|<<<<BACKUkelele Ike Continued....
He made his movie debut in 1929 in Hollywood Revue of
1929, performing Singing In The Rain" and he had ANOTHER #1 hit! He
managed to score again in the 30s with the big recording of Its Only A
Paper Moon. He spent all of the30's and most of the 40s playing fourth and
fifth banana parts in some A, but mostly B and C list movies, singing and playing in many
of them, especially a continuing stint as a singing cowpoke in at least two different
series of films.
But dig this brother
.the clincher, the role that made the
voice of Ukelele Ike world famous, but left the man himself little more than a
.Cliff "Ukelele Ike" Edwards provided the talking and singing
voice for none other than Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disneys 1940 Pinocchio!
Thats right, the wistful recording of When You Wish Upon A Star you
remember from your childhood, that the evil Walt Disney empire has since used to drill their products into your brain, was sung in the
mellow tones of none other than Cliff Edwards. Ironically (and youll forgive me for
believing there was anything sinister in this) Edwards was not credited for his
contribution to the film. He also did voices for Dumbo" (the unfortunately
named character Jim Crow ?!?!?) and reprised his role as Jiminy Cricket in the
1947 short Fun and Fancy Free.
For the duration of the 40s and 50s, Ukelele Ike
worked pretty steadily in film, radio and television. Unfortunately he was dogged by demon
rum and chronic financial insolvency, and died in a Los Angeles nursing home in 1971.
But I didnt bring you here to bend your ear with a bunch of
Joe Franklin-esque nostalgia-babble ("Yes my friends
In my many conversations
with the GREAT Eddie Cantor
yadda yadda yadda"). I come to hep
you to the fact that for all of his great acheivements on stage and screen, Ukelele Ike
made some snappy little discs as one of the earliest scatters on records. The combination
of his mellow voice, his rhythmic ukelele strumming, and his wild scatting (he called it
"eefin") could be heard as early as 1924.
Now, exactly where 'scat' starts is a matter of some
dispute. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz jumps right from Louis Armstrong's "Heebie
Jeebies" in 1926 to Cab Calloway in the 30's and right on into the post-bop era. The whole
story is something else entirely. While the New Grove places the beginnings of scat in
very early, pre-recorded jazz, Cliff Edwards - the appellation "eefin" not
withstanding - was scatting on record years earlier than Pops (check out 1924's
'Fascinatin' Rhythm', a Top 10 hit that year) and very well at that. It's important to
mention that the years between Armstrong and Calloway were crowded with talented and
innovative 'scatters', from Leo Watson and the Spirits of Rhythm, to the Boswell Sisters
to the mighty Mills Brothers, who's vocal imitation of instruments has NEVER been
While many of Edward's hits were standard issue crooning
(and despite his often frightening mug, he had quite a pleasant voice), many of them were
also hot jazz, featuring many of the great instrumentalists of the day, including
guitarists Eddie Lang and Dick McDonough, Miff Mole, Red Nichols, Adrian Rollini, as well
as Ike's own not insubstantial ukelele strumming. Cuts like 'That's My Weakness Now'
and 'Halfway To Heaven' feature classic dance band sounds with Edwards' wicked
'muted trumpet' scatting.
Ukelele Ike also recorded acouple of risque "party
records" - sold from behind the counter in plain brown wrappers - among them 'I'm
Going To Give It To Mary With Love', 'The Tired Hillbilly' and 'I'm A Bear In A Lady's
Boudoir'. Imagine if you will, the 'Filthy Sounds Of Jiminy Cricket'.
In the end, Cliff 'Ukelele Ike' Edwards needs to be
remembered as more than a footnote. A man with two substantial careers - as a hit
singer/Broadway star and character actor (and after one look at the list on the right, you
have to admit he found his niche ) - and the one of the stars of a very interesting,early,
and important part of jazz vocal history.
Some of Ike's Film Roles
'Hot Rocks' Harris
Snipe, a Tramp
One of Ike's dirty records!
Look up Cliff 'Ukelele Ike' Edwards at
the Internet Movie