Skip to main content

Torpey's Favorite Vocalists -- With 23 Music Videos

Bing Crosby, Singer, Actor, Academy Award Winner 1944


The Golden Years

I was born in 1935 in Yonkers, New York, so my favorite vocalists, of course, reflect that era. But, on top of that, my father, Joe Torpey, played piano all his life. As a boy my father's friends often visited our home where the air was always filled with music. Family and friends sang "That Old Gang of Mine" and all the old favorites of the 1920s, '30s and '40s while my fathers fingers slid up and down the piano keyboard. He initially learned to play "by ear," but after a stint in the U.S. Army he studied at the New York School of Music. He was very talented. It was the Golden Age of Hollywood -- and of radio.

My favorite singers, and many of my favorite songs, grew from this musical background, although I, personally, never became a musician. Throughout my life, however, anyone within earshot could hear me singing my favorite tunes day and night -- most frequently the songs of my all-time favorite singer, Bing Crosby, who was also the favorite of millions. But here you will find a number of my other favorites.

It is my hope that those who are unfamiliar with these singers will take a few moments to "give a listen." I feel sure you'll find these singers worth listening to -- again and again!

Harry Lillis 'Bing' Crosby

Bing Crosby, 1903-1977, was the most popular, most influential, most successful singer of the early and mid-20th Century. More importantly, I believe, he had the most beautiful voice in history -- and he knew how to use it. He was a longtime radio star who left us more than 2,000 songs on records (22 of them Gold), including his immortal "White Christmas," recognized by Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling single of all time. He was an Academy Award winning actor -- "Going My Way" (1944) -- who made some five dozen movies, including seven "Road" pictures with Bob Hope. Yank Magazine named him the entertainer who did the most to boost the morale of our troops in World War II.

'Der Bingle' Sings 'Brother, Can You Spare a Dime'

'Mama Beth' Torpey Revels

Beth Torpey Revels – A Maine resident and native of Darien, Conn. Beth, this writer's daughter, is a former Bluegrass Performer of the Year in Maine and performs with the Windy Ridge Band as well as "Bitter Brew," an Irish group. Beth's "Mama's Midcoast Bluegrass" radio show can be heard on WBOR 91.1 FM out of Bowdoin College in Brunswick and online at A U.S.Navy veteran, Beth wrote “Bitter Times” for the 2011 Ossipee Valley Music Festival songwriting contest. She is a former chairman of Maine's Bluegrass Music Association.

'Bitter Times' Written and Performed by 'Mama Beth' Revels at Ossipee Valley Songwriting Contest with Jim Chard and Margaret Riggin

Michael Torpey

Michael Torpey, cousin of this writer, is a classical vocalist from the shadows of New York City (Westchester) who trained professionally as an operatic tenor. He is a versatile actor and singer with a long list of credits in musical and dramatic theater. He has peformed in Carnegie Hall and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. An operatic tenor, he studied at the Suny Purchase Conservatory of Music and performs as tenor soloist at Mt. Kisco Presbyterian Church.

Michael Torpey Sings 'My Way' playing the role of Frank Sinatra

The Ink Spots

The Ink Spots were one of the most influential singing groups in American music. Tenor Bill Kenny, my favorite, joined the group in 1936. The Ink Spots charted more than 80 hits and they have been popular for decades. I saw them perform live in the 1970s in Norwalk, Conn. Over the years they've changed personnel many times, but Kenny's superb voice and style, combined with the unique spoken base narrators, can't be beat. The group is often mentioned in the same sentence as The Mills Brothers, who also made close harmony their forte. "If I Didn't Care," was their first million-selling record.

Ink Spots Sing 'If I Didn't Care'

Dame Vera Lynn

Vera Lynn was born on March 20, 1917. Her career skyrocketed during World War II when the British vocalist was nicknamed "The Forces Sweetheart." No one captured the feeling of those war years more than she, especially with songs like "The White Cliffs of Dover" and "We'll Meet Again." To this day, her voice and her songs bring a tear to my eye.

'The Forces Sweetheart'

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich was an actress and singer who was named the ninth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. She began her career in silent movies and gained popularity in her native Germany in the early 20th Century. Dietrich became a U.S. Citizen in 1939 and was popular throughout her long career. She was a high-profile front line entertainer who also made occasional films after World War II. Dietrich toured the world throughout the '50s, '60s and 1970s.

Marlene Dietrich Sings 'Lili Marlene' (the English Version)

Rosemary Clooney

Rosemary Clooney, whose best-known movie role was with Bing Crosby in "White Christmas," was a prominent "girl singer" for decades. Rosemary, sister of George Clooney, had a magnificent voice and was a premiere popular and jazz singer. She suffered a breakdown in the late '60's and retired, but made a comeback in 1976 when she joined Crosby on his 50th Anniversary Tour, which I was lucky enough to see "live" with my family at the Uris Theater in New York.

'I Remember You'

Frankie Laine, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como

Frankie Laine was often called "America's No. 1 song stylist who had big hits with "That's My Desire," "Jezebel" and "Mule Train." Frank Sinatra, idol of the "Bobby Soxers" in the 1940s and later affectionately known as "the chairman of the board," rivaled Bing Crosby, who said, "Frank Sinatra is the kind of singer who comes along once in a lifetime, but why did it have to be my lifetime?" Perry Como was born on May 18, 1912. His career spanned a half century. "Mr. C," a nickname he shared with Crosby, gained popularity as a recording artist and through his television variety show. His low-key personality and superb voice were matched only by his good character..

Scroll to Continue

Laine, Como and Sinatra Perform an Andrews Sisters Skit on the Frank Sinatra Show

Billy Eckstine

Billy Eckstine, born on July 8, 1914, had an incredibly smooth baritone voice and a vibrato that grew more pronounced in his later years. A bandleader, Billy was an American ballad singer of the swing era. My favorite Eckstine song is "I Apologize." As a youngster I did a fairly good (I think) imitation of his unique voice. Among his other hits were "Prisoner of Love," "A Cottage for Sale," "My Foolish Heart" and "Everything I Have Is Yours." His 1950 appearance at the Paramount in New York drew a larger audience than Frank Sinatra had at his legendary Paramount performance.

Swing Era Bandleader Performs 'I Apologize'

Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline was born on Sept. 8, 1932. She was a great country music singer who died on March 5, 1963 in a plane crash. Cline was one of the most influencial and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century. Her story has been portrayed in a number of movies and books. She has a magnificent style, and a wonderful voice. Her rich tone and expressive contralto voice have been an inspiration to many vocalists.

Patsy Cline Sings 'Crazy'

Hank Williams

Hank Williams, a great American singer and songwriter, was born on Sept. 17, 1923. He was one of the most influential country singers ever. Hank was a pioneer in the "Honky Tonk" style of music. His death at only age 29 in 1953 boosted his legend. His unique style and superb songwriting have resulted in many big hits, including "Hey Good Lookin', "Your Cheating Heart," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Jambalaya" and "Long Gone Lonesome Blues."

Hank Williams Sings 'Lonesome Whistle'

The Andrews Sisters

The Andrews Sisters, who worked often with Bing Crosby, sang in close harmony and had many big hits in the 1940s, several with Bing. The group consisted of LaVerne, Maxene and Patty, all born in Minnesota.They started their career as imitators of another great group, the Boswell Sisters. Their first big hit was "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön." They became the first female group to achieve a Gold Record. The sisters had 113 charted Billboard hits, 46 in the top 10 -- more than Elvis and the Beatles. A longtime fan of theirs, I sang their "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" to my kindergarten class at No. 9 School in Yonkers.

The Andrews Sisters Sing 'Rum and Coca Cola'

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Va., on April 25, 1917. Known as the "First Lady of Song", she was one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century. Her range spanned three octaves, her notes were pure and she had great improvisational ability and phrasing. Scat singing was one of her talents. Ella lived in my hometown, Yonkers, N.Y., and my mother, who loved her singing, often spoke of her. She won many awards over her 59-year career, including 13 Grammys and awards from both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

'Ella Fitzgerald, First Lady of Song' Performs With Louis Armstrong

Sons of the Pioneers

The cowboy singing group Sons of the Pioneers was founded by Roy Rogers (Leonard Slye) in 1933 when Roy was featured with Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan. I was a big fan of Rogers as a boy, but became an even bigger fan of Bob Nolan later in life. The group, with its new members over the years, continues today and performs regularly at Branson, Missouri. Among their great hits were "Cool Water," Tumbling Tumbleweeds," "Way Out There" and "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky."

A Medley of Some of the Sons of the Pioneers Hit Songs

Al Jolson

Al Jolson was born on May 26, 1886 and died on Oct. 23, 1950. He had a unique voice. He also was an actor and comedian. Jolson was called "the world's greatest entertainer." He was a favorite of Bing Crosby, who saw him as a youngster when Al appeared in Spokane, Wash. Jolson influenced a number of singers besides Crosby, including Judy Garland and Bob Dylan. I became his fan as a boy when I saw two movies that portrayed his life: "The Jolson Story" (1946) and "Jolson Sings Again." (1949)

Al Jolson. 'World's Greatest Entertainor'

Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole was a leading jazz pianist before he became famous as a singer. His soft baritone voice captured the hearts of his many fans when he sang in the big band and jazz genres. I remember watching his television show when, as the first black American to host a variety show, he initially had to perform without sponsors. He maintained worldwide popularity for decades and became an important musical personality in United States history.

The Unforgettable Nat King Cole

Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters, born on Oct. 31, 1896, was an American blues and jazz vocalist as well as an actress. She sang big band and popular music and performed on stage in concerts and on Broadway. Her career began in the 1920s singing the blues. Her best known recording was "His Eye on the Sparrow," a spiritual, but my favorite Waters song is "Am I Blue?"

Ethel Waters Sings 'Am I Blue?'

Ernie Tubb

Ernie Tubb was born on Feb. 9, 1914. The Texas troubadour died on Sept. 6, 1984. He was one of the pioneers of country music as a singer and songwriter. One of his most famous songs was "Walking the Floor Over You." (1941) His "Waltz Across Texas" (1965) became one of his most requested songs. His recorded duets with Loretta Lynn in 1960s were big hits, among them, "Sweet Thang."

The Texas Troubadour

Marty Robbins

Marty Robbins was born on Sept. 26, 1925. He was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and one of the most popular country and western singers of his era. Several of his country songs became pop hits, including "A White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation)" and "El Paso," for which he won a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. His "Big Iron (on his Hip)" is one of my favorites.

Marty Robbins Sings 'Big Iron'

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday, one of America's greatest jazz singers in the '30s and '40s, sang with deep emotion. Her sound and phrasing were unique. She worked in small nightclubs and later with big bands, including those of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman. She toured with Artie Shaw's orchestra and pioneered race relations as the first African-American to sing with a white band. Her signature song was "Strange Fruit" about lynchings.

Jazz Singer 'Lady Day'

Morton Downey (Sr.)

Morton Downey, born in 1901 in Wallingford, Connecticut, was nicknamed "The Irish Nightingale." He was a popular American singer-songwriter in the '30's and '40s. He was voted "Radio Singer of the Year" in 1932. My family (of Yonkers, N.Y.) often mentioned that Downey, father of former right wing television personality Morton Downey Jr., could be seen singing in several Yonkers nightclubs in those days. In the '20's he sang with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, as Bing Crosby did a few years later.

Morton Downey 'The Irish Nightingale'

Arthur Tracy

Arthur Tracy, known as "The Street Singer," was an internationally famous American singer (born in Moldova) whose popular radio show featured his theme song, "Marta, Rambling Rose of the Wildwood." In the 1920s he often performed in vaudeville. He was featured with Bing Crosby in "The Big Broadcast of 1932." Among his many hit songs were "When I Grow Too Old to Dream," "Trees," "Shake Hands With a Millionaire" and "Red Sails in the Sunset."

'The Street Singer' Arthur Tracy: 'Shake Hands With a Millionaire'

Betty Hutton

Betty Hutton, born on Feb. 26, 1921, was a unique personality who had a lot of tragedy in her life, but was a first-class singer and a good actress. She was especially good at novelty type songs like "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief." Hutton was very talented. Her best role was as the star of "Annie Get Your Gun," replacing Judy Garland in the lead role. Other Hutton hits include "Murder, He Says" and "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun."

Novelty Singer, Movie Star

Your Grampa's Favorite Songs, Singers

More Grampa's Favorite Songs, Singers

Still More Grampa's Favorite Songs, Singers

Having retired from The Hour in 2000, I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.


Cristian Espindola on April 09, 2019:

Crosby fue una de las figuras mas importantes a nivel mundial, tengo entendido que Crosby fue el mayor vendedor de discos durante mucho tiempo y actualmente probablemente sigue conservando ese puesto he leído en varias fuentes que Crosby Vendio hasta la actualidad 900-1000 millones de discos , tal vez disponen esta inforamción, soy fan de Bing Crosby .

Excelente Blog

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on January 05, 2015:

Bing Crosby was multi-talented, Sandy. He was the best popular singer for some five decades as well as an Academy Award actor not to mention his comic flair in his seven "Road" pictures with Bob Hope. Although his voice mellowed in his later years he remained a great singer.

Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on January 05, 2015:

Bing Cosby sure looks young here. Enjoyed these videos. Some talented artist.

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on April 06, 2012:

We're on the same page, suziecat7. I watch these videos often myself -- as well as the youtube videos featuring more great artists on my other hubs about "Your Grampa's Favorite Songs, Singers." Thanks.

suziecat7 from Asheville, NC on April 05, 2012:

Love Ella and Billie and so many more on your list. Thanks for this.

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on February 11, 2010:

No one was held in higher regard by Bing Crosby than Satchmo, camlo, so I understand fully how you could prefer his version of "Just a Gigolo," an incredibly good song. I'm not sure when the Ink Spots video was made, but "If I Didn't Care" was their first and biggest smash hit in 1939. Virtually all their songs were as good as they get. My cousin Michael Torpey is very talented. He not only sings classically with the best, but also performs popularly in night clubs and at private parties. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Camlo De Ville from Cologne, Germany on February 11, 2010:

Hi William!

I could write enough here for an entire Hub, so I'll keep it short ...

Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Nat King Cole rate very highly among my favourite musicians. I love Louis Armstrong's version of 'Just a Gigolo' (Rather than Bing's, I'm afraid to say).

Until now, I'd never heard of The Ink Spots, nor 'If I Didn't Care'. A great song. I'd be interested to know which year that's from. Judging by the clothes, I'd imagine very early fifties.

Love the Patsy Cline video. She makes it seem so effortless, which I think it was -- for her.

Your cousin has a wonderful voice. Usually when a classically trained performer does a pop song, it sounds over-done, but he gets exactly the right balance. And what a spectacular ending to the song.

Great Hub. Enjoyed the read, and the listen, very much.

All the best, Camlo

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on February 05, 2010:

Hank Snow was another one of my favorites, quicksand. He would have been on my list if I didn't need to keep it from getting too long. Somehow I didn't know about Earl Grant, but I listened to his "Unforgettable" on youtube -- and he's very good (He sings a lot like Nat King Cole.) Marty Robbins is a talented singer. I love those Hawaiian songs, too.

quicksand on February 05, 2010:

Greetings, Mr Torpey!

I am sure you would have liked Hank Snow's version of Lili Marlene, and Earl Grant's "Unforgettable." These tracks sort of fit in well with the music you have introduced in this article.

We had an EP of Nat King Cole which contained tracks like "When You're Young You're Afraid Of The Dark," and "Night Of The Quarter Moon."

Well, I think highly of Marty Robbins' music. Especially those Hawaiian tracks like "Sweet Leilani," "Aloha Oe," ... of course the entire collection of his Hawaiian tracks!

I am sure you do too. Cheers!

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on January 24, 2010:

I don't really know whether Rosemary Clooney ever sang with Les Paul, but I wouldn't be surprised if she did. Bing Crosby and Rosemary worked together often, and Les Paul credited Bing with giving him one of the first reel-to-reel tape recorders that got Les started on his way to success with his multi-track recordings. Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday were wonderful singers, indeed. Thanks, Tony, for commenting.

Tony McGregor from South Africa on January 24, 2010:

Of these wonderful singers I love especially Ella and Billie. Did Rosemary Clooney not sing at one time with guitarist Les Paul, or is my memory deceiving me? Anyway thanks so much for this interesting and informative Hub.

Love and peace


William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on January 07, 2010:

I'm glad you like it, Micky. Thanks.

Micky Dee on January 07, 2010:

I like all this stuff. I'll be back often as I know where I can find it all. I remember most of these including Billy Eckstine. Thank you sir.

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on November 30, 2009:

I appreciate your very kind comments, KellyEngaldo. This was a labor of love for me. I only wish the younger generations could hear this music more often.

KellyEngaldo on November 30, 2009:

What a wonderful hub! Thank you very much! A perfect time capsule of great classics. Your education and experience in journalism shines through. 5 stars!

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on September 07, 2009:

Some videos of the great vocalists of the past don't attain the high quality of more recent videos, KyonSOS23, but it's wonderful that we're able to view them at all. Many are taken from old movies or short subjects. Thanks for commenting.

KyonSOS23 from Nabon on September 07, 2009:

It hard to find vocalist's video right.It classic and hard find for listen.

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on July 27, 2009:

Rosemary Clooney started off good and became better and better with age, Dolores. I think she's underrated. I sure hope the younger folks will listen to some of the great old vocalists -- especially my biggest favorite, Bing Crosby. Thanks for commenting, and I'm really glad you enjoyed Ethel Waters and the others.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on July 27, 2009:

What wonderful vocalists! I love this stuff and listen to the old stuff quite often. Rosemary Clooney had such a great comeback, I loved her version of the September Song, the older voice was perfect. And Ethyl Waters! Who even remembers her anymore, what a wonderful singer. It's so good to have hubs like this to introduce some of these excellent singers to folks who haven't heard of them.

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on June 23, 2009:

It's good to hear from someone who knows firsthand how great the music throughout the first half of the 20th Century, Peggy W. I'm glad you liked my cousin's video. He really is a first class vocalist. I like Glenn Miller, too, but, for me, vocalists are Priority One. There are other vocalists I could add, but I wouldn't want to overdo it. Thanks.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 23, 2009:

We are just 2 days apart + 12 years with our birthdays. I grew up hearing and enjoying many of these same vocalists. The Glenn Miller orchestra was also a favorite sound being played in our home in those days. BTW, your cousin has a wonderful voice. Thanks for this hub down memory lane.

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on June 21, 2009:

Thanks, Tom. We're in total agreement. It's really wonderful that the music of these great vocalists has been preserved for us.

Tom Cornett from Ohio on June 21, 2009:

Some of the most beautiful voices you've chosen here. It was a sad day when artists began screaming. There was a kind of peace in the artists voices of those times.. Just don't hear that anymore. Thanks for a wonderful hub! :)

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on June 21, 2009:

Good observation, cgull8m. I could listen to these singers all day and all night every day and never get tired of them. My theory is that before the 1960's, popular music was dominated by singers with great voices and style -- and the musicians played background to enhance the vocals. Musicians had their opportunity to show their stuff between verses. After the early '60's, with the advent of Elvis, the Beatles and others, these roles were reversed and the vocalists were forced to shout to try to be heard over the music. In my opinion, it was a sad day.

cgull8m from North Carolina on June 20, 2009:

It is just a great collection, the modern singers lack the emotions of these singers. Wish they will learn from such great artists.

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on May 14, 2009:

I'm really glad you enjoyed all these great vocalists, compu-smart. They are all too wonderful to be forgotten.

Tony Sky from London UK on May 14, 2009:

Hey William,

I really enjoyed listening to these songs while working away here..A nice collection os some of the greatest artists, and very relaxing!!

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on May 11, 2009:

They look like robots or zombies. (I didn't mean to suggest that Robert Palmer is in the same league with your favorites.) Same to you!

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on May 11, 2009:

Happy Birthday in advance, Ralph. On the video, I think I'll stick with my favorites on this hub. Are those girls real, or are they painted clothespins?

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on May 11, 2009:

Here's one they played over and over on television in the 1970s

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on May 11, 2009:

You got me. Mine is Aug. 30.

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on May 11, 2009:

My cousin, Michael Torpey, is very versatile, Ralph, as his version of "My Way" reveals. But I had the privilege of seeing him perform opera at the Mt. Kisco Presbyterian Church and he is top shelf. We'll have to look up our birth dates at compu-smart's celebrity hubs to see who we share birthdays with (mine is coming up soon, on May 29.)

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on May 11, 2009:

I'm glad you enjoyed the videos, nms. These were all great singers of the early 20th Century that are well worth listening to today.

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on May 11, 2009:

Thanks, Larry. The Ink Spots are very high on my favorites list, and your selections are among the best. I like Tony Bennett -- say him "live" at the Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont -- but he's not that high on my list (although Bing Crosby once said he wished he could sing as well as Tony!) I like Tiny Tim, too, believe it or not (and he was a big Crosby fan as well.)

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on May 11, 2009:

Wow! Nice choices. Your cousin is quite good. He compares favorably with the others. (I was born in the same year as you--Aug 1935.)

nms from Cochin on May 11, 2009:

nice videos

Larry Conners from Northern Arizona on May 11, 2009:

Great Hub Bill..! I really enjoyed the trip down memory lane...brought back long forgotten singers and songs...

The Ink spots..." We three " ( My Echo, my Shadow, and Me )..

Billy X..." Cottage for sale "...

Ella.. " Porgy " ( with Louis Armstrong ).

What, no Tony Bennett...? And how could you leave out Tiny Tim...

So many great singers, so little space....Thanks again for this great Hub....Larry

Related Articles