Welcome back, music explorers, to Finnley’s Audio Adventures! I’m Finnley the Dolphin, and today we’re embarking on a melodic journey through the harmonious world of the Norman Luboff Choir. We’ll be diving into three of their iconic albums that showcase their incredible versatility and masterful choral arrangements. From the Western trails in “Songs of the West” (1955) to the Southern charm of “Songs of the South” (1956), and the high seas adventure in “Songs of the Sea” (1957), these albums capture the essence of American folk, gospel, and maritime traditions. So, grab your headphones and join me as we explore the rich soundscapes created by this legendary choir!

Norman Luboff, born on May 14, 1917, in Chicago, Illinois, founded and directed the Norman Luboff Choir. He began his musical career in the 1930s and 1940s in Chicago, singing and writing for radio advertising, and forming small groups for recording gigs to refine his arranging and composing skills. In 1948, at 31, Luboff moved to southern California and signed with Warner Brothers to write film scores. By the mid-1950s, he had established connections with top Hollywood studio singers and instrumentalists, positioning himself to lead the Norman Luboff Choir professionally.

The Norman Luboff Choir initially provided backup choral effects for singing stars but quickly gained prominence with their album Songs of the West (Columbia 657; 1955). The Luboff arrangement of “Oh, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie” became popular among glee clubs and male choruses. The album Songs of the West includes other classics like “The Old Chisholm Trail,” “Red River Valley,” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” which showcase the choir’s ability to bring traditional Western songs to life with harmonious arrangements and evocative performances. This album set the stage for the choir’s continued success and established their reputation for exceptional choral music.

In 1956, the Norman Luboff Choir released Songs of the South under the Columbia label (CLP-860), a collection that blends country, gospel, and choral styles with tracks like “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Salangadou,” “Carry Me Back To Old Virginny,” and “Dixie.” Luboff’s skill in adapting traditional Southern melodies and gospel hymns for choral performance is evident throughout the album, demonstrating the choir’s ability to bring a fresh perspective to traditional songs and further cementing their reputation in the music industry.

Adding to their impressive discography, the Norman Luboff Choir released Songs of the Sea in 1957 (Columbia CL 948), an album that captures the essence of sea shanties with harmonious and evocative performances. Tracks like “Homeward Bound,” “Shenandoah,” “Blow The Man Down,” and “Eternal Father” highlight Luboff’s talent for adapting maritime music for choral performance. This album, along with their previous works, solidified the choir’s reputation for delivering exceptional choral music across various genres.

The choir’s influence extended beyond recordings to television and radio, where they frequently appeared on popular programs, broadening their audience and impact on the choral music scene in the United States. The Norman Luboff Choir achieved significant popularity from the 1950s through the 1970s, known for their expansive repertoire and exceptional choral performances. They released numerous albums, including the Grammy Award-winning Songs of the Cowboy in 1960. This recognition highlighted their musical excellence and contributed to their enduring legacy.

This widespread acclaim was not solely due to the group’s collective talent but also because of the remarkable individuals within the choir who were celebrated in their own right. Their involvement in various high-profile projects helped to elevate the choir’s profile and demonstrated the depth of talent that made the Norman Luboff Choir exceptional.

Norma Zimmer, an accomplished singer, gained fame as the “Champagne Lady” on The Lawrence Welk Show. Her elegance and precision added a notable presence to the choir’s sound, and her television appearances made her a household name.

Betty Noyes was known for her work in Hollywood, lending her voice to many film soundtracks. Her contributions extended beyond the choir, making her a recognizable talent in the film industry.

Thurl Ravenscroft, famous for his deep bass voice, was also known for his work as the voice of Tony the Tiger in Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes commercials. Additionally, his memorable vocal performance in “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” from the holiday classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and his extensive work with Walt Disney, including singing in attractions like the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, solidified his place in popular culture.

Together, these notable members of the Norman Luboff Choir brought a wealth of experience and recognition to the group. Their individual accomplishments in the broader entertainment world contributed to the choir’s reputation for excellence and helped to elevate its profile in the music industry.

This period of recognition and success for the Norman Luboff Choir coincided with significant technological advancements in the music industry. In the mid-20th century, Columbia Records revolutionized the industry with the introduction of the Long Playing “microgroove” LP record format in June 1948. Driven by president Edward Wallerstein and supported by engineer William Savory’s technical expertise, the LP format allowed for higher fidelity recordings and longer play times, making it particularly suitable for classical music. The success of the LP format quickly led to its adoption by other major record labels, including Capitol Records, RCA Victor, and Decca Records in the U.K. Columbia’s LPs were especially suited to classical music’s longer pieces, featuring artists such as Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and Sir Thomas Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Norman Luboff Choir’s albums, including Songs of the South (1956) and Songs of the Sea (1957), are prime examples of the high-quality recordings made possible by the LP format. These vinyl LPs, presented in mono format, include collections of tracks that blend various musical styles with choral arrangements, showcasing Norman Luboff’s skill in adapting traditional melodies for choral performance. The release of these albums demonstrated the choir’s ability to bring a fresh perspective to traditional songs and further cemented their reputation in the music industry.

The enduring popularity of the Norman Luboff Choir is evidenced by an advertisement from The Good Music Record Co. in the June 22, 1999 edition of Weekly World News, where albums by the choir were still available for order. Customers could fill out an order form, list their chosen albums, and send payment to The Good Music Record Co. This enduring availability highlights the lasting impact and continued appreciation for the Norman Luboff Choir’s music decades after its initial release. The choir’s music continued to resonate with audiences, reflecting their timeless appeal and the quality of their performances.

In addition to their widespread acclaim, the Norman Luboff Choir was prominently featured in promotional efforts by major record labels. An advertisement in LIFE magazine promoted a selection of high-fidelity 12″ Columbia Records available through the Columbia Record Club. This ad featured notable artists and albums, offering members three free records upon joining the club and agreeing to purchase four additional selections over the next twelve months. The Norman Luboff Choir’s album Easy to Remember was prominently displayed, underscoring their widespread appeal and versatility. The ad’s diverse collection, ranging from classical masterpieces to popular hits, highlighted the choir’s reputation for delivering exceptional choral performances that resonated with a broad audience.

Norman Luboff continued to be active in the music industry until his death from cancer on September 22, 1987. The continued promotion and availability of the Norman Luboff Choir’s albums, both in historical advertisements and more recent offerings, illustrate their significant role in the development and popularization of mood music and easy-listening genres. Their work provided a soundtrack to an era and pushed the boundaries of what choral music could achieve in the studio, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to be celebrated by music enthusiasts.

Thank you for joining me on this enchanting voyage through the timeless music of the Norman Luboff Choir! As we’ve discovered, these three albums—”Songs of the West,” “Songs of the South,” and “Songs of the Sea”—highlight the choir’s exceptional ability to bring diverse musical styles to life with their impeccable harmonies and evocative performances. From the dusty trails of the American West to the heartwarming melodies of the South, and the rhythmic waves of the sea, the Norman Luboff Choir has left an indelible mark on the world of choral music. Stay tuned to Finnley’s Audio Adventures for more dives into the fascinating history of audio entertainment. Until next time, keep your ears open and your hearts tuned to the magic of music!


Billboard Magazine. “Music Popularity Charts.” 7 Oct. 1950, p. 67.

Lanza, Joseph. Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong; Revised and Expanded Edition. pp. 114-115, 2004.

Billboard Magazine. “Music as Written.” 1 Mar. 1952, p. 40.

Hoffmann, Frank, editor. Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound. Taylor & Francis, 2004. Ebook.

LIFE. “Advertisement for Columbia Records.” 3 Mar. 1958, p. 9.

Weekly World News. “Advertisement for The Good Music Record Co.” 22 June 1999.

“The Norman Luboff Choir – Songs Of The South.” Discogs, https://www.discogs.com/release/2885689-The-Norman-Luboff-Choir-Songs-Of-The-South. Accessed 29 June 2024.

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