November 24, 1924|
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||June 27, 2006
West Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Labels||Capitol, National, Mercury, Coral|
|Website||Gallery of images from the career of Eileen Barton|
Barton was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her birthdate is often given as 1929, but a certified copy of her birth certificate shows that she was born in 1924. This was done commonly, to shave a few years from a performer's age.
Eileen's parents, Benny and Elsie Barton, were vaudeville performers. She first appeared in her parents' act at age 2½, singing "Ain't Misbehavin'," as a dare to her parents from columnist (and later radio star) Goodman Ace. At 3½, she appeared at the Palace Theater, doing two shows a day as part of comedian Ted Healy's routine (Healy would go on to put together The Three Stooges).
She soon became a child star. By age six, she appeared on The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour, a radio program sponsored by Horn & Hardart's Automat, a then-well-known restaurant chain, and, by age 7, she was working with Milton Berle on his Community Sing radio program, using the name "Jolly Gillette" and playing the sponsor's "daughter" (the sponsor was Gillette Razors). She would ask to sing, he would tell her she couldn't, and she would remind him that her daddy was the sponsor, so he'd let her sing a current hit song.
At age 11, she left show business briefly. At age 14 she went on the Broadway stage as an understudy to Nancy Walker in Best Foot Forward, followed by an appearance under her own name with Elaine Stritch in Angel in the Wings.
At age 15, she appeared as a guest singer on a Johnny Mercer variety series, leading to her being noticed by Frank Sinatra, who took her under his wing and put her in a regular spot on the CBS radio show that he hosted in the 1940s. She co-starred on Sinatra's show for one year, and was also part of Sinatra's act at the Paramount Theater in 15 appearances there. She also appeared on her own and as a guest performer with such stars as Count Basie, Nat King Cole, and Danny Kaye.
She appeared in 1961-62 as the "assistant mayor" of the TV game shows "Video Village" and "Video Village, Jr.".
In 1949 she cut the record of "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake" (written by Bob Merrill, Albert Hoffman and Al Trace; Trace used the pseudonym Clem Watts) and introduced it on Don McNeill's radio program, The Breakfast Club. On the record, Trace's band musicians backed her, but were given billing as "The New Yorkers." It was first released by National Records, a New York–based company mostly specializing in rhythm & blues records, as catalog number 9103, and when National's owner, Al Green, decided it was too big a seller for National to handle, it was later distributed by Mercury Records, whose co-owner was Al Green's son, Irving Green. The record became one of the best-selling records on an independent label of all time, charting at #1 for 12 weeks, and altogether on the Billboard charts for over four months.
In a 2005 interview for the liner-notes of her Jasmine Records CD release, Eileen indicated that she never received a penny in royalties from either National or Mercury for her record's success, although by contract she was supposed to receive 5% of each sale.
After the success of this record, she became a night club and stage performer, appearing at all the important clubs in New York City and many others. She continued to record for both National and Mercury, making "Honey, Won't You Honeymoon with Me?" (catalog number 9109) and "May I Take Two Giant Steps?" (catalog number 9112) for National and "You Brought a New Kind of Love" (catalog number 5410) for Mercury.
Later she moved over to Coral Records, and charted with some cover versions of songs that were bigger hits for other artists, such as "Cry", "Sway", and others. She also appeared in motion pictures and television, working the restaurant and night club circuit well into the 1970s. (Among her more memorable television appearances was as the "Assistant Mayor" of Video Village, a game show which ran on CBS in the early 60's. She appeared on the show along with "Mayor" Monty Hall from March 1961 through June 1962.)
|1950||"If I Knew You Were Comin' (I'd've Baked a Cake)"||1|
|"May I Take Two Giant Steps?"||25|
|"Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes"||24|
|1954||"Don't Ask Me Why"||25|
|"Pine Tree, Pine over Me"||26|
|"Sway (¿Quién será?)"||21|