Janis Joplin

Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was an American singer, songwriter and music arranger. She rose to prominence in the late 1960s as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company and later as a solo artist. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Joplin number 46 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2004,[1] and number 28 on its 2008 list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.[2]

Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas on January 19, 1943(1943-01-19),[3] to Seth Joplin (1910–87), an engineer at Texaco, and Dorothy (née East) Joplin (1913–98), a registrar at a business college. She had two younger siblings, Michael and Laura. The family attended the Church of Christ.[4] The Joplins felt that Janis always needed more attention than their other children, with her mother stating, “She was unhappy and unsatisfied without [receiving a lot of attention]. The normal rapport wasn’t adequate.”[5]

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As a teenager, she befriended a group of outcasts, one of whom had albums by African-American blues artists Bessie Smith and Leadbelly, whom Joplin later credited with influencing her decision to become a singer.[6] She began singing in the local choir and expanded her listening to blues singers such as Odetta and Big Mama Thornton.

Primarily a painter while still in school, she first began singing blues and folk music with friends. While at Thomas Jefferson High School, she stated that she was mostly shunned.[6] Joplin was quoted as saying, “I was a misfit. I read, I painted, I didn’t hate niggers.”[5] As a teen, she became overweight and her skin broke out so badly she was left with deep scars which required dermabrasion.[5][7][8] Other kids at high school would routinely taunt her and call her names like “pig,” “freak” or “creep.”[5]

Joplin graduated from high school in 1960 and attended Lamar State College of Technology in Beaumont, Texas during the summer[7] and later the University of Texas at Austin, though she did not complete her studies.[9] The campus newspaper ran a profile of her in 1962 headlined “She Dares To Be Different.”[9]

Cultivating a rebellious manner, Joplin styled herself in part after her female blues heroines and, in part, after the Beat poets. Her very first song recorded on tape, at the home of a fellow student in December 1962, was “What Good Can Drinkin’ Do.”[10] She left Texas for San Francisco in 1963, living in North Beach and later Haight-Ashbury. In 1964, Joplin and future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen recorded a number of blues standards, further accompanied by Margareta Kaukonen on typewriter (as percussion instrument). This session included seven tracks: “Typewriter Talk,” “Trouble In Mind,” “Kansas City Blues,” “Hesitation Blues,” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy” and “Long Black Train Blues,” and was later released as the bootleg album The Typewriter Tape.

Around this time her drug use increased, and she acquired a reputation as a “speed freak” and occasional heroin user.[3][6][7] She also used other psychoactive drugs and was a heavy drinker throughout her career; her favorite beverage was Southern Comfort.

“Piece Of My Heart”

In the spring of 1965, Joplin’s friends, noticing the physical effects of her amphetamine habit (she was described as “skeletal”[6] and “emaciated”[3]), persuaded her to return to Port Arthur, Texas. In May 1965, Joplin’s friends threw her a bus-fare party so she could return home.[3] Back in Port Arthur, she changed her lifestyle. She avoided drugs and alcohol, began wearing relatively modest dresses, adopted a beehive hairdo, and enrolled as a sociology major at Lamar University in nearby Beaumont, Texas. During her year at Lamar University, she commuted to Austin to perform solo, accompanying herself on guitar. One of her performances was reviewed in the Austin American-Statesman. Joplin became engaged to a man who visited her, wearing a blue serge suit, to ask her father for her hand in marriage, but the man terminated plans for the marriage soon after.[8]

Janis Joplin interview on the Dick Cavett Show

In 1966, Joplin’s bluesy vocal style attracted the attention of the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, a band that had gained some renown among the nascent hippie community in Haight-Ashbury. She was recruited to join the group by Chet Helms, a promoter who had known her in Texas and who at the time was managing Big Brother. Joplin joined Big Brother on June 4, 1966.[11] Her first public performance with them was at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. Due to persistent persuading by keyboardist and close friend Stephen Ryder, Joplin avoided drug use for several weeks, enjoining bandmate Dave Getz to promise that using needles would not be allowed in their rehearsal space or in the communal apartment where they lived.[8] When a visitor to the apartment injected drugs in front of Joplin, she angrily reminded Getz that he had broken his promise.[8] A San Francisco concert from that summer was recorded and released in the 1984 album Cheaper Thrills.

On August 23, 1966,[12] during a four week engagement in Chicago, the group signed a deal with independent label Mainstream Records.[13] They recorded tracks in a Chicago recording studio, but the label owner Bob Shad refused to pay their airfare back to San Francisco.[6] Shortly after the five band members drove from Chicago to Northern California with very little money, they moved with the Grateful Dead to a house in Lagunitas, California. It was there that Joplin relapsed into hard drugs.

1970 in Toronto, “Cry Baby”

In early 1967, Joplin met Country Joe McDonald of the group Country Joe and the Fish. The pair lived together as a couple for a few months.[3][13] Joplin and Big Brother began playing clubs in San Francisco, at the Fillmore West, Winterland and the Avalon Ballroom. They also played at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, as well as in Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia, the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston, Massachusetts and the Golden Bear Club in Huntington Beach, California.[13]

The band’s debut album was released by Columbia Records in August 1967, shortly after the group’s breakthrough appearance in June at the Monterey Pop Festival. Two songs from Big Brother’s set at Monterey were filmed. “Combination of the Two” and a version of Big Mama Thornton‘s “Ball and Chain” appeared in D.A. Pennebaker‘s documentary Monterey Pop. The film captured Cass Elliot in the crowd silently mouthing “Wow! That’s really heavy!” during Joplin’s performance.[6]

“To Love Somebody”

In November 1967, the group parted ways with Chet Helms and signed with top artist manager Albert Grossman. Up to this point, Big Brother had performed mainly in California, but had gained national prominence with their Monterey performance. On February 16, 1968,[14] the group began its first East Coast tour in Philadelphia, and the following day gave their first performance in New York City at the Anderson Theater.[3][6] On April 7, 1968, the last day of their East Coast tour, Joplin and Big Brother performed with Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Paul Butterfield, and Elvin Bishop at the “Wake for Martin Luther King, Jr.” concert in New York.

During the spring of 1968, Joplin and Big Brother made their nationwide television debut on The Dick Cavett Show, an ABC daytime variety show hosted by Dick Cavett. Later, she made three appearances on the primetime Cavett program. During this time, the band was billed as “Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company,”[13] although the media coverage given to Joplin incurred resentment among the other members of the band.[13] The other members of Big Brother thought that Joplin was on a “star trip,” while others were telling Joplin that Big Brother was a terrible band and that she ought to dump them.[13]

TIME magazine called Joplin “probably the most powerful singer to emerge from the white rock movement,” and Richard Goldstein, in Vogue magazine, wrote that Joplin was “the most staggering leading woman in rock… she slinks like tar, scowls like war… clutching the knees of a final stanza, begging it not to leave… Janis Joplin can sing the chic off any listener.”[5]

1969 in Stockholm. Wildest version I have ever heard of the Gershwin song, “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess.

Big Brother’s second album, Cheap Thrills, featured a cover design by counterculture cartoonist Robert Crumb. Although Cheap Thrills sounded as if it was mostly “live,” only one track (“Ball and Chain”) was actually recorded live; the rest of the tracks were studio recordings.[3] The album had a raw quality, including the sound of a cocktail glass breaking and the broken shards being swept away during the song “Turtle Blues.” With the documentary film Monterey Pop released in late 1968, the album launched Joplin’s successful, albeit short, musical career.[15]

Cheap Thrills, which gave the band a breakthrough hit single, “Piece of My Heart,” reached the number one spot on the Billboard charts eight weeks after its release, remaining for eight (nonconsecutive) weeks.[15] The album was certified gold at release and sold over a million copies in the first month of its release.[8][13] Live at Winterland ’68, recorded at the Winterland Ballroom on April 12 and 13, 1968, featured Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company at the height of their mutual career working through a selection of tracks from their albums.

The band made another East Coast tour during July–August 1968, performing at the Columbia Records convention in Puerto Rico and the Newport Folk Festival. After returning to San Francisco for two hometown shows at the Palace of Fine Arts Festival on August 31 and September 1, Joplin announced that she would be leaving Big Brother. The group continued touring through the fall and Joplin gave her last official performance with Big Brother at a Family Dog benefit on December 1, 1968.[3][6]

After splitting from Big Brother, Joplin formed a new backup group, the Kozmic Blues Band. The band was influenced by the Stax-Volt Rhythm and Blues bands of the 1960s, as exemplified by Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays, who were major musical influences on Joplin.[3][6][8] The Stax-Volt R&B sound was typified by the use of horns and had a more bluesy, funky, soul, pop-oriented sound than most of the hard-rock psychedelic bands of the period.

1969 on the Tom Jones Show. This recording is amazing. Rogers and Hart’s, “Little Girl Blue” Most people don’t associate Janis Joplin with the old standards but she recorded several.

By early 1969, Joplin was addicted to heroin, allegedly shooting at least $200 worth of heroin per day,[7] although efforts were made to keep her clean during the recording of I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!. Gabriel Mekler, who produced the Kozmic Blues, told publicist-turned-biographer Myra Friedman after Joplin’s death that the singer had lived in his house during the June 1969 recording sessions at his insistence so he could keep her away from drugs and her drug-using friends.[8]

The Kozmic Blues album, released in September 1969, was certified gold later that year but did not match the success of Cheap Thrills.[15] Reviews of the new group were mixed. Some music critics, including Ralph Gleason of the San Francisco Chronicle, were negative. Gleason wrote that the new band was a “drag” and that Joplin should “scrap” her new band and “go right back to being a member of Big Brother…(if they’ll have her).”[3] Other reviewers, such as reporter Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post generally ignored the flaws and devoted entire articles to celebrating the singer’s magic.

Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band toured North America and Europe throughout 1969, appearing at Woodstock in August. By most accounts, Woodstock was not a happy affair for Joplin.[3][6][7] Faced with a ten hour wait after arriving at the festival, she shot heroin[6][7] and was drinking alcohol, so by the time she hit the stage, she was “three sheets to the wind.”[3] Joplin also had problems at Madison Square Garden where, as she told rock journalist David Dalton, the audience watched and listened to “every note [she sang] with ‘Is she gonna make it?’ in their eyes.”[13] Joplin’s performance was not included in the documentary film Woodstock although the 25th anniversary director’s cut of Woodstock includes her performance of Work Me, Lord.

At the end of the year, the group broke up. Their final gig with Joplin was at Madison Square Garden in New York City on the night of December 19–20, 1969.[3][13]

In February 1970, Joplin traveled to Brazil, where she stopped her drug and alcohol use. She was accompanied on vacation there by her friend Linda Gravenites, who had designed the singer’s stage costumes from 1966 to 1969. Joplin was romanced by an American schoolteacher named David (George) Niehaus, who was traveling around the world. They were photographed by the press at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.[13] Gravenites also took photographs of the two during their Brazilian vacation and they appeared to be a “carefree, happy, healthy young couple” having a great time.[6]

Joplin began using heroin again when she returned to the United States. Her relationship with Niehaus soon ended because of the drugs, her relationship with Peggy Caserta and refusal to take some time off work and travel the world with him.[6] Around this time she formed her new band, the Full Tilt Boogie Band.[3][6][8] The band was composed mostly of young Canadian musicians and featured an organ, but no horn section. Joplin took a more active role in putting together the Full Tilt Boogie Band than she did with her prior group. She was quoted as saying, “It’s my band. Finally it’s my band!”[3]

The Full Tilt Boogie Band began touring in May 1970. Joplin remained quite happy with her new group, which received mostly positive feedback from both her fans and the critics.[3] Prior to beginning a summer tour with Full Tilt Boogie, she performed in a reunion with Big Brother at the Fillmore West in San Francisco on April 4, 1970.[16] Recordings from this concert were included in an in-concert album released posthumously in 1972. She again appeared with Big Brother on April 12 at Winterland where she and Big Brother were reported to be in excellent form.[6] By the time she began touring with Full Tilt Boogie, Joplin told people she was drug-free, but her drinking increased.[citation needed]

From June 28 to July 4, 1970, Joplin and Full Tilt joined the all-star Festival Express tour through Canada, performing alongside the Grateful Dead, Delaney and Bonnie, Rick Danko and The Band, Eric Andersen and Ian and Sylvia.[6] They played concerts in Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary.[6][13] Footage of her performance of the song “Tell Mama” in Calgary became an MTV video in the 1980s and was included on the 1982 Farewell Song album. The audio of other Festival Express performances were included on that 1972 Joplin In Concert album. Video of the performances was included on the Festival Express DVD.

In the “Tell Mama” video shown on MTV in the 1980s, Joplin wore a psychedelically colored loose-fitting costume and feathers in her hair. This was her standard stage costume in the spring and summer of 1970. She chose the new costumes after her friend and designer, Linda Gravenites (whom Joplin had praised in the May 1968 issue of Vogue), cut ties with Joplin shortly after their return from Brazil, due largely to Joplin’s continued use of heroin.[3]

Among her last public appearances were two broadcasts of The Dick Cavett Show. In the June 25, 1970 appearance, she announced that she would attend her ten-year high-school class reunion. When asked if she had been popular in school, she admitted that when in high school, her schoolmates “laughed me out of class, out of town and out of the state.”[17] In the August 3, 1970 Cavett broadcast, Joplin referred to her upcoming performance at the Festival for Peace to be held at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York on August 6, 1970.

Joplin attended the reunion on August 14, accompanied by fellow musician and friend Bob Neuwirth, road manager John Cooke, and her sister Laura, but it reportedly proved to be an unhappy experience for her.[18] Joplin held a press conference in Port Arthur during her reunion visit. Interviewed by Rolling Stone journalist Chet Flippo, she was reported to wear enough jewelry for a “Babylonian whore.”[6] When asked by a reporter during the reunion if Joplin entertained at Thomas Jefferson High School when she was a student there, Joplin replied, “Only when I walked down the aisles.”[3][3][5] Joplin denigrated Port Arthur and the people who’d humiliated her a decade earlier in high school.[3]

Joplin’s last public performance, with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, took place on August 12, 1970 at the Harvard Stadium in Boston, Massachusetts. A positive review appeared on the front page of the Harvard Crimson newspaper despite the fact that Full Tilt Boogie performed with makeshift sound amplifiers after their regular equipment was stolen in Boston.[8]

During September 1970, Joplin and her band began recording a new album in Los Angeles with producer Paul A. Rothchild, who had produced recordings for The Doors. Although Joplin died before all the tracks were fully completed, there was still enough usable material to compile an LP. “Mercedes Benz” was included despite it being a first take, and the track “Buried Alive In The Blues”, to which Joplin had been scheduled to add her vocals on the day she was found dead, was kept as an instrumental.

The result was the posthumously released Pearl (1971). It became the biggest selling album of her career[15] and featured her biggest hit single, a cover of Kris Kristofferson‘s “Me and Bobby McGee“. Kristofferson had been Joplin’s lover not long before her death.[19] Also included was the social commentary of the a cappellaMercedes Benz“, written by Joplin, close friend and song writer Bob Neuwirth and beat poet Michael McClure. In 2003, Pearl was ranked #122 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

During the recording sessions for Pearl, Joplin began seeing Seth Morgan, a 21 year-old Berkeley student, cocaine dealer and future novelist;[3][6][7] and checked into the Landmark Motel in Los Angeles to begin recording the Pearl album.[3][6][8] She and Morgan became engaged to be married in early September[5] and Joplin threw herself into the recording of songs for her new album.

The last recordings Joplin completed were “Mercedes Benz” and a birthday greeting for John Lennon (“Happy Trails“, composed by Dale Evans) on October 1, 1970. Lennon, whose birthday was October 9, later told Dick Cavett that her taped greeting arrived at his home after her death.[18] On Saturday, October 3, Joplin visited the Sunset Sound Studios[6] in Los Angeles to listen to the instrumental track for Nick Gravenites‘ song “Buried Alive in the Blues” prior to recording the vocal track, scheduled for the next day.[13] When she failed to show up at the studio by Sunday afternoon, producer Paul Rothchild became concerned. Full Tilt Boogie’s road manager, John Cooke, drove to the Landmark Motor Hotel (since renamed the Highland Gardens Hotel) where Joplin had been a guest since August 24.[20] He saw Joplin’s psychedelically painted Porsche still in the parking lot. Upon entering her room, he found her dead on the floor. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.[21][8] Cooke believes that Joplin had accidentally been given heroin which was much more potent than normal, as several of her dealer’s other customers also overdosed that week.[22]

Joplin was cremated in the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Mortuary in Los Angeles; her ashes were scattered from a plane into the Pacific Ocean and along Stinson Beach. The only funeral service was a private affair held at Pierce Brothers and attended by Joplin’s parents and maternal aunt.[23]

Joplin was a pioneer in the male-dominated rock music scene of the late 1960s, influencing generations of musicians to come. Stevie Nicks commented that after seeing Joplin perform, “I knew that a little bit of my destiny had changed. I would search to find that connection that I had seen between Janis and her audience. In a blink of an eye she changed my life.”[24]

Joplin’s body decoration, with a wristlet and a small heart on her left breast, by the San Francisco tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle, is taken as a seminal moment in the tattoo revolution and was an early moment in the popular culture’s acceptance of tattoos as art.[25] Another trademark was her flamboyant hair styles, often including colored streaks and accessories such as scarves, beads and feathers.

The 1979 film The Rose was loosely based on Joplin’s life.[26] Bette Midler earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

In the late 1990s, the musical play Love, Janis was created with input from Janis’s younger sister Laura plus Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew, with an aim to take it to Off Broadway. Opening in the summer of 2001 and scheduled for only a few weeks of performances, the show won acclaim and packed houses and was held over several times, the demanding role of the singing Janis attracting rock vocalists from relative unknowns to pop stars Laura Branigan and Beth Hart. A national tour followed. Gospel According to Janis, a biographical film starring Zooey Deschanel as Joplin, was originally scheduled to begin shooting in early 2007, now has a projected release date in 2012.[27]

At the 2009 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Janis,[28] a one-woman show by Nicola Haydn, which imagined the last hour of Joplin’s life, gained its first substantial run.[29] It was nominated for ‘Best Solo Performance’ in The Stage Awards for Acting Excellence.[30] The production tourbus also used a recreation of Joplin’s Porsche by Brighton graffiti artist Req – on a VW Polo for budgetary reasons.

In 1988, the Janis Joplin Memorial, with an original bronze, multi-image sculpture of Joplin by Douglas Clark, was dedicated in Port Arthur, Texas.

Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. In November, 2009, the Hall of Fame and museum honored her as part of its annual American Music Masters Series.[31] Among the artifacts at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum Exhibition are Joplin’s scarf and necklaces, her 1965 Porsche 356 Cabriolet with psychedelically designed painting, and a sheet of LSD blotting paper designed by Robert Crumb, designer of the Cheap Thrills cover.[32] She was the honoree at the Rock Hall’s American Music Master concert and lecture series for 2009.[33]

When I was a kid, I was afraid of Janis Joplin. I was too young to appreciate her style, looks and ability. Years later I realized what a profound talent she was. She has had a lasting effect on pop music. I appreciate her more and more as time goes by.

Source: Wikipedia, YouTube, janisjoplin.com, nndb.com

Quick Bio Facts:

Janis  JoplinJanis Joplin – AKA Janis Lyn Joplin

Born: 19-Jan1943
Birthplace: Port Arthur, TX
Died: 4-Oct1970
Location of death: Hollywood, CA [1]
Cause of death: Accident – Overdose
Remains: Cremated, (ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean)

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Bisexual
Occupation: Singer

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Ball and Chain (Piece of My Heart)

[1] 7047 Franklin Ave., Hollywood, CA.


Father: Seth Joplin (oil refinery worker)
Kris Kristofferson (1969)
Boyfriend: Country Joe McDonald (musician)
Boyfriend: Seth Morgan (engaged, at the time of her death)
Girlfriend: Janis Ian
Slept with: Dick Cavett
Slept with: Eric Clapton
Slept with: Leonard Cohen
Slept with: Jimi Hendrix
Slept with: Howard Hesseman
Slept with: Jim Morrison
Slept with: Joe Namath
Slept with: Peggy Caserta
Slept with: Bob Seidemann (rock photographer)

High School: Thomas Jefferson High School, Port Arthur, TX (1960)
University: Lamar State College
University: University of Texas

Janis Joplin
Big Brother and the Holding Company Vocalist (1966-68)
The Kozmic Blues Band Vocalist (1968-69)
The Full-Tilt Boogie Band Vocalist (1970)
Disorderly Conduct Curtis Hall concert at Tampa, FL (15-Nov-1969)
Obscenity 1969:Curtis Hall concert at Tampa, FL (15-Nov-1969)
Shoplifting 1963
Autopsy by coroner Thomas T. Noguchi
Risk Factors: Heroin, Alcoholism, Smoking, Amphetamines

Festival Express (9-Sep-2003) Herself
Monterey Pop (26-Dec-1968) Performer

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Johnny Mercer

John Herndon “Johnny” Mercer (November 18, 1909 – June 25, 1976) was an American lyricist, songwriter and singer. He is best known as a lyricist, but he also composed music. He was also a popular singer who recorded his own songs as well as those written by others. From the mid-1930s through the mid-1950s, many of the songs Mercer wrote and performed were among the most popular hits of the time. He wrote the lyrics to more than fifteen hundred songs, including compositions for movies and Broadway shows. He received nineteen Academy Award nominations, and won four. Mercer was also a co-founder of Capitol Records.[1]

Mercer was born in Savannah, Georgia. His father, George Anderson Mercer, was a prominent attorney and real estate developer, and his mother, Lillian Elizabeth (née Ciucevich), George Mercer’s secretary and then second wife, was the daughter of Croatian-Irish immigrants who came to America in the 1850s. Lillian’s father was a merchant seaman who ran the Union blockade during the U.S. Civil War.[2] Mercer was George’s fourth son, first by Lillian. His great-grandfather was Confederate General Hugh Weedon Mercer and he was a direct descendant of Revolutionary War General Hugh Mercer, a Scottish soldier-physician who died at the Battle of Princeton. Mercer was also a distant cousin of General George S. Patton.[3] The Mercer House in Savannah was built by General Hugh Weedon Mercer in 1860, later the home of Jim Williams, whose trial for murder was the centerpiece of John Berendt‘s book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, although neither the General nor Johnny ever lived there.

Mercer liked music as a small child and attributed his musical talent to his mother, who would sing sentimental ballads. Mercer’s father also sang, mostly old Scottish songs. His aunt told him he was humming music when he was six months old and later she took him to see minstrel and vaudeville shows where he heard “coon songs” and ragtime.[4] The family’s summer home “Vernon View” was on the tidal waters and Mercer’s long summers there among mossy trees, saltwater marshes, and soft, starry nights inspired him years later.[5]

Mercer’s exposure to black music was perhaps unique among the white songwriters of his generation. As a child, Mercer had African-American playmates and servants, and he listened to the fishermen and vendors about him, who spoke and sang in the Creole dialect known as “Geechee”. He was also attracted to black church services. Mercer later stated, “Songs always fascinated me more than anything”.[6] He never had formal musical training but was singing in a choir by six and at eleven or twelve he had memorized almost all of the songs he had heard and he had become curious about who had written them. He once asked his brother who the best songwriter was, and his brother said Irving Berlin, among the best of Tin Pan Alley.[7]

Vocals by Johnny Mercer, Jo Stafford & The Pied Pipers.

Despite his early exposure to music, Mercer’s talent was clearly in creating the words and singing, not playing music, though early on he hoped to become a composer. In addition to the lyrics Mercer memorized, he was an avid reader and wrote adventure stories. His attempts to play the trumpet and piano were not successful, however, and he never could read musical scores with any facility, relying instead on his own notational system.[8]

Jo Stafford singing the Mercer/Kern song, “Long Ago And Far Away”

Here’s Dick Haymes and Helen Forrest’s rendition of the same song.

As a teenager in the Jazz Era, he was a ”product of his age”. He hunted for records in the black section of Savannah and played such early black jazz greats as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Louis Armstrong. His father owned the first car in town, and Mercer’s teenage social life was enhanced by his driving privilege, which sometimes verged on recklessness.[9] The family would motor to the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina to escape the Savannah heat and there Mercer learned to dance (from Arthur Murray himself) and to flirt with Southern belles, his natural sense of rhythm helping him on both accounts.

Nat King Cole Singing “Day In Day Out”

Peggy Lee in 1984 singing Mercer’s, “Day In Day Out”

Mercer attended exclusive Woodberry Forest boys prep school in Virginia until 1927. Though not a top student, he was active in literary and poetry societies and as a humor writer for the school’s publications. In addition, his exposure to classic literature augmented his already rich store of vocabulary and phraseology. He began to scribble ingenious, sometimes strained rhymed phrases for later use. Mercer was also the class clown and a prankster, and member of the “hop” committee that booked musical entertainment on campus.[10]

Frank Sinatra sings, “Too Marvelous For Words”

Billie Holiday sings, “Too Marvelous For Words”

Already somewhat of an authority on jazz, Mercer’s yearbook stated, “No orchestra or new production can be authoritatively termed ‘good’ until Johnny’s stamp of approval has been placed upon it. His ability to ‘get hot’ under all conditions and at all times is uncanny”.[11] Mercer began to write songs, an early effort being ‘’Sister Susie, Strut Your Stuff.” and quickly learned the powerful effect songs had on girls.[12]

Given his family’s proud history and association with Princeton, New Jersey, and Princeton University, Mercer was destined for school there until his father’s financial setbacks in the late 1920’s changed those plans. He went to work in his father’s recovering business, collecting rent and running errands, but soon grew bored with the routine and with Savannah, and looked to escape.

Mercer moved to New York in 1928, when he was 19. The music he loved, jazz and blues, was booming in Harlem and Broadway was bursting with musicals and revues from George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin. Vaudeville, though beginning to fade, was still a strong musical presence. Mercer’s first few jobs were as a bit actor (billed as John Mercer). Holed up in a Greenwich Village apartment with plenty of time on his hands and a beat-up piano to play, Mercer soon returned to singing and lyric writing.[13] He secured a day job at a brokerage house and sang at night. Pooling his meager income with that of his roommates, Mercer managed to keep going, sometimes on little more than oatmeal. One night he dropped in on Eddie Cantor backstage to offer a comic song, but although Cantor didn’t use the song, he began encouraging Mercer’s career.[14] Mercer’s first lyric, for the song “Out of Breath (and Scared to Death of You)”, composed by friend Everett Miller, appeared in a musical revue The Garrick Gaieties in 1930. Mercer met his future wife at the show, chorus girl Ginger Meehan. Meehan had earlier been one of the many chorus girls pursued by the young crooner Bing Crosby. Through Miller’s father, an executive at the famous publisher T. B. Harms, Mercer’s first song was published.[15] It was recorded by Joe Venuti and his New Yorkers.

The 20-year-old Mercer began to hang out with other songwriters and to learn the trade. He traveled to California to undertake a lyric writing assignment for the musical Paris in the Spring and met his idols Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong. Mercer found the experience sobering and realized that he much preferred free-standing lyric writing to writing on demand for musicals. Upon his return, he got a job as staff lyricist for Miller Music for a $25 dollar-a-week draw which give him a base income and enough prospects to win over and marry Ginger in 1931.[16] The new Mrs. Mercer quit the chorus line and became a seamstress, and to save money the newlyweds moved in with Ginger’s mother in Brooklyn. Johnny did not inform his own parents of his marriage until after the fact, perhaps in part because he knew that Ginger being Jewish would not sit comfortably with some members of his family, and he worried they would try to talk him out of marrying her.

Sung By Maxine Sullivan – Recorded in New York, 1947. Written by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael in 1941

Original (definitive) version of “Skylark” performed by Harry James with Helen Forrest. Beyond a doubt, my very favorite recording of the song.

Ella Fitzgerald singing, “Skylark” from the Johnny Mercer Songbook Album

In 1932, Mercer won a contest to sing with the Paul Whiteman orchestra, but it did not help his situation significantly. He made his recording debut, singing with Frank Trumbauer’s Orchestra, on April 5 of that year. Mercer then apprenticed with Yip Harburg on the score for Americana, a Depression-flavored revue famous for “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (not a Mercer composition), which gave Mercer invaluable training. After several songs which didn’t catch fire, during his time with Whiteman, he wrote and sang “Pardon My Southern Accent”. Mercer’s fortunes improved dramatically with a chance pairing with Indiana-born Hoagy Carmichael, already famous for the standard “Stardust“, who was intrigued by the “young, bouncy butterball of a man from Georgia”.[17] The two spent a year laboring over “Lazybones“, which became a hit one week after its first radio broadcast, and each received a large royalty check of $1250.[18] A regional song in pseudo-black dialect, it captured the mood of the times, especially in rural America. Mercer became a member of ASCAP and a recognized “brother” in the Tin Pan Alley fraternity, receiving congratulations from Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter among others. Paul Whiteman lured Mercer back to his orchestra (to sing, write comic skits and compose songs), temporarily breaking up the working team with Carmichael.

During the golden age of sophisticated popular song of the late Twenties and early Thirties, songs were put into revues with minimal regard for plot integration. During the 1930s, there was a shift from revues to stage and movie musicals using song to further the plot. Demand diminished accordingly for the pure stand-alone songs that Mercer preferred. Thus, although he had established himself in the New York music world, when Mercer was offered a job in Hollywood to compose songs and perform in low-budget musicals for RKO, he accepted and followed idol Bing Crosby west.[19]

It was only when Mercer moved to Hollywood in 1935 that his career was assured. Writing songs for movies offered two distinct advantages. The use of sensitive microphones for recording and of the lip-synching of pre-recorded songs liberated songwriters from dependence on the long vowel endings and long sustained notes required for live performance. Performers such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers could now sing more conversationally and more nonchalantly. Mercer, as a singer, was attuned to this shift and his style fit the need perfectly.[20]

Rosemary Clooney singing, “Blue In The Night”

1979 Ella singing, “Blues In The Night”

Mercer’s first Hollywood assignment was not the Astaire-Rogers vehicle of which he had dreamed but a B-movie college musical, Old Man Rhythm, to which he contributed two undistinguished songs and even worse acting. His next project, To Beat the Band, was another flop, but it did lead to a meeting and a collaboration with Fred Astaire on the moderately successful Astaire song “I’m Building Up to an Awful Let-Down”.

Though all but overwhelmed by the glitter of Hollywood, Mercer found his beloved jazz and nightlife lacking. As he wrote, “Hollywood was never much of a night town. Everybody had to get up too early… the movie people were in bed with the chickens (or each other).”[21] Mercer was now in Bing Crosby’s hard-drinking circle and enjoyed Crosby’s company and hipster talk. Unfortunately, Mercer also began to drink more at parties and was prone to vicious outbursts when under the influence of alcohol, contrasting sharply with his ordinarily genial and gentlemanly behavior.[22]

Cowboys Rocky Rockwell & Buddy Hayes perform “I`m An Old Cowhand” (1957)

Harry Connick Jr. sings, “I’m An Old Cowhand”

Mercer’s first big Hollywood song “I’m an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande” was inspired by a road trip through Texas (he wrote both the music and the lyric). It was performed by Crosby in the film Rhythm on the Range in 1936, and from thereon the demand for Mercer as a lyricist took off. His second hit that year was “Goody Goody“. In 1937, Mercer began employment with the Warner Brothers studio, working with the veteran composer Richard Whiting (Ain’t We Got Fun?), soon producing his standard, “Too Marvelous for Words“, followed by “Hooray for Hollywood“. After Whiting’s sudden death from a heart attack, Mercer joined forces with Harry Warren and created “Jeepers Creepers“, which earned Mercer his first Oscar nomination for Best Song. It was given a memorable recording by Louis Armstrong. Another hit with Warren in 1938 was “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby“. The pair also created “Hooray For Spinach”, a comic song produced for the film Naughty But Nice in 1939.

During a lull at Warners, Mercer revived his singing career. He joined Bing Crosby’s informal minstrel shows put on by the “Westwood Marching and Chowder Club”, which included many Hollywood luminaries and brought together Crosby and Bob Hope.[23] A duet “Mr. Crosby and Mr. Mercer” was recorded and became a hit in 1938.

In 1939, Mercer wrote the lyrics to a melody by Ziggy Elman, a trumpet player with Benny Goodman. The song was “And the Angels Sing” and, although recorded by Bing Crosby and Count Basie, it was the Goodman version with vocal by Martha Tilton and memorable trumpet solo by Elman that became the Number One hit. Years later, the title was inscribed on Mercer’s tombstone.

Paul Roth singing, “One For My Baby”

Mercer was invited to the Camel Caravan radio show in New York to sing his hits and create satirical songs with the Benny Goodman orchestra, then becoming the emcee of the nationally broadcast show for several months. Two more hits followed shortly, “Day In, Day Out” and “Fools Rush In,” and Mercer in short order had five of the top ten songs on the popular radio show Your Hit Parade.[24] Mercer also started a short-lived publishing company during his stay in New York. On a lucky streak, Mercer undertook a musical with Hoagy Carmichael, but Walk With Music (originally called Three After Three) was a bomb, with story quality not matching that of the score. Another disappointment for Mercer was the selection of Johnny Burke as the long-term songwriter for the Hope-Crosby “Road” pictures. In 1940, the Mercers adopted a daughter, Amanda. Mercer was thirty and his life and career were riding high.

In 1941, shortly after the death of his father, Mercer began an intense affair with nineteen-year-old Judy Garland while she was engaged to composer David Rose. Garland married Rose to temporarily stop the affair, but the effect on Mercer lingered, adding to the emotional depth of his lyrics. Their affair revived later. Mercer stated that his song “I Remember You” was the most direct expression of his feelings for Garland.[25]

Sinatra sings, “How Little We Know”

Shortly thereafter, Mercer met an ideal musical collaborator in the form of Harold Arlen whose jazz and blues-influenced compositions provided Mercer’s sophisticated, idiomatic lyrics a perfect musical vehicle. Now Mercer’s lyrics began to display the combination of sophisticated wit and southern regional vernacular that characterize some of his best songs. Their first hit was “Blues in the Night” (1941), which Arthur Schwartz claimed was “probably the greatest blues song ever written.”[26]

They went on to compose “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” (1941), “That Old Black Magic” (1942), and “Come Rain Or Come Shine” (1946) among others.[27]

Frank Sinatra was particularly successful with the first two and Bing Crosby with the third. “Come Rain” was Mercer’s only Broadway hit, composed for the show St. Louis Woman with Pearl Bailey. “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” was a big smash for Judy Garland in the 1946 film The Harvey Girls, and earned Mercer the first of his four Academy Awards for Best Song, after eight unsuccessful nominations.

Mercer re-united with Hoagy Carmichael with “Skylark” (1941), and the Oscar-winningIn the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” (1951). With Jerome Kern, Mercer created You Were Never Lovelier for Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth in the movie of the same name, as well as “I’m Old Fashioned“. Mercer co-founded Capitol Records (originally “Liberty Records”) in Hollywood in 1942, along with producer Buddy DeSylva and record store owner Glen Wallichs.[1] He also co-founded Cowboy Records.

Mercer by the mid-1940’s enjoyed a reputation as being among the premier Hollywood lyricists. He was adaptable, listening carefully and absorbing a tune and then transforming it into his own style. Like Irving Berlin, he was a close follower of cultural fashion and changing language, which in part accounted for the long tenure of his success. Mercer preferred to have the music first, taking it home and working on it. He claimed composers had no problem with this method provided that he returned with the lyrics. Only with Arlen and Whiting did Mercer occasionally work side-by-side.

Mercer was often asked to write new lyrics to already popular tunes. The lyrics to “Laura“, “Midnight Sun”, and “Satin Doll” were all written after the melodies had become hits. He was also asked to compose English lyrics to foreign songs, the most famous example being “Autumn Leaves“, based on the French “Les Feuilles Mortes”.

In the 1950’s, the advent of rock and roll and the transition of jazz into “bebop” cut deeply into Mercer’s natural audience, and dramatically reduced venues for his songs. His continual string of hits came to an end but many great songs were still to come. Mercer wrote for some MGM films, including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) and Merry Andrew (1958). He collaborated on three Broadway musicals in the 1950s – Top Banana (1951), Li’l Abner (1956), and Saratoga (1959) – and the West End production The Good Companions in 1974. His more successful songs of the 1950s include “The Glow-Worm” (sung by the Mills Brothers) and “Something’s Gotta Give“. In 1961, he wrote the lyrics to “Moon River” for Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and for Days of Wine and Roses, both with music by Henry Mancini, and Mercer received his third and fourth Oscars for Best Song. The back-to-back Oscars were the first time a songwriting team had achieved that feat.[28] Mercer, also with Mancini, wrote Charade in 1964, for the Cary GrantAudrey Hepburn romantic thriller. The Tony Bennett classic “I Wanna Be Around” was written by Mercer in 1962 and the Sinatra hit “Summer Wind” in 1965.

An indication of the high esteem in which Mercer was held can be observed in that in 1964 he became the only lyricist to have his work recorded as a volume of Ella Fitzgerald‘s celebrated ‘Songbook’ albums for the Verve label. Yet Mercer always remained humble about his work, attributing much to luck and timing. He was fond of telling the story of how he was offered the job of doing the lyrics for Johnny Mandel‘s music on The Sandpiper, only to have the producer turn his lyrics down. The producer offered the commission to Paul Francis Webster and the result was The Shadow of Your Smile which became a huge hit, winning the 1965 Oscar for Best Original Song.[7]

Sarah Vaughan singing, “The Shadow Of Your Smile” in 1964

From 1965, and originally found on Tony Bennett’s classic “The Movie Song Album,”

In 1969, Mercer helped publishers Abe Olman and Howie Richmond found the National Academy of Popular Music’s Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1971, Mercer presented a retrospective of his career for the “Lyrics and Lyricists Series” in New York, including an omnibus of his “greatest hits” and a performance by Margaret Whiting. It was recorded live as An Evening with Johnny Mercer.[29] In 1974, Mercer recorded two albums worth of his songs in London, with the Pete Moore Orchestra, and with the Harry Roche Constellation, later compiled into a single album and released as “…My Huckleberry Friend: Johnny Mercer Sings the Songs of Johnny Mercer”. In 1975, Paul McCartney approached Mercer for a collaboration but Mercer was ill, and an inoperable brain tumor was diagnosed.[30] He died on June 25, 1976 in Bel Air, California. Mercer was buried in Savannah’s historical Bonaventure Cemetery.

Well regarded also as a singer, with a folksy quality, Mercer was a natural for his own songs such as Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive, On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe, One for My Baby (and One More for the Road), and Lazybones. He was considered a first-rate performer of his own work.[7]

It has been said that he penned One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)—one of the great torch laments of all times—on a napkin while sitting at the bar at P. J. Clarke’s when Tommy Joyce was the bartender. The next day Mercer called Joyce to apologize for the line “So, set ’em up, Joe,” “I couldn’t get your name to rhyme.” Mercer, like Cole Porter before him, was more interested in the words than the emotion in lyric. This may be why One for My Baby (and One More for the Road) was sung more effectively by him than other singers who often turned it into a tear-jerker.

ATCO Records issued Two of a Kind in 1961, a duet album by Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer with Billy May and his Orchestra, produced by Ahmet Ertegün.

In his last year, Mercer became fond of pop singer Barry Manilow, in part because Manilow’s first hit record was of a song titled Mandy, which was also the name of Mercer’s daughter Amanda. After Mercer’s death in 1976 from a brain tumor, his widow, Ginger Mehan Mercer, arranged to give some unfinished lyrics he had written to Manilow to possibly develop into complete songs. Among these was a piece titled “When October Goes“, a melancholy remembrance of lost love. Manilow applied his own melody to the lyric and issued it as a single in 1984, when it became a top 10 Adult Contemporary hit in the United States. The song has since become a jazz standard, with notable recordings by Rosemary Clooney, Nancy Wilson, and Megon McDonough, among other performers.

He was honored by the United States Postal Service with his portrait placed on a stamp in 1996. Mercer’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1628 Vine Street[31] is a block away from the Capitol Records building at 1750 Vine Street.

Mercer was given tribute in John Berendt‘s book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer song “Skylark”, sung by K.D. Lang, features prominently in the movie and the movie soundtrack is a tribute album to Johnny Mercer, containing 14 Mercer songs performed by a variety of jazz and pop recording artists.

The Johnny Mercer Collections, including his papers and memorabilia, are preserved in the library of Georgia State University in Atlanta. GSU occasionally holds events showcasing Mercer’s works.

In November 2009, a statue of Mercer was unveiled in Ellis Square in Savannah, Georgia, his hometown and birthplace.

The Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer was scheduled to be published by Knopf[1] in the fall of 2009.The Complete Lyrics contains the texts to nearly 1,500 of his lyrics, several hundred of them appearing in print for the first time.

Simply amazing, how one composer effected so many people with music and lyrics that spanned 6 decades. Mercer was as prolific in 1929 as he was in 1976. His songs were and continue to provide the backdrops of our lives. It has been said that at one point, the high literacy level in the United States was in part due to the fact that the popular music of the day was infused with Mercer’s prolific lyrics.

Sources: Wikipedia, johnnymercer.com, youtube, imdb.com, nndb.com

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday (born Elinore Harris;[1] April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959) was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed Lady Day[2] by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday was a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Above all, she was admired all over the world for her deeply personal and intimate approach to singing.

“God Bless The Child”

Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don’t ever make the grade
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Money, you’ve got lots of friends
Crowding round the door
When you’re gone, spending ends
They don’t come no more
Rich relations give
Crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don’t take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own
He just worry ’bout nothin’
Cause he’s got his own

Critic John Bush wrote that she “changed the art of American pop vocals forever.”[3] She co-wrote only a few songs, but several of them have become jazz standards, notably “God Bless the Child“, “Don’t Explain“, “Fine and Mellow“, and “Lady Sings the Blues“. She also became famous for singing jazz standards including “Easy Living” and “Strange Fruit“.

Billie Holiday had a difficult childhood. Much information once not considered true was confirmed in the book Billie Holiday by Stuart Nicholson in 1995. Holiday’s autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, which was first published in 1956, is sketchy when it comes to details about her early life but has been confirmed by the Nicholson research.

Her professional pseudonym was taken from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and Clarence Holiday, her probable father.[4] At the outset of her career, she spelled her last name Halliday, which was the birth-surname of her father, but eventually changed it to Holiday, his performing name.

Billie Holiday singing, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” recorded “live” at her November 10, 1956 Carnegie Hall Concert.

There is some controversy regarding Holiday’s paternity, stemming from a copy of her birth certificate in the Baltimore archives that lists the father as a “Frank DeViese”. Some historians consider this an anomaly, probably inserted by a hospital or government worker.[5] Despite Billie’s later comments, Sadie and Clarence Holiday neither married nor lived together[6] and in fact Frank DeVeazy did live in Philadelphia and may have been known to Sadie through her work.

Billie’s mother, Sarah Julia “Sadie” Harris (later Fagan),[7] was thrown out of her parents’ home in Sandtown, Baltimore, after becoming pregnant at thirteen; she moved to Philadelphia, where Billie was born Eleanora Fagan.[8] With no support from her parents, Sadie arranged for Eleanora to stay with her half sister, Eva Miller, in Baltimore.[9] Sadie often took what were then known as “transportation jobs”, leaving Eleanora to be raised largely by Eva Miller’s mother-in-law, Martha Miller.[10] Martha Miller’s daughter, Evelyn Miller Conway, attested to the fact that Eleanora had an attitude problem from very early on as a result of her mother leaving her in the care of others for much of the first ten years of her life.[11]

Sadie Harris, now known as Sadie Fagan, married Philip Gough but the marriage was over in two years.[12] Once again Eleanora was left in the care of Martha Miller while Sadie took further transportation jobs.[13]

Eleanora’s frequent truancy resulted in her being brought before the juvenile court on January 5, 1925, and sent to The House of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic reform school.[14] Eleanora was baptized there on March 19, 1925.[15]

After nine months in care, Eleanora was “paroled” to her mother on October 3, 1925.[16] Sadie had opened a restaurant called the East Side Grill and she and Eleanora worked long hours. By the time she was eleven, Eleanora had dropped out of school.

I wished on the Moon –Billie Holiday 1935 20 year old Billie Holiday sings in a first session with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra on July 2 1935 in New York. Next to Teddy on piano the All Star Band consists of Benny Goodman clarinet, Roy Eldridge trumpet, Ben Webster tenor sax, John Truehart guitar, John Kirby bass and Cozy Cole drums. Jazz promotor John Hammond heard Billie for the first time in New York’s Monette club in 1933 and wrote in Melody Maker: “Billie although only 18, she weighs over 200 lbs, is incredibly beautiful, and sings as well as anybody I ever heard”. Hammond told Benny Goodman, and the two went to this Monette club. Both were impressed and it was the start of Billie’s career.

Towards the end of 1926, after having moved again, Sadie returned home on December 24, 1926, to discover a neighbor, Wilbur Rich, in the act of having sex with Eleanora. Rich was arrested, and on the same day Eleanora was again placed in the care of the House of Good Shepard, being held there in protective custody “as a state witness in the case of State of Maryland vs Wilbur Rich, charged with rape.”[17] Eventually Eleanora was released in February of 1927.

During this period, Sadie and Eleanora wound up living with and working for a madame.[18] It was during this time she first heard the records of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith. By the end of 1928, Sadie decided to try her luck in Harlem and again left Eleanora in the care of Martha Miller.[19]

During her final period of separation from her mother, Billie began to perform the songs she learned while working in the brothel.[20] However, by early 1929, Sadie sent for her to join her in Harlem. Their landlady was a sharply dressed woman named Florence Williams, who ran a whorehouse at 151 West 140th Street.[21] In order to live, Sadie became a prostitute and, within a matter of days of her arrival, Eleanora, who had not yet turned fourteen, was also turning tricks for $5 a time.[22]

A Fine Romance — Billie Holiday 1936
In a second recording date under her own name was made in New York on September 29, 1936. Artie Shaw was replaced by a clarinetist from the Bob Crosby band called Irving Fazola, and pianist Clyde Hart replaced Joe Bushkin, with Bunny Berigan trumpet, Dick McDonough guitar, Artie Bernstein bass and Cozy Cole drums
Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern composed this tune.
“A fine romance, with no kisses, a fine romance, my friend this is
we should be like a couple of hot tomatoes
but you are as cold as yesterdays mashed potatoes
a fine romance, you won’t nestle,
a fine romance you won’t wrestle
I might as well play bridge with my old maid aunt
I haven’t got a chance, this is a fine romance”

On May 2, 1929, the house was raided and Sadie and Eleanora wound up in prison. After spending some time in a workhouse, Sadie was released in July, followed by Eleanora in October. Changing her name to Billie Holiday (sometimes Halliday), Billie teamed up with a neighbor, tenor sax player Kenneth Hollan. From 1929 to 1931, they were a team, performing at clubs such as the “Grey Dawn”, “Pod’s and Jerry’s” and the Brooklyn Elk’s Club.[23][24] Benny Goodman recalled hearing Billie in 1931 at “The Bright Spot” and as Billie’s reputation grew, she played at many clubs, including “Mexico’s” and “The Alhambra Bar and Grill” where Charles Linton, a vocalist who later worked with Chick Webb, first met her.[25] It was also during this period that Billie connected with her father, Clarence, who by this time was playing with Fletcher Henderson‘s band.[26]

By the end of 1932, Billie was brought in to replace Monette Moore at a club called “Covan’s” on West 132nd Street. It was here that producer John Hammond, who loved Monette Moore’s singing and had come to hear her, first heard Billie in early 1933.[27]

“The Blues Are Brewin” Look at how young Louis Armstrong is!

Hammond arranged for Holiday to make her recording debut in November 1933 with Benny Goodman, singing two songs: “Your Mother’s Son-In-Law” and “Riffin’ the Scotch”. Goodman was also on hand in 1935, when she continued her recording career with a group led by pianist Teddy Wilson. Their first collaboration included “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and “Miss Brown To You“, which helped to establish Holiday as a major vocalist. She began recording under her own name a year later, producing a series of extraordinary performances with groups comprising the swing era‘s finest musicians.

Wilson was signed to Brunswick Records by John Hammond for the purpose of recording current pop tunes in the new “swing” style for the growing jukebox trade. They were given free rein to improvise the material. Holiday’s amazing method of improvising the melody line to fit the emotion was revolutionary. Wilson and Holiday took pedestrian pop tunes, such as “Twenty-Four Hours a Day” or “Yankee Doodle Never Went To Town”, and turned them into jazz classics with their arrangements. With few exceptions, the recordings she made with Wilson or under her own name during the 1930s and early 1940s are regarded as important parts of the jazz vocal library. Catching the attention of musicians nationwide, singers began to imitate Holiday’s light, rhythmic manner.

Billie Holiday – You Go To My Head

You go to my head
You go to my head,
And you linger like a haunting refrain
And I find you spinning round in my brain
Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne.

You go to my head
Like a sip of sparkling burgundy brew
And I find the very mention of you
Like the kicker in a julep or two.

The thrill of the thought
That you might give a thought
To my plea casts a spell over me
Still I say to myself: get a hold of yourself
Can’t you see that it can never be?

You go to my head
With smile that makes my temperature rise
Like a summer with a thousand Julys
You intoxicate my soul with your eyes
Tho I’m certain that this heart of mine
Hasn’t a ghost of a chance in this crazy romance,
You go to my head.

Among the musicians who accompanied her frequently was tenor saxophonist Lester Young, who had been a boarder at her mother’s house in 1934 and with whom she had a special rapport. “Well, I think you can hear that on some of the old records, you know. Some time I’d sit down and listen to ’em myself, and it sound like two of the same voices, if you don’t be careful, you know, or the same mind, or something like that.”[28] Young nicknamed her “Lady Day”, and she, in turn, dubbed him “Prez”. She did a three-month residency at Clark Monroe’s Uptown House in New York in 1937. In the late 1930s, she also had brief stints as a big band vocalist with Count Basie (1937) and Artie Shaw (1938). The latter association placed her among the first black women to work with a white orchestra, an arrangement that went against the tenor of the times.

Holiday was recording for Columbia in the late 1930s when she was introduced to “Strange Fruit“, a song based on a poem about lynching written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx. Meeropol used the pseudonym “Lewis Allan” for the poem, which was set to music and performed at teachers’ union meetings. It was eventually heard by Barney Josephson, proprietor of Café Society, an integrated nightclub in Greenwich Village, who introduced it to Holiday. She performed it at the club in 1939, with some trepidation, fearing possible retaliation. Holiday later said that the imagery in “Strange Fruit” reminded her of her father’s death and that this played a role in her resistance to performing it. In a 1958 interview, she also bemoaned the fact that many people did not grasp the song’s message: “They’ll ask me to ‘sing that sexy song about the people swinging'”, she said.[29]

When Holiday’s producers at Columbia found the subject matter too sensitive, Milt Gabler agreed to record it for his Commodore Records. That was done on April 20, 1939, and “Strange Fruit” remained in her repertoire for twenty years. She later recorded it again for Verve. While the Commodore release did not get airplay, the controversial song sold well, though Gabler attributed that mostly to the record’s other side, “Fine and Mellow“, which was a jukebox hit.[30]

Milt Gabler eventually became an A&R man for Decca Records, in addition to owning Commodore Records, and he signed Holiday to the label on August 7, 1944, when Holiday was 29. Her first recording for Decca was “Lover Man” (#5 R&B) and “No More”.[31] “Lover Man” was a song written especially for her by Jimmy Davis, Roger “Ram” Ramirez, and Jimmy Sherman. Although its lyrics describe a woman who has never known love (“I long to try something I never had”), its theme—a woman longing for a missing lover—and its refrain, “Lover man, oh, where can you be?”, struck a chord in wartime America, and the record became one of her biggest hits. Holiday’s slow, melodic songs of unrequited love aided her career, and she became a popular star in the 1940’s.[32]

A month later, in November, Billie Holiday returned to the Decca studio to record three songs, “That Ole Devil Called Love”, “Big Stuff”, and “Don’t Explain“. Holiday wrote “Don’t Explain” after she caught her husband, Jimmy Monroe, with lipstick on his collar.

After the recording session, Holiday did not return to the studio until August 1945. She recorded “Don’t Explain”, “Big Stuff”, “What Is This Thing Called Love?“, and “You Better Go Now”. “Big Stuff” and “Don’t Explain” were recorded again but with additional strings and a viola.

This was Holiday’s only recording session in 1945, for she returned again to the studio in January 1946, recording her biggest hits: “No Good Man” and “Good Morning Heartache“. “Big Stuff” was also recorded for the third time. She came back on March 13, 1946, to record “Big Stuff” with a smaller group.

In December 1946, Billie recorded “The Blues Are Brewin”, a song that she performed in her only feature film, New Orleans (1947). She also recorded “Guilty”.

In February 1947, Holiday recorded two hits, “There Is No Greater Love” and the haunting “Deep Song”. She also recorded “Solitude” and “Easy Living“, songs that she had recorded with Teddy Wilson in the late 1930s.

Billie’s next recording was after her release from prison in 1948. This time, she had a vocal group behind her (The Stardusters). She recorded “Weep No More” and “Girls Were Made to Take Care of Boys”. Worried that people would not like the recordings, they recorded two more songs without the group. These singles became some of her biggest hits on Decca. She recorded “My Man” and Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy“.

“I Love You Porgy”

The next year, Billie had a streak of hits, from her brassy rendition of Bessie Smith‘s “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do“, “Gimme A Pigfoot (And A Bottle of Beer)”, “Do Your Duty”, and “Keeps on Rainin'”, to her lush “You’re My Thrill” and “Crazy He Calls Me”. She also recorded a song that she wrote, called “Somebody’s On My Mind”.

In her last recording in 1950, she recorded two songs. Both of them were backed by strings, horns, and a choir. She recorded her own “God Bless the Child” and “This is Heaven to Me”.

In 1933, Billie Holiday appeared as an extra in Paul Robeson‘s The Emperor Jones.

Then, in 1935, she had a small role as a woman being abused by her lover in Duke Ellington’s short “Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life”. She also sang a tune called “Saddest Tale”.

‎Holiday made one major film appearance, opposite Louis Armstrong in New Orleans (1947). The musical drama featured Holiday singing with Armstrong and his band and was directed by Arthur Lubin. Holiday was not pleased that her role was that of a maid, as she recalled in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues:

“I thought I was going to play myself in it. I thought I was going to be Billie Holiday doing a couple of songs in a nightclub setting and that would be that. I should have known better. When I saw the script, I did. You just tell one Negro girl who’s made movies who didn’t play a maid or a whore. I don’t know any. I found out I was going to do a little singing, but I was still playing the part of a maid.”

Holiday also appeared in the 1950 Universal-International short film “‘Sugar Chile’ Robinson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and His Sextet“, where she sang “God Bless the Child” and “Now, Baby or Never”.

On May 16, 1947, Holiday was arrested for the possession of narcotics and drugs in her New York apartment. On May 27, 1947, she was in court. “It was called ‘The United States of America versus Billie Holiday’. And that’s just the way it felt,” Holiday recalled in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues. Holiday pleaded guilty and was sentenced to Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia. Holiday said she never “sang a note” at Alderson, even though people wanted her to.

Luckily for Holiday, she was released early (March 16, 1948) because of good behavior. When she arrived at Newark, everybody was there to welcome her back, including her pianist Bobby Tucker. “I might just as well have wheeled into Penn Station and had a quiet little get-together with the Associated Press, United Press, and International News Service.”

“Miss Brown To You” -A rare Johnny Mercer tune. Not only a great recording of Billie Holliday’s but one that show the amazing versatility of Johnny Mercer. 1935

Ed Fishman (who fought with Joe Glaser to be Holiday’s manager) thought of the idea to throw a comeback concert at Carnegie Hall. Holiday hesitated, unsure whether audiences were ready to accept her after the arrest. She eventually gave in, and agreed to the concert.

On March 27, 1948, Holiday played Carnegie Hall to a sold-out crowd. It is not certain how many sets Holiday did, as the concert was not recorded, but the sets included Cole Porter‘s “Night and Day” and “Strange Fruit“.

Less than a year later, Holiday was arrested again on January 22, 1949, inside her room at San Francisco’s Hotel Mark Twain.

Holiday stated that she began using hard drugs in the early 1940s. She married trombonist Jimmy Monroe on August 25, 1941. While still married to Monroe, she became romantically involved with trumpeter Joe Guy, who was also her drug dealer, and eventually became his common law wife. She finally divorced Monroe in 1947 and also split with Guy. Because of her 1947 conviction, her New York City Cabaret Card was revoked, which kept her from working in clubs there for the remaining 12 years of her life, except when she played at the Ebony Club in 1948, where she opened under the permission of John Levy.

“What A Little Moonlight Can Do” performed with Teddy Wilson on piano.

By the 1950s, Holiday’s drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men caused her health to deteriorate. Her later recordings showed the effects on her voice, as it grew coarse and no longer projected the vibrancy it once had. In spite of this, however, she retained—and perhaps strengthened—the emotional impact of her delivery (See below).

On March 28, 1952, Holiday married Louis McKay, a Mafia enforcer. McKay, like most of the men in her life, was abusive, but he did try to get her off drugs. They were separated at the time of her death, but McKay had plans to start a chain of Billie Holiday vocal studios, à la Arthur Murray dance schools.

Her late recordings on Verve constitute about a third of her commercial recorded legacy and are as popular as her earlier work for the Columbia, Commodore and Decca labels. In later years, her voice became more fragile, but it never lost the edge that had always made it so distinctive. On November 10, 1956, she performed two concerts before packed audiences at Carnegie Hall, a major accomplishment for any artist, especially a black artist of the segregated period of American history. Live recordings of the second Carnegie Hall concert were released on a Verve/HMV album in the UK in late 1961 called The Essential Billie Holiday. The thirteen tracks included on this album featured her own songs “Love My Man”, “Don’t Explain” and “Fine And Mellow”, together with other songs closely associated with her, including “Body and Soul”, “My Man”, and “Lady Sings the Blues” (her lyrics accompanied a tune by pianist Herbie Nichols).

“Body And Soul” 1940

The liner notes on this album were penned partly by Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, who, according to these notes, served as narrator in the Carnegie Hall concerts, taking position at a lectern to the left of the stage. Interspersed among Holiday’s songs, Millstein read aloud four lengthy passages from her autobiography Lady Sings The Blues. He later wrote: “The narration began with the ironic account of her birth in Baltimore – ‘Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen, and I was three’ – and ended, very nearly shyly, with her hope for love and a long life with ‘my man’ at her side.” Millstein continued, “It was evident, even then, that Miss Holiday was ill. I had known her casually over the years and I was shocked at her physical weakness. Her rehearsal had been desultory; her voice sounded tinny and trailed off; her body sagged tiredly. But I will not forget the metamorphosis that night. The lights went down, the musicians began to play and the narration began. Miss Holiday stepped from between the curtains, into the white spotlight awaiting her, wearing a white evening gown and white gardenias in her black hair. She was erect and beautiful; poised and smiling. And when the first section of narration was ended, she sang – with strength undiminished – with all of the art that was hers. I was very much moved. In the darkness, my face burned and my eyes. I recall only one thing. I smiled.”

Nat Hentoff of Down Beat magazine, who attended this same Carnegie Hall concert, penned the remainder of the sleeve notes on the 1961 album. He wrote of her performance: “Throughout the night, Billie was in superior form to what had sometimes been the case in the last years of her life. Not only was there assurance of phrasing and intonation; but there was also an outgoing warmth, a palpable eagerness to reach and touch the audience. And there was mocking wit. A smile was often lightly evident on her lips and her eyes as if, for once, she could accept the fact that there were people who did dig her.” Hentoff continued, “The beat flowed in her uniquely sinuous, supple way of moving the story along; the words became her own experiences; and coursing through it all was Lady’s sound – a texture simultaneously steel-edged and yet soft inside; a voice that was almost unbearably wise in disillusion and yet still childlike, again at the centre. The audience was hers from before she sang, greeting her and saying good-bye with heavy, loving applause. And at one time, the musicians too applauded. It was a night when Billie was on top, undeniably the best and most honest jazz singer alive.”

Her performance of “Fine And Mellow” on CBS‘s The Sound of Jazz program is memorable for her interplay with her long-time friend Lester Young; both were less than two years from death.

Holiday first toured Europe in 1954 as part of a Leonard Feather package that also included Buddy DeFranco and Red Norvo. When she returned almost five years later, she made one of her last television appearances for Granada’s Chelsea at Nine in London. Her final studio recordings were made for MGM in 1959, with lush backing from Ray Ellis and his Orchestra, who had also accompanied her on Columbia’s Lady in Satin album the previous year—see below. The MGM sessions were released posthumously on a self-titled album, later re-titled and re-released as Last Recordings.

Holiday’s autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, was ghostwritten by William Dufty and published in 1956. Dufty, a New York Post writer and editor then married to Holiday’s close friend Maely Dufty, wrote the book quickly from a series of conversations with the singer in the Duftys’ 93rd Street apartment, drawing on the work of earlier interviewers as well. His aim was to let Holiday tell her story in her own way.[33]

Although childless, Billie Holiday had two godchildren: singer Billie Lorraine Feather, daughter of Leonard Feather, and Bevan Dufty, son of William Dufty.[33]

On May 31, 1959, she was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York suffering from liver and heart disease. Police officers were stationed at the door to her room. She was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying, and her hospital room was raided by authorities.[33] Holiday remained under police guard at the hospital until she died from cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959. In the final years of her life, she had been progressively swindled out of her earnings, and she died with $0.70 in the bank and $750 (a tabloid fee) on her person.

Source: Wikipedia, YouTube, IMDB.com, NNDB.com

Bill Evans

William John Evans, known as Bill Evans (August 16, 1929 – September 15, 1980) was an American jazz pianist. His use of impressionist harmony, inventive interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire, and trademark rhythmically independent, “singing” melodic lines influenced a generation of pianists including: Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John Taylor, Steve Kuhn, Don Friedman, Denny Zeitlin, Bobo Stenson, Michel Petrucciani and Keith Jarrett, as well as guitarists Lenny Breau, Ralph Towner, John McLaughlin, and Pat Metheny. The music of Bill Evans continues to inspire younger pianists like Marcin Wasilewski, Fred Hersch, Bill Charlap, Lyle Mays, Eliane Elias[1] and arguably Brad Mehldau,[2] early in his career. Evans is an inductee of the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.[3]

Bill Evans was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, to a mother of Rusyn ancestry and a father of Welsh descent.[4] He received his first musical training at his mother’s church. Evans’s mother was an amateur pianist with an interest in modern classical composers, and Evans began classical piano lessons at age six. He also became a proficient flautist by age 13 and could play the violin.

At age 12, Evans filled in for his older brother Harry in Buddy Valentino’s band.[5] He had already been playing dance music (and jazz) at home for some time (“How My Heart Sings”, Peter Pettinger, 1999). In the late 1940s, he played boogie woogie in various New York City clubs. He attended Southeastern Louisiana University on a music scholarship and in 1950 performed Beethoven‘s Third Piano Concerto on his senior recital there, graduating with a degree in piano performance and teaching. He was also among the founding members of SLU’s Delta Omega Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and played quarterback for the school’s football team, helping them win the 1949 championship (Pettinger, 1999).

Evans’s first professional job was with sax player Herbie Fields’s band, based in Chicago. During the summer of 1950, the band did a three-month tour backing Billie Holiday, including East Coast appearances at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and shows in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and at Washington D.C.’s Howard Theater. In addition to Fields and Evans, the band included trumpeter Jimmy Nottingham, trombonist Frank Rossolino and bassist Jim Aton. Upon its return to Chicago, Evans and Aton worked as a duo in Chicago clubs, often backing singer Lurline Hunter. Shortly thereafter, Evans received his draft notice and entered the U.S. Army.

1965 “Beautiful Love” in Berlin

After his army service, Evans returned to New York and worked at nightclubs with jazz clarinetist Tony Scott and other leading players. Later, he took postgraduate studies in composition at the Mannes College of Music, where he also mentored younger music students.

Working in New York in the 1950s, Evans gained recognition as a sideman in traditional and so-called Third Stream jazz groups. During this period he had the opportunity to record in many different contexts with some of the best jazz musicians of the time. Seminal recordings made with composer/theoretician George Russell, including “Concerto for Billy the Kid” and “All About Rosie”, are notable for Evans’s solo work. Evans also appeared on notable albums by Charles Mingus, Oliver Nelson, Tony Scott, and Art Farmer. In 1956, he made his debut album, New Jazz Conceptions, featuring the original version of “Waltz for Debby“, for Riverside Records. Producer Orrin Keepnews was convinced to record the reluctant Evans by a demo tape guitarist Mundell Lowe played to him over the phone.

“Stella By Starlight” A genius at work…

Piano : Bill Evans.
Double Bass : Eddie Gomez.
Drums : Alex Riel.

Oslo on October 28, 1966.

In 1958, Evans was hired by Miles Davis, becoming the only white member of Davis’s famed sextet. Though his time with the band was brief (no more than eight months), it was one of the most fruitful collaborations in the history of jazz, as Evans’s introspective scalar approach to improvisation deeply influenced Davis’s style. At the time, Evans was playing block chords, and Davis wrote in his autobiography, “Bill had this quiet fire that I loved on piano. The way he approached it, the sound he got, was like crystal notes or sparkling water cascading down from some clear waterfall.” Additionally, Davis said, “I’ve sure learned a lot from Bill Evans. He plays the piano the way it should be played.”

“Autumn Leaves”

Evans’s desire to pursue his own projects as a leader (and increasing problems with drug use) led him to leave the Davis sextet in late 1958. Shortly after, he recorded Everybody Digs Bill Evans, documenting the wholly original meditative sound he was exploring at the time. But Evans came back to the sextet at Davis’s request to record the jazz classic Kind of Blue in early 1959. Evans’s contribution to the album was overlooked for years; in addition to cowriting the song “Blue in Green[6], he had also already developed the ostinato figure from the track “Flamenco Sketches” on the 1958 solo recording “Peace Piece” from his album Everybody Digs Bill Evans. Evans also penned the heralded liner notes for Kind of Blue comparing jazz improvisation to Japanese visual art.[7] By the fall of 1959, he had started his own trio.

“The Days Of Wine And Roses”

At the turn of the decade, Evans led a trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. This group was to become one of the most acclaimed piano trios—and jazz bands in general—of all time. With this group, Evans’s focus settled on traditional jazz standards and original compositions, with an added emphasis on interplay among the band members that often bordered on collective improvisation, blurring the line between soloist and accompanist. The collaboration between Evans and the young LaFaro was particularly fruitful, as the two achieved a remarkable level of musical empathy. The trio recorded four albums: Portrait in Jazz (1959); and Explorations, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, and Waltz for Debby, all recorded in 1961. The last two albums are live recordings from the same recording date, and are routinely named among the greatest jazz recordings of all time. In 2005, the full sets were collected on the three-CD set The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961. There is also a lesser-known recording of this trio, Live at Birdland, taken from radio broadcasts in early 1960, though the sound quality is poor.

“Someday My Prince Will Come”

In addition to introducing a new freedom of interplay within the piano trio, Evans began (in performances such as “My Foolish Heart” from the Vanguard sessions) to explore extremely slow ballad tempos and quiet volume levels, which had been virtually unknown in jazz. His chordal voicings became more impressionistic, reminiscent of classical composers such as Debussy, Ravel, Scriabin, and Satie, and he moved away from the thick block chords he had often used with Davis. His sparse left-hand voicings supported his lyrical right-hand lines, reflecting the influence of jazz pianist Bud Powell.

Like Davis, Evans was a pioneer of modal jazz, favoring harmonies that helped avoid some of the idioms of bebop and other earlier jazz. In tunes like Time Remembered, the chord changes more or less absorbed the derivative styles of bebop and instead relied on unexpected shifts in color. It was still possible (and desirable) to make these changes swing, and a certain spontaneity appeared in expert solos that were played over the new sound. Most composers refer to the style of Time Remembered as “plateau modal,” because of its frequent juxtaposition of harmony.

LaFaro’s death at age 25 in a car accident, ten days after the Vanguard performances, devastated Evans. He did not record or perform in public again for several months. His first recording after LaFaro’s death was the duet album Undercurrent, with guitarist Jim Hall, released on United Artist Jazz records in 1963. Recorded in two sessions on April 24 and May 14, 1962, it is now widely regarded as a classic jazz piano-guitar duet recording. The album is also notable for its striking cover image, “Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida” by photographer Toni Frissell. The original LP and the first CD reissue featured a cropped, blue-tinted version, overlaid with the title and the Blue Note logo; but for the most recent (24-bit remastered) CD reissue, the image has been restored to its original black-and-white coloration and size, without lettering.

Stan Getz with Bill Evans performing, “But Beauftiful”

When he re-formed his trio in 1962, Evans replaced LaFaro with bassist Chuck Israels, initially keeping Motian on the drums. Two albums, Moonbeams and How My Heart Sings!, resulted. In 1963, after having switched from Riverside to the much more widely distributed Verve, he recorded Conversations With Myself, an innovative album on which he employed overdubbing, layering up to three individual tracks of piano for each song. The album won him his first Grammy award, for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance — Soloist or Small Group.

Though his time with Verve was prolific in terms of recording, his artistic output was uneven. Despite Israels’s fast development and the creativity of new drummer Grady Tate, they were ill-represented by the rather perfunctory album Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra, with the piece Pavane by Gabriel Fauré remarkably reinvented with improvisations by Evans. Some unique contexts were attempted, such as a big-band live album at Town Hall, recorded but never issued due to Evans’s dissatisfaction with it (although the jazz trio portion of the Pavane concert was made into its own somewhat successful release), and an album with a symphony orchestra, not warmly received by critics.

During this time, Helen Keane, Evans’s manager, began having an important influence. One of the first women in her field, she significantly helped to maintain the progress (or prevent the deterioration) of Evans’s career in spite of his self-destructive lifestyle.

In 1966, Evans discovered the remarkable young Puerto Rican bass player Eddie Gomez. In what turned out to be an eleven-year stay, the sensitive and creative Gomez sparked new developments in both Evans’s playing and his trio conception. One of the most significant releases during this period is Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival, from 1968. Although it was the only album Evans made with drummer Jack DeJohnette, it has remained a critical and fan favorite, due to the trio’s remarkable energy and interplay.

Getz and Evans performing Cole Porter’s, “Night and Day”

Other highlights from this period include “Solo—In Memory of His Father” from Bill Evans at Town Hall (1966), which introduced the famous theme “Turn Out the Stars,” a second successful pairing with guitarist Jim Hall; Intermodulation (1966); and the subdued, crystalline solo album Alone (1968), featuring a 14-minute-plus version of “Never Let Me Go.”

In 1968, Marty Morell joined the trio on drums and remained until 1975, when he retired to family life. This was Evans’s stablest, longest-lasting group. Evans had kicked his heroin habit and was entering a period of personal stability as well. The group made several albums, including From Left to Right (1970), which features Evans’s first use of electric piano; The Bill Evans Album (1971), which won two Grammies; The Tokyo Concert (1973); Since We Met (1974); and But Beautiful (1974), featuring the trio plus legendary tenor saxophonist Stan Getz in live performances from Holland and Belgium, released posthumously in 1996. Morell was an energetic, straight-ahead drummer, unlike many of the trio’s former percussionists, and many critics feel that this was a period of little growth for Evans. After Morell left, Evans and Gomez recorded two duo albums, Intuition and Montreux III.

Johnny Mercer’s, “Emily”

In 1974, Bill Evans recorded a multimovement jazz concerto specifically written for him by Claus Ogerman entitled Symbiosis, originally released on the MPS Records label. The 1970s also saw Evans collaborate with the singer Tony Bennett on 1975’s The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album and 1977’s Together Again.

On September 13, 1975, Evans’s son, Evan, was born. Evan Evans did not often see his always-touring father. A child prodigy, he embarked on a career in film scoring, ambitiously attending college courses in 20th-century composition, instrumentation, and electronic composition at the age of ten. He also studied with many of his father’s contemporaries, including Lalo Schifrin and harmony specialist Bernard Maury.

Bill Evans Trio – Live ’66 In Oslo – “If You Could See Me Now”

In 1976, Marty Morell was replaced on drums by Eliot Zigmund. Several interesting collaborations followed, and it was not until 1977 that the trio was able to record an album together. Both I Will Say Goodbye (Evans’s last album for Fantasy Records) and You Must Believe in Spring (for Warner Bros., released posthumously) highlighted changes that would become significant in the last stage of Evans’s career. A greater emphasis was placed on group improvisation and interaction, Evans was reaching new expressive heights in his soloing, and new experiments with harmony and keys were attempted.

Gomez and Zigmund left Evans in 1978. Evans then asked Philly Joe Jones, the drummer Evans considered his “all-time favorite drummer” and with whom he had recorded his second album in 1957, to fill in. Several bassists were tried, with the remarkable Michael Moore staying the longest. Evans finally settled on Marc Johnson on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums. This trio was Evans’s last. Although they released only one record before Evans’s death in 1980 (The Paris Concert, Edition One and Edition Two, 1979), they rivaled (and arguably exceeded) the first trio in their powerful group interactions. Evans stated that this was possibly his best trio, a claim supported by the many recordings that have since surfaced, each documenting the remarkable musical journey of his final year. The Debussylike impressionism of the first trio had given way to a dark and urgent yet undeniably compelling, deeply moving (if not mesmerizing) romantic expressionism.

Evans’s Rusyn ancestry is sometimes confused with a “Russian” ethnic background. His music reflects Russian titans like the Rachmaninoffesque pianism of his brooding constructions and the Shostakovich-like “Danse Macabre” modal explorations of “Nardis”, the piece he reworked each time it served as the finale of his performances. But the “anticipatory meter” that Evans deliberately perfected with his last trio reflects late Ravel, especially the controversial second half of the French composer’s dark and turbulent La Valse. The recording documenting Evans’s playing during the week preceding his death is the valedictory “The Last Waltz.” Many albums and compilations have been released in recent years, including three multidisc boxed sets: Turn Out the Stars (Warner Bros.), The Last Waltz, and Consecration. The Warner Bros. set is a selection of material from Evans’s final residency at New York’s Village Vanguard club, nearly two decades after his classic performances there with the La Faro/Motian trio; the other two are drawn from his performances at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner the week before his death. A particularly revealing comparison of early and late Evans (1966, 1980) is a 2007 DVD of two previously unreleased telecasts, The Oslo Concerts. Evans’s drug addiction most likely began during his stint with Miles Davis in the late 1950s. A heroin addict for much of his career, his health was generally poor, and his financial situation worse, for most of the 1960s. By the end of that decade, he appeared to have succeeded in overcoming heroin, but during the 1970s, cocaine use became a serious and eventually fatal problem for Evans. His body finally gave out in September 1980, when—ravaged by psychoactive drugs, a perforated liver, and a lifelong battle with hepatitis—he died in New York City of a bleeding ulcer, cirrhosis of the liver, and bronchial pneumonia. Evans’s friend Gene Lees bleakly summarized Evans’s struggle with drugs to Peter Pettinger as “the longest suicide in history” (How My Heart Sings, p. 3). At the time of his death, Evans was a resident of Fort Lee, New Jersey.[4] Bill Evans is buried at Roselawn Memorial Park and Mausoleum, Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana (Section #161, Plot K), next to his brother Harry Evans, who died the previous year. The inscription reads, “William John Evans; August 16, 1929; September 15, 1980”.

Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz Interview “The Touch of Your Lips”  -(Bill-Marian) Fascinating interview and playing.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, billevans.com, imdb.com, nndb.com

Quick Bio Facts From NNDB.com

Bill Evans – AKA William John Evans

Born: 16-Aug1929
Birthplace: Plainfield, NJ
Died: 15-Sep1980
Location of death: New York City [1]
Cause of death: Cirrhosis of the Liver

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Jazz Musician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Jazz pianist

Military service: US Army (1951-54)

[1] Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City.

Brother: Harry Evans (d. 1979)
Wife: Ellaine (d. 1970 suicide, threw herself onto subway tracks)
Wife: Nenette (until his death, one son)
Son: Evan

University: BA, Southeastern Louisiana University (1950)
University: Mannes College of Music, New York City

Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame 1982
Grammy 1994 (Lifetime Achievement Award)
Welsh Ancestry Paternal
Russian Ancestry Maternal
Risk Factors: Heroin, Cocaine, Hepatitis


Year Title Musicians Label
1956 New Jazz Conceptions Trio with Teddy Kotick & Paul Motian Riverside
1958 Everybody Digs Bill Evans Trio with Philly Joe Jones & Sam Jones Riverside
1959 On Green Dolphin Street not issued until the 1970s Riverside
1959 The Ivory Hunters Quartet with pianist Bob Brookmeyer United Artists
1959 Portrait in Jazz Trio with Scott LaFaro & Paul Motian Riverside
1961 Know What I Mean? Quartet with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley Riverside
1961 Explorations Trio with LaFaro & Motian Riverside
1961 Sunday at the Village Vanguard Live – Trio with LaFaro & Motian Riverside
1961 Waltz for Debby Live – Trio with LaFaro & Motian Riverside
1962 Nirvana Quartet with flautist Herbie Mann Atlantic
1962 Undercurrent Duo with guitarist Jim Hall United Artists
1962 Moon Beams Trio with Chuck Israels & Paul Motian Riverside
1962 How My Heart Sings! Trio with Israels & Motian Riverside
1962 Interplay Quintet with Freddie Hubbard & Jim Hall Riverside
1962 Empathy Trio with drummer Shelley Manne & Monty Budwig Verve
1962 Loose Blues Quintet with Zoot Sims & Jim Hall Milestone
1963 The Solo Sessions, Vol. 1 Solo Milestone
1963 The Solo Sessions, Vol. 2 Solo Milestone
1963 The Gary McFarland Orchestra Orchestra with Special Guest Soloist: Bill Evans Verve
1963 Conversations With Myself Solo Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group Verve
1963 Plays the Theme from The V.I.P.s and Other Great Songs with orchestra conducted by Claus Ogerman MGM
1963 Time Remembered Live – Trio with Israels & Larry Bunker Milestone
1963 At Shelly’s Manne-Hole Live – Trio with Israels & Bunker Riverside
1964 Trio ’64 Trio with Gary Peacock & Paul Motian Verve
1964 Stan Getz & Bill Evans Quartet with saxophonist Stan Getz Verve
1964 Trio Live Live – Trio with Chuck Israels & Larry Bunker Verve
1964 Waltz for Debby Trio with singer Monica Zetterlund Philips
1965 Trio ’65 Trio with Chuck Israels & Larry Bunker Verve
1965 Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra with orchestra conducted by Claus Ogerman Verve
1966 Bill Evans at Town Hall Live- Trio with Chuck Israels and Arnold Wise Verve
1966 Intermodulation with guitarist Jim Hall Verve
1966 A Simple Matter of Conviction Trio with Eddie Gomez & Shelly Manne Verve
1967 Further Conversations with Myself Verve
1967 California Here I Come Live- Trio with Philly Joe Jones & Eddie Gomez Verve
1968 Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival Live, Won Grammy award Verve
1968 Bill Evans Alone Verve
1969 What’s New Verve
1969 Jazzhouse Live – Trio with Eddie Gomez & Marty Morell Milestone
1969 You’re Gonna Hear From Me Live – Trio with Eddie Gomez & Marty Morell Milestone
1970 From Left to Right MGM
1969 Quiet Now Charly
1970 Montreux II CTI
1971 Bill Evans, Piano Player Columbia
1971 The Bill Evans Album Grammy winner Columbia
1972 Living Time with George Russell Orchestra Columbia
1973 The Tokyo Concert Live – Trio with Eddie Gomez & Marty Morell Fantasy
1973-5 Eloquence Live Fantasy
1973 Half Moon Bay Live – Trio with Gomez & Morell Milestone
1974 Since We Met Live – Trio with Gomez & Morell Fantasy
1974 Re: Person I Knew Live – Trio with Gomez & Morell Fantasy
1974 Symbiosis with orchestra conducted by Claus Ogerman MPS
1974 But Beautiful Live with saxophonist Stan Getz Milestone
1974 Blue in Green: The Concert in Canada Live – Trio with Gomez & Morell Milestone
1974 Intuition Fantasy
1975 The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album with Tony Bennett Fantasy
1975 Montreux III Live, Bill Evans and Eddie Gomez Fantasy
1975 Alone Again Fantasy
1976 Quintessence with Kenny Burrell and Harold Land Fantasy
1976 Together Again with Tony Bennett Improv
1976 The Paris Concert Live Fantasy
1977 Crosscurrents with Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh Fantasy
1978 I Will Say Goodbye Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo Fantasy
1977 You Must Believe in Spring Warner Bros.
1978 Getting Sentimental Live – Trio with Michael Moore & Philly Joe Jones Milestone
1978 New Conversations Solo Warner Bros.
1979 Affinity with Toots Thielemans Warner Bros.
1979 Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz Radio Broadcast Fantasy
1979 We Will Meet Again Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Group award Warner Bros.
1979 Homecoming Live – Trio with Marc Johnson & Joe LaBarbera Milestone
1979 The Paris Concert: Edition One Live – Trio with Marc Johnson & Joe LaBarbera Elektra Musician
1979 The Paris Concert: Edition Two Live – Trio with Marc Johnson & Joe LaBarbera Elektra Musician
1980 Letter to Evan Live – Trio with Marc Johnson & Joe LaBarbera Dreyfus
1980 Turn Out the Stars: The Final Village Vanguard Recordings Live – Trio with Marc Johnson & Joe LaBarbera Dreyfus
1980 The Last Waltz: The Final Recordings Live – Trio with Marc Johnson & Joe LaBarbera Milestone
1980 Consecration: The Final Recordings Part 2 Live – Trio with Marc Johnson & Joe LaBarbera Milestone

Mel Tormé

Melvin Howard Tormé (September 13, 1925 – June 5, 1999), nicknamed The Velvet Fog, was an American musician, known for his jazz singing. He was also a jazz composer and arranger, a drummer, an actor in radio, film, and television, and the author of five books. He co-wrote the classic holiday song “The Christmas Song” (also known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”) with Bob Wells.

Melvin Howard Torme was born in Chicago, Illinois, to immigrant Russian Jewish parents,[1] whose surname had been Torma. However the name was changed at Ellis Island to “Torme”. A child prodigy, he first sang professionally at age 4 with the Coon-Sanders Orchestra, singing “You’re Driving Me Crazy” at Chicago’s Blackhawk restaurant.[2]

Between 1933 and 1941, he acted in the network radio serials The Romance of Helen Trent and Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. He wrote his first song at 13, and three years later, his first published song, “Lament to Love,” became a hit recording for Harry

In 1943, Tormé made his movie debut in Frank Sinatra‘s first film, the musical Higher and Higher. He went on to sing and act in many films and television episodes throughout his career, even hosting his own television show in 1951–52. His appearance in the 1947 film musical Good News made him a teen idol for a few years.

In 1944 he formed the vocal quintet “Mel Tormé and His Mel-Tones,” modeled on Frank Sinatra and The Pied Pipers. The Mel-Tones, which included Les Baxter and Ginny O’Connor, had several hits fronting Artie Shaw‘s band and on their own, including Cole Porter‘s “What Is This Thing Called Love?” The Mel-Tones were among the first jazz-influenced vocal groups, blazing a path later followed by The Hi-Lo’s, The Four Freshmen, and The Manhattan Transfer.

Later in 1947, Tormé went solo. His singing at New York’s Copacabana led a local disc jockey, Fred Robbins, to give him the nickname “The Velvet Fog,” thinking to honor his high tenor and smooth vocal style, but Tormé detested the nickname. (He self-deprecatingly referred to it as “this Velvet Frog voice”. As a solo singer, he recorded several romantic hits for Decca (1945), and with the Artie Shaw Orchestra on the Musicraft label (1946–48). In 1949, he moved to Capitol Records, where his first record, “Careless Hands,” became his only number one hit. His versions of “Again” and “Blue Moon” became signature tunes. His composition “California Suite,” prompted by Gordon Jenkins‘ “Manhattan Tower,” became Capitol’s first 12-inch LP album. Around this time, he helped pioneer cool jazz.

From 1955 to 1957, Tormé recorded seven jazz vocal albums for Red Clyde’s Bethlehem Records, all with groups led by Marty Paich, most notably Mel Tormé with the Marty Paich Dektette. When rock and roll music (which Tormé called “three-chord manure”) came on the scene in the 1950s, commercial success became elusive. During the next two decades, Tormé often recorded mediocre arrangements of the pop tunes of the day, never staying long with any particular label. He was sometimes forced to make his living by singing in obscure clubs. He had two minor hits, his 1956 recording of “Mountain Greenery,” which did better in the United Kingdom where it reached #4 in May that year; and his 1962 R&B song “Comin’ Home, Baby,” arranged by Claus Ogerman. The latter recording led the jazz and gospel singer Ethel Waters to say that “Tormé is the only white man who sings with the soul of a black man.” It was later covered instrumentally by Quincy Jones and Kai Winding

Mel with his idol, Ella Fitzgerald singing the Gershwin Tune, “Lady Be Good” -very brief clip, but terrific!!

In 1960, he appeared with Don Dubbins in the episode “The Junket” in NBC‘s short-lived crime drama Dan Raven, starring Skip Homeier and set on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood. He also had a significant role in a cross-cultural western entitled Walk Like a Dragon staring Jack Lord. Tormé played ‘The Deacon’, a bible-quoting gunfighter who worked as an enforcer for a lady saloon-owner and teaches a young Chinese, played by James Shigeta, the art of the fast draw. In one scene, he tells a soon-to-be victim: ‘Say your prayers, brother Masters. You’re a corpse.’ And then delivers on the promise. Tormé, like Sammy Davis Jr. and Robert Fuller was a real-life fast-draw expert. He also sang the title song.

Now here’s Mel’s version of “Lady Be Good” in the style of Ella Fitzgerald. I was at this concert. It was in San Francisco in 1992.

In 1963–64, Tormé wrote songs and musical arrangements for the The Judy Garland Show, where he made three guest appearances. However, he and Garland had a serious falling out, and he was fired from the series, which was canceled by CBS not long afterward. A few years later, after Garland’s death, his time with her show became the subject of his first book, “The Other Side of the Rainbow with Judy Garland on the Dawn Patrol” (1970). Although the book was praised, some felt it painted an unflattering picture of Judy, and that Tormé had perhaps over-inflated his own contributions to the program; it led to an unsuccessful lawsuit by Garland’s family. Other books by Tormé include Wynner (1979), It Wasn’t All Velvet (1988) and My Singing Teachers: Reflections on Singing Popular Music (1994).

Here with jean Toots Thielemans, “Bluesette”

Tormé befriended Buddy Rich, the day Rich left the Marine Corps in 1942. Rich became the subject of Tormé’s book Traps — The Drum Wonder: The Life of Buddy Rich (1987). Tormé also owned and played a drum set that drummer Gene Krupa used for many years. George Spink, treasurer of the Jazz Institute of Chicago from 1978 to 1981, recalled that Tormé played this drum set at the 1979 Chicago Jazz Festival with Benny Goodman on the classic “Sing, Sing, Sing.”[3] Tormé had a deep appreciation for classical music; especially that of Frederick Delius and Percy Grainger.

James. He played drums in Chicago’s Shakespeare Elementary School drum and bugle corps in his early teens. While a teenager, he sang, arranged, and played drums in a band led by Chico Marx of the Marx Brothers. His formal education ended in 1944 with his graduation from Chicago’s Hyde Park High School.

1976 Grammy Awards. Another Great clip of Mel and Ella together. Unbelievable!! There will never be another Ella or Mel!!

The resurgence of vocal jazz in the 1970s resulted in another artistically fertile period for Tormé, whose live performances during the 1960s and 1970s fueled a growing reputation as a jazz singer. He found himself performing as often as 200 times a year around the globe. In 1976, he won an Edison Award (the Dutch equivalent of the Grammy) for best male singer, and a Down Beat award for best male jazz singer. For several years around this time, his September appearances at Michael’s Pub on the Upper East Side would unofficially open New York’s fall cabaret season. Tormé viewed his 1977 Carnegie Hall concert with George Shearing and Gerry Mulligan as a turning point. Shearing later said:

“It is impossible to imagine a more compatible musical partner… I humbly put forth that Mel and I had the best musical marriage in many a year. We literally breathed together during our countless performances. As Mel put it, we were two bodies of one musical mind.”

Starting in 1982, Tormé recorded several albums with Concord Records, including:

In the 1980s, he often performed with pianist John Colianni as well as famed New Zealand pianist Carl Doy.

Merv Griffin Show, 1985, 15th Air Force Band

And again with Judy Garland on the Judy Garland Show Mid Sixties

In 1993, Verve Records released the classic “Blue Moon” album featuring the Velvet voice and the Rodgers and Hart Songbook. His version of Blue Moon performed live at the “Sands” in November that year earned him a new nickname from older audiences: “The Blue Fox.” The nickname was used to describe Tormé’s performance after spending an extra hour with pianist Bill Butler cracking jokes and answering queries from a throng of more “mature” women who turned out to see the show. Under the shimmering blue lights at the Sands, he gained a new nickname that would endure for every future performance in Las Vegas and his last performance at Carnegie Hall. Tormé would develop other nicknames later in life, but none seemed as popular as the Velvet Fog (primarily on the East Coast) and the Blue Fox.

Tormé made nine guest appearances as himself on the 1980s situation comedy Night Court whose main character, Judge Harry Stone (played by Harry Anderson), was depicted as an unabashed Tormé fan (an admiration that Anderson shared in real-life; Anderson would later deliver the eulogy at Tormé’s funeral) which led to a following among Generation Xers along with a series of Mountain Dew commercials and on an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld (“The Jimmy“), in which he dedicates a song to the character Kramer. Tormé also recorded a version of Nat King Cole‘s “Straighten up and Fly Right” with his son, alternative/adult contemporary/jazz singer Steve March Tormé. Tormé was also able to work with his other son, television writer-producer Tracy Tormé on Sliders. The 1996 episode, entitled “Greatfellas,” sees Tormé playing an alternate version of himself: a country-and-western singer who is also an FBI informant.

Rodgers and Hart’s “Blue Moon”

In a scene in the 1988 Warner Bros. cartoon Night of the Living Duck, Daffy Duck has to sing in front of several monsters, but lacks a good singing voice. So, he inhales a substance called “Eau de Tormé” and sings like Mel Tormé (who in fact provided the voice during this one scene, while Mel Blanc provided Daffy’s voice during most of the cartoon).

In February 1999, Tormé was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. On August 8, 1996, a stroke abruptly ended his 65-year singing career; another stroke in 1999 ended his life. In his eulogistic essay, John Andrews wrote about Tormé:[4]

Source: Wikipedia, YouTube, nndb.com, imdb.com meltorme.com

Quick Bio Facts:

Mel TorméMel Torme – AKA Melvin Howard Tormé

Born: 13-Sep1925
Birthplace: Chicago, IL
Died: 5-Jun1999
Location of death: Los Angeles, CA
Cause of death: Stroke
Remains: Buried, Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The Velvet Fog

Military service: US Army (1944-45)

Wife: Susan Perry (m. 1949, div.)
Wife: Arlene Niles (m. 1956, div. 1965)
Wife: Janette Scott (actress, m. 1966, div. 1977)
Wife: Ali Severson (m. 1984, until his death)
Son: Tracey Tormé
Son: Steve March

High School: Hyde Park High School, Chicago, IL

Endorsement of Revlon Charlie (1974)
Grammy Best Jazz Vocalist 1982
Grammy Best Jazz Vocalist 1983
Stroke 8-Aug-1996
Russian Ancestry
Jewish Ancestry

A Spinal Tap Reunion: The 25th Anniversary London Sell-Out (31-Dec-1992) Himself
The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear (28-Jun-1991) Himself
Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters (24-Sep-1988) [VOICE]
The Patsy (2-Aug-1964) Himself
Walk Like a Dragon (1-Jun-1960)
Girls Town (5-Oct-1959)
The Big Operator (Aug-1959)
The Fearmakers (Oct-1958)
Duchess of Idaho (14-Jul-1950)
Words and Music (9-Dec-1948) Himself
Good News (26-Dec-1947)
Higher and Higher (1943)

Source: nndb.com

Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Lois Vaughan (March 27, 1924 – April 3, 1990) was an American jazz singer, described by Scott Yanow as having “one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century”.[1] She had a contralto vocal range.[2]

Nicknamed “Sailor” (for her salty speech),[3]Sassy” and “The Divine One“, Sarah Vaughan was a Grammy Award winner.[4] The National Endowment for the Arts bestowed upon her its “highest honor in jazz”, the NEA Jazz Masters Award, in 1989.[5

Sarah Vaughan’s father, Asbury “Jake” Vaughan, was a carpenter by trade and played guitar and piano. Her mother, Ada Vaughan, was a laundress and sang in the church choir.[6] Jake and Ada Vaughan migrated to Newark from Virginia during the First World War. Sarah was their only natural child, although in the 1960s they adopted Donna, the child of a woman who traveled on the road with Sarah Vaughan.[7]

The Vaughans lived in a house on Brunswick Street, in Newark, New Jersey, for Sarah’s entire childhood.[7] Jake Vaughan was deeply religious and the family was very active in the New Mount Zion Baptist Church on 186 Thomas Street. Sarah began piano lessons at the age of seven, sang in the church choir and occasionally played piano for rehearsals and services.

Vaughan developed an early love for popular music on records and the radio. In the 1930s, Newark had a very active live music scene and Vaughan frequently saw local and touring bands that played in the city at venues like the Montgomery Street Skating Rink.[7] By her mid-teens, Vaughan began venturing (illegally) into Newark’s night clubs and performing as a pianist and, occasionally, singer, most notably at the Piccadilly Club and the Newark Airport USO.

“Perdido” Early 50’s clip

Vaughan initially attended Newark’s East Side High School, later transferring to Newark Arts High School,[7] which had opened in 1931 as the United States’ first arts “magnet” high school. However, her nocturnal adventures as a performer began to overwhelm her academic pursuits and Vaughan dropped out of high school during her junior year to concentrate more fully on music. Around this time, Vaughan and her friends also began venturing across the Hudson River into New York City to hear big bands at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Biographies of Vaughan frequently stated that she was immediately thrust into stardom after a winning an Amateur Night performance at Harlem‘s Apollo Theater. In fact, the story that biographer Leslie Gourse relates seems to be a bit more complex. Vaughan was frequently accompanied by a friend, Doris Robinson, on her trips into New York City. Sometime in the Fall of 1942 (when Sarah was 18 years old), Vaughan suggested that Robinson enter the Apollo Amateur Night contest. Vaughan played piano accompaniment for Robinson, who won second prize. Vaughan later decided to go back and compete herself as a singer. Vaughan sang “Body and Soul” and won, although the exact date of her victorious Apollo performance is uncertain. The prize, as Vaughan recalled later to Marian McPartland, was US$10 and the promise of a week’s engagement at the Apollo. After a considerable delay, Vaughan was contacted by the Apollo in the spring of 1943 to open for Ella Fitzgerald.

1964 “The Shadow Of Your Smile”

Sometime during her week of performances at the Apollo, Vaughan was introduced to bandleader and pianist Earl Hines, although the exact details of that introduction are disputed. Billy Eckstine, Hines’ singer at the time, has been credited by Vaughan and others with hearing her at the Apollo and recommending her to Hines. Hines also claimed to have discovered her himself and offered her a job on the spot. Regardless, after a brief tryout at the Apollo, Hines officially replaced his existing female singer with Vaughan on April 4, 1943.

Vaughan spent the remainder of 1943 and part of 1944 touring the country with the Earl Hines big band that also featured baritone Billy Eckstine. Vaughan was hired as a pianist, reputedly so Hines could hire her under the jurisdiction of the musicians’ union (American Federation of Musicians) rather than the singers union (American Guild of Variety Artists), but after Cliff Smalls joined the band as a trombonist and pianist, Sarah’s duties became limited exclusively to singing. This Earl Hines band is best remembered today as an incubator of bebop, as it included trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, saxophonist Charlie Parker (playing tenor saxophone rather than the alto saxophone that he would become famous with later) and trombonist Bennie Green. Gillespie also arranged for the band, although a recording ban by the musicians union prevented the band from recording and preserving its sound and style for posterity.

Eckstine left the Hines band in late 1943 and formed his own big band with Gillespie, leaving Hines to become the new band’s musical director. Parker came along too, and the Eckstine band over the next few years would host a startling cast of jazz talent: Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, Art Blakey, Lucky Thompson, Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon, among others.

“You’ve Changed” 1960

Vaughan accepted Eckstine’s invitation to join his new band in 1944, giving her an opportunity to develop her musicianship with the seminal figures in this era of jazz. Eckstine’s band also afforded her first recording opportunity, a December 5, 1944 date that yielded the song “I’ll Wait and Pray” for the Deluxe label. That date led to critic and producer Leonard Feather to ask her to cut four sides under her own name later that month for the Continental label, backed by a septet that included Dizzy Gillespie and Georgie Auld.

Band pianist John Malachi is credited with giving Vaughan the moniker “Sassy”, a nickname that matched her personality. Vaughan liked it and the name (and its shortened variant “Sass”) stuck with colleagues and, eventually, the press. In written communications, Vaughan often spelled it “Sassie”.

1946 Recorded with the Teddy Wilson Quartet.

Vaughan officially left the Eckstine band in late 1944 to pursue a solo career, although she remained very close to Eckstine personally and recorded with him frequently throughout her life.

Vaughan began her solo career in 1945 by freelancing in clubs on New York’s 52nd Street like the Three Deuces, the Famous Door, the Downbeat and the Onyx Club. Vaughan also hung around the Braddock Grill, next door to the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. On May 11, 1945, Vaughan recorded “Lover Man” for the Guild label with a quintet featuring Gillespie and Parker with Al Haig on piano, Curly Russell on double bass and Sid Catlett on drums. Later that month she went into the studio with a slightly different and larger Gillespie/Parker aggregation and recorded three more sides.

After being invited by violinist Stuff Smith to record the song “Time and Again” in October, Vaughan was offered a contract to record for the Musicraft label by owner Albert Marx, although she would not begin recording as a leader for Musicraft until May 7, 1946. In the intervening time, Vaughan made a handful of recordings for the Crown and Gotham labels and began performing regularly at Cafe Society Downtown, an integrated club in New York’s Sheridan Square.

While at Cafe Society, Vaughan became friends with trumpeter George Treadwell. Treadwell became Vaughan’s manager and she ultimately delegated to him most of the musical director responsibilities for her recording sessions, leaving her free to focus almost entirely on singing. Over the next few years, Treadwell also made significant positive changes in Vaughan’s stage appearance. Aside from an improved wardrobe and hair style, Vaughan had her teeth capped, eliminating an unsightly gap between her two front teeth.

“Lullaby Of Birdland”

Many of Vaughan’s 1946 Musicraft recordings became quite well-known among jazz aficionados and critics, including “If You Could See Me Now” (written and arranged by Tadd Dameron), “Don’t Blame Me”, “I’ve Got a Crush on You”, “Everything I Have is Yours” and “Body and Soul.” With Vaughan and Treadwell’s professional relationship on solid footing, the couple married on September 16, 1946.

Vaughan’s recording success for Musicraft continued through 1947 and 1948. Her recording of “Tenderly” became an unexpected pop hit in late 1947. Her December 27, 1947, recording of “It’s Magic” (from the Doris Day film Romance on the High Seas) found chart success in early 1948. Her recording of “Nature Boy” from April 8, 1948, became a hit around the same time as the release of the famous Nat King Cole recording of the same song. Because of yet another recording ban by the musicians union, “Nature Boy” was recorded with an a capella choir as the only accompaniment, adding an ethereal air to a song with a vaguely mystical lyric and melody.

“Whatever Lola Wants”

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets
And little man, little Lola wants you
Make up your mind to have (make up your mind to have)
No regrets (no regrets)
Recline yourself, resign yourself, you’re through

I always get what I aim for
And your heart and soul is what I came for
Whatever Lola wants (Lola wants), Lola gets (Lola gets)
Take off your coat, don’t you know you can’t win
(Can’t win, you’ll never, never win)
You’re no exception to the rule
I’m irresistable you fool
Give in (Give in, you’ll never win)

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets

I always get what I aim for
And your heart and soul is what I came for
Whatever Lola wants (Lola wants), Lola gets (Lola gets)
Take off your coat, don’t you know you can’t win
(Can’t win, you’ll never, never win)
You’re no exception to the rule
I’m irresistable you fool
Give in (give in, you’ll never win)
Give in (give in, you’ll never win)
Give in.

The musicians union ban pushed Musicraft to the brink of bankruptcy and Vaughan used the missed royalty payments as an opportunity to sign with the larger Columbia record label. Following the settling of the legal issues, her chart successes continued with the charting of “Black Coffee” in the summer of 1949. During her tenure at Columbia through 1953, Vaughan was steered almost exclusively to commercial pop ballads, a number of which had chart success: “That Lucky Old Sun”, “Make Believe (You Are Glad When You’re Sorry)”, “I’m Crazy to Love You”, “Our Very Own”, “I Love the Guy”, “Thinking of You” (with pianist Bud Powell), “I Cried for You”, “These Things I Offer You”, “Vanity”, “I Ran All the Way Home”, “Saint or Sinner”, “My Tormented Heart”, and “Time”, among others.

Vaughan also achieved substantial critical acclaim. She won Esquire magazine’s New Star Award for 1947 as well as awards from Down Beat magazine continuously from 1947 through 1952, and from Metronome magazine from 1948 through 1953. A handful of critics disliked her singing as being “over-stylized”, reflecting the heated controversies of the time over the new musical trends of the late 40’s. However, the critical reception to the young singer was generally positive.

Recording and critical success led to numerous performing opportunities, packing clubs around the country almost continuously throughout the years of the late 1940s and early 1950s. In the summer of 1949, Vaughan made her first appearance with a symphony orchestra in a benefit for the Philadelphia Orchestra entitled “100 Men and a Girl.” Around this time, Chicago disk jockey Dave Garroway coined a second nickname for her, “The Divine One”, that would follow her throughout her career. One of her early television appearances was on DuMont‘s variety show Stars on Parade (1953–54) in which she sang “My Funny Valentine” and “Linger Awhile”.

“Fly Me To The Moon”

With improving finances, in 1949 Vaughan and Treadwell purchased a three-story house on 21 Avon Avenue in Newark, occupying the top floor during their increasingly rare off-hours at home and relocating Vaughan’s parents to the lower two floors. However, the business pressures and personality conflicts led to a cooling in the personal relationship between Treadwell and Vaughan. Treadwell hired a road manager to handle Vaughan’s touring needs and opened a management office in Manhattan so he could work with clients in addition to Vaughan.

Vaughan’s relationship with Columbia Records also soured as she became dissatisfied with the commercial material she was required to record and lackluster financial success of her records. A set of small group sides recorded in 1950 with Miles Davis and Benny Green are among the best of her career, but they were atypical of her Columbia output.

In 1953, Treadwell negotiated a unique contract for Vaughan with Mercury Records. She would record commercial material for the Mercury label and more jazz-oriented material for its subsidiary EmArcy. Vaughan was paired with producer Bob Shad and their excellent working relationship yielded strong commercial and artistic success. Her debut Mercury recording session took place in February 1954 and she stayed with the label through 1959. After a stint at Roulette Records (1960 to 1963), Vaughan returned to Mercury from 1964 to 1967.

Vaughan’s commercial success at Mercury began with the 1954 hit, “Make Yourself Comfortable”, recorded in the fall of 1954, and continued with a succession of hits, including: “How Important Can It Be” (with Count Basie), “Whatever Lola Wants“, “The Banana Boat Song“, “You Ought to Have A Wife” and “Misty“. Her commercial success peaked in 1959 with “Broken Hearted Melody“, a song she considered to be “corny”, but, nonetheless, became her first gold record and a regular part of her concert repertoire for years to come. Vaughan was reunited with Billy Eckstine for a series of duet recordings in 1957 that yielded the hit “Passing Strangers“. Vaughan’s commercial recordings were handled by a number of different arrangers and conductors, primarily Hugo Peretti and Hal Mooney.

The jazz “track” of her recording career also proceeded apace, backed either by her working trio or various combinations of stellar jazz players. One of her own favorite albums was a 1954 sextet date that included Clifford Brown.

The latter half of the 1950s often found Vaughan in the company of a veritable who’s who of jazz as she followed a schedule of almost non-stop touring. She was featured at the first Newport Jazz Festival in the summer of 1954 and would star in subsequent editions of that festival at Newport and in New York City for the remainder of her life. In the fall of 1954, she performed at Carnegie Hall with the Count Basie Orchestra on a bill that also included Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Lester Young and the Modern Jazz Quartet. That fall, she again toured Europe successfully before embarking on a “Big Show” U. S. tour, a grueling succession of start-studded one-nighters that included Count Basie, George Shearing, Erroll Garner and Jimmy Rushing. At the 1955 New York Jazz Festival on Randalls Island, Vaughan shared the bill with the Dave Brubeck quartet, Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith, and the Johnny Richards Orchestra

1974 “Misty”

Although the professional relationship between Vaughan and Treadwell was quite successful through the 1950s, their personal relationship finally reached a breaking point and she filed for a divorce in 1958. Vaughan had entirely delegated financial matters to Treadwell, and despite stunning income figures reported through the 1950s, at the settlement Treadwell said that only $16,000 remained. The couple evenly divided that amount and their personal assets, terminating their business relationship.

The exit of Treadwell from Sarah Vaughan’s life was also precipitated by the entry of Clyde “C.B.” Atkins, a man of uncertain background whom she had met in Chicago and married on September 4, 1959. Although Atkins had no experience in artist management or music, Vaughan wished to have a mixed professional/personal relationship like the one she had with Treadwell. She made Atkins her personal manager, although she was still feeling the sting of the problems she had with Treadwell, and initially kept a slightly closer eye on Atkins. Vaughan and Atkins moved into a house in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.[8]

1990, “My Funny Valentine”

When Vaughan’s contract with Mercury Records ended in late 1959, she immediately signed on with Roulette Records, a small label owned by Morris Levy, who was one of the backers of New York’s Birdland, where she frequently appeared. Roulette’s roster also included Count Basie, Joe Williams, Dinah Washington, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross and Maynard Ferguson.

Vaughan began recording for Roulette in April 1960, making a string of strong large ensemble albums arranged and/or conducted by Billy May, Jimmy Jones, Joe Reisman, Quincy Jones, Benny Carter, Lalo Schifrin and Gerald Wilson. Surprisingly, she also had some pop chart success in 1960 with “Serenata” on Roulette and a couple of residual tracks from her Mercury contract, “Eternally” and “You’re My Baby”. She also made a pair of intimate vocal/guitar/double bass albums of jazz standards: After Hours (1961) with guitarist Mundell Lowe and double bassist George Duvivier and Sarah + 2 (1962) with guitarist Barney Kessell and double bassist Joe Comfort.

Vaughan was incapable of having children, so, in 1961, she and Atkins adopted a daughter, Debra Lois. However, the relationship with Atkins proved difficult and violent so, following a series of strange incidents, she filed for divorce in November 1963. She turned to two friends to help sort out the financial wreckage of the marriage: club owner John “Preacher” Wells, a childhood acquaintance, and Clyde “Pumpkin” Golden, Jr. Wells and Golden found that Atkins’ gambling and profligate spending had put Vaughan around $150,000 in debt. The Englewood Cliffs house was ultimately seized by the IRS for nonpayment of taxes. Vaughan retained custody of their child and Golden essentially took Atkins place as Vaughan’s manager and lover for the remainder of the decade.

Around the time of her second divorce, she also became disenchanted with Roulette Records. Roulette’ finances were even more deceptive and opaque than usual in the record business and its recording artists often had little to show for their efforts other than some excellent records. When her contract with Roulette ended in 1963, Vaughan returned to the more familiar confines of Mercury Records. In the summer of 1963, Vaughan went to Denmark with producer Quincy Jones to record four days of live performances with her trio, Sassy Swings the Tivoli, an excellent example of her live show from this period. The following year, she made her first appearance at the White House, for President Johnson.

Unfortunately, the Tivoli recording would be the brightest moment of her second stint with Mercury. Changing demographics and tastes in the 1960s left jazz artists with shrinking audiences and inappropriate material. While Vaughan retained a following large and loyal enough to maintain her performing career, the quality and quantity of her recorded output dwindled even as her voice darkened and her skill remained undiminished. At the conclusion of her Mercury deal in 1967 she was left without a recording contract for the remainder of the decade.

In 1969, Vaughan terminated her professional relationship with Golden and relocated to the West Coast, settling first into a house near Benedict Canyon in Los Angeles and then into what would end up being her final home in Hidden Hills.

Vaughan met Marshall Fisher after a 1970 performance at a casino in Las Vegas and Fisher soon fell into the familiar dual role as Vaughan’s lover and manager. Fisher was another man of uncertain background with no musical or entertainment business experience, but—unlike some of her earlier associates—he was a genuine fan devoted to furthering her career.

The seventies also heralded a rebirth in Vaughan’s recording activity. In 1971, Bob Shad, who had worked with her as producer at Mercury Records, asked her to record for his new record label, Mainstream Records. Basie veteran Ernie Wilkins arranged and conducted her first Mainstream album, A Time In My Life in November 1971. In April 1972, Vaughan recorded a collection of ballads written, arranged and conducted by Michel Legrand. Arrangers Legrand, Peter Matz, Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson teamed up for Vaughan’s third Mainstream album, Feelin’ Good. Vaughan also recorded Live in Japan, a live album in Tokyo with her trio in September 1973.

During her sessions with Legrand, Bob Shad presented “Send In The Clowns“, a Stephen Sondheim song from the Broadway musical A Little Night Music, to Vaughan for consideration. The song would become her signature, replacing the chestnut “Tenderly” that had been with her from the beginning of her solo career.

Unfortunately, Vaughan’s relationship with Mainstream soured in 1974, allegedly in a conflict precipitated by Fisher over an album cover photograph and/or unpaid royalties [citation needed]. This left Vaughan again without a recording contract for three years.

In December 1974, Vaughan played a private concert for the United States President Gerald Ford and French president Giscard d’Estaing during their summit on Martinique.

Also in 1974, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas asked Vaughan to participate in an all-Gershwin show he was planning for a guest appearance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. The arrangements were by Marty Paich and the orchestra would be augmented by established jazz artists Dave Grusin on piano, Ray Brown on double bass, drummer Shelly Manne and saxophonists Bill Perkins and Pete Christlieb. The concert was a success and Thomas and Vaughan repeated the performance with Thomas’ home orchestra in Buffalo, New York, followed by appearances in 1975 and 1976 with symphony orchestras around the country. These performances fulfilled a long-held interest by Vaughan in working with symphonies and she made orchestra performances without Thomas for the remainder of the decade.

1950 “Don’t Blame Me”

In 1977, Vaughan terminated her personal and professional relationship with Marshall Fisher. Although Fisher is occasionally referenced as Vaughan’s third husband, they were never legally married. Vaughan began a relationship with Waymond Reed, a trumpet player 16 years her junior who was playing with the Count Basie band. Reed joined her working trio as a musical director and trumpet player and became her third husband in 1978.

In 1977, Tom Guy, a young filmmaker and public TV producer, followed Vaughan around on tour, interviewing numerous artists speaking about her and capturing both concert and behind-the-scenes footage. The resulting sixteen hours of footage was pared down into an hour-and-a-half documentary, Listen To The Sun, that aired on September 21, 1978, on New Jersey Public Television, but was never commercially released.

In 1977, Norman Granz, who was also Ella Fitzgerald‘s manager, signed Vaughan to his Pablo Records label. Vaughan had not had a recording contract for three years, although she had recorded a 1977 album of Beatles songs with contemporary pop arrangements for Atlantic Records that was eventually released in 1981. Vaughan’s first Pablo release was I Love Brazil, recorded with an all-star cast of Brazilian musicians in Rio de Janeiro in the fall of 1977. It garnered a Grammy nomination.

The Pablo contract resulted in a total of seven albums: a second and equally wondrous Brazilian record, “Copacabana”, again recorded in Rio (1979), How Long Has This Been Going On? (1978) with a quartet that included pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Louis Bellson; two Duke Ellington Songbook albums (1979); Send In The Clowns (1981) with the Count Basie orchestra playing arrangements primarily by Sammy Nestico; and Crazy and Mixed Up (1982), another quartet album featuring Sir Roland Hanna, piano, Joe Pass, guitar, Andy Simpkins, bass, and Harold Jones drums. Vaughan and Waymond Reed divorced in 1981.

Vaughan remained quite active as a performer during the 1980s and began receiving awards recognizing her contribution to American music and status as an important elder stateswoman of Jazz. In the summer of 1980, Vaughan received a plaque on 52nd Street outside the CBS Building (Black Rock) commemorating the jazz clubs she had once frequented on “Swing Street” and which had long since been demolished and replaced with office buildings.

A performance of her symphonic Gershwin program with the New Jersey Symphony in 1980 was broadcast on PBS and won her an Emmy Award in 1981 for “Individual Achievement – Special Class”. She was reunited with Michael Tilson Thomas for slightly modified version of the Gershwin program with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the CBS Records recording, Gershwin Live! won Vaughan the Grammy award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Female. In 1985, Vaughan received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1988, Vaughan was inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame.

After the conclusion of her Pablo contract in 1982, Vaughan did only a limited amount studio recording. Vaughan made a guest appearance in 1984 on Barry Manilow‘s 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe, an album of original pastiche compositions that featured a number of established jazz artists. In 1984, Vaughan participated in one of the more unusual projects of her career, The Planet is Alive, Let It Live a symphonic piece composed by Tito Fontana and Sante Palumbo on Italian translations of Polish poems by Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II. The recording was made in Germany with an English translation by writer Gene Lees and was released by Lees on his own private label after the recording was turned down by the major labels. In 1986, Vaughan sang two songs, “Happy Talk” and “Bali Ha’i”, in the role of Bloody Mary on an otherwise stiff studio recording by opera stars Kiri Te Kanawa and José Carreras of the score of the Broadway musical South Pacific, while sitting on the studio floor.

Vaughan’s final complete album was Brazilian Romance, produced and composed by Sergio Mendes and recorded primarily in the early part of 1987 in New York and Detroit. In 1988, Vaughan contributed vocals to an album of Christmas carols recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the Utah Symphony Orchestra and sold in Hallmark Cards stores. In 1989, Quincy Jones’ album Back on the Block featured Vaughan in a brief scatting duet with Ella Fitzgerald. This was Vaughan’s final studio recording and, fittingly, it was Vaughan’s only formal studio recording with Fitzgerald in a career that had begun 46 years earlier opening for Fitzgerald at the Apollo.

Vaughan is featured in a number of video recordings from the 1980s. Sarah Vaughan Live from Monterrey was taped in 1983 or 1984 and featured her working trio with guest soloists. Sass and Brass was taped in 1986 in New Orleans and also features her working trio with guest soloists, including Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson. Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One was featured in the American Masters series on PBS.

She was given the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing.[9]

n 1989, Vaughan’s health began to decline, although she rarely betrayed any hints in her performances. Vaughan canceled a series of engagements in Europe in 1989 citing the need to seek treatment for arthritis in the hand, although she was able to complete a later series of performances in Japan. During a run at New York’s Blue Note jazz club in 1989, Vaughan received a diagnosis of lung cancer and was too ill to finish the final day of what would turn out to be her final series of public performances.

Vaughan returned to her home in California to begin chemotherapy and spent her final months alternating stays in the hospital and at home. Toward the end, Vaughan tired of the struggle and demanded to be taken home, where she died on the evening of April 3, 1990, while watching a television movie featuring her daughter, a week after her 66th birthday.

Vaughan’s funeral was held at Mount Zion Baptist Church at 208 Broadway in Newark, New Jersey which was the same congregation she grew up in, although relocated to a new building. Following the ceremony, a horse-drawn carriage transported her body to its final resting place in Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield, New Jersey.[10]

Source: Wikipedia, YouTube, IMDB.com, sarahvaughan.com, nndb.com

Quick Bio Facts:

Sarah  VaughanSarah Vaughan – AKA Sarah Lois Vaughan

Born: 28-Mar1924
Birthplace: Newark, NJ
Died: 3-Apr1990
Location of death: Hidden Hills, CA
Cause of death: Cancer – Lung
Remains: Buried, Glendale Cemetery, Bloomfield, NJ

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The Divine One

Sarah Vaughan first began to develop her remarkable voice at the age of 7, singing in the choir of the Mount Zion Baptist Church in New Jersey. By the start of her teen years, she was also playing the organ during services and studying the piano. While still very young her talents reached such an advanced stage that she dropped out of school and began competing in talent contests; one such contest (which she won) at the Apollo Theater in 1942 landed her a job as vocalist and second pianist of The Earl Hines Orchestra. A year later she left along with Billy Eckstine (who had been responsible for bringing her into the band) to form a Bebop ensemble with notable players including Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey. With this group Vaughan initiated her recording career, the first session taking place for the Continental label in 1944.

By the end of the 1940s Vaughan was releasing albums under her own name as an artist for Columbia Records. That same year she married trumpet player George Treadwell who soon afterward became her manager, understanding fully the relevance of her talent and arranging a busy schedule of sessions and touring for his wife well into the next decade. Recordings with Miles Davis were also created for Columbia in 1950, followed by a considerable number of pop and jazz albums released either by Mercury Records (for pop) or its associated label EmArcy (for jazz). Both her marriage to Treadwell and her contract with Mercury had expired by 1959, and a change to Roulette Records — also the home of Count Basie at the time — was made in 1960. Around this time she married C. B. Atkins who, like Treadwell, would serve as her manager throughout their marriage.

During the 1960s, Vaughan’s musical output veered more towards the pop end of her spectrum. In 1962 she divorced Atkins; the following year she left Roulette and returned to Mercury, initiating a working relationship with Quincy Jones that would result in a number of worthy recordings before she again left Mercury in 1967. After a five year hiatus from recording Vaughan then signed with the Pablo Label and once again turned towards her jazz roots, appearing at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1974. Several excursions into Latin-jazz territory were subsequently made, as well as a pair of albums interpreting Duke Ellington compositions.

Despite deteriorating health, Vaughan continued to record and perform until the end of the 1980s. An album of Gershwin tunes with The Los Angeles Philharmonic earned her a Grammy award in 1982, while a televised concert in the later half of the decade featured her with both old friends such as Dizzy Gillespie and the next generation of jazz performers like Herbie Hancock. She succumbed to lung cancer in 1990.

Husband: George Treadwell (musician, m. 1947, div.)
Husband: C. B. Atkins (m. 1959, div. 1962)
Daughter: Paris

Grammy Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Female (1982)
NEA Jazz Master 1989
Risk Factors: Smoking

Murder, Inc. (28-Jun-1960)

Source: nndb.com

George Shearing

Sir George Shearing, OBE (born August 13, 1919) is an AngloAmerican jazz pianist who for many years led a popular jazz group which recorded for MGM Records and Capitol Records. The composer of over 300 titles, he has had multiple albums on the Billboard charts during the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s.[1]

He became known for a piano technique known as Shearing’s voicing, a type of double melody block chord, with an additional fifth part that doubles the melody an octave lower. George Shearing credits the Glenn Miller orchestra’s reed section of the late thirties and early forties as an important influence.

Shearing’s interest in classical music resulted in some performances with concert orchestras in the 1950s and 1960s, and his solos frequently draw upon the music of Debussy and, particularly, Erik Satie and Frederick Delius for inspiration.

Born in Battersea, London, Shearing was the youngest of nine children. He was born blind to working class parents: his father delivered coal and his mother cleaned trains in the evening. He started to learn piano at the age of three and began formal training at Linden Lodge School for the Blind, where he spent four years.[2]

Though offered several scholarships, Shearing opted to perform at a local pub, the Mason’s Arms in Lambeth, for “25 bob a week”[3] playing piano and accordion. He even joined an all-blind band during that time and was influenced by the albums of Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller.[1] He made his first BBC radio appearance during this time after befriending Leonard Feather, with whom he started recording in 1937.[2] In 1940, Shearing joined Harry Parry‘s popular band and contributed to the comeback of Stéphane Grappelli. Shearing won seven consecutive Melody Maker polls during this time. Around that time he was also a member of George Evans‘ Saxes ‘n’ Sevens band.

George Shearing’s and the Quintet playing his own composition, “Lullaby of Birdland” Shearing’s arrangement of piano and vibes playing in unison created a sound that set Shearing.

I thought it might be interesting to listen to two other vocal versions of “Lullaby of Birdland” Also, another interesting fact about the song is that the chord progression was borrowed from an older song more closely identified with Doris Day; “Love Me Or Leave Me” The melody is unique but the progression is not.

Here’s Ella’s version

And my favorite version. Here you get to hear George (not known for his singing) play and sing and then the master, Mel Torme.

Oh, lullaby of birdland that’s what I
Always hear, when you sigh,
Never in my wordland could there be ways to reveal
In a phrase how I feel.

Have you ever heard two turtle doves
Bill and coo when they love?
That’s the kind of magic music we make with our lips
When we kiss

And there’s a weepy old willow
He really knows how to cry
That’s how I’d cry in my pillow
If you should tell me farewell and goodbye

Lullaby of birdland whisper low
Kiss me sweet, and we’ll go
Flying high in birdland, high in the sky up above
All because we’re in love

Lullaby, lullaby, lullaby

Have you ever heard two turtle doves
Bill and coo when they love?
That’s the kind of magic music we make with our lips
When we kiss

And there’s a weepy old willow
He really knows how to cry
That’s how I’d cry in my pillow
If you should tell me farewell and goodbye

Lullaby of birdland whisper low
Kiss me sweet, and we’ll go
Flying high in birdland, high in the sky up above
All because we’re in love

In 1947, Shearing emigrated to the United States, where his harmonically complex style mixed swing, bop and modern classical influences. One of his first gigs in the States was at the Hickory House. He performed with the Oscar Pettiford Trio and led a quartet with Buddy DeFranco, which led to contractual problems since Shearing was with MGM and DeFranco was with Capitol Records. In 1949, he formed the first “George Shearing Quintet”, a band with Margie Hyams (vibraphone), Chuck Wayne (guitar), later replaced by Toots Thielemans (billed as John Tillman), John Levy (bass) and Denzil Best (drums) and recorded for Discovery, Savoy and MGM, including the immensely popular single, “September in the Rain” (MGM), which sold over 900,000 copies; “my other hit” to accompany “Lullaby of Birdland“. Shearing himself would write of this hit that it was “as accidental as it could be.”[3]

In 1956, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.[3] He continued to play with his quintet, with augmented players through the years, and recorded with Capitol until 1969. He created his own label, Sheba, that lasted a few years. In 1970 he began to “phase out his by-now-predictable quintet”[1] and disbanded the group in 1978. One of his more notable albums during this period was The Reunion, With George Shearing (Verve 1976), made in collaboration with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Rusty Jones, which featured Stéphane Grappelli, the musician with whom he had debuted as a sideman decades before. Later, Shearing played with a trio, as a solo and increasingly in duo. Among his collaborations have been sets with the Montgomery Brothers, Marian McPartland, Brian Q. Torff, Jim Hall, Hank Jones and Kenny Davern. In 1979, Shearing signed with Concord Records, in particular working with Mel Tormé. This collaboration garnered Shearing and Tormé two Grammys, one in 1983 and then another in the following year.

Recorded Dec. 19th or 20th, 1961, Nat conceded the piano playing to the marvelous George Shearing (who tried to mimic Nat’s own style of playing) and provided one of his best vocals on “Pick Yourself Up”.

Shearing has also collaborated with singers including Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Ernestine Anderson, Dakota Staton, Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson and, most notably, Mel Tormé, with whom he performed frequently in the late 80s and early 90s at festivals, on radio and for recordings.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Shearing performed and recorded extensively in a duo format with the Canadian bassist Neil Swainson. Shearing also made a recording with the classical French horn player Barry Tuckwell.

Shearing collaborated with the John Pizzarelli Trio to create the album The Rare Delight of You, which garnered extremely good reviews. The album cover, featuring Pizzarelli and Shearing posing in front of a solid blue background, was designed to resemble the cover of Nat King Cole Sings, George Shearing Plays, a legendary jazz recording with which it shares some similarities in style.

The first three songs from the album “Beauty and The Beat!” by Peggy Lee and George Shearing.
Song 1: Do I Love You (Cole Porter)
Song 2: I Lost My Sugar In Salt Lake City (Rene-Lange)
Song 3: If Dreams Come True (Sampson-Goodman-Mills)
Recorded live on April 28th, 1959
Vocals: Peggy Lee
Piano: George Shearing
Guitar: Toots Thielemans
Vibes: Warren Chaisson
Bass: James Bond
Drums: Roy Hanes
Conga: Armando Peraza

Copyright Capitol Jazz

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, georgeshearing.com

Quick Bio Facts:

George Shearing – AKA George Albert Shearing

Born: 13-Aug1919

Birthplace: London, England
Occupation: Jazz Musician, Pianist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: George Shearing Quintet

Father: James phillip Shearing
Mother: Ellen Amelia Brightner
Sister: Mary
Sister: Dolly
Sister: Lilly
Sister: Margaret
Brother: James
Wife: Beatrice Gladys Bayes (m. 1-May-1941, one daughter)
Daughter: Wendy Ann
Wife: Ellie (m. 1984)

High School: Linden Lodge School for the Blind, London

George Shearing Quintet (1949-78)
Oscar Pettiford Trio
Hollywood Walk of Fame 1716 Vine St. (recording)
Officer of the British Empire
Knighthood 2007
Naturalized US Citizen 1956

Jazz on a Summer’s Day (28-Mar-1960) Himself

Official Website:

Author of books:
Lullaby of Birdland (2005, memoir, with Alyn Shipton)


Source: NNDB.com