Saturday, August 6, 2011

wacky tacky tunes: Makin' Whoopee! The Music of Janet Klein


I have worn out the pages in my dog-eared dictionary of superlatives by rhapsodizing about Janet Klein.  Now, left with a serious case of writer's block, I find myself unable to fully express just how wonderful she is. You have probably seen Janet's name mentioned in this blog more than a few times as fashion inspiration, chanteuse, cultural icon, artist and keeper of our collective history, but until now I have never made her the feature of a post.  Janet Klein, of Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys, is a bundle of charm and she works like a tonic on the burdens of this weary, workaday world.  Known for her unique, yet faithful, renditions of "Lovely, naughty, and obscure music of the 1910's, 20's and 30's," Janet is pitch perfect in recreating the music, the style and the joy of those bygone eras.  If, by some unfortunate circumstance, you are as of yet unaware of Ms. Klein, the best introduction to her world is through her performance.

"Yiddish Hula Boy" - Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys

Janet is well known for her yiddish, novelty numbers but her vast repertoire includes everything from Tin Pan Alley tunes to bawdy, British dance hall favorites and even Parisian chansons.

Janet is even a special feature on The Jerk DVD!
Here she gives a ukulele lesson and sings
 "Tonight You Belong to Me."

The best way to experience the music of Janet Klein is, of course, to see a live show.  Fortunately, for Southern California residents, she performs regularly and nary a month passes without several opportunities to experience some "whoopee, hey hey!"  A wonderful thing about the band is that the Parlor Boys consist of a rotating group of expert, multiple-instrument-playing musicians so the sound is always wonderful and always fresh.  The roster of Parlor Boys is extensive and includes musical heavyweights such as Ian Whitcomb, Marquis Howell, Jeremy Wakefield, Randy Woltz, Tom Marion, Dan Weinstein, John Reynolds and many more!  The vibe at the shows is playful, fun and usually makes one feel like a special guest at an old-timey jam session.

The above photos were taken in Hollywood at The Steve Allen Theater where Janet and the boys are resident performers.  The evening's entertainment always includes film rarities in the form of musical-shorts and cartoons presented by cartoon/film historian Jerry Beck.  It is a great night and I am in attendance as often as possible.

A few pics of Mary & Janet from past events.

As you can see, Janet is a woman of great style and embodies the spirit of wacky tacky through her clever use of vintage and custom-made pieces to create her signature look.  Her collection of clothing is really legendary and is known to include pieces once owned by Jean Harlow!

Janet's iconic look includes her signature bob, a ukulele
and the petit bouquets of flowers in her hair.

My absolute favorite thing about Janet Klein is that she is a truly nice human being - what you see on stage is what you get.  She is sweet and genuine and the only emotional option when in her presence, listening to her music or at one of her shows is pure joy.

The gang celebrating Janet's birthday at The Castle Green in Pasadena, CA

There are so many great songs and pictures, this could turn into the world's longest blog.  Thus, I'll share just a small sampling that is sure to leave you with tapping toes and a light heart!

"You're Undecided Now" - Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys

"Do the Raccoon" - Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys

"Just Whistle and Blow Your Blues Away" - Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys

Lose your blues!!  Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys appear monthly at The Steve Allen Theater, regularly at Backstage at the Coffee Gallery in Altadena and many other venues around town; to purchase recordings and find out more about her band, art, poetry, and upcoming performances, please visit Janet's website and "like" her on Facebook.


Mr. Tiny


  1. OMG!! Thank you for introducing me to what is about to be my new obsession!She's amazing!Her style!The music! O!
    I'm so gonna be picking up ALL the cd's I can find!

  2. Oh I love her! She is so talented and cute and with a darling wardrobe!! Could listen to her all day long

  3. Helga - I'm so glad that you like her! She has toured Australia before so maybe NZ will be included next time!

    Thanks for your comments everybody!

  4. We have at least one of her albums, she's great!

  5. Just saw Janet in Fullerton and Lindy Bombed the event. CLASSIC, wonderful jazz.

  6. That's a great write-up. I'm glad you linked to some of my videos, but one of the best on YouTube is not by me-- it's "Hello Bluebird" recorded by briongroupmedia. (Via time travel, I know you will be linking to that one when you profile The Howling Hobo, in a week or so.)
    I'm proud to say I've nudged one song into Janet's setlists (although she already knew of it): "Music Makes Me" from the movie FLYING DOWN TO RIO.