AILEEN STANLEY (died 1982, age 89) projected a blues-influenced sensuality that was rare in white female vocalists of that era. She was one of Billy Murray's regular singing partners in the 1920's. Aileen also recorded many hits with other collaborators and as a solo artist, most notably "Sweet Indiana Home" (Victor 18992 in 1922) and "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street' (with Gene Austin on Victor 19585 in 1925).
Aileen featured "My Little Bimbo" in William Rock's production, "Silks & Satins." Grant Clark provided the words for "My Little Bimbo;" Walter Donaldson the music; and Charles N. Grant, the arrangement.
The soprano was born Maude Elsie Aileen Muggeridge in Chicago. Her father died months before she was born. Her mother, Maria, encouraged young Aileen and her brother Stanley to develop their singing and dancing talents. They formed a brother-and-sister team called Stanley and Aileen, also the Peerless English Juveniles, even the Premier Versatile Entertainers. They toured the Midwest and West Coast as early as 1904, playing Nickelodeons and burlesque houses. Gracye Susan Burian, who examines the singer's early career in the Spring-Summer 1984 issue of the Journal of American Culture, reports that Stan ran off with a chorus girl and began a new act. Aileen performed solo in vaudeville, forming a new stage name (Aileen Stanley) by reversing names of the old act (Stanley and Aileen).
In 1920 she appeared in a New York show called Silks And Satins, which was basically a revue in which Stanley sang some numbers.
In the 1920s she recorded for PathÅ, Olympic, Vocalion, Brunswick, Gennett, Okeh, Edison, and Operaphone, but her best-selling recordings were made for the for the Victor Talking Machine Company. Stanley discs issued by other companies are rare.
Her first Victor recordings were made on August 10, 1920, She was undoubtedly hired because of her success in Silks And Satins. "Broadway Blues" and "My Little Bimbo Down on the Bamboo Isle" were issued on Victor 18691 in November 1920. On August 12 she recorded the Walter Donaldson-Grant Clarke song "My Little Bimbo" for Edison as well (Diamond Disc 50707; Blue Amberol 4147). "My Little Bimbo" was the song most identified with her in the early 1920s. The chorus features the words of a bragging sailor, Bill McCoy, who was once shipwrecked on a "Fee-jee-ee-jee Isle." The lyrics are not exactly risque but the allusion to nudity ("...all she wore was a great big Zulu smile") was daring for 1920.
She became known as "The Girl With The Personality," "The Phonograph Girl," and, in 1926, "The Victrola Girl." She appeared often on sheet music covers in the early 1920s. Edison promotional literature announcing new Blue Amberols for April 1922 states about "Boo-Hoo-Hoo" (4487), "A serio-comic song, which suits the style of Aileen Stanley to perfection. In vaudeville, Miss Stanley is known as 'The Phonograph Girl,' because of her popularity on records." For Stanley to call herself "The Phonograph Girl" as early as 1922 was bold, given the relatively few Stanley records released at this time and the greater popularity of Marion Harris, Nora Bayes, and others. Stanley's popularity would increase in coming years.
On January 4, 1922 she married her accompanist, Robert Buttenuth, in Minneapolis
In her early recording years, Stanley sang blues and a few songs also recorded by jazz ensembles. Edison Diamond Disc jackets promoted Stanley as a blues artist. In 1921 she was issued on Black Swan 14116 ("Honey Rose" and "Mandy 'n'Me") as Mamie Jones. At least some record buyers must have believed they were hearing a black artist when listening to this Black Swan disc.
Her last performance for Edison was "On The Isle Of Wicki Wacki Woo," recorded on June 14, 1923 and issued on Diamond Disc 51207.
On January 30, 1925, she recorded with Gene Austin a song composed by Austin (with Jimmy
McHugh and Irving Mills) titled "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street" (Victor 19585). This was Stanley's last recording made with Victor's acoustic process. In August she made her first Orthophonic recordings. She was immediately paired with Billy Murray. They recorded "If I Had A Girl Like You" on September 22, 1925. It was issued as Victor 19795 and backed with "Keep Your Skirt Down, Mary Ann," with Murray singing as an Irish mother.
In the Victor studio, she was one of Billy Murray's regular singing partners. Their first duets were "When The Leaves Come Tumbling Down" (Victor 19026) and "You've Got To See Mamma Ev'ry Night" (Victor 19027), recorded on February 15, 1923. Murray's partnership with Stanley resulted in a wide stylistic range of recordings during the last years of Victor's acoustic era and then during the early Orthophonic years. They include blues-derived numbers ("You've Got to See Mama Ev'ry Night," Victor 19431), comic sketches ("Nobody's Sweetheart," 19373), and straightforward ballads ("It Had to Be You," 19373). In 1926 they recorded "Bridget O'Flynn (Where've Ya Been?)" (20240), and on this disc Billy Murray truly holds back in a way he never could in the acoustic era: he literally whispers sweet-nothings for an opening comic skit.
Stanley also recorded with Johnny Marvin during Victor's Orthophonic period, their version of "Red Lips--Kiss My Blues Away" (Victor 20714) selling especially well.
In the Orthophonic era Victor executives valued Murray less highly than in previous years, mostly using him as a partner for the younger Stanley. The two voices blended well in comic duets about sweethearts, and the records sold well. These electric duets find Murray singing in a more intimate way, evidence that he did adapt. But it was an odd pairing. Billy Murray, born in 1877, was significantly older, and though in some duets he sings in an Irish accent as Stanley's mother, in other songs Murray plays a love-sick teen, most notably "Whaddya Say We Get Together? (20065) and "Does She Love Me? (Positively-Absolutely)" (20643). Murray again plays a teen in "I'm Gonna Dance Wit De Guy Wot Brung Me," made on June 27, 1927 (20822). On June 13, 1929, Stanley and Murray had their final session as a team. Victor issued "Katie, Keep Your Feet on the Ground" (22040) but rejected "Please Don't Cut Out My Sauerkraut."
Stanley sang as a torch singer for "Broken Hearted," made on August 5, 1927 (20825), and "I'll Get By, As Long As I Have You" (21839), made in 1929. Her last two Victor discs were issued in 1930, neither of which sold well. Her success as an American recording artist began in the early 1920s and ended with that decade. She made some records in England in the mid-1930s.
Like millions of others, Aileen Stanley lost her personal fortune in 1929, but her interest in the entertainment world was of far greater importance. Although she was no longer on the stage, she continued in another venture connected with show business- -coaching young women who'll be the stars of tomorrow."
Biographical sources: "The Encyclopedia of Acoustic Era Recording Artists," by Tim Gracyk; "Billy Murray, The Phonograph Industry's First Great Recording Artist," by Hoffmann, Carty, & Riggs; "Edison Blue Amberol Recordings, 1912-1924," by Ronald Dethlefson.
This page was updated on October 4, 1999.