As the recording industry shifted its focus from the jukebox to the home market starting in 1949, a new generation of singers emerged to win over the slippers and sofa set. Rather than croon standards passionately like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, these new singers were more likely to record material by new songwriters and deliver them with a relaxed, lounge-like intimacy. Among this group was singer-songwriter-pianist Bobby Troup, whose first leadership date in 1953 for Capitol is remarkable for its hushed charm and saxophone arrangements by Bob Enevoldsen.
If there's a starting point for this new glossy-casual approach to songwriting and singing, it would have to be the rise of Johnny Mercer, whose catchy melodies, folksy lyrics and carefree delivery were perfectly tailored for West Coast suburbia. While Mercer certainly kicked off the trend, building neatly on Hoagy Carmichael, Nat King Cole with his trio was the personification of this type of vocalist, with his round, honeysuckle voice and neighborly singing style.
Like Mercer, Troup could write melodies and lyrics that connected with men and women, making LP-buying homeowners feel at home. In the early '40s, Troup had had a hit with Daddy and then scored an even bigger hit with (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 in 1946. But what made Troup especially popular was his ability to sound as though he were playing and singing in your living room.
On Bobby Troup!, the singing pianist is joined by Bob Enevoldsen, Newcomb Rath, Jack Dulong, Bill McDougal (ts), Don Davidson (bar), Howard Roberts (g), Harry Babasin (b) and Don Heath (d).
Particularly noteworthy here are Enevoldsen's charts. The saxes are beautifully voiced, and they provide Troup with a smooth, engaging backdrop, operating in glorious West Coast counterpoint. If you're familiar with Enevoldsen only as a trombonist, you'll be surprised to hear him play tenor sax.
The songs are 'Deed I Do, My Blue Heaven, Chicago, Hungry Man, I Can't Get Started, The Three Bears, Dinah, Lemon Twist, You're Looking at Me and Where Are You? Three of the tracks were written by Troup—The Three Bears, Hungry Man and Lemon Twist. Each has a warm hipness, a fusing of Nat Cole and Slim Gaillard, if you will.
Troup made many of these kinds of albums—knowing, gently hip and conversational, and he often did so with a trio. In later years, Troup acted in TV shows, most notably Emergency! in the early '70s. He also wrote The Girl Can't Help It for the 1956 film of the same title, in which Little Richard sings the title track. And Troup wrote the lyrics to Neal Hefti's Girl Talk. [Pictured from left above: Julie London and husband Bobby Troup]
Along the way in the late '40s and early '50s, Troup paved the way for Matt Dennis, Joe Mooney and other cozy club singers who sounded deft and debonair and seemed to know listeners better than they knew themselves.
JazzWax tracks: Bobby Troup! isn't available on CD, though you probably can find it at download sites. You will find the tracks, though, on a Jasmine Records compilation, Bobby Troup Sings Troup, Mercer and More.
JazzWax clip: Here's Bobby Troup in the 1960s singing his boppish Lemon Twist, with wife Julie London digging his scene...
Here's Bobby Troup singing his lyrics to Girl Talk in a fabulous clip directed by Robert Altman...
And here's Troup singing what has to be one of the hippest arrangements of Route 66...