(first published April 17, 2007)
For this week's Virtual Victrola, two rare versions of Walter Donaldson's great song, "You're Driving Me Crazy," plus a choice vintage Max Fleischer animated cartoon featuring his famous "follow the bouncing ball" sing-along chorus.
Our first version of "You're Driving Me Crazy" was recorded on Dec. 8, 1930 by the Ben Selvin orchestra and released on the Velvet Tone label as by "Lloyd Keating and his Music." Velvet Tone was one of several cheap 'dimestore' record labels owned by Columbia Records. The Ben Selvin orchestra was, for all intents and purposes, the house orchestra of Columbia Records. Selvin's output was released on Columbia's different labels under his own name and under a confusing variety of pseudonyms. Although the session files do not list the personnel in the orchestra, many collectors believe that Benny Goodman (who appeared on dozens of Ben Selvin records during this time) is the clarinet soloist.
Next up is a great version of this song recorded for the Hit of the Week label by "The New York Twelve," which according to surviving recording ledgers is probably a contingent from the Harry Reser orchestra. Reser was a prominent New York recording artist and led numerous groups during the late 1920's and early 1930's. Although Reser is best known as a banjo virtuoso, he is heard briefly on this side playing the guitar. The soloists are probably Murray Kelner on violin and Bob Effros on trumpet. Much more about this recording here.
Finally, here is a delightful Max Fleischer animation from 1931 entitled "Jungle Festival," featuring a Fleischer Screen Songs segment (Quicktime video download, 15 Mb). The music is "You're Driving Me Crazy" and the Screen Songs singer is ... well, extra points if you can guess who it is.
These pre-code Fleischer cartoons are playfully goofy, often bizarre and sometimes sprinkled with dark humor. They are an interesting contrast to the Disney shorts of the same period, in which Walt Disney emphasized slapstick humor, romance, and an overall air of wholesomeness.
Give up on the singer? She was one of the most popular radio stars of the early 1930's and always introduced herself with, "hello everybody, this is Kate Smith."