Eileen Barton

About Eileen Barton

Pop songstress Eileen Barton remains best known for her 1949 novelty blockbuster "If I Knew You Were Comin', I'd've Baked a Cake." Born in Brooklyn, NY, on November 24, 1929, she was the daughter of vaudeville song-and-dance duo Benny and Elsie Barton, joining the family act at age two-and-a-half with a show-stopping rendition of "Ain't Misbehavin'." The Bartons appeared twice daily at Broadway's Palace Theatre, sharing marquees with the likes of Eddie Cantor, Rudy Vallee, and Milton Berle. In 1936, Berle cast Eileen as the mischievous Jolly Gillette on his CBS radio series, and the following year she made her film debut in Show for Sale. After serving as Nancy Walker's understudy on 1941's Best Foot Forward, Barton toured alongside Elaine Stritch in Angels in the Wings. Meanwhile, as his own performing career waned, Benny Barton reinvented himself as a song-plugger, and in 1943 delivered the Al Hoffman/Carl Lampi/Jerry Livingston composition "Close to You" to Frank Sinatra. The matinee idol was so smitten with the song that he agreed to finance a publishing company with Barton at the helm, and in the years to follow Barton Music published many of Sinatra's biggest hits, most notably "Nancy with the Laughing Face" and "Put Your Dreams Away." Sinatra also boosted the career of Eileen Barton, inviting her to appear during his 1944 residency at New York's Paramount Theatre. They also appeared together on radio's Lucky Strike Presents Your Hit Parade, recording a handful of duets including "Together" and "Come Out Wherever You Are." In 1947 Barton signed to Capitol Records to cut her debut single, "Would You Believe Me," recorded with the Skitch Henderson Orchestra. The release fared poorly and she returned to radio, hosting Teen Timers before landing her own short-lived NBC series. In late 1949 Barton resurfaced on the independent label National Records with "If I Knew You Were Comin', I'd've Baked a Cake," an upbeat, R&B-influenced tune written by Bob Merrill, the novelty song guru who also penned "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?" Introduced via radio's Don McNeill's Breakfast Club, "If I Knew You Were Comin'" proved an overnight sensation that topped U.S. charts for three months, fending off competing versions from singers including Ethel Merman and Georgia Gibbs. Its success landed Barton headlining gigs at New York's famed Copacabana and Las Vegas' Flamingo, but her follow-up effort, "Dixieland Ball," failed to recapture her previous success. A series of little-noticed singles like "You Brought a New Kind of Love for Me" and "En-Thus-E-Uz-E-As-M (Enthusiasm)" followed, but in 1951 Barton signed to Decca's Coral imprint to cover Johnnie Ray's smash "Cry," which returned her to the Top Ten. Barton scored her next big hit with a 1953 rendition of Perry Como's "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes." The following year, she again hit the charts with "Don't Ask Me Why" and "Sway (Quien Sera)," but the emergence of rock & roll effectively brought her recording career to an end. Barton returned to television as a regular panelist on the 1960 game show Video Village, and three years later made her final film appearance in the Jayne Mansfield vehicle Promises! Promises! After decades in retirement, Barton died at her West Hollywood home on June 27, 2006. ~ Jason Ankeny

Brooklyn, NY, United States
November 24, 1924
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