DEAR JERRY: Unlike most questions, the answer to mine will change somewhat with each passing year.
It is the result of a discussion we had at work trying to name some popular artists still living who recorded before 1950. We only came up with about 10, and are not sure about those.
The style of music doesn't matter and the person need not still be performing, as long as they're still breathing.
Joanne Wiggins, Lancaster, Pa.
DEAR JOANNE: Proving your first point, my first draft of this reply included Jo Stafford. Three days later (July 17) Jo died at the age of 90.
By “popular” I gather you want only folks who at some point achieved significant success, whether solo or with others.
Since we're sticking with the stars, a few musicians and performers whose names might not be recognized by most readers won't make the cut.
When appropriate, a parenthetical note will reference pseudonyms, group names, or other associations. Some names are only counted once but appear twice, first with a group or band then later as a solo or duo.
Because each person must have recorded no later than 1949, and with 49 names on the list, let's call them our Fabulous 49ers (with homage to California gold seekers and football players).
The listing is chronological, with an alphabetical listing of each person making their first recording that year:
1933: Shirley Temple.
1935: Vera Lynn (with Charlie Kunz Dance Band).
1936: Vera Lynn (solo); Wade Mainer.
1937: Patty Andrews (of Andrews Sisters).
1938: Tony Martin; Edmundo Ros (with Fats Waller).
1939: Mickey Rooney; Edmundo Ros (with His rumba Band); George Shearing.
1940: Doris Day (with Les Brown's Band of Renown).
1941: Pete Seeger (of Almanac Singers ).
1943: Lena Horne; Kitty Kallen (of Bob [Sherwood] & Kitty).
1944: Jane Powell; Andy Williams (of Williams Brothers Quartet).
1945: Jimmy McCracklin.
1947: Ed Ames (of Ames Brothers); Dave Bartholomew; Wilma Lee Cooper (of Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper); Vic Damone; Doris Day (solo); Buddy Greco; Charlie Louvin (of Louvin Brothers); Johnny Otis; Patti Page; Les Paul; Ralph Stanley (of Stanley Brothers); Rollin “Oscar” Sullivan (of Lonzo & Oscar); Clark Terry.
1948: Patty Andrews (with Bing Crosby); Oscar Brand; Little Willie Littlefield; Big Jay McNeely; Hal Singer; Kay Starr; Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith.
1949: Harry Belafonte; Tony Bennett (as Joe Bari); Dave Brubeck; Petula Clark; John Dankworth; Little Jimmy Dickens; Fats Domino; Rhonda Fleming; Kitty Kallen (solo); B.B. King; Hank Locklin; Jimmy C. Newman; Ray Price; Sonny Rollins (with Babs Gonzalez); Earl Scruggs (of Flatt & Scruggs); Kitty Wells; Slim Whitman.
IZ ZAT SO? The oldest of our Fabulous 49ers is Wade Mainer. Born April 21, 1907, this amazing centenarian is now a few months past his 101st birthday.
Though just two days shy of being Wade Mainer's junior by 21 years, Shirley Temple (born April 23, 1928) recorded three years earlier, in 1933 at age five, putting her at position No. 1 in our esteemed flock.
Like Temple, several others are known also for their work on television and films, some much more so than for recordings: Ed Ames; Petula Clark; Doris Day; Rhonda Fleming; Lena Horne; Vera Lynn; Jane Powell; and Mickey Rooney.
Unlike the others, Shirley Temple is the only one of the 49ers with a drink named after them.
Opposite Wade Mainer is the youngster in the club, Petula Clark. Born November 15, 1928, Pet turns 80 in about three months.
The years shown for our four Brits Petula Clark, Vera Lynn, George Shearing, John Dankworth are for recordings made in the UK.
Though born in Spain, Edmundo Ros recorded with Fats Waller in London, in 1938.
Our lone Canadian is Oscar Brand; however, he did travel to New York to record.