Stardusters

Photo of Stardusters

Best re­mem­bered for their work with Charlie Spivaks or­ches­tra, the Stardusters be­gan as a high school vo­cal trio in the early 1930s with mem­bers Curt Purnell, Glen Galyon and Dick Wylder. During the late 1930s, they started ap­pear­ing reg­u­larly on ra­dio. Purnell’s wife, Mary McKim, joined as a fourth mem­ber in 1939.

In late 1941, the Stardusters signed with Spivak. McKim and Purnell had di­vorced by that time, and she’d left the group, so Spivak teamed the three men with singer June Hutton, half-sis­ter to band­leader Ina Ray Hutton. They quickly be­came an in­te­gral part of Spivak’s early sound, help­ing the or­ches­tra leader to gain a fol­low­ing. The quar­tet was par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar among the col­lege crowd. Hutton some­times sang solo as well.

In September 1943, soon af­ter the or­ches­tra com­pleted film­ing on the Betty Grable pic­ture Pin-Up Girl, Spivak put the Stardusters on no­tice and be­gan look­ing for a re­place­ment. The band­leader gave no pub­lic rea­son for the move, only hint­ing that there had been dishar­mony. The quar­tet con­tin­ued with the or­ches­tra into early October but were gone by December. Spivak never re­placed them af­ter their de­par­ture, in­stead fo­cus­ing on new singer Irene Daye as fe­male vo­cal­ist.

After be­ing fired by Spivak, Hutton quit the Stardusters to go solo, and the three male mem­bers brought in an­other fe­male vo­cal­ist to take her place. The four singers made the the­ater cir­cuit and ap­peared in two mi­nor films re­leased in 1944, Universal’s Slightly Terrific and Republic’s Trocadero. Over the next two years, though, the quar­tet vir­tu­ally dis­ap­peared from the me­di­a’s radar un­til early 1946, when they backed singer Phil Brito on record­ings for the Musicraft la­bel and pro­vided vo­cals for two sides re­leased by Bill McCune and His Alpine Hotel Orchestra on Coronet. Later in 1946, they recorded for the Swan la­bel, backed by Phil Napoleon’s or­ches­tra.

In February 1948, the Stardusters inked a two-year man­age­ment con­tract with Johnny Brown of Spotlight Attractions, and their ca­reers be­gan to take off soon af­ter. The group ap­peared as reg­u­lars on the Mutual net­work’s sum­mer re­place­ment mu­si­cal give­away pro­gram Three for the Money, and they signed with Decca later that year, back­ing both Peter Lind Hayes and Evelyn Knight on sev­eral songs, in­clud­ing the lat­ter’s num­ber one hits A Little Bird Told Me” and Powder Your Face With Sunshine.” They also backed Billie Holiday on two num­bers, most fa­mously Weep No More.”

Early in 1949, the Stardusters sang with Monica Lewis on two sides and then recorded un­der their own name, with Gordon Jenkins pro­vid­ing or­ches­tra­tion, land­ing a top ten hit with I Don’t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore.” Follow-up at­tempts later that year with or­ches­tra­tion by Sy Oliver and Roy Rose proved less pop­u­lar. They backed Jack Haskell on his Decca record­ings late that year as well. Billboard mag­a­zine’s 1949 disk jockey poll placed the quar­tet as the tenth most pop­u­lar small singing group of the year.

Despite their suc­cess in 1949, the Stardusters dis­ap­peared again as the 1950s dawned. During the late 1940s, sev­eral other artists also called them­selves the Stardusters,” in­clud­ing a rhythm-and-blues act, a va­ri­ety re­vue act, an all-girl swing band and a trapeze duo. The name was also used by many acts dur­ing the 1950s, in­clud­ing a girl singing trio, a Japanese jazz en­sem­ble, and a white doo-wop group.

Music

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  • I Surrender Dear
    Charlie Spivak (June Hutton and the Stardusters), Okeh (1941)
  • This Is No Laughing Matter
    Charlie Spivak (June Hutton and the Stardusters), Okeh (1941)
  • Papa Nicolini
    Charlie Spivak (Garry Stevens and the Stardusters), Okeh (1941)
  • At Last
    Charlie Spivak (Garry Stevens and the Stardusters), Columbia (1942)
  • That Certain Party
    Peter Lind Hayes and the Stardusters, Decca (1948)
  • A Little Bird Told Me
    Evelyn Knight and the Stardusters, Decca (1948)
  • Weep No More
    Billie Holiday and the Stardusters, Decca (1948)
  • I Know, I Know, I Know
    Jack Haskell and the Stardusters, Decca (1949)
  • I Don't See Me In Your Eyes Anymore
    Stardusters (with Gordon Jenkins Orchestra), Decca (1949)

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Films

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  • Screenshot
    "Time Alone Will Tell"
    Charlie Spivak (Stardusters)
    from the film Pin Up Girl, 20th Century Fox (1944)

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Radio

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  • One Night Stand: Charlie Spivak
    October 1, 1943 (AFRS) 29:31

Sources

  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. “Stardusters.” IMDb. Accessed 29 Jul. 2016.
  3. The Online Discographical Project. Accessed 15 Jul. 2016.
  4. “The Stardusters.” OTRRpedia. Accessed 15 Jul. 2016.
  5. Orodenker, M.H. “On the Records.'” Billboard 3 Jan. 1942: 14.
  6. “Here's 'Mud in His Ears.'” Billboard 19 Sep. 1942: 62.
  7. “Spivak Orchestra for Paramount.” Toledo Blade 15 Apr. 1943: Peach Section, 3.
  8. “Stardusters Put on Notice by Charlie Spivak.” Billboard 18 Sep. 1943: 5.
  9. “Vaudeville Reviews: State, New York.” Billboard 18 Sep. 1943: 5.
  10. “Martha Raye Does a Solid 30G in Hub.” Billboard 1 Apr. 1944: 28.
  11. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 16 Mar. 1946: 96.
  12. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 27 Apr. 1946: 122.
  13. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 28 Dec. 1946: 26.
  14. “Spotlight Brightens.” Billboard 28 Feb. 1948: 41.
  15. “Radio News.” St. Petersburg Times 4 Jul. 1948: 27.
  16. Advertisement. Billboard 13 Nov. 1948: 27.
  17. “Number One Across the Music-Disk Board.” Billboard 5 Mar. 1949: 26.
  18. Advertisement. Billboard 30 Jul. 1949: 43.
  19. “The Billboard Third Annual Dick Jockey Poll: Small Singing Group.” Billboard 22 Oct. 1949: 34.
  20. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 24 Dec. 1949: 33.