Friday, November 4, 2016

Nan Blakstone: The World's Greatest Interpreter of Sophisticated Song

"Nan Blakstone,” wrote a reviewer in 1942, “could bring a Montreal audience to an unheated barn.” The singer/pianist, who was a much-in-demand cabaret performer for the two decades leading up to WW2, was best known as a performer of “saucy” songs. She was born in San Antonio, went to Oklahoma University and Chicago Musical College, and had a career that stretched from 1926 until her untimely death at age 49 in 1951.

A three-page biography / discography by ace researcher Barry McCanna provides some highly recommended background reading. Nan Blakstone was born Naomi Ewald, and first performed under the name Blackstone before ditching the “c” and becoming Nan Blakstone to avoid confusion with a magician with the same surname. Her career took her to nightclubs in major cities all over America and overseas; she was a staple of London nightlife for many years, and managed her own New York club for six months in 1944. Like Dwight Fiske, she built her reputation as a singer of party songs, ditties full of double entendres to please sophisticated audiences (well, as sophisticated as can be expected in an era where speakeasy drag act Gene Malin was marketed on the strength of his “pansy act”).

Just groove on the song names in her discography: a 1936 Decca recording session featured “Myrtle Isn’t Fertile Anymore”; in 1942 she recorded a monologue called “Merchant Seaman’s Voyage Into Courage”; a 1946 session included “Catherine, Madcap Empress of Russia”. I’ll be a much happier person, I know, once I’ve scored a copy of her 1936 Decca side “I’m Not In The Way Of My Family (I’m Just In A Family Way)”.

The World’s Greatest Interpreter of Sophisticated Song is an unnumbered album of three 78s compiled from six songs that Blakstone recorded for the Gala label in 1946. In a moment  I’ll be posting a 1959 LP on the Jubilee label that includes six more tunes from her Gala catalogue, recorded in 1947.

Sex Reared Its Ugly Head
Little Richard’s Getting Bigger
Who Brought Me Home
Cobwebs
A Lady’s A Lady No Matter What Cooks
Riding Academy

Album audio & artwork

DISCLAIMER: To the best of my knowledge, this work is out of print and not available for purchase in any format. If you are the artist and are planning a reissue, please let me know and I’ll remove it from the blog. Also please get in touch if you’ve lost your art &/or sound masters and would like to talk with me about my restoration work.

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