, who had recently become a Salem artist himself. On October 20, 1957, the Tribune (pt. 7 p. 10) ran a photo of Pate and indicated that Corky Shayne was once again singing with him at the SRO. Salem had a month to go by then. If there was ever further press coverage for Shayne in Chicago, we haven't found it.
|Salem SLP-1||Corky Shayne||… in the mood for a song?||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||If I Only Had a Brain (Arlen-Harburg)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||He's Just My Bill (Hammerstein-Kern)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||My Love Is a Wanderer (Howard)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||Back in Your Own Backyard (Jolson-Rose-Dreyer)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||Now More than Ever (Kallison-Bradley)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||Everytime (Martin-Blane)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||Autumn in New York (Duke)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||Just Squeeze Me (Gains-Ellington)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||I'm Glad There Is You (Madeira-Dorsey)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||Teardrops (Horstman-Hillman)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||I Hear a Rhapsody (Fragos-Baker-Gasparre)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
|Corky Shayne||Two Sleepy People (Loesser-Carmichael)||c. October 1956||November 1956|
Mort Hillman was obviously pleased with the Johnnie Pate group that backed Corky Shayne, so his next project was to record Pate with his working trio. Again the session took place at Boulevard (for all we know, everything on Salem was done there—but only the LPs credited the recording engineer).
Whether it was a one-off deal with Salem, or a one-year contract, Pate didn't mind taking it. It's doubtful that either of his own labels had been particularly remunerative. The sessions could have taken place in late December of 1956. However, the RCA Victor Custom Pressing numbers show that the two sides of Salem SLP 2 were at the very top of the stack in January 1957, so the session could have also taken place during the first week or so of January 1957, and that is our best guess. A local distributor (Cash Box, January 5, 1957, p. 12) was told that the next Salem LP would be by Johnnie Pate, and replied, "Salem'll sell a pot full." The liner notes were dated January 10. The album was released on February 1, 1957 ("Salem Signs Johnny Pate as Musical Director," Cash Box, February 9, 1957, p. 24).
In those days, recording a group live at a club was a hit-or-miss proposition sonically. Johnnie Pate had appeared at the Blue Note before, and his album was slated for release just in advance of his next engagement there, which started on February 6. Frank Holzfeind agreed to write the liners. But the tracks were made in the studio. This happened from time to time in Chicago… In 1957, King would cut a studio recording of Lorez Alexandria with King Fleming and pretend the LP was done in a club. In 1959, Vee-Jay would package up a bunch of studio tracks by Memphis Slim and claim they were from the Gate of Horn. (Slim did play there.)
Hillman had high expectations for the Pate album. He announced that Pate was now the musical director for Salem (Cash Box, February 9, 1957, p. 24). Consequently, Pate would be making more records for Salem with his trio (as far as we can determine, he did not). And Pate would "also now have charge of the arranging and conducting chores for all Salem releases" (there would be one more LP, and 14 singles—on none of which was Pate identified as the arranger or the conductor).
At any rate, Cash Box gave SLP 2 a favorable review (March 2, 1957, p. 29), and one March 23, the trade paper (p. 41) ran a photo of the Gamble Hinged Music Company in Chicago: Johnnie Pate albums took up most of the front window.
|Salem SLP-2||Johnnie Pate||at the Blue Note||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||Dancing on the Ceiling (Rodgers-Hart)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||What a Difference a Day Made (Adams-Grover)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||It Might as Well Be Spring (Rodgers-Hammerstein)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||Falling in Love with Love (Rodgers-Hart)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||All the Time (Pate)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||Old Devil Moon (Harburg-Lane)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||I Surrender Dear (Clifford-Barris)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||Yvonne (Pate)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||Tea for Two (Youmans-Caesar)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||Pennies from Heaven (Burke-Johnston)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||Carmen's Chaser (Pate)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
|Johnnie Pate||Slaughter on 10th Avenue (Rodgers)||early January 1957||February 1, 1957|
Salem wasn't originally intended to be a singles label. No singles were ever taken from Salem LPs. But Hillman decided to make a move in February 1957, when he signed Bobby Christian to record "a series of singles," to be compiled into an LP later ("Salem Pacts Christian," Cash Box, February 23, 1957, p. 25). Christian got two singles, then Salem would falter before the LP project could be carried out. All Salem singles were 45-only. 78s were on the way down by then and Salem did not release any.
Hillman had his first batch of three singles ready for release in early April. Cash Box for April 13 (p. 14) had him dropping off Salem 1001 through 1003 with Chicagoland DJs.
First in line was Bobby Christian's "Crickets on Parade." Christian had released "Grasshopper Jump" on Formal 1002 the year before. Salem 1001 would turn out to be the label's only single to enjoy significant local sales action. It got a favorable review in Cash Box on April 20 (p. 8), and display ads in Cash Box on April 20 (p. 27) and May 4, 1957 (p. 27). Billboard never reviewed it.
Salem 1002 was by a vocal group called "the Off-Beats" (lower case on the label) with some help from the "Cheer-Ups" and the Dick Marx Orchestra. Might be interesting, but we have yet to hear it.
Salem 1003 was by Shirley Forwood "with Orchestra and Chorus." It would be interesting to know whose orchestra and chorus. Forwood had been touring for with the Teddy Phillips band, and both tunes are credited to Phillips, Jeffers, and Bender.
The first mention we've found of Shirley Forwood is from the Battle Creek Enquirer and News (March 14, 1955, p. 14). She was singing on a TV show, Koffy with Kibby, 9 AM Monday through Friday on WOOD Channel 8 in Grand Rapids. She was from Grand Rapids. Ads for the show ran for a couple of months.
The next mention we've found is of a big show in the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana, April 3, 1956. It featured Ginny Simms and Teddy Phillips and his orchesra, with The Phillip-Aires and Shirley Forwood also on the bill (Shreveport Times, March 25, 1956, p. 4-F).
Around July of 1956, Shirley Forwood recorded "Two Hearts" b/w "Juke Box Lover" for the music publisher, Sun Valley, which had them out briefly under its own imprnt. The tunes were by Phillips-Jeffers and Phillips-Jeffers-Star. The studio ork was directed by Warren Knoble. The sides were promptly picked up by Dot and are much better known as Dot 15487. On August 18, 1956, "The Disk Derby" column in the Tribune reported (part 1 p. 16F) that Forwood was in Chicago visiting DJs. The next day ("Shirley Forwood Will Sub on Channel 5 Show"), the Tribune announced (part 3 Radio) that she would be sitting in for Betty Johnson on the Bob and Kay Show, and her Dot release caught a mention in the St. Joseph, Missouri, News Press (p. 10C). On January 12, 1957 (Steve Schickel, "The Disk Derby," part 1 p. 12F), the Tribune announced that she was now a member of the cast of the Bob and Kay Show.
Teddy Phillips would show up later on Salem under his own name. In April 1957 he was under contract to Bally.
Salem 1003 got reviewed in Billboard (a magazine not too favorably inclined toward Mort Hillman) on May 20, 1957 (p. 143). This was on account of Forwood's Dot release, which many among the scribes had thought would be a hit. Cash Box reviewed Salem 1003 on May 25 (p. 15), and Hillman was thinking highly enough of its prospects to buy a display ad for it (Cash Box, June 1, 1957, p. 26). Turns out it was the last display ad Salem would buy. In July, Steve Schickel, a DJ who gave favorable mentions to several things on Salem, noted that Jo Stafford and Vic Damone had made a cover version of "Good Night" for Columbia, and expected further sales on Salem 1003 as a result ("The Disk Derby," Chicago Daily Tribune, July 20, 1957, part 1 p. 14F). Around this same time Forwood appeared at the Aquateenial Jump, a teen-oriented show at the Minneapolis Armory (Minneapolis Star, July 19, 1957, p. 11A).
About a month after 1003, Hillman put out Salem 1004, by the Frankie Masters Orchestra. We have learned from a quick bio, by a critic in the Minneapolis Star who hadn't seen her sing before and needed to catch up, that when "very young" Shirley Forwood had traveled with Frankie Masters ("Don Morrison's 2 Cents' Worth," January 4, 1968, p. 33). Forwood didn't sing on 1004, however, unless she was a member of Masters' vocal group for that occasion.
Mort Hillman couldn't have had too much trouble finding Frankie Masters in Chicago. It had been Master's home base for years, and at the time of recording his sweet band was finishing up its eighth year accompanying the ice show in the Boulevard room of the Conrad Hilton.
Masters was born in Robinson, Illinois, probably in 1904. While a business student at Indiana University, he led a band that played for campus events. One summer he got a job in the band aboard the SS President Madison, which steamed to Shanghai, Yokohama, and Manila. Heading to Chicago, he joined Benny Krueger's big band at the Tivoli Theater, later taking over the band's leadership. He was leading the band at the Terrace Garden in the Morrison Hotel when it introduced ice skating shows. In 1940, he moved to New York, where his band played in hotels and theaters. After marrying Phyllis Miles, his lead singer, he returned to Chicago, where for 10 years he was the bandleader in the Boulevard Room (Kenan Heise, "Frankie Masters, 86; Directed Big Band in Chicago Hotels," Chicago Tribune, October 31, 1990, p. 13).
Before the war, Masters' bands recorded for RCA Victor, Vocalion, Conqueror, and OKeh. In 1949, he was was signed to MGM Records. After that, it doesn't look as though Masters was setting a high priority on getting recorded. In 1954, he cut one single for Utopia, a short-lived label operated by RKO (which included a tune he redid for Salem). Like the Utopia, his one appearance on Salem was an opportunity to record recent songs he had written.
Billboard tossed Salem 1004 onto the under-70 list (May 27, p. 56).
Salem 1005 was by one Kenny Gordon. We know nothing about him—except that he, too, was on Koffy with Kibby in Grand Rapids, Michigan, March through May of 1955 (Battle Creek Enquirer and News, March 14, 1955, p. 14). Shirley Forwood might just have had something to do with Hillman's decision to sign him. Salem 1005 had another Sun Valley publication on it, "The Great Beginning" by Phillips-Jeffers-Bender. The studio band and chorus were entrusted to Warren Knoble. Billboard disliked the single so much, it put it on the under-65 list twice (June 3, 1957, p. 65; June 17, p. 73). Cash Box was more respectful (June 17, 1957, p. 73).
Next, Hillman announced a licensing deal with Oriole Records (a company that had started up around the beginning of the year, headquarters in London). Salem 1001 was to be issued on Oriole and sold in Great Britain and Western Europe. "It was also announced that an agreement would shortly be concluded with Oriole Records to handle the complete Salem catalog for the same area" ("Oriole to Release Salem Disks in England," Cash Box, June 8, 1957, p. 22; we wonder who wrote it). We are quite confident that a full-catalog deal never came to fruition. We would like to see an Oriole release of "Crickets on Parade," because we are skeptical even about that.
With five Salem singles in distribution, and four more in the works, Hillman had gotten frustrated with the microscopic ratio of revenue from sales to sales effort. Unlike most indie-label entrepreneurs, he also the had an opportunity to express his frustrations in print. He was interviewed by a music critic for the Chicago Daily News. 1957 was long before anything went viral, but the Hillman interview got picked up (sometimes with abridgments) by a bunch of other newspapers, and their headline writers had a field day with it.
The Chicago Daily News had recently hired Donal Henahan to write music reviews. Henahan, who had a long career that included winning a Pulitzer Prize, was a highbrow. He cared only for classical music, and while "longhair" concerts were in season in Chicago, spent most of his time covering them. Summer came and he was looking for something else. Despising rock and roll, Henahan decided on an exposé of the record business, particularly the segment that marketed to teenagers. He went out and talked to DJs, record store owners, and record companies in the Chicago area. Most record company owners steered clear, but Hillman was happy to be interviewed at length, in his office. Salem hadn't released any rock and roll yet (maybe had just recorded some), but Hillman figured he might get some ink on "Crickets on Parade."
It didn't work out that way. The exposé ran for five days in the Chicago Daily News, starting on June 10, 1957. The Daily News isn't available online, but the interview with Mort Hillman appeared in other papers that are. The version in the Nashville Banner (June 12, 1957, pp. 1, 2), "It Takes More than Good Tune to Crack 'Million' Disc Market," pasted a few paragraphs in the wrong place but appears to be complete. Hillman is said to be 31 years old and his company is said to be 8 months old (both said correctly). He is described as a "shouting, arm-waving citizen" (p. 1). He regales Henahan with his strategy for making a hypothetical tune ("Schlops De Bops") look like it's selling. A key piece is "vote-gathering."
A DJ gets maybe 200 records a week. What does he do, open and play each one? He'd go nuts. I got to get to this guy and put the record in his hands and persuade him to play it.
Or at least list it in his poll [for Cash Box], even if he never plays it. (p. 2)
After taking a phone call, Hillman continued:
Do you think 'Schlops' is really No. 4 in Indianapolis? Of course not. Indianapolis never heard of it. But baybe [sic] the jockey down there is a friend of mine. To do me a favor he'll list it. (p. 2)
The point was that another DJ, seeing how "Schlops" is supposedly No. 4 in Naptown, might give it a few plays for real. Hillman went on to discuss sales figures (nobody auditing them; a "gold record" might have sold 200,000 really), "tie-ins" with distributors, "hype" in general. The only subject he was modest about was cash to DJs: "Let's say I've got friends in the business. They do me favors." (p. 2).
The interview did expose a lot of what was happening in the music business—to a writer who hadn't known the first thing about it. Hillman said that Eddie Fisher had been a hit-maker and "Now he can't even get arrested." Henahan had never heard the expression before. Besides, in June 1957 Hillman didn't have "Rock & Roll Ruby" or "Rock 'n' Roll Killed My Mother" ready to promote to teenaged record buyers. Henahan had to go to DJs to get disparaging quotes about rock and roll and those who wanted to hear it on the radio. Naturally, the article never got around to "Crickets on Parade," a record that wouldn't have interested Henahan in a million years.
Welp. Billboard got wind of the Chicago Daily News series right away. It couldn't have ignored it. Hillman, whose wife worked for Cash Box, described it as "the only magazine that swings any weight with the business" (p. 2 in the Nashville Banner version).
Observers in the business must have shaken their heads, sorrowfully assured that Mort Hillman had made a career-limiting move. He soldiered on.
Salem 1006 was credited to one Tipsie Lee, with the Dick Noel Singers. Dick Noel was a known quantity at the time, though for his solo singing he was under contract to Fraternity (his had been the very first single on that label). But who was Tipsie Lee?
For starters, she was from Indiana. We learn from an article in her hometown newspaper, the Hammond Times, that Tipsie Lee was 13 years old and her real name was Shirley Zambo ("Hammond Girl, 13, is Vocal Star," July 24, 1957, p. B-3).
Shirley Zambo had been singing in public since she was 4 years old, and had made the rounds of talent contests in the area. At age 6, she appeared on a radio talent show called "Stars of Tomorrow" (Hammond Times, January 17, 1950, p. 18). A few months later, she was on The Show Kids, a talent contest on local TV (Hammond Times, July 9, 1950, p. 15). Two weeks after that, she sang the current hit, "If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd've Baked a Cake," at an outdoor Civic Center concert in Hammond ("First of Civic Center Concerts to Be Held Tuesday; Feature Soloists,"Hammond Times, July 23, 1950, p. 30). At 12, she was a member of a girls' vocal quartet out of East Chicago that performed for clubs and civic organizations (Hammond Times, February 26, 1956, p. B-1).
From the H series numbers, it appears that "Travelin' Love" and "How Could You?" were made at different sessions, albeit not too many days apart. We of course don't know whether any other sides were recorded at either outing. Billboard dumped Salem 1006 into its under-65 list (July 1, 1957, p. 64).
Recording for Salem had to be the peak event in Shirley Zambo's career. The last notice we've found on her, when she was 17, was for a performance of Oklahoma at her high school, Hammond Vocational Technical. There were different casts for Friday and Saturday night. Shirley was in the Saturday night cast, May 13, 1961, playing Ado Annie ("'Oklahoma' on Tech Stage Next Week,"Hammond Times, May 3, 1961, p. 42).
Salem 1007 was by a group called The Hi Fi Guys. One side of Salem 1007 was a cover (of "Pink Champagne" by Joe Liggins). No clues there. But "Rock 'n Roll Killed My Mother" was published by Maurice and written by Ray Barlow. An item in the Indianapolis News (March 13, 1956, p. 6) reveals that the group (then playing Woody Armstrong's Purple Onion) was a trio. Bob Beasley played saxophone and drums; Dick Corn played the piano, and Ray Barlow was responsible for guitar, banjo, and bass. All three sang. There was talk about Al Morgan, who also played the Purple Onion, taking the Hi Fi Guys on tour with him (The Indianapolis News, April 24, 1956, p. 19). It didn't happen, but the group kept working in Naptown.
Unusually, Salem 1007 landed a review in Billboard (July 1, 1957), which gave the sides ratings of 68 and 66. The reviewer mentioned vocal duets on both sides, compared "Killed My Mother" to a Homer and Jethro number (it was a Country waltz), and complained that the lyrics weren't funny enough. The Indianapolis News also noted their release ("Indianapolis Trio Cuts First Record," p. 12 section 6). The article noted that the trio was formed in 1955 and that they were currently playing the penthouse at LaRue's Supper Club. One of the biggest venues in Indianapolis, LaRue's had three floors; often there were performances on each floor simultaneously. After their session with Salem, an ad for LaRue's shows the Hi Fi Guys contributing to a Fall and Winter Revue organized by Denny Dutton (Indianapolis News, September 23, 1957, p. 12).
The most obscure single, on a label that produced a few obscurities, is Salem 1008. Credited to Ray Evans, with an orchestra led by Ev Ralston. This can't have been the songwriting Ray Evans ("Mona Lisa," et al.) because neither song is an Evans composition. And who was Ev Ralston? Did anybody review Salem 1008 anywhere?
Salem 1009, amazingly, also got a review in Billboard (July 1, 1957, p. 64). From the review, we gather that Charlie Waterman was a Country performer. It would be nice to know where he was from and what else he recorded, if anything.
Three months after the first, Hillman decided the time was ripe to release a second 45 on Bobby Christian. "Indian Hop" b/w "My Theme" appeared on Salem 1010 around the end of July. They were not new recordings; the H series matrices put them on the February 1957 session, which extended to at least four tunes. The Chicago Daily Tribune noted the release on August 3 (p. 14F) and Billboard reviewed "Indian Hop" on August 5 (p. 54). We are reasonably sure the trade paper wanted to put in a sentence about "My Theme" but it was lost to an editorial or layout error.
Another "girl singer," Chaya Nash, recorded two sides with a studio ork led by Warren Knoble, who had previously been on Shirley Forwood's Dot session and Kenny Gordon's Salem session. We figure these were done in July. Billboard relegated Salem 1011 to the low-rated list on August 26 (p. 98).
When Salem picked her up, Chaya Nash, as she was known on stage, had been in show biz, trying to break into the big time, for 8 years. She had performed (briefly) on Broadway, enjoyed several extended runs in clubs in Miami, Florida, had sung (briefly) with Harry James' big band, had worked summer resorts in southern Wisconsin, and had done at least one soap opera on the radio.
Chaya Nachenberger was born in Chicago, probably in 1930. She started performing as a teenager in the USO during World War II. The first press notice we've found for Chaya Nash is from January 1949. Billed as "Broadway's Youthful Singer and Actress," she made a couple of Friday and Saturday night appearances at Buss Latschar's Wooden Wheel Inn, just outside of Princeton, New Jersey (The Daily Home News [Brunswick NJ], January 19, 1949, p. 27; The Sunday Times [Brunswick NJ], January 23, 1949, p. 14). The Sunday Times item added that she had been in Hollywood.
In 1953, she worked clubs in Miami and Miami Beach, Florida. She was at the Dream Bar in December (Miami Daily News, December 17, 1953, p. 8-B).
Chaya Nash put in at least one season of summer resort work at Nippersink Manor and Oakton Manor (respectively in Genoa City and Pewaukee, Wisconsin) in a floor show that alternated between the two manors. Accompaniment was provided by either Rey Mambo and his orchestra, or the Cuban Rhythm Boys ("Two Resorts to Feature Alternating Floor Shows," Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, May 28, 1954, p. 8).
Somebody at the Chicago Tribune liked Chaya Nash. She got a writeup in the Chicago Tribune Magazine ("A Break!", October 17, 1954, pp. 22-23), which included a photo of her recording a radio soap opera (she had a regular role on "Judy and Jane," a show not broadcast in Chicago) and a photo of her playing her demo record for Harry James (a re-enactment, obviously, of something that had already taken place). This was significant publicity, but it didn't land her a recording contract.
In 1955, it was back to Miami, where in August Chaya Nash was working the Driftwood Room at the Nautilus Hotel (Miami Herald, August 21, 1955, p. 13-D).
In May 1957, she sang in a revue at the Offbeat room (Chicago Sunday Tribune, May 19, 1957, part 7 p. 12). The Offbeat had previously been known for improv comedy. We doubt the revue, all material written by Sande Perlov and Marty Brill, had much of a run, but this could have been what brought her to Hillman's attention.
In October 1957, Hillman was asked to bring a Salem artist to Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio. This was for a benefit event arranged by Bob "Coffeehead" Larson, a Milwaukee DJ who had learned that many of the servicemen at Lackland were from Milwaukee. Toward the end of the month, Chaya Nash was flown to San Antonio with Hillman to entertain the troops. This was a moderately big deal: Freddie Montell and the Crew Cuts were there, and Dot Records also sent representatives ("Coffeehead Entertains," Cash Box, November 9, 1957, p. 27).
The Hi Fi Guys sometimes played rock and roll. The Saints, who were responsible for Salem 1012, were a rock and roll band. Many many bands have gone as The Saints, but these particular Saints recorded just once. We've learned where the band was from, and the names of some of the band members. All of which deepens the mystery—how did these guys ever come to Mort Hillman's attention?
Except for a first stray notice in a Minneapolis paper, there was only one place The Saints were mentioned in the newspaper while they were performing. Austin, Minnesota, is a small town close enough to the state line that the local paper always had a section for Iowa news. On January 10, 1957, the entertainment column in the Minneapolis Daily Tribune included a paragraph that we will reproduce in its entirety:
'We are having a benefit dance for a new singing group,The Saints, at the Terp ballroom in Austin, Minn., Valentine's night Thursday, Feb. 14," writes Garland Nash. "The purpose of the dance is to buy them all professional suits and to finance a trip to Omaha, Neb., to audition for the Ted Mack show." (p. 32).
The Minneapolis Daily Tribune would confirm that the benefit had taken place, 1289 had showed up, and enough money had been raised to pay for the band's suits. The article also confirmed that the group consisted of 4 singers and 3 instrumentalists (February 21, 1957, p. 36). Whether the group actually appeared on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour we don't know. Up to this point, their local paper had taken no interest in the group. On June 13, 1957 (p. 24), the Austin Herald ran an ad for an appearance that evening at the New Dance Barn, by the Rockets and the Saints. Then, per the Austin Herald (August 27, 1957, p. 12), we learn that on the 29th there would be a Rock and Roll Revue at the Terp, starring The Jags, special added attraction The Saints, "great new Salem recording stars."
A couple of months previously in 1957, there had been a single on Meteor—yes, that Meteor, out of Memphis—by Steve Carl with the Jags ("18 Year Old Blues" b/w "Curfew"). The very last single on Lester Bihari's ill-starred label. Whaddaya know, the Austin Herald ad proclaimed the Jags were "combined with" "Big Steve" Leuthold. Big Steve was just back from Memphis, "The Home of Rock and Roll." Steve Leuthold was from Albert Lea, Minnesota, where he was born around 1937. Years later, as the operator of a Minneapolis-based hedge fund, he admitted he'd sung and played guitar in "Steve Carl and the Jags" (Kara McGuire, "A Grizzly Truth: Veteran Money Manager Is Scared of the Market," Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 27, 2011, p. D5). In 1966, Leuthold diversified from the brokerage business in Minneapolis to open a beer and bratwurst venue called The Alps. His partner, Mike Pedersen, was also from Albert Lea and had also played in the Jags (Will Jones, "It'll Be Brat and Wurst," Minneapolis Tribune, May 18, 1966, p. 39).
The concert ad said The Saints' "hit" was "Suntan Legs." Ferris Radio and TV agreed; its ad in the Herald for September 13 (p. 12) put "Austin's Own 'Saints' | Sun Tanned Legs [sic]" at the top of a list that included records by Paul Anka, Little Richard, and The Tune Weavers. But most of the ads from Austin made "Rock & Roll Ruby" (a Warren Smith number that's been variously attributed to Johnny Cash and George Jones, and already covered by Lawrence Welk [!]) the plug side (Austin Herald, September 12, 1957, p. 28; September 19, p. 23; September 27, 1957, p. 10). When a new hall aimed at teenagers opened in Austin, The Saints got top billing and the Saturday night dance (Austin Herald, September 27, 1957, p. 14). Fame was fleeting. The Saints' last advertised appearance was in a "Parade of Bands" at the Terp Ballroom in Austin, on October 30, 1957 (see, for instance, the ad in the Austin Herald for October 25, 1957, p. 14). Their Salem record was no longer being advertised, and for all we know it was the last time they performed.
The group was in existence probably less than a year, and we have no idea where they performed outside of Austin, Minnesota—if they ever did. What else can we say about The Saints? A Canadian newspaper retrospective on a dead ceramic artist (Robert Amos, "Digging up an Artist's Unique Treasures," The Victoria, British Columbia Times Colonist, August 3, 2014, p. D3) reveals the following: David Toresdahl was born in Austin, Minnesota in 1939. He was an only child. His father's family were Lutheran missionaries and his mother's family ran bars. According to his widow, Louise Bohun, "He was in a four-man singing group called the Saints. When he arrived in California, it was their hit tune, Rock and Roll Ruby, that paid for his start at college" (quoted in the Robert Amos article).
Bohun, who met Toresdahl on Vancouver Island in 1996, was right about The Saints. About "Rock and Roll Ruby"? It was a hit tune for some people. It wasn't for The Saints. The likelihood that Toresdahl saw enough revenue out of Salem 1012 to pay for one semester at a state college was, errrr, remote. On the off-chance that anybody outside the southern half of Minnesota ever heard of the record, it was released by a company that would close its doors three months later.
Toresdahl, we should caution, had been retailing his yarns for a while. When he first arrived in Canada, in 1970, he led a reporter to believe that "He has even been a singer, in his earlier days in his home state of Minnesota, recording for Columbia on one cutting that sold close to a million" (Helen Bateson, "The Canadian Renaissance of the Arts: Brain-Drain in Reverse," The Province [Vancouver, British Columbia], December 12, 1970, p. 47).
The only way this could be sort of true would be if Toresdahl joined another group called The Big Beats after The Saints broke up. The Big Beats, who… hmmm… played the Terp Ballroom in Austin at least twice, in June and July 1958, were the only rock and roll band in Minnesota to make a record for Columbia during that period. They worked Austin and Eyota and other small towns. But they weren't from there, not from anywhere near there. They started in Dallas, Texas, with a 15-year-old leader named Trini Lopez. Did they acquire any local personnel in Minnesota? We haven't seen a roster for the band. A photo of five Big Beats, in advance of their appearance at the Rainbow Ballroom in Eyota, includes a guy at the far right who looks like Toresdahl (Winona Daily News, May 8, 1958, p. 4). Even if he was in the Big Beats, none of their singles could have sold anything like the numbers Toresdahl claimed.
We've learned a bit more about The Saints from an article about a group that formed as they were breaking up. The Daily Herald never provided a profile on The Saints. On January 7, 1959, it got around to a feature article on The Highlights (Bill Riemerman, "Austin High School Junior's Tune Has Sold More than 70,000 Records," p. 14). The junior was Barry Rush, bass horn player in the Austin High School Band and lead guitarist for The Highlights. "The Highlights got started in October 1957 when three of the present unit were providing the instrumental backing for The Saints, a local singing unit." The three were Rush, Gary Bailey on rhythm guitar, and Allan Anderson at the drums. They added a string bass player and started working dances. After a while, they picked up a tenor saxophonist, still in high school, from Albert Lea. The band had a single out on Play 1004. Play was a subsidiary of Mark, a record label from Minneapolis briefly operated by Chuck Sagle right after he left Mercury. Play 1004 was released in October 1958; Sagle put the release date right on the label, as had been the practice at Mercury while he was there. The Highlights also backed a singer named Jim Eddy on Play 1001, another October 1958 release.
OK, enough of the Big Beats and the Highlights. Who were The Saints? The Saints were four singers plus three rhythm. "Sun Tan Legs" was credited to Nash, Rush, and Funk. Barry Rush was probably 15 at the time. Garland Nash was the author of the benefit dance appeal that ran in the Minneapolis Tribune in January 1957. That leaves Funk to be identified. Toresdahl sang in the group. Bailey and Anderson played in it. Looks like we're still short of the full personnel.
Salem 1013 brought the Hi Fi Guys back, with the rest of their previous session. On the other two sides, they'd backed a singer named Nancy Dawn. Her full name was Nancy Dawn Owen. She was born, probably in 1942, in Upland, Indiana. Nancy Dawn became a member of a family singing group, with two older sisters, when she was 4 years old. She began appearing on the Midwestern Hayride, WLW-T-TV Cincinnati, when she was 13. She never did rock and roll on the Midwestern Hayride, But on her Salem session, she sang a rock and roll number ("Glue Me Back, Jack") that was written for her by a friend (the same friend composed the tune on the flip).
After marrying Tom Childs, Nancy Dawn lived in various towns in Ohio and Indiana, eventually settling in Muncie, Indiana. The Muncie Evening Press ran a feature article on her in 1969, when her husband was the Assistant Principal at Delta High School and she was doing some radio and TV work (March 5, 1969, p. 14). She would perform on TV for many more years but never made another record.
For Salem 1014, Teddy Phillips briefly joined the company. His contract with Bally was over. Bally was over, too; its last releases came in September 1957.
|Matrix||Artist||Title||Release Number||Recording Date||Release Date|
|H7OW-0471||Bobby Christian "The Band with a Sound"||Crickets on Parade (Christian-Armentrout)||Salem S 1001||February 1957||April 1957|
|H7OW-0472||Bobby Christian "The Band with a Sound"||Enough Man (Christian-Armentrout)||Salem S 1001||February 1957||April 1957|
|H9OW-0336||the Off-Beats | Dick Marx Orch.||Finger Snappin' Boogie (Mascari-Wenzlaff)||Salem S 1002||February 1957||April 1957|
|H9OW-0337||the Off-Beats | Dick Marx Orch.||Man, It's Just Too Much (Mascari-Wenzlaff)||Salem S 1002||February 1957||April 1957|
|H8OW-0535||Shirley Forwood with Orchestra and Chorus||Good Night (Phillips-Jeffers-Bender)||Salem S 1003||February 1957||April 1957|
|H8OW-0534||Shirley Forwood with Orchestra and Chorus||Johnny Please Come Back (Phillips-Jeffers-Bender)||Salem S 1003||February 1957||April 1957|
|H9OW-0988||Frankie Masters and His Orchestra with Phyllis and the Swing-Masters||Baby Buggy Boogie||Salem S 1004||February 1957||May 1957|
|H9OW-0989||Frankie Masters and His Orchestra with Phyllis and the Swing-Masters||The Little Gates (Marchese-Masters)||Salem S 1004||February 1957||May 1957|
|H8OW-5619||Kenny Gordon | Orchestra under the direction of Warren Knoble||The Great Beginning (Phillips-Jeffers-Bender)||Salem S 1005||April 1957||May 1957|
|H8OW-5620||Kenny Gordon | Orchestra under the direction of Warren Knoble||Play Fiddle Play (Deutsch-Altmann)||Salem S 1005||April 1957||May 1957|
|H8OW-5715||Tipsie Lee with the Dick Noel Singers||Travelin' Love (Camp-Smikle)||Salem S- 1006||May 1957||June 1957|
|H8OW-5825||Tipsie Lee with the Dick Noel Singers||How Could You? (Keith-Korgich)||Salem S- 1006||May 1957||June 1957|
|H7OW-5885||The Hi Fi Guys||Rock 'n Roll Killed My Mother (Barlow)||Salem S-1007||May 1957||June 1957|
|H7OW-5882||The Hi Fi Guys||Pink Champagne (Liggins)||Salem S-1007||May 1957||June 1957|
|H8OW-5910||Ray Evans | Orch. Conducted by Ev Ralston||Oom-Di-Oddy (Hoyt-McNulty)||Salem S-1008||May 1957||1957|
|H8OW-5907||Ray Evans | Orch. Conducted by Ev Ralston||In the Evening by the Moonlight (Bland)||Salem S-1008||May 1957||1957|
|H8OW-5993||Charlie Waterman||The Buffalo Skinner||Salem S-1009||May 1957||June 1957|
|H8OW-5994||Charlie Waterman||The St. James Infirmary (Primrose)||Salem S-1009||May 1957||June 1957|
|H7OW-0470||Bobby Christian | Band with a Sound||Indian Hop (Christian)||Salem S- 1010||February 1957||July 1957|
|H7OW-0469||Bobby Christian | obbligato by Vernyle||My Theme (Christian-Armentrout)||Salem S- 1010||February 1957||July 1957|
|H8OW-7188||Chaya Nash | Warren Knoble, conductor||Who's Gonna Love Me (Bivens-Walters)||Salem S- 1011||July 1957||August 1957|
|H7OW-7189||Chaya Nash | Warren Knoble, conductor||The Things I See in You (Raleigh-Wolf)||Salem S- 1011||July 1957||August 1957|
|H8OW-8518||The Saints||Rock & Roll Ruby (Cash)||Salem S- 1012||August 1957||August 1957|
|H8OW-8517||The Saints||Sun Tan Legs (Nash-Rush-Funk)||Salem S- 1012||August 1957||August 1957|
|H7OW-5883||Nancy Dawn with The Hi-Fi Guys||Glue Me Back, Jack (Albright)||Salem S- 1013||May 1957||September 1957|
|H7OW-5884||Nancy Dawn with The Hi-Fi Guys||Long Road (Albright)||Salem S- 1013||May 1957||September 1957|
|H08W-0009||Teddy Phillips Orch. | Vocal-Morrocans [sic]||Believe in Tomorrow (Shapiro-Back)||Salem S-1014||September 1957||October 1957|
|H08W-0008||Teddy Phillips Orch. | Vocal-Phillipairs||You Fascinate Me (Shapiro-Carr)||Salem S-1014||September 1957||October 1957|
Mort Hillman never got around to his Bobby Christian LP. Tracks that Christian had done for Salem would show up in 1959 on a Stepheny LP, when Hillman was in charge of sales and promotion there.
The final LP was by Gene Esposito and his trio. Genaro Esposito was born in Chicago in 1929. His first instrument was the accordion, but by age 12 he was playing piano and trumpet. He played the trumpet in bands at Austin High School. He joined Musicians Union Local 10 when he was 16 (see David Heinzmann, "Chicago Jazz Pianist Genaro Esposito," Chicago Tribune, December 31, 1999, section 2 p. 7).
Esposito became known for his proficiency as a bopper, and was a frequent participant in Joe Segal's "modern" jazz jam sessions. In 1956, he and Red Saunders (sometimes competitively, sometimes cooperatively) were developing a recording project centered around visiting Ghanaian drummer, whose name at birth was Kpapko Kofi Warren Gamaliel Harding Akwei. He was born in what was then a British colony, the Gold Coast, on April 4, 1923. By the end of the 1930s, he had heard jazz on records and in 1943, he left college to go to New York City, where, using the name Guy Warren, he worked briefly with Miff Mole. In 1950, Warren and two other West African musicians traveled to London, where they worked with British jazz musicians. Warren returned to the US in 1954, arriving in Chicago early in 1955. In March, he made a big impression on the musicians and the audience at one of Joe Segal's early jam sessions. In late November, Gene Esposito And His High Lifers featuring Guy Warren were at Geno's Dance Lounge, 83rd and Jeffery (Southtown Economist, November 30, 1955, p. 10). Geno's was considered a jazz venue; what its patrons thought of the High Lifers would be interesting to know, as no other band was playing anything like this, anywhere else in the United States.
Warren shuttled between New York and Chicago over the next few months, but when he was in town he and Red Saunders worked on material for a recording session. Almost certainly Warren was also developing material with Gene Esposit. For it was a Gene Esposito band with Red Saunders and Guy Warren as featured artists that recorded at Universal in September 1956. Red Saunders ponied up the session costs. (The way the session was put together, Warren, Saunders, and Esposito would end up accusing one another of hogging the credit.) Decca purchased the LP master and released Africa Speaks—America Listens! in May 1957, not long before Esposito signed with Salem. Meanwhile, Esposito, Guy Warren, and bassist LeRoy Jackson had worked the Jazz Scene, a club founded by Max Miller, for a month in September-October 1956. In June 1957, Guy Warren was the drummer in a special trio that pianist Billy Strayhorn (who devoted most of his time to composing and arranging) put together for a run at the Blue Note.
When Mort Hillman took the Esposito trio into the studio, LeRoy Jackson was once again playing bass, and Billy Gaeto, the third drummer on the Decca LP, took care of the rhythm.Cash Box mentioned Salem SLP4003 on August 17, 1957 (p. 17), though this apparently meant that it had been recorded. The LP was definitely out by September 14, 1957 (Cash Box, p. 38). On September 16, Billboard gave it some attenuated praise (p. 34). And September 22, 1957, with Esposito's trio still at the SRO Room, the Chicago Tribune (part 7, p. 12) included Salem SLP4003 in a roundup of new records by local artists.
|Salem SLP 4003||Gene Esposito||The Gene Esposito Rhythm Section||August 1957||September 1957|
|Gene Esposito||Sweet Sue (Harris-Young)||August 1957||September 1957|
|Gene Esposito||Lover Man (Davis-Ramirez-Sherman)||August 1957||September 1957|
|Gene Esposito||Mad about the Boy (Coward)||August 1957||September 1957|
|Gene Esposito||Blues in the Closet (Pettiford)||August 1957||September 1957|
|Gene Esposito||Softly as in the [sic] Morning Sunrise (Hammerstein-Romberg)||August 1957||September 1957|
|Gene Esposito||Blue Monk (Monk)||August 1957||September 1957|
|Gene Esposito||That's Sumpin' Else (Jackson)||August 1957||September 1957|
|Gene Esposito||Dearly Beloved (Mercer-Kern)||August 1957||September 1957|
|Gene Esposito||Cherokee (Noble)||August 1957||September 1957|
|Gene Esposito||A Latin's Vamp (Esposito)||August 1957||September 1957|
After its third LP, Salem didn't have long to run. Mort Hillman was still pushing singles in September 1957. His final effort (on behalf of Teddy Phillips' Salem 1014) was expended at the beginning of October.
Salem closed down in the second half of November 1957. Mort Hillman immediately resurfaced, as director of sales and promotion for Norman Forgue's Stepheny Records. Forgue, a craft book publisher with no music business experience, had started the company around a year earlier, producing one single. Then in the late summer of 1957 (the J series numbers on some of the later Salems run neck and neck with those on a bunch of Stephenys), Forgue recorded 17 singles by as many as 16 different artists. With feeble promotion, less distribution, and artists who often lacked even Chicago-area name recognition, how was a tiny record company going to avoid taking a bath?
Hillman was brought in the third week of November, replacing Forgue's first record promoter, Jerry Allan. Besides putting as much hype in the pages of Cash Box as he could get away with, he did the rounds of Chicagoland DJs, traveled some familiar routes in Indiana and Iowa, and lined up West Coast and East Coast distributors for the company. Stepheny lasted until 1960 (for singles), established a subsidiary (singles-only) called Spinning, and was even able to branch out into a line of LPs, so Hillman must have been doing something right. Mort Hillman's exit from Stepheny Records drew no ink in the trades, but he probably "ankled" when singles were discontinued. Although the label had been more successful than Salem, Hillman quickly dropped it from his résumé.
In the early 1960s, Hillman moved to New York City. For all we know, he headed to the Apple as soon as his tenure with Stepheny Records was over. He settled in the Whitestone neighborhood of Queens. He was director of sales for various small labels. In January 1965, he was making appearances with artists who recorded on Regina (James Wilber, "the Popular Beat," Cincinnati Enquirer, January 24, 1965, p. 13-E).
When not selling records, Hillman took some time off to sell ad space in Record World magazine. This was an upstart competitor to Billboard, which had scorned him, and Cash Box, which hadn't drawn the sales he was hoping for. We see Hillman's name on the masthead (Record World, December 25, 1965, p. 4) as Advertising Manager, Eastern Division. Record World's offices were in New York City, but it had a separate West Coast Division. In March 1966, he was wedded to Ruth Herbst, a medical technician (New York Daily News, March 3, 1966, p. C16). This was at least his second marriage.
In June 1968, Hillman was hired as Vice President for Sales and Promotion at Audio Fidelity Records (James Wilber, "The Popular Beat," Cincinnati Enquirer, June 30, 1968, p. 9-G). Audio Fi was not a major label, but it would be the highest-profile company he ever worked for.
In 1980, Mort Hillman went into politics. He ran as a Democrat for a seat in the New York State Assembly, holding it for 6 terms. In 1992, he lost narrowly when redistricting put him up against a Republican incumbent from what hade been a neighboring district ("New York Legislature: Leaders Buck National Anti-Incumbent Trend," Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin, November 5, 1992, p. 8A).
Hillman soon retired to Delray Beach, Florida, where he was heard from during local political controversies. Deep into retirement, he made tapes available for reissues of the three Salem LPs. Mort Hillman died in Florida on February 3, 2014, at the age of 87 (Cincinnati Enquirer, February 26, 2014, p. 14). His wife Ruth died in a nursing home in Newtown, Connecticut, on January 9, 2017 (Cincinnati Enquirer, January 11, 2017, p. 6B). She was 98.
Corky Shayne seems to have wrapped up her singing career within a couple of years of her Salem LP. She moved to Los Angeles, where she worked as an assistant to various executives in the music business. There is a single known mention of her singing in public, at a July 4 charity event in 1965 that featured film and TV personalities ("Valley Communities Mark 4th with 2 Days of Fetes," Valley News [Van Nuys, California], July 4, 1965, p. 10-A). Later she took up golf, getting seriously involved in the sport, and moved to Palm Springs. Corinne Shayne died of cancer in Indian Wells, California, in 2005 (see http://people-vs-drchilledair.blogspot.com/2009/10/and-more-from-ssj-in-october.html). Her obituary ran in the Chicago Tribune on August 22 (see https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/chicagotribune/obituary.aspx?n=corinne-shayne&pid=14925939&fhid=2025), and she was buried the next day in Waldheim Jewish Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.
Johnny Pate (as his name has been rendered in more recent years) is still alive at the time of posting. After some sessions in 1958, he put away his string bass and worked strictly as an arranger.
Bobby Christian kept right on going after Salem closed. He worked with his big band, he made all kinds of guest appearances, his compositions for percussion ensemble were performed. He'd done one single for Formal, one for Bally, two for Salem. In May 1958 he released a single on Paul Gallis and Porky Panico's Phonograph label. In August, he had one on Mercury's Wing subsidiary. Then he signed with Stepheny—Mort Hillman might have played some role in that. Three Bobby Christian singles and a 12-inch LP ensued. In the midst of which, he released a single in June 1959 on Top Rank, which put him in the company of Dorothy Collins and Bert Weedon. Next came one with a Chicago startup called Fenway, one with Audio Fidelity, one with Audio Fi's Dauntless subsidary, and no less than three with a local company called Mal (1963-1964). Somewhere in there, he cut more sides for Mercury.
Bobby Christian died in Oak Park, Illinois, on December 31, 1991. He was 80 years old and planning to do some more recording in Las Vegas. He left his wife, Josephine, 6 children, 25 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren ("Musician Bobby Christian Dead at 80," The Times-Press [Streator, Illinois], January 3, 1992, p. 9).
Shirley Forwood proved the most durable of Salem's girl singers. She had another record out a month after Salem closed. This was for Fraternity, a company based in Cincinnati that had a number of Chicago connections. Dan Belloc, for instance, directed sessions for Fraternity, even released an LP by his big band on the label. Another connection was singer Dick Noel, who had a new release on Fraternity at the same time as Shirley Forwood's (St. Petersburg Times, December 22, 1957, p. 4). Fraternity F789 featured "Two Ways," described by the St. Petersburg Times as "a good country style ballad." It was credited to Ethel Phillips, while the flip was by Ethel Phillips and Irv Fabrizio. Again, both tunes were Sun Valley publications. Her follow-up for Fraternity (F834, early 1958) included one Sun Valley tune. Backing was directed by Lew Douglas, also from Chicago. Douglas conducted a lot more pop sessions than Knoble.
Meanwhile, Forwood was getting more radio work in Chicago, as was indicated when she made an appearance modeling the Plant of the Month, Cattleya orchids (Chicago Sunday Tribune, May 11, 1958, part 3 section 2). She was also snagging TV exposure, as in her guest appearance on the 15-minute show In Town Tonight (Channel 2) on October 23, 1958 (Chicago Daily Tribune, p. 26).
Forwood's contract with Fraternity presumably expired after a year. She would make just one more single, for an itty-bitty Chicago startup called Crystal, in 1959. None of her records had been hits, but she kept getting work.
We don't know where Forwood was in the early 1960s—she told the Minneapolis Star columnist that she'd spent 3 years in Paris—but in 1964 she surfaced in Minneapolis, and she made it her home. By June 1964, she was the "house singer" at the Park Terrace (Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, June 21, 1964, p. 4E), accompanied by a piano trio. Toward the end of 1967, she was booked into the Golliwog Room (there's a name that's expired for entertainment venues…) at the Sheraton-Ritz Hotel, with the Stu Anderson Trio (Minneapolis Tribune, December 24, 1967, p. 6E). An ad promised "No Cover No Minimum No Dull Moments" (Minneapolis Tribune, January 4, 1968, p. 8). Her run at the Golliwog run ended at the beginning of March, after 8 weeks (Minneapolis Tribune, February 25, 1968, p. E11).
In 1972, Shirley Forwood was a member of an ambitious outfit called VI Park East: a vocal sextet (3 women, 3 men) with its own instrumental trio. Will Leonard ("Two Sextets, Price of One," Chicago Tribune, March 26, 1972, Arts and Fun p. 11) caught them at the Cantina Room of the Continental Plaza Hotel in Chicago. He described them as "a group of kids harking back to the swingy melodies of the '30s and '40s" who could also do contemporary pop. Shirley Forwood sang alto. The bass player was a guy named Dan Matsche. A group of that size was hard to keep together. A few months later Shirley Forwood and Dan Matsche were on the road with a quintet. Photos made it clear they were a couple. Forwood-Matsche, Unlimited finished a gig at the Town House Show Lounge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 24, 1972, p. 14). Although the blurb said they were "Direct from Los Angeles," their next gig, direct from Cedar Rapids, was at a steak house in Calgary, Alberta (Calgary Herald, November 24, 1972, p. 25). They must have caught some attention north of the border, as the last advert we've seen for them was from Regina, Saskatchewan (The Leader Post, February 3, 1973, p. 6).
The last Shirley Forwood billing we've seen was at a "New Year's Fiesta," at the Sheraton Inn-Northwest in Brooklyn Park, a Minneapolis suburb. The dance to ring in New Year's 1977 was to feature Shirley Forwood and Reuben Ristrom (St. Cloud, Minnesota Daily Times, December 23, 1976, p. 10).
Probably in 1977, Shirley Forwood and Dan Matsche got married, and both became born-again Christians. Shirley Matsche no longer worked nightclubs. Dan Matsche volunteered for Good News Jail and Prison Ministries, attended Luther Rice Bible College (Jacksonville, Florida), and eventually became a chaplain. The Matsches left Minneapolis for good in 1982, moving to Orlando, Florida. Dan worked for a religious music production company there, and later became a regional director for Good News Ministries. Shirley got a job at the Epcot Center, in the Voices of Liberty, and stayed 6 1/2 years.
In January 1989, she left Epcot and joined her husband's jail and prison ministry full-time ("Couple Featured at Ministries Dinner," Hanford, California Sentinel, October 2, 1989, p. 6). She had been working steadily as a singer for something like 34 years. The Matsches were still in the Orlando area in 1997, when they sold a house in Belle Isle Estate (The Orlando Sentinel, November 2, 1997, p. K-11); we lose track of them after that.
Frankie Masters continued to work the ice show in Boulevard Room at the Conrad Hilton. In April 1957, Herb Lyon ("Tower Ticker," Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1957, part 2 p. 12) announced that his contract wouldn't be renewed at the end of the current season. That must have been a false alarm, because on June 2, the Chicago Tribune Magazine ran a feature about new house Masters had built in Cary, Illinois, overlooking the Fox River (Kathryn Loring, "Maestro's Hidewaway: Frankie Masters Is a Country Squire Now," June 2, 1957, p. 41). He was still working the ice show. After the ice show gig finally ran out two years later, Masters and band played hotels and other venues around the Midwest. He retired from bandleading in 1975. Frankie Masters died on October 28, 1990, in Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Illinois. He was 86 years old (Kenan Heise, "Frankie Masters, 86; Directed Big Bands in Chicago Hotels, Chicago Tribune, October 31, 1990, section 2 p. 13).
Toward the end of 1957, the Hi Fi Guys went their separate ways for a while. In January 1958, Ray Barlow was at LaRue's without the other two (Indianapolis News, January 6, 1968, p. 16). They rejoined forces. In August all three were at LaRue's (Indianapolis News, August 8, 1958, p. 11). Some version of the group was playing Brodey's Village Inn on December 30, 1960 (Indianapolis News, December 30, 1960, p. 7). They were co-billed with Wanda Stafford, "Recording Star." Apparently their two Salems were ancient history by then.
From what we have learned, Chaya Nash never made another commercial recording. She married Dr. Robert Alvin Reifman, settled down in the suburbs, and continued in radio and TV work for a while, doing a voiceover for Kellogg's Raisin Bran. She entertained at luncheon meetings at her synagogue ("NSJC Sisterhood Luncheon," The Bugle [Niles, Illinois], February 24, 1977, p. 11). Through the late 1970s, she was still taking an occasional paying gig in the Chicago area. For instance, she had a limited run, 5 days a week, at the Sheraton North Shore in Northbrook (Chicago Tribune, September 3, 1978, section 6, p. 23).
In the mid-1980s, she worked as a travel agent and taught part time in the radio and TV program at Columbia College in Chicago (Jacqueline Jones, "Radio Teacher Juggles with Different Careers," Columbia College Chronicle, December 16, 1985, p. 10). Chaya Reifman died of cancer, aged 70, in 2000, leaving her husband, two sons, and two grandchildren (Chicago Tribune, November 2, 2000, section 2 p. 11).
The only member of The Saints we know by name, David Toresdahl, married Sharon Nelson on January 10, 1958, at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Austin, Minnesota (Austin Herald, January 22, 1958, p. 5). He had probably not turned 19 yet, and was enrolled at Mankato State College. The Saints, we are fairly sure, had already passed into history. According to the David Amos article in The Times Colonist (2014), David Toresdahl first exhibited his art at the Minnesota State Fair in 1962. We don't know how long he was married to Sharon Nelson. Shortly after the State Fair exhibition (and years after any proceeds from Salem 1012 would have been exhausted) he moved to California, where he got his Masters of Fine Arts in sculpture at Cal State Fullerton. He had been working in cast bronze, but at Cal State Fullerton got a sudden inspiration to switch to ceramics. After several years in Southern California, during which he completed a large number of pieces and worked as an art instructor at a community college, he married Susan Trouton. They moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1970. He spent the rest of his life in Canada, working and exhibiting in several places but ultimately settling on Vancouver Island. He died there in 2004.
Gene Esposito would have a long career in music. From 1963 to 1969, he led a trio at the Playboy Club in Chicago. In 1969, remembering his days with Guy Warren, he led a band called the High Lifers. Moving to Los Angeles, he was the music director for the LA Playboy Club from 1971 to 1976. He returned to Chicago in 1983, operating a nonprofit jazz organiztion and a record label called Jazz Idiom Ltd. He produced a number of tributes to Billy Strayhorn, who he thought had been unjustly neglected. Gene Esposito died at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago on December 9, 1999. He was 70 years old (David Heinzmann, "Chicago pianist Genaro Esposito," Chicago Tribune, December 13, 1999, section 2 p. 7).
Salem lasted one year, numbered its 45s regularly, and came close enough to numbering its LPs regularly. So it has been fairly well documented already. There is sporadic confusion, however, because many other record labels have also been called Salem. There was even another Salem in Chicago—in the 1960s, entirely unconnected with Mort Hillman's operation.
We benefited from the 45 rpm discography on Salem at 45cat.com, where it is the fourth Salem label. The discography at discogs.com, where it is also the 4th Salem label, includes the three LPs as well as all 14 45s.
For the first two Salem LPs, see Armin Bu¨ttner's discography of Johnny Pate's early work as a leader at http://www.jazzdocumentation.ch/pate.html. At his Crown Propeller site is an entry on the conversion of Salem SLP2 into Stepheny MF4005: https://crownpropeller.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/johnnie-pate-at-the-blue-note-overdub/.
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