This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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THE SHORT MUSICAL CAREER OF "LITTLE JACK" LITTLE
by Elizabeth McLeod, © 2003
(From Radio Recall, April 2004)
A very popular personality of the Depression era, "Little Jack" Little, became well known as a "talk-singing" pianist, who half-sang, half-talked the lyrics of his songs in a whispery crooning voice. The programs you have heard of him were recorded for syndication, and distributed on Columbia transcriptions -- which were of a quality comparable to commercial phonograph records of the era.
The format of these recordings is basically the same as that used in Little's live broadcasts -- just Little and a piano for fifteen minutes. These syndications ran a bit short in order to allow time for the insertion of locally-sold commercials. This type of intimate one-performer program was very common in pre-1935 radio.
Little was born in England in 1902, and started out with the idea of becoming a doctor -- but during his college years he became distracted by music, and began writing songs and playing in campus orchestras. From there he found his way into vaudeville, and from there into radio, where he first made a name for himself around 1924 on the Midnight Frolic out of KYW, Chicago. He also continued writing songs -- There's a Shanty In Old Shanty Town is probably his best known accomplishment in that field.
By 1933 Little was leading a dance orchestra which recorded regularly for Columbia -- and his recordings of You Oughta Be In Pictures and I'm In The Mood For Love are likely the definitive versions of those songs. But by 1939, Little's style was out of date, and he tried to reinvent himself by leading an unusual novelty orchestra that played all its selections in "bolero" rhythm. This didn't catch on, and Little's career was essentially over.
He slipped down the ladder thru the Forties, and by the end of the decade he was scraping along as a smalltime disk jockey. He finally ended up in Florida -- where he committed suicide in 1956.
Editor’s Note: “Little Jack” Little should be familiar to old-timers from the D.C. area as he was briefly on the air here as a DJ, in the twilight of his career. His birth name was John Leonard, and after he changed his name to Jack Little, he billed himself as “The Cheerful Little Earful.” He once toured with Paul Small; naturally, they used the title of “Little and Small” in their publicity.