(click song title above to listen)
When the original Guitar God Les Paul was living in Hollywood in the mid-1940s, he was doing nine jazz and pop shows a week with his trio for NBC. The network told him they needed to fill nine more shows and Les agreed to recreate a country act he had used in the past. He had all of the songs but wanted a female singer, his old friend Gene Autry heard he was looking and told Les to check out the Sunshine Girls trio and to “watch the one in the middle”.
Les was impressed and invited Colleen Summers over to his garage studio for an audition. Once Les realized he had his female singer, he needed to give her a stage name. They liked Mary Lou for the country act and with the assistance of a phone book, said “Hey, what about Mary Ford?” Mary replied, “Whatever you think, Les”. The soon-to-be-married musical team would go on to become a legendary success selling millions of records for Capitol Records throughout the 1950s while simultaneously pioneering multitrack recording in their garage studio.
This recording of “Small Island” is a rarely heard Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh song released in February 1958 on Capitol Records. Cy & Carolyn had just enjoyed huge success with “Witchcraft” for Frank Sinatra along with hits like “Firefly” (Tony Bennett) and “You Fascinate Me So” (Peggy Lee). The last two were tunes originally written for musicals they had auditioned for but ultimately didn’t get hired to score. The tranquil Hawaiian/South Pacific flavor of the song might likely have come from their audition for the ill-fated Broadway musical 13 Daughters based on a story about a Hawaiian woman and her Chinese husband’s attempt to marry off their 13 daughters. Whatever the motivation, we’re happy it happened and found its way to Les & Mary!
Contact & Licensing:
Publishing controlled by Notable Music Co. (Cy Coleman). Contact: Damon Booth / firstname.lastname@example.org
Administered by Downtown Music Publishing
Contact: Sean McGraw / email@example.com
Publishing controlled by Carwin Music Co. Inc (Carolyn Leigh)
Administered by EMI U. Catalog Inc.
Master controlled by Capitol Records. Contact: Doug James / firstname.lastname@example.org