Who is lucky enough to have a 1943 recording of their grandmother singing “Danny Boy”? My mother “produced” this on a home-recording machine, where a needle physically ground audio grooves into a shellac platter on a 78 rpm turntable (illustrated below).
The song (press play button):
The day was February 4, 1943,* the sixth anniversary of Kitty Mom’s marriage to Ewald Curran. She was 52; he was 38. That evening, Ewald would have been home from his work as a pressman with Con P. Curran Printing. My 17-year-old future mother Kathleen Barrett would have been home from her secretarial job at General Cable.
While the family still mourned the war-related death of Kitty’s son Bob nine months earlier, Kitty and Ewald lived a convivial life: selling beer from their small tavern downstairs; loaning out their large, well-equipped basement for parties; and entertaining friends and family at their Castlewood clubhouse on the weekends.
So, on this Thursday evening, with War news filling the front pages and temperature in the thirties, they were celebrating. Kathleen set up the recording machine, maybe to have Kitty Mom and Ewald listen to her own recordings (“Moonlight Becomes You,” “Green Eyes”). Then, maybe a few beers in, she persuaded Kitty Mom to sing her old favorite, “Danny Boy.”
My mother said that Kitty Mom’s beautiful voice was never the same after Bob died. She was also now in her fifties, when an unpracticed voice begins to fade. Still, she put some real heart into this difficult song.
In her sixties and seventies, Kitty continued to love this song. It became her trademark, even as she laughed at how her voice would wander off key. The party was never over till Kitty sang “Danny Boy.” I remember it well.
Photo at top: Catherine “Kitty Mom” Curran at Castlewood, 1944.
*Kathleen Barrett dated all her recordings.