On the Blossom Trail

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Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields. This union is how most people remember Blossom, but it’s only a quarter of the story of her marriages and professional partnerships (Adam Swanson Collection)

A while back we announced that we were working on a CD compilation of the recordings by Blossom Seeley, one of the most successful vaudeville artists of all time. Some of you have wondered what ever happened to the project, and we have an answer for you.

After doing a little poking around into the life and career of the entertainer, we realized what a remarkable figure she is—and that pretty much everything that is known about her early years is untrue. So we decided to do a thorough research job and to publish a much more detailed biography than ever before attempted or contemplated. This just requires time, and so that’s the reason for the delay.

Blossom made her first record in 1911 and then didn’t make another until 1921, but she did a lot of living on and off-stage before and in between those two visits to the Columbia studio. Going through trade magazines, newspapers, and other primary sources shows the extent of this woman’s drive, the ecstatic praise she received over years of performing, and the reach of her influence. Behind it all was a trail of tears: a lost childhood, three wrecked marriages, two abandoned children, an assault case on a famous paramour, an attempted suicide, jealously and manipulation of colleagues and competitors, and enough gossip to make Britney Spears raise an eyebrow.

The story of Blossom’s life is the back-story of one key part of the early recording industry. Our aim is to chronicle in part the not-so-glamorous grind behind the scenes of the vaudeville performers who also made recordings. “Watching” Blossom on the road will make you feel like you’ve run a marathon, because for nearly forty years she never stopped moving.

So who was she? Where and when was she born? Who were her family? What were her early years like? Blossom answered these questions numerous times—never the same way twice—and never truthfully. She ran from her past her entire life.

We’ve just returned from a trip to her *real* home town (not the one you usually read about) to see if we could dig anything up. It was slim pickings, but we did find a couple of things, and the good people at the local historical society are looking into a research question for us. But we do have good materials. To help us tell our tale, we now have some very exciting artifacts, including

  • her birth certificate
  • her mother’s death certificate
  • business effects from her grandfather and father
  • portraits of her as a young girl
  • pictures and other items from her first husband and daughter
  • reams of newspaper articles, census data, directory listings, etc.
  • recollections from her great-grandson and nephew

And thanks to our collaborator Adam Swanson, we have tons of original photos, sheet music and more.

Oh, and the music. The provisional plan is to put all sixteen of Blossom’s commercial 78-rpm releases on one CD, along with demos she made in 1951 as a coaching aid for Betty Hutton, who starred as Blossom in the Paramount biopic Somebody Loves Me. More on the musical contents as time progresses. This will be a deluxe edition. Let us know you’re interested!

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4 thoughts on “On the Blossom Trail

  1. I *love* Blossom Seeley’s work and I’m thrilled that you’re doing such a thorough and accurate job of chronicling her life story. I know this release will be worth the wait. Blossom made several 45s for Mercury in the late ’50s; I don’t suppose you could license some of those? (She and Benny Fields also made an excellent Mercury LP, “Two-a-Day at the Palace.”) Thank you for your splendid work; I greatly appreciate it.

  2. Long a fan of Blossom Seeley . . . as a kid I used to see her on the Ed Sullivan show and later in a couple of brief movie appearances. She fascinates me. Am awaiting the CD with great anticipation.

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