The Pied Pipers

Photo of The Pied Pipers

The Pied Pipers in late 1940: (top to bottom) John Huddleston, Chuck Lowry, Jo Stafford, Clark Yocum.

Best remembered for their early work with Tommy Dorsey, the Pied Pipers originally consisted of eight members.[1] The octet was formed in Los Angeles during the mid-1930s, an amalgamation of two all-male groups, the Rhythm Kings and the Esquires, plus Jo Stafford. Their stylish harmonies proved appealing, and they began working at local radio stations and recording for Hollywood soundtracks. They soon attracted the attention of Dorsey arrangers Paul Weston and Axel Stordahl.

In December 1938, Weston persuaded Dorsey to give the Pied Pipers a spot on the Raleigh-Kool Show, a popular radio program. All eight members piled into two cars and drove to New York, with no promise of work other than one shot on the radio. The show went well though, and they were signed to appear for ten weeks, but just as everything seemed to be going their way, disaster struck. During their second program, the sponsor heard them for the first time, didn’t like them, and promptly fired them. The Pipers remained in New York for seven more months, landing only one job the whole time from which they made $3.60 each, though they did record four sides for RCA Victor during their stay.

Returning to Los Angeles in mid-1939, the group lost several members to regular jobs on the way, leaving only Stafford, her then-husband John Huddleston, and Chuck Lowry from the original eight. Joined by Billy Wilson, they struggled to make a living and were on the verge of calling it quits when, in late 1939, they received an offer from Dorsey to join his orchestra. Shortly after, Wilson was replaced by Clark Yocum, who used the stage name Allen Storr at the time. Yocum had previously sang and played guitar for Mal Hallett’s orchestra.

With Dorsey, the Pipers finally found success, becoming one of the top vocal groups in the nation. They backed Frank Sinatra on many of his numbers, and Dorsey featured Stafford solo on several occasions. She took over for Connie Haines as the band’s sole female vocalist in March 1942. The Pipers remained with Dorsey until December 1, 1942, when, after Dorsey exploded at one of the members on Thanksgiving Day, igniting an argument with the whole group, they quit and returned to Los Angeles. They weren’t out of work or long. They were almost immediately hired for radio, and they began a theater tour in January 1943. They made several film appearances in 1943 and 1944, including Girl Crazy and Gals, Incorporated. Recognizing Stafford’s popularity, the group began to bill themselves as “Jo Stafford and her Pied Pipers.”[2]

In 1943, Huddleston left the group to join the service. He was replaced by Hal Hopper, who had been one of the original eight members. That same year, Johnny Mercer signed the Pipers to his newly-formed label, Capitol Records. Mercer began to push Stafford as a solo artist both on recordings and his Chesterfield radio program. Stafford finally left the group in mid-1944 to pursue a solo career. To replace her, the Pipers and Mercer brought in June Hutton, half-sister of bandleader Ina Ray Hutton and a former member of Charlie Spivak vocal group the Stardusters.

Like Stafford, Mercer quickly began pushing Hutton as a solo artist. Aside from her work with the Pipers, she also sang with both Mercer and Paul Weston’s orchestra, and even when recording with the Pipers she was sometimes given credit as the featured vocalist. The push for Hutton was over by 1945, however, and the Pipers settled in as a quartet once again. They continued to record for Capitol through 1948, producing their biggest hit and first million seller in early 1945, “Dream.” In 1946 and 1947, they recorded with Frank Sinatra on Columbia. In 1949, the Pipers signed with RCA Victor.

In 1946, Huddleston sued the group plus ex-wife Stafford for breach of contract, asking for $150,000. When he had entered the service, his spot in the quartet was to be guaranteed upon his return, but he was not allowed to rejoin when that time came. The Pipers though it detrimental to break up their current formation to allow him back in. There was also a question of whether he was owed earnings. The suit was settled in 1947, with Huddleston receiving $9,000.

The Pipers made several more film appearances during the Hutton years, including as part of the soundtrack for Walt Disney’s Make Mine Music. They won Down Beat magazine’s annual poll for best vocal combo four years in a row, from the category’s inception in 1945 to 1948. In 1944, they became regulars on the Revere’s All-Star Review radio program on the Mutual network starring Andy Russell, and later Marion Hutton. They toured with Russell during the show’s summer hiatus in 1945 and recorded with him on Capitol in 1948. They also appeared on CBS for Campbell’s soup in 1948.

Hutton left the quartet in late 1949 for a successful solo career. Virginia Maxey replaced her, but the Pipers broke up soon after in 1950. Yocum began a career as a freelance singer while also doing band work as a guitarist. Hopper turned to acting and went on to play a regular role as Corporal Clark on the television series The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. He also appeared in several films, including the classic Beau Geste and the Ann-Margret vehicle Kitten with a Whip.

The Pipers had been a cooperative group, which each member holding joint ownership of the group name, but upon disbanding those rights passed to Yocum and Lowry. In late 1953, Yocum formed a vocal quartet called “The Pipers.” He then secured an agreement with Lowry, who was no longer singing, to use the Pied Pipers name. Lowry retained an interest in the group and functioned in a managerial and advisory capacity. A group using the Pied Pipers name continued performing into the 2000s. June Hutton passed away in 1973, Hal Hopper in 1970, and Jo Stafford in 2008.


  1. The original line-up of the eight-member Pipers, during their first work on Dorsey’s radio program in December 1938, were: Jo Stafford, John Huddleston, Chuck Lowery, Hal Hopper, Bud Hervey, George Tait, Woody Newbury, and Whit Whitinghill. ↩︎

  2. The Pipers’ manager at the time was “Bullets” Durgom, who also managed Dorsey’s organization. Despite the split, the Pipers were still under a personal management contract with Dorsey, who thus received a cut of their income as a solo act. Dorsey also had the same management agreement with Frank Sinatra, Connie Haines, and Jack Leonard. ↩︎


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. Walker, Leo. The Wonderful Era of the Great Dance Bands. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1972.
  3. “The Pied Pipers.” IMDb. Accessed 15 Feb. 2022.
  4. “They Sound Like.” Down Beat Feb. 1939: 25.
  5. “Going Home With Tommy Dorsey.” Down Beat 1 Oct. 1940: 20.
  6. “New Numbers.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1940: 12.
  7. “Jo Stafford Cuts First Solo.” Down Beat 15 Feb. 1941: 4.
  8. “Sinatra Cuts 4 Discs.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1941: 15.
  9. “T.D. Plans to Use Strings in His Ork.” Billboard 9 May 1942: 25.
  10. “Tee Dorsey Bows With Shaw Fiddles.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1942: 1.
  11. “Pipers Leave TD.” Down Beat 1 Jan. 1943: 6.
  12. “TD's Pied Pipers On Theater Tour.” Down Beat 1 Feb. 1943: 7.
  13. “Casa Loma Gets Several Good Movie Breaks.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1943: 8.
  14. Emge, Charles. “Movie Music.” Down Beat 15 Sep. 1943: 7.
  15. “Jo Stafford and Gracie Fields Set for Summer.” Billboard 3 Jun. 1944: 6.
  16. “'Chesterfield Music Shop' Gets Wendall Niles & Pipers.” Billboard 10 Jun. 1944: 11.
  17. “June Joins Pied Pipers.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1944: 6.
  18. “Popular Record Reviews.” Billboard 25 Nov. 1944: 21.
  19. “Popular Record Reviews.” Billboard 16 Dec. 1944: 21.
  20. “Scott Ork, Pipers Set for Andy Russell Tour.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1945: 10.
  21. “Ex-Piper Wants Old Job Back or Cash For Claim.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1946: 6.
  22. “No Deal, Johnny Asks Pipers To Pay $150,000.” Down Beat 15 Jul. 1946: 6.
  23. “Jo Stafford Suit Settled for $9000.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune 12 Jun. 1947: 2.
  24. “Network and Local Program Reviews.” Billboard 3 Apr. 1948: 10.
  25. “Pipers Slate Filled With Pic, Air Dates.” Down Beat 10 Mar. 1948: 18.
  26. “Pipers Repeat Performance.” Down Beat 24 Mar. 1948: 20.
  27. “June Hutton Singles.” Down Beat 13 Jan. 1950: 1.
  28. “Ex-Pipers Puzzled By AGVA Putting Them on 'Unfair List.'” Down Beat 14 Dec. 1951: 18.
  29. “Pied Pipers in Comeback.” Down Beat 2 Dec. 1953: 3.