News of Margaret Whiting’s death at 86 on Monday must have sent her fans to the shelves in search of her recording of “Moonlight in Vermont.” She recorded the song in 1943 when she was 19. It helped make her a star, and she stayed on the charts well into the 1960s, surviving even as rock and roll displaced scores of her pop music contemporaries.
Johnny Mercer did not write the lyric for “Moonlight in Vermont,” but when he was the creative power at Capitol Records he chose the song for Whiting. Mercer and Frank Loesser helped shape her singing from the time she was the grade school daughter of their fellow songwriter Richard Whiting. In a passage from Gene Lees’ Mercer biography Portrait of Johnny, Whiting recalled how Mercer prepared her for the record session.
“…Johnny said, ‘I want you to think, what does Vermont mean to you?’
“I said, ‘A calendar with a church in the snow.’
“He said, ‘there are more images.’
“I said, ‘Well, there’s got to be summer, winter, fall. Fall. Everybody goes to see Vermont in the fall for the leaves.’
“He said, ‘I want you to think of those pictures. I want you to think of the coming of spring. I want you to think of summer, people swimming and people walking, people having a lovely time outdoors.’
“So we go in and record it and I’m envisioning all these pictures. It gave me something to go on. That’s what he taught me and that’s what Loesser taught me. Pick up that sheet music and look at those lyrics and make them mean something. Read the lyric aloud, over and over and over. Recite it until you get it. Your own natural instincts will tell you.”
Here’s the record: Trumpeter Billy Butterfield and his orchestra, with Margaret Whiting’s vocal.
For an obituary of Margaret Whiting, go here.
Bruce Armstrong says
Years ago I had the wonderful good fortune of seeing the short-lived musical “Dream” when I was in NYC for a convention. It featured the music of Johnny Mercer and starred Margaret Whiting, Lesley Ann Warren and John Pizzarelli among a very talented young cast. The orchestra was outstanding and featured great arrangements by Dick Lieb and Torrie Zito.
I attended with my wife and mother and we all agreed afterward that the highlight had been Margaret Whiting’s solo feature on “One For My Baby.” Just sitting on stage with a pin-spotlight she gave that song a reading for the ages. Yes, I know it is one of Mr. Sinatra’s all-time hits–and I love Frank–but to hear and see Margaret perform that song with all the depth and world-weary emotion that only a woman of her age could install into those lyrics remains a musical memory I will forever remember. I know Frank would have approved!
Buzz Stephens says
Speaking of Margaret Whiting, Yahoo’s The Judy Garland Experience is paying tribute to her all this week. Along with the weekly uploading of ultra rare Garland tracks we also have several rarely heard and never released Margaret Whiting performances.
Included in the mix is a complete set recorded at Rainbow And Stars in the late 80’s, highlights from Margaret’s stint as 1946’s Voice Of Continental Can Company, television appearances, other concert performances, out of print studio sessions, and more.
If you are a Whiting fan you will not be disappointed: