Happy 115th Birthday, Annette Hanshaw!

Cladrite sweetheart Annette Hanshaw was born Catherine Annette Hanshaw 115 years ago in Manhattan. For us, she’s the gold standard for songbirds of the late 1920s and early ’30s; we think she’s keen. Here are 10 AH Did-You-Knows:

  • Hanshaw came from something of a show biz family. Her father, Frank Wayne Hanshaw, loved the business so much he ran off to join the circus (he thought better of it and returned), and her aunt, Nellie McCoy, and cousin, Bob “Uke” Hanshaw, were popular and successful vaudeville performers.
  • Hanshaw grew up loving to sing—she performed for the guests at a series of very small hotels her father operated for a time and demo’d sheet music at a Mount Kisco music shop owned by her family—but she dreamed of making her mark as a painter, not a singer, even studying at the National School of Design for a year.
  • Hanshaw made her first professional recordings in 1926, recording a demo of six popular songs of the day for the Pathé label before recording her first commercial recordings—Black Bottom and Six Feet of Papa—in September of that year. She recorded for many labels and under many pseudonyms, including Gay Ellis, Dot Dare, and Patsy Young. She also sang in variety of styles, delivering sentimental songs in a more straightforward fashion and, when appropriate, jazzing peppy songs up a bit. She even did Helen Kane impersonations (on whom Betty Boop‘s vocal stylings were clearly based) on a number of recordings.
  • Hanshaw began to appear on the radio in 1929 and soon was a huge hit. As the twenties gave way to the thirties, she began to sing with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, and from 1932-34, she was featured on the very popular program Maxwell House Show Boat, which aired every Thursday evening, and she later did 39 weeks on Camel Caravan. Her success on radio did little to alleviate her anxiety about performing over the airwaves. “I’m so afraid I’ll fail, not sing my best,” she said before agreeing to appear on radio. “Suppose I should have to cough. Suppose I didn’t get just the right pitch. And all those people listening.”
  • At the height of her fame, Hanshaw was known as “The Personality Girl” and her trademark was ending each recorded performance with a winsome “That’s all!”
  • Hanshaw loved singing but was not at all confident of her voice and was, at best, a reluctant star. In her later years, when asked to assess the recordings she’d made during her prime, she had not a positive word to offer. She was her own worst critic, and it may have been this tendency that led to her (extremely) premature exit from show business. “I disliked all of [my records] intensely,” she said during a 1972 interview with radio host Jack Cullen. “I was most unhappy when they were released. I just often cried because I thought they were so poor, mostly because of my work, but a great deal, I suppose, because of the recording.”
  • Hanshaw’s favorites singers of the day were Marion Harris, Sophie Tucker, Blossom Seeley, Ruth Etting, Ethel Waters, and Connee Boswell.
  • Hanshaw composed two songs—Sweet One and Till Your Happiness Comes Along—but it’s unclear if either was ever published or recorded.
  • Uncomfortable in the spotlight, Hanshaw retired from show business in 1937 at the age of 36. She considered a return in the 1950s, recording a pair of private demos to test the waters, but, alas, no comeback was forthcoming.
  • The 2008 animated film Sita Sings the Blues, which retells the Indian epic poem The Ramayana from Sita’s perspective, used Annette Hanshaw’s recordings as its soundtrack. In 2010, her 1929 recording of Daddy Won’t You Please Come Home was used in the video game BioShock 2.

Happy birthday, dear Annette, wherever you may be!

Annette Hanshaw

Happy 133rd Birthday, Max Fleischer!

Max Fleischer and friendToday marks the 133rd birthday of animator Max Fleischer, who, along with his brother Dave, was responsible for creating Betty Boop, the first Popeye the Sailor Man cartoons, and the beautifully rendered Superman cartoons of the 1940s.

In the 1940s, Fleischer was the head of animation for The Jam Handy Organization, an industrial film company. This lighthearted newsreel from that outfit, illustrated by Fleischer, shows how versatile an illustrator he was.

Happy birthday, Max Fleischer, wherever you may be!

A New Deal in Video Games

We’re not what might be termed avid gamers. We kill a few idle minutes now and then playing Bejeweled on our smartphone, and we’ll play Mahjong on our laptop and then. We even own a first-generation Wii and have flirted with bowling a perfect game on it more than once.

But we own no XBox, no PS4, no … em, Gameboy? (Are those still a thing?) And we certainly don’t pretend to have our fingers on the pulse of what’s the latest and greatest thing coming down the gaming pike at any given time.

But there’s a game currently garnering a good deal of buzz that we’re quite excited about (and we think you will be, too). It’s called Cuphead, and it’s the first effort from a Canadian developer called Studio MDHR. Its animation is hand-drawn, as was the norm long ago, and best of all, it very faithfully reproduces the look of 1930s cartoons (particularly, to our eyes, the work of the Fleischer Brothers, best known for their Betty Boop and Popeye the Sailor cartoons).

The soundtrack will feature original jazz tunes, composed by Kristofer Maddigan, that will, according to the company’s website, “be recorded live with a group of musicians in the vein of 1930′s music.” We do hope, however, that the final product will feature music that is more authentically 1930s in flavor than is heard in the trailers below; that’s our only hesitation about the project at this point in time.

Cuphead won’t be available for purchase until 2015, but we trust it’ll be well worth the wait. Hec, we’ll likely come to consider Cuphead the Official Video Game of Cladrite Radio!