Cowboy yodeler Elton Britt (1913-1972) was a major pop-country crossover star of the World War Two era, largely due to his 1942 hit, "There's A Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" which was a popular patriotic anthem of the post-Pearl Harbor mobilization. Britt recorded and performed prolifically over three decades, including a number of duets with singer Rosalie Allen. He did some acting as well, including lead roles in a couple of westerns... Here's a quick look at his work...
Elton Britt "The RCA Years" (Collector's Choice, 1997)
One of those improbably sissy-voiced singers who became country stars back in the early days, Britt started off doing novelty songs and yodeling tunes, but shifted to the sentimental side when he had a big wartime hit in 1942 with the patriotic weeper, "There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere." After that, he kept his hillbilly sensibility, but his work was much smoother and sedate, keeping an eye on the Bing Crosby-dominated pop market. In a sense, Britt could be seen as an early prototype for Porter Wagoner, rural and cornball, but also showbiz slick. This is a great collection of his early work, and a nice compliment to the recent set of radio transcriptions released on the Bloodshot Records "Soundies" series.
Elton Britt "Ridin With Elton" (Soundies, 2000)
A spirited set of western-flavored tunes recorded for Britt's late-'40s radio shows... Since his biggest hit was the anthemic "Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere," this set is packed full of patriotic and military-themed songs, but also some nice weepers and cowboy tunes. Mostly, though, what's notable here are his heartfelt performances... This is easily one of the best albums in this series, thus far. Great stuff -- highly recommended!
Elton Britt "Country Music's Yodelling Cowboy Crooner, v.1" (Jasmine, 2005)
Elton Britt "Country Music's Yodelling Cowboy Crooner, v.2" (Jasmine, 2007)
Elton Britt "Stars And Stripes Forever" (Binge Disc/Cattle Records, 2005)
Elton Britt "Sings Jackass Blues And Other Country Songs" (BACM, 2005)
Also with Rosalie Allen...
Elton Britt "Early Recordings: 1933-1937" (BACM, 2005)
Elton Britt & Rosalie Allen "Side By Side: The Duets" (Jasmine, 2010)
A whole album's worth of duets by these cowboy/girl western stars? Who knew? Great stuff! Allen worked with a wide variety of artists over her long career, but these two enjoyed a particularly long run together. Unfortunately, a lot of it is really, really schmaltzy - spare arrangements built around a roller-rink organ, lingering, gooey melodies, etc. There are some fun songs, though, including one or two that have some actual twang to them, though mostly these are sentimental songs with a few attempts at novelty numbers... Oh! And a bunch of yodeling and polkas! Can't forget that. Anyway, I was surprised at how disappointing much of this was... This is a great archival set, but the disc itself was a bit of a chore to get through, although there are about dozen songs -- less than half the album -- that I'd say are worth listening to again. Worth checking out if you like either of these artists, but it might not really ring your bells.
Elton Britt "The Wandering Cowboy" (ABC, 1959) (LP)
(Produced by Creed Taylor)
Sure, Britt's career was pretty much in the past tense when this disc came out, but it's still a semi-cool record. I dunno... He just seems so sincere and direct, and although there are some mild attempts to spruce up and modernize his sound (mainly the presence of a doot-dootling little organ on a few tracks), this is a pretty down-to-earth album. The thing that really caught my attention was that the old-school hillbilly bandleader Zeke Manners is backing Britt up here... And he covers a Manners song or two (including several old western songs that they decided to throw their brands on, copyrighting "arrangements" of chestnuts such as "Roving Gambler" and "Red River Valley." Anyway, it's cool to see some late vintage Zeke Manners material, whatever the circumstances may have been. Also, check out who was twiddling the dials: future jazz-fusion luminary Creed Taylor is listed as the album's producer... Now there's a guy who was paying his dues!
Elton Britt "Beyond The Sunset" (ABC) (LP)
Elton Britt "The Singing Hills" (ABC, 1965) (LP)
Hick Music Index