June 5, 2013

Legend In the Wings

The Loop > Magazine > Issue 3

By Harry C. Marks

I grew up in a musical family. My father’s been a pianist for almost 50 years and my mother a vocalist for nearly as long. I’ve known my way around a saxophone since I was eight and my brother has blown a trumpet for most of his life, too. One might imagine what living in our house sounded like—a cacophony of melodies and squeaks as we honed our crafts in the living room, our bedrooms, and even the shower.

It was my mother who always reminded my brother and I of our musical roots. I never knew my grandfather, though he was a prominent figure in our household growing up. A painting of him hung on the wall behind his Steinway grand piano, which my parents had restored and refinished when I was very young. This piano traveled with him when he performed and yes, it is possible for a six-foot Steinway to be considered “portable”. The Steinway has been a member of our family since before I was born and it is as much a part of our history as it was his.

Unfortunately, I never got the chance to speak with my grandfather, as he died when my mother was only eight. While my brother and I were growing up, she told us stories of the parades of famous stage and screen stars who he worked with on any given day. Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Tom Bosley, Vera Brynner, Broadway veteran George S. Irving, and Sam Coslow, the man behind such songs as “Everybody Loves Somebody” and “Sing You Sinners“.

My grandfather was Harry Noble, Jr., a songwriter from New York who made a name for himself in the 1930s as one-third of the singing trio, “The Three Marshalls”, and later as half of the Café Societie duo “Noble & King” with cabaret singer Frances King. He also wrote one of the lesser-known Christmas songs, “Out of the East“, and the minor hit “Don’t Touch Me“.

However, Harry Noble was best known for a song he wrote in 1952 that became a hit single in two different decades and has been covered by numerous artists over the years, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me“.

I’d known my grandfather’s contributions to American music were important, but in researching his past I was surprised to find very little written about Harry Noble, Jr., save for a few newspaper clippings and a short passage in a book by Stan Bader called Diary of a Restaurateur:

Harry was a very unusual performer. He was a tall, good-looking Englishman and he looked somewhat like Arthur Treacher. He was always impeccably dressed. I remember one day he came in with a pink jacket, gray slacks and white shoes.

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