Eileen Barton, 76, Pop Singer
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Eileen Barton, who died June 27 at 76, was the sprightly pop voice behind the 1950 megahit “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake.”
The song’s iconic title became part of the language, used at times sarcastically for surprise visitors, and ultimately became a target for feminists irritated by society’s return to traditional sex roles after World War II.
None of which meant much to Eileen Barton, already at age 21 a veteran performer, who didn’t much like the song in the first place.
“I was known as the Bake-a-Cake girl for so long I felt like a stone-age Itsy-Pooh,” she said rather cryptically to the Chicago Tribune in 1966.
Still, the song opened doors, and she was booked for years into big clubs all over the country, like the Copacabana in New York and the Mocambo in Hollywood, on the strength of it. Although she recorded extensively, she never had another hit approaching it again.
A native of Flatbush born November 24, 1929, Barton was raised on the road by her vaudevillian parents, and first became a performer at age 3, when she sang “Ain’t Misbehavin'” at a theater in Kansas City. Later, she was a child performer on shows hosted by Eddie Cantor, Rudy Vallee, and Milton Berle, for whom she played “Jolly Gillette,” putative daughter of the show’s sponsor, who was therefore allowed to sing anything she liked.
At 15, she began singing in nightclubs, and in 1944 was selected to become a supporting vocalist on Frank Sinatra’s weekly show on CBS radio. Among her trademark songs was “I’m Gonna Hang My Hat On the Tree That Grows in Brooklyn.”
Barton appeared frequently on television in the 1950s, mainly singing on variety shows, but also in “Perry Mason” and as a game-show host.
Her star faded with the rise of rock and roll, although Barton continued be booked into big rooms in Las Vegas and Miami into the mid-1960s. In later years, she lived in part on income derived from a music publishing company her father set up with Sinatra.
A two-CD set collecting much of her best work is slated for release soon on the Saxony label. It is titled, “If I Knew You Were Comin’…”
Twice married, she leaves no immediate survivors.