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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

It's Been So Long - Helen Ward


It's Been So Long

It's Been So Long
Helen Ward
Orchestra under the direction of Percy Faith
Columbia CL 6271 (10 inch LP)

From the back cover: The charming girl on the cover of this set has enjoyed a unique career. She left New York University in the middle of her sophomore year to join a new band just formed by a young clarinetist named Benny Goodman. It was New Year's Eve when she made her debut with Benny. Two years later, in December 1936, Benny Goodman was the biggest and hottest name in the band business. Helen had reached the top of her profession as a band singer, and she threw it all over for marriage.

Although the marriage broke up a few years later, Helen did not at first return to singing in public, except for brief appearances with Gene Krupa and Harry James, her close friends from the Goodman band, and a season on the Camel radio show with Bob Crosby. She also made occasional recordings with Krupa, Crosby, James, Teddy Wilson and Joe Sullivan. During World War II, she toured extensively with the orchestras of Hal McIntyre and Harry James. In 1946 and '47, she became a radio producer for an independent New York station; among her programs were the Morey Amsterdam, Vic Damone and Toni Arden shows.

Helen was happily re-married and settled down when one day in October 1952 her telephone rang and there I was at the other end inviting her to a cocktail party in honor of Fletcher Henderson, the great arranger, who had done so much for the Goodman band of the thirties. Although Helen did not know it then, this was the first step which Benny and I had cooked up toward having her come back and sing in public again.

The plot centered around the fact that Benny was organizing an all-star band to tour in the spring of 1953, with as many of the former stars as were available. The conversation got around to the business of using a vocalist, and went something like this: "How," we both said simultaneously, "about Helen Ward?" Well, neither of us had heard Helen sing in years, but we knew that kind of singer would always be good.

As Helen sang in the lyrics of the special-material song which Frank Loesser and Milton DeLugg created for her return to Benny, "he didn't even have to ask me twice". Helen came down to the Columbia Studios one night, and after warming the band up with an instrumental, Benny signaled Helen to come over and make a side. (We still hadn't heard her sing.) But from he first four bars we knew we were in. If anything, Helen was better than ever.

Helen went on that tour with Benny; although Benny had to drop out after the first ten days when he suffered a physical collapse in Boston, the tour went on without him and was still a phenomenal success. Everywhere she appeared, Helen found that her old friends turned out in cheering droves, and that the newcomers who had not heard her in public before were just as enthusiastic. This double-barreled success which Helen enjoyed was the final bit that earned her the right to an album of her own.

This record evolved out of a series of conferences among Helen, myself and Percy Faith, Columbia's extraordinarily versatile East Coast arranger and conductor. The sessions were a happy dream; Percy flipped over Helen, Helen thought Percy was just great, and the musicians were inspired by both of them. The results, as you can hear, justified everyone's excitement.

It's Been So Long
You Brought A New Kind Of Love To Me (Two Versions)
You're Mine
I'm Nobody Baby
Same Old Moon
When You Make Love To Me (Don't Make Believe)
It All Depends On You
Nice Work If You Can Get It

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