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Classic Years of the Merry Macs

The Merry Macs

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Album Review

The Merry Macs are probably best remembered today for their biggest hit, "Mairzy Doats," or by fans of Abbott & Costello for their appearance in what is probably the comedy duo's best early-'40s film, Ride 'Em Cowboy (where they shared the musical spotlight with Ella Fitzgerald). It's a bit of a shame because they had a sound that's worth hearing on lots of material (and divorced from the screen), their bright harmonies working wonders on standards such as "The Hut Sut Song" and "Deep in the Heart of Texas." Like many vocal pop groups of the period, the group utilized elements of jazz instrumentation and aesthetics in many of their accompaniments, which is one of the aspects of their sound that makes them so appealing today. This 14-song collection represents some of their best and most popular work, including their biggest hits ("Mairzy Doats," "Sentimental Journey," etc.), remarkable numbers such as the lyric-twisting "Breathless," their collaborations with Bing Crosby ("Dolores," "You Made Me Love You"), and the wartime anthems for which they were known in the 1940s ("Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!," etc.). Their cool harmonies on numbers such as "Cheatin' on the Sandman" are still beguiling a half-century later, and bear repeated listening — the Manhattan Transfer owed a certain amount to the quartet's work in the 1940s. The sound, as usual, is impeccable, and the annotation is very thorough, providing one of the better historical profiles of this unjustly neglected group. One only wishes that the label could have found better cover art for the CD, to make it more potentially attractive to those who don't already know something about the group.

Biography

Formed: 1925 in Minneapolis, MN

Genre: Vocal

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

An early harmony vocal group most famous during World War II, the Merry Macs formed around Ted, Judd, and Joe McMichael. The brothers, raised and based in Minneapolis, began singing at an early age, with their mother as an occasional melody vocalist. In the mid-'20s, the trio made the leap to radio and toured (as the Personality Boys) with Joe Haymes. By 1930, they had added a female vocalist, Cherry MacKay, and become the Merry Macs. After signing to Victor in 1932, the group made their label debut...
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Classic Years of the Merry Macs, The Merry Macs
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