Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ruth Wallis - 'The Saucy Chanteuse'

Ruth Wallis began her career in the 1940s as a cabaret singer, but later introduced self-written songs which were risqué and loaded with double entendres (words and phrases with double meanings). She was very classy in her presentation of the songs, and while the songs were "for adults only", they were not vulgar in any sense.

I had acquired a small collection of her recordings, which were on her own label. Even though her songs were not vulgar, the topics were not for general open discussion in the 1940s and 1950s. Some of the subjects of the songs included adultery, breasts, transgender, male genitals - well, you get the idea. And if not, here are some titles of a few of her most popular songs which will give you more of an idea - "Boobs", "Drill 'Em All", "Ubangi", "The Pistol Song", "He'd Rather Be a Girl", "The Dinghy Song", and "The Hawaiian Lei Song". And if you STILL don't get the idea, just think of double-meanings for each of those titles!

I tried locating her for several years, but it seemed she was no where to be found. I was beginning to think that she may have been long dead, until I read a brief item in the mid-1990s about her being in London preparing a musical revue of her songs (she was not going to appear in it, but she was involved in the production, as the songs were all her own). Then shortly after, the May 1997 issue of Goldmine magazine published a career article by Chuck Miller (this article is a pdf) which mentioned her married name and that she had a "ranch house in eastern Connecticut".

I located her address and phone number and called, but her son answered, explaining she was still in London but would be home in a few months. I wrote her a letter, shown below, and waited for a reply.

About a month later, I received a vintage signed photo from Ms. Wallis, along with this handwritten letter: "Dear Bill, Thank you for your lovely letter - We are working on releasing CDs in the very near future - like next week - ha! Regards, Ruth Wallis".

More than one year later, in November 1998, I received a surprise in the mail - Ms. Wallis sent me a copy of her CD, "Boobs - Ruth Wallis' Greatest Hits".

After listening to it, I called her and thanked her. She was very cordial and appreciated my interest and enjoyment of her songs recorded many years earlier.

Ruth Wallis died in December 2007, age 87.

Here is a recording of her song "Johnny Had a Yo-Yo".

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