View Full Version : Music Teddy Bear Picnic is Freaking Me Out

02-19-2010, 11:34 AM
Hauntingly Creepy...

Gilbert Russell is Claudia Russell's father (northern California musician), but Claudia did not know him ever as Val Rosing.

Here's a press release Claudia's husband Bruce put together:

February 21, 2010 marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Val Rosing, one of Britain’s most popular singers of the Golden Age of Radio (Rosing died in 1969). Rosing is best known for the original 1930s recordings of "The Teddy Bears Picnic," "Try A Little Tenderness” and more than a hundred other titles on labels such as Columbia, Decca and Rex.

To celebrate his centennial Radio Rhythm Records has released Try A Little Tenderness, a CD comprised of 25 of Rosing’s best recordings, meticulously restored. And through this release a “second life” has been revealed to Rosing's own daughter, Claudia, herself a singer and musician.

Rosing had a keen ear for material and great songs seemed to find him. He was a member of many of Britain’s top dance bands, including the Henry Hall Orchestra, Jack Payne's BBC Dance Orchestra, the Ray Noble Orchestra, Spike Hughes and His Decca-Dents, as well as his own swing combo, the Radio Rhythm Rascals. But despite his remarkable success in the 1930s, he was largely forgotten due to a set of strange circumstances.

In 1937 Rosing landed a role in a film, “Feather Your Nest.” MGM honcho Louis B. Mayer saw the film, brought Rosing to America and dubbed him Gilbert Russell. Mayer can be heard on a 1938 recording of the Maxwell House Hour personally introducing Rosing to the American audience for the first time as “Gilbert Russell.”

Though he never became one of MGM’s big stars as the front-page Melody Maker headline predicted, he adopted Gilbert Russell as his name, America as his home, and reinvented himself as a "legitimate" singer and actor, performing with opera companies in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City and on Broadway and radio in the ’40s and ’50s. During the 1960s he became one of Hollywood's top vocal coaches with students such as George Chakiris, Louise Sorel, Shirley Jones, Tina Louise, Natalie Wood and others.

Rosing’s UK fans never heard of him again by the time he legally changed his name in 1938. And while the has mostly faded from public recognition, his music hasn’t: children and parents the world over still enjoy his recording of “A Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” and his performance was used in Microsoft’s roll-out of the Xbox in 2006.

Music runs in Rosing's family: His father was a renowned Russian opera tenor (Vladmir Rosing) who also came to the US, was a director at the Eastman School in Rochester, NY and performed at Carnegie Hall and other world-class venues.

Rosing/Russell met his second wife, dancer Marilyn Pendry, on stage in Los Angeles in a production of “Song of Norway.“ They had one child, Claudia. Gilbert Russell died in 1969 when Claudia was barely a teenager.

As Claudia tells it, her family had no idea about her father's early career.

“I knew nothing of my father’s life as Val Rosing.” It was not until Ray Pallett, a British fan journalist, put two and two together and contacted Russell’s US family that Claudia heard her father's work or even the name Rosing. She and her husband, Bruce Kaplan, have spent the last 10 years putting together pieces of the puzzle, trolling arcane music special interest groups, Internet fan sites and eBay for information, records or other artifacts on her father’s first career.

Not suprisingly, Claudia Russell is a professional singer-songwriter on the folk festival and coffeehouse circuit, born with the family gift—an unusually emotive voice. Claudia is as American as her father was British, and evolved in a different era, so their styles are quite different, but by chance they recorded one song in common: “Home On the Range.”

Although Rosing cut lots of sentimental pop songs with the big orchestras, his true love was jazz. The project unearthed some first-rate small combo recordings that assure us Rosing and his pals were listening to everything from Louis Armstrong to Django Reinhardt.

“The musicianship on these records is amazing,” says Kaplan. “The Spike Hughes version of St James Infirmary is a classic. Guys like Spike Hughes, Henry Hall and Len Fillis were rock stars of the day.”

Kaplan notes that discoveries await, as only 90 of the 125 records Val recorded have been found and archived. Val’s Rosing’s web site has links to vintage artifacts, music and video clips: http://www.valrosing.com

“In the music business, people are lucky to have one successful career.” Says Claudia. “My Dad had two.”

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