The product of a devoutly religious family, young Marcellaise ‘Marcy’ Hartwick was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. She studied piano and trombone as a child. Moving to Portland, Oregon, the committed Christian married the equally religious Malcolm Everett Tigner in 1942, and the pair determined to exploit her art to praise God.
She released a brace of trombone LPs under her married name - Some Golden Daybreak with organist Lorin Whitney (who a few years previously had released a Christian praise album which consisted of himself playing organ accompanied by song birds) and the inspiringly-titled Trombone for the Christian Faith label, but it seems that there's not a huge market for God-bothering trombonists. So she decided to sing instead.
Sadly, whenever the young Mrs Tigner opened up her larynx an odd, child-like sound came out (a female Lil’ Markie, if you will) and so, after issuing just one three-track EP for the obscure Angelus Records label, she learned to button it. That was until her husband had the brilliant idea of having his missus sing kiddie songs whilst pretending to be a small girl: Little Marcy was born.
Credited simply as Marcy, Mrs Tigner released a couple of albums on small Christian imprints, kicking off in 1964 with Happy Day Express which, along with her next few releases, deliberately did not feature a photo of the artist on the cover but instead included a rather crude drawing of a pig-tailed, smiley-faced moppet. The company that signed her (Cornerstone) seemed perfectly happy to share in this duplicity until a chance meeting with model, ventriloquist and former Miss America Vonda Van Dyke on the set of the Christian film Teenage Diary convinced her that having a wooden Mini-Me on her lap as she sang her stuff would be the way to go. So after careful study of the popular Paul Winchell book Ventriloquism For Fun and Profit (maybe he should consider retitling that For Fun and Prophet), she hooked up with a small doll – manufactured to her own design, and based on herself as a little girl, by the same company that made the original Charlie McCarthy doll – which she christened Little Marcy and, with the gift of her unusual, child-like singing voice, released around three dozen dopey, odd or downright disturbing albums over three decades.
They really have to be heard to be believed. Marcy’s voice is a dead ringer for that of a six year-old, and the songs – including such peaches as When Mr. Satan Knocks At My Heart's Door, I'm Glad I'm A Christian, I Love Little Pussy (a song guaranteed to give a psychiatrist nightmares), It’s Bubbling and the utterly brilliant Devil, Devil Go Away - are a mixture of kid-friendly, happy-clappy praise, nursery rhymes and less-friendly fire and brimstone scare tactics.
This unusual act fascinated and inspired audiences for decades. The pair appeared on radio programmes such as Marcy Tigner's Hymntime and Sing with Marcy; there's a TV special with Smokey the Bear (and, naturellement, an accompanying album and storybook), and at least two Little Marcy films.
Marcy also appeared in book form: between 1968 and 1980 Mrs Tigner penned a series of short children’s books including Little Marcy Loves Jesus, Little Marcy At The Zoo and Little Marcy’s Favourite Bible Stories. Our favourite block of wood even had its own line in prayer and hymn books. Marcy T teamed up with her daughter Lauri Khodabandehloo Tigner to write and perform, although these days Lauri Khodabandehloo has dropped the Tigner, become an author in her own right and has expunged all mentions of her past life as a doll’s assistant from her biography.
Marcy’s last album of new recordings, Little Marcy and Mother Goose Go to Church, came out in 1982; she appeared in a couple of short films made specifically for Christian cable channels by Tyndale Christian Video (Learning To Do God’s Work and Learning God’s Love) in 1988/89 and then gracefully retired.
Everett Tigner shuffled off this mortal coil in 2007, after 65 years of marriage. Little Marcy’s handler – Marcy Tigner – passed away at the grand old age of 90, in April 2012, which, barring a buy-out from the Disney Corporation, means that the world has probably heard the last of the little wooden doll.
Here are both sides of (to give it its full title) Ralph Carmichael Presents Little Marcy With the Jesus Story (a Children's Musical). Enjoy!
Download Side One HERE
Download Side Two HERE