Cliff Edwards began playing ukelele to accompany his singing in St. Louis bars where there were no pianos. He had a beautiful three-octave range and invented an early version of scat singing which he called “effin,” imitating a trumpet or kazoo and inserting that “instrumental” solo into his singing.
He took “Ukelele Ike” as his stage name after moving to Chicago. There he met pianist Bob Carlton whose “Ja Da” was a big hit for Edwards. He worked vaudeville and appeared in one of Ziegfeld’s Follies. But his big break came in the Gershwins’ Lady Be Good on Broadway (1924) where he stole the show with “Fascinating Rhythm.” He appeared in Jerome Kern’s Sunny (1925) and crooned “Singin’ in the Rain” in Hollywood Revue of 1929, the first of over 100 films he would make. That same year Edwards introduced (with Marion Davies) “Just You, Just Me” in the film Marianne. He sang “It’s Only a Paper Moon” in 1933 ’sTake a Chance and “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” in Red Salute (1935). He made several recordings with artists such as Red Nichols and Tony Mottola.
His was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in a dozen cartoons including Pinocchio where he sang “When You Wish Upon a Star” which won the 1940 Oscar and became Disney’s theme song. He made a number of westerns with Tim Holt and had his own radio shows in the late ‘40s. But his excesses took a toll on his career and he died broke.
-- Sandra Burlingame
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com