September 26, 1889|
September 7, 1943 (aged 53)|
New York City, New York
Frank Crumit (September 26, 1889 – September 7, 1943) was an American singer, composer, radio entertainer and vaudeville star. He shared his radio programs with his wife, Julia Sanderson, and the two were sometimes called "the ideal couple of the air."
Attending local schools, Crumit graduated from high school in 1907. After briefly attending an Indiana military academy, he entered Ohio University and later Ohio State University. His primary purpose for entering Ohio University was to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Dr. C. K. Crumit, who had been a medical doctor. He instead graduated from Ohio University with a degree in electrical engineering. This career did not last long, as his passion seemed to be music and the old ballads of the 19th century; his love of music and theater dated back to his early years in the Methodist Church choir and led him to pursue a musical career. He studied voice in Cincinnati and then tried out unsuccessfully for opera in New York City.
By 1913, in his early 20s, he was performing on the vaudeville stage, first with a trio and then a year later on his own, playing ukulele; he was referred to as "the one-man glee club" in New York City's night spots. He appeared in the Broadway musical Betty Be Good in 1918, where he was the first to play the ukulele on Broadway. He was a success there and went on to Greenwich Village Follies of 1920, which featured his song, "Sweet Lady," written with David B. Zoob. Crumit began making records for American Columbia in 1919, using the acoustic or "horn" method of recording (he also occasionally added vocals and banjo to recordings by the Paul Biese Trio on the same label). By the end of 1923, Crumit was singing at Victor Talking Machine.
He met Julia Sanderson, then a musical comedy star, in 1922. Sanderson, 38, was sued for divorce in September of that year by her then-husband, U.S. Navy Lieut. Bradford Barnette, with Crumit, 33, named as co-respondent. Crumit was married to a Connecticut woman at the time. Crumit and Sanderson were married in 1928, and they retired briefly to a country home near Springfield, Mass., but two years later they began working as a radio team, singing duets and engaging in comedy dialogues. They performed as the "Singing Sweethearts of the Air."
In 1930, they continued with a popular quiz show, The Battle of the Sexes, which ran 13 years, Crumit and Sanderson drove from Massachusetts to New York City, a four-hour trip, twice a week to do their radio show. Their final broadcast was aired the day before Crumit's death of a heart attack in New York City on September 7, 1943.
His biggest hits were made during the 1920s and early 1930s; they included popular phonograph records of "Frankie and Johnnie", "Abdul Abulbul Amir", "A Gay Caballero" (he even recorded a sequel, "The Return of a Gay Caballero"), "The Prune Song", "There's No-one With Endurance Like The Man Who Sells Insurance", "Down In De Canebrake", "I Wish That I'd Been Born in Borneo", "What Kind of a Noise Annoys an Oyster?", and "I Learned About Women From Her". Crumit is credited with composing at least 50 songs in his career, including the Ohio State University fight song, "Buckeye Battle Cry" in 1919 for a song contest. He composed and published "Hills of Ohio" in 1941. His song "Donald the Dub" was used as the theme music to the BBC radio adaptation of P. G. Wodehouse's Oldest Member.
Crumit's "Hello My Baby" was extended and recorded by Ivor Biggun in the late 1970s, being one of Biggun's rare "clean" songs.
- "Frank Crumit, radio entertainer, passes," Los Angeles Times (Associated Press), September 8, 1943, page 13. A library card may be required to access this link.
- Ohio State Birth Record Microfilm 301032 ref vBp80
- Whitcomb, Ian (2013). Ukulele Heroes: The Golden Age. Hal Leonard. p. 43. ISBN 9781458416544.
- Tranquada, Jim (2012). The Ukulele: a History. University of Hawaii Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-8248-3544-6.
- Stanley Green's Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre p.409
- Victor Matrix B29084 [song title Sweet Alice] ledger entry dated 14 December 1923 states First Recording by this Artist
- "Julia Sanderson Sued for Divorce," Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1922, page I-24. A library card may be required to access this link.
- "Ask the Globe," The Boston Globe, December 19, 1997 Registration is required to access this link.
- University of North Carolina Southern Folklife collection
- Walsh, Tom (2013). The Martin Ukulele: The Little Instrument That Helped Create a Guitar Giant. Hal Leonard. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-4768-6879-0.
- Frank Crumit biography by Tim Gracyk
- Collection of Crumit's songs, from the Internet Archive (all in open source).
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