Joanie Bartels, one of the best-selling artists in the children's genre, wasn't even identified on the packaging of her first few children's releases. Yet, on the strength of her charming voice and some savvy marketing, Bartels defined the infant to preschool genre for almost a decade. Her subsequent work on albums and videos carried on her popularity.
Bartels grew up in Boston and began her musical career at an early age. When she was three years old, she was impressed by Rosemary Clooney on TV and became determined to be a vocalist. By age eleven, Bartels had learned to play the guitar and began performing in local schools and activity centers.
Bartels later performed in community theatres and coffehouses in the Boston area. From 1972 to 1977, she toured with several rock bands as a lead vocalist. Bartels also tried her hand at songwriting. In the late '70s and early '80s, Bartels moved to Los Angeles and began performing in clubs and working as a backup singer.
In 1985, Bartels was asked to sing on the first release of a fledgling company, Discovery Music. David and Ellen Wohstadder, the owners of the company, had a plan to market children's music outside of record stores, in children's clothing stores and mom-and-pop baby emporiums. Discovery's first two releases, Lullaby Magic (1985) and Morning Magic (1986), presented Bartels' sweet soprano with popular tunes such as "Goodnight My Someone" and "Put on a Happy Face." But Bartels was not identified, except in the fine print. The cassette tapes filled a niche in children's music and gained popularity primarily by word of mouth. Lullaby Magic 2, Travelin' Magic, Sillytime Magic, and Bathtime Magic followed quickly. The success of the Magic series was unprecedented in children's music, selling over two million copies. People began to identify Bartels with that success.
In 1994, Discovery Music started a new series with Bartels, this time putting her name up front. The first release in the "Joanie's Jukebox Café" series, Jump for Joy, had its debut about the same time as Bartels' first video, The Rainy Day Adventure. Both the audio and video series featured pop-oriented tunes for the preschool set. Several songs, most notably "Locomotion" and "Barefootin', " received a lot of airplay on children's radio stations. Unfortunately, the rest of the "Jukbox Café" series was incomplete, as Discovery Music was acquired by BMG Kids.
In 1996, Bartels signed with Greg and Steve's label, Youngheart Music, and began a new series of albums, "Joanie's Childhood Adventure Series." Bartels' first release in the series, Adventures with Family and Friends, returned to her proven mixture of popular and original tunes. ~ P.J. Swift