IT’S A LONG LONG WAY TO MARTINS FERRY

In my early boyhood in Cincinnati, we occasionally visited relatives clear across the state in Martins Ferry, Ohio (a small town through the woods and over the (Ohio) River from the larger town of Wheeling, West Virginia). Being between ages five to nine at the time, I don’t recall exactly how close the relatives were to us genetically, but back in those two-lane country roads days when interstate highways were just a gleam in father time’s eyes, they were distant relatives as far as I was concerned.

All this came back to me as I was thinking about how to introduce Ella Logan, a Scottish-born lass who came to the U.S. in 1932 and became a very popular singer on radio, Broadway, and records — many of which were upbeat versions of British Music Hall and Anglo-European folk songs, such as this pre-WW I era Irish air which has never died out:

From Martins Ferry and Tipperary, we turn to an Okie from Muskogee, Lee Wiley, who left Oklahoma in her teens to become one of the premier jazz vocalists of the 1930s, 40s & 50s. To quote jazz writer Will Friedwald: “What Mildred Bailey, Connee Boswell, and Lee Wiley added to the jazz vocabulary would vastly outlive their own careers; though each was more than a torch singer, each died with the knowledge that the torch had been passed on.” Here, she sings a torch song with a purpose:

Would it surprise you to learn that the above song was written by that most un-primitive of composers, Cole Porter? But Porter’s self-stated own favorite of his songs was LOVE FOR SALE, from his show THE NEW YORKERS, which opened on Broadway in December 1930. Because of critical objection to the song’s “taste,” the scene in which it was presented was changed from its original setting to Harlem’s Cotton Club, and the vocalist changed from a white vocalist to African-American singer Elisabeth Welch, who went on to a long career as an actress/recording artist, and died in 2003 at age 99.

Long live the memory of all of the above.