Stardusters

Photo of Stardusters

Best remembered for their work with Charlie Spivak’s orchestra, the Stardusters began as a high school vocal trio in Springfield, Ohio, during the early 1930s. Formed by Curt Purnell, Glen Galyon and Dick Wylder when they were sophomores, the trio decided to forego college in favor of a musical career, hitting the club and hotel circuit. By the end of 1930s, they had begun appearing regularly on radio. Purnell’s wife, Mary McKim, joined as a fourth member in 1939.

In September 1941, the Stardusters signed a five-year contract with Spivak, joining his new band on September 10 at the Central Theater in Passaic, New Jersey. 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 quit soon after. Spivak never replaced them after their departure, instead focusing on new singer Irene Daye as female vocalist. Galyon had left the group by that point, sometime after February 1943, replaced by Bob Lenn.[1]

After being fired by Spivak, the quartet decided to remain on the West Coast for radio and film work. They made their first picture that October, a Universal musical short which also featured Martha Tilton and Ray Eberle. Hutton quit the Stardusters soon after to go solo, and the three male members brought in another female vocalist[2] 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.

During 1945, the quartet disappears from the media, possibly due to members entering the service. Purnell was reported in the army somewhere in Italy in April of that year. In Down Beat magazine’s yearly poll at the end of 1945, however, the Stardusters placed 15th in the category of vocal combo, indicating some activity. In early 1946, 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. Lenn had left the group by that point, though the exact date of his departure is unknown.[3] Later in 1946, the group 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 as the 1950s dawned, for reasons unknown. During the 1940s, several other artists also called themselves “the Stardusters,” including a popular Canadian orchestra, 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.[4]

Notes

  1. Galyon possibly left because he entered the service. A Down Beat magazine photo in April 1945 showed Galyon in uniform touring the Pacific with a military quartet also called the Stardusters. ↩︎

  2. Hutton’s replacement is not named in sources. ↩︎

  3. Lenn had been gone for some time, long enough that Down Beat magazine asked his whereabouts in March 1946. ↩︎

  4. Finding information on later members of the Stardusters is difficult. Few sources mention any of the group members by name. ↩︎

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. “Routes.” Billboard 22 Jul. 1939: 60.
  6. Lesser, Jerry. “Radio Talent: New York.” Billboard 9 Dec. 1939: 8.
  7. “Where the Bands are Playing.” Down Beat 1 Jan. 1941: 21.
  8. “Solo Warblers Hexed in Philly.” Billboard 15 Feb. 1941: 6.
  9. “Program Reviews: Seven at Seven.” Billboard 15 Mar. 1941: 8.
  10. “Stardusters Quartet Signs Five-Termer With Spivak.” Billboard 13 Sep. 1941: 12.
  11. “Charlie Spivak Shaping Up As Great Band.'” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1941: 5.
  12. Orodenker, M.H. “On the Records.” Billboard 3 Jan. 1942: 14.
  13. “Here's 'Mud in His Ears.'” Billboard 19 Sep. 1942: 62.
  14. “Profiling the Players: Charlie Spivak and His Orchestra.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1942: 31.
  15. “'nother Hutton.” Down Beat 15 Feb. 1943: 19.
  16. “Spivak Orchestra for Paramount.” Toledo Blade 15 Apr. 1943: Peach Section, 3.
  17. “Stardusters Put on Notice by Charlie Spivak.” Billboard 18 Sep. 1943: 5.
  18. “Vaudeville Reviews: State, New York.” Billboard 18 Sep. 1943: 5.
  19. “Stardusters Stick to Coast.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1943: 2.
  20. “Martha Raye Does a Solid 30G in Hub.” Billboard 1 Apr. 1944: 28.
  21. “GI Stardusters.” Down Beat 1 Apr. 1945: 10.
  22. “Small Combos (Vocal).” Down Beat 1 Jan. 1946: 16.
  23. “Where Is?” Down Beat 11 Mar. 1946: 19.
  24. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 16 Mar. 1946: 96.
  25. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 27 Apr. 1946: 122.
  26. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 28 Dec. 1946: 26.
  27. “Spotlight Brightens.” Billboard 28 Feb. 1948: 41.
  28. “Radio News.” St. Petersburg Times 4 Jul. 1948: 27.
  29. Advertisement. Billboard 13 Nov. 1948: 27.
  30. “Number One Across the Music-Disk Board.” Billboard 5 Mar. 1949: 26.
  31. Advertisement. Billboard 30 Jul. 1949: 43.
  32. “The Billboard Third Annual Dick Jockey Poll: Small Singing Group.” Billboard 22 Oct. 1949: 34.
  33. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 24 Dec. 1949: 33.