There are few voices as familiar – no, instantly identifiable – to children who grew up in the 1950s and ‘60s as that of Cliff Edwards. Known from his days on the vaudeville stage as Ukulele (or Ukelele) Ike, Edwards voiced the part of Jiminy Cricket in the 1940 Walt Disney production of Pinocchio. Edwards rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star” was heard in the film, then used regularly on television’s Wonderful World of Disney. From fame and fortune in the 1920s and 30s, Edwards career took a very sad downward plunge due to problems with alcohol, and he died penniless in 1972.
In 1943, however, Edwards was still a well-known, popular entertainer whose problems were largely in the future. Glamourettes, one of the many small concerns that produced a handful of Soundies during the recording ban, utilized Edwards’ talent in a trio of Soundies produced in the spring of 1943.
“Paddling Madeline Home” was a popular hit from 1925, and Edwards first recorded it in June of that year. In this three-minute rendition the song is actually presented in two parts. The first features accordion player Nedra Merle who accompanies a number of Los Angeles-based chorus girls. The second half features Edwards on vocal, accompanying himself on the ukulele. His vocal is delightful and swinging, but the high point is his excursion into scat singing. Edwards had performed this wordless approach to vocal jazz in the 1920s, and his recordings precede even those of Louis Armstrong. While Edwards never approached the power and inventiveness of Satch, he scatted throughout his career, and his vocal work in this Soundie is superior.