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Fridays are the day when we at the McElrath Cabaret Blog present blog posts in our Cabaret Through Time series. We present historical cabaret singers, entertainers, venues, writers, and musicians, and often include cabaret videos. We hope that you find it informative!
Charles DeForest–Songwriter of Standards and Nightclub Entertainer–A Saloon Performer
Charles DeForest was a singer, pianist, as well as a composer and lyricist who was active in New York City restaurant and piano bars from the 1950s through the 1990s. Unfortunately, information about this entertainer is somewhat limited online. There is no biography or autobiography, nor an official website of which I am aware. There is, however, an obituary from 1996 that gives a brief overview of Mr. DeForest’s life in entertainment that appeared in Stu Hamstra’s Cabaret Hotline Online, as well as an obituary that appeared in the New York Times and was written by Stephen Holden. The AllMusic website also gives an overview and credits for Mr. DeForest
Charles DeForest was noted in the New York Times for being an entertainer who “performed continuously in Manhattan nightclubs for more than four decades.” As a composer, he is best remembered for having written the standard “When Do The Bells Ring For Me.” Some of the New York hotspots where he played during the piano bar heyday, as related by the New York Times, include the Blue Angel, Peacock Alley at the Waldorf-Astoria and the Edwardian Room at the Plaza, Ted Hook’s Backstage, One Fifth Avenue and the Supper Club, as well as Danny’s Grand Sea Palace. Holden goes on to say that his performance style was described as “at once urbane and quietly intimate.” Author James Gavin in Intimate Nights says that DeForest was known for performing “ballads for the heavy of heart” that came from “most often neglected numbers from Broadway and Hollywood” (323). In his early years, Charles DeForest sang with Benny Goodman’s big band, and his compositions have been recorded by Tony Bennett, Blossom Dearie, Sylvia Syms, George Shearing, Marian McPartland and Chris Connor. He won awards for his work in entertainment, including the Mabel Mercer Foundation Cabaret Classic award, and the Manhattan Association of Cabaret and Clubs award. The New York Times says that he recorded 3 albums, and James Gavin in Intimate Nights lists the 1954 Daydreams and Nightdreams, as well as the 1962 Arbiter of Elegance (367), and AllMusic lists an album of his vocal work with Goodman entitled Live in the Sixties.
Here is Charles DeForest performing his own music in the film City By Dawn:
Tony Bennett’s rendition of DeForest’s classic “When Do The Bells Ring For Me”:
And an interesting You Tube of a restaurant/piano bar called Diva Restaurant, with Mr. DeForest at the keyboard, and Sylvia Syms and Dorothy Loudon performing. What a great vibe this room has–see for yourself:
What are your favorite entertainment moments by Charles DeForest? Which recordings of his work do you enjoy? Please leave a comment below and tell us about it–I would love to hear from you!
Till next time,
ps–The Cabaret Soiree Link Party will begin anew on Monday–you can visit anytime to click on the links and see what others have posted, or you can share your own recent cabaret blog or website link every Monday through Thursday. Link is below.
Weekly Post Lineup At McElrath Cabaret:
Tuesdays: Cabaret Tip Tuesday
Wednesdays: Ask A Cabaret Question
Thursdays: Featured Cabaret Blog, Website, Performer
Fridays: Cabaret Through Time