Old-time crooners made fans swooners

HEARTFELT MUSIC—Allison McCracken, author of the award-winning book shown here, will talk about 1920s star crooners at an upcoming free program at the Grant Brimhall Library in Thousand Oaks. Courtesy photo

HEARTFELT MUSIC—Allison McCracken, author of the award-winning book shown here, will talk about 1920s star crooners at an upcoming free program at the Grant Brimhall Library in Thousand Oaks. Courtesy photo

Allison McCracken, author of the award-winning book “Real Men Don’t Sing: Crooning in American Culture,” will discuss the rise and decline of star crooners at 7 p.m. Thurs., April 5 in the community room of the Grant Brimall Library, 1401 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks.

Crooning was a style of vocalizing that became popular in the mid-to-late 1920s with the advent of electrical recording and the invention of the microphone.

Microphones allowed singers to perform with greater intimacy than in the old acoustical process, giving rise to romantic-style vocals by such artists as Gene Austin, Nick Lucas, Russ Columbo, and the masters of the genre, Rudy Vallée and Bing Crosby.

McCracken will focus on the rise of Vallée, America’s first pop idol, whose female fandom produced objections from cultural authorities who feared having an effeminate-sounding male representing American manhood.

Vallée and his fans became subjects of public attacks by church leaders, educators and psychologists, who claimed they were “immoral” and “pathological.”

McCracken will show how the attacks on Vallée established the blueprint for the ridicule of young male pop idols that persists today.

She states that the few singers who were able to survive, like Bing Crosby, adapted to conservative middle class values of white masculinity.

An associate professor of American studies at DePaul University in Chicago, McCracken is in town to continue her research with the Vallée collection in the Thousand Oaks Library Foundation’s American Radio Archives.

She first visited the archives in 1997 and has returned several times since then to gather information and images for her book.

Her archival work here is acknowledged as having established Vallée as a major figure in American popular culture.

Named one of the “Great Reads of 2015” by NPR’s Book Concierge, “Real Men Don’t Sing” has also received several other awards.

The program, sponsored by the Thousand Oaks Library Foundation, is free. Refreshments will be served.