Wednesday, August 28, 2013


A lot of people recognize Bing Crosby as one of the first crooners. However, there are a lot of singers that were around before the Crosby years. Some excellent singers even predated the modern microphone. One of those singers is the now forgotten singer Irving Kaufman. He was born Isidore Kaufman in Syracuse, New York on February 8, 1890. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he was a member of The Kaufman Brothers, along with his brothers Phillip and Jack.

Kaufman began recording in 1914, and recorded for Victor, Columbia, Vocalion, Gennett, Edison, Harmony, as well as all of the dime labels (Banner, Perfect, etc.). Early in his career, when recording for Edison and RCA Victor, he recorded under his own name, but he also used a number of (non-Jewish-sounding) aliases. Sometimes, as in the case of several of his 1927 "Broadway Bell-Hops" vocals, he was merely credited as "Vocal Chorus". He was often credited as "vocal refrain by George Beaver" on the dime store labels.

Kaufman was a singer in the vaudeville style; certainly not considered a jazz singer, he nonetheless sang on recordings accompanied by some of the foremost jazz figures of the 1920s, including Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, The Dorsey Brothers, Red Nichols, Miff Mole, and Eddie Lang. (His voice recorded well - both acoustically and electrically - and was one of the most prolific singers during the 1920s.)

His recording output slowed down in the mid 1930s and early 1940s as the swing era made his style of singing sort of passe. He continued making the occasional 78 rpm recording until 1947, the last being "The Curse of an Aching Heart" coupled with "Think It Over Mary" (originally issued on the Sterling label, also issued on the Bennett label). Around this time he also recorded for Sterling some Yiddish comedy songs like "Moe the Schmo Makes Love" and "Moe the Schmo Takes a Rhumba Lesson".

Kaufman retired after a heart attack in 1949, and made no further commercial recordings until 1974, when a 2-LP set titled Reminisce With Irving Kaufman was released. It consisted mostly of transcriptions of his old recordings, but included several new cuts of Kaufman singing, accompanied by his second wife, Belle Brooks (1904–93). Upon retirement he lived in Palm Springs, California. He died January 3, 1976 in Indio, California. Even in 1976, Kaufman was forgotten but hopefully with the internet newer fans will turn up, because Irving Kaufman was really a remarkable singer that deserves to be remembered...

1 comment:

  1. Arthur Fields (singer & songwriter) formed a vocal trio with brothers Jack and Irving Kaufman, billing themselves as "The Three Kaufields".
    I played Goodnight Angeline (rec. 1920)on my radio show a few weeks ago!
    Thanks for the bio.