Clark Yocum  




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Clark Albert Yocum, born April 19, 1912 in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, 50 miles north of Harrisburg on the Susquenna River, was the third and last child born to Raymond Eugene Yocum (a Fireman and, later, an Engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad) and Gertrude Clark Yocum. {Their first child, George, born in 1907, died before George Vernon, who was born on April 15, 1909 and was named after his deceased sibling)

Clark learned music -- almost as soon as he could walk -- from his mother's sister, "Aunt Vivian," who taught him and his older brother, Vernon, how to read music, sing, and play the piano -- the instrument that is key to all musical interpretation and instrumentation!. Lessons learned from Aunt Vivian on her farm in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, were applied in church every week, when the two brothers sang together...every Sunday ... from the time they could remember!. However, the deep love and appreciation of music, inbred in Clark and Vernon from the beginning of their lives, eventually served to sever their ties to their home in Pennsylvania.. Clark's 1929 graduation yearbook reflects: "Yoke!" a popular student. With lots of pep. And in class activities, he's got a rep!"

Always a sports enthusiast and on the apparent path of a career in journalism as he approached early graduation from high school, Clark declined a scholarship to Penn State University in lieu of pursuing a musical career as a vocalist and banjo/guitar player with Mal Hallett's Orchestra, a popular dance band in the New England area that had offered Clark employment in 1934. He left the band in 1937 to free lance in New York City where he worked mostly with Tito's (5-piece) Relief Band at the Edison Hotel.

In 1939, Clark married Cecile Mae Kuster, who had been born and raised across the Susquenna River from Sunbury in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

In April, 1940, Bobby Burns (Tommy Dorsey's road manager) approached Clark with an invitation to join Dorsey's orchestra as guitarist and back-up singer for Frank Sinatra. Thus, Clark became part of Dorsey's renown aggregation, joining a rhythm section featuring Buddy Rich, Sid Weiss, and Joey Bushkin and sharing the stand over the years with great sidemen such as Ziggy Elman, Chuck Peterson, Don Lodice, Phil Stephens, Heine Beau, Jimmy Blake and Milt Raskin. That same month he began working with Tommy Dorsey as guitarist. He worked record dates and radio commercial program in NYC with TD's aggregation during summer of 1940 while residing in Jackson Heights, Long Island.

By Labor Day of 1940, at Dorsey's request, Clark assumed a role that would have a lasting effect on the rest of his life: He began singing the tenor part with the Pied Pipers, replacing Billy Wilson and sharing the lead with Jo Stafford while continuing dual role as guitarist in Tommy's rhythm section.. The ensuing years with the Pied Pipers is musical history...

In 1942, while filming "Ship Ahoy" in Hollywood with Dorsey during the day and playing the opening of the Palladium Ballroom with Dorsey during the night, Clark made a decision to move his wife and two children from Pennsylvania to Southern California. He rented a house in Culver City, until World War II housing shortages eased and he was able to purchase a home in Burbank. His brother, Vern, and Vern's wife, Louise, and daughter, Vernise, joined Clark and his family on the West Coast when Vern was discharged from the U. S. Navy.

During the Pied Piper's two-and-a-half years with Dorsey, the group effected a national following of their own. They left the Dorsey aggregation on Thanksgiving Day, 1942, to pursue work in clubs, on radio, and in recording studios on the West Coast of America. The perfect natural blending of four voices in harmony achieved by the Pipers, with Jo Stafford...and, later...June Hutton singing lead, has yet to be duplicated by any other vocal group...ever!

The Pied Pipers were the best-selling vocal group in America from 1945 to 1949, receiving multiple Down Beat awards and blending their talents with Johnny Mercer in his efforts to found and establish Capitol Records as a viable force in the recording industry of America.

Clark's vocal career with the Pied Pipers waned during the 1950's, when music tastes changed and rock 'n roll invaded the pop music scene, But Clark shifted gears and became a first-call group vocalist, joining "back-up-singers" accompanying major pop recording artists such as Sam Cooke in the late 1950's. Clark's voice is enmeshed with others of that era who joined forces singing "ooh-ahs" and "doo-waps" in the background. Still, he endeavored to keep the Pied Pipers name alive and the group intact and working, auditioning a wide array of female lead singers in efforts to recreate the perfect blend achieved with June Hutton or Jo Stafford singing lead.

In 1962, Clark was contacted by Tino Barzi, manager of Frank Sinatra, Jr., who presented him with a formidable offer to reform the Pied Pipers and take the group on the road with Frank Sinatra, Jr., Helen Forrest, Charlie Shavers, and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, led by Sam Donohue -- a package production that ended up touring America, Europe, South America and Asia during the ensuing five years.

Clark was always extremely aware of and concerned by the common problems of recording artists and vocalists. A member of the American Federation of Musicians (AFofM) since 1929 and of Local 47 (the Hollyood local) American Federation of Musicians since 1942, he also belonged to Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists for over 25 years, serving on the AFTRA Local Board of Directors for 9 years and the National Board for 6 years. He was employed by Local 47 AFofM to handle contracts and monitor and regulate recording sessions prior to his retirement in 1977.

Clark Yocum passed away in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 13, 1993, at the age of 80, from the debilitating effects of diabetes. He leaves behind two children, Judy Yocum Check and Thomas Clark Yocum, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, several of whom display remarkable musical aptitude and ability for their ages!

Many thanks to Judy Yocum for writing this biography about her father

Selected discography

Mal Hallett & His Orchestra (vocal by Clark Yocum)
Perfect 16019: Your head on my shoulder (1934)
Banner 33235: An earful of music (1934)
Vocalion 3235: Let's sing again (1936)
Vocalion 3278: Sweet misery of love (1936)
Decca 1282: You're looking for romance (1937)

Bing Crosby, Jane Wyman with 4 Hits & a Miss (Clark Yocum 1 of the male singers)
Decca 27678: In the cool, cool, cool of the evening (1951)

Sam Cooke (Clark Yocum in background vocal quartet)
Specialty 627: I don't want to cry/That's all I need to know (45rpm, 1958)


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