This year sees the 30th anniversary of the death of Gracie Fields, Britain’s best-loved female entertainer of the 1930s, her career brilliantly dramatised recently on BBC4 with Jane Horrocks as Gracie. But just when fans thought they had heard all that Gracie recorded during her 70-year-long career, some buried treasure has been unearthed…
Some master tapes languished undisturbed in a record company’s vaults (literally a bank vault; the building had been converted) until the company moved and the employee who had been in charge of ‘Nostalgia’ rescued them from being scrapped. The tapes have been stored in a garage ever since, and unbeknown to the vintage jazz expert amongst the tapes were some previously unreleased performances. It was only when some boxes had to be moved due to damp in the garage, which led him to sort through the tapes to see what was worth keeping, that he made the discovery.
In 1938, when at the peak of her considerable vocal powers, and was the world’s highest-paid film star, Gracie Fields undertook a series of radio programmes sponsored by Fairy Soap. These involved bringing her Lancastrian humour to listeners, exhorting them to keep clean with Fairy Soap, and stunning them with her vocal virtuosity. Despite being Gracie at her very best, these programmes have never seen the light of day on CD.
Now, fully 71 years since they were recorded, five of these vibrant performances can be enjoyed by Gracie’s countless fans. The tracks are Sing As We Go, That Old Feeling, Lancashire Blues, Smile When You Say Goodbye and – not available in any other format – a winning Irving Berlin medley of This Year’s Kisses, The Song Is Ended and How Deep Is The Ocean?
These ‘Fairy’ tracks, along with her favourites, are to be released by Decca on a new album, Our Gracie – The Best of Gracie Fields next month.
Has a Fairy been at work?