June Christy

June Christy (November 20, 1925 – June 21, 1990), born Shirley Luster, was an American singer, known for her sweet, velvet-smooth vocals and for her work in the cool jazz genre. Her success as a singer began with The Stan Kenton Orchestra. She pursued a solo career from 1954 and is best known for her debut album Something Cool. Upon her death, she was hailed as “one of the finest and most neglected singers of her time.”[1] June Christy was born as Shirley Luster in Springfield, Illinois. She moved with her family to Decatur, Illinois when she was three years old. She began to sing with the Decatur based Bill Oetzel Orchestra at the young age of 13. While attending Decatur High School she appeared with Oetzel and his society band, the Ben Bradley Band, and Bill Madden’s Band. After high school she moved to Chicago, changed her name to Sharon Leslie, and sang with a group led by Boyd Raeburn. Later she joined Benny Strong’s band. In 1944, Strong’s band moved to New York, while at the same time Christy was quarantined in Chicago with scarlet fever.

In 1945, after hearing that Anita O’Day had left Stan Kenton‘s Orchestra, she auditioned and got the role as a vocalist. At first, she bore a heavy resemblance to Anita O’Day, both physically and vocally. During the time when she sang in the Orchestra, she changed her name once again, this time to June Christy.

The great June Christy sings Taking A Chance On Love in this 1950 clip

Her unique voice produced successful hits such as “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy,” the million-selling “Tampico” in 1945, and “How High the Moon“. “Tampico” was Kenton’s biggest-selling record. When the Kenton Band temporarily disbanded in 1948, she sang in nightclubs for a short time, and reunited with the band two years later in 1950.

1950 “All God’s Children Got Rythm”

From 1947, she started to work on her own records, primarily with the arranger and bandleader Pete Rugolo. In 1954, she released her own 10″ LP Something Cool, recorded with Rugolo and his orchestra, a gathering of notable Los Angeles jazz musicians that included her husband, multi-instrumentalist Bob Cooper and alto saxophonist Bud Shank. Something Cool was rereleased as a 12″ LP in 1955 with additional selections, and then entirely rerecorded in stereo in 1960 with a somewhat different personnel. Christy would later say that the album was “the only thing I’ve recorded that I’m not unhappy with.”[2] Something Cool was also important in launching the vocal cool movement of the 1950s, and it hit the Top 20 Charts, as did her third album The Misty Miss Christy. She continued to release more records, which influenced future jazz vocalists and set new standards for the music.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Christy appeared on a number of television programs, including the short-lived CBS show Adventures in Jazz (1949), Eddie Condon’s Floor Show (1949), The Alan Young Show (1950), The Jack Carter Show (1950), Penthouse Party (1951), The Jackie Gleason Show (1953), The Tonight Show (1955) The Nat King Cole Show (1957), Stars of Jazz (1958),The Steve Allen Show (1959), Playboy’s Penthouse (1961), The Lively Ones (1963) [3], The Mike Douglas Show (1965), Not Only But Also (1965) and The Joey Bishop Show (1967). She also appeared on the first sponsored jazz concert on TV, The Timex All-Star Jazz Show I (December 30, 1957).

“The Simple Life”

June Christy & Stan Kenton – 1965

Christy embarked on dozens of concert tours, playing such far away locales as Europe, South Africa, Australia and Japan. She toured to such an extent that eventually it began to take a toll on her marriage and she began to pull back from touring in the early 1960s. [4]

R.M. Cook and Brian Morton, writers of The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, appreciated the singer’s body of work: “Christy’s wholesome but particularly sensuous voice is less an improviser’s vehicle than an instrument for long, controlled lines and the shading of a fine vibrato. Her greatest moments—the heartbreaking ‘Something Cool’ itself, ‘Midnight Sun,’ ‘I Should Care’—are as close to creating definitive interpretations as any singer can come.”[4] Christy was married to Bob Cooper. In 1954, she gave birth to a daughter, Shay Cooper.[5] Christy’s nephew claim s that although she was agnostic, she was very well versed in religion and philosophy, identifying at least partially with Buddhism.[6]

Christy retired from the music business in 1969, only taking the stage again after that point when she needed money. In 1972, she sang at the Newport Jazz Festival in New York City, where she was reunited with the Kenton Orchestra. She also performed at a handful of jazz festivals during the late 1970s and 1980s, playing with a band of all-star west coast jazz musicians led by Shorty Rogers.[5] Her final performance came in 1988 sharing the stage with Chet Baker. Christy returned to the recording studio in 1977 to record her final LP, Impromptu.

Nat King Cole, Mel Torme and June Christy

After struggling with illness for many years, she died at her home in Sherman Oaks, California of kidney failure on June 21, 1990, at the age of 64.[7][8] Her remains were cremated and scattered off the coast of Marina Del Rey.[9]

“Something Cool” -That would be Ms. June Christy!!

Discography

Release date Album Label
1954 Something Cool (10″ LP) Capitol Records[10]
1955 Something Cool (12″ LP) Capitol Records
May 5, 1955 Duet Capitol Records
July 30, 1956 The Misty Miss Christy Capitol Records
1957 Fair and Warmer![11] Capitol Records
1957 Gone for the Day Capitol Records
1958 This Is June Christy Capitol Records
1958 June’s Got Rhythm Capitol Records
1958 The Song Is June! Capitol Records
1959 Recalls Those Kenton Days Capitol Records
1959 Ballads For Night People Capitol Records
1960 The Cool School Capitol Records
1960 Something Cool (rerecorded in stereo) Capitol Records
1960 Off-Beat Capitol Records
1960 Do-Re-Mi (with Bob Cooper) Capitol Records
1961 This Time of Year Capitol Records
1962 Big Band Specials Capitol Records
1963 The Intimate Miss Christy Capitol Records
1965 Something Broadway, Something Latin Capitol Records
1977 Impromptu Interplay Records
1986 A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening (compilation) Jasmine Records
2002 Cool Christy (compilation of 1945-1951) Proper Records Ltd

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

Quick Bio Facts:

June  ChristyJune ChristyAKA Shirley Luster

Born: 20-Nov1925
Birthplace: Springfield, IL
Died: 21-Jun1990
Location of death: Sherman Oaks, CA
Cause of death: Kidney failure
Remains: Cremated, (ashes scattered off Marina Del Rey, California)

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

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Something Cool

Husband: Bob Cooper (saxophone player, m. 1946, one child)

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