Orrin Tucker from 5/2/98
His big hit 'Oh Johnny Oh Johnny' sung by Wee Bonnie
Baker not only gave him movie parts, but also an invitaion to the White
House by FDR to perform it.
Orrin with Wee Bonnie Baker in the 1940 motion picture You're The
Biography for Orrin Tucker
Though he had studied to be a doctor, Orrin Tucker ended up as a singer and a
bandleader. He was leading a successful, though not well-known, orchestra in 1939 when his female
vocalist, Wee Bonnie Baker recorded an old WWI tune called ''Oh, Johnny, Oh, Johnny, Oh!'' With the help of her sexy
sighs and coos, Tucker found himself with a hit record and one of the hottest bands in the country. Tucker, though,
didn't let fame go to his head. He realized his limitations and knew his orchestra's strength, and that strength
was in playing dance music for the middle-aged crowd. That he continued to do, very successfully, long after many
of his contemporaries had called it quits.
Tucker learned to play saxophone as a youth and formed his first band while in
college. An agent from Chicago saw the band and invited them to play in New Orleans. Borrowing money from a bank,
Tucker funded the band's trip, though they had no way of getting back. Luckily, while in New Orleans, they were
invited to perform in Kansas City, where they found their own agent.
Playing mostly local theaters, Tucker built a series of boxes for his musicians
that featured lighted notes of different shapes and colors for different sections that would flash accordingly
during each song. For the band's stein song he used a set of three-sided mugs on which could be painted, in
fluorescent paints, letters that could spell out the name of the town or the theater in which they were playing.
Such gimmicks quickly helped make the orchestra's name.
During the early years Tucker was sole vocalist until Louis Armstrong pointed
him to Bonnie Baker. Baker's cute voice was just the thing to help push the group over the top. Columbia Records
signed them in 1939. ''Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!'' was one of songs in their first recording session. It remained
their most popular number, reaching the number two spot on the pop charts. Other vocalists over the years included
Helen Lee and Scottee Marsh.
During WWII Tucker served in the Navy as a Lieutenant, Junior Grade. He remained
active in the music business until health problems forced him to slow down during the 1990s.