If you’re like me, you would assume that the biggest hit record of World War II was probably something along the lines of Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood” or maybe the Andrews Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” but even though they were very popular they weren’t the biggest. That would be Elton Britt’s “There’s A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere,” which is said to have sold over 4 million copies — an enormous number for that era.
A yodeling singer in the tradition of Jimmie Rodgers (and later Slim Whitman), Elton Britt was born in Arkansas as James Britt Baker and changed his name when he began his career in the early 1930s. Still just a teen, he spent several years performing with a variety of musical acts, gaining experience and working around the country.
By the close of the decade he’d managed to sign a record deal, and soon began to hit the studio. Although he did well enough with his initial efforts, it was his 1942 record of “There’s A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere” that really hit the target with the record-buying public. The song’s patriotic message became so well-known and beloved that Britt was even invited by President Roosevelt to sing it at the White House.
For the rest of the war and a few years beyond, Britt continued to do well in record sales, with a number of Top Ten hits to his credit. Among his best were “Someday (You’ll Want Me To Want You)” and one of his own compositions, “Chime Bells,” but he also had many that featured his yodeling talent. Along the way he even managed to land singing parts in a couple of movies, but by the 1950s his popularity was beginning to fade. In the decade before his death in 1972 he pretty much retired, but he could look back on a prolific recording career, one that included over 600 singles and 60 albums — including the biggest record of World War II.