Today is the birthday of Judy Canova (1913-1983). A Florida native, she began her career in vaudeville in a family act with her bother and sister, as the Three Georgia Crackers (they were actually fairly well-to-kids from Florida). Theirs was a “yokel” act, and here Judy developed the character she would play for most of her show biz career, a barefoot bumpkin with braided hair. In the act she sang, yodeled, played guitar, and did comedy bits. This impressed Rudy Vallee, who put him on his radio show, which led to her constant popularity in that medium, culminating in her own radio show which launched in 1943. She was also to become a popular movie star in the 40s, and to branch off into television in the 50s. Towards the end she dropped the hick act and tried to be a straight singer, but she found it difficult to switch horses in mid-stream. By the mid ’60s she was retired.
And now here she is with the full Cracker Trio, singing the traditional “Ballad of Frank and Jesse James” in Artists and Models (1937):
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.