The Personality Girl resurfaces

Annette Hanshaw, one of the most revered performers in the Cladrite Radio pantheon, was a very busy gal for a few years in the late 1920s and early ’30s. She recorded dozens of memorably jazzy pop sides (or were they poppy jazz?) between 1926 and 1934, under a variety of names and for several record labels (as was so often the norm in those days), and made innumerable radio appearances between 1932 and 1935. In fact, the readers of Radioland magazine voted Hanshaw, known in those days as “The Personality Girl,” their favorite singer of 1935.

Tommy Dorsey himself once called Hanshaw “a musician’s singer.”

So it was a huge loss to the world of pop and jazz music when Hanshaw retired from show business after marrying Pathé Records executive Herman “Wally” Rose. She made her last record in 1934 and appeared on the radio for the final time in 1937.

In recent years, much of Hanshaw’s recorded output has made its way to CD, boosting her current popularity and keeping her in the public eye. Her songs are even featured prominently in director Nina Paley’s 2009 animated film Sita Sings the Blue.

Though a rumored pair of mysterious demo records, cut many years after her retirement when Hanshaw was said to be considering a comeback, have never been released to the public, some “homemade” recordings Hanshaw made recently surfaced on youtube.com.

The person who posted the recordings, whose youtube handle is merrihew, offers the following background:

These two selections are the best sounding of a batch of homemade recordings that Annette Hanshaw did. Her husband copied them onto a tape for a friend of mine. I don’t know when they were made but on one of the records she refers to “Steve Cochran’s looks”. He was a big movie star for a couple of years around 1950. So that’s a hint. Unfortunately the sound on the others is pretty bad.

For Hanshaw fans, these recordings, even lacking as they admittedly are in fidelity and clarity, are an unexpected and delightful gift.

We’ve posted what merrihew says are the best of the recordings as this week’s Cladrite Clip (look to the sidebar on the left), but you can hear other, more muffled and scratchy snippets of songs from those home recording sessions at the links below:

If you’ve not been exposed to Hanshaw, we encourage you to give a listen to some of her earlier work online, at Last.fm, RedHotJazz.com, or one of the many other sites where streaming music can be heard. You’ll also hear Hanshaw often on Cladrite Radio.

We think it best to hear her at her best first, and then give these later, lo-fi recordings a listen to get an idea what might have been if, in fact, Hanshaw, who died of cancer in 1985, had undertaken a comeback.

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