Friday, 30 August 2013

Six of the Best from Ellen

A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to the wonderful Ellen Marty, composer and chanteuse who released a series of what can only be described as eccentric 45s in the 1960s. Since I first became aware of her work I've been doing my level best to find out as such as I can about her career. To be honest, it's not much.

Of Swedish descent, Ellen Marty's real name was Mary Ellen Mart. She appears to have started writing songs at an early age, copyrighting her first compositions in the late 1950s. Living and working in Hollywood - she kept an office for her publishing company, Lycklig, at 1216 Cole Ave, Los Angeles - she also appeared in at least two films, Spring Affair in 1960 and House of Women in 1962. Mary Ellen chose the name Lycklig for her publishing company as it's the Swedish word for 'happy': the company was still operational in 1980.

Ellen seems to have made most of her recordings pre-1966, releasing 45s under her own name and as Buttons. Although she recorded several sides as Buttons there's no connection between her and the female vocal act The Buttons who recorded for Dot and Columbia around the same time, nor with the act of the same name who recorded for RCA later in the 1960s. There are at least three Buttons 45s on the Rain Coat label and several others under Ellen’s own name on Raincoat; Rain Coat/Raincoat was owned by Joe Leahy, a bandleader, arranger, writer and producer who set up the Unique Records label (which would soon become RKO/Unique and issue Leona Anderson’s collection Music to Suffer By). At Unique he had discovered the 14 year-old Canadian singer Priscilla Wright and had a sizeable hit with her debut waxing The Man in the Raincoat: both Ellen Marty and Joe Leahy would later cover this song, and its title would inspire the name of his own label. He left Unique a year or so after the RKO buyout to go to Dot (home, of course, of WWR favourite Pat Boone). An odd coincidence – and a major point of confusion for Ellen Marty collectors - is that Joe was one of Dot's lead A&R men during The Buttons time at the label: I wonder why he never told Ellen Marty that? Perhaps he did. There’s a distinct possibility (in my mind at least) that Ellen may have recorded as Buttons in an effort to emulate some of the success of The Buttons.

There’s something delightfully appealing about Ellen Marty’s recordings: her voice is unconventional (to say the least), veering from a kittenish whisper (as on Lovetime) to that of a truculent teenager (vis Bobby Died Today) and – as I originally noted in my first post about her work – she occasionally sounds as if she’s about to slit her wrists. Her lyrics are distinctly odd (On a day that was warm I decided to be born), and her sense of scansion and timing is often at odds with what pop record buyers are used to (as in the odd, hiccoughing rhythm of Give Me a Raincheck, Baby for example), but the more of her work I discover the more in love with her I am becoming.

Listed below are all of the Ellen Marty/Buttons waxings I have been able to track down so far. If you know of any others please do get in touch.

Marty EM 101: Mixing and Making - Man In a Raincoat/You're Such a Comfort to Me/Johnny Had/I Wanna/This Time of Year//Our First Date/Don't Ask Me, Don't Bug Me/Your Words Were Sweeter/I Wish I Knew/Mixing & Making (May 1965)

Number unknown: All of These Things You Are to Me/Worth a Wait (1959)
raincoat 700: Cats Have Whiskers/It All Depends on You (as Buttons)
Rain Coat 702: A Petal a Day/Baby Blue Eyes (as Buttons)
Rain Coat 703: The Barn is So Far From the Steeple/Lovetime (as Buttons)
Rain Coat 704: Little Mouse in the House/Such a Sad Face (as Buttons)
Marty 102: Xmas Gift/I Wanna (1964)
Raincoat 601: Man in the Raincoat/You're Such a Comfort to Me (1965)
Raincoat 602: This Time of Year/Billy Back (1965)
Marty 601/602: Man in the Raincoat/This Time of Year (1965)
Marty 603: Don't Ask Me, Don't Bug Me/This Time of Year (1965)
Rain Coat 109: Bobby Died Today/Give Me a Raincheck, Baby (1966)
number unknown: Super-Dooper-Ooper-Pooper (1966)
Rain Coat 100: Do You Ever Think of Me?/Paper Planes (as Elie Marty) (1971)

I have also seen Mixing and Making listed as a 45, but this may be a mistake

Finally, and as there will not be a WWR post next Friday, here are three of Ellen’s 45s for you to enjoy and to keep you going until we meet again: The Barn is So Far From the Steeple and its B-side Lovetime; Little Mouse in the House and Such a Sad Face, and the brilliantly mad Bobby Died Today (Hey Hey! Hey hey! Hey hey!) coupled with Give Me a Raincheck, Baby.

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2015: Because of the continuing problems with DivShare I have replaced all of the original links. I've also added in A Petal A Day, as requested by Billy, and its' brilliant B-side Baby Blue Eyes, and the wonderful Billy Back.



  1. Sir, you have achieved the near impossible. Having listened, I will, for once, not download. (Which is saying something, as a downloading obsessive).

    Great research. By the way, is there a method of finding out whether her music was ever broadcast, or is that an impossible task?

  2. Sorry if you've already offered this (I can't access your search) but this is too good to pass up:

  3. do these still work? if nor can you reload at least " a petal a day"? please?

    1. Hi Billy. DivShare is useless - all of my old files have been lost. Try reloading the page in an hour or so and I should have had replaced most of the links


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