Part 1

March 2006

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My shows for this month and next are dedicated to "Those Singing Drag Queens." And my goal is to both honor and to give a thorough history of the drag artists who actually did their own singing. Part 1 starts the history with the earliest recording I found of a drag performer, from 1922, and on this month's show I'll take you up to the mid-80s. Check out my April show for Part 2, to cover the last 20 years of this history. The third section of this month's show has a special treat, an interview with a drag artist who started performing before Stonewall, and is still active...from Atlanta, Diamond Lil.

Well, with 39 different artists on this supersized show, I'm going
to spread them over three main pages, click for page 2
Visit the Drag Artist Discography
In conjunction with these two shows, I've added a new section to my website: Drag Artist Discography, which gives photos of the artists and recordings, and articles and other information, kind of a resource center. This will also allow me to provide just a couple photos of each of the 36 artists on the three sections of Part 1 of this show. Click to go there.

Ross Hamilton, as Marjorie

The earliest recording of a drag performer that I know of is from around 1922, and is by Ross Hamilton, who performed under the name of Marjorie. Hamilton was a member of a Canadian variety troop, founded in 1917 during World War I, in France. They called their troop The Dumbells, after the logo for their military division, and had much success for over ten years. Many of the individual members released solo recordings, on 78s, of course, and in 1977 these were gathered together into an album, shown below.

The Dumbells LP, compiled in 1977

 Douglas Byng was one of the top cabaret and variety stars in England in the 1920s and 30s. He was famous for his female impersonations, and wrote many of his own songs, many of which were originally banned on the BBC. One of his songs, from 1930, was entitled "I'm One of the Queens of England"

Douglas Byng

Playlist
Part 1         58:50
Rae Bourbon - I Don't Want to Be a Madam (1957)
Ross Hamilton - Darling I Love You (1922)
Douglas Byng - At the Ball (1932)
Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon - Be Your Natural Self (1940)
Tampa Red, with Frankie "Half-Pint Jaxon" -
     My Daddy Rocks Me With One Steady Roll (1929)
Billie McAllister - 31 E Blues (1952)
Rae Bourbon - When I Said No To Joe (1956)
Rae Bourbon - I Must Have A Greek (early 50s)
Ray Bourbon - My First Piece (mid-30s)
Rae Bourbon - Sailor Boy (early 50s)
Arthur Blake - A Ride Before Breakfast (1957)
Lynne Carter - Gypsy In My Soul (1957)
TC Jones - Ten Cents a Dance (1957)
TC Jones - Bill (1959)
Jose Sarria - Hello (1960)
Jose Sarria - A Good Man Is Hard To Find (1960)
Bobby Marchan - Chickie Wah Wah (1956)
Jackie Shane - Any Other Way (1963)
Jimmy Callaway - Hello Dolly (1963)
Ty Bennett - If I Can't Sell It, I'm Going To Sit On It (1964)
Guilda - L'Homme (1962)
Jean Fredericks - Nobody Loves A Fairy When She's Forty (1964)
Noel McKay - A Good Man Is Hard To Find (mid-60s)

Part 2         64:10
Lee Sutton - The Lady Is A Fake (1968)
Danny La Rue - Mame (1970)
Danny La Rue - Hello Dolly (1970)
Michelle - Why Am I So Lovely? (1968)
Minette - LBJ, don't take my man away (1968)
Charles Pierce - Want to Buy an Illusion / One of the Boys (1987)
Jim Bailey - You Made Me Love You / Second Hand Rose (1973)
Reg Livermore - It Should Have Been Me (1976)
Rudy Ray Moore - Jerry Walker intro (1971)
Jerry Walker - I Live the Life I Love Because I Love the Life I Live (1971)
Liz Lyons - A Long Long Time (1975)
Daisy Dynamite - See What the Boys in the Backroom Will Have (1975)
Michael Aspinall - Aprile (1976)
Hinge & Bracket - Can't Help Lovin' That Man (1983)
Dame Edna - Here I Am (1976)
Foo Foo Lamarr - My Way (1976)
The Trollettes - Nagasaki (1983)
Pierrot - Homosexual (1978)
Samantha - Rock Me Baby (1979)
Domino - Cabaret Paree (1980)
Craig Russell - Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend (1977)
Craig Russell - Some of These Days (1987)

Part 3         61:00
Lily Savage - Tough at the Top (1988)
Fred Barton - I'm a Bitch (1986)
Fred Barton - Pour Me a Man (1986)
Diamond Lil - Proud Mary (1984)
Diamond Lil Interview
Diamond Lil - Love Generator (Glamour Version) (1984)
Diamond Lil - Jailhouse Jezebel (1984)
Diamond Lil - Big Lollipop (1984)
Diamond Lil - You Can Have My Husband (1984)
Diamond Lil - Silver Grill Blues (Grease Version) (1984)
Divine - You Think You're a Man (1984)

Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon

It's easy to tell from the photo above that Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon, atop the piano, was quite theatrical. Getting his nickname because he was only 5'2" tall, Jaxon, who also worked as a female impersonator, a pianist-singer and a saxophonist, was mostly in Chicago during 1927-41, a period when he made many recordings. Below, a rare postcard of and from him, from 1933.

Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon...this card went (not to me) for $60 on eBay    Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon
Billie McAllister, from the cover of "What a Big Piece of Meat"...what I cut out is a bit more suggestive
I'm afraid the only photo I have of Billie McAllister is from around 1972, about twenty years after he recorded several blues sides for a small Nashville, Tennessee label. From 1952, the song "31 E. Blues" comes from the 2005 compilation shown at right, "Night Train to Nashville." I know of three other tracks from those years: "Walking in a Daze," "I Go For That," and "Well, Alright Baby." In 1972 Rudy Ray Moore produced a very       x-rated comedy album for McAllister, called "What a Big Piece of Meat."
'Night Train to Nashville" CD, and no, the label notes had no photos of McAllister

Ray Bourbon, was in my opinion the leading drag artist of the early years, and by far the most prolific regarding recordings, issuing around 40 78 rpm records, and over a dozen albums. Shown here are many of his albums, issued during the 1950s. Starting in vaudeville he attracted the attention of Mae West, who cast him in two of her shows. Around 1956 he concocted the ingenious gimmack of claiming to have had a sex change operation, which he milked for the rest of his career. He even entitled one of his albums, "Let Me Tell You About My Operation," and at that time changed his name from Ray to Rae. Colorful to the last, in 1968 he went to prison as an accomplice in a murder, stemming from a dispute over pet dogs, and he died in prison, of a heart attack in July of 1971. Diamond Lil, my feature interview for this show, remembers seeing Rae perform, and relates a couple of her memories of him.

Arthur Blake (left, as Gloria Swanson) was a noted female impressionist of stage, screen, and night clubs, and was especially famous for his parodies of famous screen stars, such as Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, and of course, Bette Davis. She was said to have preferred his impression of her. He released an album on his own in 1957 and in 1967 appeared on a Jayne Mansfield album, doing voices of various stars.                           Lynne Carter (sometimes spelled Lynn Carter) was a star of the famed Jewel Box Revue. His impressions of two celebrities, Pearl Bailey and Josephine Baker, were so good that they both gave him some of their gowns to use in his act. He recorded one album, "She's a He," around 1957.
TC Jones achieved more fame than many of his peers of the 50s & 60s, appearing in a couple of Broadway shows, the most famous being "The New Faces of 1956," and on numerous TV shows, such as "Ed Sullivan," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "The Wild Wild West," and in movies, like "Promises, Promises." Of course his repetroire included Bette Davis, a staple for 50s drag performers. I wonder if that artform would have gotten as far without her.
1960's "No Camping" Jose Sarria starred at San Francisco's Black Cat for years, and released the "No Camping" LP in 1960. But he was also active politically and helped establish the Tavern Guild, to fight police harrassment, and founded the Imperial Court system, which spread to chapters throughout the country which have done immeasureable charity work over the years. His 1998 book, "The Empress Is a Man," is pictured on the right.
Jose Sarria, circa 1971"The Empress Is A Man," 1998 biography
the two sides of Bobby Marchan In addition to charting on the R&B charts on his own and as lead singer for Huey Piano Smith's band in the 60s, Bobby Marchan performed as a female impersonator. His #1 R&B hit from 1960 was "There Is Something On Your Mind." And Jackie Shane had a top ten Canadian hit with "Any Other Way" in 1963. From the back of his 60's LP "Jackie Shane Live" it says: "What are Jackie's likes and dislikes? Well you know Jackie likes 'chicken." Even where food is concerned, Jackie likes chicken." Hmm.
Jimmy Callaway was a star of New Orleans' famed Wonder Club in 1948, and then for the My-O-My Club, performing there all through the 50's and 60's. He released one 45 rpm record, and one album, with songs like "Tenderly" and "All the Way."

Ty Bennett was another successful drag artist, starring at the famous New York City Club 82 from 1958 for over a decade. Sadly he released only one album, because his story telling was first rate.

From France came Guilda, who took inspiration for his name from the actress Gilda. He was very popular in France and also in French-speaking Canada, and released several albums. A double CD set has also been released of his material, and there's not many drag performers who can boast of that.

Canadian Jean Fredericks migrated to the UK in 1960 and found fame of sorts with her style of comedy opera. Besides the very rare EP on the left, she released the equally rare LP "Recitals Are A Drag" and was known in London society for staging drag balls. Alas, all the way to New Zealand for this artist, the prolific Noel McKay. He released 4 LPs that I know of, and a series of at least 5 EPs. The EPs were called "Party Songs" and did not picture him in drag, though many of the songs came from his drag albums.
Well, with 39 different artists on this supersized show, I'm going
to spread them over three main pages, click for page 2

And, in my July 2013 show I flipped it over, and you can hear three hours of Songs ABOUT Drag Queens

Click Here