This week, once again, I’m turning my spotlight onto a few less-familiar singers of the Great American Songbook, and this hour, looking at a few males singers... some “would-be Sinatras,” if you will. One of these singers had a storied career that stretched from the 1940s well into the 1970s, and is beloved among some song aficionados out there: and that’s David Allyn. I’ll spend most of the hour talking about him. But I also want to briefly feature two other male singers whose work has been reissued recently by Fresh Sound Records: Rocky Cole and Deno Kannes.
It’s The Voices That Time Forgot: David Allyn, Rocky Cole and Deno Kannes, coming up next on Afterglow
David Allyn with two recordings from the late 1950s. Just now we heard him in 1957 with “Lovely To Look At,” a Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields, and Jerome Kern song off of his Kern tribute album called Sure Thing. And before that, Rodgers and Hart’s “Yours Sincerely,” from the 1958 album of the same name.
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, I’m looking at a couple of underrated and overlooking male singers from the mid-20th century. Before I take a deeper dive into the music of David Allyn, I want to turn my attention briefly to a couple of other “would-be Sinatras,” Rocky Cole and Deno Kannes.
These two singers, who flourished in the late 1950s and early 60s, are getting a spotlight thanks to a new reissue from Fresh Sound Records in 2019 as part of the label’s “The Best Voices Time Forgot” series. Neither of these two singers were on my radar, but they are now thanks to Fresh Sound.
I’ll begin with Rocky Cole. Cole was born “Rocky Coluccio” in 1920, and his career as a solo singer was relatively brief. However, his life as a musician was much more substantial. For one, Cole was an accomplished pianist (that’s actually him in the background right now). Throughout the 1960s, he was Patti Page’s pianist and music director.
But his career stretched back well into the 1940s. He was a pianist and occasional vocalist with guitarist Alvino Rey and His Orchestra. You can even hear him singing on their 1946 top 10 hit “Cement Mixer,” a cover of a Slim Gaillard song.
<music clip - Alvino Rey, "Cement Mixer">
This recording from 1946 is right at the beginning of the scat singing crazy, putting Rocky Cole (or “Coluccio”) right on the cutting edge along with other white-male scat singers like Dave Lambert and Buddy Stewart. Cole’s voice, as you can hear, has a raw, scratchy quality to it, kind of like Louis Prima, Dave Frishberg, or even Oscar Brown, Jr.
I want to feature a few songs from (what I can gather) is his one and only solo album called Smooth and Rocky, released by Roulette Records in 1960. The album features Cole on piano and vocals alongside saxophonist Al Cohn and his orchestra, performing what they are calling “four brothers” saxophone sound, reminiscent of the Woody Herman big band sound of the late 1940s.
Here is one swinging number and one ballad. This is Rocky Cole with “The Late, Late Show,” on Afterglow.
Singer Rocky Cole from his one and only album as a solo artist called Smooth And Rocky from 1960. That was “The Glory of Love” and “The Late, Late Show.”
Now I want to turn my attention to the other artist recently featured on that Fresh Sound Records album from 2019, singer Deno Kannes. Far less is known about Kannes—in fact, I’m not even sure if I’m pronouncing his name correctly. It’s spelled “K-A-N-N-E-S.” I do know he was born in 1930 and hailed from Utah—his one and only album for Coral Records from 1957 is called The Kid From Salt Lake City.
And I also know he was a child prodigy. He was a winner on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour when he was only 11 years old. That was the same radio program that sparked the career of a young Frank Sinatra about six years earlier.
His career began to flourish in the 1950s around clubs in Salt Lake City and elsewhere on the West Coast. Although after he recorded his album, his career went in a different direction. Kannes had a lot of success singing on the radio, and he actually went into broadcasting. He ran the radio station KNLT in Truckee, California for a few decades.
Kannes voice sounds an awful lot like Matt Dennis’s: it’s light and easy going, punctuated with a smile. Like with Rocky Cole, I’ll play one upbeat number and one slower ballad.
First, here’s Deno Kannes with Rodgers and Hart’s “Dancing On The Ceiling,” on Afterglow.
Two songs by singer Deno Kannes, from his 1957 album The Kid From Salt Lake City. That was Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke’s “But Beautiful” and Rodgers and Hart’s “Dancing On The Ceiling.” A few West Coast heavy-hitters were featured on those sessions with Kannes, including Marty Paich and Jimmy Rowles.
And now, let me turn to a different underrated male vocalist, although one who had a little more fame (or at least notoriety) than these two, and that’s David Allyn.
David Allyn is what you might call a “singer’s singer”—in fact, that’s what songwriter Alec Wilder referred to him as in an interview they had together in 1976. He was admired by many in the business. Frank Sinatra was a friend and supporter. Sammy Davis Jr. wrote liner notes to one of his later albums. But for one reason or the other, Allyn never quite caught on with the public—sometimes it was his own fault, other times it was for reasons outside of his own control.
He was born in 1919 and learned music from an early age. Like many vocalists from that time period, he was a Bing Crosby acolyte, and you can hear echoes of Crosby’s warm baritone in Allyn’s voice.
His first big gig came around 1940 when he sang for a year with trombonist Jack Teagarden and his orchestra. Here they are in 1941 with the Alec Wilder song, “Soft as Spring”
<music clip - David Allyn and Jack Teagarden, "Soft As Spring">
But that partnership didn’t last long. Allyn briefly served in the army during World War II, and then bounced around in the bands of Van Alexander and Henry Jerome. He eventually ended up with bandleader Boyd Raeburn. Raeburn had created one of the most progressive jazz bands in the country, rivaling Stan Kenton for use of weird dissonances, blaring horns, and out-there arrangements by in-house arranger George Handy.
David Allyn’s steady vocals provided grounding for the band, and helped make him one of the most exciting singers of 1945 and 1946.
I’ll play two songs from David Allyn and Boyd Raeburn now, beginning with a hip bebop-inspired number written by arranger George Handy. This is David Allyn with “Where You At” on Afterglow.
David Allyn and the progressive Boyd Raeburn and his Orchestra in 1945. We just heard the Harry Warren and Al Dubin song “I Only Have Eyes for You.” And before that, the original bebop tune “Where You At,” co-written by band arranger George Handy, and also featuring on vocals Boyd’s wife Ginnie Powell.”
Coming up after a short break, we’ll hear more from David Allyn and his work in the 1950s.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to some Voices that Time Forgot, on Afterglow.
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. Just now, we were exploring the music of singer David Allyn.
<music clip - David Allyn, "If I Loved You">
In 1945, Allyn, and his beautiful baritone voice, had a stint with Boyd Raeburn’s orchestra. His careful attention to words and phrasing, and Raeburn’s progressive jazz sound made them a draw especially to the hip, intellectual crowd. But Allyn’s time with the hip jazz crowd also brought him into contact with drugs. After the band dissolved in 1946, Allyn spent as much time looking for his next fix as he did looking for his next gig.
His work in the late 1940s and early 1950s was sporadic and marred by a haze of opiates. There are a few bright spots in this time, chief among them a 1949 session with bandleader Johnny Richards. This session added French horns, woodwinds, and strings to Allyn’s already lush sound, and the recordings sold rather well.
Here’s a Rodgers and Hart song from that session now. This is David Allyn in 1949 with “Wait Till You See Her,” on Afterglow.
<music - David Allyn, "Wait Till You See Her">
David Allyn and Johnny Richards Orchestra in 1949 with Rodgers and Hart’s ballad “Wait Till You See Her.”
The success of this recording session with Johnny Richards was perhaps the only bright spot in the 1950s for David Allyn. His reputation for drug use made him unable to perform at cabarets in New York City. Without a steady gig, he fell deeper into opiates, and in 1955, he got busted for trying to forge drug prescriptions. Allyn was sent to prison in upstate New York for two years.
Years later in an interview with Marc Myers, he said that during this period, as he was in rehabilitation, he used to lie on his cot with his arms crossed, imagining he was going on stage and singing. Late in 1957, he was paroled to California, and immediately tried to get back to work. Music became part of his recovery. He stayed in touch with producer Dick Bock and arranger Johnny Mandel, who he worked with back in the 1940s. They agreed to help him work on an album of all Jerome Kern songs.
The album, later called Sure Thing, was recorded in 1957 and became a triumph. Sammy Davis Jr. called it “an almost perfect wedding of musical ability and good taste.”
I’ll play a few songs from that album now, beginning with the title track, a rare Jerome Kern song he wrote with Ira Gershwin in 1944. This is David Allyn in 1957 with Kern’s “Sure Thing,” on Afterglow.
David Allyn’s signature song “The Folks Who Live On The Hill,” by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. Before that, we heard the Kern and Hammerstein song “I’ve Told Every Little Star.” And starting that set, the Kern and Ira Gershwin song “Sure Thing.” All three of those songs come from Allyn’s 1957 Jerome Kern tribute album called Sure Thing, with arrangements by Johnny Mandel.
David Allyn recorded a few albums in the late 1950s, specializing in the warm, sensitive ballad. These albums were mostly ignored upon release, but years later, in the 1970s, they found new life when they were reissued by Discovery Records for an audience of songbook aficionados.
I’ll play some more of David Allyn’s late 1950s work now, beginning with a song from his 1958 album with bandleader Bill Holman. This is David Allyn with the Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson song “You Send Me,” on Afterglow.
David Allyn in 1959 with a heartfelt version of Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser’s “Heart and Soul.” That’s from the album I Only Have Eyes For You. Before that, Allyn with Bill Holman’s Orchestra in 1958 from the album Yours Sincerely with the Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson song “You Send Me.”
David Allyn’s career stretched on and off for the next several decades. He worked in clubs, recorded a few more albums in the 1970s and 80s, and spent time working with recovering drug addicts. He passed away at age 93 in 2012. David Allyn was a singer who faced a lot troubles and setbacks in his career. But in an interview with JazzWax in 2009, when asked if he would change anything, Allyn said no, he’d do it all exactly the same.
I’ll close off this hour with a song from his 1966 album In The Blue of The Evening, which he worked on with his longtime collaborator Johnny Mandel. It’s an album that Allyn considered to be one of his finest.
This is actually an original song that he wrote with songwriter Steve Allen (no relation). David Allyn with “And Now Goodbye,” on Afterglow.
<music - David Allyn, "And Now Goodbye">
David Allyn and Johnny Mandel’s Orchestra in 1966 with an song he wrote with songwriter Steve Allen. That was “And Now Goodbye.”
And now goodbye from me. Thanks for tuning in to this “Voices That Time Forgot Episode” of Afterglow, featuring Rocky Cole, Deno Kannes, and David Allyn.
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Special thanks this week to listener Toby Worthington, for sharing part of his David Allyn collection with me, and thanks as always go out also to former Afterglow hosts David Brent Johnson and the late Dick Bishop, for their musical contributions as well.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow.