Cabaret Through Time Fridays At McElrath Cabaret: Martha Davis and Spouse–Join Us!


Welcome to McElrath Cabaret!  We hope you enjoy our cabaret blog.  

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!


Martha Davis and Spouse–A Piano- and Bass-Playing Duo 


Martha Davis and Spouse was the name of a musical comedy act consisting of Martha Davis on piano and her husband, Calvin Ponder who played bass.  Both sang, and were noted for their rhythm and blues style.  (Fats Waller was an early influence on Ms. Davis, and her piano playing reflected this.)


There are some online sources of information regarding Martha Davis and Spouse, which include Wikipedia, an entry by Dave Penny that appears on the website, and a quite detailed review of their work and recordings on  MP3s of their work are available on, and lists the songs on their album named after their act.  Another overview of Martha Davis is available on the website offers some song samples featuring Martha Davis, and there are several YouTubes with Martha Davis currently available.  James Gavin in Intimate Nights also has a brief mention of Martha Davis and Spouse’s engagement at The Blue Angel.


They were in their musical performance heyday during the late 1940s and into the 1950s, and worked in the Blue Angel nightclub in New York City.  The website lists Martha Davis as a high school classmate of Nat King Cole, and as Davis being a pioneer of “roots rock, jump jazz and jump blues.”  One of the duo’s most successful songs was entitled “Little White Lies,” and was written by Walter Donaldson.  According to Wikipedia, the duo began recording in 1948, but stopped recording for much of the 1950s, and didn’t resume until 1957.  This was likely due to the popularity of the duo act, which they toured around the country.  They also worked in film, appearing in Smart Politics with Gene Krupa, as well as in several variety films.  They appeared on television, including Garry Moore’s daytime variety show called The Garry Moore Show.


Martha Davis is known as one of the musicians who bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and rock and roll.  Here is one of the duo’s signature songs, “Martha’s Boogie”:



And here’s Martha Davis and Spouse appearing in 1956 on the Perry Como Show, where you get to hear a bit from their Blue Angel show and she sings with Como:


A fun performance of the song called “Goodbye”:


Another song that Martha Davis made famous in the 1950s was called “Vip-I-Ty Vip-I-Ty Vop.” She really shows off her acting skills and sense of humor along with phenomenal piano skills–these are skills that modern-day cabaret entertainers would do well to hone for their own shows:



 Had you heard of Martha Davis and Spouse?  Which recordings of the duo’s songs do you like the most and why?  Let us know in the comments below–we love to hear from you!


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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:

Mondays:  Cabaret Soiree Cabaret Blog Link Party

Tuesdays:  Cabaret Tip Tuesday

Wednesdays:  Ask A Cabaret Question

Thursdays:  Featured Cabaret Blog, Website, Performer

Fridays:  Cabaret Through Time

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About Athena at McElrath Cabaret

Athena McElrath is an entertainer with a love for theatre and singing. She enjoys delving in the area of historical cabaret, researching the singers and clubs that were in business from before 1920 to the present, in New York and beyond.
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7 Responses to Cabaret Through Time Fridays At McElrath Cabaret: Martha Davis and Spouse–Join Us!

  1. Jim says:

    Hi Athena,
    Nice post. I hadn’t seen some of these, but one was familiar. The performance of Goodbye by Martha Davis & Her Spouse is from the 1955 film Rhythm and Blues Revue.
    A couple of years ago I had a version of the film in an R&B site I created. I’m not certain it was complete, for as Wikipedia says, “Originally 86 minutes, the “short” version available on public domain collections and websites is missing a reel.” The abbreviated version is 71 + minutes long.

    Youtube as a video of the short version here:

    A brief description of the film at
    Musical variety show filmed at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York City featuring a cast of popular African-American performers: Willie Bryant, Freddie Robinson, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Faye Adams, Bill Bailey, Herb Jeffries, Amos Milburn, Sarah Vaughan, Nipsey Russell, Big Joe Turner, Martha Davis, Little Buck, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Mantan Moreland, Cab Calloway and Ruth Brown.

    I haven’t watched the entire film, but some of the laughter and applause in the segments I’ve seen is certainly canned, possibly all of it. The cuts to the audience between songs and skits all appear phony.

    Highlight performances include “Jam Session” and a later unidentified number (marred by canned laughter) by Lionel Hampton and his band, “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” by Big Joe Turner, and “Minnie the Moocher” by Cab Calloway.

    Less than stellar:
    Herb Jeffries lip-syncs melodramatically to “In My Heart (There’s a Song).” Sarah Vaughan wastes her talent on “Perdido.” The Count Basie band’s performance of his theme song “One O’Clock Jump” is intermittently spiced with odd dashes of canned laughter and applause.

    The film Soundtrack list from IMDb:

  2. Jim says:

    Leave it to to give the lowdown on The Rhythm & Blues Revue:

    Rhythm & Blues Revue (1955) is a collection of Snader telescriptions filmed as individual musical shorts between 1950 & 1952, with some new music, an emcee, & comedy routines added, these being Studio Telescriptions filmed in 1954 [typographical errors edited out].

    By inserting jump-cuts to an excited audience, editing in opening & closing curtains, & a bit of use of canned laughter & applause, the finished compilation is able to give the vague impression that this is a single night’s concert of great black performers filmed at the Apollo Theater.

    They are live recordings, but not at the Apollo. The performances from earlier in the ’50s were originally made for syndication to television stations, to be used like vinyl records at a radio station, but on tv. The idea was to have the equivalent of a radio music program for the new visual medium of television. [Read more:

  3. Jim says:

    The Basie clip with the intermittent laughter and applause is “Basie’s Conversation,” not “One O’Clock Jump.” The latter is the final song in the Youtube version.

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