Sunday, August 19, 2012

JOAN BARTON : THE MOST FUN I HAD WITHOUT LAUGHING

With Rusty Warren adult comedy albums selling well, and looking fondly back at the success they had with cute Dorothy Provine, some funster at Warner Bros. decided it might be safe and profitable to put out an album of mildly risque songs done by a saucy-voiced blond. That's as good a theory as any for how record racks briefly held Joan Barton's album of sanitized Bessie Smith numbers ("Kitchen Man") and "sophisticated" tunes that Charlie Drew and other hotel nightclub bon vivants sang ("She Had to Go And Lose It At the Astor").

And so we take a very quick look 'n' listen at Joan's "Low Lights and Laughs" album. "The Most Fun I Had Without Laughing," won't be the most fun you've had at the blog, and you won't be laughing. But you've gained in your knowledge of Joan the Obscure. (Anyone get the Thomas Hardy reference? Now you see what becomes of literacy...writing to nearly nobody on a free blog!)

Just who the hell was Joan Barton? Well, at 14, dubbed "Mary Ann," she sang with Phil Spitalney's Orchestra. She sang on radio shows hosted by Rudy Vallee and other names nobody cares much about anymore. She did the obligatory USO tours and was welcomed by the soldiers because her measurements were 37-24-35. After the war, 1947, age 22, Joan reached the height of her success with a role in John Wayne's "Angel and the Badman," performing several songs. Sadly, attention spans were as short then as they are now, and she didn't get much film work after that. After her follow-up 1948 film "Mary Lou," she was pretty much a has-been.

Barton managed an "Ed Sullivan Show" appearance in 1950, worked nightclubs, and went from dating A-list guys like Dick Powell to marrying used-car dealer "Madman" Muntz, notorious for his pioneering hard-sell and totally ludicrous TV commercials. Joan would soon be Barton-Upon-Humble, because the "Madman" was not the kind to stay married to one woman for long. Muntz went bankrupt in 1959 and in 1962 Joan failed to make cash registers ring for Warners. What happened to her after "Low Lights and Laughs" I have no idea, except there was the inevitable: she eventually died.

A salute to Joan Barton as we near the anniversary of her death, August 27, 1976. She was a fine singer. If you're not morbid, wait a month and celebrate her birthday, September 20th, 1925.

JOAN BARTON

The Most Fun I Had Without Laughing

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2 comments:

al gray said...

Well...for the most part a cool article with mostly factual stuff. She died as age 50 because she had gotten the fame bug with her early success. One barrier was that she fell from a ramp at a USO show during WW2 and broke her back. She was physical unable to perform. This is the partial background of the sad slide into alcoholism. Lucky for her she married big band arranger Jerry Gray who took care of her regardless. But he died August 10 1976. Barton died in 1977 nine months later...of alcoholism. Fame is a killer.

Ill Folks said...

Thanks, Al. So sad to hear about her troubles. Kind of odd that with her physical ailments, she turned up on WB with this odd album. (I do realize that back then, promoting an album didn't necessarily involving touring or doing interviews.) "What demon is like alcohol?" E.A. Poe