Harry Prime

Harry Prime

To do: Organize this and update the wikipedia article 

Daniel Rubin: At 90, big-band singer Harry Prime gets another encore philly.com 

He recorded nearly 100 songs in the '40s and '50s - including "Until," a million-seller with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

He was making $200 a week in 1945 on CBS Radio's Music That Satisfies, and five years later a Billboard poll of the nation's disc jockeys rated his band, the Ralph Flanagan Orchestra, No. 1 in the country. He was voted the 20th-best singer, ahead of Dennis Day, Eddie Fisher, and Dean Martin.

The year: 1944. Prime was 24, newly married, and heading for the post office in Washington, where the night shift awaited. His trolley passed the 400 Club. The marquee announced an amateur-night contest.

Prime performed so well that the club offered him a week's engagement. At the end, the owner told him if he went back to the post office, he'd be a fool. Once Prime made the change, his salary jumped from $42 to $50 a week.

The club owner knew what he had. He sent Prime to a nearby recording studio to sing with a blind accordion player. They laid down "I'll Get By" and "Long Ago and Far Away." And when the club owner heard the acetate, he called bandleader Jimmy Dorsey in New York and played him the record over the phone.

Days later Prime was headed for Florida in a borrowed suit. Dorsey hired him to travel with his musicians, learn the songbook, and wait until their male vocalist - a drug addict - hit the skids.

Prime's time came four weeks later, with two minutes' notice, at Manhattan's Hotel Pennsylvania. The show was going to be broadcast on radio. "Are you ready to sing?" Dorsey asked him.

In the crowd that night sat a big-time DJ, Martin Block, who invited Prime to stop by his office the next day. Waiting for him were several execs from the cigarette company that made Chesterfields and sponsored the show.

Prime was signed for a 13-week engagement, for four times as much as he'd ever earned. Chesterfield marketed him as something out of Horatio Alger, from rags to riches.

[left Jimmy Dorsey and joined Ralph Flanagan]

By the time Prime left Flanagan's band, tastes had changed, and television was shifting the emphasis from sound to looks. Prime ultimately returned to Philadelphia to spin disks on WCAU.

Big Band Vocalist, Harry Prime Ken Vitek, tonycds.com


Born March 5, 1920 in East Falls, Pa.

Featured vocalist with the Orchestras of Randy Brooks, Tommy Dorsey, Jack Fina and Ralph Flanagan.

While in New York, he performed regularly on Chesterfield sponsored radio programs from 7:15 to 7:30 PM. In 1946, he joined the Randy Brooks Orchestra and remained with Brooks until the band broke up in Des Moines, Iowa in 1947. While the Brooks Orchestra, primarily featured instrumentals showcasing the trumpet of Brooks, Prime recorded the following tunes:

  • Without Love
  • Strange Love
  • One Love
  • Surrender
  • Lamplight

Returning to New York, he joined the Jack Fina Orchestra for a four week engagement in the Starlight Roof of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. With Fina, he recorded the following songs:

  • Golden Earrings
  • So Far
  • Music From Beyond The Moon
  • Song Of New Orleans
  • At The Candlelight Cafe
He remained with the Fina organization, until the conclusion of their engagement at the Chase Hotel in St Louis sometime in late 1947.
Earlier in his career, Prime had made a demo recording of, "I'll Get By" and "Long Ago And Far Away" which was sent to New York and auditioned by George Marlow, who had contacts with Tommy Dorsey. Fast forwarding now to January 1948, a recording ban was about to be imposed on the record industry by Cesar Petrillo, head of the Musicians Union. As a consequence of this forthcoming ban, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra recorded 42 sides in three weeks time and Prime recorded the following tunes with Dorsey:
  • You Can't Make Money Dreaming
  • Starlight Rendezvous
  • My Gal Is Mine Once More
  • Evelyn
  • Until
  • Where Is The One?
In 1949, Prime joined the Ralph Flanagan Orchestra, as featured vocalist and remained with the band until 1954. During this time he recorded 65 sides with Flanagan. Some of the most notable are:
  • A Boy from Texas And A Girl From Tennessee
  • Beautiful
  • Dear Hearts And Gentle People
  • Don't Cry Joe
  • Everytime I Fall In Love
  • Farewell Amanda
  • I Don't Know Why
  • I Have Dreamed
  • I Left My Heart In Mississippi
  • I Remember The Cornfields
  • I Should Care
  • If I Had A Magic Carpet
  • I'm Dancing With Tears In My Eyes
  • It All depends On You
  • It's Never Too Late To Pray
  • I've Never Been In Love Before
  • Just One More Chance
  • Mona Lisa
  • My Pretty Girl
  • Nevertheless
  • Oh, What A Beautiful Morning
  • On The little Big Horn
  • People Will Say We're In Love
  • Rag Mop
  • She Wore A Yellow Ribbon
  • Smoke Dreams
  • Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year
  • Tell Me Why
  • The Halls Of Ivy
  • The Wedding Of Lili Marlene
  • There's No One But You
  • There's That Lonely Feeling Again
  • This Is The Night
  • To Me, You Are A Song
  • Twilight Rhapsody
  • Way Back Home
  • What's The Use Of Wond'rin'
  • Whispering Hope
  • White Christmas
  • You're Always There
  • You're Breaking My Heart
  • You're So Understanding
In the years following his tenure with Flanagan, Harry Prime never strayed far from the music business and worked as a Disc Jockey in various cities. Prime has often stated that his idol, as far as big band vocalists were concerned was Bob Eberly of the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. It is interesting to note that although Harry Prime was the featured vocalist with the renowned trumpeter, Randy Brooks.

RALPH FLANAGAN "Prime Time", bigbandlibrary.com

singer Harry Prime, who worked with Ralph Flanagan's band from 1949 to 1953

 "I had been with two or three other bands before him," Prime reported.  "You know, I sang with Randy Brooks, I sang with Jack Fina, and then I had a... I didn't travel with the Tommy Dorsey band... but I did ten recordings with them, when they were anticipating a musicians' strike in 1948.  So Tommy - and all the other artists on the different labels - recorded in advance of the strike, so they would have records to release during the year 1948.  And I did the last million-selling tune that Tommy did . . . a tune called Until."

By 1949, the strike had been resolved and Hendler had joined RCA Victor.  When the company wanted to revive interest in dance music, he turned to Flanagan.
"They decided to go for the big challenge and put out a Miller-type dance band, under Ralph Flanagan's name," Prime recalled.  "So that's when they contacted me to be the singer with the band."

Selected discography with Ralph Flanagan: 

You're Breaking My Heart   Harry Prime, vocal, RCA Victor "Bluebird Series," 1949
Penthouse Serenade, (When We're Alone), RCA Victor "Bluebird Series," 1949
Rag Mop   the band, vocal, RCA Victor, 1950
Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year   Harry Prime, vocal, RCA Victor, 1950
Joshua   Ralph Flanagan, arranger, RCA Victor, 1950
What, Where and When   Ralph Flanagan Trio, vocal, RCA Victor, 1950
If I Had a Magic Carpet   Harry Prime, vocal, RCA Victor, 1950
Singing Winds   RCA Victor, 1950
Nevertheless   Harry Prime, vocal, RCA Victor, 1950
On the Road to Mandalay   RCA Victor, 1951
Stouthearted Men   RCA Victor, 1951
A-Flat Swing   RCA Victor, 1951
Save the Last Dance for Me   Harry Prime, vocal, RCA Victor, 1951
Slow Poke   The Singing Winds, vocal, RCA Victor, 1951
Just One More Chance   Harry Prime, vocal, RCA Victor, 1951
Only Fools   Harry Prime, vocal / RCA Victor, 1951
Winter Wonderland   RCA Victor, 1954
I Belong to You   The Singing Winds, vocal, RCA Victor, 1955
On the Beat   RCA Victor, 1955
Apple Blossom Time, (I'll Be with You in)   RCA Victor, 1957

To complement Prime's vocals, Flanagan's band also featured a singer on the distaff side.
Prime recalled, "A girl who showed up on the George Gobel Show, and had a nice TV role in it, on the Gobel Show, and was herself an excellent singer.  They called her 'pretty, perky Peggy King.'"
Flanagan, again mirroring Miller, even had a vocal group, which was called The Singing Winds.  (Singing Winds was the name of Flanagan's theme song.)
"Well, he pulled two guys out of the band, and Peggy King and I... and there was another girl by the name of Rita Hayes . . . and she was an excellent singer . . . What he would do, he would augment Peggy King and I with two guys from the band, and he would sometimes join in.  So we'd have a group of five," Prime explained.

"They created a demand by recording for about two or three months, in New York, with the best musicians in the city, what they call 'studio men,'" Prime noted.  "And then when the band became popular, and people were demanding to see it, they auditioned young men who wanted to travel with the band and make a reputation with them.  So the men who hit the road... the only one from the original group was me.  The rest of them were guys that did not make the original records."
Hendler and his business partner, Bernie Woods, pushed it to the point that Flanagan's band, following in Miller's footsteps, opened at the Cafe Rouge of the Hotel Statler in New York City on September 11, 1950, and was featured on the radio in a show sponsored, like Miller had been, by Chesterfield cigarettes.

Harry is under the second 'A'

Prime left Flanagan in 1953, hoping his experience of singing with America's #1 band would help him to launch a successful solo career.

In the 1940s and 1950s‚ Prime sang with some of the biggest acts of the day: Bands led by Tommy Dorsey‚ Ralph Flanagan‚ Jack Fina and Randy Brooks.
He grew up with Grace Kelly in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia‚ and hung out with the likes of Babe Ruth and Rocky Marciano.
He knew Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis before they made it big.
“Jerry Lewis used to come backstage and ask if I could help him get a job‚” Prime said.
After big band and swing fell out of favor‚ Prime worked in radio‚ lured to WNPV in Lansdale where he had his own show. 
He never really saw the end of swing coming‚ he said.
“The truth of the matter is that I was so busy working with bands and thinking that what we were doing would go on forever that I didn’t pay that much attention to it‚” he said.
The first time he heard the Beatles he thought they were “a freak show‚” he said. “That’s when all of a sudden I started hearing about demographics. There was the appeal.”

Harry Prime with Peggy King when they sang with The Ralph Flanagan Orchestra. (circa 1950) 


Reposts the Ken Vitek article from tonycds.com

Ralph Flanagan White Christmas 78 Record Harry Prime 
78 for sale
Victor label 30-0009 flip side: She wore a yellow ribbon (vocal Harry Prime) 

RCA VICTOR 20-3061-A black label,gold letters & dog

 Side A:
UNTIL (Fulton-Kahler-Crosby)
Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra
Vocal refrain by Harry Prime, The Clark Sisters and The Town Criers

 Side B:
AFTER HOUR STUFF (Leroy Kirkland)
Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra


Ralph Flanagan And His Orchestra – Big Band Specials
Label: His Master's Voice – 7EG 8116
Format: Vinyl, 7", EP, 45 RPM 
Country: UK
Released: 1955
Genre: Jazz, Stage & Screen
Style: Big Band, Swing

A1 Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (from "Roberta")
A2 Why
B1 Gipsy Violin
B2 A-flat Swing
Vocals – Harry Prime & The Singing Winds* (tracks: A1, A2)

Ralph Flanagan And His Orchestra – Ralph Flanagan And His Orchestra
Label: His Master's Voice – 7EG 8075
Format: Vinyl, 7", EP, 45 RPM 
Country: UK
Released: 1955
Genre: Jazz, Stage & Screen
Style: Big Band, Swing

A1 I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time
A2 You
B1 Red River Valley
B2 Merry Widow
Vocals – Harry Prime & The Singing Winds* (tracks: A1, A2)

From a compilation
Ralph Flanagan With Harry Prime – Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year