Saturday, September 8, 2007

How Jane Froman Got Her Start with WLW (Debunking a Myth)

The many famous people who filtered through Powel Crosley's WLW during the 1920s thorugh the 1940s guaranteed the growth of lots of legends and tall tales--from why Fats Waller really got fired (it was a racist matter), to how and when Powel Crosley, Jr. first heard singing legend Ellen Jane Froman. CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation erroneously mumbles a bit about Crosley's daughter knowing Ms. Froman from school (their ages and specialties were not close), and Powel hiring her to sing at a party. Those are the standard myths floating around, probably perpetrated by earlier writers who didn't bother to ask someone who knew. (NOTE: Watch for an errata sheet for the CROSLEY book, to be posted here and elsewhere.)
The truth is, late in 1929 Crosley happened to attend one of Mrs. Robert Taft's teas, at which Jane Froman (a non-traditional student at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music) had been paid ten dollars to entertain. Apparently Crosley was so struck by her singing voice he offered her a try-out at WLW. By March, 1930 Froman was staff soprano at WLW.

She remained at WLW for two years, slaving away under the standard heavy demands of the station's management; during one period she sang for 22 different shows each week, day and night. That's about three times a day.

Eventually, Powel Crosley's famous pal, orchestra leader Paul Whiteman, recognized her talent and began luring her away with outside engagements. He slyly arranged an audition for Froman at NBC in Chicago. From there her career was nothing but up and away from WLW. From NBC she went on to stage, screen, Vegas, and television. Her life story (a tale of success, tragedy, and courage) was made into a 1951 movie titled "With a Song in My Heart." Susan Hayward played Jane Froman.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks
Source: Missouri Alumnus, March, 1952

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