|Brief history of the group|
|Eight of them
The Pied Pipers are formed in Hollywood in early 1938 during the making of movie musical "Alexander's Ragtime Band". They are an octet consisting of the former vocal groups The Four Esquires, The Three Rhythm Kings and Jo Stafford, one member of The Stafford Sisters trio. The original seven male members are Hal Hopper, Chuck Lowry, John Huddleston, Woody Newbury, Dick Whittinghill, Bud Hervey and George Tait.
Later that same year, they're brought to the attention of Tommy Dorsey's arrangers Paul Weston and Axel Stordahl by Yvonne and Alyce King of The King Sisters. Tommy Dorsey hires the group to sing on his Raleigh-Kool Cigarette program in New York, starting December 28, 1938.
bad luck strikes when after six or seven weeks the
British sponsor comes to visit one of the broadcasts. He
strongly disapproves of the modern vocal arrangements and
the Pipers are fired on the spot. In June 1939, before
leaving New York, they cut four sides for Victor Records,
none of these manage to enter the charts. Back in
California, they record 2 sides for the obscure Ammor
By the end of the year, the group is down to a foursome (Jo Stafford, her then husband John Huddleston, Chuck Lowry and Billy Wilson) and they are asked to join Tommy Dorsey's orchestra in Chicago. Not much later, another young singer is hired to replace Dorsey's "boy vocalist" Jack Leonard. His name? None other than young, skinny Frank Sinatra, with whom the Pipers record quite a few hits during their time with TD's ork. The most memorable among these are chart-toppers "I'll never smile again" and "There are such things" as well as "Stardust", "It started all over again", "Oh! Look at me now" and two-sided "Let's get away from it all" (latter two with Connie Haines). The group's first commercial recording with their new boss is made on February 1st 1940: "What can I say after I say I'm sorry?", an oldie from the 1920's. On Labor Day that same year Billy Wilson is replaced by Clark Yocum, who had been Dorsey's guitar player since April 1940.
Lead singer Jo Stafford also makes a number of solorecords with TD, of which the first is "For you", released on a 12-inch disc. In the summer of 1941 she has a big hit with the spiritual-like "Yes indeed", a duet with Dorsey arranger Sy Oliver.
While part of TD's organization, the group appears in 3 movies: "Las Vegas Nights" (1941), "Ship Ahoy" (1942) and "DuBarry was a lady" (1942, released in '43). In "DuBarry..." they team up with Dick Haymes, who replaced Frank Sinatra in early September '42.
November 1942 they leave Dorsey after a quarrel at the
railway station. By this time they are a well-known
entity and head for Hollywood where they secure radio
work and... a recording contract!
1943 the foursome appears on radio with Bob Crosby's
Orchestra and are featured on "Johnny Mercer's Music
Shop" with singer/songwriter/producer Johnny Mercer
and Ella Mae Morse. Later in the year they sign with the
new Capitol label, co-founded by Johnny Mercer. Their
first Capitol single is a cover version of Al Dexter's
"Pistol Packin' Mama", but fails to chart. By
the end of the year, they lose John Huddleston to the
army. He is replaced by one of the original eight Pipers,
If it ain't Jo....it's June!
In June 1944, Jo Stafford leaves the group to pursue her solo career and is replaced by June Hutton, former member of Charlie Spivak's vocal group The Stardusters. For the second half of the year The Pied Pipers and Jo Stafford are featured guests on Johnny Mercer's "Music Shop".
The closing theme is entitled "DREAM", written by Mercer and sung by the Pipers. In the last week of this radio show (early December '44) the song is finally recorded and it becomes a huge hit, eventually topping the chart in May 1945. They are accompanied by the orchestra of Paul Weston, who accompanies them on almost all of their records as well as other Capitol artists such as Johnny Mercer, Andy Russell, Margaret Whiting and Jo Stafford, whom he marries in 1952.
They are reunited with Frank Sinatra as regular guests on his "Songs By Sinatra" radioshow which runs from September 1945 until June 1947 and even wax a few tunes together for Columbia Records during this period.
While with the Capitol label, the Pipers back Johnny Mercer on many of his recordings including "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the positive", "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe", "Candy" (with Jo Stafford), "Personality" and "Winter wonderland". Other Capitol artists aided on disc by the foursome are Jo Stafford, Andy Russell and Margaret Whiting. They also have hits of their own such as "The trolley song", "In the moonmist", "Mam'selle" and "My happiness" (their last disc to hit the charts - in 1948).
Just to give an indication of their immense popularity: they were voted TOP VOCAL GROUP in the Down Beat polls for SIX CONSECUTIVE YEARS! (1944 - 1949)
1949 they switch to RCA Victor, where they are
accompanied on their discs by Skip Martin, no stranger to
them, since they had worked with him before in the
mid-Forties. A year later, June Hutton leaves the group
to start a career as a solosinger.
Although they do not appear on any music charts in the 1950's (or later), the group remains active in the recording studios, backing up artists such as Vic Damone and Billy Eckstine with various lead singers including Virginia Maxey, Louanne Hogan and Sue Allen. In December 1956 they appear on a televised tribute to the late Tommy Dorsey, with June Hutton singing lead for this special occasion.
Aside from a few so-called Telescriptions, no known films are made by/with the group in the 1950s/'60s. They do appear several times on the Abbott & Costello Colgate Comedy Hour television show for three consecutive seasons (1951 - 1954), under the names The Four Pipers and The Pied Pipers.
By 1955, the quartet consists of Sue Allen, Clark Yocum, Lee Gotch and Allan Davies. In this line-up they record a tribute album to TD, a Christmas album and a 'swing' album (with Jerry Gray) between 1957 and 1962.
In 1967, longest remaining member (for over 25 years!) Clark Yocum, no longer able to tour along, leaves the Pipers as an active member. The group continues performing (later with female lead singers Deborah Tompkins and Margie Gibson) and even records a single in 1979 and one last album in 1982!
Stafford, the last known living member of the original
Pied Pipers group, passed away on July 16 2008, at