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A Fine Romance
A Fine Romance
A FINE ROMANCE: MY LIFELONG AFFAIR WITH JAZZ SINGING AND SINGERS by Bill Reed
Cellar Door Books Los Angeles, CA © 2009
A Fine Romance
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOREWORD....................................................................................5 PART ONE: INTERVIEWS AND PROFILES Introduction to Part One..................................................................8 Beverly Kenney...............................................................................10 Joe Williams.....................................................................................21 Page Cavanaugh...............................................................................25 Jo Stafford........................................................................................36 Ethel Waters.....................................................................................44 Q & A with Ruth Olay.....................................................................51 Nat “King” Cole...............................................................................63 Helen Grayco...................................................................................67 Dusty Springfield.............................................................................73 Bobbi Rogers...................................................................................76 Judy Garland....................................................................................80 Mieko Hirota....................................................................................85 Sue Raney........................................................................................88 Kurt Reichenbach............................................................................91 Dick and Kiz Harp...........................................................................94 Jennie Smith.....................................................................................98 Nora Evans.......................................................................................101 Dick Noel.........................................................................................104 Chris Connor....................................................................................106 Carole Simpson................................................................................109 Pinky Winters...................................................................................111 Johnny Prophet................................................................................130 Irene Kral.........................................................................................133 Nina Simone....................................................................................137 PART TWO: ONE SHOT WONDERS Introduction to Part Two..................................................................144 Bill Black.........................................................................................145 Carole Creveling..............................................................................156 Sue Childs........................................................................................160 Flo Handy........................................................................................164 June Rudell......................................................................................179
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PART THREE: SHORT TAKES Lorez Alexandria..............................................................................172 Laurie Allyn.....................................................................................173 Flo Bennett.......................................................................................174 Betty Blake......................................................................................174 Janet Brace.......................................................................................175 June Christy.....................................................................................176 Marlene Cord...................................................................................177 Dorothy Dandridge..........................................................................178 Cora Lee Day...................................................................................179 Blossom Dearie................................................................................180 Ronnie Deauville.............................................................................182 Marlene Dietrich..............................................................................182 Kevin Gavin.....................................................................................183 Inez Jones.........................................................................................184 Abbey Lincoln.................................................................................185 Julie London....................................................................................186 Frances Lynne..................................................................................187 Susannah McCorkle.........................................................................189 Mary Ann McCall............................................................................191 Anita O’Day.....................................................................................192 Peters Sisters, The............................................................................193 Pied Pipers, The...............................................................................194 King Pleasure...................................................................................195 Jimmy Rushing................................................................................196 Kenny Sargent..................................................................................197 Hazel Scott.......................................................................................198 Lizabeth Scott..................................................................................199 Dinah Shore.....................................................................................200 Carol Sloane.....................................................................................201 Victoria Spivey................................................................................202 Maxine Sullivan...............................................................................202 Lynn Taylor......................................................................................203 Kay Thompson.................................................................................204 Sarah Vaughan.................................................................................205 Helen Ward......................................................................................206 Margaret Whiting.............................................................................207 Lee Wiley.........................................................................................209 DISCOGRAPHY .............................................................................216 INDEX..............................................................................................218 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS / ABOUT THE AUTHOR......................227
A Fine Romance FOREWORD
Whole Word Concept: Before Sesame Street was even a gleam in Jim Henson’s eye, I learned to read by that, unfashionable for its time, process. Several years before I was of school age, my older sister Nancy began holding up records----78's---and I would learn to identify the title on the label not phonetically, but visually. If I got the correct answer, my reward was to hear the record. I think that's when I began associating music with enjoyment, even beyond the obvious pleasure of the music itself. Just about the most popular recording act of the day was the Andrew Sisters, and those sides were the ones that were most used as my visual aids. I still have sense memory of one of their hits of the moment being held up and my four-year-old-voice parroting "Andrew Sis. . .Sisters . . . RuhRuh-Rum. . .and. . .and Coca Cola." Everyone who had gathered around to watch this juvenile savantry, clapped their hands with glee, patted me on the head, and then spun the disc (still a quite good one, I think). Thus the word “lifelong” contained in this book’s title. For this was where my musical life began. ____________ I once gave a Betty Carter CD to a friend who is much more stylistically conservative than the former, but, nonetheless, still quite a good jazz singer. She had never heard Carter. I couple of days later I called to ask what she thought of it. I hoped she’d enjoyed it; instead, she told me, she'd become so immediately overwrought by the experience that she ejected it from the player in the moving car in which she was traveling and hurled it onto the freeway. (Talk about your hip litter!) Carter herself was once asked to name her "favorite singer." She replied, "No comment." Which I always felt was her amusing and diplomatic way of saying, “Me.” The foregoing is by way of illustrating that there are perhaps as many definitions as to what constitutes the fine art of jazz singing as there are opinion-holders themselves. To further illumine my point, noted critic Ira Gitler once opined that, “One person’s jazz singer can be another's Robert
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Goulet.” Only a little bit more to the point, the New Yorker scribe Whitney Balliett once wrote that “The most popular definition of a jazz singer is that there is no definition. But there is. A jazz singer simply makes whatever he or she sings. . .swing. Ethel Merman is not a jazz singer. Doris Day is.” To belt then, as does Merman, is not necessarily to swing. And, while we’re at it, just exactly what is this mysterious and elusive thing called swing? Andrew, a friend of mine, was a music major at Harvard in the early 1980s. On one occasion, jazz great Benny Carter was a visiting lecturer there, and Andrew assumed that with such an articulate professor as Carter, he might finally be able to get to the bottom of this “swing” business. But when Andrew raised his hand and asked his question, Carter's answer was along the lines of that old, as-of-yore saw: "If you have to ask, then you’ll never know.” Ouch! On the other hand, the Hi-Lo’s’ Clark Burroughs once told me that he believed that the quality of swing can actually be isolated and quantified. Something to do with how when most folks sing they invariably land squarely on the beat (not to swing), while a few tend to land just a hair in front of, or behind the beat (to swing). Burroughs says this can even be proven scientifically, but that’s an experiment perhaps best left for some other night around the ol’ campfire. Jazz icon Annie Ross also has a theory: “When you swing, you know what it is to swing. You work with musicians your whole life. Suddenly one night you're working. . . Everything is jelling. You're jelling with the bass player and the drummer and the piano player and you're all on the same plane and you know it's swinging. No one has to define it for you. But above all, you’ve got to know where 1 is. . .1,2,3,4.“ Add to swing, then, the qualities of good intonation, a genial “sound” and recognizable timbre, good taste in repertoire, plus just old fashioned good taste in general, put them all together and, to my way of thinking, you’ve got yourself a jazz singer. This book, based on articles I’ve written over the past thirty years, charts the process by which I’ve arrived at these conclusions.
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PART ONE INTERVIEWS AND PROFILES
A Fine Romance This book is dedicated to the memory of Nat Shapiro
INTRODUCTION With few exceptions, nearly every singer mentioned in this book "came up" during the 1940s and '50s. And what most of them clearly demonstrate is there once was a time not so long ago when people used to know how to sing. . . in tune, with feeling, style, taste, and swing. This was accomplished largely without resorting to the more recently commonplace approach of chopping nearly every word that is sung into as many syllables as the song will tolerate. (The last time I looked, the word was pronounced “love” not “luh-uh-uhve.”) The technique is known as melisma and dates back centuries. It is perhaps best suited to the worlds of baroque and rococo music -- not the pop and soul balladry of the American Idol ilk. When it comes to every artist written about herein, their simplicity and purity of approach harkens back to a time when singers just sang the damned song and went home. Over and out in 2:30 flat. Not all of them did, as with such pyrotechnical sorts as Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter, but they certainly could if they so desired. Most of the chapters in this section came about either through my engagement as a journalist or reviewer for such as the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and that other Hearst paper (and still surviving) San Francisco Examiner, or my more recent activities as a record producer for SSJ Records (Japan). While some of the artists dealt with in this section are well-known verging on household name, i.e., Nat King Cole, especially, I have tended to enclose singers leaning more toward the
recherche. After all, what little do I have to say about the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and other such greats that hasn’t already been said before. But where else than herein are you likely to find significant coverage on singers such as Beverly Kenney, Pinky Winters or “whisper vocalist”-pianist Page Cavanaugh?
A Fine Romance And that same mind set has more-or-less also informed my late-blooming activities as a
record producer. While I have been engaged in CD reissue projects for such above-radar “names” as Jack Jones, Carol Sloane, and Buddy Greco, but the majority of my time has been spent on a catalogue of reissues consisting of the likes of Flo Handy (hunh?), Carole Creveling (quién?) and Sue Childs (qui?). And that’s just the way I like it. For recently when asked the names of some of the singers I’ve helped reissue in Japan: “If you heard of most of them, then I’m m not doing my job properly.”
10 BEVERLY KENNEY
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In the nineteen-fifties, Beverly Kenney seemed to have everything going for her. A fast-rising performer in the still-dominant, pre-Beatles world of commercial jazz, she appeared poised to reap the same kind of rewards and accolades that had recently greeted a slightly older wave of singers, i.e. Chris Connor, June Christy, Julie London, et. al. Indeed, London, in a 1957 interview, cited Kenney, along with Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald, as one of her favorites. "Looks to me that 1957 will really be her year. I dig her because, well, she phrases like mad. She sings in tune, too; matter of fact, she sings like a musician." Kenney possessed looks to rival those of the pin-up chanteuse London. As for her singing style, try to imagine what Billie Holiday, with an equally slight, laid-back timbre, might have sounded had she been born a generation later and come up listening not so much to earlier jazz greats like Teddy Wilson and Louis Armstrong but instead to cool school players like Mulligan, Tristano, and Getz, et al. An unsigned review of Kenney in performance at New York’s Basin Street East in the 12/28/55 issue of the influential jazz periodical Down Beat hones in nicely on what it was that Beverly did so well: “This girl, as fresh in sound as she is in appearance, sings with continually imaginative, horn-like phrasing that flows with fine, sustained pulsation. Beverly’s witty and sound musical imagination turns even “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” into a lightly wailing jazz vehicle. That her
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feeling for long, flowing instrumental zed lines is equally effective in lyrical ballads is evident in her tender treatment of ‘Early Autumn.’” The reviewer predicted that Beverly would be around for a “long time” to come. Julie London's encomia followed hard on the heels of two years' worth of equally effusive praise along the lines of: "It looks as if finally, a new voice of unmistakable jazz quality has appeared to its place beside those of Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald". . ."a great jazz vocal find". In light of how Kenney's life and career played out in 1960, the Down Beat review was especially ironic. Beverly Kenney wasn't all that much older than I; thus, it was difficult for me, as a teenager, to comprehend her suicide that year. My hometown (Charleston, West Virginia) jazz dee-jay Hugh McPherson (Ella's "Rehearsin' w/ McPherson" was written in his honor) was the one to tell me about Kenney's 1961 death, not long after it happened. Hugh knew just about everything that was going down in the jazz world, and said she had killed herself over a love affair gone bad. But those I interviewed, several of whom who were close to Kenney, never gave me any real reason to believe that this was the cause. And, in fact, all these years after her demise, no one seems to have a serious clue as to what might have prompted Beverly to do herself in. Long since forgotten in the U.S. (not so much so elsewhere in the world) you can imagine my surprise in the late 1980s when I found a misspelled reference to her ("Kenny") in a collection of writings by the Beat essayist, Seymour Krim. It was the first time I'd seen her name in print in all those years. He cited her in passing as a friend who had committed suicide. Apres Krim, however, there came a relative deluge, in the form of a somewhat lengthy article about the singer in, of all places, the Nov '92 GQ. It seems that the author, New York disc jockey, scenemaker, and son of famed songwriter, Arthur Schwartz, Jonathan Schwartz, had long since relegated the singer to what he describes as his "A shelf" of recordings, alongside "Sinatra, the early
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Miles Davis, Beethoven string quartets, anything for the cello, the Verve Billie Holiday, [and] the original cast recording of Carousel." To say that Schwartz' affection for Kenney placed him in the vast majority is an even vaster understatement. In the U.S., that is. Beyond forgotten in her native land, Kenney is still a name known to most Japanese devotees of jazz singing. There were six LP's three on Roost, three on Decca that have remained in print all these years in Japan and are reissued almost every time a new digital or packaging wrinkle becomes available. But then, with Sam "The Man" Taylor, Nancy Wilson, the Carpenters, Salena Jones, Billy Vaughn, Percy Faith, the Ventures, Brenda Lee being but a few of the Stateside singers and musicians who have had even longer and more successful careers in Japan than in the U.S., what would you expect from a nation that, while loving American culture and music, adheres to own---some might say---peculiar ideas about what constitutes the Best of the West. While there are still no web sites dedicated to Kenney on the English language internet, more than four decades after her death, dozens abound in Japanese. A friend has translated a few for me, and while I could never find out the reason why, nearly all available Japanese biographical material on Kenney mention nothing about suicide but incorrectly state that she died in a hotel fire. No cut-and-paster when it came to his search for Kenney, Jonathan Schwartz truly did his homework, including revelation of the name of the dismissive lover who might have caused the singer to take the pipe, a dazzling, legendary fifties Greenwich Village professional intellectual, Milton Klonsky. A kind of Beat Generation guru with a huge intellect and an ego to match, Klonsky apparently inspired her to write poetry, an example of which was included in Schwartz' article:
13 On Cesarean Birth
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I curled by body small in hiding to escape the view of those who sought to start the flow of waters long since overdue. And watched in horror Cautious silver part the roof of my Capri, And heard the cry of anguished protest, The first of many wrought from me. Schwartz' article also zeroed in on the circumstances surrounding Kenney's suicide: "Beverly kept a room at the University Residence Club, on West 11th Street [in NYC]. In that room, one spring night in 1960, more than a year after Milton Klonsky, she wrote letters to both of her parents. . .The letters were conclusional, regretful, irrevocable. . . Then, wearing a pink nightgown, she took a sufficient combination of alcohol and Seconal to kill her. She was 28." Case seemingly closed. I wanted to know more. Here is some of what I uncovered from a quartet of individuals whose paths crossed Kenney's during the brief period of her rapid musical ascendancy and who were kind enough to answer some of my questions about her. The one thing that three out of the four agree upon is that Beverly Kenney was one of the saddest human beings they ever met. Ralph Patt (musician): "I worked with her on one trip out into the Midwest with the Larry Sonn Band about 1956. Larry was a trumpet player who had worked in Mexico and was trying to get a big band started. That band was very good, with some good studio players making a relatively short trip. Beverly was on the band but only had a few arrangements. We faked tunes for her with the rhythm section. I recall very vividly her fear of riding in cars. At one point, she talked about leaving the band in Ohio
I remember what a great singer she was but she seemed pretty unhappy and not too stable. etc. but Beverly only stared back at her seemingly without comprehension.14 and taking the train home. Kelly's recollections of Kenney . so I wasn't surprised at her untimely death. I had returned as resident piano/vocalist. in fact. It was customary for the visiting singers to hang out with the locals a lot. I suspected severe melancholy. but she never did. Kelly's [in Chicago]. Overall. However. It wasn't long after she left that word came that both she and Nicky had committed suicide. A Fine Romance I worked a few times with her afterwards at a club on 48th St. go to hear all the others. She was the first out of town act to open the second Mr. her very dear friend. One goes thru the usual guilt trip. and I often asked Beverly if she wanted to join in. we often talked to each other during intermissions. Kelly tossed off a remark into the mic about how one of them would sooner or later have to undergo a name change. it's not surprising that Kelly knew Kenney. I liked her singing and I liked her.she was lovely and nice to talk to. Maybe Jilly's. maybe mistook it for homesickness as she spoke frequently of Nick De Frances." Audrey Morris (jazz singer): "I'm not much help on Beverly Kenney as she was very inside. She can. called Matty's Towncrest. wondering if there had been something one could have done." Jazz singer Beverly Kelly (the name similarity has often led to confusion) has expended more than a little energy since the time of Kenney's death more than forty years ago putting to rest highly exaggerated rumors of her own demise. I don't know whether she had family or anyone else close . Since they came up in the jazz world at the same time. I believe he was working at a piano bar in New York. I don't mean aloof . still recall being on stage one night at a Chicago club and looking down to espy Kenney in the audience.it's one of those unfinished chapters in my life that brings sadness.
in those days it was very artsy and everybody knew everybody.” “unhappy. With the possible exception of Jean Seberg in Preminger's St. Eventually Kelly went on to become Doctor Beverly Kelly. fortunately for her. Instead. Beverly picked me out as a friend. But this was long after Kenny died. have little in common with Kelly. I lived in Greenwich Village. Kelly wishes she could have done something to help Beverly. He died. like Morris. that classic tale of young womanhood larking about New York's Greenwich Village. Oddly enough. Morris and Patt. very new to the world and had just started modeling in New York City. Anatole dated every woman in Greenwich Village." "We became friends because of [New York Times literary critic] Anatole Broyard and Milton Klonsky. I never felt she was close to them.” “depressed. the recollections of actress Millie Perkins of the singer come off sounding like nothing so much as slightly updated version of My Sister Eileen. All the poets and writers. I don't know when [1981 in NYC of lung cancer]. She never talked about her family. Beverly took me under her wing. She .15 A Fine Romance echo almost word for those of Audrey Morris and Ralph Patt: “sad.” Looking back.000 aspirants. You know. more successful than Seberg's. She had never acted before in her life when she was plucked from junior model obscurity by director George Stevens. Perkins' initial outing was." that of Anne Frank---without even seeking it. I loved going to hear her sing. Rashomon-fashion. a practicing therapist. I really liked it. no other young novice actress has ever had to carry such a heavy weight. I had moved there with my sister. Joan. In 1959 Perkins won what was called "the most coveted screen role since Scarlet O'Hara. She was dating a poet named Milton Klonsky. She was chosen from among 10. "I was very young. whoever was interesting was in the Village. the memories of Kenney’s best friend in the few years prior to her suicide. I met Beverly in Washington Square Park.
a terrible cold. we ate together." "Milton was an odd duck. . odd. After he broke up with Beverly---I don't even know if he broke up with Beverly or she broke up with him. When I grew up in high school. .Billie Holiday. a giant swig of scotch.I say "sophisticated" in experiences." "Anatole [Broyard] was one of my big romances. or affairs I should say. From now on in that's what I do when I get the flu. . He was a good influence on my life.. . who was the beauty in the family. she made hot tea. a little bit. . When I met . I went out with him for a long time until I did the "Diary. Beverly took a liking to me. lemon in it. But we had a real connection. but I gather he broke up with her because she seemed pretty depressed. Herbie Mann you name it I would go. Milton asked me out. Louis Armstrong. I was from New Jersey and was just starting out in life. The first time I had the flu.16 A Fine Romance wasn't gay. . "Drink this. . . because she was singing in clubs. and Anatole saw me. It was all very new and exciting to me. . She was singing in a club in Philadelphia and I would get on a train and go down to the club and sit there and hear her sing. So I was aware of music. Charlie Parker. and he was just not my kind of person. Beverly was. I wasn't in love with Anatole.was she gay? We would go to the movies together. There was this semi-sophisticated person. and my sister didn't want to go out with Anatole.Beverly. She said. I went out with a jazz saxophone player and so I was a little bit hip to music. I had a terrible fever. . I took one to Beverly. but he's dead now. He had a big crush on my sister Lulu. [beat] He stills owes me money." I drank it and felt totally better the next." Then I met a lot of women who went out with him who had terrible stories to tell about him but I never had a terrible story to tell about Anatole. but I was a young girl and when I met him in Washington Square Park. But the thing is. . ." “She was wonderful. Beverly came over. We all went there every Sunday. Everybody wanted her. And Barry used to take me to New York before I even moved there to see everything going on." "I didn't know a whole lot about Beverly's personal life. you'll feel better tomorrow.
we were both doing our lives. Maybe she needed money. quickly became a model. One of the top junior type models. learning what it was all about. 'What are you listening to that garbage for? You wanna hear real music'?' So I was educated. moody. Oh . I know that when she died I was shocked. in that period. "I was. sweetest---to me---giving person that I had met. all those things. because I didn't know a lot of people that understood. When I moved to California we had each others' phone numbers.17 A Fine Romance Beverly. Maybe I should . and I moved to California to shoot the movie. she was the warmest. just beginning in the world. Did she need money?" "Beverly was very pensive. Glamor. but she was wonderful. That is aside from some people I knew before I had gotten into the world. So to meet someone who sang that was into that kind of music was very exciting to me. okay. correct? I didn't know that that was happening with Beverly. She sounded fine. . Vogue. The thing was I was moving around in life. but I was very unsophisticated. . In high school they played Teresa Brewer not that she was bad but she wasn't my cup of tea and I remember when I met my boyfriend Barry and he said." I asked Perkins if she was surprised by Kenney's suicide. They say she committed suicide. First I worked in an advertising agency. and then George Stevens was looking for someone to star in The Diary of Anne Frank and they saw my picture and eventually they said yes to me. For a year-and-a-half I was on the cover of all those magazines: Seventeen. then I became a model. I didn't know that Beverly was depressed. That's when I knew Beverly. okay? Had never even heard of drugs. my god. She never asked me for money. it was so thrilling to me to meet a real human being. She was one of the important people in my beginning years. I was beginning to earn a living and get out there. I had moved to New York.it was wonderful to me because I was new. We talked a couple of times on the phone. my friend Beverly. and I went into difficult times about it because all of a sudden I felt guilty. So when I met Beverly. I was having experiences.
She said. When I went to California. I felt her melancholy came out in her music. and was really good. I felt guilty for a while. Do you know who I talked to recently? Beverly Kenney's sister. When they broke up. My sister said.. Became a top model. having a strange little experience of my own. I felt sad for her. They thought she was going places. everyone abandoned Beverly when she needed them. to Paris. Before they asked me to do the Diary I was a model for a year-and-a-half right after high school. It's not true." "Someone in New York told Jonathan Schwartz to call me. They sent me to England to model.. to the West Indies. Well. I talked to Beverly Kenney's sister. That's when George Stevens saw my picture and wanted me to go California. either." "Musicians really loved Beverly because they thought she had a future. I only lived in New York a year-and-a-half and that's where I net Beverly. Somehow my sister met up with her.18 A Fine Romance have called. It was terrible. Why did she commit suicide???? There was a real melancholy about Beverly. well what IS that? Oh. I was very naive and unsophisticated. She smiled a lot but didn’t laugh. Then Milton called me up and asked me out. She didn’t seem to care about Milton Klonsky that much. It is . And she loved Millie. She was kind of rude. It never dawned on me to be an actress. but. but I was shooting a movie. They kept passing the cigarette around and I kept saying. what the hell was she going through that I didn't know about. they asked me to do the collections. If an eighteen year old girl today said she had never heard the world lesbian they would laugh at her. It was sad and hard for me. I had never heard of marijuana. but it made me think. I know that my sister called me and said. No one was looking after me. I was modeling before they asked me to test. the first time I heard about drugs is when I was going out with Dean Stockwell. Glamour. it was just somebody brought me back a present from Morocco. She never shared it. I didn't even know she had a sister. Vogue.. I was on the cover of Seventeen . "Well. This sounds very naive but I don't even think I knew what a lesbian was. I couldn’t believe it. I went to a party and everybody was smoking marijuana. including your sister. Said that we were lesbians together.
Millie. but the point is. He was the first person to set foot on Japanese soil after Hirohito's surrender. He was wonderful.” Well we got married." "When I was tested for Anne Frank. I bet he has hordes of diamonds. So when someone says lesbiannnnn.19 A Fine Romance called marijuana and I said. I never heard of it. "Beverly. Throughout my conversation with Perkins. she struck me as a very commonsensical. when she could take it no more. “I said I will never go out with you again if you smoke any of that. Hirohito had five sons and one daughter.My mother used to read tea leaves at the Gypsy Tea Room on 42nd Street. when Schwartz asked were Beverly and I lovers. I was flown to California and I never saw Beverly again after that. Anway. what is that?” I was furious. kind of crazy. Why don't you marry him?" So when my mother says that. Maybe because of my background. “What. . We had six kids in my family. . for several weeks after Kenney's death she recalls sensing the palpable presence of her friend's spirit. I didn't care. My mother was wonderful. My mother and my father were wonderful people. he was black. but it wouldn’t have mattered to me because I never was a judgmental person. My father was half Mongolian and half Hungarian. Finally. go away! I can't help you!" And that was the last the actress ever "saw" of her. non-new agey sort. "Ohhhh. He could be an African prince. "Millieeeee. However. We saw him in the newsreels before McArthur got there. she screamed. on the second floor. with a strong tendency toward stressing the seen over the unseen. . I remember I was going out with a photographer. " I was engaged to a Phillipino man whose father was an ambassador." But not exactly the last time. And she said. and I told my mother I was going out with this black man who was a photographer. I was pretty naive. I laughed and said no. you never know.. my father was a sea captain. He could be one of those sons in disguise. . . people in Africa have a lotttt of diamonds. My mother was Irish and French and I remember when I. My father was a commodore of thirty ships during World War II. and I told my mother and she said.
" Don't get me wrong.20 A Fine Romance At two points in my conversation with Perkins. .but if you closed your eyes. she abruptly stopped and sang long portions---note-for-note---of two of Kenney's songs: first. "I Never Has Seen Snow" and then "This Little Town is Paris. it was Beverly Kenney singing. . .
then Steve Allen announces me and I come out and do the Louis Armstrong favorite.21 JOE WILLIAMS A Fine Romance Joe Williams' career extended back to Chicago in the late 1930s and he also worked not only with Count Basie---Williams' most famous alliance---but also with such other jazz giants as Fats Waller. I immediately shifted into another bag. When he came off. Especially in a festival situation where I’m on a bill with other performers.’ After all that frenetic stuff that Miles had been blowing at them. Les Hite. This was a great training ground for learning how to pace a show. It was a sound not entirely devoid of sexual charge. after I saw that.” said Williams in this interview I conducted with him in 1987. “I did a concert with Rosemary Clooney in Baltimore last year and she went on first. and then here I come along with the release. I like to see what they’re doing before I make up my mind what to do. Lionel Hampton and Coleman Hawkins. an aura usually present during all of Williams’ live performances. “I like to wait until the very last minute before deciding what I’m going to sing. I‘d planned to do some Ellington that night but I changed my mind at the very last minute. Andy Kirk. Well. Fletcher Henderson. the crowd was screaming and cheering. ‘I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You). he recalled. with all the electronics and no release. She did an absolutely brilliant Ellington medley.” Williams then approximates the sound of 17. “I followed Miles Davis at the Hollywood Bowl the year before last.000 attendees offering up a collective swoon. “For example. which never failed to include such ribald blues as “Cherry Red” and . when I went on.
” A large amount of credit for the disc’s popularity went to vocalist Williams. where he worked with clarinetist Jimmy Noone. one of the finest male interpreters of American Popular Song.22 “Who She Do.” When Williams sang non-blues material. but his association with the group continued up to the time . Please James.” Williams officially quit the band in 1961. his approach was remarkably straightforward and “legitimate. For example. who was then new to the Basie outfit. And also Rodgers and Hart. a decade after the big band era had begun its slow fade from view. During the next few years..” and “Goin’to Chicago. Over the next fifteen years Williams gradually built up a strong regional following.” This led to his being generally recognized by critics as being. in addition to a healthy serving of the blues. born in Georgia in 1918. Berlin and Gershwin. He could very well have remained stalled at that level had it not been for the intervention of Count Basie.” and “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).” A Fine Romance Aside from the playfully erotic nature of a portion of Williams’ repertoire.” Williams. “I don’t care what they call me. Williams was singing at a club in downtown Chicago. In 1956. a hallmark of the big-voiced performer’s songbook was its extraordinary diversity. Basie and Williams continued their successful partnership in person and on recordings with such hits as “Alright. He was the venue’s porter in addition his part-time role as a singer. moved with his family to the fertile musical territory of Chicago when he was three. By age sixteen. “Every Day I Have the Blues. O. But I also do Negro spirituals and that’s pretty far from the blues. You Win. along with Nat King Cole and Vic Damone.K. his 1987 Verve album Every Night also featured such torchy saloon songs as “Dinner for One. having just replaced Jimmy Rushing. But he claimed not to be bothered by sometimes being incorrectly pigeonholed as a blues singer. the Basie Orchestra came roaring back to popularity with the hit recording.
print it. noted for his usually mellow demeanor. Johnny Carson has also played a big part in Williams career. hillbilly almost. Europeans and Japanese. When you talk about the British. the singer did a lot of quiet charity on the side. our biggest hero got that way because he's such a slick liar. We're a beer-swilling society. He died in March 1999 on a Las Vegas street after .“ Williams told me in my ‘87 interview. He also noted that certain tax problems which had befallen the Basie organization since the leader’s death in 1984 seemed to have been solved." Williams was clearly referring to Iran/Contra figure Oliver North. In addition to Basie.S. He also made it clear that he was not referring to the kind of sophisticated audiences usually found at U. as well as appearances with symphonies and the increasingly popular venue of jazz cruises. “I’ve done the Carson show 55 times.” Williams emphasized. His first trip out of the country was with Basie in 1956 and his subsequent schedule included festivals and solo dates throughout the world. briefly lashed out at certain prevailing U. you're talking about cultured people." POSTSCRIPT Like Frank Sinatra. I asked him. “And we have another one at Avery Fischer Hall in New York in September. That kind of TV work is invaluable to me. Like now. attitudes toward committed artists and their wares. "No. The band sounds good. jazz festivals in the ranks of the great unwashed off the record?. "What I do is for a very special crowd of folks. The singer. There’s not another singer or jazz instrumentalist around who’s had that much exposure on that show. Especially for disadvantaged children in NYC around Christmas time. believe me. “We did about six or seven concerts with the Basie band so far this year. Williams was one of the busiest and most traveled of non-rock performers.” Williams proudly remarked.S.23 A Fine Romance of his death in 1999 in occasional reunions with the band.
” He said Williams walked about two miles from the hospital.” He was 80 years-old. Williams “just walked out. He’d called his wife to come and secure his release. became disoriented and “in the heat. But before she arrived. according to his manager. and without an oxygen tank. he just didn’t make it.24 A Fine Romance collapsing while apparently trying to walk home from a hospital where he was being treated for breathing problems. John Levy. .
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PAGE CAVANAUGH: CHAIRMAN OF THE (KEY)BOARD
Singer- pianist Page Cavanaugh died in December of 2008. Almost to the very end, though quite ill, he remained at his keyboard. Every other Sunday afternoon, he gave a concert at the San Fernando Valley, CA assisted living facility where he spent his final days. For a couple of hours, the lounge at Seasons at Northridge was definitely the hippest "room" in town . . .with rhythm section yet! All that was missing was a tip jar on the piano. Those Sundays. Page played and sang his way through a healthy chunk of the Great American Songbook, including, on one occasion, a 15-minute Fantasia (of sorts) on “Sweet Sue” that found him journeying farther and farther out in his variations on the theme, but always landing back on his feet after each foray into the pianistic unknown. But a few of the other songs that he breezed his way through in those Sunday afternoon programs included “Moonlight in Vermont,” “Wait Till You See Her,” “Spring is Here” and a signature tune, “The Three Bears.” For those few afternoons, one was transported back in time to a once-ubiquitous but now long-gone world of music and performance as exemplified by such nightlife locales as New York’s Blue Angel and Café Society and L.A.s legendary La Cienega Restaurant Row. Performers like Cavanaugh, either solo or in a trio format, usually talked about the songs as they performed them. Playing jazz-based piano, they sang all types of popular music. There were dozens of these sorts in every major U.S. city, and at least one in smaller locales circa the post-war years up trough the coming of rock and roll. In addition to standard issue nightclubs, they could
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also be found plying their trade in cocktail lounges of “better” hotels where, if so inclined, you could sit and nurse a drink all night long without feeling the bartender breathing down your neck. Cavanaugh was just about the king of the lot. His death officially marked the end of an era. The following article was commissioned by Cavanaugh’s publicist not long before the performer’s death in 2008. _______________ One of show business's legendary talent managers was the late George "Bullets" Durgom, who, through the years, oversaw the careers of Jackie Gleason, Sammy Davis Jr., and Marilyn Monroe, to name but a few. “And,” says 85-year-old, seemingly unstoppable singer-pianist Page Cavanaugh, “I got Bullets at the front end. He took on my trio in ‘45 and did fine by us. I was with [booking agency] General Artists Corporation for a lot of years. Then one time I went with [rival outfit] MCA for one year and it almost ruined my career. Don’t know how many thousands of dollars I lost. MCA thought we were like the Three Suns, didn't know anything about our music, our background. Big corporate business thing, but GAC always treated me well.” [In his hurtlingheadlong style of speaking, Cavanaugh tends to gloss over prepositions, skip personal pronouns, and dispose of articles altogether.] For anyone who does know anything about music, the Page Cavanaugh Trio bore about as much resemblance to the once-popular and stolid “Suns” as Basie did to Lombardo. “And so Bullets walked in and says to MCA’s Johnny Dugan, ‘We’re leaving. I'm taking Page out of here. Get out the [bleep] release papers.’ We were up on the sixth floor in New York. And MCA started giving us a hard time and so Bullets walked over to the window, raised it up and said, ‘Alright you [bleep] you either give me that paper, or I'll write on another piece of paper that you were the guy that caused my death. I’ll jump out the [bleep] window.‘ This was ‘51. I know because I was at the Blue Angel in New York.”
A Fine Romance Durgom’s wish was forthrightly granted. “And then, do you know what Bullets did? This is
just marvelous,” Cavanaugh recalls with extraordinary sense memory more than a half-century later. “‘May I use your phone?,’ he asked Dugan. ‘Sure.’ Bullets dialed the operator. 'Do me a favor, get me GAC on the phone. [beat] Bill! Bullets. I got the release on Page at the office over here at MCA. I got the paper in my pocket. I’ll be over in five minutes. Go ahead and sign him for the Jo Stafford radio show.’ Right in front of everybody. That'd be Bullets,” he laughs. Page has got a million show biz stories like this one, stretching all the way back to the mid1930s. Retrospectively, he liberally peppers them with enough colorful language to put even the late, great and notoriously salty movie star Carole Lombard to shame. It’s an anecdotal style that is especially surprising emanating from the lips of this rather angelic looking octogenarian. (Think world’s oldest debauched choir boy.) During the mid-1940s to mid-'50s, Cavanaugh was certainly more of a household name than he is these days. But he is still remembered for having supported Doris Day in her first motion picture, Romance on the High Seas. At the time, he was so well known that Day probably didn’t sleep for a week when she learned she would be sharing screen space with him. When I make this offhand observation to the usually self-effacing Cavanaugh, he can’t quite bring himself to deny it. In ‘48 Cavanaugh and trio were a pretty big deal. He got into the film through the intercession of--once again---Durgom. “Bullets had been working on [getting the Cavanaugh Trio into] Romance on the High Seas for a year. Director Mike Curtiz was such a hard ass with all those Errol Flynn movies, and after a few days of shooting, and pre-recording with us, Doris was marvelous. Just does what she’s supposed to, and then walks away. She finally goes up to Curtiz: ‘Mister Curtiz, I think I should ask you a question. I’ve been on this movie for three days. You haven’t told me anything to do. Would you mind giving me some instruction?’ ‘Why should I? You’re perfect.’ Curtiz was a toughie. ”
A Fine Romance Cavanaugh describes Day as “a sweetheart,” a description he reserves for man, woman, child,
or animal who passes muster with him. More than a half-century later, he and Day remain good friends. Other films in which the Page Cavanaugh appeared around the same time include the Margaret O’Brien weepie The Big City and (1948) and, the same year, Howard Hawks’Ball of Fire remake, A Song is Born. In 1951 the trio was back with Day in Lullaby of Broadway. Best passed over in silence is ‘58’s Frankenstein's Daughter (aka She Monster of the Night) in which Page intro’d the also best-left-forgotten “Daddy Bird” and “Special Date.” Circa 1945-‘55 the trio was almost everywhere else you looked; on radio, records (RCA Victor mostly), and in the nation’s top night spots, both as a starring act, and offering backup to several “name” singers on the air and in-person. Including Johnny Desmond, Helen O’Connell, Kay Starr, Connie Haines, Mel Torme, and. . . Frank Sinatra. But if what you’re looking for from Cavanaugh is the usual garden variety FS horror tales, you’d best search elsewhere. “I can’t say anything but good [about Frank Sinatra]. Here’s how it came about we met. I was working at [the Sunset Strip’s] Bocage with Mel Torme, and Billie Heywood and Cliff Allen, a black duo. They stopped the whole show. They worked without a microphone. Cliff played ragtime piano.” It’s mid-afternoon but Cavanaugh is still clad in his bathrobe. He leaps up, bounds across the room to demonstrate thirty seconds worth of Heywood singing the duo‘s signature, “I‘m the Prettiest Piece in Greece.” “Everything in g flat on the black keys. You could have heard a pin drop. Unfortunately, that was their last gig as a duo. Shortly after that, a cab jumped the curb in Burbank and killed him. “I met Sinatra at that engagement,“ continues Cavanaugh. “Bullets had not told me a damn thing about it. We finished our set and he said, ‘Come over here, I want you to meet
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somebody.’There are four people sitting there and Bullets says, ‘Hey Page, I want you to meet Frank Sinatra.’ Eeeeek,’ I thought to myself.” Quickly gaining his composure: “My pleasure, Mister Sinatra, a pleasure to meet you.” “That’s a bitch of a trio,“ Sinatra said. And that was that. Or so thought Cavanaugh. “Two days later Bullets called. ’Sinatra wants you to go to the Waldorf-Astoria with him. I thought oh my god what am I going to do now. But I'm a fast reader, pretty good player. I’m going to have to do this. The whole book was there. We spent one full week at Columbia Records, and there was no problem at all.” “He put the trio right in the middle of the floor, and the band was way back there. We did his radio show several times. That’s when the flap happened. Singing “Put Your Dreams Away,” and it got way out of hand. Fans started screaming things. ‘Where you sleeping tonight? Who you sleeping with, Frankie?’ I thought Oh, oh the party’s on now! As soon as the show ended Frank said, ‘There’ll be no more audiences in New York for the next three weeks. That’s it!’“Well, Old Gold Cigarettes [the sponsor] got really stinky about it. By god they fought with him: ‘You can’t do this.’ ‘I can do any damned thing I want,’ he shoots back. We were over at Columbia Records rehearsing. Old Gold said, ’Your contract stipulates you must have an audience.’‘Well you can tell Old Gold to stick it.’ He threw them out. ‘Find something in the street to do.’ And Old Gold dropped him. He had no time for idiots. Page pauses a beat and then offers: “He understood the lyrics, and that’s how he handled the songs.” And that’s really all that need be said about Frank Sinatra. Pianist-whisper vocalist (he loved that appellation) Cavanaugh and his trio have a new CD, Return to Elegance. It's one of the finest of his sixty-some-odd years recording career. On it, his playing does not sound remotely like that of an 85-year-old. More like a 24-year-old. Which is roughly how old he was when he first met his longtime friend, the late Nat King Cole. “I came to the West Coast in 1942. I had family out here on my dad’s side. My great aunt’s
” he says proudly. The first night I didn’t meet him. I was already pretty good. Mary Ann Page.” I ask Cavanaugh. That was the beginning of a friendship that lasted up until he died. but I had eighteen miles to go to get anywhere near Nat King Cole. which means 'a . Somewhere along there at a dance she met my dad and they got married. Her name was Page.” I ask him. but can’t come up with a solid answer. “Tell me about your family background. for what it’s worth. I'm wanting him to get all Roots-y on me.” “But. Missouri. But by then he’d already lived enough music to last most players a lifetime. I’d never heard a piano player play like that. He was packing the place every night. “Mom was born and raised in Ridgefield.” Though Cole's early trio “sound” is that to which Cavanaugh's is most often compared. he tells me. But all he offers is: “We're farmers from Kansas. I decide to help him out: “Also from this country?” “Sure!” (Why not?) Already too busy back in Kansas thinking about music to give such mundane ancestral considerations much thought. “But I was never too hesitant to steal something that he played.” He then winks at me and chuckles.” Cavanaugh arrived in Los Angeles fresh out of the army where he had met the two other musicians with whom he would remain linked up to form his popular post-service trio. The King Cole Trio were already famous in Los Angeles. the surname Kavanagh or Cavanaugh and the other variants of the name are derived from the Irish Gaelic name Caomhánach. Because of the coal mining industry they moved down to southeast Kansas. “I did my best to avoid Nat's sound. “Where were their parents from? He thinks for a few seconds.30 A Fine Romance daughter was a total music nut. They took me up to the Radio Room on Vine Street. It took them nearly twenty years to get me here.
I was always fooling around at the piano and my teacher said. ‘Read this. get him started. ‘Robin in a Cherry Tree. Cavanaugh recalls with uncanny clarity the events of the day that set him on his path to becoming a professional musician: . So consequently I don’t want to teach you anymore until you learn to read music. Dad could read to a degree. For one thing. Played something with one hand. you’re playing everything by ear.” In a twist on the old show biz cliché. “My dad was a bitch of a piano player. ‘Have you started reading yet?’ and I said.31 A Fine Romance student or follower of St. I started learning by ear listening to them I began taking lessons when I was nine years old at my grade school teacher’s urging. . That's what he did. . I was a one room school house person.I think you’ve learned your first big lesson. But my dad was a professional farmer---not a professional musician. Caomhan' and was first used by Domhnall. ‘You’re gonna learn.’she told my folks. My mom played piano.’ So she went to the back of the book and said. And my Grandpa Page also played some fiddle. Newly married to one of our teachers back there. ‘I’m going to speak to your parents. ‘I’m not to teach you any more.’ She was the sweetest thing. Here we go. What she taught me lasted me my whole life. I panicked with the first teacher. ‘Maple Leaf Rag. but it didn’t bother her a lot. She played hymns mostly.’ I skipped two weeks.’She said.’ and I did and she said.’ I did. but then I got new one who I absolutely adored. Pay attention to the teacher.’‘I think you better get him a teacher. “He played ragtime. ‘Okay. She played a few wrong chords.” Page says. I took a beginner's lesson. ‘I’m trying. eldest son of the 12th century King of Leinster Diarmait mac Murchada. “I have no idea. Hoedowns all that stuff. She was about twenty-some years old. Scott Joplin.” I ask. mom a bit less so. So you go home and tell your mother I said that. then went back and the teacher said. You’re not doing one thing I’m teaching you. and my mom said. My grandpa Cavanaugh played some fiddle.'" “From sheet music?.
‘Page’ A bit louder. In the summertime I did all the farm work. Corn. so dad said quit. then?’ ‘Well. you gotta hitch up the horses tomorrow. A tough son of a bitch. We had a standing rule on the farm. In the wintertime dad did all the farm work. Kansas where he born in 1922. Fire was going in the stove out from the wall. four horses. oats.’” By age twelve Page had already begun to play for local dances in the area around Cherokee. Dad was sitting there reading the morning paper. soybean. wheat. Go out and be a great musician. led by one Ernie . Figure out the cadenzas so you don’t sound like a raving idiot. How about that!” His first real professional job was at age sixteen with a local band.’Went right on with what I was doing. ‘What?!’ I’m annoyed ‘I’m trying to figure out this stupid cadenza.‘Remember now.’ ‘What’s the problem. That’s what she’s doing.’ Isn’t that nice. “I left home when I was eighteen. Had a scholarship to college. Colder than shit in Kansas.32 A Fine Romance “The only time they [Cavanaugh’s parents] gave me advice. Mom is over there either crocheting. But wasn’t learning anything. your daddy and I have been talking about you a couple of days ago and we decided that you are just one heck of a musician. or picking out meats out of pecans or walnuts. You can’t beat that. I’m sitting there in the dead of winter. And so we decided between the two of us you oughta be a musician. Just don’t be a farmer. Then dad added. and I quit (laughs). ‘What do you want? Have I done something wrong?’ ‘Of course not. Self-sustaining. And I’m practicing ‘Sonnets of Petrarch’ by Franz Liszt. And she very quietly says: 'Page. dad was trading off work with other farmers. a bunch of calves. It’s too much work. a whole flocks of cows.
between---and sometimes even during---numbers. there is no question that at age 84---"Godamned. “I spent three years in the army. “Lloyd left the trio first.” he informs. that's old. “Williamson was an old pit band drummer. “They were drafted a year earlier than me. at a performance at the North Hollywood jazz spot. sometimes three---almost never a trombone---and drums. I tell Cavanaugh. then Al in 1949. “I have a lot of big band reference books. Played stock orchestrations.“ Page informs..” Beginning in the mid-1940s. the Three Sergeants. and a musical service outfit. it had a lighter. Cavanaugh (and Pratt and Viola). Eventually. but also as a wonderful diseur who.” “You can’t find him. some of Cavanaugh’s fame might have dimmed a bit. a couple of trumpets. Called on a Friday. Cole became the most famous of the lot. consisting of Cavanaugh. breezier sound. Charlie O’s. Viola joined back up with Cavanaugh for a reunion of the trio. imparts a steady steam-of-consciousness supply of tales of his more than sixty years in the entertainment field. Not just pianistically and vocally. Four or five saxes. but I can’t. . He wanted to get into studio work. “And we had the only territory band back then. Almost overnight. Frank [Sinatra] called me. he stopped playing for a beat after executing a rare hokey .’ ‘What did Frank have to say?’ ‘He wants me to be the guitarist with his band. et al. ‘I had a phone call last night.” he laughs. then Monday he phoned again. .’” Occasionally over the years.33 A Fine Romance Williamson. . ‘Get your ass in gear and charge him. New Jersey.’ I said. played a major role in putting a whole new spin on the jazzier side of American Popular Music.Cavanaugh is absolutely at the peak of all his powers. They spent four. along with the likes of Nat King Cole. bassist Lloyd Pratt and guitarist Al Viola. A very good organizer. Recently. Next stop WWII and Fort Monmouth. Bobby Troup." he said to me--. Matt Dennis and Joe Mooney. As the decades have worn on.
launched into a beautiful vocal rendition of the Torme standby. And. play ourselves home. Page Cavanaugh---especially in the Los Angeles area---has had all the work he can handle. “You know." The latter was performed at the behest of an audience member who called it out as a request. "I haven't performed that since World War One. a guy's gotta eat---some that are not so toney.booked. One of them got me a quote from Walter Winchell: ‘The greatest thing to hit town since kissing. I continued to play the little clubs. he should receive the Kennedy Center honors. between various one-shot gigs in L." He then. "Goodness.A. on occasion---well. But he tends to frame his vast expanse of a career in terms far less lofty: “We got some recognition. the same night I saw him at Charlie-O’s he rendered old favorites such as "Nina Never Knew" and "Lulu's Back in Town. If I had any say-so in the matter. then adds.34 A Fine Romance run on the piano keys. Mallory and Lingle back him on the new Return to Elegance. He pauses a beat. And he . faced the audience and quipped: "A little cathouse piano never hurt anyone. We always had good press especially in New York because we always made sure to have good press agents." then he turned around and got back to work. The trio could play ourselves east. and catching himself up short. for services above and beyond the call of duty to American music. and alternating drummers Dave Tull and Jason Lingle (also both excellent singers)." Cavanaugh shouted back in response.” In the final analysis. that probably is all that really mattered to Cavanaugh. the coming of rock and roll never affected me that much. sometimes the big clubs. appearing with his various (mostly) small group configurations in some of more swellegant locales in town.’ And boy. Over the last half-century.” A singing and playing encyclopedia of 20th Century American Popular Song. This true toiling lily of the music field has been plying his trade for more than six decades. . which includes his longtime bass player Phil Mallory. Instead. . and Orange County's Balboa Bay Club. that made it all over the United States. he's just. of course. Right now he commutes back and forth with his trio.
s Catalina Bar and Grill. 2009 “A Tribute to the Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Page Cavanaugh” was held at L. a “tool” of the lounge trade. . he won’t play Andrew Lloyd Webber no matter how much you might offer him to do so. The image of Cavanaugh that emerged that afternoon was one of a true American original: a man who held his ground and stuck to his guns despite multiple and massive changes ---both good and bad---in musical fashions over the years.A. he’s got too much class for that sort of nonsense. Betty Garrett. Plus. POSTSCRIPT On April 5. hosted by Leonard Maltin and featuring reminiscences and performances from the likes of Hollywood Squares’ Peter Marshall. and Michael Feinstein. In other words.35 A Fine Romance did it all without resorting to the regulation Tip Jar.
36 JO STAFFORD
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From the salad days of the Big Band era until the early 1960s, the burnished voice of Jo Stafford, who died June 18, 2008 at age ninety, wove a special spell in the overlapping musical worlds of jazz and pop. Stafford’s emotional honesty, impeccable pitch and innate taste in quality material, made virtually every single she released during a twenty-year span became a hit and this was in an era when the charts were overwhelmingly dominated by male singers. Stafford tended to sound deeper and more mature than such other competing singers of her day as Kay Starr and Patti Page, and as time wore on her voice became even warmer and more resplendent. At the time of her early retirement in the late 1960s---Stafford was one of the few American stars of any medium to quit while ahead. For she was just arriving at the peak of her vocal powers. The liner notes for Jo Stafford's LP Broadway's Best, a mid-50s Columbia LP (584) merit partial reprinting here. For the collection, a brace of major American tunesmiths were asked to comment of the singer’s version of one of their songs contained in the collection: Harold Arlen: ". . . a great artist”; Irving Berlin: “. . .a singer whom I greatly admire"; Richard Rodgers; "It's [“My Romance‘] meant to be a simple song, and I’m glad that Jo Stafford sings it with such simplicity.”; Arthur Schwartz: "I like the way this girl sings a song."; Ira Gershwin: ". . . I've been a fan of Miss Stafford and her renditions for a long time.”; Oscar Hammerstein: "She simply sings it in that extraordinary true and honest voice and lets the music and
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words do the rest."; Cole Porter: "Jo Stafford sings it [“Night and Day“] straight, with no nonsense, and that is the way I like it." During the years 1944-57, in addition to pleasing composers, Stafford made the best selling charts 49 times, and was awarded seven gold records and a platinum disc for selling over 25 million (a first for a female singer). As of 1955, Stafford had sold more records than any other female vocalist, ranking fifth among the top sellers for either sex. Over 35 years she recorded some 800 sides. Her biggest hits included “You Belong to Me,” “Make Love to Me,” “Shrimp Boats,” “Jambalaya,” and “Long Ago and Far Away.” Among her numerous number one hits, there was the 1947 country music send-up, “Tim-Tayshun” (“Temptation”), with Stafford singing as "Cinderella G. Stump." But this was not the only time Stafford engaged in manic devastation of the species homo songbirdus. In 1957 she created the alternate personae of pitch-challenged Cafe Society chantoozie, Darlene Edwards. With her real-life husband, Paul Weston, one of the country’s top arrangers and record producers in the role of her accompanist, Jonathan, the couple recorded a novelty record album, The Piano Artistry of Jonathan Edwards. Darlene appeared on half the tracks of the release, and prompted one critic to note, "Mrs. Edwards’ intonation must be heard to be relieved." Their second escape in the series, Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris, to Jonathan’s chagrin and Darlene’s confusion, won a 1960 Grammy for Best Comedy Recording. It is both an irony and a minor tragedy that this is the only Grammy ever awarded Stafford, and that this spoof of excruciatingly off-key singing is today, arguably, the thing for which the she is most remembered. It was on the occasion of the release of the Edwards’ latest attempt to finally get it right, Darlene Remembers Duke (Sometimes); Jonathan Plays Fats (Almost), in 1982, that I interviewed the couple for the newspaper, the L.A. Reader. The Westons met in 1936 and married in 1952. It is not known as to exactly when and under what circumstances Jonathan and Darlene tied the knot.
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We know that Darlene was "born" almost as an afterthought at a Columbia Records convention when you and Paul began joking around in front of some company executives. But where did you, Jo Stafford, first see the light of day? Jo Stafford: I was born up in the San Joaquin Valley [in California] in a little town called Coalinga. My sisters were 11 and 14 years older than me. And when I was four we moved from there to Long Beach, and my older sisters Pauline and Chris were in radio at a local station, in there doing everything: secretarial work, they acted in dramas, had a 15-minute singing show, and I just sort of stumbled into singing with my sisters. I sang with them for three or four years. What kind of group did you have? Stafford: We were kind of like the Boswell Sisters. We sang backgrounds in movies like Alexander’s Ragtime Band. [The Stafford Sisters can also be heard, as madrigal singers, on the soundtrack of the 1937 Fred Astaire film A Damsel in Distress.] On the movie I met up with some other people from other groups and we formed The Pied Pipers. There were seven boys and myself. One of them was Dick Whittingill [who became a popular LA disc jockey]. Eventually Tommy Dorsey heard us through the intercession of Paul Weston. We were hired for his radio show, not to travel with the band, and off we went to New York. Paul Weston: They were a big hit with musicians, and musicians don’t usually like singers. But what happened was they were ahead of their time and Dorsey’s radio sponsor, who lived in England, finally heard them in New York, and he just started sputtering and tried to claw his way through the glass in the booth he was so angry. Stafford: Eventually, we were all down to just our fare back home, and we gave up and went back to California. But one day after we were back here, I’d just picked up my last unemployment check and I came back home and there was a message that I’d gotten a long-distance call from Chicago. So I called, and it was Tommy Dorsey. He said, "I can’t use eight of you but I would like to have you
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and three of the boys as a quartet." And it all worked out well because three of the guys had dropped out by that time anyway. I wasn’t the so-called "girl singer" with solos for a about a year. Off we went to Chicago. Wasn’t it about at this time that Frank Sinatra came with the band? Stafford: We were at the Palmer House [in Chicago] for about a month, then went to Minneapolis, and Tommy told us we were going to have a new singer. And it was Sinatra. He had been with Harry James but I was almost entirely unfamiliar with him. In fact I never laid eyes on him until he actually walked on stage for the first time. We were sitting on the stage when Dorsey introduced him. And he came on and sang “Stardust” and it was quite an experience. You knew after eight bars that you were hearing something just absolutely new and unique. Up until then, the great sound you were looking for was the always the Crosby sound. I was with the band the entire two-and-a-half years of Sinatra’s run with Tommy Dorsey. And when he left he was well on his way. The pandemonium was in full swing. When we played the Paramount [in New York] I had my hair yanked out and clothes torn. There was never anything like it before in history. It was a different kind of joyous, happy screaming. Once when he was playing the Paramount he decided that he’d had enough of the five bodyguards and their flying wedge. He just got sick of it, so he said, "I just know that I can stare them down. I’ll just walk out and look very dignified and stern. They’ll let me out the stage door without going bananas." The guards tried to stop him. "No, Frank!" And so he came out, gave these hundred kids standing there this dignified stare for about ten seconds and [laughs] they charged him. And he just literally disappeared into this mob of people. The guards gave each other these "we told you so" looks for about ten seconds before they rushed in to rescue him. Obviously he never tried that again. I saw Helen O’Connell in person one time, and she told the audience that she couldn’t remember anything that happened to her during her days on tour with the Jimmy Dorsey band. She wasn’t
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quite serious, but she was very funny about it. What are your recollections, if any? Was it all just a blur for you, like is was for her? Stafford: It was a real great experience. Even with all the traveling. Even though the longest we were ever in one place was four months in New York. That was very unusual. Most of the time you never even saw a bed. Maybe once every couple of weeks. The rest of the time, you slept and dressed on the band bus. A different city every night. Sometimes really long hops. Once, after an unusually long, trip the bus rolled into town real early one morning and there were all these college students waiting to greet us. And I had my hair up in curlers, all berumpled, and I overheard one kid say, with terror and pity in his voice, "My Gawd! I think that’s Jo Stafford!" Yet you kept moving right on along up until the time of the big industry changeover to kid music. Stafford: The pop music as we knew it didn’t have any boundaries. It could go as far as wanted harmonically. There were no limits. You can read a review of rock music now, and it could be about anything. There’s hardly ever any reference to actual sound. I know because I keep completely up to date with what’s happening musically. I know all about X and Fear, all of it. I mean, I have two kids who are musicians, after all. When rock came in I wasn’t bitter about it. I was… puzzled. Because with the music I had known, I had never known anything but progress. From [bandleader of the Casa Loma Orchestra] Glen Gray, which I thought was marvelous when I was a kid, then the first time I heard the Goodman five-saxophone section, well that made Glen Gray sound old hat. So all through the years in my career all I heard was progress. Things getting better and more complex. We were adding all this stuff on, and all of a sudden it started falling off. For the first time in my life the music I was hearing was going backwards. We were losing chord changes. We were losing complexity. How did this affect you personally? Stafford: The industry used to be much more structured. You had publishers over here. Over there
I just learned my lyrics and tried not to bump into the trumpet player. when you cut a spiritual with your daughter. They suffer at the mercy of the performer. and publish them all by themselves. Some I liked. And then you had singers to sing what the songwriters had written. in 1978. But whatever I finally chose to record there’d also be other versions coming out by other performers. For songwriting is an art unto itself. and I’m really a frustrated group singer. Why did you stop? Was it because of rock? Quitting with dignity while you were ahead? Stafford: I stopped singing because to do so I still had to travel to New York so much and I just . their lives are pretty short-lived professionally. So when you’ve got a ten-year-old picking the music it’s going to be pretty simple. not to be confused with performing. Just above the level of a nursery rhyme. Whatever fame came did so not because I sought it. But a song really got a good.41 A Fine Romance you had songwriters. And they’re the only one that does that song. And someone’s recording would be the one to win out. I just really loved what I did. sing them. where a ten-year-old had enough money to influence something to the extent that they did. and they don’t have any way of keeping any money if they just work for a salary. That was my philosophy.S. it’s a simple statement of fact that that’s the first time kids had enough money to influence a market and they did. You haven’t been in a recording studio for four years. legend-in-their-own-time performers started to come along it was the first time in the U. As for the performers becoming publishers and writers as well. When I was doing my radio show in the late Forties. Now they write them. big push. When the Presleys and other first. I’m not being judgmental at all. I just loved the music. some I didn’t. when I was through there’d be 15 or 20 song-pluggers there with material they presented to me. The other music is too sophisticated for young ears. Do you miss it? Stafford: I wasn’t driven. that’s probably a case of economics. No songs get a chance. Amy. too. My being in show business and the solo star business was a complete accident. As a rule. popular. But that doesn’t mean that the songs are necessarily any good.
but from an emotional point of view she compensates and makes up for it. At just about that time Jo got all her masters back from Columbia. He told me he’d spent a whole year trying to track me . and I just don’t think I could come up to those standards anymore. and when I started doing pop singing I still utilized all the same techniques and principles. and also I became aware of the fact that copies of the old Jonathan and Darlene records were selling for 25 and 30 dollars." And that was kind of it. He said. I was studying to be a coloratura soprano. I got a call from my manager one day. Then you’d go for six months and not sing but just do exercises. We had a deal a few years back for her to make a record [for Concord] and then she just kind of lost interest. How did it begin? Weston: I started Corinthian Records in 1977 to make some educational records about Gregorian chants. Weston: Just like a miler or high jumper she’d have to get back in shape. The kind where you bounce books on your diaphragm and you blow on feathers.42 A Fine Romance didn’t want to leave my family. I just slowly ground down after that. so instead of Gregorian chants we were in business initially with the Jonathan and Darlene records. Corinthian. I was the only singer where the red needle on the [audio] meter didn’t move. At just about the time the records came out the church went from Latin to English and knocked the props out from under us. She might not make quite the technical sound she used to. "I don’t want to go to New York and do The Telephone Hour. because I’m a tough critic of my work. Once in a while at a party she’ll sing and kill the guests. "You’re due back in New York in ten days to do The Telephone Hour. I studied old-fashioned classical singing for five years when I was a teenager. I’ll probably never put out another album. You’ve had a lot of success with your mom and pop record company. And I’m not sure I want to go to New York to do any hour. I still remember the moment I made the decision." And I was holding the phone and I thought. Stafford: I thought it odd a few months backs when an otherwise perfectly normal 16-year-old appeared at my door to ask for an autograph.
We had to call Jo’s sister to take him home. and last year you Darlene went disco and liberated in one fell swoop with a single of Stayin’ Alive backed with I Am Woman. Are you surprised that there’s still so much interest in Jonathan and Darlene? A new album this year. Benny’s a nice man and you played a terrible trick on him. Stafford: He said. Tim. Weston: I read an interview that [Los Angeles Times rock critic] Robert Hilburn did with a local punk band in which the members said that they decided to start their group and . Stafford: There’s still a Jonathan and Darlene cult. and Song for Sheiks and Flappers. who was four at the time. "Mr. Sing Along with Jonathan and Darlene. then I guess you’d have to say that Jonathan and Darlene Edwards are unqualified successes. Time magazine finally blew the whistle on us. Some people bought the record and wrote in demanding their money back. You could call them "retrograde punk. That’s why we made the Fats/Duke album.43 A Fine Romance down. Stafford: Darlene is a very [New Yorker magazine cartoonist] Helen Hokinson-type lady partial to white gloves and flowered prints. And our boy. loved Benny so much that he was in the audience and saw us do it in the show and was so upset that we’d fooled Jack that he refused to go home afterward. An awful lot of people wrote in that it was Harry and Margaret Truman. and in the course of the show we played a trick on Jack Benny. there was also Jonathan and Darlene in Paris." even though they don’t jump off the stage and dress funny. We did a Jack Benny Show as Jonathan and Darlene. After the first one came out. Weston: The initial album came out in 1957 and one radio station had a contest to guess who it really was." Weston: If enthusiasm and exuberance alone are the newly accepted criteria for music. Down Beat magazine gave us 48 stars. But I really shouldn’t have been all that surprised because in the last six months I’ve had to send out more autographed photos than at just about any time since I’ve been in show business.
---was remarkable for someone who had been out of the public eye for forty years. . I guess you’d have to call it music." POSTSCRIPT Following Stafford’s 2008 passing. In general. You could relate some of Jonathan’s arpeggios to John Coltrane’s sheets of sound. If Robert Hilburn reviewed them. then. and for want of a better term. that the only Grammy she ever received was for her “Darlene Edwards” role as a highly impefect singer. the large amount of coverage her death received on the airwaves and in the press---”Wistful Voice of WW II Era Dies.” How ironic it is. he’d have to say they possess a kind of "grueling intensity. which are certainly not definable measured against any 12-tone scale. After you stop laughing at Jonathan and Darlene there’s still something there. That’s sort of the feeling you get from Jonathan and Darlene.” etc. one on-line obituary.44 A Fine Romance then learn to play their instruments while on stage… even though they had no experience or training. deemed her “a perfect singer. not so arguably.
you'll see that she had managed to put her earlier wicked. generous and loyal. wicked ways nicely in perspective. Not just for her singing but most especially because of her charming. the actress Frances Williams. .” with an occasional foray into the realm of the quasi-secular with “Cabin in the Sky” and “Mammy. If you listen to her “Just a Little Talk” which is part reminiscence. But she was really very kind.) anymore. offhand spoken interludes My late friend. I finally found it. knew Waters and used to regale me with stories. .and perceptive. “We got to be good friends. she had a pretty good sense of humor about it.” Williams told me. part song. an album on a Christian music label. and it proved worth the many hours spent crawling on my hands and knees looking for it in all those Scrabble Creek Church of the Living Lord-type thrift shops back home in West (by god) Virginia. like she was still trying to figure out if I might really be an enemy.” etc. I'd sometimes look up and see her looking at me in this funny way. She just didn't sing many of her old hits (“Shake that Thing. Actually.” For years this album was the one big gap in my Waters record collection. Surprisingly she gets quite down and funny talking about her life before she accepted the lord as her personal savior and went with the Billy Graham Crusade as their special guest star. concentrating more on material such as “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and “Little Black Boy.45 ETHEL WATERS A Fine Romance Toward the end of her career Ethel Waters recorded Just a Little Talk with Ethel. “but even after that.” “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night.” .
46 A Fine Romance Dancer Fayard Nicholas told me that Waters was always nice to his brother Harold and himself. was married to the musician. Bessie. because they were little boys and weren't perceived by her as a direct threat.to blacks and whites alike. it was a big thing in show business. Waters was paranoid about even the least important of her supporting cast stealing her glory. Bessie Smith was playing a major New York club. who ran water in his dressing room so he couldn’t hear applause accorded other performers on the bill. Not out of necessity or survival. In the very last days of her career. and had transformed herself into a very Ethel-like singer. Al Jolson. Mamie and Trixie.American art form. trumpet player Eddie Mallory. essentially. Otherwise. And Waters could out-bawdy the best of 'em. she connected up with Mallory because her lover at the time. . an African. If you listen to Waters recordings. Like another great entertainer. “Ladies and gentlemen I ask you to forgive me because these sons of bitches [she was referring to the Duke Ellington band!] are not playing my music correctly. . Clara. conversational. Eventually Waters became so jealous of the two of them that she took Mallory away from Hill to spite her. non-stentorian stylists who paved the way for how singers sound today. and tomorrow night they won’t be playing it or else I won’t be singing it. showgirl Florence Hill. she stopped right in the middle of a song. “How about Ethel! Took her old lady’s man away from her girlfriend. Curiously. On opening night of the 1937 of the Cotton Club Express. . microphone-oriented. Ethel had a reputation as one of the meanest woman in show business . when they were on bills together.” Waters was one of the very first.” The next evening she brought in an outfit of her own led by husband-to-be. I believe she simply saw it as the next logical progression of what was and still is. even the licentious Smith girls. everybody going around saying things like. This meant that no one else in the same show could do an act even remotely resembling hers: Ethel was always The Star. According to those on the scene at the time. she swings like mad. turned to the audience and said. of which there are dozens and dozens.
in French tradition of "Yves Guilbert. a "grande vedette. conversational. non-stentorian stylists. This is but one of many instances of the star’s legendary foul temper." that overweening white approximation of early black blues styles. one of the finest variety artists of her time.’" commented an anonymous writer in 1962’s Esquire’s World of Jazz. Ruth Etting. but it was time to move on. (“Aba Daba Honeymoon”). Notorious for her unbridled rage. pointed out. Ultimately. Ashton Stevens. Fanny Brice and a handful of others. however. Lee Morse. Word of her behavior spread and Waters’career was in the dumper for several years. Common wisdom attributes her prickliness to the hard-scrabble racist atmosphere of her childhood and early professional life. ." as the influential Chicago critic. Artists like Bing Crosby. she once became so jealous of the attention paid to the younger. The self-assurance Waters possessed. Marion Harris.47 A Fine Romance Ethel Waters was the most confident-sounding voice to emanate from black America during the 1920s and 1930s. in the 1920s. along with Al Jolson. and Waters. and to "coon shouting. the self-proclaimed "Last of the Red Hot Mamas. however. But it changed the vocal style of an entire generation of singers." Fine for its day. "[Waters’ “Down Home Blues”] was a ‘race record. prettier. and Sophie Tucker. the diva temperament was a small price to pay: Waters was." Waters was also a major link in the evolution of vernacular/non-operatic singing. as practiced by such as Blossom Seely. was gained at great expense. Ruth Roye (who was held over at New York’s Palace Theater for 14 weeks with her big hit. staked out an alternative territory to the extremes of the quasi-operatic. The greatest artist of her race and generation. Waters paved the way for how singers sound today. "a record you could only find in the shops on the other side of the tracks." One of the very first microphoneoriented. lighter-skinned Lena Horne (who was certainly no more talented) while filming Cabin in the Sky that she broke in into an anti-Semitic snit that effectively closed the picture down for several days. as exemplified by the likes of John McCormack and Nelson Eddy.
which collects all 16 of her Bluebird sides. but before Bessie Smith) to sing “St.” ” and “Y’ Had It Comin’ to You. (Think Mabel Mercer).” “Harlem on My Mind. It is mostly the third chapter that we are concerned with here: Waters’ recordings for Victor’s Bluebird label.” both by Hoagy Carmichael. but is brought to life by a scintillating double-time chorus.” by the offbeat teaming of DuBose Heyward and Jerome Kern (written for the Waters stage vehicle Mamba’s Daughters). most likely a Waters addition to the song.” “Heat Wave. Finally.“What Goes Up Must Come Down. It is also a period during which song-pluggers were no longer beating a path to Waters. her second phase. she mostly re-recorded material she long since knew how to sing. but now wanted to act. Going Places). This may account for the shopworn quality of some of the songs contained in the anthology. which some listeners find problematic due the singer’s increasing concision of diction. Waters attempted to accommodate herself to the ever-changing needs of the American swing record-buying public.” both self-pitying victim songs. or several .48 A Fine Romance Waters’ recording career falls not so neatly into four overlapping periods: her blues and bawd cycle (early to late 1920s). Of the Bluebirds. along with a handful of recordings for other labels. only a half-dozen or so of the songs are truly worthy of Waters: “Jeepers Creepers” (fresh from the 1938 film. during which she recorded standards as fast as they could be introduced by her on stage and screen (“Dinah. now well into her second decade of disc activity. cut in 1939. exemplified by overly trilled R’s.” The latter is not that fine a number. Takin' a Chance on Love and more. “Lonesome Walls. “You’re a Sweetheart”. during which time she rivaled and was the equal of any other great African-American singer of her day. Best not to dwell on such numbers as “How Can I Face This Wearied World Alone?” and “You’re Mine. She was also the first actual woman (after a popular female impersonator of the day.” “I’m Coming Virginia. beginning in the mid1940s.” From the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s. Louis Blues. “Georgia on My Mind” and “Bread and Gravy.” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”).
longtime Waters cronies. and that includes Frankie and Johnny and her own less than inspired. half-talking the songs to somewhat less effect than the originals cut six years earlier. after she went on a virulent anti-semitic tirade against the studio’s front office brass.49 A Fine Romance undistinguished tunes written by Percy Grainger and Alec Lovejoy.” would have been wiser choices for inclusion. the Bluebirds are the least cherished of her mercifully opulent discography. Danny Barker and Garvin Bushell. In the early 1940s.” or “I Should Have Quit. Or Waters’ long-unavailable1946 recording of “Blues in My Heart” with pianist Herman Chittison. he felt he’d achieved a modicum of rapport with her. Waters managed to temporarily shut down the entire production of MGM’s Cabin in the Sky. favor us with a Waters reverting to her peak late twenties form. Perhaps. self-penned (with accompanist Reginald Beane) “Stop Myself from Worryin’ Over You. Years later. “Honey in a Hurry. she makes the most of even the hoariest material. as well as significant chapters in the Great American Songbook. Two of them. regardless of race. Still. Legend has it that she accused them of giving a disproportionate amount of screen time to her beauteous and fairer skinned co-star Lena Horne.” became signature tunes for the star. Horne magnanimously looked back on the incident and chalked Waters’ overall demeanor up to her difficult childhood and early years in show business where she was disinclined to suffer any fools gladly. some other songs from that session.” from 1946. Here the roster includes Milt Hinton. singing four songs from her hit stage production. also contained here. Tyree Glenn. Benny Carter. still her excellent taste in sidemen prevails throughout her yearlong stay with the label. find Waters halfsinging. the title song and “Taking a Chance on Love. The inclusion of four tracks cut for the Liberty Music Shop label. Reprises of “Cabin” and “Chance. When Elia Kazan directed Waters in the motion picture Pinky (1949).” Almost universally among Waters aficionados. Cabin in the Sky. Still that didn’t deter him from remarking to her one day during the . the year after she departed Bluebird.
Waters remained a part of the Crusade for the last two decades of her life.” she replied. “Not even you. with this “other” Ethel Waters. Born in 1896. It is nice to think so. you don’t like white people do you?” “No I don’t. .” Seemingly.50 shooting of the film: A Fine Romance “Ethel. some of this dislike abated during the years with the Billy Graham. Nevertheless. she died in 1977. if you look at the extant footage of her appearances with the organization. after such a tumultuous existence. she truly does seem to have achieved some sort of inner peace. It is sometimes difficult to reconcile the singer’s image as the mother of all earth mothers with Graham’s Crusade.
in the latter part of that decade Olay parlayed her regional popularity into national and international recognition on television. A major fixture of the Hollywood nightclub scene in the mid-1950s. Initially I made her acquaintance on the telephone when I interviewed her for the Christmas issue of an internet magazine. Today Ruth Olay is retired from singing and in recent years has turned her attention more in the direction of social activism on various commissions for aging. we hit it off so well on the phone that we decided to go for a more extensive interview. What better way to avoid . Her father was a rabbi. if you looked closely you could have spotted her in the crowd outside of Los Angeles' Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.51 Q & A WITH RUTH OLAY A Fine Romance Born in San Francisco. protesting Elia Kazan's Lifetime Achievement Oscar. In 2000 I had the pleasure of meeting her for the first time. recordings and in major nightclubs throughout the US and abroad. the homeless. and other pertinent social issues. jazz singer Ruth Olay's family moved to Los Angeles when she was eighteen months old." In general. Her iconoclastically terse reply to the "What Was Your Favorite Xmas?" question was a bracing anodyne to the lacryrmal prolixity of some of the other singers queried on the Christmas issue: "Last year when I took a cruise to Hong Kong and happily avoided the holiday season altogether. her mother a singer. While still a teenager in the 1940s she sang with Benny Carter's great band. in 1999. For instance. We set our luncheon date for dreaded Superbowl Sunday 2000.
Olay: He was only making $750 a week. If he didn't he ordered mounds of sandwiches from the Players Club that he owned up on the Sunset Strip.) Olay proved astonishingly adept at transcending the two-dimensional limitations of the medium. I went into golden time. Commencing my interview with Olay. He was trying to regain his earlier glory years at Paramount at that point? Olay: Yes And unsuccessfully. Shakers full of whiskey sours. He was a very special guy. she gifted me with a videotape copy of an appearance on the Merv Griffin show of 30 or so odd years ago. soigne. Another secretary would come in after 24 hours. statuesque. Were you aware of desperation on his part? . And that was nothing for him. It was a wonderful experience. with her career as "live" performer ultimately turning out to be more successful than her recording work. But he always took me out for dinner. .around the time when she was just getting her feet wet as an entertainer. Her records are a delight to be sure. I couldn’t wait to ask her about her job in 1952 as a secretary for Preston Sturges -. sophisticated (if the alliteration fits. What it was like working for Sturges? Olay: He was great. I lived on the lot. Slept on the lot. We would alternate. I enjoyed it so much.eminance grise of screwball comedy -. at a Venice.52 A Fine Romance that overbearing occasion. Watching it a few days later it was immediately apparent to me why she had such a long run in nightclubs. sultry. . than to spend it with such a notable interpreter of American Popular Song? Face to face formalities out of the way. Very formal guy up to a point. Then he'd go into his office. but ultimately she perhaps falls into the category of Must Be Seen To Be Heard. California restaurant. just great. the day of the year with the highest rate of male-to-female spousal abuse. because it was a 24 hour deal. On television the sleek.
More like an opium den. As befitting the daughter of a rabbi. I never did anything. Olay: He quit the rabbinate when I was six when he left my mother." "Oh. Sturges. no. And I'd open a fan and take out a sandwich. That was a big no-no. See how good that would look on a marquee!" He wanted me to do a Beatrice Lillie kind of a thing where I would come sliding in backwards in a chair. I don't mean to imply that you were fast and loose. a musician by the name of Eddie Beal. he was a very grand person. Olay: Oh." I Said. I just loved the music." he said. I said to him. Absolutely an innocent. "Ohhhh." he said. He said. but my head was in another direction. And I just became friends with so many wonderful people. "Why don't you sell one sell your boats?" "Oh. You were a part of LA's Central Avenue scene during the latter part of it's heyday in the late 1940s and early '50s. those are for my sons. Did you ever go to a famous after hours place on Central Avenue known as Brothers? Olay: What was Brothers? It was a pretty wild place where movie stars hung out. He took me to Ivie's Chicken Shack and the Club Alabam. I'm not THAT kind of a singer. Olay: Oh. "You've gotta change your name to Olga Olay. Olay: I'm sure the guys I was hanging around with were all smoking and other stuff. and it figures in a lot of histories of Central Avenue. He used to take me down to Central Avenue. I never even smoked a joint. Mr. Quite shocked that I would suggest such a thing. he wanted to write a nightclub act for me. I was so innocent. He went .53 A Fine Romance Olay: No. weren't you? Olay: It was through a wonderful friend of mine. It was very exciting even at that late date. yes you are. You don't know. Not really a club in the fullest sense of the word. He had three boats.
And your father was born. Olay: I was working at Twentieth Century-Fox as a secretary during those years. great musicians would play at these jam sessions. went to work in the movie industry. He never wanted to be a rabbi in the first place. . Then he went into being head of research at Warner Brothers.? Olay: In Yonkers. like your mother. seventeen. I wasn't close to my father unfortunately. He had that. Your mother was a singer. She just loved to sing. . Where was his father from? Olay: Hungary. [Farther north in Hollywood proper] they had these clubs along Hollywood Boulevard: The Streets of Paris. . . but his father was a rabbi and wanted him. Erroll Garner. the Zanzibar and all these other places. Olay: Professional. . Just hanging out. A classical singer. That was when I was sixteen. My mother being divorced from my father... That contralto! I had met her at a party. Did things at the Hollywood Bowl in the chorus." And I did and . Just out of school. and presented speakers from all over the world. I didn't know anything about show business. You were a movie brat? Olay: No. On Sunday afternoon they had jam sessions and every wonderful.. It was only Sunday afternoon that I could go because I was under age. . She gave concerts. honey [to the Streets of Paris]. . Doc West. I just had a natural bent toward it. I was still a teenager. She sang in temple and she sang background chorus of things like Jeanette MacDonald . . I adored her. And then you also. all these wonderful. . It wasn't imposed on me.54 A Fine Romance on to operate a forum. Red Callendar. And [Duke Ellington vocalist] Ivie Anderson was appearing at the Streets of Paris.Nelson Eddy movies. "C'mon down.a liberal progressive lecture forum. I wasn't aware of it. I adored her. .
Just by watching here. It was an all-black group. Before that. I turned that [musical training] all into singing. Well. Olay: Rachel Davis.' Talk about nerves! This was perhaps the first time you'd ever sung in public? Olay: Probably. I had no music. I had a teacher who slapped my hands when I did anything wrong so I just quit. . Absolutely outgrew it. All these great guys. She was magnificent. you passed. And I made that part of me. I was working with Benny Carter on my first gig in San Diego and I found little consistency every night and I wanted to have more consistency and I went to Florence and started studying with her. And there was Irving Ashby and Louis Gonzalez. You studied with Florence Russell.but as a black woman. Olay: Yes. so many people. Abbey Lincoln. Olay: It didn't occur to me. She was a very big deal. I think we had a white drummer. In the summers I used to get very. Olay: Dorothy Dandridge took from her. the attitude she had. And in the parlance of the African-American community.55 A Fine Romance she got me up there to sing. I saw how she stood. I was so unaware it didn't occur to me. I had short dark curly hair and I could have been anything. she was very kind. I passed. I'm telling ya. . Great musicians. . Olay: I was a prodigy and I outgrew it. you worked under another name. When you worked with Benny Carter. She was my mother's teacher and my mother got her a lot of students. I did. I knew them all. And every Sunday Ivie would make me get up there. right? A fairly well known singing teacher. very dark. How did you come to the decision to the decision to pass? I guess it was necessary a white singer with an all-black band back in 1951. I had no charts. 1951. I studied with my mother who had taken from Florence. I read somewhere that you actually started out to become a pianist. I just did standards.
I nagged and nagged him. He said. But I let Benny and the guys handle that. I was rehearsing with Benny up at his house and he told me he was going to use some singer." He said. I married him in '47." I went in to the boss. What kind of name is it? Olay: It's Spanish. How long did this last? Olay: We were in San Diego four weeks. and had my little girl. He was a writer. From my first husband. And your son is from. We'd been friends all along and she thought I was colored." I said. Finally I wore him down. Because I like to think things over." I said. It just never occurred to me that there was going to be a problem. Edna and she says. I know that we couldn't eat in certain restaurants. while I was still working my day job at Paramount. it's for a month. [laughs] Our daughter was born in 1949. I had separated from my husband. . Amy. . Monday nights. "I don't care. I quit my job at Paramount Studios [with Preston Sturges] to go.? Olay: Another marriage. "Ruth. "Ruth I can't promise you your job back. "Rachel! Do you know how hard it is to get jobs in the studios?" She meant for blacks. "I have this opportunity. After Benny I worked with Jerry Fielding's band. Why don't you use me. "I don't care. things like that. His name was Lionel Olay." I told Benny's sister. . I said. Olay. to use the old phrase. I went to New York and we were married six weeks later.56 Any other thoughts about that? A Fine Romance Olay: I always felt very much a part of the black community. It's an unusual last name for a rabbi's daughter. if you don't mind my asking? Olay: [very sheepishly] Three. I got my job back at Paramount. I had a good time. How many times have you been married. I've always wondered about your last name. I was just along for the ride.
We recorded the album after a few months. Bob Bates. who was a friend of mine. You worked without a bass player the first night. two men were in. on bass. Anyway. And about two weeks later. Didn't you even have to audition? Olay: It had just opened with Abbey. been there four or five nights. Which was Geordie Hormel's label. a wonderful arranger. they didn't think it was so terrible. We did not have a bass player. '54.. They had to find somebody in one night. Then I'd go back to waitressing. It was so fabulous the second night. I just KNEW I was through in the music business. and if you're smart you'll hire my friend Ruth Olay. And they said. That was a big club. I used to sing two or three songs a night. I had no charts all I had was a stack of sheet music. Dick Hazard was the piano player.57 A Fine Romance The mid-1950s. Next thing I know I'm working with Bill on arrangements. The next night I showed up and they had a bass player. She told the owner. One night this guy came up to me and said. . . My sense of things of you as a singer and a performer is that you got very "hot" during this period. Olay: I'll tell you exactly what the sequence was. It comes out and I go to the Little Club to hear Abbey Lincoln. This was a Friday night. And that was it. They gave me a fur and they're giving me $750 a week. "Would you like to record an album?" I said. I was working as a waitress/singer at a place called Cabaret Concert Theatre which was down on Sunset. "Why not?" He was Bill Hitchcock. It's HARD to work without a bass player. He was with Zephyr Records. They were stuck. '56. "Well you better get yourself another singer because I'm going to South America. "Do you know who has to hear you?" And they went out and made . Olay: And it went over soooo big. '55. So the next night you've got Bob Bates." I went to work in November of '56. of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. I was going by how I felt about it. And she had just opened there. The first night I went home crying because there was no bass player. And you thought it was bad? I thought I was terrible.
there's something else there now. It's hard for me to say. What was the Avant Garde? Olay: That was a club on the corner of Third and La Jolla [in LA] Naturally. If someone saw you at the Avant Garde later on. I worked with Lenny Bruce at the Avant Garde and at the Crescendo." Not bad for the times. Did the Zephyr record [It’s About Time . had continuous [non-stop] entertainment. But monetarily. I would end up doing three sets a night. I loved it. Bill got me the gig. did a fantastic write-up with four or five big pictures. I signed with him. He had Shelley Berman. I just wanted to sing. the owner. brought a photographer. from Las Vegas. The place was packed from then on seven nights a week from then on. the Matt Dennis Trio and me. "I'm perfectly happy making $125 a week. And then Bill Burton came in. No false modesty here. Agreed? Olay: Oh. The only club in LA to have that. I was the headliner. yeah. absolutely packed every night. But she was sick and they needed a replacement in a hurry. Everybody is coming to see you. would they have recognized something of Ivie Anderson in your presentation? Olay: Maybe.1956] do much for your career? Olay: It got me a lot of recognition. He said. you can't stay here. Maynard Sloate. Olay: But he got me into the Avant Garde making $500 a week.58 A Fine Romance a call to Dick Williams the entertainment writer of the LA Mirror News. "Ruth. owned it. I can't say that any of my records did anything . Billie Holiday was working there with Red Norvo. Girl of the moment. I was a big smash." I said." "Why not. How long did you work there? Olay: A little over a year off and on. He was a big manager. Continuous 9 pm to 1 or 2 am. And that was it. Maynard Sloate. He came in.
59 A Fine Romance for me. Olay: In addition I also did Jerry Fielding's local TV show. Two guys came in and said. Just the pleasure of being able to do them. We do Sacramento theater-in-the-round. He was A&R for Mercury. he orchestrated. and we want you to play Julie in Showboat." You're a white woman who had at one time passed as a black woman. Did he arrange both of your Mercury albums? Olay: I arranged them. we're Lewis and Young. It was a Dixieland. You have the first Mercury album out and you start doing a lot of national TV. . After Zephyr. and it was live! Then I started doing a lot of Jack Paar. after the demise of my second marriage. There's another one out that nobody knows anything about. you're "passing. They included a couple of my numbers. Ray Leatherwood." Ray Sherman. Once more. He used to come into the club. sure. right. ABC and United Artists. Nappy LaMare. Abe Most. But to go back to the mid-fifties. Steve Allen." So your career has come full circle. would you like to do a gig up in Ojai?" "Sure. Abe called me one day and said. Olay: That was due to [arranger] Peter Rugolo. . being asked to play a black who passed for white. And two on Laurel? Olay: Right. Mercury signed you. It was so much fun and they put a record out.these great names! Great guys! I don't sing Dixieland.. all these Dixieland guys. Also the Jackie Gleason Timex jazz show where I got to sing two numbers with Duke Ellington. Lincoln Majorca. Then you had one album each on Everest. but I got up and had the best time. I only have two selections on it. But I kept getting married and screwing my life up. "Ruth. There's one that I did live up at Ojai [California]. Eddie Miller. . Did you ever do any acting? Olay: I was working in 1961. Merv Griffin. "Ruth. . in some club up on Sunset. .
. plenty of time. You must be thinking of somebody else. no. "That's all right. . I met her when we were both working in Vegas in the sixties. She was magnificent. Duffy. We hit it off just great. "You must have the wrong person. "I've never acted. who was her agent." "No. I love her soul. Did you see her one woman show? Olay: Twice! I saw her here in LA opening night and closing night. And she subsequently recorded "Stout Hearted Men. came in with Marty Bregman. She's one of the few singers who can touch my heart and make me cry. at a club in New York. it was told to me. I loved it. "How do remember all those lyrics?" And. Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand have spent hours on the dark side of the spotlight to soak up the gifted Olay's rhythmic. I've always loved her. I was invited backstage to meet her by [bassist/bandleader] Chubby Jackson's son. She came in with [writer] Leonard Gershe . So I did that.etc." She was a darling. though [laughs]. sensitive and earthy deliveries. I was surprised. and it was a gay thing: "My vacation idyll is over. When she did that big almost autobiographical number. Marlene Dietrich. Who are singers that you admire? Olay: I lovvvvvve Rosemary Clooney. Such sincerity." Olay: Judy used to come and we would sit and talk on occasion. She used to come in the club. Barbra Streisand. When she did that one I was in tears. "Sings Jazz Today": "Such fine artists as Judy Garland. . Rosemary Clooney." this really clever guy wrote a verse." It was a glorious couple of weeks. I really didn't know what I was doing." I told them. Here's what it says on the liner notes of your album. . I've never met her. The Living Room. . I said to them. "It takes me a whole show to warm up. I adore her. And she came in.60 A Fine Romance Olay: I never thought of acting in my life. And I did "Stout Hearted Men. who was her drummer.evidently. I got good reviews. We sat together and . ." And they carried on." Fire Island." She couldn't record my original verse. no.
Olay: Coalition for Economic survival. I'm very proud of that. Her birthday is the day before mine. Tell me a little bit about your post-show biz life. thank God. I then said to Olay. Statewide Alliance for HUD Tenants. I was suddenly overcome with an awareness that I couldn’t keep to myself. Office of the Americas. And it's very true that if you don't use it you lose it. “associated with two of the great.S. You've always been politically active? Olay: No. I was a secretary at 20th Century Fox when I was young. Now in her eighties she remains a highly committed social activist. well. yes. I just didn't want to go through that anymore. when she stopped by for a visit. Beautifully so.? Olay: A living? No. I am now retired. Not long ago. I was sixty-six when I just quit singing. diverse geniuses of the 20th Century: Preston Sturges and Duke Ellington (she sang with his band in the U. that I was seated across the dining room table from someone who had been. POSTSCRIPT The 2000 interview was the beginning of a friendship between Olay and myself. You're retired? Olay: The voice gave out because I didn't use it. i. You might say I'm a mild activist. . I'm not singing at all anymore. I was the first one out on strike. . I just try to help in my little way.61 A Fine Romance talked astrology. Countywide Alliance for HUD Tenants. Are you still active in earning. that's a peace movement mostly for Central America and Cuba. And I seldom fail to run at one public musical occasion or another. I didn't vocalize and I just got very lazy and was not motivated to continue with the anxiety of working. I've always been aware.e. Nationwide Alliance for HUD Tenants. and abroad . When the secretaries supported the Electrical workers and all those other unions.
then said.” . “I can hardly believe it myself. paused a beat.“ A Fine Romance She laughed.62 on several occasions).
The funny part of it was that the velvet-voiced Cole didn’t even set out to be a singer. snap and overt charisma of some of his singing colleagues he had a special something few can boast -. was a good deal more reticent about pinning down the source of his appeal.” “Nature Boy. ”Straighten Up and Fly Right” in 1943 (based on the words in a sermon his minister father once gave) right on up to his untimely death of lung cancer in 1964 at 46. And this nutshell underscores part of the reason for the enduring spell the singer has held over a worldwide audience even to this day. Through this roster one can almost trace a twenty-year history of American popular music itself: “Too Young. the emotion and the style of Nat “King” Cole gave it that added distinction that no composer or lyricist could write into a song. When .” “Pretend. no other pop singer ever came close to matching his astonishing achievements as a maker of hit records.” Still.” That’s what Jack Benny said.” “Lush Life. and a glance at his almost scandalously lengthy list of sales chart successes over the years reveals why this was true. the voice with the personality.” “Unforgettable.vocal gravitas. ”Smile. “My voice is nothing to be proud of. Even though he might have lacked the vocal range. Cole. Maybe he was right when he said. It was once said that any songwriter lucky enough to get his or her wares recorded by Cole stood a better than 80% chance of having a hit on their hands.” “Route 66. But somehow. though. From the time 26year-old Cole waxed his first hit. this resolutely modest and beloved balladeer managed to remain one of the most popular international recording and performing artists for decades.63 NAT “KING” COLE A Fine Romance He sang a song the way it was written.” and dozens more.
But little Nat was unusually receptive to the piano lessons his mother gave him. still critics and historians cite him a major link in the evolution of jazz piano. Today. “The Christmas Song. Shortly after the family moved to Chicago in 1919.” But one thing is certain.” which 27 years later . the precocious five-year-old won second prize in a talent show when he appeared with his older brother Eddie’s combo playing the novelty hit of the day. though the instrumental side of Cole’s work is long overshadowed by his singing. determinedly set out to become a professional musician. Cole was reluctant to do away entirely with the trio format that cinched his reputation as a jazz musician. Nathaniel Edward Coles (the “S” was dropped after Nat entered show business) was born on March 17 (St. “Yes We Have No Bananas.64 A Fine Romance he started performing professionally. In high school he led a small band. Numerous conflicting. for Nat soon began to crop up everywhere as a young keyboard artist. the church organist. long after the public came to think of him almost exclusively as a singer. who eventually grew to number six. was a minister and his mother. on mostly small record labels and in such night clubs as Kelly’s Stable in New York and West Coast rooms like the Swanee Inn and the 331 Club. It wasn’t until 1950 that he finally changed his billing from the King Cole Trio and moved away from the security blanket of a small group and into the spotlight as a solo performer. But it wasn’t until nearly ten years later that his persistence paid off when he finally clicked---much to his surprise---as a singer. Edward. Patrick’s Day) in Montgomery. the Royal Dukes. would receive some training in music. and perhaps even apocryphal. In 1947 Cole recorded his first side with strings. Alabama. Perlina. he thought of himself strictly as a jazz pianist. and immediately after graduation from public school. The years up to 1943 usually found Cole playing piano (with strong deemphasis on vocalizing) in touring pit bands. it was only natural that almost all of the Coles children. Inasmuch as his father.” This early victory must have left its mark. stories abound as to how Nat “King” Cole “found his voice.
Louis Blues. though. being a good husband and father. Cole was. and relaxing as the world’s most avid baseball fan (he almost always built his tour schedules around major league agendas). was always at pains to diminish the part he had played in racial progress. And to top it all off. in 1956 he also added that of being the first black to have a sponsored national TV show. He had no axes to grind. No longer content to perform in just the US. the first black singer to have a world-wide following. He forever insisted that he was just a musician whom the public had somehow managed to have taken a fancy to. Two of the songs Cole released in the forties. despite his increasing fame as a stand-up performer. St. he became a movie star. with the possible exception of Louis Armstrong. making music. and only wanted to get on with the business of life. It was clearly a case of unprecedented understatement the day . But the fifties brought him even greater fame and recognition. It was a quality that came through abundantly in his live appearances and interviews. he said.65 A Fine Romance was among the first group of songs voted into the National Academy of Recordings Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. Cole. his acting and singing. Although he was top-billed in only one film. To his long list of accomplishments. Not content just to downgrade the part he had played as a racial pioneer. in Cole’s many feature outings. Cole’s touring agenda grew to encompass the globe. Cole’s humility even extended itself to the area of perhaps his most unassailable talent---as a pianist. i. The modesty and self-effacing demeanor was one of the major reasons for Cole’s vast popularity (another was said to have been his impeccable diction while singing). in such releases as Cat Ballou and China Gate. “Mona Lisa” and “Nature Boy.e. Cole still managed to win some of the country’s most prestigious jazz awards. Some of the recordings were cut in five and six different languages. He was among the initial black stars to have a sponsored national radio show and was the first of his race to perform at a major hotel in Las Vegas. During this period. added even further luster to his career.” are among the most popular records of all time. Even at this relatively early stage in his career.
“There are a lot of notes lying around on that old piano. it seems impossible that he will ever “go out of style. Nat Cole is as potent and pertinent now as he was then. There is always a kind of geniality even when he is singing about the saddest of stories. Filling the backgrounds of motion picture soundtracks (most notably the music-savvy Wong Kar Wai‘s In the Mood For Love). and its no wonder that nearly a half-century after his death.” Even on his slowest-paced recordings. I just pick out the ones I like. Add to this the immediate identifiably of his voice. one of the most spun on satellite radio adult music format shows. .” Why should he? Nat King Cole is style.66 A Fine Romance he told one interviewer. he avoids the pitfall of sounding soporific and lugubrious that so many singers fall into when dealing with “emotional“ lyrics.
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HELEN GRAYCO: PLAYING IT STRAIGHT
In the 1930s, legendary Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg was insistent upon breaking up the antics of the Marx Brothers in their hit films with various straight musical interludes from the likes of Allan Jones, Kitty Carlisle and the temporarily calmed-down personae of Harpo Marx at, of course, the harp. Even the staunchest fans of the Marxes, Thalberg felt, needed an occasional break from the mayhem. A decade later, in the mid-1940s, legendary comedy bandleader Spike Jones might have taken a cue from Thalberg when he hired a beautiful, young, blonde singer, Helen Grayco, to be a part of his group. At first glance she might have seemed out of place in the Jones organization which specialized in the likes of gunshots, whip cracks, fog horns and so on in their zany mega-hit recordings of such as “Cocktails for Two,” “Chloe,” and “Der Fuehrer’s Face.” Underscoring this point, Grayco recalled her first meeting with the bandleader to me in a late 2008 conversation with her in Los Angeles where she currently resides: “I was singing at the Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood and that’s where Spike heard me in 1946. He asked to see me after the show and offered me a job. He was already a huge star. He was going on tour. I was in direct contrast to what he did. I was terribly insulted when Spike first asked to hire me. He had just done “Cocktails for Two” and all that stuff that he was known for. “I don’t know where I could possibly fit in in your group. I‘m not a comedienne,” I told him. He said, “No, you’ll do your own thing. You’ll have your arrangements. You’ll do 15, 20 minutes entirely separate from the show.” They needed something to calm people down. And that’s how we always
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worked from then on.” On the Spike Jones TV show, even there I was the contrast.” And in fact, in a 1947 review of the Jones live act, that is the very word the writer uses to describe Grayco‘s contributions to the proceedings: “For contrast, an eyeful called Helen Grayco warbled “Ca Ca Carumba” and a very spicy ditty or two.” But by the time she had joined the Jones band, Grayco was already a seasoned pro. “I was born in Takoma, Washington. I’m one of eleven children. Six girls and five boys. I was second to the youngest of a good Italian Catholic family. I got a job when I was eight years old singing on KHJ Radio in L.A. on a show called The Carnival Hour. Bing Crosby and his brothers had heard me sing on a variety show on the radio in Seattle and they said [sings] ‘Holly-wood!’ And so two of my brothers and my sister moved here and I did the show and then all my family migrated here. It was during the Depression., so it was a very hard time for my family. Actually, I was the breadwinner. My father was in the grocery business and what had happened during the Depression was that he gave out so much credit and food in the area they lived in---he had a great market and a restaurant all combined---and no one could pay. He couldn’t pay whoever he owed and so he went out of business. He lost everything. But I was earned fifty, sixty, seventy-dollars a week. That was a lot of money during the Depression. “Then, I was put under contract when I was thirteen years old, to Universal Studios. Producer-director Joe Pasternak signed me. Deanna Durbin was their big star at Universal and she had outgrown everything and was going into adult roles and they wanted someone young to be the new Deanna and they hired me and I was put under contract and that year they were paying me a hundred dollars a week and so I was really moving up in the world. I was going to do a film called Little Lady and Norman Taurog was going to direct it, but a new regime came into Universal and the group that hired me left. So I never made the film and consequently my contract expired. But I was an extra in the Marx Brothers film , A Night at the Opera, and you see a little girl go up to the
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piano and Alan Jones is singing, that’s me. No speaking part, though.” Grayco also had a small part in a Universal movie, That Certain Age (1938) billed as “Girl.” “Before I ever joined Spike Jones, I worked with Stan Kenton. I was in high school at the time and he was going on a tour during the summertime. I was going to Hollywood Professional School and that summer my sister Teresa went with me and we traveled by bus from L.A. and made stops, all one-nighters, all the way to New York to the Roseland Ballroom. But prior to Stan I worked with the bands of Chuck Cascalas, Chuck Cabot, and Red Nichols. But I never recorded with any of these bands. This covered a period of about two or three years.” Nearly all the while Grayco was with the Spike Jones band, she continued to cut a lengthy list of singles; but alas none were as memorable as the two albums she recorded in 1957 (After Midnight) and 1958 (The Lady in Red), the former of which has an especially strong standing among critics and fans. Of her singles, she said, “When you’re with a record company they just call you and you come in and record what they want. ‘Ooop Shoop’ and all those songs were picked out for me by the record companies.” Shortly after hiring Grayco to be a part of his regular band in ‘46, Jones became determined to show the world that he was also capable of producing legitimate, "pretty" music, And so he formed his so-called “Other Orchestra,” which featured Grayco. While this group recorded a number of transcriptions, it was a financial failure and lasted less than one year. The band didn’t want to hear that Spike Jones. But the relationship between Jones and his singer was far more successful and they married in 1949. It was one of their eventual three children, Leslie, who had the pleasure of informing her mother of the ongoing popularity of her albums in Japan. “My daughter Leslie Ann Jones is a marvelous sound engineer who works for George Lucas in San Francisco. And she’s recorded Michael Feinstein, Rosemary Clooney and won several Grammys. She had just finished a session with Michael Feinstein about three years ago and he said
I thought he [Russ Garcia] brought the proper mood to the album.” She was pleasantly surprised: “WHAT! You’ve got to be kidding. When Tony Curtis heard the album he said. “Latin music was hot at the time.” . It was arranged by Russ Garcia and conducted by Judd Conlon).’ Our budget wasn’t that huge. she recalls. nice listening. I just bought your mother’s album. it was a Latin session. That’s how I found out about my albums in Japan. Anita O’Day Frances Faye. Alvin Stoller. After Midnight in Japan. “No. Everybody had to get into the act. and Larry Bunker. alto. I never would have chosen any of the singles to do if I had a choice. I took a lot of time.” In the course of my interview with Grayco. ‘Oh I’ve got to do the liner notes. .A. drums. Hopefully the reissue of this work will lead to a re-evaluation of Helen Grayco. Like several others of that period on the label. Barney Kessel. I took great pains with album. I read to her part of a retrospective rave review of After Midnight that appeared in Japan’s Swing Journal in 2007.saloon songs.” And Leslie said. “It had come into its own. I think the album got that across.“ (She’s right. And he called Japan and had them send a copy to Leslie.” And he said. and which contained the following observation: “When one encounters such a rare and refined recording. bass. unlike the singles that were given to me to do. “My Mother hasn’t recorded in a hundred years. In those years you recorded what they wanted you to. Mel Torme.” She didn’t believe it. guitar. We had all the top players in L. it’s very popular in Japan. piano. one comes to realize that the established versions of certain songs are not necessarily the last word on the subject. vibes. Grayco’s second (and final) album was recorded for Verve the following year.70 A Fine Romance “Leslie. We could have used a forty piece orchestra. including record companies. Joe Mondragon. They included alto sax Les Robinson. Gerald Wiggins. Through Michael Feinstein. hopefully rather sexy at times. .
[in its Brentwood area] and I moved back here. Then I met Bill Rosen who ran a restaurant out of New York called Gatsby’s. .. I phoned Millard.A.” Grayco tells me.” In addition to the Café Roma. currently you can also “catch” Helen Grayco on the various DVDs of the Spike Jones TV shows and on the CDs . Just sitting around the piano bar singing. but the Rosen’s venue remained a hot “in” spot until the early-1980s when Rosen retired (he died in 2002). But it quickly became apparent that he was also a wonderful accompanist for singers. we married. in 1976. Soon. dinners. After talking with Grayco. my grandchildren. the Dean Martin TV show. “but never to sing. “the Copa in New York. “Tony Bennett would come in to sing. A lot of lunches. my children. She came with her dog. The “scene” at Gatsby’s lasted for several years until Millard was hired away by the competition.” The pianist was also quick to point out that his departure from Gatsby’s did nothing to affect the ongoing (to this day) good feelings between himself and Grayco.” She adds: “Just the other day I ran into [fellow singer] Jane Harvey at the Café Roma here in L. “One night. she says: “I’m very social. I moved to New York. all the top singers in town came to drop by and jam.” Grayco says. just to watch. a lot of friends. Just a casual thing. Gatsby’s hired a piano player by the name of Bob Millard mostly for background atmosphere playing.71 A Fine Romance “I continued my singing professionally for a few years after Spike died in 1966. and after that I gave up my career to concentrate on my marriage.” he recalled.” Then Grayco got caught up in the proceedings at the restaurant and she too began to sing at the restaurant on a semi-regular basis. As for how she spends her time these days. a friend of mine as well. “Even Sinatra would come in from time to time. .” Much like when she met Jones.A. Grayco says that she has no strong interest in resuming her career. Jimmy’s in Beverly Hills. her life took a similar unexpected turn when. or Vic Damone would drop by. and he confirmed what Grayco had told me. Then he opened a Gatsby’s in L.
of course. . on the current Japanese issues of both her wonderful CDs.72 A Fine Romance culled from the bandleader’s radio shows and transcriptions now in release. After Midnight and The Lady in Red. And.
what with the British tabloids and their telephoto and parabolic devices.73 DUSTY SPRINGFIELD A Fine Romance During the past few months of singer Dusty Springfield’s life (she died in 1999). Springfield handled her final illness with extraordinary dignity---a new high in grace under pressure. versatility (she could and did sing just about everything). She is considered a grande vedette in Britian. While Springfield’s speaking voice was only slightly less royal than HRH Elizabeth herself. That Springfields’ favorite singer was not just a mere rocker underscores the fact that she was far more than just “The Queen of Blue-Eyed Soul. in the old L. Once. with the latter honor giving her some much needed. I gave her a favorable review for a live concert and she stalked me all over town telephonically to thank me. “close enough for jazz. late blooming stateside credibility. and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was this unique quality that led the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant to seek her out for the bridge passage of their song.A. as the saying goes. Herald Examiner.” Her rather large body of work contains many dozens of tracks that were. And yet with just a touch of Mayfair remaining around the edges. she just never quite “made it” stateside because of her confusing. Dusty’s singing voice suggested nothing so much as someone who might have been brought up just a hop. to many. skip and a jump away from the Louisiana Bayous. “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” When . she received the OBE (Order of the British Empire). As famous and beloved a performer as any other in the UK. etc..” She often spoke in interviews about how she was inspired to sing by Peggy Lee.
” Though there were already many Springfield aficionados at the Greek. now. almost as seminal a ‘60s rock force as Aretha Franklin. “All we want is the sound of your voice. 1 female British pop/rocker. It wasn’t until the singer plunged into her grab bag of hits (“The Look of Love. For Springfield. he replied.” etc. concert appearance by her. after the encores and flurry she generated. that I’d hung on to the tape. Dusty in Memphis---her last successful effort before an inexplicable mid-career . from the August 25. Kinda wish.) that much of the audience comprehended the magnitude and pervasiveness of Springfield’s contribution to pop over the past decade-and-a-half.” “Son of a Preacher Man. was in fine form as she ripped ‘n roared her way through an enthusiastically received 15-song set. If might well have been her only such outing. Here’s that review she liked so much. “At Midnight.” Springfield once left a nice message on my answering machine after I wrote an especially favorable review of an L.’” and “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. Springfield has not performed in the United States in eight years. but as if to dispel charges of antiquarianism the singer chose to open her presentation with a recent hit (not hers). 1980 issue of the old LA Herald-Examiner: DUSTY DUSTS OFF AT THE GREEK Long overdue for a stateside performance. her decidedly low profile is more a mystery than ever. she sveltly strutted and karate-chopped her way through “Midnight” in a manner totally unlike the way she might’ve during the good old days when she was the No. and never in LA.74 A Fine Romance Springfield asked Tennant if there was anything he wanted her to do with the song. Utilizing a 14-piece back-up crew. clearly a great many others were won over to her Ben Webster-ish scoop-de-scoop vibrato. Dusty Springfield.A. took to the stage Friday evening at the Greek Theatre [in LA] as opening act for the singer/composer Peter Allen.” Also offered up were a few items from the widely acclaimed 1969 album. Dusty’s consciousness-raising hit medley also included “Wishin’ and Hopin.
the first major entertainment figure to “out” herself as a lesbian. .75 A Fine Romance recording sales slump began to plague her in a manner somewhat akin to Al Green’s fall from public favor.S. there have been announcements of two film biographies of the singer: one to star Kristin Chinoweth (which seems to have been scrubbed. in the neighborhood of eight million dollars----will most certainly get their money back. . in 1964. it would seem that a good screenwriter would have more than enough interesting material with which to work. to attempting transgressing South Africa’s one-time apartheid laws governing racially-mixed audiences. and so the real crowd pleaser was her last (but one) encore. and a still-active attempt (as of this writing) to star Nicole Kidman. But Dusty is definitely of the moment . historically. There’s a Lady on the Stage. Those who bought stock in the Springfield recordings/estate/masters not long before her death------an enormous venture that made Wall Street Journal headlines and netted D. Initial enthusiasm for the projects seem to have been fueled by the 2004 success of Jamie Foxx’s Ray Charles biopic. and also the first white.and more. Ray. a heavily de-saccharinized re-tooling of top-billed Allen’s “Quiet Please. .” ______ During the 10 years following Springfield’s death at age 59. Inasmuch as Springfield was.
personal style. and swing---as does Bobbi---then the addition of a cavalry charge of players behind him or her doesn't necessarily add all that much to the overall impact of the music. Recorded in 2000. “Some Little Something” (Victoria Records) No singer has better demonstrated the fine results that can happen with a less-is-more approach than Connecticut-based Bobbi Rogers. she sings on 4 of the 14 tracks. With Some Little Something. she recorded her debut album with a small group led by longtime professional and personal associate Chic Cicchetti. in sufficient quantities. in the Hartford. Julie is Her Name.) . first heard on two LPs from the early 1980s.” mostly with big bands. She’s back on records now after more than a twenty-year hiatus.76 BOBBI ROGERS A Fine Romance Liner notes for Rogers’ 2008 CD. pitch. But never having heard Rogers in such surroundings. there is a limited issue album by Bobbi with a big band. found her solely supported by the great guitarist Gene Bertoncini. CN area. bass) masterpiece. Live at the Mohegan Sun. It’s not just a simple matter of economics. The year before. (Truth to tell. it could well be that if a jazz singer possesses. It’s not that Bobbi isn't capable of holding her own in a large crowd of players. by Chic Cicchetti and the Hartford Jazz Orchestra. it’s hard for me to imagine her any other way than hanging out in the recording studio with just a few of the guys. Witness her many years of performing “live. Bobbi’s second LP. once again she’s recording with a band that could comfortably fit into the back seat of a small Italian sports car. It’s a lesson whose basic principles were laid down in a big way by Julie London on her 1955 minimalist (guitar. a genial voice. in ’81.
in 1979 at a Waterbury. but it also operated as a salute to his longtime lyricist partner. Fega was also a record producer of no little distinction.77 A Fine Romance Although Bobbi has been plying the vocalist’s trade since the 1950s---she toured the U. I am so happy to discover she has not changed a bit. singing with Cicchetti. And although the recordings he made with Rogers have been out of print for some time now (except in Japan). did TV in the 1970s and even sang in France with a big band----it wasn't until the early eighties that she gained her first shot at the national spotlight with the two aforementioned LPs. He also had his own label. In addition to his radio activities. Time and the weather have only added dimples of depth and wisdom to her already innately unique .” It would be nice if someday Jackie Cain and Roy Kral's various recordings of Wolf and Landesman were gathered together under one roof. The subject of the first album was ostensibly songwriter Wolf. until 1996. I wrote that she has a voice soft and perfect as a peach blossom in May. Focus. Upon hearing an advance copy of this CD. as well as a shot on Good Morning America and a passel of gigs at NYC’s Michael’s Pub. Both of Bobbi’s recordings were produced by NYC dee-jay Mort Fega who first heard her. Reed remarked: “When I first discovered Bobbi Rogers in 1980.S. The Wolf album earned Rogers the seal of approval from John S. performed at the upstairs lounge at New York’s Copa. Together. but until then Bobbi’s salute will do quite nicely thank you very much. Fran Landesman. having overseen sessions by the likes of Bob Dorough (Just About Everything) and Carmen McRae (Bittersweet). Rex Reed and Dick Sudhalter. CN restaurant. Wilson. that hasn't stopped dee-jays of a more refined sensibility from continuing to spin them on a regular basis. the twosome penned such late-blooming standards as “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” and “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. That’s where. 1980’s Tommy Wolf Can Really Hang You Up the Most and the following year’s Crystal and Velvet. Woody Allen held down a clarinet gig almost every Monday night for almost as long as anyone could remember..
“ As for Tom: ”He did more than just account for the bottom line. set the tempo let‘s go. a few of the tracks were even accomplished in one take. Set the key. one of Ray's solo outings.” says Bobbi. Look at Me Now“ and “I Thought About You“ just bass (not since Helen Merrill and Sheila Jordan!). a jazz “take” on Mozart. hot spicy rice crackers.e. in addition to two under his own name. he most likely considers it a fortunate turn of events indeed. she was engaged in twin day gigs of teaching and practicing . clear skies and green lights all the way. this is your CD.78 interpretations of lyrics. And what a duo it is! Until very recently pianist Ray Kennedy appeared regularly in support of guitarist-singer John Pizzarelli. Recently. Bobbi sat in with Ray and before the evening was over. was a hit CD in Japan. or in the case of “Oh. and Tom was right there.” As is apparent from the object in your hands. except for a few even more scaled-down tracks with just piano. but Tom and Ray insisted: “No. Bobbi. He deserves a lot of credit for keeping the recording sessions so spontaneous. And its actual making was almost as smooth and swift. When the bass is right you can feel it in your solar plexus. “The first time I sang a tune with Ray Kennedy. The warmth of his playing made me connect with him immediately.“ And so what has Rogers been up to in the near quarter-century since Crystal and Velvet and this one? Until her recent retirement. i. each of us contributing an equal voice to the music.” Otherwise it was beer and skittles. The idea for this recording came about as the result of a party held by the Erroll Garner Society a short while back. “I knew within four measures that here was a rare sensitive musician that a singer could trust. brilliant bassist that he is. It was a shared thing. The only bone of contention arose when Bobbi wanted equal billing for the boys. And considering his great fondness for that nation’s kakino-tane. the wheels were already in motion. and his bassist brother Tom can be heard on over 200 recordings. eventually the brothers “won.“ A Fine Romance Some Little Something finds Bobbi ensconced in a comfortable duo format.
Gray Sargent. and goes home." Indeed. Tony Monte (another good friend). Singing! She has performed with Dave McKenna (a good friend). I’ll leave you with further words of Rex Reed regarding Some Little Something: “'You'll Never Know' is so fresh and warm I am sure that somewhere Alice Faye is smiling with approval. and can continue to be always found doing what she’s been up to ever since she was a mere slip of a thing (and practically still is). no fuss. Some might call her a “weekend singer. almost---no muss. an extension of the big band once led by Bobbi‘s guy. formerly of the Steve Allen TV show. and I am in love with ‘Something To Remember You By. and now overseen by Donn Trenner. Brian Torff. Harry Allen.79 A Fine Romance pediatric nursing. Chic Cicchetti (he died in 2000). But she could then. And so. And especially with the Hartford Jazz Orchestra.’ With this musical embrace. Bucky Pizzarelli.“ Bobbi Rogers treats her songs the way that their composers (and nature) intended. Joe Raposo. et al. And in the 1970s Bobbi worked with Charlie Ventura. . She just sings them straight---well. a wonderful singer has indeed rewarded passionate followers of the Great American Songbook with something special to remember HER by.” but most often she’s been deemed a “singer’s singer.
80 JUDY GARLAND A Fine Romance Take away all the private tragedy. it was during her Capitol Records period. no matter how unsteady and tumultuous Judy’s physical and emotional state became. When Garland. here are a few of the memorable highlights of . as part of one of her many publicized and successful comeback attempts. starting in the mid-1950s. For example. All Judy Garland had to do to make a song “hers” forever was to sing it once. that’s just the way it was. her tributes to another legend. This was one instance when promotional hyperbole was right on the mark. Even though Garland began her recording career in 1936. that she really hit her stride in the recording studio. trauma and melodrama associated with the memory of Judy Garland and what you’re still left with is the single greatest female performer of her generation. Edith Piaf. Al Jolson. someone came up with Miss Show Business as its title. starred in a 1955 TV special. It’s a testament to the beloved star’s talent that just the sound of her powerhouse voice is sufficient to dispel the widely disseminated and often unsavory details that spring to mind at the mention of her name. she only got better and better as a singer. This was true almost until her death in London in 1969. No malice on Garland’s part. Just like her French counterpart. shifted the various songs’ association in many instances away from Al to Judy. In no particular order of significance.
“You Made Me Love You” . except for her 1961 turn at Carnegie Hall. By this time. but dropped from. the bottom had pretty much dropped out of her film career and so to while away the hours until her movie fortunes reversed. Since Judy began working on the stage. “Judy at the Palace” medley . A Fine Romance “The Man That Got Away” .” As evidence of just how securely Judy could lay claim to a tune. It was a jazz song then. Ireland and Monte Carlo. Strictly speaking. This piece of special material was crafted for her by her longtime MGM co-worker and chum. musical arranger Roger Edens. Both Garland and the song were Oscar nominees but lost to Grace Kelly and “Three Coins in the Fountain. Judy wasn’t a jazz singer.81 Garland’s career. and he was also responsible two years later for the .There was nothing before or since quite like the singer’s 1951 turn at New York’s Palace Theatre.Roger Edens was the accompanist for Garland the day she successfully auditioned for MGM in 1935. a 1927 Broadway show and titled “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love. when it was introduced by Ada Ward. and it remains so under Garland’s ministrations. it isn’t surprising she had such as affinity for songs connected with the great stars of vaudeville. note that even though this fine Ira Gershwin-Harold Arlen number has long since reached the status of “standard. Lindy” (Lindbergh). but there’s a lot more jazz feeling here (and much of the time when she sings) than is operative with some much more acknowledged practitioners of the arts.” relatively few pop singers have dared to mess with it. It turned out to be the top show business story of the year. She went on to break every pre-existing record at the London Palladium and in Scotland. “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” .Originally penned for. Judy decided to merely single-handedly revive the entire American vaudeville tradition. A Star is Born.This anthem to unrequited love was introduced by Garland in the 1954 Warner Brothers musical. at age two. this Jimmy McHugh-Dorothy Fields tuned fortunately saw the light of day the next year in Blackbirds of 1928.
Judy was one of the best (and funniest) story tellers in the business. Louis double decker. was thrown together at the last minute for Judy’s 1944 Meet Me in St. Clang.” Over the next quarter-century.beware.” he told writer Hugh Fordin. Dirty Face. Gable” intro. ‘Clang. . “under the picture was written. “The Trolley Song” .This classic piece of instant Americana.’ Well I dashed back. in the intro to this highlight from her historic April 23. He worked up the number for Judy to sing. . Louis B. It would nice to report that Judy was victorious. It brought tears to the eyes of MGM chief. “San Francisco” .” “April Showers. The always imaginative program barely lasted out the season.” and “Swanee” are some of the Al Jolson evergreens lent the Garland touch in this collection. with its “Dear Mr.” “Dirty Hands. that would advance her to stardom.82 A Fine Romance famous arrangement of this song. Judy Sings Jolie . and the toll the experience levied on her body and mind was something she never really recovered from. told Hugh the title and we wrote it in about ten minutes. She never failed to rev up one or two in concert and in her regular 1964 CBS TV show (her competition was the top series Bonanza). guns blazing. Clang Went the Trolley. There he came across a photo of a 1903 St. Her sense of humor comes across. by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. but ratings were bad from the start. “Believe it or not. But. Louis.“Rock-a-bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody. But the evidence of her attempt at the near-impossible lives on in regular PBS and cable airings and the marketed videotapes of this exercise in quality TV. Jeanette McDonald fans. Mayer and nearly everyone else present---a sure sign that it should be included in the fifteen-year-old starlet’s forthcoming first big screen appearance. at a studio birthday party for Gable. . Blane recalls desperately rushing to the Beverly Hills Public Library for inspiration. 1961 appearance at Carnegie Hall. the hunch proved correct and MGM’s new contract player achieved instant fame in Broadway Melody of 1938 for her remarkable scene in the film in which she serenades a photo of the Great Gable. Judy probably never gave a concert that didn’t prominently feature this ten-minute wonder.
trials. the Arlen-Harburg melody from The Wizard of Oz represents total interface between performer and material.83 A Fine Romance “Over the Rainbow” . the much vaunted Garland wit creeps through from time to time: "When my number is up I want a new one. She must have performed this song a thousand times and it probably never failed to cause a small scale riot on the part of the Mutual Adulation Society who supported Garland as faithfully as ever. insanely mythomaniacal and informative. Judy on the bathroom floor. This one is solely Judy’s property and other singers would be wise to keep their distance. and a tape recorder during a long. scary. The end results are alternately revealing.000 adoring Carnegie Hall fans. even then. which would result in the audience’s collective memory of her various triumphs. however. **** _ Here is a less conventional Garland CD release: Judy Garland Speaks. funny. At a certain point Garland was secured by a major publishing house to write her memoirs. Mad Deadly Worldwide Communist Gangster Computer God Records DEC-9. even during her final tormented decade. There is no Judy Garland without “Over the Rainbow” and no “Rainbow” without Judy. Each of Judy’s concerts was but a buildup to the unleashing of this number. it's just you. dark night of the soul. Aka “The Toilet Tapes“. And how she does go on and on about former husband Sid Luft about whom she can't make it too clear should "Go out and get a . Mostly she is in a drunken stupor. Enough to fill up two CD’s. sad.The Big Finish! (Inside show biz joke: did you hear the one about the promoter who wanted Judy Garland to open with “Over the Rainbow”? Far more than just a song identified with a singer. But she never got any further than buying a handheld tape recorder and ranting into it at all hours of the day and night." Instead of Judy and 3. and transcendences to come rushing back at the merest invocation of the melody’s first few notes.
" The album notes state: "Dedicated to Liza Minelli (sic)." I'm sure their gratitude knows bounds. Lorna Luft. .84 A Fine Romance job. and Jospeph Luft.
85 MIEKO HIROTA
A Fine Romance
Are you familiar with the very big Japanese pop star since the mid-1960s, Mieko Hirota? Perhaps not. But nearly all of her native countrymen know her. I met her for the first time here in L.A. in 2007. Hirota-san was passing through town with her manager on their way back from a top-secret recording project in a part of the world other than Japan. A mutual friend suggested that we get toget her. I subsequently received as a gift from him a boxed eight CD set of Hirota's more-jazz oriented albums over the past 40-years-or-so that had just been released. Setting aside Hirota’s radically varying proficiency at English pronunciation from album-to-album, all the CDs are quite good. I am led to believe by the person who gave me the set that this is the largest Japan-only boxed jazz set ever released. Or some such Jesuitical hair-splitting calculation of one sort or another. Although few non-Japanese in the U.S. are likely to have heard of her, Mieko Hirota is, extra -nationally, probably the most famous person that I ever sat down and just spent a nice sociable after noon with. . .not counting all those countless movie junkets that I used to partake in for the San Francisco Examiner (If it's 2:15, this must be Mel Gibson). Somewhat surprisingly, the hotel she and her manager were staying in could only charitably be described as being somewhat on the seedy side. Either the star and her manager were given some distressingly bad advice about places to stay in L.A., or else Ms. Hirota is terribly tight with a buck.
A Fine Romance
Or maybe she was just fearful of being mobbed by her Japanese fans at some more upscale digs? At any rate. . .think Barbra Streisand staying at a Motel Six. We met in the hotel‘s dank, lowbeat bar. Outside it was hot as hell and blindingly sunny; inside it was also sweltering, but otherwise (Second City’s legend Severn Darden’s phrase) “As dark as the inside of a nun.” Part of the lore about Hirota is that when Ella Fitzgerald first heard the Japanese entertainer sing in the 1960s, when Mieko would have been in her mid-to-late teens, the American star wanted to---the phrase keeps cropping up in print coverage---"adopt” Hirota. I assume that what this means in reality is that Ella offered to mentor her or take her under her wing. Mieko‘s English is not all that terrific (these days, most Americans' isn't either), thus I opted not to get bogged down quizzing her about this otherwise intriguing Ella anecdote. But Hirota did have an absolutely fascinating story to tell me about how she began singing jazz in the first place. All because of a chance meeting with jazz promoter extraordinaire George Wein on the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train in 1964. Up till then, known as the Dynamite Girl, Hirota had been almost strictly singing stuff like Brenda Lee and Annette Funicello covers in her native language. But right there on the spot, Wein had her convinced that she that could sing jazz (which she probably had almost never heard before). I think what Hirota told me is that, shortly there after, pianist Wein accompanied her singing at an audition in Tokyo and the next thing Hirota knew, she was appearing---she told me in a voice filled with awe---"on the same stage as Frank Sinatra" at the '65 Newport Jazz Fest. She performed an 8-song set backed by Billy Taylor's group. The LP she cut immediately subsequent to that and consisting mostly of Bob Dorough songs, Miko in New York, is, taking her limited exposure to jazz into account, pretty amazing. Later albums display an increased understanding for, and facility with the form. "New York" was produced by multi-hyphenate music man Bobby Scott. The presence in the group of bassist Ben Tucker, Dorough's songwriting partner, is surely the reason for the felicitous inclusion of so many of the
the singer’s English is a bit on the limited side and my Japanese is next to non-existent. . “The One and Only Japanese Singer who has been invited to sing at Newport Jazz Festival!” . But she was so completely unaffected and unassuming. A Fine Romance As already noted. the singer still commands quite a following in her home country.87 songwriting duo's compositions. if she wished to do so. For as a Japanese friend of mine recently observed. you'd never guess that she is someone who. . . nevertheless we managed to communicate quite nicely.she is pops queen!" And she still bills herself as. could trot out all the diva-tude she wanted to and get away with it. A star since the mid-1960s. . "Mico.
But if you're a student of the old school of sublime singers like Sue Raney and your brain needs musical oxygen. Not anymore. Hyperbolic? Yes. jazz/session players such as Andy Martin and Carl Saunders.meannwhile. alas.“ --. or if you're unlucky to be under 20 and don't know who Doris Day is. there's an entire column's worth full of such encomia where that came from. But Sue was bound and determined to record. An interesting aside: Heart's Desire not only marks Sue's demi-centenary as a recording artist.A. a tad. . . in fact.88 SUE RANEY A Fine Romance “.) And she's done it! There must be a symphony orchestra's worth of string players to be heard here. 2007 review of Sue Raney's new Doris Day tribute CD in the New York Observer. but it was effected where it all began for . . But why should Rex Reed have all fun? Let me jump in with a bit of hyperbolic overkill of my own: Heart's Desire by Sue Raney is quite simply . The world is so cacophonous and overwhelming that it's a challenge to persuade people to sit down and listen to eloquence. Expensive? You betcha! But worth every penny of it. in addition to a large contingent of first call L. "THE ALBUM OF THE YEAR!" There was a time when "a cast of thousands" projects like this poured out of the nation's record labels every week. . (Not that there's anything wrong with that. then buy "Heart's Desire" and die in ecstasy. for her next CD.Concluding paragraph of Rex Reed's July 22. . . not just another trio album. be grateful for crumbs. And.maybe.
S. . to my ears. Beyond Sue and the brilliant arranger Alan Broadbent. . And today. If there were any justice or mercy. with not a lot of reverb. but a few bars into the song he abruptly stopped. "Now let's start over. she looks almost entirely untouched by time.S. and perhaps only Sue can be said (aside from the inevitable Streisand. And she toured Japan to great acclaim a few years back with the . But Legrand had never heard of her. But styles changed and careers faded. Sue mic-ed within an inch of her life. and beyond. does the camera ever love her! Every bit as much as the recording studio mic. Legrand played the piano." he said. while the band is spread out behind her somewhat distantly with a bit more echo and a good deal more compression than is used on Sue's voice. cities. who is sui generis and doesn't really count) to have truly survived rock and roll blowing almost everything and everybody else out of the water with the coming of the Beatles. He's chosen what." A few months ago a friend gave me a DVD-R chock full to the outer edge of Raney video appearances circa 60s-80s. But an audition was arranged.and good genes! There were a number of fine singers coming up in the early sixties. Waterman would win a Grammy for this. Capitol Records historic Studio A in Hollywood. She still maintains a steady touring career. "I want you to be my singer. More than her fair share of pipes . is a somewhat eccentric recording scheme. I've never heard any other recording that SOUNDS quite like it. A couple of decades ago. Raney was recommended to Michel Legrand as the perfect vocalist for whom he was searching for an upcoming extensive tour of the U. but it works like a charm. especially with symphonic pops concerts in U. Wowie zowie. and Raney began singing. to my mind the other major contributor to the project is veteran recording engineer Andy Waterman. with the name of Jennie Smith most immediately leaping to mind.89 A Fine Romance her.
A Fine Romance A few years back I attended a full-blown Raney concert in a theatrical setting in Thousand Oaks. . but in every other conceivable way. if only for a couple of hours. time had stood still not just in the "looks" department. Great and (still) Incomparable Hildegarde: "Talent is a thing of the past. CA. that knowing observation---overheard on line a few years back at NYC's Planetarium Station p. and for Sue.o---by the Late. The place was packed to the rafters. Enough to make you forget." Certainly not where Sue Raney is concerned.90 Clayton-Hamilton Band.
singer hyphenate at his ever-so-slightly advanced stage of life. just out. "And so. Reichenbach's father was one of two drummers on one of the most famous recordings of all time. I was also curious about how he had finally opted to become a graphic designer. No. taste acquired. Kurt was six at the time the recording was made. Witness the CD. immediately prior to which the Reichenbach household in DC began filling up with Braziliangrown recordings and songs which had otherwise almost never been heard before on the continent of North America. . 1962's Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd's Jazz Samba. has chops and taste to burn. However! It apparently can be picked up osmotically if one is young and impressionable enough. The Night Wa Blue. . But where did he LEARN to swing like that?. "I began walking around the house humming these songs. . Kurt Reichenbach. But probably the answer. according to Clark. is.swing? Can one learn that? My friend Clark Burroughs of the Hi-Lo's has a theory about what constitutes this rather elusive musical commodity. The seeming answer to the question one came about rather naturally in the course of his response to question two in a phone conversation I had with him recently. Most especially the compositions of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Rather too complicated to go into here." Kurt Reichenbach told me. Its purveyor. which he decidedly does in great abundance even at whisper quiet levels of voice production on his first CD. They really got under my skin. But.91 KURT REICHENBACH A Fine Romance Pitch can be learned (more or less). I was so young that I automatically even began to learn them . .
Again. Much to my delight. Bill Reichenbach.com in response: “I've wondered a bit could he offer up a winning "live" equal to his debut CD. but instead on the playground of some public grade school in the nation's capitol. The Night Was Blue. the North American debut of "Desafinado" wasn't on the lp of Jazz Samba. A few weeks later I attended a nightclub performance of Kurt’s---his second ever. who co-produced Kurt's CD. He has gone from newcomer to seeming seasoned vet almost overnight. if you want to get really technical about it. but that his brother. The answer is an emphatic YES.. "I can recall almost none of it now. I'm beginning to sound like an old Variety reviewer! Just call me Sime . Eventually. Of course." Patter between songs was brief and judicious and added to the overall effectiveness of the presentation. before practically anyone else in this country except for Getz and Charlie Byrd and his band---my dad was his regular drummer---had heard this music. Finally. Songs he performed that were not on the CD included a blistering up-tempo "I'm All Smiles. Hard to believe that this is only his second outing as a "live" performer. it even got so that I was even walking around the schoolyard singing and humming Bossa Nova." "I Thought About You.92 A Fine Romance in Portuguese in their entirety. A full house by the way. It might have helped that not only is his father a world-class musician." "All the Things You Are. Jr. (Mein Got!." he laughs. ." he added. he is no one shot wonder. But at the time. Here’s what I wrote on people-vs-drchilledair. . And so. "one of my teachers phoned my home to alert my parents that I was going around singing all these strange songs at school under my breath in some odd language." Perhaps they even thought Kurt might have had an imaginary friend. is one of the most famous trombonists in the world today.blogspot. one day. I think Kurt learned his lessons in swing well. Couldn't have hurt to have grown up around that either." and Roger Schore's lyricization of Billy Strayhorn's "Bittersweet.
) POSTSCRIPT I’m happy to report that eventually I served as co-producer.e.) A Fine Romance Joining Kurt on three songs is his brother. but was merely a fine addition to the proceedings. along with Kurt. (Variety-ese again. the trombonist Bill Reichenbach.93 [Silverman]. Although Kurt was working with only piano (the fine Jim Cox). i. With a Song in My Heart. of his 2009 sophomore CD. Bill did not serve as a relief from a sameness (there wasn't any). . The Brothers Reichenbach.
and Burke and Van Heusen. includes one of the earliest recordings of Landesman and Wolf's "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. when the songwriting team was still churning them out in New York's Brill Building. Their second and final album. and a sprinkling of Robin and Rainger. A real "find" on the album is a lovely. Rodgers and Hart. a Cole Porter song. "Let Me Love You" and "In Other Words (Fly Me to the Moon)" (that's two Bart Howards. handled most of the singing. The Harps like the Krals had a penchant for the some of the more recherche chapters of the Great American Songbook." now a late-blooming standard. which was probably never recorded until the Harps took it in." ("Frank Loesser. and a second take that manages to stay on track for all its minute and seven seconds. 1961’s At the 90th Floor. volume 2. sung by the entire trio plus Kiz." written for TV's My Little Margie. early Bacharach-David song "Winter Warm. .94 DICK AND KIZ HARP A Fine Romance A bit like the wonderful duo of Jackie Cain and Roy Kral in their overall conception. The J&R comparisons don't stop there. please excuse us. There are two takes of "Fugue for Tin Horns.take that! Mabel Mercer). . "The Great Indoors". whilst his wife Kiz. like Jackie Cain. Dick Harp played piano and occasionally in a very unaffected non-singer singing voice. like Roy.") the first an infectious breakup version of the round from Guys and Dolls. . that has the power to break up all but the morbid of listeners. Gale Storm.
at the impossibly early age of 33. With the exception of my father's death at an age when I was too young to later remember it. she gave the impression of having been around the block at least once. on the evidence of one LP on an obscure Southwestern record label. As was my enthusiastic wont at age seventeen. Cassidy was a case study in regional obscurity in life. yet with more of a range than one usually associates with the kind of bran muffin voices she possesses." rang up Marlene Dietrich. However. I'm reaching here.” I experienced a replay of my post-mortem fanship with Kiz Harp in 2000 when I fell under the spell of the equally gifted Eva Cassidy only to then discover that she too had just died. this might have been my first major exposure to (pace Monty Python) the "man from the village. Mister Death. unlike the near-hagiographic cottage industry that quickly sprang up around Cassidy. I should have read the fine print on volume two. He said she sounded like “a good June Allyson. the first of my Harp recording acquisition: "Is it true?. read the liner notes. "Mature. complicated by a two pack a day habit. however. Kiz Harp sounds nothing at all like the pure and ethereal Jackie Cain. You're a teenager. It was. Kiz Harp had died one December morning in 1960 of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 29. you fall under the spell of a husband-wife jazz group. she'd sound a bit like Kiz. the British Isles and North America. Like Harp. in response to hearing the news that Kiz had passed away suddenly. forty years . I planned to spend the rest of my life listening to them. of Audiophile Records. but if breathy fifties chanteuse Jeri Southern had a mild case of laryngitis.95 A Fine Romance But that is where the comparison between the Krals and Harps ends. a series of fluke media exposures found her the possessor of one of the top-selling albums of the year in both Europe. Only a short time after her death. once put it much more succinctly to a friend of mine.” She also sounded a good deal older that her slightly less than thirty years. Wendell Echols." Very raspy. only to flip the record jacket over to learn that onehalf of the duo has died at an age not much beyond your own. As Echols put it to me years later.
taxonomical. still from the perspective of Harp aficionados. “Am I only one remaining from the before time who recalls such seeming minutiae?” Then came the era of the internet! Surfing the web. Dick and Kiz Harp's followers. still small voice that that nags at one. Until somewhat recently. biographical." Obviously directed at Miller fans. I was able to pick up volume one of the Harp diptych. however. Of even more import is what the eventually winning bidder wrote me: "The interesting thing for you in this case is that I am Dick Harp's stepson (since the age of 3). in 1999. I received eight bids from those wonderful folks out there in the cyber dark in ebay land.96 A Fine Romance later finds Harp even less well-known than the day she passed on. Both LP’s were on the obscure 90th Floor label. were said to also include Burgess Meredith (now dead).” read the notes. I decided to put an extra (!) copy of the Harp‘s volume two that. but out of curiosity to see if there was anyone else out from the before time who might respond to my cyber smoke signals. over the years. the only thing I knew about the Harps was their music. I had acquired up for bid on the internet. according to these same notes. this is boffo stuff. He married my mom a few years after Kiz died. Ideally. “What had been a team had been split in half. my first hit when I entered those good (for internet search engine purposes) search words “Kiz” + “Harp” was an article in the “Dallas Observer” from August. Years later. in which writer Robert Wilonsky writes about "the rock and roll guitarist Steve Miller also played guitar with Dick and Kiz Harp. a husband-and-wife cocktail-jazz duo who played and recorded around town [Dallas]. indicating that Kiz has died even before the release of her first LP. 1998. Still there’s that extra-musical. He in fact owned the 90th Floor night club. named after the Dallas club where the Harps were a staple. He . Both are equal in merit. Stan Kenton (deceased. Not long after. There was. and Tony Bennett (long may he wave). that’s all one really needs. too). Not for money.
We were crammed into the car and had a wonderful evening. . . “ POSTSCRIPT Eventually both volumes were reissued in the U. I have dined out for years on my story about sitting at the piano with Johnny Mathis while he sang to me "Blame It on My Youth." I have both LPs that Dick and Kiz made and I wish they could be on CDs. I knew Kiz and Dick through one of their Michigan college friends who worked with me on The Courier-Journal in Louisville. who was also appearing in Dallas in his pre-megastar years. Peter Block” Apparently Mr. and I was instrumental in also securing their release in Japan. Then not long ago. Bruce Collier. I made a passing reference to Dick and Kiz Harp. When Dick and Kiz came to Louisville to perform at a local club I got to know them and loved their work. One supposes the recordings were manufactured primarily to be sold at the club. Here is a response I received almost at once: “What a deju vu feeling I got when I saw the mention of Kiz Harp in your e-mail. in an internet discussion group devoted to jazz singers. Later when I was on a car trip through the west I stopped to hear them in Dallas and went with them after their show to a local home for a small party with Johnny Mathis.97 A Fine Romance continued to play and record on and off until he passed 2 1/2 years ago. Sincerely. Someone really should reissue them.S. Block did not own a copy of the album.We all miss him very much. by their original producer. .
To paraphrase my grandma. The LPs with Ellis are as different from one another as day from night. with her four LPs and a skosh of singles. But I am like a dog with a bone in such regards. Finally. I even received a nice email from Jennie. and few jazz singers come from there---in fact. West Virginia: Janet Brace * (sunk without a trace). supplied me with the email address of Smith's brother. as revealed in her email to me. was never really that obscure. I don't give up easily. I never heard back. Recently.A. I should add that my appreciation for Smith's somewhat slight but significant ouevre. and the rest is history.---not too many of them---trying to find her. whenever I put on my Diva Detective deerstalker hat.98 JENNIE SMITH A Fine Romance Once upon a time.S. two of the most elusive singers for me turned out to be from my home town of Charleston. who. "If Jennie Smith'd been a snake she'da bit me." for this former hometown girl made good is. for RCA in 1957 and Columbia 1959 simply knows no bounds. and Jennie Smith. married AND living right here in L. a chap with a West Virginia Radio web site. And I'm not just saying that because Smith and I first . retired. hardly anyone ever leaves there---Jennie Smith proved especially difficult to track down! I even went so far as to write every likely Kristof (Smith's real surname) in the U. but both are five star affairs. Even though Charleston is not an especially large town. especially the two albums she cut with noted arranger Ray ("Lady in Satin") Ellis.
Thank you very much for your efforts to find her. I am waiting for your reply. Anyway.A. on my blog. West . Love Among the Young (the title of her Columbia album). please send one more issue to issue to Jennie Smith.com. I posted the following: “Here is a list of other key words that will almost surely guarantee landing on this page when ever anyone sets out to discover "Whatever Happened to Jennie Smith?": Jo Ann Kristof (Jennie's real name). By way of showing appreciation. Just to insure that NO ONE will ever again come up empty handed when Googling for information about this wonderful singer. I introduced her as a wonderful vocalist to Japanese jazz fans. I have tried every possible means such as making an inquiry to the former far-east manager of Dot records. I also have been searching to find out about how she is getting along. How do you do. and even charming voice. I am also a writer and in 2004. Bill Reed. I am a strong fan of Jennie Smith here in Japan. clear. I am very happy to know that she is living right in L.99 saw the light of day in adjoining hollers. if it is OK. it was in vain. I have been fascinated by her precise. I have four LPs of her own. But. Steve Allen (a longtime TV employer). As evidenced by the following email I received in August 2005 as the result of a blog post regarding the singer: “Dear Mr. Thank you. In addition to the access of internet. I was very much surprised and highly pleased to find Jennie Smith's information in your blog recently. Also. I feel she has been underrated. Like you.blogspot. people-vs. the Hollywood Palace (another important TV credit).-drchilledair. A Fine Romance It should come as no surprise that Jennie Smith continues to have an especially strong fan base in Japan---foremost arbiters in such matters---where her first album. I would like to send you my article about Jennie Smith if you let me know your address. simply called Jennie has mostly remained in print on CD for a number of years. extended.
* see page 175 . Chevrolet (she was Mrs. . for her fourth LP).not too shabby). Lionel Hampton (her first employer.100 A Fine Romance Virginia dee-jay Hugh McPherson (an early mentor). Mort Garson (the arranger of her third album). Donn Trenner (arr. in an ad campaign). Look Magazine (they once ran a nice feature on Smith when she first landed on the shores of NYC). . Chevrolet to singer Frankie Randall's Mister C.
Phone call from outta the blue. she is no relation to Joan Evans (as long-rumored). I finally met my match. but I'm the one who listened tonight. Carl Saunders.” Mary Ford's “I'm a Fool to Care. Could hardly get a word in edgewise. I'm worn out now and gotta go to bed. et al. All self-produced on the Noreeva label and f eaturing the impressive instrumental likes of Bob Cooper. And for me -. Of un certain age. She might be a psychoanalyst (wonder if she knows therapist/former singer Beverly Kelly?). “Don't Explain. mimicking Patti Page's “Cross Over the Bridge. I like her! After my phone call from her. Paul Kreibich. I should know. And NO. Started her career as a singer. Screen and TV. A kook in the best sense of the word.vaccinated with a record needle at birth ---that's really saying something. And as recently as a few years ago did turns at [London's prestigious] Pizza on the Park and Salena Jones' erstwhile nightclub. it seems. it turns out. i. Quite a character in addition to being a commendable singer. As for the couple of albums under discussion here on. she's also been a shrink for 40 years. doing those 18 Top Hit Hits Hooray by (unidentified) Stars of Stage. I Googled several of the episodes that Nora Evans told me . I just got off a 2 1/2 hour phone marathon with her.e.” and “Right Here and Now. Pete Christlieb.101 A Fine Romance NORA EVANS: ONE MORE BAROQUE WORRY SOLVED There really IS a Nora Evans.” there are a few others besides those.” etc. Chuck Berghofer. She was a discovery of Elmer Bernstein.
"singer" doesn't even begin to cover it. I assume that some other credits I found Googling apparently belong to "our" new Nora. for she a died a few months later in early 2007--- ." "One take. “If I Give My Heart to You” & “Smile. is in addition to two marriages. i. As for her claim that she was nearly chosen to replace Champagne Lady Alice Lon (or as the great Stan Freberg would have it. Nora was---I use the past tense. These are probably dozens more where those came from. Actually. covering hits of the day. improvised by musicians (Jack Nimitz. And. mind you. All of the above. including a terrific "One of Those Songs. though.” I found these on Google. Johnny Stacato. as she informed me." she told me. Carl Saunders. et al) without rehearsal. a couple of kids. did tracks for the early 50s budget label. for purposes of singing. and several business ventures. Also. Buddy Childers. I posted an entry about singer Nora Evans. To paraphrase the great Bugs Bunny in Water. including Mexican real estate. Yes! She did appear on a 1957 episode of TV's Stars of Jazz. "Alice Lean") after Lawrence Welk fired her back in the fifties because of a cheesecake photo---I'm sure you all recall that unfortunate incident. the Jack Quigley arrangements on her several LPs and CDs are---despite their intelligence---a bit over the top." POSTSCRIPT In October of 2006. for my tastes.e. In general. scored by her "discover" Elmer Bernstein. Water Every Hare (1952): "Singers lead such interestin' lives. As late as 1999 she was still capable of putting out some pretty nice recordings on her own Noreeva label. Broadway. Including the movie Tender is the Night as "singer" and as "musician" in an episode of the fifties TV series. Evans just sings the songs and goes home. she's a member of Society of Singers.102 A Fine Romance about last night regarding her long and checkered career in show biz and they all checked out. In addition.
On it. On the other hand. And just why---you might ask---am I rehashing all of this old business? I do so because just the other day a reader sent me an mp3 of one of Nora's Budget tracks.“ etc. she mentioned that in the early 50s she had helped pay the rent by recording soundalike tracks for a budget label. In the course of my first talk with Nora. Now thanks to aforementioned reader.103 A Fine Romance also a "shrink" (her words) and in her late seventies (by my estimate) was anxious to get back into show biz after a several decades hiatus. including covers of Patti Page's "Cross Over the Bridge. For those of you unamiliar with the idiom." “You’re a Hit-and-Run Lover. which would edged the side to a certain degree of Paul-Ford verisimilitude on this knock-off of "I'm a Fool to Care. cheap or both to bother overdubbing Nora's voice." . the producers of the affair were either too hurried. even going so far as to try and mimic Ford. Broadway. Nora gives her all. But until now I've never heard any of them. here is Nora's attempt at evoking one of Les Paul and Mary Ford's hits. I've been able to uncover a total of such nine such sides by her." Kitty Kallen's "Chapel in the Moonlight" and "Little Things Mean a Lot. Usually these were sold for a fraction of the cost of the originals down at the feed and grain emporium or the local Woolworths. there were a number of such outits during that decade that specialized in grinding out el cheapo cover recordings of hits of the day.
CA. It wasn't until I arrived back at my flat that I noted the liner notes for this sub-rosa release on the small Legends label were written by Mel Torme. I knew of Noel. In the process. who could not have been more complimentary even if he had been writing about himself! High praise indeed! I immediately took the necessary steps for SSJ to license the recording for re-release and to try and track down Noel. only a handful of mostly undistinguished singles in the 1950s. I took the LP home and was astonished by what I heard. singing his heart out on such as "A Time for Love. but mostly as one of the busiest session singers in the entire history of the profession. But I was unaware that he'd ever made an album. This beautifully supple. That might be some kind of a record. But there it was! And with as rarefied a collection of selections from the Great American Songbook as one could imagine. That's where I came upon singer Dick Noel's 1978 album A Time for Love. rich. I succeeded at both. it was especially rewarding to make the . male baritone backed by the solo piano of Chicago legend Larry Novak.104 DICK NOEL A Fine Romance In my never-ending quest to find "new" releases for SSJ Records' (Japan) "One Shot Wonder" vocalist series (the criterion is that the singer can only have made ONE album)." "Why Did I Choose You?" and seven more. the Fall of 2006 found me crawling around in a sub-basement (don't ask) in Glendale. Operating out Chicago.000 commercials and jingles." "Here's that Rainy Day. rumor has it that his voice has been heard on more than 13.
Noel swears that there was only ONE) and lasted until six a.m. able to read the proverbial fly specks off a sheet of music. even though not entirely familiar with some of the material. none was more fascinating to me than the details of the recording of A Time for Love itself. Today. In my opinion. the number of them that finally went into the making of A Time for Love is immaterial. even though I prefer to believe the more mythically resonant lone session version." Of all the record projects I've been involved in the last few years. the results of Noel. as often as not in only one take. none has made me happier than this one. stretching back to just after the end of WWII. Noel and Novak's recording is on a par with Irene Kral and Alan Broadbent's 1975 classic Where is Love? And it just doesn't get much better than that! . My name is also on it as "Release Producer. who is now happily retired from the jingle mill and living in Southern California.105 A Fine Romance acquaintance of the singer. He wasn't familiar with some (perhaps even "most") of the songs that pianist Larry Novak set before him at the beginning of the lone session for the album that commenced at midnight (although there are several '78 dates inexplicably listed on the back of the LP for the recording. Must be the up side. end result of all those years of having to instantaneously excavate the "meaning" of all that advert music copy. And he followed the lead of Novak's playing and really dug into the emotional core of the songs. Of all the things that he has since told me about his long. He is a crack sight reader. Finally. interesting career. Novak and original executive producer Wayne Knight arrived in the mail from Tokyo.
If you follow her harmonic and rhythmic logic all the way through a song to the bitter end. Nevertheless. . then rushes ahead.---didn't like her. the arrival of a new LP by such as Dave Brubeck. But there's no faltering. Listening to her is at least as intellectually stimulating as trying to crack the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. and she always lands on her feet." and it still holds true today. I'll "buy" the husky voice part. And." "bad pitch. some jazz critics---complaining of her "flatness. And you can hear her musicians trying to keep up with her tempo-wise. was a fairly big deal with record buyers. beyond that. She lags behind the beat. This holds true as much for the ballads as the flagwavers. The operative description for Chris Connor in the early stage of her career was "far out. she's totally in control and knows exactly what she's doing at all times: If she's singing some series of notes not in the original melody. Prior to then. But. though. in fact." "horrible intonation." etc. indeed. June Christy. only to jump back off again a couple of bars later. Critics who try to compare her to Anita O'Day and June Christy are missing the boat entirely. Then for a moment she'll hop back on the melody as written. I was very young. her intonation can seem odd. she still manages to reflect the original melodic sense of the song. This was certainly true of singer Chris Connor. slowing down. by the time you get there. George Shearing et al. But it's a good kind of tired.106 A Fine Romance N TWO ENCOUNTERS WITH CHRIS CONNOR First publication. you're worn out. It's a very tricky thing that she does. often. and modern jazz was just reaching mass popularity when rock came in a swept it all away.
years ago when I lived in Greenwich Village. I also remember that some time during the proceedings I lost a contact lens and I had prrrractically the entire place crawling around on its hands and knees.107 A Fine Romance speeding up.COOL. trying to help me find it. This rhythmic tension between singer and players is a great part of the appeal. I've only ever approached two other famous folk in my life---and then in broad daylight--. Encounter #1 I once went to see Chris Connor at NYC’s famed Birdland jazz club sometime during the early 1960s. she's so rhythmically and harmonically (the word that leaps to mind is) "perverse")." Years later. Connor’s most challenging album might well be the one cut "live" in Rio in the early sixties (alas a bootleg affair that has never received wide circulation). . Trust me." would intentionally screw up the pronunciation of your name in his intro. She didn't even appear startled. I couldn't believe how kind and sweet she was. I espied Connor walking along 8th Street all alone. it was VERY late. Connor included. Marquette.Billy Wilder and Myrna Loy. I saw her in a rehearsal session once. Sweet Bird of Youth was playing first run in Times Square. she’s a tough taskmistress. On this opus. I learned that it was tradition at the club that if one didn't ante up with a bribe. Chris was so. Now just how hip is that? And we finally DID find the lens! (I eventually had it bronzed. so you do the chronological math). It was late and I didn't want to frighten her. I can still recall that the legendary midget mc Pee Wee Marquette announced her as "Chris ConnorS. She even invited me to . I crept up as cautiously as I could and introduced myself.) Encounter #2 Late one night. I guess Chris wouldn't come across. who jazz man Lester Young once described as "half-a-mother fucker. . It must have been something in the water in Rio.
well.108 A Fine Romance be her guest the next night---all expenses paid---at the Greenwich Village jazz club where she was a ppearing. I was just off the turnip truck from West Virginia. gee whiz and boy howdy! . and if this was what life in big city was going to be like.
and a year on the road as a vocalist with the Billy May band. “Live” (and Otherwise) When Carole Simpson arrived upon the U. Born in Anna. she was a terrific singer. All About Carole.109 CAROLE SIMPSON A Fine Romance My liner notes for Simpson’s 2009 Japanese CD on SSJ Records. The vocal group with the outfit was The Encores. During high school Simpson also studied at the prestigious Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.S. It was songwriter-bandleader Tutti Camarata who brought her to the attention of Capitol who signed her up to record her first LP. In her late teens she also began performing in jazz clubs in the Midwest. Illinois.S.. And in college. as well as the Garden of Allah. the Desert Inn. The caliber of arrangers who were secured to . she began to branch out with dates throughout the U. she had extensive classical training from the age of five. and the Tropicana in Las Vegas. the Dunes. including an engagement at New York’s Pierre Hotel. music scene in 1957 with a fine album on the Capitol label. she had everything going for her: advanced jazz pianistic skills. In the mid-1950s. the Encore and other clubs in Los Angeles. Her tenure with Billy May ended in Los Angeles. two members of which would go on to form the nucleus of the legendary Hi-Lo’s. where she formed her own trio and moved on to Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe and into the lounges of the Thunderbird. and also glamorous to the max. she sang with one jazz band and played piano with another.
though. away from the singer-pianist’s home base in L. Voice coaching and accompanying other singers keep her busy when she is not working in area clubs. However.A. she did manage to make one national TV appearance on the popular Steve Allen Show. she had married and given birth to a daughter and she could not find it in her heart to engage in the necessary traveling and promotion that Capitol wanted from her. independent label. Simpson tended to shy away from public performances. And she is scheduled to perform there again in the near future. Simpson began to stick her toe back into the water of show business.’s trendy Georgia restaurant until that venue fell victim to the wrecker’s ball in 1991. Simpson and the label thus came to an amicable parting of the ways. (It is also a measure of the quality of “All About. .110 A Fine Romance contribute to the album---Eddie Cano and Lennie Niehaus---should give the reader some idea of the confidence that the label had in Simpson. church choirs! After the Georgia closed. confined her work strictly to the southern California area.A.A.) But by then. she was a regular fixture at L.not to mention directing and playing for two L. Tops.’for a small. Those lucky enough to have caught her HSB&G debut saw a Carole Simpson whose sound is still smooth as ever. DC area after marriage and motherhood). . partially to devote time to her family. For several years. broadcast from New York City. but just like the great Shirley Horne (who also remained strictly in the Washington. similarly. She also recorded an Allen-financed album of his songs. “Singin’ and Swingin. Before that came to pass. . But the recording failed to find much of an audience.”that it has always remained in print somewhere in the world. a recent successful date in the Winter of 2008 at Hollywood’s popular Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill HSB&G brought her back into the “live” spotlight. Eventually.
some kind of record: the fewest recordings released over the longest period of time. and if they can swing and have their pitch under control. . what more do you need than a piano and. Let’s Be Buddies. alas “Buddies” is now out-of-print. and the solid pianistic support of Lou Levy. perhaps.111 PINKY WINTERS A Fine Romance (From Songirds net magazine. There is an intrinsic quality in the voices of some singers that invariably/inexorably attracts you. The album drew glowing reviews and attention in inverse proportion to its mom-and-pop-label status. When you hear a singer like this who. a beautifully crafted song? Winters had all of those balls in the air on her "return" album of 1985. her first album in almost thirty years. Mandel. al. et. 2000) To have established herself as one of the doyennes of American popular song interpretation within the span of four albums. Mercer. Issued on San Francisco’s Jacqueline Records label. I used to favor the pyrotechnic kind of singing as exemplified by Betty Carter. With its blue chip repertoire of Porter. can rivet you and raise the hairs on your arms with all the force of the Basie band. Winters managed to jump-start a career that had been mostly dormant for more than a decade. Gershwin. it really makes you think. Jobim. of course. with only the assistance of a piano and bass. Arlen.) But that’s exactly what Pinky Winters has managed to do. Frishberg. is quite an accomplishment. subtly assisted by bassist Monte Budwig.. but now I think that the less-is-more singing Winters traffics in is just as hard to do. made over a period of forty years. (And.
" And while it’s tempting to chalk Winters’ relative obscurity up to mass-cult musical bad taste. Winters is alternately baffled and chagrined by the fate of these two highly praised outings. even when touching upon some of her less salubrious moments on the planet. also.112 A Fine Romance A similar fate has also befallen her follow-up album with Levy. which finds the singer in the company of not only piano and bass (the late Eric von Essen). drums (Joe LaBarbera) and tenor sax (Pete Christlieb)." Under duress Winters will admit to never having received a bad notice in all her years of performing. While not exactly . it was mysteriously withdrawn from circulation almost as soon as it appeared. .given her impeccable choice of material and [Lou] Levy’s always reliable backing… the results have a flavor that can scarcely fail to please the jazz-trained ear. to whom she bears a passing stylistic resemblance. Lots of Words Per Minute. Winters’ conversational style is not at all like the cool. but. Released on Polygram/Verve in 1994 to rave reviews. No Eleanor Rigby for her. or GAS-pending. a staunch supporter of Winters. though. The late jazz critic Leonard Feather. This Happy Madness. confiding and upbeat. whose genesis the singer could not manage to place when first she heard it. . the critic for the French publication Jazz Hot wrote. with a wink. from 1959. Winters’ repertoire throughout these four official and one unauthorized releases is uniformly Great American Songbook. This is not the case when it comes to most of her contemporaneous compatriots in song. it must also be admitted that she’s never been very "hungry" for a career. Winters is unquestionably the least-known indisputably great Songbirdus Americanus. an eponymously-titled 10-inch set from 1954 on the Vantage label. "Her anonymity in France in inexplicable. and articles. on the Argo label. Skips the personal pronoun half the time. and a clandestinely-recorded bootleg with Zoot Sims. Her discography is rounded out by two 1950s albums. once wrote: “. laid-back woman on record. at one point during our chat. The Lonely One. "I got a mixed one once. including the late Irene Kral." she confessed. When This Happy Madness was issued.
I lost the connection with the band later on when I heard be-bop. Winters: The thing that I learned when I had my first girlfriend conversation with her. She knew that I had the surgery many years ago when I was young. August 21 over lunch at a mutually favorite restaurant of ours. It didn’t turn out as well. and it was so surprising to me. Reed: It always amazed me that she was so attractive.113 A Fine Romance evasive. Doris Day. Reed: I didn’t know her. We met on Saturday. but I went to June Christy’s memorial service in the summer of 1990. I considered her a friend. My real name is… Do you have to know?) While I had seen Winters perform "live" a number of times. Winters: I was a Kenton admirer as an older kid. cataracts. Your real name is? A. this was the first time I’d ever spoken with her." but she was such a central part of my late adolescence. It was just when the new surgery had come into being. She’s sort of an icon. She was awfully sweet. was that she was painfully shy. She wanted to know about it. she tends to pounce on questions from oblique directions. Chez Nous. but OK. One time she came to one of my gigs with Lou [Levy] and I was thrilled. in Toluca Lake. She had it. You sang “My Shining Hour. yet never went into films like some of her contemporaries. in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. She had eye problems late in her life. Peggy Lee.” Winters: That’s a touching piece to do for someone who’s left us. Not a big deal. Not my favorite singer in the world… Reed: Who is? . Reed: It was the only time I ever did anything like this. She was encouraged. I told her all I knew. never saw her perform "live. Kind of a fluke. Most people get cataracts when they’re older. (Q. Reed: How well did you know June Christy? Winters: Not really well. It doesn’t always.
I’m glad I had the good sense to go hear her during the early 1980s when she was singing at a little bar in the Airport Hilton. Winters: He was such a talented guy and underrated. Anyway I went to a couple of them. Maybe he was happily married. They used to have in Los Angeles. near LAX. What a guy! And what a dresser! What shoes! Reed: Speaking of Woody. and she [Mary Ann McCall] was my seat-mate at one of them. It was such a kick to hear him with a new. And he was so sweet. My husband was working with somebody else at some other place and I went alone to Woody’s performances. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a teensy ad in the paper announcing her appearance. Nat Pierce. I can’t help it. Songbirds: Woody Herman? Winters: No. And so I arrived there extra early. Are you aware of how good a singer Woody Herman is? Winters: You know. I don’t remember. these luncheons in a hotel for. I went back again and again. I met him at [long-running North Hollywood jazz club] Donte’s.114 A Fine Romance Winters: I’m crazy about Shirley Horn. nine years ago. and I was honored. Fun to talk to. Even at this late grandmotherly stage in her career she was one of jazz singing's best kept secrets. But with the exception of myself. W . singers. And I was just blown away. Nat Pierce. pretty much all to myself. there was practically no one else there. her accompanist. I think. seven. "Oh. I had McCall and another equally great jazz artist. young Thundering Herd. weekend after weekend. She didn’t look like a band chick. or happily widowed. He gave me his phone number. eight. Reed: On my way over here I picked this up [I reach in my pocket and pull out a copy of the new Verve release Songs for Hip Lovers]. But he was just so nice." I thought. I was then married. He had a long run there. I had seen him before in New Orleans with the band. Mary Ann McCall is the singer most closely associated with Herman's band. they must be keeping it very low key to keep the crowds away. People used to hang out there.
I think I asked her about Al. nonmusical way? Winters: What do you mean? Reed: What do you mean "What do you mean?" You imply that "we" try to become involved with famous musicians.115 A Fine Romance Reed: She was married to saxophonist Al Cohn Winters: I had to ask her about that. Winters: No. has spent the better part of his career as regular accompanist to three of the great voices of the century. No! In fact. Sort of like a jazz Alma Mahler. and I’ve had a relationship with Lou [Levy] since about 1982." Have you been associated with other musicians in a. I’ve been married twice. and Ella . I don’t remember. That was when they first got married. Reed: I can’t possibly… Winters: Could you be a little clearer. [Note: Lou Levy. architect Walter Gropius. Frank Sinatra. Reed: I think she was married to several famous musicians or at least had long term affairs. "We" meaning…? Winters: Rephrase that. then? Reed: How about a little blunter? Have you had affairs with a lot of famous musicians? I thought that’s what you meant. I’m more straight-laced than not. in addition to being a renowned pianist. 1981… One of those dates. Al had his eye problems.] Winters: We try to do that if at all possible. uh. no. Reed: You say "We try to do that. [Note: Alma Mahler was an early twentieth century "scene-maker" who managed the extraordinary feat of serially marrying three noted and varied artist/intellectuals: author Franz Werfel. [laughs] She was fun. and composer Gustav Mahler. no. Peggy Lee. because Al Cohn’s my hero.
] Reed: You have kids [from earlier marriages]. Look here! On the French jazz chart! I’m number twenty-nine. at one time or another. [continues searching through her bag] And here are some French reviews translated by Richard Rodney Bennett. Oh. Reed: You charted. nearly every other singer of note. Reed: I hate to be so pedantic. I’m kidding. I’ve never heard her sing. and I must say I do them quite well. [reading from a Japanese jazz review] "Her voice is becoming more husky and in some areas she is shaky. Around that. Reed: How old are they? Winters: One is forty. [The album was a production of the French wing of Polygram. I charted! Here are a couple of Japanese jazz reviews that my neighbor across the street translated it for me Reed: What’s her name? Winters: Michie Sahara. but where were you born? Winters: [pointing at a sheaf of papers which she has just pulled from her bag and placed on the table] It says right here. A review from the Washington Post from a long time ago. I write my own bio ever since I lost my PR person.116 A Fine Romance Fitzgerald. One is thirty. I was born in Michigan City. and here’s something from a French jazz magazine when This Happy Madness first came out." That’s because I hadn’t had a thing to drink. He has also backed. [continues searching through her bag] Look what I found. Winters: I did. Indiana. Pinky Winters. Reed: What happened with This Happy Madness? It came and went so quickly. for the last couple of decades. right? Winters: I have two daughters. Winters: I have French friends and I should ask them.] . We sing quietly in our houses. Including. Let me check.
uh. upsizing. [Note: Later I checked. Reed: Recital or concert? Winters: Concert. too. Four. Reed: This is the late fifties. right? Winters: Yeah. restructuring. And. too. And I used to listen to my dad’s Dinah Shore records.] Reed: Okay. Winters: When I was little. You were born in Indiana. I don’t think he had anything else that appealed to me. Dinah. Reed: All by yourself? Winters: Yes. Give me a break! Loved her in the movies. But I was just a dumb cluck and didn’t know how I could say anything. When did you cut your very first album? Winters: Do you mean The Lonely One  or the other one? Reed: The other one. who was not inclined to play like I liked. On the Vantage label Winters: I had a piano player who wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I thought they were hot.117 A Fine Romance Reed: Polygram has gone through so much recently – downsizing. called Pinky Winters. four-and-a-half. a genius. I loved listening to Frank Sinatra. You got turned on by which singers? Winters: My first influence was… oh. Thought she was just so special and so real. A wunderkind. Then I loved Judy Garland. Not too shabby. Reed: You took piano lessons. I listened to him on the radio. That was fun. My dad had a wind-up Victrola and I’d go down to the basement and listen to the Andrews Sisters. not an idiot savant… a prodigy to give your first concert after studying for just half a year. it was released in 1954. . Reed: You must have been. And I gave my first concert when I was five. As a kid I was crazy about him and got every record I could find by him in my small town.
Reed: So you’re fairly well-grounded in piano? Winters: I took for twelve years. I played some. Well [I knew] two times. So I did that. Winters: I didn’t know it at the time. That I wouldn’t do it right. But I enjoyed hanging out. going to the gig. Reed: Pinky Winters is a very good Ellis Island-style transliteration of that. I was horrified. but when I got my new name I found out later that criminals use their first initials when they got their aliases. I loved my teacher. There were these little gigs. I was just really dumb and young. it is. Reed: This was in high school? Winters: Yes. They had a band. I have a picture of me somewhere with my little feet sticking out. I didn’t enjoy it that much. but LaPorte [Indiana]. some classical things." Reed: Your real name is…? Winters: My real name is… Do you have to know? Reed: I know it’s something Polish. I was a good little girl who did what they told me to do. Reed: What was "terrible?" Winters: I just didn’t feel comfortable. you know. Reed: When did you know that you wanted to become a singer? Winters: I know exactly when it was. no. I didn’t have any confidence. I was scared of the whole thing. It’s Phyllis Wozniak. They were terrible. not in Michigan City. My mother would let me play with these older boys. They couldn’t find anybody who could read the stock arrangements… the Stan Kenton arrangements. Then one summertime I was playing with a small group at the local country club.118 A Fine Romance Winters: No. And we were playing . because my Indiana teacher said [in a deep voice] "You must playyyy with feeling. it is. I was adorable. Yes. I didn’t do badly and I played with feeling. Winters: Yes. So I was no different. I didn’t feel comfortable.
Then I found Ella! Well! Ella Sings Gershwin with Ellis Larkins. That was my thing. Too much. One time when I at Frank’s [Sinatra] when Lou was playing a party and I met Dinah. It was in their key and it was real low. 78s. I had heard something that wasn’t up to that level? Reed: Well there was Dinah that you listened to. Ella is a whole lot better than that. . I almost fainted. I sing "Is it a sin. So I said.” I didn’t know that Bird [Charlie Parker] was on there. We would always stop at the trombone players and he’d have… he said. Except those musicians. is it a crime?" And it was. But before I could do anything she came up to me and said. Winters: Well. instead. I just kept my little secret. I bought my first real album. I didn’t have any friends who liked that stuff.119 A Fine Romance and we had these chord books. Just chords. "You gotta hear this!" Fred Sherwood. There she was. "May I sing my chorus?" The song was “Guilty” – "Is it a sin." My god! You can do that! And I just went home walking on stars. We were standing there and this thing came on and it was Sarah Vaughan singing “Lover Man. And I didn’t want to tell her of my admiration for her. And so I’d play and one time I got in big trouble because I couldn’t take a solo. I’m a little shy but I know what I’m supposed to do when there’s a person standing there. I just thought. Sing! Then at the job with the big boys my mother would let me ride with the trumpet player. like I do?" Okay. I’ll never forget." And I said. It was really uplifting. I realized that was a cool way to do stuff. Too overwhelming. I was ashamed and embarrassed to tell them because… they were good but I didn’t think they’d understand. dear. What if I had never heard… What if. "Hello! I’m Dinah Shore. I met all those people when I grew up. "How do you do? I’m Pinky Winters. But having said that. And Fred put this record on. How lucky I was to just luck upon those things. "I’ve never heard anything like this in my life. but they were older and I didn’t hang out with them. Here comes my turn. I just couldn’t. Oh! That put me away. is it a crime loving you. And so. No melody. yeah." I thought is was a riot. So then when I was in high school I’d go to the dime store and they had records. From that time on… My family did not know of any ambitions that I had.
she was wonderful. Winters: Okay. Winters: Yech! I did. Isn’t that weird? I went whole hog for these other people. I can’t change my history.120 A Fine Romance because I had been so young. I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. If you could hear some of the weird stuff I used to sing you’d you’d probably say. So down to earth." I was fearless. Reed: So when you got out of high school you’re supposed to do something to make a living. I don’t feel like doing that. Reed: She looked great right up to the end. But she wouldn’t have cared. too. I didn’t want to make her feel like she was so old. "Check. Songbirds: But you’re not really an "out" singer like them. And did that for a couple of years. Reed: Just to backtrack for a minute: Lou [Levy] was Peggy Lee’s accompanist for a number of years. I worked in an office. because I was into Sarah and Ella. Reed: In Indiana? Winters: Michigan City. The only thing that made it okay was that my girlfriend and I… I also got her a job there. to use loose terminology. or…? Winters: I’m in a different place. Winters: Oh. . Songbirds: But you like Peggy Lee? Winters: Of course! But she was not an influence. I used to scat. You got to meet her. Songbirds: It comes through in your singing that you can do anything you want to do. I worked in a real weird place. Winters: I used to be "outer" than I am now. Was she an influence? Winters: Not really. I couldn’t help it. I know how to change the melody. Songbirds: Anymore. please.
but the piano player played okay. He was wearing these horn-rimmed glasses. it’s really Pinky Winters. "Well. Ooooh! here we are! Some guys were there and we were young and cute and impressionable and they said. Neither one of us had been anywhere. "Do you have a number where you might be reached sometime?" Well. . what will I be named? Pamela Wolf. When they came to ask me up there I sang a medley of my hits. "We gotta leave this town. “Perdido” – "woo-woowoo-woo. A Nash Rambler convertible. And I had the best car. We gotta go. "Do you want to go for a beer?" So we went to this place – my girlfriend and I went in our car – to this place and it was a strip joint." He said. We moved to Denver. Rims get it? I don’t remember the bass player. "Can my girlfriend sing?" And he said. but my roommate knew about it. There was a band and there wasn’t anybody dancing and my girlfriend went up to the drummer and said." I had just made my [stage] name up. It was called Dante’s Inferno. we went in my car to the state capitol and we looked at the capitol building and we were all just…. So we moved there and the first night we went out." We told our parents. "Why . I had been writing my name on pieces of paper. "Phyllis Wozniak. "What?" And she said. Perdidio" – whatever I’d learned off of Sarah’s records. "Oh. I’d found romance my first night in Denver. uh. So she told the guy so he wouldn’t think I was a dumb hick. a couple of days passed. What’s her name?" And she said. he was pretty cute. uh…? Reed: So this was the first time you had used the name publicly? Winters: Yeah. we started finding the want ads on the breakfast table as a hint. okay.121 A Fine Romance Songbirds: We have to get you out of Michigan City. Winters: My girlfriend and I said. Reed: Was it because Denver sounded hip? Winters: No! We knew a person who lived there. Shelly Rims. The piano player said. This is just not good. So we went back to our hosts. Maybe he likes me. Reed: Was it a good band? Winters: It was! The drummer was a black guy.
Jim Wolf. Reed: At what was. too. both Winters and Grove had miles to go and dues to pay. Do you know who that it is? Reed: Yeah! That’s who that was? Winters: It was Dick Grove! [Note: Aspiring songbird Phyllis Wozniak. Did the two of you come to Los Angeles at about the same time? Winters: Dick came first along with my husband to be. however. They took me into their group. I worked with Dick and the really good players in Denver. smart people… You know how you wanna have friends who always understand you and that like the same things that you like? It was like a miracle. Alice. in effect. . I did and I got his wife. He was a bass player. had just met up with a struggling jazz pianist who was destined to become one of the country’s foremost jazz educators. who played the accordion. And my roommate. My roommate and I got an apartment. He encouraged Dick. It was wonderful. the Rocky Mountains campus of the Dick Grove School of Music. you’ve got to come to Los Angeles. I was there a year-and-a-half. So I met Dick. Then. We hung out all the time. In 1973 he founded the Grove School of Music in Los Angeles and guided this highly regarded institution into the top rank of leading contemporary music schools.] Reed: Scuffling away in Denver as a young guy? Winters: Yeah! He was from Indiana. Reed: He’s a musician? Winters: He’s dead. I mean Pinky Winters. We could see the capitol dome from our living room. Dick had me come over and start taking piano lessons. too. Before that happened. But I sure didn’t know him from there. He worked with her at hotels in Denver.122 A Fine Romance don’t you guys get out of here?" Then I got a phone message to call this guy [the piano player from the strip joint]. They were a group of people who were pals. and he had a wife. Oh. So by the end of my first week in Denver I had one of Alice’s gigs. The streets are paved with gold… You’re going to be sorry if you don’t… You’ll be a star. It was Dick Grove.
That was a product of the deal that Bob Andrews had. Dick talked his wife into coming. He was a pretty good bass player. uh. He was a protege of Anita’s [O’Day]. Reed: Where was your first album. Pinky Winters. But I came anyway. . Reed: What was the first gig you had out here? Winters: Probably something awful. it was before that. He had a rehearsal band. Reed: What was Dick Grove doing at this point? Was he beginning to get established? Winters: I sort of started to remember when I went to that memorial service for him. He always had some deal going. He always still taught. blah. And he had me record with these people. Reed: With Jim Wolf? Winters: With Jim and some friends that he knew. He also wanted to write. ’53.] He worked with the King Family. blah. John Davidson. He was very sought after as a teacher. last year. Pete Jolly’s record. I worked around a little bit. in the South Bay area. I settled at Manhattan Beach. Reed: Who was the pianist? Winters: Bud Lavin. [Grove died the day after Christmas. done? Winters: In Hollywood. I divorced Jim and they [Dick and Alice] were my friends again. I’d heard that name before. But that just got to hard. Life was hard. I really wanted to stay in Denver. I don’t remember. I was having fun then. And I came soon after. We did some dates. Reed: That was nineteen. A lot of jazz musicians were always hanging out there. Just too hard. I was impressed. We had some place to come to. It was getting too weird. Shortly after that we did marry.123 A Fine Romance blah. He was staying with them then. ‘54. My first drummer on two of the dates was Stan Levey. I had a baby. before I knew what that was. It was Anita’s – kind of – gig. I couldn’t deal with it. He wrote “Little Bird” and that won a Grammy. I missed my friends. He had a record store called Recordsville. I worked in a club on Western Avenue called the Starlight. fifty-eight? Winters: No.
It lasted quite a long time. Bob Hardaway [whom Winters divorced in 1980] was on NBC on staff. [pause] Where was I? I didn’t work anytime for thirteen years. Anyway. Eighteen years. being on the road. Were you ever ambitious? Winters: No. I didn’t sing at all. We’d talk. we cooked a turkey yesterday. doubled in the staff orchestra at NBC under Irwin Kostal or Peter Matz or whoever it was. Eventually I married Bob Hardaway. I didn’t miss it. We had another child. I found out that I’m on her list of singers that she likes. I lived the good life as a very happy and grateful housewife. When I divorced [Jim Wolf] I had to make a living for my baby. I just couldn’t see… there was an unknown factor to need to think about getting gigs. She always says my name.124 A Fine Romance She was cute. Oboe. no. [Note: Shirley Horn essentially gave up. It was fine because . limiting her performing mostly to that locale. And I don’t really know why. You know Shirley’s [Horn] story. Reed: Were you singing during that period? Winters: That’s the funny part. I just hung out and got my office job thing going and raised my child and I had some weekend gigs of my own. DC with her husband and daughter. Life got in the way. And he’s appeared on lots of [other people’s] albums. He had a little album a long time ago. a burgeoning international career to remain in Washington. Terrific. She’d come in. He’s a record producer? Winters: No. Had my friends. He’s a friend. He adopted my daughter. Reed: Bob Hardaway. I was so happy not to have to go out and work and take care of all the details of child-raising on my own. you know. So I just. from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s. He was a saxophone player. It wasn’t like I was totally out of the loop.] Mine’s very similar. a good friend to me at this point. Reed: You don’t sound ambitious. We had a beautiful home in the Hollywood Hills. That’s what it involved: working in some dopey bar.
Reed: What was he doing there? Why did he come there? Winters: He came to hear me. I don’t know whether you have any idea how dumb some singers can be. red-faced and that’s the night Richard [Rodney Bennett] came and I met him. And it was semi-OK. the saxophone player. One night I was working with Bob Florence – do you know a place in Hollywood that used to be called Two Dollar Bill’s? It was on Franklin. Folks Who Live on the Hill with the verse. Reed: This was in the mid-1980s. So. I said. yeah. "Pick out five tunes and the keys that they’re in. What do I have to do?" He said. So I booked these gigs. Bob and I would do stuff. he could. You hadda bring your own. He scared me to death. So anyway. You better look into that. I started thinking. With the people or something. . it was cute. And I was all flustered. [Pianist/arranger] Bob Florence was always around." So I was a success at my little gig. Bob loved doing that. What led me back into the fray was a phone call from Lanny Morgan. We had parties at people’s houses. It was fun. I had a gig there with Bob Florence and he… brought his own. of course. "I don’t want to do the verse. I showed him my list of tunes and said can you do blah-blah and blah-blah. I showed up at the rehearsal and the piano player was Lou Levy." He said." I had no music. "You don’t have anything for next week. And. I kept my hand in it. ‘80. He was so off-putting and so hip. "Sure.125 A Fine Romance we had musical friends. But I certainly didn’t have a gig. I said." Reed: : You were still married? Winters: Oh. but he wasn’t happy with something that night. Reed: Like… a Wurlitzer? Winters: Yeah. Winters: No. who asked if I’d like to work with him at Donte’s. I just started working at various places again." [laughs] "Oooo-kayyy. fine. you know. A little dorky place that had no piano.
People on that list were special. figure out what he was doing. So he said. So I’m there and we’re talking. Sheila ." Winters: He probably had my record. I want to go hear her. Chris Connor. Reed: This was… 1985? Winters: Maybe even before that. Jackie and Roy. I know. DC journalist] Joel Siegel inviting me to be a member of his troupe. It’s for you." It was [Washington. I didn’t Reed: But he’s a peer of realm. He had been presented or something Reed: Oscar nominee… Winters: Oscar nominee. It came as a total surprise to me. you know. "I have your [Pinky Winters] album. It was very hot in there. and Shirley Horn… [Note: And a who’s who of jazz and jazz-related singers. I think you’re so wonderful. And I think the next time I saw him was. ‘82 I think. Anyway. Winters: Well. noooo. He was wearing a white shirt. And so I gotta go talk to this guy because he’s. And so I went and talked with him. It was fun to have him break the news to me this way. This was when I was in Richard’s apartment. I could hardly. Richard answered it: "Yes. I have an album and it shows what I can do." He said.126 Reed: He knew you? Winters: No! A Fine Romance Reed: He saw your name in the paper and said. The phone rang. but… he wasn’t quite then. there he was. he’s… a fan or something." Very shyly he said." Reed: You still didn’t know who he was? Winters: Well. You’re quite correct. Miss Pinky is here. at the end of our conversation. "Well. "I’ve just started singing and playing for myself. Tea time had just turned to cocktail hour. Margaret Whiting. This guy sittin’ there. He was right. "It’s not recorded very well. maybe – Oh! I know – The second time was in New York." So he mailed it to me. you know. "There’s a jazz singer.
Winters: He’s a guitar player. And Sinatra’s reaction was not. and several others appeared during the two-year run of this Great American Songwriters series at Washington." or "He was the greatest.A. Reed: I don’t know who that is. even. Blossom Dearie." Instead. Julie Wilson. Lou [Levy] came. But enough for him to know who I was. she told him that her father used to be his accompanist when Frank was still a scuffling singer in Jersey. not that much. Zip. Mark Murphy.] Reed: You’re doing the Bonaventure Brewery here in L. "He stank. You played there last year. there was no reaction at all. but enough. Bob Dorough. he tried to give her his gun for protection. Richard Rodney Bennett. I forgot to ask Winters an obvious question: Had . in October. Reed: Were you around Frank much? Winters: No. I worked with Ron Anthony. Reed: The "old man" being…? Winters: Frank Sinatra. Susannah McCorkle. Dave Frishberg. too." or "He was the best accompanist I ever had. Carol Fredette. I didn’t work with Lou. Not as many as would come on a nice evening." or "You’re keeping the flame alive. Later that evening when she left the Waldorf. "Hello!" Reed: Remind me sometime to tell you [singer] Nancy Marano’s fairly hilarious stories about the time she finally met her childhood idol. unaccompanied." or. Rose Murphy. Sandra King." or "How interesting. Carol Sloane. He worked with the old man. It’s fairly long and complicated but the punchline is simply that. [Note: In the chaos of the laughter that followed. Did you have a good crowd? Winters: It was windy and cold. And enough for Barbara [Sinatra] to say. after they’d been talking for several hours." or "How is he?. Nada." or "Send him my love. Ronny Whyte. DC’s Corcoran Gallery. Buddy Barnes. Frank Sinatra.127 A Fine Romance Jordan. "Small world.
I guess that’s a really dumb thing to say but it’s true. Reed: That’s great. "No. I hope you find that person. They’re fabulous. I have my life. I don’t know how to do it. I need a keeper. busy with family once in a while. ______________________________ At which point. she just released an album with the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra. please." "Can I get you anything?" Reed: Speaking of Nancy Marano. you should sit over here. though? Winters: A guy who runs a jazz festival here told me that he saw on the Internet that ours will be out in November. Won’t somebody. Pinky with her doggy bag. my little part time job." "Are you comfortable?. didn’t you? Several years ago? Winters: I did five tracks and Lou did five. It’s not laziness. and I with memories (and a MiniDisc recording) of a pleasant afternoon spent chatting with one of the greatest living and swinging exponents of American Popular Song. get this woman a record contract and her own TV talk show? . Winters: Not really. Reed: Do you want to? Winters: I’d like to work a little bit more. I need somebody to push and shove me to get it together. we took our leave. You did an album with them. Reed: You don’t work that much. Reed: For all our sakes. yeah. happy with friends that I have. too. Winters: They’re [the Metropole] just special. It’s just that. Reed: They’re going to release it.128 Sinatra ever heard her sing?] A Fine Romance Winters: He was always.
I hasten to add that she meant this strictly and sweetly in jest. and I was to be the producer. she phoned to tell me that her longtime longtime Lou Levy had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and hospitalized. As noted. and we were off to the races with a new Pinky Winters CD to be produced by (gulp) me. the resultant 2001 CD (Rain Sometimes) came to pass. she and Bennett.. Two days later. though. and during that time the three of us became friends. in truth) that I surely had started out with an undeservedly first class assemblage of artists. Winters once remarked that for a first time record producer (something I had always wanted to do. it was my first meeting with Winters. she couldn't have been righter! . Lou died. there were a Russian novel's worth of ups and downs connected with the project. in fact.e. But. ended up pointing my life down an entirely new professional highway.-a first time outing for me wearing that particular chapeau. pianist-composer Richard Rodney Bennett (make that SIR (!) Richard Rodney Bennett) offered to “sit in” for Lou.129 POSTSCRIPT A Fine Romance This interview took place in 2000. with my going out to their North Hollywood domicile once a week for a session of Lou-sitting while Pinky took a break. i. but when it was all over. The three of us even began planning a new Pinky-Lou CD. After the smoke cleared. But before the project got off the ground. Lou lived for a year longer. Finally.
He went to Monroe High School in Rochester. and also served in the army. who should have known. but only recently became curious about him. You'd have thought with five LPs plus. and a (at least) 15 year nightclub career. There was next to nothing on the internet. but told me she'd never heard of Prophet. trying to track this guy down . Harolds) and the Playboy Club circuit. but was not released by them. Singer Kay Starr also sang with Venuti's band around the same time. most had never even HEARD of him. somebody would know something.130 JOHNNY PROPHET A Fine Romance I've owned and enjoyed singer Johnny Prophet's five albums for years. His LP with Axel Stordahl was released just prior to the sale of the label to Warners. My sense is that the total cost in today's money of these "first cabin" LP outings is in excess . . The "Live at Harolds" album. arranged by Ralph Carmichael was clearly packaged and meant to be his second LP for Reprise. including Vegas-Reno (Sands. It isn't just that they didn't know what happened to him. except that his real name is John Profeta. then he was let go in the wake of the Warners deal. In the mid-forties he sang with the big band of famed violinist Joe Venuti. Sahara. NY and graduated from there circa 1940. but no luck. He also attended that city's famous Eastman School of Music where he studied trumpet. Little by little I was able to cobble together an outline of his story: he was signed by Reprise in 1963. To try and assuage my curiosity I contacted over fifty individuals. Prophet albums arranged by Don Ralke. Gordon Jenkins and (another) Carmichael albums were recorded and released over the next ten years on Prophet's little homegrown label to be sold in clubs.
That's pre-Sinatra! Prophet also sang with Joe Venuti's band in 1945-46.131 A Fine Romance of a hundred thousand dollars. they're only a little hokey. I didn’t mind most of the above Carmichael tracks." used on a movie soundtrack with the track recorded in London with sixty players. A friend saw Prophet perform in Vegas in the mid-1960s. The same individual also assured me that in the early Sixties there was major buzz in the air about Prophet. There were also a few scattered 1950s singles. Like a bad commercial Dean Martin album. Nancy Sinatra plays him on the radio and then asks listeners to tell her who he is. At Harolds Club . Thirty years in fairly high profile showbiz. according to arranger Stu Phillips. Earl Palmer. but no one has." with Al Viola!. I secured the session records from the AFM for the Ralke album. My guess is that Prophet signed a five-record deal with Reprise which then paid for the recording of the other LPs after he was let go. Says he perfectly produced the big muscle voice "sound. In fact. Plas Johnson. who is described on the back of the album as Martin "protege" Prophet's discoverer. but that the big career predicted for him never materialized. et al. i. Prophet would be somewhere in his mid-eighties.” If alive today.” “I'm Always Chasing Rainbows.e. There's also a pic of them together in front of the Sands marquee. There were also three Reprise Repertory Kiss Me Kate tracks (one with Dinah Shore). But the ones on the following Harolds LP are nearly unlistenable. . There are three surviving airchecks of him singing with Joe Venuti's band in 1945-46: “Laura. and vanished without a trace. although the singing is fine. Lincoln Mayorga. The Social Security death index does not appear to list his passing. and the players are simply the best to be had.” “Personality. There is clearly a Sinatra connection here. a radio transcription "The Navy Swings. no doubt because of his Reprise association. Dennis Budimir. Reno wasn’t a live album but packaged to look like one. including one in 1952 arranged by Nelson Riddle on Coral. and a single "How to Seduce a Woman." but was an unexciting live performer.
as of 2008. She was happy to inform me that.132 POSTSCRIPT A Fine Romance [Six months later] I finally found him! Someone saw one of my blog postings about Johnny Prophet and put me in touch with his daughter. Melissa. ("Who WAS that masked man?") . a show biz manager. Johnny Prophet is alive and well. comfortably retired and living in Southern California. still pops into some little desert intime boite and lets go with a song or two. Walks seven miles a day and from time-to-time. unannounced.
No one ever entoned a melody closer to the way the writer wrote it (and most likely wanted it to be sung) than she did. 1932 (her brother. she still managed to rock out with the best of the Ellas. musician Roy Kral. she eventually branched out and spent nine months on the road with Maynard Ferguson’s big band in 1957. it’s the late Irene Kral. there really is such a thing as SWING. Illinois on January 18. Kral came into the world in Chicago. Perhaps. Kral.133 IRENE KRAL A Fine Romance Liner note’s for reissue of Kral’s “Wonderful Life”A persistent and prevailing belief afoot in the land has it that unless a designated jazz singer either scats or takes massive liberties with the melody or better yet both. And yet! Even with oft-minimal accompaniment. Singing around the musically fertile territory of her home town as a teenager. Bettys and Sarahs. they aren’t the real deal. One of her earliest appearances on record was with that outfit on the album Boy With Lots of Brass. And before you knew it. Next came a stint with the Boston-based Herb Pomeroy band. and singing sometimes just above a whisper. to paraphrase jazz essayist Whitney Balliett on the subject of Blossom Dearie. And if “Doctor” Burroughs--who should know---is correct. even managing to . could barely be heard from the second story of a doll’s house. was born in ‘21). And as for volume. then Kral surely must qualify as a swinger of the first order. what with her pristine pitch and genial and immediately recognizable “sound. But if ever there was a singer who disproved those mistaken notions. as singer Clark Burroughs of the legendary vocal group The Hi-Lo’s insists. a quality that can actually be isolated scientifically.” she began gaining the respect not just of vocal jazz cognoscenti but her professional peers as well.
Usually. as exemplified by back-to-back Grammy nominations for her two minimalist album masterpieces.134 A Fine Romance earn accolades to match those of older brother Roy Kral of the esteemed jazz vocal outfit of Jackie and Roy. including the singer‘s accompanists. that such immediate critical acceptance. Where is Love? and Kral Space made with introspective jazz pianist Alan Broadbent. I accompanied her many times as I've done for other singers. Kral was one of them. only a handful were left standing Mercifully. and she was firmly in command. she definitely led you and you followed. such as this Wonderful Life." The problem was. Not bad for a singer almost no one had ever heard of ----”Irene who?”--. With Irene. Upon the release of Where is . Through it all. all those paid dues began to result in bigtime returns. Recalls singer-songwriter-pianist Dave Frishberg. Sometimes hanging on for dear life. tended to respect rather than resent Kral’s insistence on marching to her own musical drummer.and just kept plugging away. Finally. of course. circa 1974. But of the many hopefuls who began their careers around this time--several hundred of whom. she managed to maintain a career cobbled together from occasional recordings every couple of years or so. after the tsunami of rock and roll had washed most of them away to heaven knows where. She knew exactly what she wanted. When Irene Kral began singing professionally in the late 1940s. no longer necessarily translated into long term commercial success. even managed to have recorded exactly one (!) LP--by the early 1960s. Fellow musicians. according to most reports. and with club dates mostly in the Southern California area where she lived with her husband and two daughters. "Irene had a definite direction in her singing. the woods were full of Frank and Ella wannabes. when you accompany a singer. by dint of great talent matched by an equal gift of steely determination. the singer maintained her sense of humor about this state of affairs.with albums released on unspeakably small labels (it took the independent producers of the first disc two years to find a home or it). by my calculations. . there are times when the piano player can lead the singer into different directions. . thanks to a mid-century sea change in popular music tastes.
and Ruth Batchelor. Unfortunately the singer’s seeming third act triumph with her two 70s hit LPs had a down side. even though at this late date she most likely knew her days were numbered.A. so perfect her control of it. Suddenly. is a mixed bag. guitarist Dennis Budimir. such as novelist Nelson Algren (of all people).” originally on the mini-major Mainstream label.” Still there’s nothing wrong with trying to sell a few records. and percussionist Emil Richards. and two on United Artists. By the time Kral recorded Where is Love?. offered that “So clean and clear is her voice. A few seconds later I heard the scrrrrratch . I could hear her not-so-angelically admonishing the responsible culprits backstage. Bob Dorough. A somewhat unprofessional thing to do.. Gene Lees. in the summer of ‘78. . and so direct her communication and unmannered her style that the album is classical in its purity. she was already two years on into a struggle with Cancer. system before she came on.” And large numbers of others reviewers felt similarly. Only Wolf and Landesman‘s “There are Days When I Don’t Think of You at All” was recorded by Kral (later and) elsewhere. . I saw Kral perform at the Hong Kong Bar in L. Some tracks. Wonderful Life was the singer’s fourth full album.135 A Fine Romance Love?. such as “Mad at the World” and “Hold Your Head High. It was a weekday. are only. And what would a Kralbum be without songwriting contributions from her longtime cohorts Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman? Herein there are a full five with either the twosome writing in tandem or with others. from where we were seated. rock-oriented writers Randy Newman and Jackie DeShannon. The management had been playing her recordings on the p. so literate the presentation of lyrics. so musical her instinct. “Life. late afternoon set. this was not Kral’s first record all her own. especially when the players and arrangers on the recording are of the inarguable high caliber of pianist Russ Freeman. following a release on Fred Astaire’s Ava label.“ the latter written by no less than fledgling. as they say “close enough for jazz. However. writing in High Fidelity.a.
A. Shelly Manne. both Kral and the also late. including Al Jarreau. Alas. such as this “Wonderful” session . bandleader Bill Holman and. Bill Henderson. It’s not often that a respected-by-her-peers musical lily of the field such as Irene Kral obtains to a wider degree of recognition than that of insider status. Two decades afterward. Carmen McRae. But five minutes later she hit the ground running and turned in a spectacular set to the assembled full house. Jackie Cain and Roy Kral. received far more attention than they had ever know while alive. Then all was silence. music community.a. Most everyone in the L. At the memorial service after her death. incident---finally lost her life to the disease a scant three weeks later. However. as illustrated by the continuing reissue of her recordings. Kral---a solid pro to her finals days. witness the p. based on the high energy and professionalism and the forcefulness with which she had complained about the sound system. . of course. I thought that perhaps there might have been a reversal in the state of her health. Fortunately that’s just what she managed to do before her death in 1978 at the obscenely early age of 46. including myself. So much so that in 1995 Clint Eastwood (a fan) utilized her recording as a part of his The Bridges of Madison County. great singer Johnny Hartman. As a result. the list of more than 500 attendees included a who’s who of jazz. also heard there. Jack Sheldon.136 A Fine Romance of the tone arm being removed from the turntable. believed to be in remission. had heard dire rumors that the Cancer that eventually killed her. had returned. Irene Kral continues to occupy a very special place in the vocal jazz Pantheon.
and in 1995 she was given a suspended sentence by French magistrates for firing an air-rifle at "too noisy" boys playing in the swimming pool of a neighboring villa. Nina Simone was the ongoing stuff of tabloid headlines almost from the beginning of her sudden ascendancy to stardom in 1958. It was reported in 1988. . after dismayingly brief performances. Simone was especially infamous for canceling shows at the last moment. till the day she died. that she had closed a business meeting by pulling a knife. Porgy" from Porgy and Bess that propelled her to stardom. Switzerland. . show business and racism she left the U. The Netherlands and finally the South of France. Take away all of the storm and sensationalism. Generally disgusted with record companies.S. 2003 at age 70. in 1974 for Barbados. pop and gospel singer all rolled into one. blues. and what remains is still one of the most daringly innovative artists of her generation. During the following years she lived in Liberia. Simone was a jazz singer-pianist. rock. folk. It was the music of the American stage and her haunting recording of Dubose Heyward George and Ira Gershwin's "I Loves You. where the '95 shooting incident occurred .and where she died on April 21. Paris. .137 NINA SIMONE A Fine Romance This first appeared in the June 2004 issue of Record Collectors' (Japan). R&B. for example. without satisfaction. or else leaving audiences wildly applauding for encores. though.
she charted Top Five in England with "My Baby Just Cares for Me" after the song was used in a Chanel television commercial. then. in 1987. so when you listen to that Bethlehem album you're hearing the songs played as they were at the Midtown Bar. Simone's one-album stay with Bethlehem was not a pleasant one for her. 1958's Little Girl Blue (Jazz as Played in An Exclusive Side Street Club). Little Girl Blue established the ground rules for the musical eclecticism that would become a Simone trademark Its twelve tracks cover nearly the entire stylistic waterfront of American secular music: jazz (most notably Tadd Dameron's bop anthem "Good Bait"). Simone subtly shifts the mood of the song from one of lamentation to optimism. He met Simone when she was just getting her start in New York and they shared billing at a small club: "I thought she was fascinating. folk. Nearly all were suffused to some degree or other with stylistic flourishes drawn from the Baroque songbook. Or. Little Girl Blue was significant for two other reasons: it marked the beginning of the singer's career-long war with the recording industry. She writes in her autobiography. published in 1991: "I went into the studio and recorded my songs exactly as I always played them." Simone's premiere album was also the source of her last and only other major singles hit when in. From the start. Singer-pianist Charlie Cochran remembers the singer he befriended and worked alongside. " recorded for a Bethlehem small east coast jazz label. in the mid-l 950s prior to the '58 Bethlehem recording.138 A Fine Romance The song was drawn from her first album.S.of-left-field. there has seldom been a hit from farther out. I Put a Spell on You. pop. Top Ten records. most notably Johann Sebastian Bach. it was obvious that we were not just in the presence of a first rate singer-pianist but actress as well. blues. Taken at a stately largo pace. In the history of U. In addition. Yet the tempo of the song never changes. a slower or lengthier one. over the course of its uncommon (for a doughnut of that era) 4:05 running time. not so much as a great musician but a terrifically mesmerizing .
I was her only listener and she.S. natch. Simone's singing was unique and unmistakable: She had one of the most astonishing voices in postwar American music -. intense. sales charts. . no cover. When she took her first such job in the Spring of 1954.at its deepest. . " From the beginning. Even at the time of her first recording. and since I hadn't played any popular music before. yet teasing. watered-down drinks. yet it was unmistakably feminine. She had been singing and playing around the East Coast for several years to no particular effect when the recording offer came. . was suddenly near the top of the U. because the room was a bomb. it wouldn't make any difference. mine." By this time 25-year-old Simone probably felt she had nothing left to lose.S. but tender. She sounded like no one else! Simone couldn't help but be surprised when music that she had been playing for several years to half-attentive drunks in near-dives and joints along the East Coast of the U.Sometimes. We made about $125 each per week. I had to incorporate jazz and classical motifs into what I was doing . . She would sing just as movingly to one person as to 100. . she could almost be taken for male. Simone called all the shots: "I told the owner [of Bethlehem] I wasn't interested in playing any of his songs and that if I was going to make an album I'd chose the material myself and pick the musicians I wanted to support me. and no minimum." Simone couldn't help but be surprised. she wrote in "Spell": “At moment I had never been into a bar in my life. shot through with a sexuality that was straightforward. Lousy.139 A Fine Romance show woman. according to I Put a Spell on You. I didn't start singing until the manager of the bar told me that just playing wasn't good enough. If there was no one there. then. when music that she had been playing for some time to half-attentive drunks in near-dives and joints . ." Simone recalled those years in her autobiography: "Because I was hired to play the piano for forty-five minutes out of each hour for six hours a night.
a genuine musical prodigy. She was turned down by Curtis in 1950. Almost immediately the citizens of Tryon began a fund that would support Simone's musical education from local training all the way to studying in her late teens at New York's world famous Julliard School of Music. suffered greatly during the Depression. After a year there. "God Be With You" in the key of F. Eventually she would change her name to stop her highly religious family from leaning that she was playing jazz. not good enough. as with so many other great black American musicians. Like most of America---black and white---the Waymons. that Simone was no mere clever child. that is where Simone began to attain a solid grounding in music. i. She was so surprised she almost died on the spot. however. economic Depression. a close-knit family of eight overseen by caring and devoted parents.e. "the devil's music" in places where alcohol was being served. Simone's father was an industrious blue collar worker. It marked the beginning of several .S." It was soon understood. She recalled in her autobiography that when she was two-and. but instead. her mother was a minister of the church.140 A Fine Romance was suddenly near the top of the U. they claimed. North Carolina in 1933 at the height of the U. Simone's aim was to become the first African-American female classical pianist (that is where all the Bachian quotes come from in her piano playing). sales charts. however. A near lifetime of dreams dismantled with the stroke of a pen! Simone would always believe that the real reason was because she was black. and few are the press interviews with her that fail to allude to the incident. who was ultimately thwarted by the economic hard times and ill health. Simone was born Eunice Waymon in the small town of Tryon.S. And. plans were for her to continue her studies at the prestigious Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.a-half: "Momma came into the living room and heard me playing one of her favorite hymns.
S. you'd have thought this would have mellowed her out a bit.S. Apparently not. Civil Rights "anthems". Nina liked him a lot for a white man (Jewish at that) and seriously told him that when the deal came down she was going to see to it that he was the one white man on the planet NOT destroyed. '68). what some called. 59). Both are now ." George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" and Brecht-Weill. Little Girl Blue is. All the while. during which she became much more politically engaged than before. protest music. Her last album was 1993's A Single Woman. After four black children were killed in the bombing of a church in Birmingham in 1963. being able to dump your anger on total strangers and make them pay for it strikes me as the perfect plan. and playing in clubs. Daryl Hall." and "The Backlash Blues. And over the next decade. Simone wrote "Mississippi Goddam. the "soundtrack" of the exploding Civil Rights movement. Jim Webb et al. Gifted and Black. Other key releases include: Nina at Town Hall (rec. Nina Simone and Piano (rec. The Beatles. as before. in fact. consisting of such diverse "ingredients" as: Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne. including "Four Women" and "To Be Young. Jacques Brel." Bob Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. never quite measured up to it in consistency.141 A Fine Romance "lost" years during which she mainly supported herself by teaching. after the first. arguably. '64). After winning a huge settlement from record bootleggers. Some people wonder why Simone---so seemingly bitter and angry with her audience ----would even want to be a performer. Nina Simone in Concert (rec. Randy Newman. Janis Ian." So many. along with a healthy sprinkling of her own compositions." considered a landmark of U. still the overall body of her 41-entries (not counting reissues) catalog contains many examples of enduring art. But even if it is true that subsequent albums. there followed a series of series of great U. My friend Nat Shapiro used to be her press agent. a coherent masterwork that she never quite topped throughout the remainder of her career." The Bee Gee's "To Love Somebody. that her music came to be. Leonard Bernstein. she continued successfully whipping up her usual eclectic musical stew. Seems simple enough to me.
"isn't life about evolving and changing?” "Not for me. Simone replied: "I want to be remembered as a diva from beginning to end who never compromised in what she felt about racism and how the world should be. and who to the end of her days consistently stayed the same." asked the reporter. And Simone’s race war has still not yet come to pass. Nat died in 1983.142 A Fine Romance gone." she cryptically replied. . Simone in 2003." "But. When asked not long before her death how she would like to be remembered.
143 A Fine Romance PART TWO ONE SHOT WONDERS .
I did my best to track down the whereabouts or the outcome of these singers. I have now collected a list nearly 300singers-long who fall into that category. but in a couple of instances they seem to have just fallen off the edge of the earth. is that they were uncommonly talented.144 A Fine Romance INTRODUCTION The one thing that every one of the singers in this chapter have in common is that they recorded only one album bearing their name. This was the time when rock music was coming along and beginning to commercially blow every other kind of recorded music out of the water. for the most part they were able to maintain careers as recording artists. But it was all to no avail. . Most continued to perform---many on the Holiday Inn and Playboy Club circuits---or teach music. as well. There was simply no room for peaceful mutual co-existence. but for a great number of others just beginning to come along during this period it was over almost as soon as it began. If an artist like Peggy Lee or Frank Sinatra was established by this time. and mostly between 1955 and 1965. but some gave up music altogether. The one thing that nearly all have in common.
In my late teens in the early 1960s I was one of those eastward bound refugees.145 BILL BLACK – PART ONE A Fine Romance Part one is drawn from several posts that appeared in 2004 on my blog. and his band were ofttimes forward looking bop numbers like "Lemon Drop" and "Calling Dr.com There was a time---one has only to read novelist Dawn Powell for confirmation---when migrating to New York City." Bill then proceeded to try and build up a head of show biz steam under his new moniker. was the dream of nearly every mid-western youth who wished to kick over the traces. Working there as a desk clerk. a former Gene Krupa vocalist. unlike the great Buddy Stewart who . Gillespie.S. he was about fifteen years my senior. and returned to the U. My second day staying at the de rigeur "Y" I made my first New York friend.blogspot. For reasons never made clear to me---he muttered something about "tax problems"---he had fled to Canada a few years earlier in the mid-1950s. drummer Krupa. as "Clay Mundey. In fact. and NOT Los Angeles. Then. circa '48-'50. the instrumentals being purveyed by swing era vet. Years later I looked up his recording credits with Krupa. but never quite made it. that seems a bit extreme. As for tax problems being the reason for his hasty expatriation and change of nom du vocal. Other possibilities that leap to mind include those timeless ones of sex and drugs." But. Bill Black. people-vsdrchilledair. didn't make it at all.
I think I can recall exactly one singing gig he had---which I did not attend--somewhere in the wilds of Jersey. ." Black also told me. I was simply too dumb to realize what an extraordinary "find" Bill Black was. At age 22. . . .146 A Fine Romance was Black’s almost immediate "boy singer" predecessor with Krupa. He would go on and on about Judy and Mel and Lana and Lee (Liberace). bassist Eddie Safranski (now deceased).Liberace! Even at this young stage in my life I knew that the heights that my new friend had fallen from were not exactly lofty ones.except for one thing. from the somewhat old days. Fortunately.from the outside. . In his teens. that he had a bit part in the 1946 sarong epic. and Jimmy (Dean) and Dennis (Hopper) et al. working at the 63rd Street branch of the YMCA. still I was perversely impressed: I was only nineteen and already knew what rock bottom looked like. and had been kept by a series of older women." Clearly he had been deputized to be thrown to the lions of Hit Parade commercialism. and was still close friends with musician. For a long time I didn't know much about his pre-Krupa activities. he told me. Desperate times---the last gasp of the big band era---called for desperate measures. Early on . It was all true. I later came to believe. though I don't quite understand how this fits in with his chronology as I later came to understand it. air checks of him with the band at this juncture consists of far better repertoire: "Say it Isn't So" and "Don't Cry Joe" etc. he had been a gigolo. and played bridge with him and a couple of other cronies nearly every Friday night. and the good old days in a kind of Norma Desmondish soliloquy and I would not even bother to ascertain whether it was false or true. The titles of one of them says it all: "Bambina Mia. and who got to cut several classic bop vocal exercises. There was also a 1949 UniversalInternational short subject in which he sang "Deep Purple. South Sea Sinner starring Shelley Winters and. he been saddled almost exclusively with standard issue pop drivel. . Thus conjuring up a kind of bop version of Sunset Boulevard. I also remember that he worked part-time as a stand-in on TV game show rehearsals. Now it was the early sixties and he was down on his uppers.
Somewhere along the way in the late fifties. Black had recorded a quite tasty jazz album with. He could have been referring to any one of three well-known West Coast guitarists---Barney Kessel. went unreleased. Recently [this was in 2004]. He was only 23 when the Krupa disbanded for good in 1950. in 1927. Haymes and Como. then became sort of a fixture at the Chase. which reeks of intime San Fernando Valley jazz club at 1 a. Louis. so what happened? Tax problems? Well. "I don't know how to do that. Illinois. "His older brother has a fine reputation as a bass player in St. he said. "His mother and father were both very musical. He finally quit the Chase so that he could take secondary roles with the St. and sometimes as an MC.147 A Fine Romance in the game. Then he set out for New York----eventually to Krupa. Louis. Simon wrote an article about Bill. where he would make the rounds of the various entertainment rooms as a singer. cira '55. He started working professionally at an early age.. as he informed me "the same guitarist who accompanied Julie London. ever since he saw his first vaudeville show in his native Granite City. In the 1949 Down Beat readers' poll." he replied. . . Louis. only a year after aligning himself with Krupa." Simon wrote. which is just outside St. Bill has always wanted to sing and act. filling in some of his background. Al Viola and . Sinatra.m. the hyphenate of studmuffin hustler-crooner is perhaps not all that unusual. sang with bands. a town just north of St. he was so naive he insisted to me that he didn't even know what the word meant. when one of them requested that Bill "Fuck" her." The disc. I came across the November 1948 of Metronome Magazine in which the influential big band critic George T. Louis Civic Light Opera Company and thereby gain requisite stage experience. he comes in fourth just behind Johnny Hartman and one notch ahead of Buddy Greco." Simon went on to predict that Bill would become the next big singer. Perhaps.maybe. in the lineage of Crosby. in Granite City. including the fact that he was born.
and it's a lovely thing. The same thing could be said about the "deserted and depressed" protagonist of Cole Porter's deceptively jaunty "Down in the Depths on the 90th Floor. even the uptempo numbers. That is how Black identified them. There are places where a breath could conceivably be taken and not interrupt the flow of the song. though to my ears. the guitarist could very well be Roberts. non-fussy singing. but rather. tend to be laments of faded love. with the newer (?) "Listen Little Boy" the lone exception to the down-with-love note struck therein. "you live. and everything in between is filler. though he might have said that just to impress me. And if it isn't the real thing. you die. in the immortal word's of TV's Lou Grant. but he chooses not to. still it's close enough for jazz. On “So It’s . [This was the album eventually released in 2005 on SSJ Records. *** The most distinctive aspect of Black's style is his breath control. Tommy Wolf's "So It's Spring" swings like mad.148 A Fine Romance Howard Roberts---who backed the singer on her three rightfully famous guitar and bass duo recordings from the 1950s. He seems to have partaken of some of the same circular breathing techniques as Sinatra. but a closer listen to the lyrics reveal a narrator who has clearly has had it up to here with l'amour. either by chance or design. "Gloomy Sunday" (1936). and "Where Are You?" (1936). Of slightly older and newer genesis are: "I'll Never Be the Same" (1932) "Nobody's Heart" (1942). Like the California minimalist Julie London classic.] His singing on the album is a model of straight-forward." "Gloomy Sunday" is even bluer. My attempts to name the players have proved fruitless. One other thing the songs have in common is that. Most of the titles were penned in 1935. "Down in the Depths on the 90th Floor" (1936). In 1962 he gave me an acetate copy of the recording. Black's disc features the guitar-bass configuration. Somehow I managed to hang onto it. give or take a year: "Blame It on My Youth" (1934). for the instrumental playing on the album nudges it mightily in that direction. The message here is also not exactly one of clear skies and green lights.
just a few steps off the Bowery. I found this pretty hot stuff. But also surreal. After drinking. which used to bug Bill a lot. the phone rang. in a scene eerily prefiguring a similar one in Annie Hall. "I like [highly lauded but under-acknowledged band singer] David Allyn. . Once in his Little Italy apartment. He didn't care much for her. at age nineteen. When I donned my Nancy Drew chapeau to try and track down facts about Clay Mundey ---that I had either forgot or never knew in the first place---the first source I turned to was musician . I realize now that if I had said. Needless to say. and it amazes me that my terminally alcoholic friend lasted that long. .” he cunningly rushes the beat in several places. All I knew or really cared about was singer Chris Connor. Bill. Bill kept banging the poor suffering thing with a mallet---forty years later I can still hear the "screaming" sound it made--while I answered the call. and a bit uneducated as far as singers go. I eventually learned---I’d long since lost touch with him---died in the late 1980s. Characters drawn from the pen of Nelson Algren have nothing on this former big band singer. When I first met Bill. A back ward beta alcoholic running amuck in the Apple trying hopelessly to reverse a performing career out of what was clearly an irreversible skid. sort of--. A bit hard to grasp that this was the past history of someone now living in a rent-controlled dump of a New York City flat. Later that evening.149 A Fine Romance Spring. up. The person who found the body reports that he died clutching a vodka bottle. A real Hollywood moom pitcher star---well. It was blonde bombshell Marilyn Maxwell for Bill. thus making one long line where once there were two. his two big pastimes were those genteel ones of bridge and crossword puzzles. the thing refused to die and just then. I was in my early twenties." his eyes would probably have lit. he showed me photos of Lana Turner and himself in a backyard in some far-off glamorous somewhere grilling hot dogs. we were boiling lobster. Clearly an inspiration. seemingly skipping a breath.on the other end of the line. I had given up on him in the mid1970s because of the drinking.
nothing. I reasoned that if anyone remembered Bill or Bill (or whatever name was he going by then?) it would be the still-active Cavanuagh." Certainly." Finally at the very end of my. Only Mary Wolf. Betty Bennett. But. Gene DePaul are one of my favorite songwriting teams. "The House of Blue Lights. the news was not good. et al) and songwriters like Fran Landesman. got a call from Page. A Fine Romance For those old enough to remember. Unfortunately he was not able to get back to me at once. . and eventually got around to asking him about Bill aka Bill. . other club performers of the era (Ruth Olay. finally getting back to you . The very next day." Don Raye. that is deserving of some sort of musico-philological immortality. along with his partner. He remembers him from the 50s as a very good singer. unsuccessful detective work I DID hear from Page Cavanaugh. and it didn't ring an immediate bell." Oh. They also wrote one of . Cavanaugh (he died in 2008). Mark wrote me again: "Bill. well. and said he'd call if the light bulb went off. . by-and-large.150 Page Cavanaugh. Bill. though. A songwriter named Don Raye was trying to help him. had been able to help me a bit with the unexpected information about the song "Listen Little Boy. I received an e-mail as follows: "Hi. . They used the word "homie" (in its present day usage) in a 1946 song.I called Page today.. along with composerperformer Matt Dennis. In the interim I turned to a number of other people who might/should have some knowledge. Through an intermediary. Tommy's widow. and the light bulb went off. he wrote it down. including cohorts from Bill's Krupa days (I never heard back from the few still standing). Apparently I had butted my head up against yet another brick wall. Anyway. and Lew ("Nice and Easy") Spence. But. co-defined the world of hip Hollywood night life of the 1950s.
"does not necessarily mix well with alcoholism. wanted to be 'big time'." I used to tease Bill about how vertiginous a spill he'd taken professionally." It was good to know that my initial impulse about contacting Cavanaugh had been spot on. 5 By 5": "He's one of those big fat bouncing boys. Be still my heart! The team also wrote most of the great. which was written for Ethel Waters. the bands. I rang him up." (the last syllable sung as "poys" to rhyme with "boys")." When I informed him that only a few years later Bill had ended up as a desk clerk at the NYC "Y. . He did posit the wellobserved notion that "being full of one's self'. are no longer living. and Raye. Apparently Bill used to sing it." his incredulity was telephonically palpable. Whenever he introduced me to a friend for the first time it was always as. Sunset Boulevard---"It's not the singers that have gotten small. "I'll Remember April. Cavanaugh recalled Bill really a wonderful singer. hip jump classics of the Forties. which he felt Bill to be. "This is the kid I was telling you about who said I was the only person he'd ever met who'd been a has-been .151 A Fine Romance my favorite couplets in all of pop music in the song "Mr. and I would play for him and he would sing." DePaul. "was running across a song called 'Lonesome Walls'. The singer-pianist was at pains to clarify that Bill was not noxiously egomanical. the latter my one sure link to the Mundey mystery. but rather just had "an attitude. . Mark supplied me with Page's phone number. "What jogged Page's memory. a la "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and. it's the bands. with Benny Carter. But he almost always laughed."---but he was sympathetic and understanding about my investigational white whale." Mark added in his second e-mail." Perhaps in the vein of ---again. We spoke for a while and he wasn't able to add much more than was contained in the second e-mail---"Bill would occasionally come over to the house with Don Raye. "Cow Cow Boogie" and in a a rare moment of contemplative quietude. but had a kind of "strange attitude.solid avoirdupois.
It is hard to know what Bill did to rub the "the boys" the wrong way. Black was beaten up by the ubiquitous “mob” and left by a Southern California roadside to die. or laughed (that was his snarky style) in the wrong person's face. One phoned me in the morning and the other. in 1950. they just killed your career.PART TWO (in which it gets curiouser and curiouser) In 2004 I sent a copy of it to a friend in Japan as a gift and the next thing you knew SSJ Records wanted to release it. But it isn’t known whether any songs were ever recorded. I re-doubled my efforts to find out exactly how it was that Bill Black had taken such a precipitous fall from show biz grace. the exact same story about how. the other in Florida. One lived in New York City. For certain. Norm remained Bill's friend up till the time of his death. Not much wiser about Bill Black than I was after reading George Simon’s 1949 profile of him in early 2005. I had been stalking both of them for nearly a year with emails. Both told me. none were released. if you refused their unrefusable offer of management by proxy. Black’s pals put the lie to his story “tax problems” story for once and all time. cosmically/coincidentally. That's nearly forty years! He remembers another unreleased album that Bill cut. and spent a year in Palm Springs recuperating. Usually. but he can't quite recall the more important details. Neither knew the other." A Fine Romance BILL BLACK . and so for quite a few years Norm and Bill would . Norm once lived in New Jersey and was quite the partygiver. The Florida friend of Black’s. I was just finishing up the liner notes for Bill Black’s Japanese debut CD when--on the exact same day---I received phone calls from two individuals whom I believed to be friends of Black. I later learned that at the time of the attack Black had just signed with Mercury Records.152 under TWO names. almost word for word. but was somehow rescued. but did not resort to physical violence: My guess is that he either did not repay a loan. that same evening. Norm Schnell. was a pianist with the '49 Krupa band.
I never went to those parties because I was barely out of my teens at the time. Bill apparently still had a knack for playing with and being comfortable around children. More like family affairs with kids and backyard croquet. He recently spent six months and this week will cut records for the Lin label. and most of all. But Clay Mundey fits into that level of excellence and for so many of the same reasons: He is an exceptional pro who make as song come alive with his phrasing and taste and musical skill. Under the headline “A Fine Singer. Clay’s at the Key Room. work there through Saturday night.153 A Fine Romance serenade guests at these occasions. He puts much of himself into the singing---his awareness. his feeling or the good song. he effectively sings his entrance . At the Key Room. which is extremely small and intimate. but I simply cannot recall Bill ever working professionally during all the 13 or so years I knew him in New York. [A lone single was eventually released. it certainly put an interesting spin on things. his tremendous ability to do a song his way. To say the least. he has a fine voice. etc. But in talking to Norm recently. it turns out that it wasn't like that at all. Dale Stevens. Norm says he remembers a singing job that his friend had in Atlanta around the time of the JFK assassination. This boy know show business. he knows music. 2443 Gilbert. A few months later Bill’s New York friend---one of the two who’d told me the mob story--sent me the following xerox from an undated review (circa 1957 or ’58) in the Cincinnati Post and written by that city’s popular columnist. and I just didn't think I would fit in with people so much my senior. and if this guy doesn’t the big time soon then I’m wasting my time covering entertainment.” it read: “Clay Mundey is one the finest singers of song I’ve ever heard.] I‘ve always been so selective about male singers that I never got beyond Frank Sinatra. He opened there last night. More the pity I didn't ever attend. So it is not as if Bill Black was entirely silenced as a singer.
I wrote to “Cincinnati Post” columnist. Shortly after the Black CD was released in 2005 in Japan. Clooney knew nothing about Bill Black (now “Clay Mundey”) he wrote back to me.154 A Fine Romance through the room toward piano (played by Billie Walker). but as a night clerk at a YMCA. a friend called on Sunday . one of the top entertainment reporters in the country.” Stevens. And yet despite the columnist’s wide readership in the area. this is a don’t miss performance. but also the flavor of the moment under two names if the aforementioned George Simon and Dale Stevens were to be believed. apparently. if anyone could help me fit together a few it would be Nick Clooney. but he was fascinated by his story and especially the encomium of the Stevens. despite the annointing of Stevens.” Or maybe it was just a case of Black drinking too much. and the go-to-guy for historical and cultural information about this “Queen City. Bill Black had washed up on the shores on Manhattan not singing his songs to the masses. one initially adapted. As a result of the clipping . Or maybe he just didn’t want to blow the cover of the adapted pseudonymous stage name of Clay Mundey. Maybe Mort Sahl was right when he oberved that “Show business is the only animal that eats its young. offering some excellent Rodgers and Hart tunes and makes a great moody exit with “The Party’s Over”---done his way. 2006. Nick Clooney. Bill Black had been not only a has-been under two names. in a letter dated March 26. Father of George. as protection against further mob retaliation.” Alas. as I used to joke with him. who Clooney felt was 100 percent reliable in such matters. brother of Rosemary. Born in 1934 just across the river from Cincinnati. casually taking a seat atop the spinet. approximately three years later. finally not a single reader wrote back with any substantial additions to the singer’s story. So much so that he wrote a column about Bill/Clay. presumably. And yet. If you can get there. had no awareness of the singer’s previous “life” as Bill Black.
he led a charmed existence. NOW he is somewhat well-known as a result of my issue of his album. "He's playing that CD by Bill Black that you released in Japan and talking about how you rescued the tape [actually it was an acetate]. For the first 30 years or so of his life. he is probably the finest broadcast purveyor of non-rock music in the U.155 A Fine Romance morning to inform me: "Bill. When I set out in search of more about Black. but then his luck changed radically. especially interesting inasmuch as no one who bought them could have possibly known of him until just recently." (For those familiar with Schwartz. Jonathan Schwartz is talking about you on the radio. He was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in New York City . everything. famous and otherwise. Black lived in the same one room flat in New York for more than twenty years. including any possible additional recordings. Just goes to show you the importance of having a good press agent and staying in the public eye." I asked. And proof positive that talent alone is not enough to insure one of their rightful place in history of the arts. If there is any peace or justice in the universe. and when he died.S. Bill has finally been the recipient of his own little share of it.” And apparently Schwartz still continues to play it as of this writing in 2009. and I would like to find other unreleased recordings if there are any remaining. But he was always fun and basically of good cheer and twenty years after his death I still miss him. have written to tell me how much the CD has meant to them. And we have sold a fairly good number of CDs in Japan. So many people. was tossed into the garbage.) "Why is he talking about me?. his name even fell on deaf ears of hard core Krupa fans I contacted. He devoted a half-hour on his satellite radio show to the story.
roared across the landscape of popular music sweeping away almost everything non-rock in its path. A post-bop Dark Lady of the Sonnets. there’s no question that Carole Creveling would still be near the top.” implying that a sequel was . then by virtue of the relatively large sums of money that her lone LP. My list of OSW’s was alphabetical.” the title---by the way---of my TVJAS presentation. if you will. The complicating factor being. a “Rosebud“. Here Comes Carole Creveling!. but even if it weren’t. of course. If not by dint of talent (although she’s quite good).S. the tsunami of rock and roll that. beginning in the mid-1950s. Let me explain. The “victims” included some 300 (and still counting) singers that I have thus far isolated on my master list of “One Shot Wonders. a conundrum wrapped in a riddle. In December 2006 I gave a talk before the Tokyo Vocal Jazz Appreciation Society dealing with the subject of (for the most part) perfectly fine U. The album jacket bore the legend “Volume One. Even for copies that appear as though they might have been run over by a Mack truck and then left out in the sun all day for thermal reconfiguration. jazz and jazz-oriented singers who cut only one album (circa 1955-1965) and then more-or-less fell through the cracks of phonographic history never to be heard from again. from 1956.156 CAROLE CREVELING A Fine Romance Part 1 (Early 2007) Fifties jazz singer Carole Creveling has started to become something of an obsession for me. have fetched in recent times on the collectors’ market.
I soon was able to have two phone conversations with Creveling's sibling in which she assured me that this near-legendary phantom singer would phone me in a few days and fill me in on all the details about her brief but fascinating career.157 A Fine Romance forthcoming. herself. But already I discovered from phone conversations with her sister that Carole Creveling was twenty she had married. told me that Carole recorded the album---hard to believe ---when she was only 18 years old. Talk about falling below radar. But there was never. decided that it wasn't for her after all. Motherhood's gain was jazzdom's loss. and had left the world of professional singing behind: a world that she was barely a part of to begin with. It should be added that Carole has gone about her daily activities. Part 2 (Six months later) I finally unearthed someone who was undoubtedly a relation of Creveling's. It turned out to be her sister. got married. Soon she was a full-time mother and wife and apparently never gave much more thought to show business. still I am interested in her story. a volume two. I learned from those phone calls to the sister that Creveling was alive and well and still living in Southern California. not only for its intrinsic musical value. Even if Carole Creveling had but dipped her toe in the waters of show biz (did she ever appear “live” anywhere?). moved to the midwest and taught high school music for the rest of her professional life?. I hope I can find her. Carole Creveling would at least be in her mid-seventies today. Creveling’s sister. . Finally. but also for the nice addition to my retirement fund its eventual sale would unquestionably provide. to the best of my knowledge. She sounds years more mature on her 1955 album. I'd love to have a copy. If there was. How I found the latter is a story best left for some other long night around the camp fire. How it came to be recorded was something I would hope to find out soon from the singer herself. It can’t help but shed a bit more light on the subject of the jazz life of the late fifties and early sixties.
and a 45 from the next year mark just about the only professional entertainment activity for Carole. She knew. but much .158 A Fine Romance which include a full-time job. that Levy was an accompanist for major singers in addition to his career as a solo artist. Part 3 (Flash forward a few days later) Carole Creveling turned out to be a woman of her word. All in due time. and sensed that she not only possessed great potential as a singer but also realized that at age eighteen she was quite ready for a trip into the recording studio. an unknown singer on a one-off record label emanating from a sleepy Southern California beach resort (she continues to reside in SoCal) that still managed to receive a major and favorable review in the bigtime music mag Down Beat. singer Creveling (not her last name nowadays) called me this morning. where Carole lived. Carole explained to me that the album was the brainchild of a couple who owned a music store in Laguna Beach. My guess is the historic Radio Recorders. But she was more-or-less aware that the musicians who accompanied her were important studio players.A. Just as she promised her sister (see previous post). where the album was recorded is lost in the dim recesses of time and Carole's memory. she is deeply flattered at all the attention her recording is finally receiving. Meanwhile. who was still a teenager when she recorded the album. especially Jimmy Wyble and Bill Baker from the album session and Lou Levy." the other question mark hanging over my head for the past year-or-so is how the making of the disc came to pass. 1---there was never a v." for her 1955 LP Here Comes Carole Creveling vol. i. I suppose. I looked forward to hearing from Carole herself in the near future. entirely unaware of the steadily increasing interest in her half-centuryold one-off recording. Along with "Whatever Happened To CC.e. for example.2--. is the moral here. As to exactly what studio it was in L. Chuck Flores and Max Bennett on the followup single. And make that "erstwhile singer. One surmises that she still sings around the house.
She could not have been more charming and accommodating. however. . Carole said she wouldn't dream of singing again in public without a great deal of woodshedding (not that she's even contemplating doing so).159 A Fine Romance like Jo Stafford told me one time. In Creveling's case. Talking with this very pleasant and charming woman on the phone this morning was just like chatting with someone I've known all my life. she'd barely got her feet wet in the entertainment profession before walking away from it. Stafford also left the business in favor of home and family.
Illinois Studio 4 label. hanging on to only a couple of them in the process. and the Americans.R. a pair of pants [?] and a box of Sue’s album.“ Pasquale laughed. Illinois I was told the following story: “J. Too bad he didn’t keep more of them. operated by musician brothers Jim and Tony Sotos? It’s something I’ve long wondered about. . but also by virtue of an appearance on the release by tenor sax player J. I guess. the rock group Jay and the Americans. Not bad for a recording that certainly didn’t sell out its original pressing of 1. “At the time.” guitarist Bill Pasquale told me.160 SUE CHILDS A Fine Romance (Liner notes for Introducing Sue Childs – SSJ Records) “For playing on the  ‘Introducing Sue Childs’ album.000 copies. exactly. Jim Sotos: ‘What do you expect me to do with all of these records?’ Sotos said. Monterose was traveling as a sax player in the band of. fledgling Rock Island. Somehow Monterose stayed behind when the band left town and he stuck around.’ Which is exactly what the musician proceeded to do. did the legendary (and highly collectable) musician end up on not only this recording but another one as well on the small. I said to one of the producers. I received sixty dollars. “I guess you could have called the group ‘J. in my conversation with guitarist Pasquale from his home in Brookfield. Monterose.R. ‘Give ‘em to your friends. of all people. The reason for the extreme bump in the original price has to do not only with the fact that the LP is by a good but obscure singer (whose only recording this was). and finally. for today the original vinyl of the recording goes for $300-$400 on the collectors‘ market. And just how. then added.R.
Due to the relative chaos surrounding the session. but they do arise here from time-to-time out of the fact that Childs was “singing for two. the singer was having a very difficult time getting the “job” done. A measure of how good the playing is by all the musicians on the date is that afterward. the singer was scheduled to give birth to a son. Significantly.” Then it was back to recording with the full group. Not long afterward they asked her to record for them. NY on September 26. Ironically. Michigan’ Mr. still she insisted on pressing onward. Illinois jazz community and for a while became a very big fish in that locale’s somewhat small jazz pond. Ordinarily she was not known to have intonation problems. Monterose was thus taken up by the local Rock Island. Only a few weeks after the date resulting in this recording in early 1965. her second. Breathing problems plagued her.R. he was rushed by the Sotos brothers. . a live session of the Sotos Brothers band.) Only one other LP ever appeared on Studio 4. which started late at night and ran until sun-up the next day. Monterose stormed off the date after completing only two cuts. “I had never even heard the song before. The Childs date should probably not have taken place when it did. for as almost every surviving musician on the date has recalled to me. and took part in two recording sessions for their label.” the guitarist told me.161 A Fine Romance J. C’s Supper Club. According to Pasquale. “Sue hummed it to me and we then nailed it in a single take. One track that actually benefited from the time-is-money disorder was the duet between Pasquale and Childs was “Lollipops and Roses.” so to speak. recorded while they were appearing at Flint. (Monterose died in Utica. It was there that they first met Sue Childs who was also performing at the spot. the Childs release and a complete album as a leader. this accounts for Monterose’s relatively brief appearance on the album.“ It was rehearsed and recorded within a quarterhour break taken by the rest of the band while arranger (and Kenton alumni) Gerry LaFurn completed an arrangement. it might well represent the single best work by Childs on the album. 1993.
” In the preparation of this reissue I contacted most off the five of six surviving players. a rough spiky demeanor. The guitarist adds. In addition to his playing on the album. not even Mitchell. trombonist Sherm Mitchell. and nothing too far out. “Once I saw Sue go through her purse looking for a lipstick and in the process.“ But no one could tell me much. I did so. but finally did not take place (for reasons that have since fallen through the cracks of history) until . Michigan newspaper about the recording of “Introducing Sue Childs. moved like her. This is especially true of saxophonist Tony Sotos. Childs. The trombonist recalled that Childs’ favorite singer was June Christy. her personal style was strongly informed by. No one retained much beyond the most superficial of recollections. “that’s where I’m from. talked like her. she laid a 38 revolver on the table.” originally to be entitled “Out of Nowhere. a vocation he still practices to this day.162 A Fine Romance nearly every one of them went on to greater jazz world acclaim. and Bill Pasquale. As for bassist Bruce Anderson. We started with 125 song possibilities---now it‘s down to 55.” she told Flint writer Lawrence Gustin. I want to record them in a variety of jazz styles. I asked her why in the world she was carrying a 38 in her purse and she muttered something about once being run off to the side of a freeway in Detroit. Mitchell arranged two of the numbers. as much as anything. Anita O’Day: “Dressed like her. This included an late 1964 interview with the singer appearing in a Flint.” (To the best of my knowledge. “Lonesome Road” and “Honeysuckle Rose. On the other hand.” “because. the star of the show.” The date was scheduled for early 1965. says Pasquale. instead. go into the ministry. There are no other references to her on the net beyond those relating to “Introducing. to uncover whatever happened to.) In my search for Childs I eventually came across enough information to enable me to solve the riddle of the missing in-action performer. who Childs considered her musical mentor. O’Day never packed a rod.” In other words. shortly after the recording of this session he turned down a full-time gig with Sarah Vaughan to.
The write-up informed that the singer’s last name was not Childs but rather Childers. the article also included the last name of her drummer husband.” which over the years had helped launch the career of Frank Sinatra and diverse others.” I was now looking for Donna Sue Childers Rosanova. . “Introducing Sue Childs” lives on. Armed with this new information it was a fairly easy task for me get to the bottom of things. Even while still a student at Flint’s Northern High School the singer had her sights set on a career in show business. “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour. Most likely. She just couldn’t take country music as a steady diet. Michigan area. A promising start for a singer from whom we should have heard more. Buddy Morrow and Ralph Flanagan. After the Mack appearances. But after making a few test recordings she returned her contract to the record outfit unsigned. and was insistent that this now-or-never recording be made when it was.163 A Fine Romance summer. So instead of my searching for the essentially non-existent “Sue Childs. Donna Sue Childers wanted to make her mark in the world as a singer. And while I was finally unable to learn much about the singer after the making of “Introducing” (and before her death on January 10. and on bills with Chris Connor and Al Hibbler. Joseph. It is a tribute to the singer‘s “stubborness“ (as described by her friend and mentor Sherm Mitchell) that more that four decades after it was made. She appeared multiple times on the popular nationwide TV show. prior to the recording of her lone LP it was a different story. a recording company wanted to channel her talents her talents into country music. nearing the end of Childs’ pregnancy. 1993 at age 55). The news article also alludes to the singer’s appearances with the bands of Jimmy Dorsey. she told the Flint reporter. these were one-shot guest appearances on bills of shows traveling through the Flint. and fifteen years beyond her death.
This was the second LP by the sometime guitar duo of George Barnes and . . however. never even knew she had a sister. It was while in Tokyo in late 2007 that SSJ Records asked me to help them secure the rights to release Smoky and Intimate. One of the vocalists I presented was Flo Handy. . this turned out to be a task that was easier said than done. I asked the audience (a gathering of wildly knowledgeable Japanese jazz singer devotees) “Does anyone in the know who Flo Handy‘s sister was?” To my surprise. Before I played the two selections by her. none other than that “Cow Cow Boogie” girl herself.Ella Mae Morse! In the liner notes for Smoky and Intimate.164 FLO HANDY A Fine Romance In December 2007 I gave a talk about One Shot Wonders (the criterion is that the singer can only have made ONE album) before the Tokyo Vocal Jazz Appreciation Society. But when I returned to the U. That might have been one of the last times she ever invoked the name of Ella Mae. Alan Eichler. Eventually. So it is not so surprising that no one at the TVJAS knew about Flo Handy’s sibling relationship. at age 14. I did discover that the recording was owned by the three daughters of the late owner of the obscure but excellent no-longer in-operation Carney Records of Greenwood Lake. Morse’s son Dick told me “Ella Mae and Flo were estranged and never spoke to one another since the 1960's. Handy recalls that in 1945 she appeared on a CBS radio show. NY. Morse’s last manager.” In fact. not a single soul uttered the name of Handy’s far more famous sister. and did an imitation of her sister.S.
that I also began to learn of a somewhat “secret” musical life of Flo Handy that operated in areas other than those demonstrated on this CD. I‘m certain that Sanford wasn’t teaching her scales. ‘Do you have a piano background? And she said. (Cohn died in 1988. was part of a musical colony that. who continued to retain her professional last name which she had taken when she married her first husband.165 A Fine Romance Carl Kress for the label. I met Al Cohn about the same time he was going with Flo around 1960. And what a vocalist! Jazz critic and head of the Rutgers Jazz Institute Dan Morgenstern heard Handy perform just once. I said. in fact. Here is what he said: “She told me once that she was studying piano with [famed piano teacher] Sanford Gold.‘ She played well. She said.A. Singer-pianist-songwriter Dave Frishberg was the first of many of Flo Handy’s friends and musical associates with whom I spoke in piecing together the story of this remarkable woman. “live”accompanying herself in a jazz club in New York City. ‘"One club was called The Lost and Found. They were all on the East Side. He. George Handy the following year. [Frishberg would soon become a Cohn sideman. over breakfast one morning in L.] Anyone Al Cohn married was worth checking out. are the likes of Phil Woods. And still living there. she was even better than on Smoky and Intimate.” he wrote in 2000. Flo in ‘96. Flo Handy. kind of gangsterish places. Some clubs on First Avenue. in the 1960s and 1970s thrived in the Delaware Water Gap. now with the addition of a vocalist. When I heard her play I was taken aback by the excellence of it. Pennsylvania area. ’No I never had a lesson before in my life. “some 35 years ago. pianist John Coates. Sax giant Al Cohn had moved there in the mid-1960s with his new wife. He was teaching her . “If anything. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Urbie Green. along with a number of other similarly gifted musicians. in late 2007. ” It was only then that I learned that Handy was also a pianist.) It was from Frishberg. arranger-pianist George Handy. ’When I got a job singing I began to teach myself to play the piano so I could accompany myself.
And. Aside from Frishberg. singer Pinky Winters. though.. Tennessee Williams and John Steinbeck.] You could tell that she had a deep talent for composing. “Lack-a-Day. The general consensus was that Flo had received her training in musical theory strictly at the “knee” of her first husband.” But it was “composing’ that fell far outside the territory of as jazz. Along with other originals co-written by Barnes. former musician with George Handy. and Louise Sims. several of whom were even unaware of the existence of Smoky and Intimate until I informed them of it. Somewhat curiously. singer Katherine Cartwright and jazz pianist Eric Doney. And there was also a complete LP . Art songs with titles like Song Cycle for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano.” which appears to have been written especially for the album. widow of Zoot. there are no songs written by Handy on Smoky and Intimate. who she married at age 18 just out of high school in the mid-1940s. other friends of Handy’s with whom I spoke included: two younger musicians who both describe Flo in mentor-like terms. e. standards. All were at pains to stress the excellence of this “other” music of Flo Handy. and label owner Richard Carney. It was jazz-inflected but it wasn’t merely jazz. In addition to Smoky and Intimate. Vincent Millay. i. And it was Flo Handy’s classical endeavors that are remembered by most of her close friends. classical lieder written to frame previously written literature and poetry of such as Edna St. She was such a great natural musician that she picked right up on it. But there is one title by Barnes and the great American songwriter Alec Wilder. Phil Woods’ wife Jill. to one degree or another. Flo wrote four of the instrumentals heard on the self-titled ’56 album for Riverside. there were also a few tracks recorded by Handy for a couple of novelty albums by Creed Taylor and Kenyon Hopkins. [I was told by another friend that Handy had also studied with jazz pianist Dave McKenna. in fact. I couldn’t believe how beautifully she played. “Wait With Me Love”.” The other nine titles fall into the category of.166 A Fine Romance keyboard harmony and how to use the piano as a tool. the somewhat older George Handy (bandleader Boyd Raeburn‘s chief arranger). “Compromise.. Eddie Caine.
it wasn’t so good for her.woman singer. get out of the city. . She was doing very well. Doney told me. During the last part of their lives I stayed at their house a few times after I no longer lived there. She wrote all the time. I thought that Al was . . but she. She would never dress up real pretty. . “But not ostentatious . as often as not ask.“ One of those gigs was a long-running stint she had opening for jazz pianist Eric Doney in the Delaware Water Gap. I performed a lot of her music. I knew her from the late 60s until her death. She was THE Jazz woman. It was an act that consisted of Handy singing and playing strictly the verses of songs. do all the things that he could do from the Poconos. but a mess to read. Then they [Cohn and Handy] bought a house out in the Poconos where I also had a place. pointing to the cover of the LP. Describing the music written by Handy.167 A Fine Romance recorded with her first husband at a recording studio in the legendary jazz Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter‘s New Jersey home. But the result was later intentionally destroyed by George. Like that. But in terms of what it looked like on the page. On the upswing. The music looked very strange.. She understood harmonically what was going on. hadn‘t nearly the career that he had. Up till then Flo had been working all the time solo in New York. Al was older than both of us. Fortunately she did do a few fairly long running solo stints when she moved to the Poconos. Frishberg told me. Cartwright said. and. Because she didn‘t use key signatures. She was just a good looking woman. Al was able to dip in and out. Dressed very plainly. PA area. would play them. “It’s great. the audience to guess the name of the song. She knew them all.” On a more personal level. beautiful music. . Singer Katherine Cartwright told me: “In the early 1960s Al [Cohn] wanted to move to the Poconos.” he said. “I thought she was very attractive. She was sort of my primary mentor growing up. And that’s just about it! How could such a fine singer as Flo Handy have ended up so under-recorded? Part of the reason for this appears to have been strictly geographical.
She performed one day at the piano for me in Pokonos and I couldn’t believe it. Two of the most extraordinary human beings in the music world. She sounded so great. and singing a brief portion of her song cycle. It was a terrific team they had and I appreciated the way they appreciated each other. certainly Flo was in that bag. at the piano. It is: http://tinyurl. Included was a link to the subject playing. Joyce Collins.” based on the writings of John Steinbeck. Jeri Southern was in that bag. “The Turtle.” POSTSCRIPT These notes were translated into Japanese and included in the CD release of Handy's album. the link is still operative. As of this 2009 writing.168 A Fine Romance the luckiest guy in the world. Absolutely.com/4fb9hh . My knees buckled. There are certain females who play piano and sing.
The following review of cowboy star Roy Rogers‘ traveling revue---from a local newspaper. who get her into the rough-and-tumble of the trampoline which looks so easy and is so intricate. June would be introduced as a straight singer with no mention of trampoline and then would eventually be interrupted and more-or-less dragged into the act as nothing more than part of . She WAS a solid pro: a singer who plied her jazz-tinged vocals nearly every night of the week for a number of years but NOT always necessarily where one might expect to hear such sounds. her singing voice is that of a thorough-going professional. a former Olympic champ. e. has some heart-stopping tricks that you don’t believe even after you see them. how and why. not some smoky jazz joint. All three are fine. Even though you’ve probably---make that “definitely“--. from the great wilds of America in the mid-1950s---explains where. but Russ. “The Rudells begin their act when Roy [Rogers] introduces curvy little June to sing ‘My Baby Just Cares or Me. or similar locale. the Evansville.never heard of June Rudell before. Indiana Courier..169 JUNE RUDELL A Fine Romance My uncompleted liner notes for a failed CD reissue I found these notes not long ago while rummaging around in a drawerful of old snow. i.” To wit. As she starts to sing ‘Tammy” she is interrupted by her frenetic husband Russ and brother-inlaw Mel.” She has a svelte show-type voice to match her figure and the song choice is a nice change of pace in the western flavor.
He was immediately helpful. and Russ’ brother has also passed away. . during the decade-and-a-half she was part of the act. .170 A Fine Romance an elaborate circus joke! And so. even though she was not perfecting her art in the places and manner where one usually expects to encounter such activities. Doris or Peggy one might care to name. I was able to find him thanks to the clues finally provided by the aforementioned article. phone books. June died in 1987. I was unable to uncover any substantial information about June Rudell or her ultra obscure “Sings for Gourmets” LP on the internet via any research tools I utilized. But there are only two Russ Rudells listed in U. June probably enacted as much public singing as any other Ella. . And “mine” turned out to be the first one I called. Prior to that.S. but husband Russ Rudell lives on to tell me the tale of this rather wonderful (and singular) singer and her career.
171 A Fine Romance PART THREE SHORT TAKES .
172 LOREZ ALEXANDRIA A Fine Romance She had an interesting background that included. sounds untouched by time. made occasional short trips through the Midwest.e. according to the liner notes for her 1964 Lorez the Great. Argo. whose timbre. In 1994 I saw her sing at an afternoon concert at Pedrini's Music Store in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley and hundreds of fans were on hand. register etc. (b. Many had to content themselves with hearing and seeing her on the in-store video setup. 2001 Los Angeles) . consisting of more that twenty albums on the Impulse. Truman at Blair House in Washington. “an outstanding piece of material that could become exclusively identified with her and perhaps catch the ear of a recording executive. 1929 Chicago . DC. Discovery. One of those rare singers. “an eleven-year association with an a cappella singing group directed by Lu-Shay Allen [a former minstrel comedian turned Baptist minister]. Pazz and Hindsight labels.d.” In 1992 Leonard Feather posited the notion that the only thing that stood in the way of Alexandria’s moving to the forefront of Great American Songbirds was her failure to attach herself to a signature tune. I could not detect that the voice had lost anything over the years. like Chris Connor. King. The singers appeared in and around Chicago.” Still that didn't stop Alexandria from amassing a large body of work. i. and on one occasion sang for President Harry S.
For no sooner had the record’s producer---also the owner of Mode Records---finished recording the sessions than he had the sad duty of telling Allyn that he would not be able to release her recording because Mode was folding. and Wayne Marsh. it had to close up shop. Red Mitchell and Pete Candoli. Don Nelson.nearly fifty years after it was recorded. long-retired from performing and living in Washington state. and Johnny Holiday. were recorded in Hollywood on October 2nd. (There is also supposed to be an unreleased Bob Manning Mode album in the vaults).173 LAURIE ALLYN A Fine Romance Within the period of a few months after it was founded in 1957. She went back home to Texas to tend her sick mother never to perform again. I wrote her back with an answer---that’s all I did---and Allyn (now known as Didi Pierce) took care of the rest. including Joy Bryan. . when she wrote a query to a internet chat list. And singers. the Mode label recorded and released a total of 29 albums by the instrumentalist likes of Richie Kamuca. The twelve tracks on Laurie Allyn’s LP. Frank Rosolino. asking if anyone knew who the current owner of the master might be. The eventual 2004 release was set in motion by Allyn. 4th and 5th. And this wonderful recording sat on the shelves until the current owner of the Mode catalog decided to give it a first time issue. the wonderful Lucy Ann Polk. arranged by Marty Paich and featuring the likes of Al Viola. and just as quickly as Mode Records had opened for business. 1957. The 2004 release of Allyn’s Paradise is a pluperfect exemplification of “Better late than never. But the owner of the label had overextended himself financially. the failure of Mode had especially dire consequences.” . . For Chicago singer Laurie Allyn.
made privately in 1962 to be given away to friends.) and neverbefore-recorded Bennett song discoveries. A mix of standards (“You Turned the Tables on Me” etc. “The Lady Sings the Blues. One Japanese reviewer wrote of the CD. arranged by Ernie Freeman.174 FLO BENNETT A Fine Romance The only full album ever recorded by Flo Bennett. and Irving Ashby. Her singing is quite convincing causing me truly fall in love with her voice. “Bennett sings rather straight forwardly with a slightly husky voice in an emotional style that is most mesmerizing. for some unknowable reason contained an uncommonly large number of Alec Wilder songs. And in fact. The album.e. Eventually. dental work and the usual attendant stuff. moved to LA in the 1950s. i. ut after leaving Morrow she seemed to drop below the radar until 1961 when her Bethlehem LP (Tender Mood) was released. one side of a single for the Golden Crest label. A-list players. Six out of 12. and carved out a successful career as a demo singer for songwriters. a singer who started in Denver.” was . Betty Blake sang with Buddy Morrow from 1955 to 1957. publicity. it received its first commercial release on Japan’s SSJ Records in 2007. This is her only fulllength recording. Morrow and his management signed her to a contract and had invested in her with gowns.” BETTY BLAKE Here’s another singer who started out with big bands. and featuring such jazz notables as Plas Johnson. Nevertheless it is chock full of top drawer.
com: "I am seeing [regionalese for "dating"] a woman whos [sic] mother was Janets [sic] first cousin and she [the cousin or Janet?] grew up knowing her as a young child. The musicians include Teddy Charles. Finally.175 A Fine Romance also written by Wilder. album nothing is known of any other professional activity until her death of cancer at age 63 on September 19. West Virginia. including phoning all the Braces in her hometown of Charleston. 2001. West Virginia co-Songbird Jennie Smith was unfamiliar with her (Janet preceded her to the big city by nearly a decade). For years I tried to uncover her whereabouts. Her one album. But a few years earlier she made a small mark in the Great American Songbook when she was the first singer to record “Teach Me Tonight. Blake’s lone album is a good one and received some nice reviews. Brace subsequently performed at such famous clubs as the Village Vanguard and the Blue Angel. I came across the following comment about Special Delivery on amazon. Janet moved to Florida in later years and then ended up in Costa Rica [!] later in .” It was not successful for her. with whom she recorded and appeared on the radio with in 1949. Kenny Burrell and Mal Waldron. JANET BRACE Brace arrived in New York in 1948 and initially sang with the bands of Vincent Lopez and Johnny Long. Even her Charleston. But after her Bethlehem. Blake also appeared as a guest artist on a Golden Crest LP singing on a handful of tracks. including Jo Stafford. This One Shot Wonder won a Swing Journal (Japan) reissue award in 1999. most likely her 1956 Special Delivery would not have been a lone LP outing for the singer. in 1956 for ABC-Paramount came and went pretty much without notice. Zoot Sims. Had Brace’s recording of the song been popular. and it was not until a couple of years later that it became a hit for several singers.
and the very best cuts on it are by far the most pop-ish things she ever recorded. There are several very ricky-tick tracks on the latter." Much of their material was in and out in three minutes flat." Does the West Virginia-based writer mean that the daughter passed away instead of Janet? Inasmuch as concis ion. Also. I sensed that the word had come down from on high" to either sell out or get out. 1955’s Something Cool. Impromptu (1977) better than Something Broadway. when it comes to the English language. which by 1956 had sold a whopping 93.176 A Fine Romance life.000 copies (amazing or the times). for these reasons and others.alas. for example. The arrangements on the album are by the wonderful Don Elliott and feature Brace‘s husband. . Perhaps. What a wonderful label Capitol had been up to this point in time: exemplified by a very crisp. if you will. ultimately returning to Florida to live with her daughter before she passed away. not a label to turn to for the experimental in music. commercial style of jazz recording. SBSL is for diehard completists only. Don MacLean on drums. This was the clearly the result of the label's all-out push to switch over to the new British Invasion and surf music that was selling in "units" never dreamed of just a few years earlier in the heyday of June and her debut best-seller. Capitol jazz artists were not noted for "stretching out. probably not. her last contractual effort for the House That (Johnny) Mercer built. Something Latin (1965). "Compromise" in the sense that. JUNE CHRISTY I know this is going to sound heretical. but I even like June Christy's deeply-flawed last album. is perhaps not that state's educational system's strongest suit . The first time I heard SBSL. . In other words.that's why so much of the mid-fifties-to . Intelligent compromise of the highest order.
Stan Kenton. George Shearing. Petersburg. all under contract at the same time. She is accompanied by several famous Chicago players. But while on the road. Maybe he gave her an extra-large tip? But that is just about the extent of her singing these days. Frank Sinatra. Nancy Wilson. She ended up waiting tables. Wisconsin. Cord met her husband. a small town where her father worked as a farmer and tool and dye maker. began taking piano lessons at 12. While waiting on actor Jack Nicholson recently.177 A Fine Romance -mid-sixties output of Capitol still sounds so good today: Peggy Lee. Louis and Keely. keeping the books and tending bar for 18 years. Ann Richards. Nick. who owned a jazz club in Kenosha. June Christy. trading her singing career for love and family. Pa. For many years she toured the country as a jazz singer. Cord. She never went back on the road again. Today. (Not to mention master parodist Stan Freberg!) The mind reels! MARLENE CORD One of eight children who grew up in Springboro. Cord took time off from her singing career to help him open a restaurant in Milwaukee. born Mary Fabiano. singing and playing piano. The Four Freshmen et al. Dakota Staton. she sang “I Could Write a Book” for him. namely Dick Marx on piano and John Frigo on bass).. Florida where she has worked for the last twenty years. . Nat Cole. she is a waitress at the Colannade Restaurant in St. She recorded her Dot album in Chicago when she was 19 in 1957.
depression and. There's no real story here. as a teenage performer. Zanuck. The debate has gone on for years as to which it was. the song “I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good” was taken away from her at the last minute and given to Ivie Anderson in the Duke Ellington wartime musical. also exec produced by her. There have been any number of attempts to get Dandridge’s "tragic mulatto" story onto the big screen. finally. but all failed. Dandridge was a marked woman from the beginning. Jump for Joy. Carmen Jones. Everyone from Diana Ross to Jasmine Guy gave it a try. One of those widely noted times was when.178 DOROTHY DANDRIDGE A Fine Romance One of world's great beauties but deeply troubled personally. I have it on good authority that when. no defining moment. then died of either a drug overdose or suicide. Her . Dandridge starred in a few big fifties films. that the African-American star committed professional suicide on more than one occasion. There’s no question. Dandridge locked herself in a dressing room and set herself on fire. Fox chief. If that's where she was situated emotionally in her teens. sexism. which I have never seen and know nothing about. what chance did she have as a woman approaching middle age in the Hollywood of the 1950s? Dandridge released an album on the Tops budget label in the mid-1950s. "I will not play a slave. tragedy. drugs. but suspect that it is just so-so. however. I have not seen it. death. she peremptorily informed Daryll F. Porgy and Bess. just year after year of racism. Now it is a completed HBO cable movie starring Halle Berry. and culturally light years removed from American slavery. offered the role of Tuptim in the screen adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I." Small matter that the story’s concubine was halfway round the world.
She did. and a few days later spirited off to . the next she was recording an album in a NYC recording studio with an array of the best arrangers and sidemen money can buy. How did this "Jazz Goldiggers of 1960" tale of overnight (sort of) stardom came to pass? It seems that Cora was at a party in New York when someone asked her to do her Billie Holiday imitation.e. was minding her own business.179 A Fine Romance recordings for Verve consist of two sessions---one in 1959 and another in early 1961. Finally released in conjunction with the HBO film." (I would like to think that he was the notorious Morris Levy. Donald Bogle. She lives down the block from me and is a casual friend.. it is painfully apparent the sides should never have seen the light of day. the legendary head of the label who capped off his colorful Mafioso career by spending his final days in the slammer. According to biographer. One minute Cora. Whoever he was and whatever happened between the two of them in a non-professional way that night is immaterial and (in the immortal words of Lady Day) " t'ain't nobody's business. almost all the results of the sessions were deemed "unsuitable for release" at the time. liked what he heard and saw (i. who had never sung professionally in her life. a Roulette Records executive was there. CORA LEE DAY Did you ever hear of Cora Lee Day? Probably not.) The very next day Cora was signed to a contract. sans Dandridge's voluptuous presentation to distract one from her thin and uninteresting singing style (at least here). The story behind this album is the kind of real-life screwball-comedy stuff I live for. a pretty. But in the early sixties she had recording released that was sufficiently important enough to be reviewed in down beat. the erstwhile jazz magazine. young black woman) and expressed an immediate professional interest.
almost as fast as you can say Florence Foster Jenkins. her night club debut turned out to be her swan song. She never sang again professionally. one of the top night club in the U. so you can imagine the Jewish Mafia muscle and swag that went into getting her booking into such a class AAA room. . Illinois Jacquet et al. Osie Johnson. Cora had never been on a stage in her life. . but much as one would like to comply with the singer-pianist’s wishes. Freddie Green. Active as a recording artist since the . Mrs. Day died in age 72 in 1996.and had her second fifteen minutes of fame. Alas she did not do it well enough. the urge to classify Dearie as “jazz” persists.S. Understandably she was scared out of her mind. Then. hired the best arrangers and coaches that money can buy. Cora did finally manage to score that professional triumph. “Blossom Dearie dislikes being labeled a jazz singer. Cora was "doing" Billie (not at all like her natural voice) when she was initially discovered and then had to keep the charade rolling along. and arrangements by Jimmy Jones. Miller. Shortly thereafter. Not as a singer but as one of the leads in Julie Dash's 1991 award-winning film about life on the Gullah Islands off the southern US Coast. 1980. the album came out and it too autodestructed on the spot.180 A Fine Romance make a record. Up to then. and booked her into Mister Kelly's. Daughters of the Dust. Roulette sprang for thousands of dollars in gowns for Cora. BLOSSOM DEARIE The following review by me appeared in the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner on July 14. Just take a look at the personnel her Swinging Svengali had assembled for her!: Harry Edison. after the first go-round Saturday of her return two-day stint at McCabe’s in Santa Monica. or The Cherry Sisters.
Daffodil Records. “close enough for jazz. "wouldn't reach the second story of a doll's house. is just the opposite of hot. however. and flounced off. reportedly. After the show." "Well. over the years. still I loved it. Cool. Almost all of the16 tunes in her set (8 of which she co-authored) reflect a kind of Broadway-sophisticated meets jazz-hip sensibility. I hate it.” That was neither the first or last time I saw Dearie perform. all with a vocal instrument that. In 1971 I went to see her perform at some little boite on NY’s Upper East Side. then whatever is that she does. Dearie would much rather weave a spell. spell-weaving was the order of the evening with her solo set at McCabe’s before a capacity house. A little on the pop-ish side. so rapt one could hear the proverbial pin drop even while she was performing. but Dearie makes them sound friendly and innocent.181 A Fine Romance mid-’50s (lately on her own label. for she places an almost abiding faith in the lately neglected technique of utilizing silences and aural space in both her vocal and pianistic approaches to a song. Per usual. then. which she personally sells during intermissions) Dearie has. “I Won’t Dance. appeared on at least two recordings of classic jazz status--King Pleasure’s “Moody’s Mood for Love” and the Blue Stars of France’s “Lullaby of Birdland. I said to her. She swings like mad." she said." . "I love your new album. than grab an audience by the scruff of the neck and slam them into submission. Blossom Dearie is the MJQ of jazz songbirds and as tasty a pianist as that miniaturist instrumental group's John Lewis. in the words of the New Yorker's Whitney Balliett.” Dearie‘s---absolutely real---name suggests her ethereal Yet tough) sound. She even brought off the rare coup of wringing the correct laugh out of “rest us”/asbestos rhyme in her opener. effortless and sans guile as a singer.” And inasmuch as she. That's Just the Way I Want it To Be. “Pro Musica Antiqua” and “Peel Me a Grape” could sound arch or coy. is one of Miles Davis’ favorite singers. had just been released. Dearie is. Her performing style. Her new album on Fontana. as they say.
My friend Nat Shapiro was Michel Legrand's manager for many years. reclining on a couch. But don't let this fool you. with a cigarette holder. which is. Deauville was a Sinatra School singer whose career was cut short when he was crippled by the double whammy of a traffic accident and polio. Too bad.any excuse to tell the following story. Still. Ronnie Deauville. is the tuxedo-clad figure of the singer. . Out of the holder. the guiding force behind "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well" and "Hair" and produced dozens of recordings (Lena .182 RONNIE DEAUVILLE A Fine Romance One of the campier record jackets or the 1950s---a decade with no shortage of such items---is Smoke Dreams (Era 20002) a sepia-toned concoction of a scantily-clad woman. MARLENE DIETRICH Okay. . Above her.maybe not a jazz singer by any stretch of the imagination. . the smoke curls into the air to spell out the album title. . Deauville's voice was more or less silenced for his final 33 years. I couldn't imagine such a life for someone who clearly loved so much to sing. with it's spare orchestration and American Popular Song repertoire. but was no longer able to do so. Even his name is kinda campy. with arms outstretched. He was really good. sort of an attempt to translate the Julie London sound into male terms. whose album this is. out of the swirl. He died of cancer in Florida in 1990. especially on this album.
her best frock. repertoire and was on the Charlie . Kevin Gavin. Kern. dressed to the nines. Apparently the job came with certain responsibilities that went beyond the usual record producer job description. . the works. hair out of curlers. thought she'd drop in to say hello. . Marlene had been wandering the neighborhood and spotting his lights on. Nat's wife Vera. At 2 am. one of which was the star's Live in Rio album. Nina Simone. Maysa.. an impressive Arlen. It had arrangements by the great jazz guitarist Mundell Lowe. believe it!" KEVIN GAVIN You just never can tell what you’ll come across at your local thrift (junk) shop. flacked for Frank. et al). In so many words.without advance word. Nat also produced some of Marlene Dietrich's recordings. A couple of years ago I found a mint LP by a new-to-me singer." Nat authored several other books as well. Nina and I run out of energy just thinking about it all. A few minutes later. Mr. But then. . with full makeup.at 2 am! Years later I mentioned to Vera that Nat had told me about the occasion but that I didn't reallleee believe that the ultra-sensible woman that she is was capable of such overweening vanity and feminine competitiveness. Nat told me that one time the door bell rang at his upper West Side apartment at two in the morning. He also co-wrote (with Nat Hentoff) the seminal jazz book "Hear Me Talkin' to Ya.183 A Fine Romance Horne. . He answered it and there stood none other than Dietrich. Nat was a night owl and a bit of an insomniac as well. peeped through a crack in the door and espied their unexpected visitor. . etc. Mercer. goddesses seldom phone ahead.even in the face of Marlene Dietrich. B. . published music. honey. Vera told me to "Believe it. according to Nat. Vera then made HER entrance into the living room. awakened from a sound sleep.
and then I’ll tell you what I found out about him. California is now . I had never heard of her. Arriving back home and giving Hey! This is Kevin Gavin a listen I was happen to learn that my halfa-buck had not been spent in vain. Instead. he played a wobbly but credible sax. An unbelievably hip old couple. commercials EVER:“You deserve a break today at McDonald‘s.184 A Fine Romance Parker record label. Leading to the inevitable question.S. She also cut a record for the Riverside label that was reviewed very favorably in Down Beat . Alternately they reminisced about their life together and the Kansas City jazz scene where they both began their professional careers. they sat in their rundown kitchen. They lived in Oakland. Whatever Happened to Kevin Gavin? Let’s take a listen to a track from his one LP. Both Joneses are now deceased but the large plot of land where their house once stood in Oakland . unlike many One Shot Wonders.“ So though I do not know exactly where Kevin Gavin is at this very minute.S. but at the peak of her popularity in the 1950s she played the posh Fairmont Hotel in SF. and she sang and played. it’s a safe guess that wherever he is living he is surely living well. One pair was singer-pianist Inez Jones and her husband. a sax player. Kevin Gavin had not fallen off the edge of the earth. he wrote one of the most widely heard U. The corny cover alone was worth the price---fifty cents---in an of itself. TV I happened upon a documentary about couples who had been together or married for a very long time. maybe not?) INEZ JONES In 1993 on U. Paul Jones. California in touching genteel poverty. Gavin was quite good. (Or. A bit of sleuthing on the net and I learned that. Jones talked to the camera about her career. The kind of people all of you would probably all love to have for next door neighbors.
" Again. food. she puts forth a "sound" that might be described as "Ugly Beauty.185 A Fine Romance the "Paul and Inez Jones Neighborhood Garden. the aforementioned detractor included. Whatever failings might she might possess in regard to (sometimes overrated) “tonal production” and “pitch. Surely that must count for something. "I just heard a new record by Abbey on the radio. showman Leonard Reed. a friend of hers said to me. That harsh. a bit more problematic. Like the title of the Monk composition.this was a pal of Abbey's. most auditors would definitely “get” her. She sounds AWFUL. . ABBEY LINCOLN Right after A.” from Live at Sweet Basil. even though he had black blood. but when AL went into her Afrocentrist bag. she swings. Other aspects of what she does are. granted.” “I've Got Thunder” and especially the live track. An light-skinned African-American friend of mine.L." I only know Lincoln’s ANGER second hand from those who experienced it first hand. she no longer would have anything to do with . Most folks want their songbird voice production to be "pretty." a gorgeous place of flowers. ." The roughness in Lincoln's "sound" scares some folks off. That’s what happened in that instance. If one played an hour's tape of her more accessible tracks: “The World is Falling Down. was a chum of hers in the early 50s. rough sound is anathema to most people who grew up on Ella and Sinatra.” when it comes to pulse. “Music is the Magic. The change in the timbre/sound of her voice from her early years to the present is almost exactly analogous to that of Marianne Faithfull in the field of pop/rock. Most people form opinions very quickly and then the iron gate clangs shut never to open again. began making "noise" again professionally a while back. butterflies and birds for residents in the area to enjoy.
she came out and tripped over a stool on the darkened stage which was followed by a huge crash and then the sound of la London cursing. Twenty years earlier. picked herself up. Certainly her race-activated volatility was/is no more extreme than that of another great artist. She laughed. She also makes it a point to sing “live” as well. between songs. the lights went back down and she started all over again. As if to say.. She who swings the most with the least apparent expenditure of energy wins all the toys. These are elegantly staged with a minimum of muss and fuss. most likely she would have thrown the microphone stand at them. My late friend Bill Black recalls the opening night launch of Julie's big night club act after the success of “Cry Me a River. JULIE LONDON I recently came into possession of videotapes of two 1960s TV specials. The lights then came on full force and there was Julie sitting flat on her ass. finger snaps. walked offstage.and are a revelation. I have an outtake of Julie trying unsuccessfully to nail a song in the studio where she demonstrates exactly why she is a close runner-up to Carol Lombard in the swears-like-a- . well. The sadness in her voice as she.186 A Fine Romance him. We were to hear a walking bass. one of which was staged in Japan.” Instead. Although she lip syncs through about three-quarters of each show. Ethel Waters. and then the sultry sound of London over the p.a. it's not ALL studio trickery and microphone technique. starring Julie London. .” It opened in pitch black darkness. attempts to negotiate their respect is disconcerting. system singing “Lonesome Road. she does so with a perfectionism not dreamed of since the golden era of the MGM Freed unit. Someone sent me a clandestine tape he recorded of Abbey Lincoln at a club a few years ago.
intelligence. master jazz trumpeter John Coppola. On nearly all of London’s albums. This is especially perplexing inasmuch as they used some of the top session and jazz players in Hollywood. But I only found this out in an old Down Beat article in which Julie crowed about the personnel on her latest album. . As a result she never quite had the career that she would've had she started just a couple of years earlier. on About the Blues there's Barney Kessel. granted. . A few years ago I was researching the release of the Bill Black CD. mainly in the 1960s. Maynard Ferguson. Shelly Manne and Willie Smith.a bit variable in quality) but because of the way they were marketed. Liberty.as makeout music. still manage to equate with that most non-erotic of qualities. but almost never sidemen---even on the more jazz-oriented projects. Julie London was just reaching the peek of her popularity at just about the moment in time when kid music began to take over. Still. But. to put out 30-some London albums. Perhaps Liberty didn’t wanted to detract too much from their cash cow’s sex bomb image by suggesting she trafficked in jazz---which some. She sold a lot of these LPs based not so much on their merit (some were. to this day. I . When I learned that a singer by the name of Frances Lynne had been in the '49 Krupa band with Black. she apparently moved enough “product” for her record label. I never met a musician or singer. for which I was the release producer for SSJ Records (Japan). behind the scenes. . Down in the Depths. . in a most interesting and roundabout fashion. who didn't have enormous respect for her great pitch and no-nonsense way with the Great American Songbook. For example. . FRANCES LYNNE I “met” singer Frances Lynne and her husband. arrangers are credited.187 A Fine Romance stevedore sweepstakes.
well. up to that point. he had produced an album." She was very helpful with my Bill Black research. Herb Steward and. so SSJ's eventual reissue of the CD finally and unquestionably helped bring deserved attention to this little gem of vocal jazz mastery. for now long-retired Frances. there was not a single Google hit for the undeservedly sub rosa album. again." But. And Frances sounded wonderful. a few years earlier. Instead of the full year it later took me track down singer Carole Creveling (see Part One). John Handy. the following December I played a couple of the tracks at a presentation I made before the Tokyo Vocal Jazz Appreciation Society." "Blue Prelude. i. you catch my drift." "Spring Isn't Everything" and.188 A Fine Romance thought I might try to "Google" her. . .e "Last Night When We Were Young. Immediately after the conclusion of my talk. you get the idea. Remembering. I then looked up the Coppolas in the Yahoo phone directory. A couple of days later. hers was the very first "Frances Lynne" that popped up because of a recent radio interview she and John had given. First off. found them living in San Francisco." "Can I Forget You?. . fortunately. finding Frances was quick as a flash. I should add that. But I had little hope of striking paydirt. it was just about the best selection of repertoire I had ever seen on a single album. even after all these years of professional inactivity! Then. he happened to mention that. rang them up and lo and behold who should answer the phone but Frances. . her name was such a commonplace one that I feared I would get thousands of "hits. Mister Yasuo Sangu of Japan's SSJ Records approached me and said that he would like to reissue the record in that country. It was love with the Coppolas "at first sound. And the sidemen on the album were just as jaw-droppingly impressive: Johnny Coles.well. John sent me a copy and I was astonished at the overall professionalism of this mom n' pop effort. . Then John got on the line and in the course of my conversation with him (he was in the Woody Herman band at the same time as my late friend Lou Levy).
she was training to an interpreter for the Common Market. her American Heritage magazine profile on .189 SUSANNAH McCORKLE A Fine Romance The following is a review of McCorkle’s From Broken Hearts to Blue Skies that was published on line in 1999. she careens from show music. The curator in McCorkle extends to writing about the music as well. author Linda Dahl’s fine bio of the singer. At the time. to blues. as if all rules of repertoire are there to be broken. From the very beginning. It marked the first time she'd heard Holiday. Antonio Carlos Jobim. she was arguably the first new. Whether or not McCorkle was directly responsible for the trend is debatable. young singer to adhere to the principles of cultural custodianship as outlined by Ella Fitzgerald in her songbook series. McCorkle heard the recorded voice of Billie Holiday wafting through the air of some intime boite and was hooked. but soon after she started recording in the early 1970s. The about face was almost akin to the Messiah coming upon Handel like a blast of light from the east: For while studying in Paris. among diverse others. instead McCorkle moved to London and took up the cause of the chanteuse. As such. Dave Frishberg and Bessie Smith. prior to the singer’s 2001 suicide. with a whiplash-inducing selection that included songs written by or associated with. to bossa. McCorkle's eclecticism reached its zenith in a 1993 album for Concord. Events leading up to that tragedy were chronicled in Haunted Heart. Susannah McCorkle was turning on to the Great American Songbook. In the early 1970s. Rupert Holmes. a lot of other baby-boom singers also began to traffic in the music of their parents' era. while most of her young friends were tuning in and dropping out to the Beatles. McCorkle's act has partaken of a dancing bear quality. From Bessie to Brazil. and beyond.
insouciance. After McCorkle’s several-album foray into Brazilian (her third) and a sensibly-themed Gershwin album for Concord. there's a languid. McCorkle undercuts overfamiliarity by interpolating vocalese based on a Chet Baker trumpet solo from his 1950s recording of the Kern-DeSylva masterwork. I wouldn't go that far.” “I Wish I Were in Love Again. a bright note here is McCorkle's channeling the ghost of the Empress of the Blues. A critic once compared McCorkle's singing voice to that of Marilyn Monroe in its sultriness. along with 14K studio session guitarist. McCorkle has the timbre. Al Gafa. McCorkle is back with another one of her eclectic stews. yet it evokes Bessie.” “Caminhos Cruzados.” With as much verisimilitude as a white lady can possibly hope to muster up (with apologies to singer Barbara Dane). this time on “I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle. On this third album in the singer's "From" series. stately.” how about the revival-worthy (and just as optimistic) “Shakin' the Blues Away”? And isn't it time for Jobim's “Wave” to take a well-deserved holiday? On the just-as-familiar “Look for the Silver Lining.190 A Fine Romance Ethel Waters is the best writing we've had thus far on the mother of jazz vocalizing. look-how-much-attention-I'm-paying-to-everysyllable atmosphere that operates against apparent good intentions. and mournfulness of Bessie Smith down pat. breathy. she's more like Julie London's kid sister. She and Tony Bennett are the Queen and King of curious tempi. And sometimes with McCorkle. McCorkle might have excavated a bit more deeply. underwater. Or example.” “Nuages. you can barely hear the quotation marks. in place of Berlin's oft-rendered “Blue Skies.” though. It is a modern conception. From Broken Hearts to Blue Skies (her 17th album). sultry turns desultory. The musical director of the accompanying octet throughout the CD is Allen Farnham.” “Something to Live For. He." As on Bessie to Brazil. with both tending to err on the side of largo. have appeared on a number of McCorkle's albums.” “Losing Hand.” I like it that liner note writer Scott Yanow refers to the latter as "Dave Frishberg's newest standard. Especially on Maltby and Shire's . On some ballads here. Other songs are: “Laughing at Life.” and “I Want to Be a Sideman. This is not a decadent stunt.
I don't think she recorded too much on her own after that: I have a Jubilee LP. because she's. These were reissued on lp and/or CD. And so I arrived there extra early. Herman's band. of course. I thought I had died and gone . her accompanist. Next time. McCorkle can't.” Shirley Horn can get away with it. thanks to the concoction of an inventive Mozart countermelody. weekend after weekend and got to know her pretty well. Detour to the Moon on Jubilee Records from the early Sixties.191 A Fine Romance “Stop. how about an album of all flag-wavers? MARY ANN McCALL McCall is one of the most underestimated of the big band era singers. Shirley Horn. She also appears on the 1977 LP The Woody Herman 40th Anniversary Carnegie Hall Concert. You've probably already guessed the rest: with the exception of myself. Also an album and a few odd singles for the Regent label in the fifties. well. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the little squib announcing her appearance in a local handout. a little more of Bessie's sass might have lighted a fire under some of the other cuts. That is how naive I was a mere three decades ago. is the one most closely associated with McCall. they must be keeping in very low key to keep the crowds away.A. Nat Pierce. A dirgelike “Insensatez” works well. near LAX in----well---L. Oh. Time. All of the Regents were arranged by Ernie Wilkins. though. there was practically no one else there.” and Mercer and Mancini's obscure “Phone Call to the Past. She would always sit with me between sets and schmooze. I’m glad I had the good sense to check her out sometime during the early 80s when she was singing at a little bar in the airport Hilton. And I went back again and again. I had McCall and another equally great jazz artist. Still. pretty much all to ourselves.
Even at this late grandmotherly stage in her career she was one of jazz singing's best kept secrets. and while they might have had a few conflicts in the lengthy process. and. George was not all that surprised. I wish I had brought a tape recorder along with me to capture those extraordinary sets. And probably had even forgotten the debt altogether. as I recall. seemingly. She and Pierce had been musical cohorts for nearly four decades by that time. she was "in the moment. With a couple of exceptions. Ella. My late friend George Eells helped Anita write her memoirs. all of O'Day's 17 Norgran-Verve LPS are markedly different in conception from one another. just straight-ahead jazz singing and piano. And it showed: No muss. always am . To paraphrase a line in Robert Altman's Prarie Home Companion. In my opinion. et al--unreduceable. the music of the spheres." plugged into what the band was doing. Billie. And Anita's singing on each finds her immediately responding to the musical surroundings in a radically different fashion from her other albums. Frank. ultimately. Probably a few hundred dollars. however. she was married to jazz musician Al Cohn. She died in 1994 at the age of 75. His last interaction with her was years afterward.192 A Fine Romance to Songbirds heaven. I. no fuss. she is the only one of the inarguable greats---Sass. That's the way he was. And she rang George up out of the blue one day---unbidden---so she could meet him in a bank and pay the money back. to the sum of her parts. Instead. For a time. ANITA O’DAY Written on the occasion of her 2006 death. Ultimately. George just loved her. She really didn't scat often." Nonetheless it's sad the world will never see the likes of Anita O'Day pass its way again. nor play with the melodies all that much. "The death of an old woman is not a tragedy. no killer lounge act pyrotechnics. He had loaned her some money while they were writing the book.
While appearing in a revue in England. . they could not have sounded more unalike.193 A Fine Romance surprised when listeners tend to regard O'Day. So sad that she was taken advantage of in her final years by forces who had anything but her best interests at heart. Duke Ellington took them to New York during his legendary Cotton Club stint and the road to fame was open. but that road led to Europe. Ali Baba Goes to Town. . California. and June Christy as soundalikes. Virginia and Mattye started singing in churches.’says Mattye. they were signed by the famous Folies Bergere. The twilight of the gods. Anne. They've made several films." The . they prove that the great era of swing is still alive. the United States. To my ears. Their father was a ragtime pianist: ‘We cut our teeth on ragtime. Here is an excerpt of the liner notes from what is probably their only US release. PETERS SISTER (THE) This threesome will elicit little recognition in the US. amateur shows and at social functions. on Capitol: "Big girls. Eddie Cantor discovered them one evening when they sang without pay at the old Hollywood Trocadero. not back to California. Best. . but then they headlined the bill for three years! Tours of South America. As children in Santa Monica. to think of her in happier times. but beginning in the early 1940s these three African-American women were a household name in France for a number of years. The war intervened and they weren't able to fill the engagement until 1950. and their records are big sellers all over Europe. I tell you. perhaps. Canada and the Near East have kept them busy. with big voices and a big-hearted sense of humor---solidly routined in top material---that's the Peters Sisters. and they appeared in his film. Chris Connor. O'Day sonically resembled herself and herself alone. the twilight of the gods.
and for the next three years the foursome recorded numerous hit sides with T.D. though.” “The Glory of Love. along with three other members of the original octet. PIED PIPERS (THE) This outfit practically wrote the book on the subject of big band vocal harmonizing. and perhaps truer.” “Sing. vocal great Stafford. Among those classic sides are: “Watcha Know Joe?.194 A Fine Romance Capitol of the World entry is entitled the Swingin' Peters Sisters with orch.” etc. though. Initially the Pipers were an octet.” “Mean to Me. The size of this singing unit was so large. there’s probably no better single example of the the art than the group’s classic 1940 recording with Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra. Lucky for the Peters Sisters they had good sense to stay where they were wanted. The repertoire consist of things like “Without a Song. as to prove financially prohibitive and after the two-and-a-half month Dorsey radio job the Pied Pipers disbanded (another.” “I’ll Take Tallulah. In the process. cond by Geoff Love. the Pied Pipers inarguably established themselves as one of the two great singing groups of the big band epoch. “I`ll Never Smile Again” (inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame). In fact. version of this story is told by Jo Stafford in the interview with her contained herein). Luckily. Sing. Dorsey soon hired back the highly talented nucleus of the organization.” “I Feel a Song Comin' On. Baby. along with the Modernaires.” “Oh! Look at Me Now” and the unforgettable award-winner “Smile Again.” . They sound like a hipper McGuire Sisters (similar harmonizing) with much better arrangements and repertoire. (and often with Sinatra). which was the format of this classic outfit when it was hired for a ten-week stint on Dorsey’s Raleigh-Kool radio show.
on the internet.” hence the suspicion by some that he was deceased. King Pleasure (Clarence Beeks) also passed away. after writing this. “Parker’s Mood. although it was mistakenly assumed that the obscure Pleasure had been dead for a while. The altoist’s “Going to Kansas City” became a Pleasure recording. and both had resided in the LA area for many years. He died of heart attack in a convalescent home in Los Angeles. I encountered the singer’s last drummer. and it turned out to be a lasting friendship. [Singer] Earl Coleman recommended me to King Pleasure for the gig.195 KING PLEASURE A Fine Romance (From my column that appeared in the LA Jazz Dispatch in the June 1981 issue) First it was Cat Anderson earlier this year.” But he was an adept lyric writer himself having invented words for numerous re-renderings of classic jazz solos such as those of Charlie Parker. Ca.” As obituaries for him begin appearing in the near future. He was traveling through that part of the country using local rhythm sections.” which in turn was a take on the standard. John Gilbert. Then. Here is what he wrote on his website: “This picture of me was taken in 1965 by King Pleasure at a service club in North Carolina. Most biographical information on the vocalese pioneer reported his whereabouts as “unknown. Both were important and vital jazz talents. “I’m in the Mood for Love. perhaps clues will be offered regarding Pleasure’s low visibility in recent years. My son was an infant and he would serenade him to sleep. I was also associated with Earl . The singer’s one great splash was with his popular reworking of vocalist Eddie Jefferson’s “Moody’s Mood for Love.A. He was 58 when he died in March. until his health failed badly (emphysema). I came to California in 1969 and we played some in L. Postscript: Years later. Pleasure stayed with my wife and I for a while in Sherman Oaks. on March 21st.
Jimmy ”Mr. Rushing couldn’t have been in a better place or at a better time to soak up the basics of the emerging blues idiom than his native Oklahoma City in the early 1900s. A look at his formative years goes a long was toward explaining this. Thus. Pleasure related to me that the greatest moment in his musical career came in New England. but before long his natural gifts for singing shone through. he forged on. he journeyed to Los Angeles in 1924 with thoughts of working strictly as a piano player. King Pleasure was initially impressed with the fact that I knew all of the words to “Moody's Mood For Love” and other tunes that he had recorded. didn‘t exclusively embrace the blues until the mid-thirties. He got a big kick out of this and often happily reflected on that moment in time. “Sent for You Yesterday.” And as well as singing songs.” JIMMY RUSHING Perhaps more than any other singer associated with urban blues. and the town was a prime stop on the blues and vaudeville circuit. coupled with young Rushing’s solid musical education. He was a sweet man and very helpful to me. though. 5 x 5” Rushing had the greatest impact on spreading the sound’s popularity. including the one with which he is most closely associated. Rushing. Both of this parents were musically inclined. These facts. made professional musician a logical career choice for him. never looking back. Rushing also wrote them. But once doing so. to become the very personification of what people mean when they say ‘blues singer. The y had no idea that the figure in the back of the bus was the man himself. sitting at the back of a bus when a group of school children boarded the bus and one was chirping out 'Moody's Mood‘ which was a hit at the time.” Roly-poly Rushing was allied with the Count .196 A Fine Romance Coleman at the time. He was at a low point in his life.
Sargent. The very good looking vocalist and sax player joined Gray in 1931 and remained until 1943 when he quit to become a disc jockey in Dallas. Unless you count borderline “jazz bands” like Paul Whiteman’s One of the very first. Texas. such as Sinatra and Haymes. jazz had tremendous impact on other kinds of popular music.197 A Fine Romance Basie band. died in 1969 (liner notes from Make Believe Ballroom: Vol. It was he who created the mold out of which so many other swoon n’ swing singers of a few years later. named after an early engagement the group played in Canada. 16) . The organization was officially formed in 1929 and. almost to the very end of his career (and life) in 1972. Theirs is widely considered one of the most fruitful collaborations in all of jazz history. and one of the main reasons for this success was undoubtedly “boy singer” Kenny Sargent. Even it’s earliest recordings are refreshingly free of the rinky dink sounds that characterize so many other show bands of the day. who was born in 1906. But he was still in fine voice some twenty-three years later when he once again recorded with the Casa Lomans for some excellent reunion recordings. KENNY SARGENT Up until the late 1920s. make no mistake about it. were cast. to change all that was Glen Gray with his Casa Loma band. Very shortly after starting up. the music it performed was authentic jazz. but wasn’t widely heard in unadulterated forms. if not in fact the first. the Casa Lomans became a national craze on the Camel Caravan radio show. which he joined in 1935.
' she finally grumbled. so I was able to get through a complete show without being interrupted by the busboy. 'Miss Faye didn't do THAT in the show. . Scott was only so-so as a vocalist and didn't really force the issue all that much. 'Let's see if Frances Faye can do this. A great and noble woman. A gimmick that served quite nicely throughout the rest of the 30s and the 1940s.” (excerpted from my book Hot from Harlem: Profiles in Classic African-American Entertainment) Hazel Scott was a dazzling pianist. a major Civil Rights mover and shaker and a household name in 40s black America. The act single-handedly stopped her major career dead in its tracks.' she later recalled. Even before Edward R. Not so obscure in the mirror world of white America either. She asked to testify before HUAC. and tore into a Bach invention played boogie woogie style. Now all but forgotten by both races. Murrow. who assumed they had a friendly witness on their hands. 'Needless to say. Hazel Scott soon began receiving notes [over and over] on stage via the busboy that she was no longer to play the song she had just sung because Faye was using it in her act.'" Not that much of a story out of context except that Scott claims that this was the occasion that gave her the idea of jazzing the classics for a living. She paid dearly for her bold and brave gesture. Instead she read the riot act and as such was the first public figure to speak out against McCarthyism.198 HAZEL SCOTT A Fine Romance “Hired as an intermission player in support of star Frances Faye at New York's popular Yacht Club in 1936.
Lizabeth Scott made an appearance at the American Cinemathque here in Los Angeles (now ensconsed at the Egyptian theater) for a screening of her 1948 classic. I sent the album to her in the mail. A fan arose in the audience and mentioned her Vik album Lizabeth. You know today when they make recordings they do the songs over and over and over to get what they want. What more could you ask for from a moonlighting moom pitcher star? It's even got "Legalize My Name" on it. cinematic axiom Lizabeth Scott did record one album for the Vik label back in 1957. This included skulking and staling about her charming Cape Cod style Hollywood Hills abode with binoculars. "Oh I'm so glad you like it. her last film appearance having been 1972's Pulp. The album is still available on a Japanese label. Next. And she can! With that inimitable husk of a voice of hers ("a dime store Betty Bacall" one way once deemed her) and on pitch. Scott was always dubbed in films and contended she made the album just to prove she could actually sing. and how much he loved it. Well I . she posted it back poste haste with sig scrawled across the lower left hand corner. I really enjoyed doing it. When he opened it up Xmas am. but from movie screens nearly as long. Not only has she been missing from recordings ever since then. It's not really bad at all in a non-singing singer sort of way. in which she starred opposite Dick Powell. he assumed the signature was a fake. A number of Christmases ago I went to elaborate lengths to secure an LP copy of her Vik album autographed for a friend as a Xmas present. A while back. She was The Very Image of a Classic Movie Star. until I informed him how I’d secured it. Pitfall.199 LIZABETH SCOTT A Fine Romance Although not really a songbird. A house that I believed to be hers but wasn't entirely certain of until I saw her actually make an exit from it.
She had a nice. she looked several decades younger than that. In my memoir. Very well-liked within the show biz community. girl next door. a highly successful daytime talk show. Early Plastic. etc. but the last time I saw her on TV a few months earlier. specials. I think she was somewhat active up until not too long before her death. My recollection is that her death was rather unexpected. "My doctor won't let me watch Dinah Shore." But that didn't stop most other Americans. aw shucks. Poor Dinah could never open her mouth to sing on TV without someone in the room drowning her out . A few unmemorable wartime musicals in which her impact was mild compared to what came later in the cool medium of TV. then. mildly selfdeprecating way with herself on the air. Very upbeat. That's all the time it took!" And then she let out with that great Lizabeth Scott laugh. Her later TV shows focused more on Dinah's abilities as a cook rather than as songbird. especially in the south. sunny. Dinah was. I recalled another aspect of her career: “If you grew up during a certain period. First. she was apparently pretty much the same. you knew about Dinah Shore’s tragic mulatto status the same way you knew about polio. Shore was in her early seventies when she died. arguably. DINAH SHORE The great wit and no mean pianist Oscar Levant once remarked. with a 15 minutes twice weekly program in the early fifties. for nearly a decade with a prime time variety show on NBC and later on. Off the air.200 A Fine Romance did that record in four hours. Levant notwithstanding. but more than bearable. Not much to say about her movie career. the most popular TV personality of the first few decades of the medium. Some other format variations were scattered throughout. I'm a diabetic.
She was sitting on a stool with dramatic lighting and some great players playing. represent the very best of the singer’s early-period recordings. Sloane began singing with Elgart’s band. and she sat in with a couple of tunes and I was really impressed with the quality of her voice. he was immediately sold on her talent. I thought that she was much more important than just a band singer. she had never even been to New York City. More than realpolitik debates over school integration was this racial idee fixe that had hung in the air for as long as I could remember. It was very informal.” CAROL SLOANE (liner notes for Sloane CD. “We recorded nearly every night. He brought her there and began recording her. but he wasn’t set on making her a band singer: “I was thinking along the lines a making her a star. and secretly had to give it up for adoption. where Elgart had a combination office/recording studio (at 667 Madison Avenue).” In Elgart’s opinion. who just knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that America’s Singing Sweetheart was part black.” Almost immediately. the Sloane sides heard on this CD. We’d record a few hours and then wrap it up that night. Take a listen and see if you don’t agree. Hush-a-Bye) When bandleader Larry Elgart first heard Carole Sloane sing in 1958. but hadn’t known it until she gave birth to a baby of tell-tale color.201 A Fine Romance with words to the effect they knew someone who knew someone else who had a friend in Tennessee where the singer was from. “We were doing one-nighters up in Rhode Island with the band. The Sloane-Elgart sides were made over a period of six months. . Hush-a-Bye. “and the road manager told me that there was a wonderful singer working at a nearby club. We recorded many nights.” he recalls.” When Elgart first met Sloane. And so he brought her down.” he remembers.
blues singer Victoria Spivey (1906-1976) was one of the last professionally active of the first wave of great urban female blues singers. Also in films and on TV. Not to be confused with New York nightclub owner and performer. and featured new talent as well. (just plain) Spivy. Active on the black vaudeville circuit. from its inception in the teens through the Depression. and which was also dedicated to preserving the few remaining of her contemporaries. After the success . MAXINE SULLIVAN Sullivan was one of the star vocalists of the Swing Era. In 1971 she founded Spivey Records. the TOBA. She was singing in Pittsburgh clubs and on local radio when got her big break in 1936. through an introduction to bandleader Claude Thornhill she landed an engagement at New York’s Onyx Club. Spivey Records also reissued classic blues recordings. she continued to be heard on recordings and radio long after the fad for blues became eclipsed by such as swing and more fashionable and profitable forms of musical expression. on which she appeared.202 VICTORIA SPIVEY A Fine Romance Born in Houston. including an early recorded appearance by Bob Dylan. She became known the “Loch Lomond Girl” and the “Lady Who Swings the Scotch” after her 1937 recording of a swing version of “Loch Lomond” with the John Kirby Quintet catapulted her to overnight fame. Texas. she began her career as a pianist at the Lincoln Theater in Dallas. Also a keyboard artist.
Strictly speaking. with a long engagement at the Le Ruban Bleu in New York.000 dollar mark. She sounds like the best of Peggy . Maxine Sullivan was praised for the clear.00. before several questionably legal issues of the recording came into play. in the movies Going Places and St. Over the years she adapted all kinds of popular songs to her cool soft voice and exquisitely subtle. playing both at jazz concerts and festivals. but also in 1963---as a member of the folk group The Rooftop Singers. just about the most widely desired recording (right up there along Pinky Winters’ 1955 Vantage 10 inch LP) on the Japanese vocal jazz collectors’ market. In 1957 Barbara Lea said: "Lynn is the best of the modern jazz singers. and in the Broadway musical Swingin’ the Dream. intimate style.” It landed at #1 the week of 1/26/63. In its original form. her impeccable diction and her musical integrity. Taylor---aside from her recordings with the Rooftop Singers--. At one time. and was also married to him for a few years around that time. After a brief stint with Benny Carter’s band in the early 1940s. She died in 1987. Louis Blues. Her lone name-above-the-title album is a collection of Arthur Schwartz songs entitled I See Your Face Before Me .” she continued to work with John Kirby. In the late 1930s Maxine appeared on radio. In the late 1950s she picked up the valve trombone and pocket trumpet. she worked on her own into the next decade. a One HIT Wonder with the Top Ten single. its value was around the 1. Now it hovers more often around 600. LYNN TAYLOR Lynn Taylor was not only a One Shot Wonder in 1957.203 A Fine Romance of “Loch Lomond.made 1 1/3 LPs. bell-like lyric quality of her sound. for she appears as a guest jazz vocalist on a recording by US TV comedian Ernie Kovacs. “Walk Right In.
There was a major piece in Vanity Fair that appeared not long before she died with which Thomspson refused to have any truck. I'm not aware of any. Topeka and the Santa Fe. Thompson . “Lynn has been singing in night clubs." Judy's The Pirate was KT's last film at MGM where she'd been the chief vocal arranger for the Freed unit for the better part of a decade. It's not widely known. she sings the way I wish Peggy would sing more often. you read that right: diving not driving) instructor. KAY THOMPSON I probably have every recorded vinyl appearance by Thompson.” She also appeared on bills with Frank Sinatra. He was romantically involved and it was he who introduced her to his father's music and caused the album to be recorded." "Mack the Black" from The Pirate is her arrangement. when the film came up in conversation. but she did some of the early vocal arrangements for the Mills Brothers.that is. quotes KT from an unnamed source: "I got so tired of taking care of her (Garland). She was looked after later in life by a certain singer who one local wag recently dubbed "Our Lady of Studio 54. here's some other things I know about her.204 A Fine Romance Lee -. and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Sophie Tucker. Jonathan Schwartz. She did a little thing called "Atcheson. bootlegs 'n all. at age 14 she sang with Benny Goodman. she began her professional life as a diving (no. Randomly. Marie Brenner. including the Composer (where Walter Winchell first raved about her) and the Village Vanguard in New York. Years later. According to the liner notes for her album. Before she recorded her one-off in 1957. and was with the Rooftop Singers from 1962 to 1967. The author. Taylor was born in 1928 and died 1979." Taylor’s Arthur Schwartz LP came about as a result of the songwriter’s song." As for in-depths interviews with Thompson.
"Drugaroonies. 'You didn't ruin it---use it!'" There's a rehearsal recording of Judy. She had just thrown on an old wrapper. They'd forgotten. hit the ground running and nailed the initial number the first time out. Sondheim and Laurents nearly fainted. Marie." she said (according to Vanity Fair writer Brenner). hadn't even bothered to fix her hair. The most memorable was a benefit. at the L. When they were rehearsing the show. musicians union. who'd never done a stage musical before." from The Harvey Girls. via Rex Reed. ten feet away from me. Sondheim and Arthur Laurents went to a great deal of trouble explaining to Lansbury what they wanted her to do: all the numbers featuring her were Thompson-styled. As for the her one long black eyelash.A. Went up on stage. or perhaps never knew. thus giving the lie to the NY Times obit that she was in her 90s when she died." for example. Kay Thompson was born in 1912 in St Louis. 'Oh. SARAH VAUGHAN I saw Vaughan perform in so many different situations. The character that Angela Lansbury plays in Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle is a composite/homage of/to KT. and KT singing "In the Valley. Auntie Kay was such a style setter I'm surprised it didn't start a trend. Michel . She'd say. on the Turner/MGM Judy laser box. And when Angela.' And Kay would say. Roger Edens. I ruined it. and tore the roof of the place with hers peers looking on. not too long before she died. "Me and My Town. and driven in from the San Fernando Valley where she lived. is pluperfect KT and the Williams Brothers. Judy was always running out of steam on notes and would have to catch her breath.205 A Fine Romance looked at a friend with an arched eyebrow. attributes KT as putting the "sob in Judy's voice. that Lansbury had been at MGM for a large part of Thompson's tenure there.
Jones said. "Yes. along with many other Tin Pan alley concoctions that have since become standards. “I never gimmicked anything. He said that after they'd finished the first track (a ballad) he looked up and there was hardly a dry eye in a studio full of hardened session players. although she later worked . An especially memorable studio session with the clarinetist took place in Chicago in January 1936. which resulted in one important critic dubbing. Now THAT is a star HELEN WARD “I sang it straight. ‘sing on the beat. "But aren't you in pain?" Sass replied. The vocalist who reached her peak with Benny Goodman’s band also remembered. Ward’s perfectly placed. quite simply “the perfect band vocalist. she was never fully as active in music again. It was then that Helen cut her most famous Goodman side. Benny didn‘t allow me to do that. Andy Simpkins had a mild heart attack on stage while performing with her at the Blue Note.” Among her other signature tunes with the band were “There’s a Small Hotel” and “It’s Been So Long” (also from that fruitful Chicago session). sing straight. Sarah begged producer. to great effect." A few years before Sass died. “Goody Goody.” After Helen’s stint with Goodman.206 A Fine Romance Legrand once made an album with her. Just before she passed.’ he said. He refused to let me take lessons. Quincy Jones.’” And so she did. to let her finish a Brazilian album they had been working on.” said Helen Ward on one occasion. no-nonsense tones were heard with Goodman from 1934 to 1936. He wanted the public to know what the song was like. ‘It’s the natural quality I want. but lying down I still sound just fine. They wheeled him out on a stretcher and Sarah didn't miss a beat. on the many recordings she made with Goodman’s legendary swing band outfit.
albeit in limited form in 1950. circa 1960-1980. One of the pioneers of the LP songbook form. Whiting went out in style. and Peggy Lee. That is. With the exception of an overtly commercial album in 1967. no frills. had been a bellwether of good. mostly because of their contemporary "feel." As Alec Wilder pointed out in 1972 in his American Popular Song: the Great Innovators 1900-1950. it mostly fell upon Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald (with her Verve songbook series) to keep tradition alive. But she was always up for musical reunions and periodically recorded and performed with Benny and the boys right on up through the 1960s. Rosemary Clooney.207 A Fine Romance with Harry James and Bob Crosby (as well as behind the scenes in the music biz). Doris Day. With this project. and an album with Mel Tormé for the same Verve/MGM record group the following year. was Margaret Whiting with her Rodgers and Hart 10" LP tribute on Capitol. now available on one CD) represents one of only four trips that she made to the recording studio throughout the 1960s. the following year's equally good Past Midnight. Whiting had been one of most important pop singers of the 1940s and 1950s. The singer's choices of repertoire for this collection are still popular today. This Whiting Sings Kern songbook (originally a 2-LP collection. This slackening off in studio activity was a stunning turn of events for a singer who. MARGARET WHITING Throughout the long dark days of the Great American Songbook blackout. an inordinate number of Jerome Kern's early theater songs remained standard fare until the end of the professional writer's era. Along with Jo Stafford. until the coming of the . straight-ahead pop singing. for more than two decades. she didn't significantly record again until the mid-1980s.
as is often the case it's been left to the Japanese to act as cultural custodians of uniquely American art. they are more-or-less evenly divided between slow. This project is a pluperfect example of a favorite topic of debate among jazz aficionados and critics: Exactly what constitutes that most parse-resistant of creatures. In the instance of this sensibly-priced reissue Kern interpreted by Margaret Whiting is in good hands.” Almost without exception. Unbelievably and unforgivably. Margaret Whiting Sings the Jerome Song Book. Searches through the best discographies that money can buy have failed to yield a single clue. Paul Smith. Norman Granz' usual studio suspects playing in the small group (perhaps Barney Kessel. Whenever talk turns to vinyl long overdue for CD-ification. this oversight has been addressed. If I were to hazard a guess. Russell Garcia. Here. like “Poor Pierrot. There is an ineffable quality of approachability and friendliness in the voices of some singers that automatically attract you. Ray Brown?) and the string large orchestra arranged and conducted by Garcia. of course. as it often does around our house. is the ability to swing .” and “D'ye Love Me. there are also a few relative rarities. by such lyricists as Dorothy Fields. as arranger of the jazzy nonet (although the album credits Garcia for these). “A Fine Romance. Along with the familiar numbers.” “She Didn't Say Yes.” “You Couldn't Be Cuter. self-contained rock singer-songwriter. is usually at the top of the list. The Jazz Singer? What it all comes down to.” and most of the other 18 titles herein are structurally modern both in both melody. some of the several dozen other musical participants appear to be Marty Paich. the experts say. medium and up-tempo readings. That critical herring .” “The Way You Look Tonight.” “Dearly Beloved. forty years later the compiler of this CD lists no further credits than on the original issue.208 A Fine Romance cost-effective. Johnny Mercer and Oscar Hammerstein.” “All The Things You Are.Finally. and have their pitch under control.” “Let's Begin. The only other musical participant identified is the conductor.a vague and obfuscating word that might best be retired from the critical lexicon. And if they don't remain too epoxy-glued to the beat. and in word. what more do you need? Other than a beautifully crafted song. all these were written for the stage or screen.
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aside, what Whiting did have then, and continues to possess as she carries on into her sixth decade of performing, is a clear, contralto voice and an un=mannered delivery that makes almost every song she sings a definitive version of what its composer had in mind. Jerome Kern ("Uncle Jerry" to show biz spud Whiting) would have loved this collection. LEE WILEY
Lee Wiley (1910-1975) is clearly the greatest---extra-categorically---unknown American artist. Obscure oftentimes even to seemingly devoted followers of American Popular Song. God knows Wiley had enough extra-musical mythic resonance to have guaranteed remembrance of her. A beautiful tart-tounged, substance-abusing, chain-smoking beauty who sang in and haunted Upper East Side intime boites, breaking hearts along her merry way back in the 30s and 40s. In 2000 I was working on adapting a Japanese NHK special on Wiley for American TV. One can hardly imagine a society so civilized as to traffic in such programming for prime time TV! The penultimate scene, and the finale of the special finds a Japanese singer going to the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and, first, informing them that they have overlooked the great Lee Wiley---"Lee, who?"---and then flash forward a few months later and she returns for Wiley's installation in the HOF. Nobuko Miyamoto, is an actress---the widow of Juzo Itami, the director of Tampopo---who upon hearing Wiley sing for the first time, did a complete career turnabout and became a vocalist. My adaptation never came to pass by the way, i.e., 'Lee, who?' Maybe because Wiley recorded for such small labels that apparently let her record exactly what she wanted to, which included the invention of the single-composer Songbook concept. If you can find a lone Wiley divider card in a single so-called "
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big box" store in all of this great land of ours, I'll eat it. And it is more and more beginning to look like there is no extant footage of this great artist performing. A ‘30s Vitaphone short featuring “Lee Wiley” led fans off on a wild goose but it turned out to be a dancer by that name. To the best of my knowledge there were approximately five appearances by Wiley on TV: on an Eddie Condon Show in 1949, an early NBC TV show called Nothing But the Best with Eddie Albert, a local NYC appearance in the early 1950s on the Larry Carr Show, the Jack Paar Show in 1959, and a 1951 TV program, Once Upon a Tune. There is a slim possibility that the Paar footage exists, but most likely not the others. In more recent times the search for such a jazz holy grail has begun to resemble the fervor with which fans of Charlie Parker searched for the legendary (and eventually discovered) Dean Benedetti wire recordings of the jazz great.
211 Discography: Good Places to Start
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Highly subjective list by the author of good recorded introduction to singers covered in the main text. Not all of these in print and/or easily available. Try amazon.com or ebay.com; and for Japanese imports check out Dustygroove.com which tends to be far less expensive than other e-commerce sites. What follows is by way of saying, if I had to rescue just one album by the artist in question to pack off to a desert isle this is the one I would take. In the case of the One Shot Wonders in Part Two, the choices are obvious. Except where noted, labels are U.S. and represent latest available (known) information. As for downloadability of these titles. . .don't look at me, Jack! Abbey Lincoln The World is Falling Down – Verve (CD) Anita O’Day All the Sad Young Men – Verve (CD) Betty Blake Sings in a Tender Mood – Bethelehem (CD - Japan) Beverly Kenney Sings for Johnny Smith – Toshiba/Emi (CD - Japan) Bill Black Down in the Depths - SSJ (CD - Japan) Blossom Dearie Blossom Dearie Verve Jazz Masters No, 51- Verve Bobbi Rogers Tommy Wolf Can Really Hang You Up the Most – Celeste (CD - Japan) Carol Sloane Hush-A-Bye - SSJ (CD - Japan) Carole Creveling Here Comes Carole Creveling, Vol. 1- (CD - Japan) Carole Simpson All About Carole – Jasmine (U.K.) Cora Lee Day My Crying Hour – Roulette (LP) Dick and Kiz Harp At the 90th Floor – SSJ (CD - Japan)
212 Dick Noel A Time for Love - SSJ (CD - Japan)
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Dinah Shore Dinah Sings, Previn Plays – Blue Note (CD) Dorothy Dandridge Smooth Operator – Verve (CD) Dusty Springfield Dusty in Memphis – Atlantic (CD) Ethel Waters The Incomparable Ethel Waters – Sony (CD) Flo Bennett Half Past Lonely – SSJ (CD - Japan) Flo Handy Smoky and Intimate - SSJ (CD - Japan) Frances Lynne Remember - SSJ (CD - Japan) Hazel Scott Hazel Scott, 1946 – 1947 – Classics (CD) Helen Grayco After Midnight – BMG (CD - Japan) Helen Ward The Complete Helen Ward on Columbia – Sony (CD) Inez Jones Have You Met Inez Jones? - Riverside (LP) Irene Kral Where is Love Choice (CD) Janet Brace Special Delivery – Polygram (CD - Japan) Jennie Smith Nightly on the Steve Allen Show SSJ (CD - Japan) Jimmy Rushing Anthology 1937 – 1955 – Cabu (CD)
213 Jo Stafford Jo + Jazz Corinthian (CD)
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Joe Williams Definitive Joe Williams- Verve (CD) Johnny Prophet This is Johnny Prophet – Reprise (LP) Judy Garland Judy at Carnegie Hall – Capitol (CD) Julie London Julie is Her Name v. 1 – Capitol (CD) June Christy Something Cool – Capitol (CD) June Rudell Sings for the Gourmet – Vido (LP) Kay Thompson Queen of Swing – Baldwin Street Music (CD) Kenny Sargent Casa Loma Caravan – Capitol (LP) Kevin Gavin Hey! This is Keven Gavin – Charlie Parker Records (LP) King Pleasure Moody's Mood for Love – Blue Note (CD) Kurt Reichenbach With a Song in My Heart – SSJ (CD - Japan) Laurie Allyn Paradise – VSOP (CD) Lee Wiley West of the Moon – Mosaic (CD) Lizabeth Scott Lizabeth – Vik/BMG (CD - Japan) Lorez Alexandria Alexandria the Great – Impulse (CD)
A Fine Romance Lynn Taylor I See Your Face Before Me – P&S (CD – Spain) Margaret Whiting Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook – Verve (CD) Marlene Dietrich In London - DRG Marlene Cord Marlene Cord – Dot (LP) Mary Ann McCall You're Mine You: 1929-1950 – Hep (CD) Maxine Sullivan The Le Reuben BleuYears – Baldwin Street Music (CD) Nat “King” Cole After Midnight: The Complete Session – Capitol (CD) Nina Simone Little Girl Blue – Fuel 2000 [originally Bethlehem] (CD) Nora Evans Don't Explain – Noveeva (CD) Page Cavanaugh The Digital Page: Page Two- Star Line (CD) Peters Sisters, The Swingin' Peters Sisters Capitol (LP) Pied Pipers, The The Best of the Pied Pipers Featuring Jo Stafford – Collector's Choice (CD) Pinky Winters Rain Sometimes – SSJ (CD - Japan) Ruth Olay Easy Living – Universal (CD - Japan) Ronnie Deauville Smoke Dreams – Era (LP) Sarah Vaughan Verve Jazz Masters 18 – Verve (CD)
A Fine Romance Sue Childs Introducing Sue Childs – SSJ (CD – Japan) Sue Raney Heart's Desire – Fresh Sounds (CD - Spain) Susannah McCorkle Most Requested Songs – Concord(CD) Victoria Spivey Complete Recorded Works v.2: 1927-1929 – Document (CD)
216 SONGS “Aba Daba Honeymoon” 47 “All the Things You Are” 92, 208 “Alright, Okay, You Win” 22 “April Showers” 82 “At Midnight” 74 “Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe” 204 “Backlash Blues, The” 14 “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” 77 “Bambina Mia” 146 “Bittersweet” 92 “Blame It on My Youth” 97, 148 “Blue Prelude” 188 “Blue Skies” 190 “Blues in My Heart” 49 “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” 151 “Bread and Gravy”48 “Ca Ca Carumba” 68 “Cabin in the Sky” 45, 49 “Calling Dr. Gillespie” 145 “Caminhos Cruzados” 190 “Can I Forget You?” 188 “Chapel in the Moonlight” 103 “Cherry Red” 21 “Chloe” 67 “Christmas Song, The 64 “Cocktails for Two” 67 “Compromise” 166 “Cow Cow Boogie” 151 “Cross Over the Bridge” 101, 103 “Cry Me A River” 186 “D'ye Love Me” 208 “Daddy Bird” 28 “Dear Mr. Gable” 81 “Dearly Beloved” 208 “Deep Purple” 146 “Der Fuehrer’s Face” 67 “Desafinado” 92 “Dinah” 48 “Dinner for One, Please James” 22 “Dirty Hands, Dirty Face” 82 “Don't Cry Joe”146 “Don't Explain” 101 “Down Home Blues” 47
A Fine Romance
“Down in the Depths (on the 90th Floor)” 148 “Early Autumn” 11 “Every Day I Have the Blues” 22 “Fine Romance, A” 208 “Four Women” 141 “Frankie and Johnny” 49 “Fugue for Tinhorns” 94 “Georgia on My Mind” 48 “Gloomy Sunday” 148 “Glory of Love” 194 “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night” 45 “Goin' to Chicago” 22 “Going to Kansas City” 195 “Good Bait” 138 “Goody Goody” 206 “Great Indoors, The” 94 “Guilty” 119 “Harlem on My Mind” 48 “Heat Wave” 48 “Here's That Rainy Day” 104 “His Eye is on the Sparrow” 45 “Hold Your Head High“ 135 “Honey in a Hurry” 49 “Honeysuckle Rose” 162 “House of Blue Lights' The” 150 “How Can I Face This Wearied World Alone?” 48 “How to Seduce a Woman” 131 “I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle” 190 “I Am Woman” 43 “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” 48, 81 “I Could Write a Book” 177 “I Feel a Song Comin' On” 194 “I Got It Band and That Ain't Good” 178 “I Got Thunder” 178 “I Loves You Porgy” 137 “I Never Has Seen Snow” 20 “I Should Have Quit” 49 “I Thought About You“ 78, 92 “I Want to Be a Sideman” 190 “I Wish I Were in Love Again” 190 “I'll Never Be the Same” 148 “I'll Never Smile Again” 194
217 “I'll Remember April” 151 “I'll Take Tallulah” 194 “I'm a Fool to Care” 101, 103 “I'm All Smiles” 93 “I'm Always Chasing Rainbows” 131 “I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)” 21 “I'm in the Mood for Love” 195 “I‘m the Prettiest Piece in Greece” 28 “I’m Coming Virginia” 48 “If I Give My Love To You” 102 “In Other Words (Fly Me to the Moon” 94 “In the Valley” 204 “It's Been So Long” 206 “Insensatez” 191 “Jambalaya” 37 “Jeepers Creepers” 48 “Judy at the Palace” (medley) 81 “Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues” 141 “Lack-a-Day” 166 “Lady Sings the Blues, The” 173 “Last Night When We Were Young” 188 “Laughing at Life” 190 “Laura” 1311 “Legalize My Name” 199 “Lemon Drop” 145 “Let Me Love You” 94 “Let's Begin” 208 “Listen Little Boy” 148, 150 “Little Bird” 123 “Little Black Boy” 45 “Little Things Mean a Lot” 103 “Long Ago and Far Away” 37 “Loch Lomand” 202 “Lollipops and Roses” 161 “Lonesome Road” 162, 186 “Lonesome Walls” 48, 151 “Look for the Silver Lining” 190 “Look of Love, The” 74 “Losing Hand” 190 “Lover Man” 119 “Lullaby of Birdland” 181 “Lulu's Back in Town” 34 “Lush Life” 63 “Mack the Black” 204 “Mad at the World” 135 “Make Love to Me” 37 “Mammy” 45
A Fine Romance “Man That Got Away, The” 81 “Maple Leaf Rag" 31 “Me and My Town” 205 “Mean to Me” 194 “Mississippi Goddam" 141 “Mister 5 x 5” 151 “Mona Lisa” 65 “Moody's Mood for Love” 181, 195 “Moonlight in Vermont” 25 “Music is the Magic” 185 “My Baby Just Cares For Me” 138, 169 “My Romance” 36 “My Shining Hour” 113 “My Sweet Lord” 141 “Nature Boy,” 63, 65 “Nice and Easy” 150 “Night and Day” 37 “Nina Never Knew”34 “Nobody's Heart” 148 “Nuages” 190 “Oh, Look at Me Now“ 78, 194 “One fore My Baby (and One More for the Road)” 22 “One of Those Songs” 102 “Ooop Shoop” 69 “Over the Rainbow” 83 “Parker's Mood” 195 “Party's Over, The” 154 “Peel Me a Grape” 181 “Perdido” 121 “Personality” 131 “Phone Call to the Past” 191 “Poor Pierrot” 208 “Pretend” 63 “Pro Musica Antiqua” 181 “Put Your Dreams Away” 29 “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on the Stage” 75 “Rehearsin' With McPherson” 11 “Right Here and Now” 101 “Robin in a Cherry Tree” 31 “Rock-a-bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody” 82 “Route 66” 63 “Rum and Coca Cola” 5 “San Francisco” 81 “Say It Isn't So” 146 “Sent for You Yesterday” 196
A Fine Romance “Wait With Me Love” 166 “Walk Right In” 203 “Watcha Know Joe?” 194 “Wave” 190 “Way You Look Tonight, The” 208 “What Goes Up Must Come Down” 48 “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” 73 “Where Are You” 148 “Who She Do” 21 “Why Did I Choose You” 104 “Winter Warm” 94 “Wishin’ and Hopin’” 74 “Without a Song” 194 “World is Falling Down, The” 185 “Y’ Had It Comin’ To You” 48 “Yes We Have No Bananas” 64 “You Belong to Me” 37 “You Couldn't Be Cuter” 208 “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” 74 “You Made Me Love You” 81 “You Turned the Tables on Me” 174 “You’re a Hit-and-Run Lover“ 103 “You’re a Sweetheart” 48
“Shake that Thing” 45 “Shakin' the Blues Away” 190 “She Didn't Say Yes” 208 “Shrimp Boats” 37 “Sing, Baby, Sing” 194 “Smile” 63, 102 “So It's Spring” 148 “Something to Live For” 79 “Something to Remember You By” 190 “Son of a Preacher Man” 74 “Song Cycle for Mezzo Soprano and Piano” 166 “Sonnets of Petrarch” 32 “Special Date” 28 “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” 77, 94 “Spring is Here” 25 “Spring Isn't Everything” 188 “St. Louis Blues” “Stardust” 39 “Stayin’ Alive” 43 “Stop Myself from Worryin’ Over You” 49 “Stop, Time” 191 “Stout-Hearted Men” 60 “Straighten Up and Fly Right” 63 “Surrey With the Fringe on Top” 11 “Suzanne” 141 “Swanee” 82 “Sweet Sue” 25 “Taking a Chance on Love” 49 “Teach Me Tonight” 175 “There are Days When I Don’t Think of You at All” 135 “There's a Small Hotel” 206 “This Little Town is Paris” “Three Bears, The” 25 “Three Coins in the Fountain” 81 “Time for Love, A” 104 “Tim-Tayshun” (“Temptation”) 37 “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” 141 “To Love Somebody” 141 “Too Young” 63 “Trolley Song, The” 82 “Turtle, The” 168 “Ugly Beauty” 185 “Unforgettable” 63 “Wait Till You See Her” 25
219 PERSONAL NAME INDEX
A Fine Romance
Albert, Eddie 210 Alexandria, Lorez 172 Allen, Cliff 28 Allen, Harry 79 Allen, Peter 74 Allen, Steve 21, 59, 79, 99, 110 Allen, Woody 77 Allyn, David 149 Allyn, Laurie 173 Allyson, June 95 Anderson, Bruce 162 Anderson, Cat 195 Anderson, Ivie 54, 178 Andrews Sisters, The 5 Andrews, Bob 123 Anthony, Ron 127 Arlen, Harold 36, 81, 83, 183 Armstrong, Louis 10, 17, 21 Ashby, Irving 55, 174 Astaire, Fred 38, 135 Bacall, Lauren 199 Bach, Johann Sebastian 138 Bacharach, Burt 94 Baker, Bill 158 Baker, Chet 190 Balliett, Whitney 6, 133 Barker, Danny 49 Barnes, Buddy 127 Barnes, George 164, 166 Basie, Count 21, 22, 196 Batchelor, Ruth 135 Bates, Bob 57 Beal. Eddie 53 Beane, Reginald 49 Beatles, The 10, 141, 189 Bee Gees, The 141 Beethoven, Ludwig (Van) 12 Benedetti, Dean 210 Bennett, Betty 150 Bennett, Flo 174 Bennett, Max 158 Bennett, Richard Rodney 116, 125, 126, 127 Bennett, Tony 96, 190
Benny, Jack 43, 63 Berghofer,Chuck 101 Berlin, Irving 22, 36, 190 Berman, Shelley 58 Bernstein, Elmer 101, 102 Bernstein, Leonard 141 Berry, Halle 178 Bertoncini, Gene 76 Black, Bill 144-155, 186, 187 Blake, Betty Blane, Ralph 82 Block, Peter 97 Blue Stars of France, The 181 Bogle, Donald 179 Boswell Sisters, The 38 Brace, Janet 175 Brecht, Bertolt 141 Bregman, Marty 60 Brel, Jacques 141 Brenner, Marie 204-205 Brice, Fannie 47 Broadbent, Alan 89, 105, 134 Brown, Ray 208 Broyard, Anatole 15, 16 Brubeck, Dave 57, 106 Bruce, Lenny 58 Bryan, Joy 173 Budimir, Dennis 131 Budwig, Monte 111, 135 Bunker, Larry 70 Burke, Johnny 94 Burrell, Kenny 175 Burroughs, Clark 6, 91, 133 Burton, Bill 58 Bushell, Garvin 48 Byrd, Charlie 91, 92
Cabot, Chuck 69
Cain, Jackie 77, 94, 95, 126, 134, 136 Caine, Eddie 166 Callendar, Red 54 Camaratta, Tutti 109 Cano, Eddie 110 Carlisle, Kitty 67
A Fine Romance Cord, Marlene 177 Cox, Jim 93 Creveling, Carole 9, 156-159, 188 Crosby, Bing 47, 147 Crosby, Bob 207 Curtis, Tony 70 Curtiz, Michael 27, 28 Dameron, Tadd 138 Damone, Vic 22, 171 Dandridge, Dorothy 55, 178 Dane, Barbara 190 David, Hal 94 Davidson, John 123 Davis, Miles 12, 21 Davis, Rachel (aka Ruth Olay) 55 Davis, Sammy 26 Day, Cora Lee 179 Day, Doris 6, 27, 28, 88, 113, 207 Dearie, Blossom 127, 133, 180 De Frances, Nick 14 Deauville, Ronnie 182 Dennis, Matt 33, 58 DePaul, Gene 150 DeShannon, Jackie 135 Desmond, Johnny 28 DeSylva, Buddy 190 Dietrich, Marlene 60, 95, 182 Doney, Eric 166, 167 Dorough, Bob 77, 86, 127, 135 Dorsey, Jimmy 39, 163 Dorsey, Tommy 38, 39, 195 Dugan, Johnny 26 Durbin, Deanna 68 Durgom, George "Bullets" 26, 27, 29 Echols, Wendell 95 Eddy, Nelson 54 Edens, Roger 81, 205 Edison, Harry 180 Edwards, Darlene 37, 38, 43, 44 Edwards, Jonathan 37, 43, 44 Eells, George 192 Eichler, Alan 164 Elgart, Larry 201 Ellington, Duke 21, 46, 59, 61, 193 Elliott, Don 176 Ellis, Ray 98 Etting, Ruth 47
Carmichael, Hoagy 48 Carmichael, Ralph 130 Carney, Richard 166 Carpenters, The 12 Carr, Larry 210 Carson, Johnny 23 Carter, Benny 6, 49, 51, 55, 56, 151 Carter, Betty 5, 8, 11 Cartwright, Katherine 166, 167 Casa Loma Orchestra 40, 197 Cassidy, Eva 95 Cavanaugh, Mary Ann 30 Cavanaugh, Page 9, 125-135, 150, 151 Charles, Ray 75 Charles, Teddy 175 Cherry Sisters, The 180 Childers, Buddy 102 Childs, Sue 9, 160-163 Chinoweth, Kristin 75 Chittison, Herman 49 Christlieb, Pete 101, 112 Christy, June 10, 106, 113, 176, 193 Cicchetti, Chic 76, 79 Clayton-Hamilton Band, The 90 Clooney, George 154 Clooney, Nick 154 Clooney, Rosemary 21, 60, 69, 154, 207 Coates, John 165 Cochran, Charles 138 Cohen, Leonard 141 Cohn, Al 115, 165, 167, 192 Cole, Nat “King” 8, 22, 30, 33, 63-66, 177 Coleman, Earl 195 Coles, Eddie 64 Coles, Edward 64 Coles, Johnny 188 Coles, Perlina 64 Collier, Bruce 97 Collins, Joyce 168 Coltrane, John 44 Como, Perry 147 Condon, Eddie 210 Conlon, Judd 70 Connor, Chris 10, 106-108, 127, 149, 163, 172, 193 Cooper, Bob 101 Coppola, John 187
A Fine Romance Gold, Sanford 165 Gonzalez, Louis 55 Goulet, Robert 6 Graham, Billy 45, 50 Grainger, Porter 99 Granz, Norman 208 Gray, Glen 40, 197 Grayco, Helen 67-72 Greco, Buddy 9, 147 Green, Urbie 165 Greene, Freddie 180 Griffin, Merv 52, 59 Gropius, Walter 115 Grove, Alice 122, 123 Grove, Dick 122 Guilbert, Yves 47 Gustin, Lawrence 162 Guy, Jamine 178 Haines, Connie 28 Hall, Daryl 141 Hammerstein, Oscar 36, 208 Hampton, Lionel 21, 100 Handy, Flo 9, 164-168 Handy, George 165, 167 Handy, John 188 Harburg, E. Y. “Yip” 83 Hardaway, Bob 124 Harp, Dick and Kiz 94-97 Harris, Marion 47 Harrison, George 141 Hart, Lorenz 22, 94, 154 Hartford Jazz Orchestra 76, 79 Hartman, Johnny 135, 147 Harvey, Jane 71 Hawkins, Coleman 21 Hawks, Howard 28 Haymes, Dick 147, 198 Hazard, Dick 57 Henderson, Bill 136 Henderson, Fletcher 21 Henson, Jim 5 Hentoff, Nat 183 Herman, Woody 114, 188, 191 Heyward, DuBose 48, 137 Heywood, Billie 28 Hi-Lo's, The 6, 91, 133 Hibbler, Al 163
Evans, Joan 101 Evans, Nora 101-103 Faith, Percy 12 Faithfull, Marianne 185 Farnham, Allen 190 Faye, Alice 79 Faye, Frances 70, 198 Feather, Leonard 112, 172 Fega, Mort 77 Feinstein, Michael 35, 69, 70 Ferguson, Maynard 133, 187 Fielding, Jerry 56 Fields, Dorothy 21, 208 Fitzgerald, Ella 8, 10, 11, 86, 116, 119, 120, 189 Flanagan, Ralph 163 Florence, Bob 125 Flores, Chuck 158 Foxx, Jamie 75 Frank, Anne 15 Franklin, Aretha 74 Freberg, Stan 102, 177 Fredette, Carol 127 Freed, Arthur 186 Freeman, Ernie 174 Freeman, Russ 135 Freshmen Four, The 177 Frigo, John 177 Frishberg, Dave 111, 127, 134, 165, 167, 189, 190 Funicello, Annette 86 Gable, Clark 82 Gafa, Al 190 Garcia, Russ 70, 208 Garland, Judy 60, 80-84, 117, 204 Garner, Erroll 54 Garrett, Betty 35 Garson, Mort 100 Gavin, Kevin 183 Gershe, Leonard 60 Gershwin, George22, 111, 119, 137, 190 Gershwin, Ira 22, 36, 81, 111, 119, 137, 190 Getz, Stan 10, 91, 92 Gilbert, John 195 Gilberto, Joao Gitler, Ira 6 Gleason, Jackie 26, 59 Glenn, Tyree 49
222 Hilburn, Robert 43, 44 Hildegarde 90 Hill, Florence 46 Hinton, Milt 49 Hirota, Mieko 85-87 Hitchcock, Bill 57 Hite, Les 21 Hokinson, Helen 43 Holiday, Billie 10, 11, 17, 179, 189 Holiday, Johnny173 Holman, Bill 136 Holmes, Rupert 189 Hopkins, Kenyon 166 Hopper, Dennis 146 Hormel, Geordie 57 Horne, Lena 47, 183 Howard, Bart 94 Ian, Janis 141 Itami, Juzo 209 Jackson, Chubby 60 Jackson, Duffy 60 Jacquet, Illinois 180 James, Harry 207 Jarreau, Al 136 Jay and the Americans 160 Jenkins, Florence Foster 180 Jenkins, Gordon 130 Jobim, Antonio Carlos 91, 111, 189, 198 Johnson, Osie 180 Johnson, Plas 131, 174 Jolly, Pete 123 Jolson, Al 47, 80, 82 Jones, Allan 67, 69 Jones, Inez 184 Jones, Jack 9 Jones, Jimmy 180 Jones, Leslie Ann 69, 70 Jones, Quincy 206 Jones, Salena 12, 101 Jones, Spike 67, 69, 71 Jordan, Sheila 78, 127 Kallen, Kitty 103 Kamuca, Richie 173 Kar Wai, Wong 66 Kazan, Elia 49, 51, Kelly, Beverly 14, 15, 101 Kelly, Grace 81
A Fine Romance Kennedy, Ray 78 Kenton, Stan 69, 118, 177 Kern. Jerome 48, 183, 190, 207-209 Kessel, Barney 147, 187, 208 King Family, The 123 King, Sandra 127 Kirby, John 202, 203 Kirk, Andy 21 Klonsky, Milton 12, 13, 15, 16, 18 Knight, Wayne 105 Koenigswarter, Nica de 167 Kostal, Irwin 124 Kovacs, Ernie 203 Kral, Irene 105, 112, 133-136 Kral, Roy 77, 94, 126, 133, 134, 136 Kreibich, Paul 101 Kress, Carl 164 Krim, Seymour 11 Krupa, Gene 145, 147, 152, 155, 187 LaBarbera, Joe 112 LaFurn, Gerry 161 LaMare, Nappy 59 Landesman, Fran 77, 94, 135, 150 Lansbury, Angela 205 Larkins, Ellis 119 Laurents, Arthur 205 Lavin, Bud 123 Lea, Barbara 203 Leatherwood, Ray 59 Lee, Brenda 12, 86 Lee, Peggy 10, 73, 113, 116, 120, 177, 203, 207 Lees, Gene 135 Legrand, Michel 89, 182, 205 Levant, Oscar 200 Levery, Stan 123 Levy, John 24 Levy, Lou 111, 113, 115, 119, 120, 129, 158, 188 Levy, Morris 179 Lewis, Jerry 204 Lewis, John 181 Liberace 146 Lillie, Beatrice 53 Lincoln, Abbey 55, 57, 185 Lingle, Jason 34 Liszt, Franz 32 Loesser, Frank 94 Lombard, Carole 27, 186
A Fine Romance McKenna, Dave 79, 166 McPherson, Hugh 11, 100 McRae, Carmen 77, 136 Mercer, Johnny 111, 176, 183, 191, 208 Mercer, Mabel 48, 94 Meredith, Burgess 96 Merman, Ethel 6 Merrill, Helen 78 Millard, Bob 71 Millay, Edna St. Vincent 166 Miller, Eddie 59 Miller, Mrs. 180 Miller, Steve 96 Mills Brothers, The 204 Minnelli, Liza 83 Mitchell, Red 174 Mitchell, Sherm 162 Miyamoto, Nobuko 209 Modernaires, The 194 Mondragon, Joe 70 Monk, Thelonious 185 Monroe, Marilyn 26 Monte, Tony 79 Monterose, J.R. 160, 161 Monty Python95 Mooney, Joe 33 Morgan, Lanny 125 Morgenstern, Dan 165 Morris, Audrey 14, 15 Morrow, Buddy 163, 174 Morse, Ella Mae 164 Morse, Lee 47 Most, Abe 59 Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus 8, 191 Mulligan, Gerry 10 Mundey, Clay (aka Bill Black) 145-155 Murphy, Mark 127 Murphy, Rose 127 Murrow, Edward R. 198 Nelson, Don 173 Newman, Randy 135, 141 Nicholas, Fayard 46
Lon, Alice 102 London, Julie 10, 11, 76, 147, 148, 182, 186 Love, Geoff 194 Lovejoy, Alec 49 Lowe, Mundell 183 Lucas, George 69 Luft, Joseph 84 Luft, Lorna 84 Luft, Sid 83 Lynne, Frances 187 MacDonald, Jeanette 54, 82 MacLean, Don 176 Majorca. Lincoln Mahler, Alma 115 Mahler, Gustav 115 Mallory, Eddie 46 Mallory, Phil 34 Maltby, Richard 190 Maltin, Leonard 35 Mancini, Henry 191 Mandel, Johnny 111 Mann, Herbie 17 Manne, Shelly 136, 187 Manning, Bob 173 Marano, Nancy 127, 128 Margaret Whiting 127, 207-209 Marquette, Pee Wee 107 Marsh, Warne 173 Marshall, Peter 35 Martin, Andy 88 Martin, Dean 71, 131, 204 Martin, Hugh 82 Marx Brothers, The 67, 68 Marx, Dick 177 Marx, Harpo 65 Mathis, Johnny 97 Matz, Peter 124 Maxwell, Marilyn 149 May, Billy 109 Mayer, Louis B. 82 Mayorga, Lincoln 59 Maysa 183 McCall, Mary Ann 114, 191 McCorkle, Susannah 127, 189 McCormack, John 47 McGuire Sisters, The 164 McHugh, Jimmy 81
Nichols, Red 69
Nicholson, Jack 177 Nimitz, Jack 102 Noel, Dick 104-105 Noone, Jimmy 22
224 North, Oliver 23 Norvo, Red 58 Novak, Larry 104 O’Brien, Margaret 28 O’Connell, Helen 28, 39 O’Day, Anita 70, 106, 123, 124, 162, 192 Olay, Lionel 56 Olay, Ruth 51- 62, 150 Paar, Jack 59, 210 Page, Patti 36, 101, 103 Paich, Marty 208 Palmer, Earl 31 Parker, Charlie 17, 119, 195, 210 Pasquale, Bill 160, 162 Pasternak, Joe 68 Patt, Ralph 12, 15 Perkins, Millie, 15-20 Pet Shop Boys 73 Peters Sisters, The 193 Phillips, Stu 131 Piaf, Edith 80 Pied Pipers, The 38, 194 Pierce, Nat 114, 191, 192 Pizzarelli, Bucky 79 Pizzarelli, John 78 Pizzarelli, Tom 78 Pleasure, King 181, 195 Polk, Lucy Ann 173 Pomeroy, Herb 133 Porter, Cole 37, 94, 111, 148 Powell, Dawn 145 Powell, Dick 199 Pratt, Lloyd 33 Preminger, Otto 15 Presley, Elvis 41 Prima, Louis 177 Prophet, Johnny 130-132 Prophet, Melissa 132 Quigley, Jack 102 Raeburn, Boyd 166 Rainger, Ralph 94 Ralke, Don 130, 131 Randall, Frankie 100 Raney, Sue 88-90 Raposo, Joe 79 Raye, Don 150, 151 Reed, Rex 77, 88, 205
A Fine Romance Reichenbach Jr., Bill 92 Reichenbach Sr, Bill 91, 93 Reichenbach, Kurt 91-93 Richards, Emil 135 Richards, Ann 177 Riddle, Nelson 131 Rims, Shelly 121 Roberts, Howard 148 Robin, Leo 94 Robinson, Les 70 Rodgers, Richard 22, 36, 94, 154 Rogers, Bobbi 76-79 Rogers, Roy 169 Rooftop Singers, The 203, 204 Rosen, Bill 71 Rosolino, Frank 173 Ross, Annie 6 Ross, Diana 178 Royal Dukes, The 64 Roye, Ruth 47 Rudell, June 169-170 Rudell, Mel 169 Rudell, Russ 169, 170 Rudells, The t69 Rugolo, Pete 59 Rushing, Jimmy 22, 96 Russell, Florence 55 Safranski, Eddie 146 Sahara, Michie 116 Sahl, Mort 154 Sangu, Yasuo 188 Sargent, Gray 79 Sargent, Kenny 197 Saunders, Carl 88, 101, 102 Schnell, Norm 152 Schore, Roger 92 Schwartz, Arthur 36, 203, 204 Schwartz, Jonathan 12, 18, 19, 155, 204 Scott, Bobby 87 Scott, Hazel 198 Scott, Lizabeth 199 Seberg, Jean 15 Seely, Blossom 47 Shapiro, Nat 8, 141, 182 Shapiro, Vera Miller 183 Sheldon, Jack 136 Sherman, Ray 59
A Fine Romance Stockwell, Dean 19 Stoller, Alvin 70 Stordahl, Axel 130 Storm, Gale 94 Strayhorn, Billy 92 Streisand, Barbra 60, 86, 89 Stump, Cinderella G. (aka Jo Stafford) 37 Sturges, Preston52, 53, 56, 61 Sudhalter, Dick 77 Sullivan, Maxine 202 Taurog, Norman 68 Taylor, Billy 86 Taylor, Creed 166 Taylor, Lynn 203 Taylor, Sam “The Man” 12 Tennant, Neil 73, 74 Thalberg, Irving 67 Thompson, Kay 204 Three Sergeants, The 33 Three Suns, The 26 Tokyo Vocal Jazz Appreciation Society 188 Torff, Brian 79 Torme, Mel 28, 34, 70, 104 Trenner, Donn 79, 100 Tristano, Lennie10 Troup, Bobby 33 Truman, Harry 172 Truman, Margaret 172 Tucker, Ben 86 Tucker, Sophie 47, 204 Tull, Dave 34 Turner, Lana 149 Van Heusen, Jimmy 94 Vaughan, Sarah 8, 11, 119, 120, 205 Vaughn, Billy 12 Ventura, Charlie 79 Ventures, The 12 Venuti, Joe 130, 131 Viola, Al 33, 34, 131, 147, 173 Waldron, Mal 175 Walker, Billie 154 Waller, Fats 21 Ward, Helen 206 Waterman, Andy 89 Waters, Ethel 45, 151, 186, 190 Webb, Jim 141 Weber, Andrew Lloyd 35
Sherwood, Fred 119 Shire, David 190 Shore, Dinah 117, 119, 131, 200 Siegel, Joel 126 Silverman, Sime 92 Simon, George T. 147, 152, 154 Simone, Nina 137-142 Simpkins, Andy 206 Simpson, Carole 109-110 Sims, Zoot 112, 166, 175 Sims, Louise 166 Sinatra, Barbara 127 Sinatra, Frank 8, 24, 28, 29, 33, 39, 60, 86, 116 117, 119, 127, 147, 148, 153, 163, 177, 194, 198, 204 Sloane, Carol 9, 127, 201 Sloate, Maynard 58 Smith, Bessie 46, 189, 190, 191 Smith, Clara 46 Smith, Jennie 89, 98-100, 175 Smith, Keely 177 Smith, Mamie 46 Smith, Trixie 46 Smith, Willie 187 Sondhein, Stephen 205 Sonn, Larry 12 Sotos Brothers, The 161 Sotos, Jim 160 Sotos, Tony 162 Southern, Jeri 95, 168 Spence, Lou 150 Spivey, Victoria 202 Spivy 202 Springfield, Dusty 73-75 Springfields, The 73 Stafford Sisters , The 38 Stafford, Chris 38 Stafford, Jo 36-44, 175, 194, 207 Stafford, Pauline 38 Starr, Kay 28, 36, 130 Staton, Dakota 177 Steibeck, John 166 Stevens, Ashton 47 Stevens, Dale 153, 154 Stevens, George 17 Steward, Herb 188 Stewart, Buddy 145
226 Weill, Kurt 141 Wein, George 86 Welk, Lawrence 102 West, Doc 54 Weston, Paul 37-44 Weston, Tim 43 Wilder, Billy 107 Whiteman, Paul 197 Whyte, Ronny 127 Whiting, Margaret 127, 207 Whittingill, Dick 38 Wiggins, Gerald 70 Wilder, Alec 166, 174, 207 Wiley, Lee 209 Wilkins, Ernie 191 Williams Brothers, The 205 Williams, Dick 58 Williams, Frances 45 Williams, Joe 8, 21-24 Williams, Tennessee 166
A Fine Romance Williamson, Ernie 33 Wilonsky, Robert 96 Wilson, John S. 77 Wilson, Julie 127 Wilson, Nancy 12, 177 Wilson, Teddy 10 Winchell, Walter 35, 204 Winters, Pinky 9, 111-129, 203 Winters, Shelley 146 Wolf, Jim 122, 123 Wolf, Mary 150 Wolf, Tommy 77, 94, 135, 148 Woods, Jill 166 Woods, Phil 165 Wyble, Jimmy 158 X (group), 40 Yanow, Scott 190 Young, Lester 107 Zanuck, Daryll F. 178
227 ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A Fine Romance
Bill Reed's writings on show business, the arts and popular culture have appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone, the San Francisco Examiner, and International Documentary.” He wrote for the hit TV series One Day at a Time, and is also the co-author of Rock on Film (Putnam's). A revised edition of his book, Hot From Harlem: Twelve African-American Artists, 1890-1960, was published by McFarland Press in 2009. He is a producer of jazz releases for SSJ Records (Japan).
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & THANKS TO: Victoria Records, Sharal Churchill, Songbirds Magazine, Make Believe Ballroom Records, SSJ Records, Hearst Corporation, Record Collectors Magazine (Japan), Jazz Critique (Japan) where many of these pieces originated, either as liner notes or profiles. Several of the shorter pieces (Inez Jones, Marlene Cord, Keven Gavin, Frances Lynne, etc.) originated as part of a talk I made before the Tokyo Vocal Jazz Appreciation Society, December 10, 2006.
JACKET DESIGN: Kurt Reichenbach