Tilton on the cover of the April 1946 issue of music magazine Radio Mirror
|Birth name||Martha Ellen Tilton|
|Also known as||The Liltin' Miss Tilton|
November 14, 1915|
Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S.
|Died||December 8, 2006
Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Labels||Capitol, Coral, Tops|
|Associated acts||Three Hits and a Miss, Benny Goodman|
Martha Tilton (November 14, 1915 – December 8, 2006) was an American popular singer during America's swing era and traditional pop period. She is best known for her 1939 recording of "And the Angels Sing" with Benny Goodman.
Tilton was born in Corpus Christi, Texas. Her family moved to Edna, Kansas, when she was three months old. They relocated to Los Angeles when she was seven years old. While attending Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, she was singing on a small radio station when she was heard by an agent who signed her and began booking her with larger stations.
She then dropped out of school in the eleventh grade to join Hal Grayson's band. After singing with the quartet Three Hits and a Miss, she joined the Myer Alexander Chorus on Benny Goodman's radio show, Camel Caravan. Goodman hired Tilton as a vocalist with his band in August 1937. She was with Goodman in January 1938, when the band gave the first jazz performance at Carnegie Hall. She continued to appear as Goodman's star vocalist until the end of 1939.
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Tilton had a major success from 1942-49 as one of the first artists to record for Capitol Records. Her first recording for Capitol was "Moon Dreams", Capitol 138, with Orchestra and The Mellowaires, composed by Johnny Mercer and Glenn Miller pianist Chummy MacGregor in 1942. "Moon Dreams" would be recorded by Glenn Miller in 1944 and by Miles Davis in 1950.
Among her biggest hits as a solo artist were "I'll Walk Alone", a wartime ballad which rose to #4 on the charts in 1944; "I Should Care" and "A Stranger in Town," which both peaked at #10 in 1945; and three in 1947: "How Are Things in Glocca Morra" from Finian's Rainbow, which climbed to #8; "That's My Desire", which hit #10; and "I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder", which reached #9. After she left Capitol, Tilton recorded for other labels, including Coral and Tops. Among her later albums was We Sing the Old Songs (1957, Tops), a mix of older songs and recent standards with baritone Curt Massey, who later became well known as the composer (with Paul Henning) and singer of the theme song for the CBS-TV series Petticoat Junction.
Reviewing the two-CD set, The Liltin' Miss Tilton, (Capitol, 2000), critic Don Heckman wrote:
- "There are those who would say that Martha Tilton wasn't a jazz singer at all. But swing-era fans won't have any doubts, remembering her for a rocking version of "Loch Lomond" at Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall concert."
In 1941, Tilton sang on Fibber McGee and Molly and starred on Campana Serenade, a program of popular music on first NBC and then CBS in 1942-1944. A contemporary newspaper article called Tilton's role on Fibber McGee and Molly "a milestone in her personal history ... Martha's biggest transcontinental [broadcast] since her days as soloist with Benny Goodman."
In the early 1940s, she also sang on Ransom Sherman's program on CBS. Massey and Tilton starred in Alka-Seltzer Time, a 15-minute radio series broadcast weekdays on both CBS and Mutual. Sponsored by Alka-Seltzer, this show began in 1949 as Curt Massey Time (sometimes advertised as Curt Massey Time with Martha Tilton) with a title change to highlight the sponsor's product by 1952. Prior to that, Tilton had co-starred on The Jack Smith Show, another 15-minute radio musical program.
By 1953, the series was heard simultaneously on Mutual (at noon) and later that same day on CBS (at 5:45pm). Ads described the show as "informal song sessions" by vocalists Massey and Tilton, who was often billed as "The liltin' Martha Tilton". The two Texan singers performed with Country Washburne and His Orchestra, featuring Charles LaVere on piano. The series ended November 6, 1953. However, Massey and Tilton continued to appear together during the late 1950s on such shows as Guest Star and Stars for Defense. They also teamed to record an album, We Sing the Old Songs (1957).
Her movies include Sunny (1941), Strictly in the Groove (1942), Swing Hostess (1944), Crime, Inc.. (1945), and The Benny Goodman Story (1956). Her last film appearance was as the band vocalist in the TV movie Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (1975). Tilton's singing voice was used for other actresses including Barbara Stanwyck, Martha O'Driscoll, and Anne Gwynne.
She appeared in several Soundies musical films of the 1940s. Her sister, Liz Tilton, also seen in Soundies, sang with Ken Baker (mid-1930s), Buddy Rogers, Bob Crosby (1941), and Jan Garber (1942).
Tilton once again worked with Massey in the late 1950s and early 1960s—this time on KRCA-TV in Los Angeles. They were reunited on that station's Curt Massey Show. In 1960, Tilton won a Southland Emmy Award as outstanding female personality for her work on KRCA. In 1961, Tilton repeated as outstanding female personality, and the program won the Most Outstanding Musical or Variety Show award.
With Benny Goodman
|"Can't Teach My Old Heart New Tricks"||14|
|1938||"You Took the Words Right Out of My Heart"||9|
|"Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen"||4|
|"Please Be Kind"||14|
|"I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart"||1|
|"Feelin' High and Happy"||11|
|"Why'd Ya Make Me Fall in Love?"||12|
|"The Flat Foot Floogee"||7|
|"(I've Been) Savin' Myself for You"||12|
|"What Goes On Here in My Heart"||3|
|"A Little Kiss at Twilight"||7|
|"I've Got a Date with a Dream"||4|
|"Could You Pass in Love?"||20|
|"When I Go A-Dreamin'"||11|
|"Is That the Way to Treat a Sweetheart?"||15|
|"What Have You Got That Gets Me?"||6|
|"This Can't Be Love"||2|
|"I Have Eyes"||6|
|"You're a Sweet Little Headache"||6|
|"I Must See Annie Tonight"||13|
|1939||"And the Angels Sing"||1|
With Benny Goodman
- The Complete RCA Victor Small Group Recordings (RCA Victor, 1935–39 )
|1944||"I'll Walk Alone"||4|
|1945||"Stranger in Town"||10|
|"I Should Care"||10|
|1947||"How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"||8|
|"I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder"||9|
|"That's My Desire"||10|
|1950||"I'll Always Love You"||23|
- Fordham, John (January 7, 2007). "Martha Tilton". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- Callin, Owen (August 13, 1951). "Record Reviews". The Bakersfield Californian. p. 21. Retrieved March 18, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- McLellan, Dennis. "Martha Tilton, 91; '40s vocalist known for 'And the Angels Sing'", Los Angeles Times, December 12, 2006.
- Carter (January 3, 1942). "Comment" (PDF). Billboard. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
- Dunning, John. (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press, pg. 133; ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3.
- "Martha Tilton Signed". The Circleville Herals. October 6, 1941. p. 5. Retrieved March 17, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Cohen, Joe (February 21, 1942). "Program Reviews: Ransom Sherman" (PDF). Billboard. p. 8. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- "Shore & Tilton Figure in Smith Stanza Shuffle". Billboard. December 11, 1948. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
- "Country Washburne And His Orchestra".
- Martha Tilton profile, imdb.com; accessed November 16, 2016.
- "(TV listing)". Independent Star-News. December 22, 1957. p. 125. Retrieved March 17, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Vernon, Terry (October 29, 1960). "Tele-Vues". Independent. p. 11. Retrieved March 17, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Video Honors Clete Roberts, Martha Tilton". Valley News. October 26, 1961. p. 124. Retrieved March 17, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Martha Tilton Will Appear In Television Special Soon". Daily Independent Journal. September 14, 1974. p. 57. Retrieved March 17, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Warren, Jill (August 1953). "What's New from Coast to Coast" (PDF). Radio-TV Mirror. 40 (3): 20. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
- Whitburn, Joel (1986). Pop Memories: 1890–1954. Record Research. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.