Elton Britt Biography

James Britt Baker, 17 June 1913 (but over the years various other dates have been given, including 7 July 1912), near Marshall, Arkansas, USA, d. 23 June 1972, Connellsville, Pennsylvania, USA. Britt’s father was a champion fiddle player and his mother a noted singer. He learned to sing and play guitar and was performing in public by the age of 12. After hearing recordings by Riley Puckett and Jimmie Rodgers, he became interested in yodelling and soon became proficient at the art. In the early 30s he joined the Beverly Hillbillies, and appeared with them on KMPC Hollywood. When the group split in 1932, Britt moved with Zeke Manners to New York, where (under various aliases) the pair recorded for ARC. Britt entered and won a yodelling competition organized by cowboy star Tom Mix, in spite of the challenge of leading exponents from Switzerland and Bavaria. The win saw Britt become known as the unofficial world yodelling champion. He made his first solo recordings for RCA - Victor Records in 1937, but it was in 1942 that he enjoyed major success with his million-selling recording of ‘There’s A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere’. In 1944, his recording of this patriotic war song saw Britt become the first country artist to be awarded an official Gold Disc. In 1946, he registered six Top 10 country hits including his smash hit ‘Someday (You’ll Want Me To Want You)’ (a number 2 that charted for 18 weeks) and ‘Detour’, and achieved US Top 20 pop chart success with ‘Wave To Me My Lady’. Further success came with his popular 1948 recording of ‘Chime Bells’. A yodelling classic, though generally attributed now to Britt and Bob Miller, it originated from the English vaudeville song ‘Happy And Free Yodel’, written and recorded years earlier by Harry Torrani. In 1949, Britt had a hit with George Morgan’s song ‘Candy Kisses’ and also made several successful recordings with RCA’s female yodelling star Rosalie Allen, including ‘Beyond The Sunset’ and ‘Quicksilver’. In 1951, Britt toured Korea entertaining American troops and contracted a form of Asian fever, which for a time prevented him making appearances and had a lasting effect on his career. During the late 50s and 60s, he made some television appearances and guested on the Grand Ole Opry. He made few recordings but did have some success with his yodelling version of ‘The Skater’s Waltz’. He was reunited with Zeke Manners when, in 1959, he recorded an album with Manners’ band. Britt spent 22 years with RCA, later recording for Decca Records, ABC-Paramount Records and Ampar and apart from his own recordings, appeared as a guitarist on other artists’ recordings. He also formed his own El-Tone Music publishing company. During his career he held the unique distinction for a country artist of having long-running radio series on three major networks, namely NBC, CBS and Mutual. He also appeared in several B-movie westerns, including Laramie and Laramie Mountains.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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