Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bobby Breen - Songs At Yuletide

"My mother is in pictures,
You've seen her on the screen.
She gave chicken pox to Alan Ladd
And mumps to Bobby Breen."

Excerpt from "Ode from a Germ's Eye Viewpoint" by Percy Dovetonsils (aka Ernie Kovacs)

I first encountered the genius of Ernie Kovacs on my local PBS station in 1977. In those days, my brothers and I would place a tape recorder next to the speakers of the TV, record the audio, and listen to it repeated in lieu of a VCR. I quoted this poem frequently, placing the same emphasis on "Bobby BREEN" they way Percy Dovetonsils did.

That was the first time I became aware of someone named Bobby Breen. Curiosity got the the better of me and I went to my local library to consult its newest collection of World Book Encyclopedias. Breen was born in Canada and made his way to Hollywood as a youngster.

His first big break was several appearances singing on Eddie Cantor's radio show in the late 30s. His natural soprano voice separated him from many of the other child singers of the day and led him to RKO Studios. RKO featured him in several singing roles (go figure) in nine movies between 1936 and 1942.

His last film was "Johnny Doughboy" that featured 15-year old Bobby as one of several has-been child stars who want to put on a USO show for the troops! With his voice changed permanently thanks to puberty and a fading movie career, Breen turned to the stage and radio throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

This 10-inch record was released by London Records in 1950 and features nine Christmas songs by Breen (competently backed up by Bruce Campbell & His Orchestra - no, not THAT Bruce Campbell!). Most of the songs are standard Christmas carols and Breen fully sounds like a young adult as he sings; no evidence as a boy soprano here.

In later life, he appeared as a guest pianist with the NBC Symphony Orchestra and hosting a local New York TV show in the early 1950s. He continued to get work in nightclubs and television spots well into the 1960s.

Amazingly, in 1964, Breen signed with Motown Records and released several singles that sold very little. A full album was recorded but never released... anyone have a copy of that album?

Three years later, Breen gained immortality by making the cover of The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". He appears over George Harrison's left shoulder (unlike the hand over Paul McCartney which either belongs to a priest blessing a corpse or is a signal of death in Norway - I forget).

In the late 1970s, Breen retired for good and moved down to Tamarac, Florida. Restless, he started a local talent agency in 1978 and continues to run this enterprise today - at the ripe ol' age of 82!

Merry Christmas, Bobby!

Bobby Breen - Songs At Yuletide

Happy listening...


P.S. This 10" share is dedicated to Buster, the gent who runs the darn good blog Big 10-Inch Record. Check out his blog for other rare and exotic 10" records, included some amazing Christmas shares!


Buster said...

Hi Capt,

Thanks so much for this entirely unexpected shout-out. So nice of you!

I have to tell you that I never expected to have a Bobby Breen record dedicated to me. The last record dedicated to me was in circa 1966 - Hang On Sloopy, I think it was. (I don't think Bobby ever did a version of that.)

I'll have to send my little band of followers your way for this one.


PDMan said...

Wow - I'm a Kovacs fan so I remember the Bobby Breen reference, but I figured it was just the name of somebody on his crew (as he was prone to do.)