For TV fans, there's only one Jack Larson, the personable actor who played Jimmy Olsen on "Superman" in the 50's.
But what about those dusty 45's that say "Jack Larson" on the label? Haven't record stores jacked the price to $20 or $30 because "It's the guy from "Superman?" Didn't the album notes for the CD "Hollywood Hi-Fi" include "Roaches" and state it was sung by the actor from the "Superman" show?? Yes! Yes! Which only proves that the average record seller is a dope, and not everyone who writes album notes does research.
Illfolks exposes the truth. There are TWO guys named Jack Larson, a robust young singer and a mildly husky-voiced actor. While people often talk one way and sing another (Jim Nabors comes to mind), anyone hearing "Jack Larson" sing would instantly have to doubt if it was the same guy who played Jimmy Olsen. Here's the facts...
In 1959, Fraternity Records released a single by Jack Larson, a year after "Superman" left the air. Larson the actor was born in 1928 and was 30 when the show ended its run in 1958. So how could Jack Larson be marketed as a teen idol? He couldn't and wasn't. You can bet if actor Larson suddenly began singing, he would've capitalized on his "Jimmy Olsen" fame, and all the books about Superman and George Reeves would've mentioned his foray into music. They don't.
Let's check Billboard, August 24, 1959. There's an article about "the signing of Jack Larson singer-impressionist of the U.S. Army's "Rollin' Along" show, to a six-year management and recording pact." No mention of "Superman." The article continues: "Larson, who for two years in a row was voted the No. 1 talent in the Army show, had his initial release on the Frat label last week, a novelty tune titled "Roaches." Flip is "Little Miss Starry Eyes." He opens for Lee Zeiger at the Casino Royal in Washington, Monday night…Larson is also set for a spot on Ed Sullivans' all-Army show August 30. He winds up his Army hitch Tuesday…"
The singing Larson was given many a chance at Fraternity. Following Roaches/Little Miss Starry Eyes, there was the 1960 release Autumn Hurt/Drifting Down the River, and in 1961 two attempts. First came "Hammer Bell Song" (a variation on "If I Had a Hammer") backed with the novelty "The Way She Laughs," which has the lines: "I don’t know what’s the matter with this heart of mine, I’m in love with a girl that looks like Frankenstein”
Jack's second single for 1961 was "Back to School Blues" (b/w Lonely Part of Town) which was the number he sang in the 1961 movie "Teenage Millionaire." After one more single for Fraternity in 1962 ("The Beauty"), Jack got a brief major label deal with Dot, issuing Do Yourself a Favor/We're Goin' Back. My research leads me to the Billboard issue of April 7th, 1962, when the deal was announced:
Article title: "Dot to Release some Fraternity Album and Singles Record Product." And the details: "Fraternity's president, Harry Carlson, announced his deal with Randy Wood of Dot. The idea was for the indie label to get better distribution…Carlson, whose Fraternity label began operation in 1954, will retain his rights to the Fraternity tag, but two of his top artists, comedian-singer Jack Larson and the Charmaines, femme trio, will also appear on the Dot label. Two singles, one by Larson…and another by the Charmaines….will be released by Dot around mid-April…The lot of the smaller independent record firm is becoming increasingly difficult and the sale of the album catalog to Dot is the only thing that made it possible for the Fraternity label to continue in business….Some Fraternity titles, including a few of Larson's, were released in the UK on the Top Rank label…."
Young Larson's last memorable show biz moment came in November of 1963, when he deliberately sang off key and did hack comic impressions on a "Dick Van Dyke Show" episode called "Big Max Calvada."
Sheldon Leonard played the title character, a gangster who is seeking a nightclub booking for his nephew, talent-challenged entertainer Kenny Dexter (played by Jack Larson, Illfolks screen captures to your right).
So there you have it. You read it here first, at Illfolks. The "Hollywood Hi-Fi" CD issued a few years ago, with liner notes claiming Jack "Jimmy Olsen" Larson sang "Roaches" is wrong. So is the 1994 book "Celebrity Vocals" from Goldmine. Pretty sad that two authors didn't think to question what they were hearing, or wonder if there were two guys named "Jack Larson." Back in the late 90's the actor Jack Larson was very easy to reach (I have a few autographed photos to prove it) and he would've written back if asked a question intended for publication. Sadder that a CD company and Goldmine failed to catch the error and neither had an editor or proofreader good at fact-checking. And most surprising of all: this is one of the few times that information you find on an Internet blog actually has the correct information! Illfolks is RIGHT and the other two are WRONG. Jeepers, do yourself a favor and hear the singing "Jack Larson" sing "Do Yourself a Favor."
JACK LARSON - DO YOURSELF A FAVOR
Update: Thanks to Fred, for letting me know that Jack is alive and well, and working as LARRS JACKSON, doing voiceovers, commercials, and film work. Here's LARRS today.