George White's "Scandals" was a series of popular Broadway musical revues that "combined the best of America's own burgeoning
popular music (as opposed to the imported European variety) with
fast-moving sketches and glamorous women." The Scandals shows ran for 20 years, from 1919 to 1939, and helped to launch the careers of such showbiz giants as W.C. Fields, the Three Stooges, Ray Bolger, Helen Morgan, Ethel Merman, Ann Miller, Bert Lahr, Rudy Vallée, Louise Brooks, and Eleanor Powell. Although the Scandals shows were not as lavishly staged as Flo Ziegfield's productions, they were renowned for the quality of their songs and stage talent. (More about George White's Scandals is available from Wikipedia.)
The 1931 edition of the Scandals featured Rudy Vallee, Ethel Merman, and Ray Bolger, and fantastic songs by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson. "Ethel Merman introduced the lovely 'Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries' and 'Ladies and Gentlemen, That's Love,' as well as duetting with Rudy Vallee on 'My Song.' Vallee also sang 'The Thrill Is Gone' (with Everett Marshall) and 'This Is the Missus' (with Peggy Moseley)."
That same year, Brunswick Records released a double-sided 12" 78 rpm record entitled "Gems from George White's Scandals." The disc features virtually all of Brunswick's top recording talent, including Victor Young conducting the Brunswick Studio Orchestra, Connee Boswell and the Boswell Sisters, The Mills Brothers, Bing Crosby, and radio star Frank Munn. The record also features a trombone solo on "The Thrill is Gone" by Tommy Dorsey, and a brief trumpet interlude on "Ladies and Gentlemen, That's Love" by Bunny Berigan.
The only controversial song in the program is "That's Why Darkies Were Born," which, despite its cringe-inducing imagery, actually casts African Americans in a positive light:
Someone had to pick the cotton,
Someone had to pick the corn,
Someone had to slave and be able to sing,
That's why darkies were born;
Someone had to laugh at trouble,
Though he was tired and worn,
Had to be contented with any old thing,
That's why darkies were born;
Sing, sing, sing when you're weary and
Sing when you're blue,
Sing, sing, that's what you taught
All the white folks to do;
Someone had to fight the Devil,
Shout about Gabriel's Horn,
Someone had to stoke the train
That would bring God's children to green pastures,
That's why darkies were born.
This song stands as a stark reminder of the generally demeaning way that African Americans were portrayed on radio, in books and magazines, and in the motion pictures of the day. Interestingly, Paul Robeson also recorded "That's Why Darkies Were Born" in 1931, and kept it in his regular performance repertory for decades.
The 1931 Brunswick recording features, in order:
The Boswell Sisters - This is The Missus
Bing Crosby, Tommy Dorsey - The Thrill Is Gone
Frank Munn - My Song
The Boswell Sisters, Bunny Berigan - Ladies and Gentlemen, That's Love
Frank Munn - That's Why Darkies Were Born
The Mills Brothers, Connee Boswell, Bing Crosby, The Boswell Sisters - Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries