When audiences first saw Disney’s “Pinocchio”, most people recognized the voice of Jiminy Cricket: singer Cliff Edwards, aka Ukelele Ike. (‘Ukelele’ was a common spelling of the day.) Edwards was a big star, appearing in dozens of films from the 1930s through the 1950s. He even briefly hosted his own TV program.
I listened to a collection of his recordings on my drive in to work this morning. I’d known that Edwards had been the singer on the original version of “Singing in the Rain”, and finally hearing him mouth-trumpeting through a verse of it delighted me.
For those who’ve never heard Edwards outside of crooning as a cricket, I’ll explain. There’s a vocal technique known as scat singing that, crudely put, involves using nonsense instead of words. The purpose is to use the voice as an instrument for improvisation. Done well, by a vocalist like Ella Fitzgerald, it’s a beautiful technique. Done by Shooby Taylor, it verges on the unintentionally humorous.
Cliff Edwards liked to scat, and the variation he used went beyond making up words. He pitched his voice high and tweedled like a trumpet. Sometimes he even used his hands as a mute. The first time I heard him do this, it startled me. I didn’t know what to make of it. It seemed silly and jarring. Now I think it’s a weird little nugget of joy. I just can’t be anything but happy when Edwards imitates a trumpet solo!
So I was overjoyed to discover that Cliff Edwards had mouth-trumpeted through a verse of “Singing in the Rain”, a song that always puts a smile on my face anyway.