George Rinker-Forbes Beuchler was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on July 29, 1908. He attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and graduated when he was 18 years old. Beuchler was very active in musical productions at Georgetown including several Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
After graduation he joined the National Opera Company where he was featured as baritone in many productions, among them the American premiere of a Tchaikovsky opera, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Hugh the Drover.
George Beuchler joined the training staff of WRC when he was 16 and attending Georgetown University. After graduation he became a permanent member of the broadcasting staff at the N.B.C. affiliate. He was transferred to New York in 1929 where he continued to announce for N.B.C. He moved to Columbia in 1931 where his singing voice was heard more than his announcing on WABC. He was featured in newspaper ads for Pertussin cough medicine – “We always keep this quick remedy right beside the microphone.”
Beuchler’s rich baritone caught the attention of several bandleaders during the 1930’s. One of the first was Dan Ritchie who featured Beuchler on “Good-Bye Blues” (McHugh-Fields-Johnson) that was released on Perfect 15611-A. Another session with the Harold White Orchestra featured Beuchler on “Am I Wasting My Time” (Manus-Green) on Banner 32458-B. Beuchler is not credited on the labels but various sites credit him for the vocals on “Ma and Pa (send their sweetest love)” (Carl Hoefle), Banner 32406 A and “Everything Must Have An Ending” (Adams-Osbourne-Stillwell), Banner 32406 B, with Sammy Watkins and His Orchestra. YouTube credits Beuchler with the vocal on “Loveable” (Kahn-Woods), Banner 32407, with Victor Young and His Orchestra. The Banner and Perfect releases date from around 1932.
George Beuchler can be heard on some sessions with Bob Causer and His Cornellians on Conqueror, Oriole, Melotone, and Perfect. “Sweetheart Darlin’’ (Kahn-Stothart) on Conqueror 8150-B, Melotone M12693, and Oriole 2697-B, and “Love Songs of the Nile” (Freed-Brown) on Perfect 15769-A, Melotone M 12693, and Oriole 2697-A. These date from around 1933.
George Beuchler’s activity in the recording studios picked up in 1934 when he adopted a new stage name, George Beuler, on recordings for Brunswick and Columbia. He recorded “Little Did I Dream” (Adamson-Lane) and “Butterfingers” (Irving Berlin) on Brunswick 6856, “I’ve Had My Moments” (Kahn-Donaldson) and “The Beat ‘O My Heart” (Burke-Spina) on Brunswick 6869, “Do I Love You” (Gordon-Revel) and “With My Eyes Wide Open” (Gordon-Revel) on Brunswick 6896, “Night on the Desert” (Billy Hill) and “Tonight is Mine” (Kahn-Harling) on Brunswick 6903, all with the backing of Leo Reisman and his Orchestra. Victor Young and his Orchestra accompanied Beuler on “Sleepy Head” (Kahn-Donaldson) and “The Very Thought of You” (Ray Noble) on Brunswick 6931.
Benny Krueger and his Orchestra backed George Beuler on “Good Night Lovely Little Lady” (Revel-Gordon) and “Once in a Blue Moon” (Revel-Gordon), Columbia 2918-D, and “A Thousand Good Nights” (Walter Donaldson) and “Riptide” (Donaldson-Kahn) on Columbia 2919-D. Johnny Green and his Orchestra accompanied George Beuler on “Two Cigarettes in the Dark” (Webster-Pollack) and “The World Is Mine” (Harburg-Green) on Columbia 2859-D. “Sweet and Simple” with Bob Snyder and His Orchestra on Vocalion 2661-B does not credit George Beuchler or George Beuler on the label but internet sources list him as present on the recording. The Brunswick, Columbia, and Vocalion recordings are circa 1934.
George Beuchler became George Byron, his second stage name, in the mid 1930’s when notices for New Faces of 1936 at the Vanderbilt Theater listed George Byron in the cast. Byron was also in a stage revue at the Roxy Theater in 1938.
One of the odd items credited to George Byron on YouTube references the source as Refreshment Time, a radio variety series from 1940 that newspapers credit as being hosted by “Singin’ Sam.” This song clip opens stating that George Byron is a member of the show’s staff and performs “The World Is In My Arms” (Harburg-Lane) from the current Broadway show at the Schubert Theater, Hold On To Your Hats.
General Records was a division of Consolidated Records, Inc., of New York City. The label was owned by pioneering sound engineer Hazard E. Reeves, of Reeves Sound Studios (1939–1944) in Manhattan. George Byron recorded several songs for the General label. If the release numbers on the General 78’s indicate the chronological order, the first series of records were devoted to songs by George and Ira Gershwin. The three 78’s may have been released as a three album set, but searches for a album cover were not found.
The gap in the above numerical releases on General might belong to a release on General 4013 with Byron singing “Three Times A Day” (B. G. De Sylva-George Gershwin-Ira Gershwin) and “I Love To Rhyme” (George and Ira Gershwin). Byron recorded both tunes with Dick Hyman on piano for his Gershwin Desto album.
Byron’s next session for General recorded several Jerome Kern songs. These might have been released as an album, Jerome Kern Favorites, General G-19, – sung by George Byron with Bobby Tucker on piano.
Byron joined Ice-Capades of 1941 when it opened at Atlantic City in September of 1940. He was the featured vocalist along with Dorothy Allen and handled some of the master of ceremonies duties. His association with the company landed him in Hollywood in 1942 where he was featured in the Republic Pictures release, Ice Capades Revue (1942). Byron stayed with Republic and appeared in several films during the 1940’s. Chatterbox (1943) – Thumbs Up (1943) – Hoosier Holiday (1943) – Mystery Broadcast (1943) – Jamboree (1944).
News of Radio
George Byron Stars New Afternoon Song Program
“Continued efforts to bring afternoon listeners more musical and variety shows has resulted in the presentation of the popular radio and screen baritone, George Byron, in a program of songs at 1:30 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday over WGAN, beginning this week. On his new air series, Byron will sing the latest popular tunes in a style that he has developed during a long career on the stage and before the microphone.
Slowly working his way up the ladder of fame, George Byron began his radio career at the age of 18 as an announcer in Washington, D.C., after which he went to New York to announce network shows, including important sports events with Ted Husing and Harry Von Zell. All the while, however, he was quietly taking singing lessons on the side, practicing every free moment.
As his voice developed, Byron started singing vocal spots for the networks. Soon he was singing on programs with such stars as Andre Kostelanetz, Howard Barlow, and Johnny Green. Later came vaudeville engagements and leading roles in Broadway stage productions; then contracts for films in Hollywood and for two record albums. He recently toured France, Germany, and Belgium for the USO, playing opposite Joy Hodges in Cole Porter’s musical, Anything Goes.
The young singing star will give local listeners a preview of his talents at 10:30 p.m. tonight on We, The People (WGAN), when he appears as special guets to tell of his friendship with the late Jerome Kern. Before he died, Kern wrote a number especially for Byron entitled – “The Sweetest Sight That I Have Seen” – which he will introduce on tonuight’s broadcast. Other notables to be heard on We, The People are Joe Louis. Heavy weight boxing champion, znd contender Billy Conn; also the Mexican baseball tycoon, George Pasquel.”
Daily News, May 19, 1946
The Songs of George Byron. Program #5, 1946. Johnny Guarnieri on piano. Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Written for the Broadway show Annie Get Your Gun (1946). “They Say It’s Wonderful.”
The Songs of George Byron. Program #5, 1946. Johnny Guarnieri on piano. Music by Harry Akst and lyrics by Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young. “Dinah.”
The Songs of George Byron. Program #13, 1946. Johnny Guarnieri on piano. Music by Arthur Schwartz and lyrics by Howard Dietz. Orchestra conducted by Jeff Alexander. Written for the Broadway show Flying Colors (1932). “A Shine on Your Shoes.”
The Songs of George Byron. Program #13, 1946. Johnny Guarnieri on piano. Music and lyrics by Stephen Foster. Orchestra conducted by Jeff Alexander. “Gentle Annie” (Stephen Foster).
The Songs of George Byron. Program #13, 1946. Johnny Guarnieri on piano. Music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Leo Robin. Orchestra conducted by Jeff Alexander. Written for the movie Centennial Summer (1946). “In Love In Vain” (Kern-Robin).
The Songs of George Byron. Program #14, 1946. Johnny Guarnieri on piano. Music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Edward Eliscu and Billy Rose. Orchestra conducted by Jeff Alexander. Written for the Broadway show Great Day (1929). “More Than You Know” (Youmans-Eliscu-Rose).
The Songs of George Byron. Program #14, 1946. Johnny Guarnieri on piano. Music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Orchestra conducted by Jeff Alexander. Written for the Broadway show Carousel (1945). “When The Children Are Asleep” (Rodgers-Hammerstein II).
Desto Records was an American record company established in 1951. Decca Records threatened suite claiming that the names were similar and might confuse the buying public. The president of Desto, Henry Goldsmith, rejected the claim as “far-fetched” and continued operations. One of their first productions was a new recording of John Gay’s Beggars Opera that Desto advertised as the “17th Century Guys and Dolls.” The deluxe three LP set retailed for $17.85.
Desto released two albums by George Byron in the early 1950’s. A Memo from Jerome Kern to George Byron featured the baritone performing – “Can I Forget You?” – “Up With The Lark” – “Poor Pierrot” – “More and More” – “The Siren’s Song” – “The Sweetest Sight That I Have Seen” – “Remind Me” – “Moon Song” with piano accompaniment by William Roy. The album cover featured Jerome Kern’s memo on his letterhead that listed the songs with the appropriate key. It noted that the songs were selected by Kern personally for George Byron who had become a close friend of the Kern family.
The other album featured songs by George and Ira Gershwin. Rediscovered Gershwin Sung by George Byron presented “By Strauss” – “Blah-Blah-Blah” – “Lorelei” – “Isn’t It A Pity” – “Three Times A Day” – “The Half Of It, Dearie Blues” – “I Love To Rhyme” – “The Back Bay Polka” with piano accompaniment by Dick Hyman.
Both albums were reissued by Atlantic Records in 1954 when the Desto label ceased operations. The Atlantic albums reproduced the original Desto cover art. The notice by Bob Rolontz in The Billboard, January 23, 1954, noted – “On the set featuring some of Jerome Kern’s lesser known compositions, Byron is satisfactory; on the disk containing eight of George and Ira Gershwin’s tunes that have passed into obscurity it would have been prudent to let the efforts remain in limbo.”
A Daily News review revealed the back story about the album:
Let’s Look At The Records
“LOVE’S OLD SWEET SONG: “The Sweetest Sight That I Have Seen,” an unpublished and previously unrecorded song by Oscar Hammerstein and the late Jerome Kern, is sung by George Byron on a new long-playing disc, and thereby hangs a tale …
Back in 1939, Kern and Hammerstein were working on “Very Warm For May,” which turned out to be Kern’s last Broadway show. The Kerns made their home in California, and Oscar, a New Yorker, was putting up at Norma Talmadge’s Santa Monica home. One moonlight night, Oscar was pacing back and forth along the beach side of the house, trying to think up words for the Kern tunes in his head. Looking down on the beach, hde noticed several pairs of lovers; but one pair, in particular, absorbed him. These two special lovers had white hair.
They sat on the sand, looking out to the sea, the man’s arm around the woman’s shoulders. Hammerstein watched them rise and walk off, hand in hand, along the beach. He tried to shake the picture out of his head. After all, he thought, he had no time to waste on such thoughts. He had a job at hand, to create lyrics for a particular story. But the vision wouldn’t fade, and he found himself composing words for a show that never came off. Oscar went back indoors with “The Sweetest Sight That I have Seen” completed.
He went to the Kerns that same night and showed Jerome what he had done. Kern was delighted, though the song had no place in the show. That same night, George Byron, a young singer with a knack for interpreting show tunes, showed up at the Kern’s house and Jerome gave him the song and told Byron that it was to be his to perform exclusively.
For many years thereafter, the piece was regarded with special affection in both the Kern and Hammerstein households, but nothing was ever done with it.
Some years after Kern’s death, his widow, Eva, in going through her late husband’s effects, came across a memo containing a list of Kern songs that the composer had compiled for Byron to record. On that list was “The Sweetest Sight That I have Seen.” Eva decided to try to get in touch with Byron. As it happened, the singer, who had arrived in California that same day, called her on the phone and told her that he had been thinking of the song recently.
Now, it has finally been recorded by Byron, along with seven other relatively unfamiliar Kern songs that made up the composer’s list. It is a lovely thing, broad and flowing and containing some of Hammerstein’s tenderest lyrics, and Byron sings it sensitively.
“My old couple who sat on a moonlit beach in Santa Monica 13 years ago live again.” Oscar says.”
New York Daily News
January 31, 1954
George Byron renewed his desire to showcase forgotten or ignored songs when he joined with Andre Previn to record his last album for Atlantic Records. The Previn arrangements that included a jazz ensemble on some songs added some zest to Byron’s vocals.
William Claxton executed a Pacific Jazz AFM contract on November 30, 1956, naming Andre Previn as leader for a session at Capitol Records with a total of ten musicians. Claxton was was intimately involved in the production of the album and took the cover photograph for the album that was released by Atlantic Records. The November 30 session featured some of Hollywood’s finest jazz musicians, a few were named in the liner notes for the album: Don Fagerquist, Bob Cooper, Al Hendrickson, and Shelly Manne. Also present were Frank Rosolino, Harry Klee, Bill Holman, and Buddy Clark. The album did not attract the attention of the jazz discography community despite several tracks that featured the jazz musicians noted above. Earlier sessions utilized a string orchestra backing, George Byron.
PREMIERE PERFORMANCE! – Original Liner notes
“The trouble with Jerome Kern was the bigness of his talent. He had a little thing going for him called genius and it was so absolute and abundant, so pervasive and persistent, that we are apt to take it for granted. It is, as George Avakian observed of Duke Ellington’s massive accomplishments, “like walking down Thirty-fourth Street, admiring all the impressive buildings, and then awakening with a start to find that one has overlooked the Empire State Building.” In Kern’s case, we have come to assume that he was melody — just as we’ve come to assume that the House of Morgan is money, Hemingway prose, and the Empire State Building height. What we forget is how much money, how miraculous the prose, how high the height. Jerome Kern wrote so many superlative songs that we are likely to be brought up short only when we hear something of his that seems somewhat less captivating than the fruits of his finest hours. After all, what gave us pause was not that Joe Louis demolished one opponent after another, but that there should have been a man on earth who could take his measure. And what astonished us about Hemingway was less the beauty of For Whom The Bell Tolls than the blowsiness of Across The River. To appreciate just how gifted Kern was it is necessary to take time to ponder his achievements — to consider their prodigious quantity and their extraordinary quality, and, by consulting chronology, to be reminded how ageless is his testament of beauty.
Kern, who was born in New York City in 1885, was a successful composer from the age of twenty, when he turned out the music for The Red Petticoat, until virtually the day of his death in 1945, when he was seized by a stroke while preparing to sign a contract to provide the songs for a show to be called Annie, Get Your Gun. Such a long career; remarkable enough in itself, but what is even more so is that the best of his melodies — beginning with “How’d You Like To Spoon With Me?,” which, good Lord, came out in 1905! have never gone out of style. When you think of all the couples who must have fallen in love to one or another them! All the vocalists who have sung them! All the dance bands that have played them! It is, as a matter of simple fact, absolutely staggering to think about all the changes in taste — all the vagrant vogues and manic modes — that Kern’s songs have outlasted. They were, many of them, bright and shiny in the age of innocence when string ensembles whispered them from behind potted palms in the marble halls of stately hotels long since converted to parking lots. And they were just as bright and shiny in the twilights of the twenties, when, as some incurable romantic has noted, Connie Bennett was the suppressed desire of all the sad young men who watched her dancing at dusk in the Plaza Grill. For it is a manifestation of Kern’s genius that it is forever being discovered by new generations and in new places — not only by the people who listened to Joseph C. Smith’s band on those bittersweet afternoons, but also by couples who danced to Art Hickman out in San Francisco, or to Paul Whiteman at the Palais Royale, or to Leo Reisman in the posh nights of the Central Park Casino when Eddy Duchin was the piano-in-the-band and a man named James J. Walker was never out of his dancing pumps, or, nowadays, to Ted Straeter, as stars twinkle in the Persian Room of the Plaza. They will always, it seems, be bright and shiny.
Over the years there have been some altogether worthwhile recorded anthologies of Kern’s songs and it would be as ungracious as it would be inaccurate to try to suggest that Premiere Performance makes all other collections obsolete. At the same time, however, it would be something approaching coyness not to point out that it is rather different, rather special, perhaps even unique. For one thing — and this is unique — it marks the premiere performance of three songs that were discovered some months ago among Kern’s unpublished manuscripts. “Nice To Be Near,” “Introduce Me,” and “April Fooled Me” had neither lyrics nor even suggested titles when George Byron — who, as it happened, was one of Kern’s favorite singers — came upon them.
Byron, who, according to Ira Gershwin, “is the ultimate answer to a lyric writer’s prayers,” was engaged in preparing an album of neglected Kern songs when he discovered the melodies. After showing them to Andre Previn, who was to arrange the music in the album (and who shared Byron’s enthusiasm for them), Byron forwarded them to Dorothy Fields in Brewster, N. Y. Miss Fields, who had enjoyed a long and rewarding association with Kern as the lyrist of some of his greatest accomplishments, familiarized herself with the three songs and then, in order to escape the clamor of her vacationing children and their friends, secluded herself in a barn. There, seated in a wagon, she provided them with words. Although all three of her new lyrics strike me as unusually lovely, I must confess a partiality for “April Fooled Me,” which, with its muted suggestions of Chaucer and T. S. Eliot, seems to me one of the most haunting passages in all the annals of popular lyric-writing.
But there are other factors that make Premiere Performance something out of the ordinary. One of them is its insistence upon treating Kern as the thoroughly engaging human being that he was. In the past — or so it appears to me — there has been an unhealthy tendency for musicians and vocalists to deify Kern’s songs and, by so doing, to strip them of much of their archness and wit and great good humor. If Jerome Kern was a genius, he was never a stuffy one. Indeed, he was forever rebelling at efforts to install him upon a pedestal. He was warm and kind and modest, and also, incidentally, an enormously creative practical joker — a circumstance that some of his dreadfully serious interpreters have strived manfully to conceal. Happily, neither George Byron nor Andre Previn can be counted among such spoil-sports. As a consequence, Premiere Performance, far from being solemn, is, as Kern himself was, disarmingly unpretentious. If I had to choose one adjective that would capture the spirit of the performances in this album, I would, I think, settle for lilting.
Although Kern was primarily a popular songwriter, he was also a master of the lieder idiom, a fact that is immediately apparent in many of these interpretations. Byron, after all, is thoroughly at ease in this idiom. Not only that, but he is one of the very few singers accomplished enough to cope with the demanding range of, say, “Poor Pierrot.” To quote Douglas Watt, who has observed in The New Yorker magazine while reviewing a previous album by Byron of Kern, “Byron’s handling of all these pieces is invariably distinguished. Like a first-rate lieder singer, he subordinates his whole art to the material at hand. This is, of course, an exceptional practice among singers of popular songs, most of whom prefer to direct attention to their own prowess.”
But Kern was nothing if not versatile — at times, almost glibly so. It would, I feel, be a grave mistake to attempt to do a Kern anthology in a single mood, obscuring, as it would (and as it so often has in the past), the delightful play of light and shadow, of bliss and sorrow, of memory and desire, that are the quintessence of the man’s talent. Neither Byron nor Previn (nor, it scarcely need be said, Eugene Benyas or William Claxton, who produced the album) would have been satisfied with anything so pedestrian. As a result, Premiere Performance is, in a manner of speaking, a four-dimensional interpretation of one of the most resourceful talents in the history of popular music. In “Long Ago And Far Away,” “Poor Pierrot” and “The Folks Who Live On The Hill,” for example, the only accompaniment to Byron’s stately singing is Previn’s sensitive piano-playing. On the other hand,“The Siren’s Song,” “How’d You Like To Spoon With Me?,” “Let’s Begin,” and “You Couldn’t Be Cuter” — all of them effervescent — utilize a small jazz group (in which Don Fagerquist, trumpet, Bob Cooper, oboe and tenor saxophone, Shelly Manne, drums, and Al Hendrickson, guitar, figure prominently). To capture the swell and coloration of “Nice To Be Near,” “The Touch Of Your Hand,” “Introduce Me,” and “April Fooled Me,” however, Previn called upon a full orchestra. The background to “Two Hearts Together” is provided by a trio. Incidentally, the piano bridges — which contribute so much toward making the whole enterprise something a little different — are by Previn.
Parenthetically, I should like to observe that this sort of thing — a distinguished and, presumably, abiding presentation of a man’s many-splendored musical gift — should not stop with this set. My own conviction is that Byron and Previn should do a similar service for, say, Cole Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Hammerstein, Vincent Youmans, and — by all means! — the criminally under-rated Dorothy Fields. As he demonstrated in two previous Atlantic compendiums — one of Gershwin, the other of Kern (which, by the way, includes “Sweetest Sight” a number composed expressly for Byron), Byron is a kind of poet laureate of the best show and show-type tunes.
It is, by the way, a risky business to record unpublished material by a composer of Kern’s stature. A new Kern song, like a new Hemingway novel, is, at least in the field of aesthetics and ruthlessness, news of a stop-presses nature. Everybody, as it were, wants to get into the act. Understandably, the three premiere performances in this set had to be carried out in an air of utmost secrecy. They were therefore recorded in a closed session at the Capitol studios in Hollywood. Except for Previn, not a single member of the twenty-seven-piece orchestra was aware that he was participating in an historic undertaking. In order to preclude any information leaking out, Kern’s name was omitted from the music parts. But here they finally are.
The trouble with Jerome Kern was the bigness of his talent. All too often, as a result, we take it for granted. It is only when we ponder his accomplishments — as we can do here — that we appreciate what a memorable last will and testament they constitute. It is that way in the case of all immensely creative people. “As with all great writers,” William Maxwell recently wrote of some newly-discovered essays by Virginia Woolf, “one forgets — while thinking that one remembers – what she is like, until one sees once more that incomparable fancy take the hook and run with it.” That, it seems to me, is what Premiere Performance affords — an opportunity to observe Jerome Kern’s incomparable fancy take the hook and run with it.”
George Byron married Jerome Kern’s widow, Eva Leale Kern, in 1951. They were together until she passed away in 1959. In the mid 1950’s he formed a partnership with Walter R. Pick. Their production company worked with the Junior League in Los Angeles for several years in presenting musical cabaret shows. The Los Angels Citizen News published a notice in March of 1963 regarding Byron’s Junior League activities. “George Byron is home from his trip to Washington and New York. He had a pleasant encounter with Mrs. Walter Swayze, who heads the national committee for entertainment, for all the Junior Leagues throughout the country. Mrs. Swayze was most enthusiastic in her praise of the Junior League shows in Log Angeles, produced, of course, by George and his partner, Walter Pick. Only those two sophisticated gentlemen could have persuaded the dignified league past presidents to sing “Won’t You Spoon With Me?”
Michael Owen shared that his research found that George Byron asked Ira Gershwin to work on a couple of lyrics for songs Ira wrote with Jerome Kern back in 1938. Ira told his attorney he was doing it as a favor, presumably for Eva. The two songs, “Once There Were Two of Us” and “No Question in My Heart” were published in the 1960s. Andrea Marcovicci recorded “Once There Were Two of Us” that was included in her 1992 album, Just Kern.
Byron died on May 27, 1982, and is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
Special thanks to Michael Owen whose biography of Julie London was published by Chicago Review Press. Michael Owen is an archivist, writer, and researcher. A historian of popular music and culture, he is the consulting archivist to the estate of the songwriter Ira Gershwin, and managing editor and feature writer for its newsletter Words Without Music. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the George and Ira Gershwin Critical Editions, for which he is completing a scholarly, annotated edition of Ira Gershwin’s 1928 European travel journal. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
This presentation has been greatly enhanced thanks to Joe Lang, New Jersey Jazz Society, who has been a fan of George Byron for many decades, an appreciation that began when he acquired a copy of Premiere Performance! in a used record shop in Marin, California. Joe has kindly shared audio copies from his collection and the author will endeavor to share many of these in a future revision of this appreciation of George Byron.