Saturday, July 26, 2008


...ah, but her music will live on.

Jo Stafford, one of the great Big Band/pop/jazz singers of the '40s and '50s, recently passed away at age 90. Though she recorded some classic sultry torch ballads with a honey-hued voice that made servicemen ache for home, she had another, slightly anarchic side to her that you won't find in the recordings of, say, Billie Holiday or Peggy Lee - a twisted side project she did with her husband, bandleader Paul Weston.
As "Jonathan and Darlene Edwards," she was the nasally, slightly off-key vocal half of the world's most inept lounge duo, while her hubbie was the accompanist, always attempting lush, beautiful piano stylings, and never quite getting there, like what Liberace would sound like after being pushed down a flight of stairs.

One of the motivations for the act was that they were secretly taking the piss out of their boss at Columbia Records, the
notorious schlock-meister Mitch Miller. If he ever caught on, he never admitted it.

At first, Stafford and Weston wouldn't own up to the fact that they were Jonathan and Darlene. Their first album had liner notes claiming that they merely discovered the Edwards working a lounge in New Jersey. But the truth quickly came out and they became a novelty music sensation, even winning a comedy Grammy in 1963.

The humor was subtle - smart-alecks would put on their records at parties, and if you weren't paying attention, they sounded almost competent. But after a few too many flubbed notes, party-goers would choke on their martinis and ask, "Uh, who is this...?"

Historians take note! They were probably the first lounge parodists, preceding Richard Cheese, Bill Murray's "Nick" character on "Saturday Night Live," and, believe it or not, The Beatles - "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)" was one of the first lounge parodies recorded. But Jonathan and Darlene started in the late '50s, after Stafford's mainstream singing career was winding down.

Most lounge satires emphasize the smarmy nature of the performers, but there was a naive sweetness to Jonathan and Darlene. You felt sorry for them. They were really trying to put on a great show, but everything was going wrong.

The Edwards made one last record, a single in 1977. It's one of the best song parodies ever. The Helen Reddy cover is funny, but The Bee Gees demolition just absolutely kills me.

Jonathan and Darlene Edwards "Stayin' Alive"
Jonathan and Darlene Edwards "I Am Woman"

Lots more of the Edwards' output can be found here, courtesy of the Cheese Factory.

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