I’m not one to brag about the reliability of my memory. In fact, just the opposite — I’ll be the first to admit that my memory is so full of holes that you could use it to make a chain-link fence. That’s why a lot of the songs I remember from my childhood are a little blurred as to how and where I first heard them. However, there are exceptions, and there is one song that I have no doubt about. Someone in our house – probably my Mother, but it could have been my Dad – bought that record and played it so often that even after all these years, I think I could still sing along with it.
Teresa Brewer was actually a show-biz veteran, appearing as a dancer at age 5 and later touring with the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, but by her teen years she led a pretty ordinary life, although she did occasionally sing on local radio. She couldn’t read music but she could belt out a song in her distinctive voice. She began to attract notice and soon found herself with an agent.
She was only 18 years old in 1949, when she made a record of a song called “Copenhagen”, a tune that her record company thought might get some attention for the fledgling singer. For the less-emphasized B-side of the record, they picked an obscure novelty song…but then a funny thing happened. Sales of the record began to build and when it peaked in 1950, they had a million-seller on their hands — but it was the B-side that became the hit, racking up countless plays on jukeboxes. The song was “Music! Music! Music!” and it made Teresa a star.
Selling a million records was quite a feat in those days, but Teresa followed that up with a number of hits. Her voice was a little different — clear as a bell, with a kewpie-doll sound that was very appealing to listeners, especially when used on the bouncy songs she continued to churn out. Throughout the 1950’s, tunes such as “Ricochet”, “Gonna Get Along Without You Now”, and “Till I Waltz Again With You” sold well and kept her popular and successful.
Her music fit well into the burgeoning country-pop sound, and some songs even approached a sort of early rock sound, as in “A Sweet Old Fashioned Girl”, which starts softly and then takes off like a rocket. As the years passed, her popularity lessened, but unlike many stars of the era she found new life in an unlikely source.
The second phase of her career developed in the 1970’s and probably was helped along by her marriage to record producer Bob Thiele, who was deeply entrenched in the jazz music industry. Teresa’s voice, by now a little huskier but still distinctive, combined with respected musicians such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Carter and others to create a series of well-regarded albums. A good example of Teresa’s later sound is Ellington’s “Mood Indigo”.
A long and varied career and the respect of her peers has earned Teresa a much-deserved place in music history, and I’ll always remember hearing that song around our house, as her voice celebrated the very thing we all enjoyed — music!