Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Frances Gumm, 10 June 1922, Grand Rapids MI; d 22 June 1969, London) US singer, actress. Her parents were in show business; she sang in an act with her sisters; George Jessel allegedly named her Garland. She made a short folm in 1935 with Deanna Durbin; her first feature was Pigskin Parade '36; she sang 'You Made Me Love You' to a picture of Clark Gable in Broadway Melody '38 and became a star. The Andy Hardy series co-starred Mickey Rooney late '30s-40s, but her most famous role was Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz '39, singing 'Over The Rainbow'. More than 30 films altogether included Easter Parade '48 with Fred Astaire, Summer Stock '50 with Gene Kelly.

The records began on Decca, who recorded her in March 1935. The Gumm Sisters had changed their name to the Garland sisters when producer Joe Perry heard them and took Judy to Decca, who recorded three sides, never issued and subsequently lost. 'Moonglow' is still lost, but Garland's own copies of a medley of three contemporary pop songs and a recording of 'Bill' from Show Boat were rescued from her trash in 1960 after she had moved out of a house in Holmby Hills, California. As Will Friedwald wrote in the Wall Street Journal, 'Whether it was pining for the man who got away, the boy next door who ignored her ... nobody else could convey so convincingly' a desperate need, and she was already doing it at age 12. A 4-CD set on JSP made these available in 2010, along with talking-picture soundtracks made by the Gumm Sisters in 1929 and Judy's radio recordings of 1935-53, as well as live concert snippets from later.

Decca had cut more test tracks in November 1935 that were never issued; all the company's copies were sacrificed to scrap drives during WWII. Her hits when Billboard began printing charts in 1940 began with 'I'm Nobody's Baby' (song from 1921 used in 1940 film Andy Hardy Meets Debutante), the title duet with Gene Kelly from nostalgic musical For Me And My Gal '42, 'The Trolley Song' from Meet Me In St Louis '44 and 'On The Atchison, Topeka And The Sante Fe' with the Merry Macs '45 (from Garland film The Harvey Girls '46; there were other hit versions by Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, and the song's lyricist Johnny Mercer). From then on she sold albums: a set of 78s from Meet Me In St Louis was a no. 2 album '45; the soundtrack from A Star Is Born '54 on Columbia was a no. 5 album: the making of that film with James Mason was plagued with problems but a triumph, one of her best, including 'The Man That Got Away'. Miss Show Business '55 on Capitol was a no. 5 album; other '50s albums included Judy and Alone (Capitol) and Greatest Performances (a Decca compilation).

A show-business legend in her teens, she never had a childhood and was seriously abused by the studios; her nervous energy and insecurity led to problems with alcohol and pills, a weight problem already obvious in Summer Stock). Unreliability made the '50s a patchy decade, but a Carnegie Hall concert of 23 April 1961 was a triumphant comeback: the two-disc live Capitol set Judy at Carnegie Hall hit the Billboard album chart at the end of July and topped it for 13 weeks. The Garland Touch '62, soundtrack from I Could Go On Singing '63 were both hits (the film with Dirk Bogarde was her first singing/acting role since A Star Is Born, and her last). Two-disc Live At The London Palladium '65 with daughter Liza Minnelli reached no. 41 (abridged to one disc '73); a New York show issued on live At Home At The Palace -- Opening Night '67 was on ABC. Despite well-known health problems, her sudden death shocked the public; it was said that when she died a tornado touched down in Kansas.

Compilations, airchecks etc include Garland At The Grove with Freddy Martin issued on EMI/UK '83; others once listed in Schwann included Little Girl Blue on Pair, with tracks from rare or never-issued albums Judy Takes Broadway and Just For Openers; Judy Garland On Radio 1936-44 on VJC; 25th Anniversary Retrospective on Capitol; and others.

More recently, the erudite and indefatigable Lawrence Schulman has compiled and annotated the aforementioned 4-CD JSP set, called Judy Garland: Smilin' Through: The Singles Collection 1936-1947, as well as Judy Garland: Lost Tracks 1929-1959, also four CDs on JSP. Judy Garland: The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964 on First Hand Records collects virtually all her London recordings on two CDs, made in 1957, 1960, 1962 and 1964, including 14 previously unissued tracks from the first three years, and 31 pages of notes by Jonathan Summers. These recent sets have been exhaustively reviewed in The ARSC Journal (Association for Recorded Sound Collections); the First Hand set was reviewed by Schulman.

Schulman's view is that the Carnegie Hall show of 23 April 1961 was the pinnacle of her career, and everything afterward a reflection; he also reviewed for ARSC Judy Garland -- The Amsterdam Concert: December 1960, a midnight show broadcast live with Jos Cleber's Cosmopolitan Orchestra led by Norrie Paramor, recorded and preserved by AVRO (Algemene Verening Radio Omroep, or General Association of Radio Broadcasting), the First Hand release finally pulling together a great show that had been incompetently bootlegged at least three times.