Vaughn De Leath, born Leonore Vonderlieth September 26,1984 in the town of Mt. Pulaski, Illinois was known as "The First Lady of Radio". She was a stylized singer, of the crooner method and though quite popular in the 1920s is little known today.
This being a Ukulele blog, about all things Ukulele, I thought it would be cool to start with her!
One of her hit songs, 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' , recorded in 1927, later became a well recognized mega hit for, of course, Elvis Presley in 1960.
According to Wikipedia:
In January 1920, the inventor and radio pioneer Lee DeForest, brought her to his studio in New York City's World Tower, where De Leath sang "Swanee River" in a cramped room. Most radio listeners at the time were only equipped with crystal radio, which limited audio fidelity. This performance is sometimes cited as the first live singing broadcast (although this is disputed by some historians). According to some historical accounts of this incident, having been advised that high notes sung in her natural soprano might shatter the fragile vacuum tubes of her carbon microphone's amplifier, De Leath switched to a deep contralto and in the process invented "crooning", which became the dominant pop vocal styling for the next three decades.
By 1921, in the formative years of commercial radio, De Leath began singing at WJZ, in Newark, New Jersey (a station later known as WABC in New York City). She also performed on the New York stage in the early to mid 1920s, but radio became her primary medium, and she made a name for herself as a radio entertainer.
Her recording career began in 1921. Over the next decade she recorded for a number of labels, including Edison, Columbia, Okeh, Gennett, Victor, and Brunswick. She occasionally recorded for major label subsidiaries under various pseudonyms. These included Gloria Geer, Mamie Lee, Sadie Green, Betty Brown, Nancy Foster, Marion Ross, Glory Clark, Angelina Marco, and Gertrude Dwyer. De Leath had a highly versatile range of styles, and as material required could adapt as a serious balladeer, playful girl, vampish coquette, or vaudeville comedienne.
De Leath's recording accompanists included some of the major jazz musicians of the 1920s, including cornetist Red Nichols, trombonist Miff Mole, guitarists Dick McDonough and Eddie Lang, and bandleader Paul Whiteman. She demonstrated a high level of instrumental ability on the ukulele, and occasionally accompanied herself on recordings. In performance she played banjo, guitar, and piano. She also recorded ukulele instruction records.
In 1923, she became one of the first female executives to manage a radio station, WDT, in New York City, on which she also performed. In 1928, she appeared on an experimental television broadcast, and later became a special guest for the debut broadcast of Voice of Firestone Radio Hour. She also was one of the first American entertainers to broadcast to Europe via transatlantic radio transmission.
De Leath made her last recording in 1931 for the Crown label. She made her final nationwide network performances in the early 1930s. In her waning years, she made radio appearances on local New York stations, including WBEN in Buffalo.
Her 1925 hit recording, "Ukulele Lady", was used in the 1999 film, The Cider House Rules.
Back to me:
I would have rewritten the above but, why mess with something so perfect, right? Better for you to have that info in tact.
She was an amazing lady for her times. She lived well, died poor, as all musicians and artists seem to do, and they say she had health complications from a 'Drinking Problem.' She died at the age of 42 on May 28th, 1943. I give you now, the link to her song, "Ukulele Lady".