Yvonne Marie Antoinette JaMais (20 January 1921 – 22 September 2008) was an American singer who performed under the stage name Connie Haines. Her 200 recordings were frequently up-tempo big band songs with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Frank Sinatra.
“Will You Still Be Mine”
She began performing at age 4, and by age 9 had a regular radio show performing as Baby Yvonne Marie, the Little Princess of the Air.
After a number of regional successes and winning the Major Bowes contest, she was hired by Harry James, who asked her to change her name. She later joined Tommy Dorsey, and Haines credited Dorsey with developing her style further. Haines performed in a number of films, including Duchess of Idaho. She later did a television show with Frankie Laine.
“What Is This Thing Called Love?”
Popular dark-haired “Big Band” singer Connie Haines may have been petite in size (less than 5′ tall) but she possessed a sturdy set of pipes to compensate and was adored by her large fan base during the swinging war years. Performing alongside an equally young Frank Sinatra in both the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey bands way back when, she was known for her cool, doll-like vocals, quivery vibrato, and zesty, rhythmic stylings — 25 of her more than 200 recordings, including “Let’s Get Away From It All” and “Friendship,” sold more than 50,000 copies. Other classic singles from Connie ranged from the torchy stylings of “Stormy Weather” and “My Man” to the cooing innocence of “Snooty Little Cutie” and “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy” to the hep and swinging “Let’s Choo Choo Choo to Idaho”.
She was born Yvonne Marie Antoinette JaMais on January 20, 1921 in Savannah George, but changed her name to the peppier-sounding Connie Haines to take up less space on the theater marquee at the time she joined Harry James‘ band. She grew up in Jacksonville, Florida (from age 5) and started to perform at the encouragement of her mother who was a music and dance teacher. Winning a dance contest, she went on to perform for various Rotary and Kiwanis clubs and by age 9 was known on radio as “Baby Yvonne Marie, the Little Princess of the Air” while being backed by her own 30-piece orchestra. Around that time she also fought a near-fatal bout with rheumatic fever.
“Snootie Little Cutie” with Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers
Winning more talent contests along the way she evolved into a teen sensation and performed on Fred Allen‘s radio show. At age 18 she hooked up with Harry James before joining Tommy Dorsey‘s outfit in 1940. During that period she and Sinatra duoed famously on such songs as “Oh, Look at Me Now” and “You Might Have Belonged to Another”. By 1942 Connie had landed a regular singing gig with the Abbott and Costello radio show. She was such a hit that her 13-week contract was extended to 4 years. She found herself in demand on all the popular radio shows of the day — Kay Kyser, Hoagy Carmichael and Skitch Henderson, to name but a few.
Recorded shortly be Connie Died. She was still a wonderful performer!!
It was war time and Connie, along with many of the other popular vocalists of her day, treated film audiences to specialty numbers in a number of fun, frivolous musicals that were primarily designed as escapist fare or patriotic morale-boosters. In both Moon Over Las Vegas (1944) and Twilight on the Prairie (1944), she sang songs alongside prolific singer/songwriter (and later popular adult “Mousketeer”) Jimmie Dodd. In the latter, a musical western, she was even given a co-starring role. In A Wave, a WAC and a Marine (1944) she sang “Time Will Tell” and “Gee, I Love My G.I. Joe” and in the Van Johnson/Esther Williams starrer Duchess of Idaho (1950), in which she again had an acting role, she contributed a fine version of “Of All Things”.
“Of All Things”
Connie’s last film appearance was in the romantic musical short Birth of a Band (1954) in which she warbled the classic standards “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “I’ve Got the World on a String”. A highly religious woman, she teamed with singer Beryl Davis and Hollywood icons Jane Russell and Rhonda Fleming during the 1950s in a gospel quartet. They scored a hit with the 1954 song “Do Lord”.
“It Don’t Mean A Thing”
Connie continued performing for decades in nightclubs, cabarets and revivals despite a number of life-threatening illnesses/injuries which included a bout with cancer (for which she had a double mastectomy in 1984) and a 2002 car accident that left her with two broken vertebrae in her neck. She finally retired in 2006 at age 85. During her career she performed for Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
“More Thank You Know”
The “Nightingale from Savannah” was married and divorced twice. Her first was to WWII flying ace Robert DeHaven in 1945. That marriage produced a son (Robert Jr.) and a daughter (Kimberly). Her subsequent marriage to popular bandleader Del Courtney (1910-2006) lasted from 1966 to 1972. Connie died in Clearwater, Florida, at age 87 of myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune neruomuscular disease. She was survived by her children and the one woman who influenced her the most — her mother and manager, Mildred, who was 109 at the time of Connie’s death on September 22, 2008.
Cole Porter’s, “DeLovely”
Sources: imdb.com, youtube.com
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