The Troy Street Observer

Dec 2, 1956: Bartley, Alessi at the Jewel Room

One of my favorite “lost” Boston records is Charlene Bartley’s The Weekend of a Private Secretary, originally released in 1957 (RCA LPM-1478). It’s the story in song of a woman who weekends in Havana, finds romance (c’mon now, it’s the fifties), and returns home sadder but wiser. Bartley and the album’s guitarist, Don Alessi, were working the singers’ rooms in Boston prior to the record’s release, and an important one was the Jewel Room in the Bostonian Hotel, now part of the Berklee College of Music.

Cover of RCA LPM-1478
Oh, those ’50s RCA covers…Weekend of a Private Secretary, LPM-1478, 1957

Bartley hailed from Los Angeles, and it was bandleader Al Donahue who initially brought her back East. The Boston-born Donahue hired Bartley in California in late 1947. They recorded a few sides on the Tune-Disk label just before the second recording ban took effect, and at least one of them, “My Old Fashioned Gal,” ended up on the Boston Crystal-Tone label (Crystal-Tone 523) in 1948. Donahue was back in Boston, with Bartley singing, in 1949.

Bartley toured with Donahue in the early 1950s, but she apparently gave up the road to settle in Boston. Donahue made an  annual stop in Boston for a long residence at the Statler Hotel, and Bartley sang with him there through 1957. She also recorded a forgettable single on his Aldon Records label in 1956, but by that time she was on the staff at Boston’s WHDH-AM. There she met guitarist Don Alessi, one of the Park Squares, a vocal-and-instrumental group then providing music on both radio and television broadcasts.

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