Obscure & Neglected Female Singers Of Jazz & Standards (1930s to 1960s)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Ridin'High, Sep 4, 2016.

  1. Nathan Aaron

    Nathan Aaron Forum Resident

    I almost like the obscure idea concerning this thread. Perhaps create a very similar titled new thread but for non-obscure/mainstream female vocalists?
     
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  2. Spin Doctor

    Spin Doctor Active Member

    I think it's more fun to talk about the obscure. What's left to be said about people who are already popular?
     
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  3. toilet_doctor

    toilet_doctor Forum Resident

    [List of 33 non-Obscure Female Singers (active before the 1970s)]

    Betty Carter
    June Christy
    Rosemary Clooney
    Chris Connor
    Doris Day
    Blossom Dearie
    Ella Fitzgerald
    Judy Garland
    Eydie Gorme
    Billie Holiday
    Shirley Horn
    Lena Horne
    Eartha Kitt
    Peggy Lee
    Abby Lincoln
    Julie London
    Carmen McRae
    Ethel Merman
    Helen Merrill
    Anita O'Day
    Patti Page
    Dinah Shore
    Nina Simone
    Keely Smith
    Jeri Southern
    Jo Stafford
    Kay Starr
    Dakota Staton
    Barbra Streisand
    Sarah Vaughan
    Dinah Washington
    Margaret Whiting
    Nancy Wilson

    (All those singers have been repeatedly celebrated elsewhere in this forum. If you feel like talking about any of them, that would be great, but don't do it here. Just search for a thread about that vocalist, or open a new one!) I'd say that female groups should also be disqualified; they deserve their own separate thread.

    What to post: It would be ideal if you mention a favorite song by the singer, or upload a video representative of her singing style, or think of some particular trait that you like about her. In other words, don't just type a name, because a name won't mean much to anyone who doesn't know the singer. Should you want to post to say that you dislike the singer, that could be a very interesting contribution, too, as long as you tell us why.

    Limits: only songstresses who primarily sang jazz and standards ("As Time Goes By," "Summertime," "I've Got You Under My Skin", "My Funny Valentine," etc.) and who were active before the 1970s. This means that r&b & country singers such as Esther Phillips or Wanda Jackson do not qualify, and neither would rock singers who, like Linda Ronstadt, recorded standards after 1970.



    Many are here just because there's a thread about them, but is it fair?
    Why should we depend on some other threads?
    Today they are functional, tomorrow - not... or already are dead.
    People don't check those threads, but coming here.
    If I'd like to post some info about new releases of Keely Smith, for instance, or discuss new find... Why should I go somewhere-nowhere...

    Isn't it logical to have them all in one place?

    I doubt that new non-obscure thread can survive. I think we have to improve what is already going on.
    (I hate to do anything without Ridin'High, but just discuss some ideas/suggestions).

    I suggest to cut non-Obscure List down to the really famous and non-neglected singers
    (sorry, ladies, I love you, but I have to):

    Doris Day
    Ella Fitzgerald
    Billie Holiday
    Peggy Lee
    Julie London
    Anita O'Day
    Patti Page
    Dinah Shore
    Nina Simone
    Barbra Streisand
    Sarah Vaughan
    Dinah Washington

    Plus those who moved away from Jazz and turned standards into another genres:
    (up to Ridin'High)
    I just counted them - it happened to be List of 12 - isn't it something?

    There are some really popular singers in Pop genre, who loved Jazz and tried to get on our thread with
    the set (or two) of standards like Brenda Lee and others.
    They are really obscure in this way and completely belong to our thread.
    Yes, they have their own dedicated threads, but point is:
    Nobody cares about them as jazz/standard singers at those dedicated threads. Nobody...




    P.S. Guys, please correct this list, if you think it is too short or too long...
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
  4. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    Ask a thousand people on the street who Patti Page or Anita O'Day (or many others on that list), and I would say that between 99% to 100% will not know who you are talking about.

    It is far better to just enjoy the singers and post about them than to fuss over rules and definitions. I know of many former posters on other threads who quit the forum when people started to emphasize rules too much
     
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  5. toilet_doctor

    toilet_doctor Forum Resident

    P.P.S. Ridin'High! I'm glad you're here...

    Please try to reconsider your "other treads" rule...
    Here is the sample:
    Yes, Brenda Lee is very popular, but as a little girl rocking around the Christmas tree ones a year..
    From 31 her albums only 10 were released on CDs. Isn't it a negligence?
    Yes, she has dozen threads, but only we can appropriate her as a Jazz/Standard Singer... Only here...

    I want to talk about Brenda Lee as a wonderful Jazz singer... Where?

    (my favorite from my Brenda Lee file - very rare.)
    Benny Green on sax ... Just look at the audience...
    1959

    [​IMG]

    toilet_doctor
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
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  6. toilet_doctor

    toilet_doctor Forum Resident

    Agree, 10 is also very round number.

    (from review on one of Anita O'Day CD)
    "...one of jazz greatest, and perhaps most overlooked, female vocalists. While hot in her day, music like this and voices like Anita's are truly timeless. Sad that a talent like this may soon be forgotten. This CD is an absolutely must for any jazz fan."

    If we will not talk about these singers like Anita O'Day, who will?

    Suggested List of non-Obscure Singers

    Doris Day
    Ella Fitzgerald
    Billie Holiday
    Peggy Lee
    Julie London
    Dinah Shore
    Nina Simone
    Barbra Streisand
    Sarah Vaughan
    Dinah Washington
     
  7. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    I met Anita O'Day in 1980. She was absolutely wild and crazy, and an awful lot of fun. She signed a large format black and white print that I had in silver ink.

    She wrote:

    "The Password is Love" - Anita O'Day

    [​IMG]

    My favorite Mosaic box set (even though they accidentally left out one tune). If this had been a Japanese set, they would have corrected that!

    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    I got this record out of someone's garbage when I was 18 (50 years ago!). It was one of the great discoveries of my younger days

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  9. toilet_doctor

    toilet_doctor Forum Resident

  10. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter

    This makes the most sense to me, too. I'll create a new thread shortly, and we'll see how it goes. (If that new thread doesn't take off, no harm done. We will forget about it, and we will still use this old thread as the central place to discuss all jazz/pop female singers, whether "very obscure" or "not-too-obscure.")

    I don't enjoy spending time in "meta" topics such as the one that is being discussed. Still, I feel compelled to clarify my position, mainly because there was a fair number of messages on this subject matter. I have four points to make:

    1. When this thread was new, I felt that I had to be strict about its "rules" or parameters, lest the thread went off the rails and we ended up having an endless trail of off-topic messages. That was then.

    2. Having reached 50 pages, the thread is well established now. Its purpose and main body should be amply clear to anyone who visits it. Hence we can all be flexible, and enjoy discussion of a wider variety of topics and artists, including those on the original "do-not-touch" list. (In other words, I do not object to the discussion of any female singer here, provided that what we are discussing is her body of work within the fields of jazz and standards.) So, my position is one of flexibility.

    3. However, if it's my opinion instead of my position that is being requested, then I must say that I feel pretty much the way that Nathan Aaron does in his comment above. (I will not elaborate, because doing so could open the door for arguments, or for more messages about this "meta-topic," on which I do not wish to spend more time. I want my participation here to be about the singers and the music, not about rules and what-should-be-or-shouldn't-be.)

    It's also worth adding that the well is not yet dry: there are still literally scores of neglected songstresses that we haven't discussed! ...

    4. Finally, one of the previous messages suggested that I had vanished, or had become neglectful of the singers under discussion. That's not the case! I check this thread regularly (every two days, or less), although on most occasions I do not log in.

    Self-discipline is the reason why I do not often log in, and why I'm not participating at length lately. Instead, I am spending my "music time" on a couple of discographies that I put together. I haven't completed them, and moor much of this year I got distracted precisely because I was enjoying spending my time in forum threads such as this one. Actually, this thread has kept away from two other threads that I opened a while ago (one about Kay Starr, the other about Peggy Lee), for which I'm still trying to find the time to post.

    None of the above means that I'm going to stop contributing to the present thread, since I enjoy it so much. But my "plan of action" these days is to add a new singer only once in a while (like I did a few weeks ago, with Helen DeLys), and to otherwise contribute to other posters' discussions (when the singer really interests me, or when I have anything of potential interest to add).

    Well, that was an endless explanation. It's now back to the singers, for me. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
  11. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter


    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I am another big fan of Lorez. It's wonderful that the entire dozen LPs she recorded from 1957 to 1969 are now on CD, most of them in fine digital sound. Now, if we could see, one day soon, good-quality CD releases of the half a dozen LPs (or so) that she made in the 1970s and 1980s ... (There are also the albums which she made in the 1990s. Those are fine enough, but the ones I really enjoy are from the earlier decades.)


    [​IMG]


    As is my custom whenever a singer who's been discussed before makes a return, I am posting below out earlier messages about her, from last year.


     
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  12. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    Thinking about Lorez makes me think of her recordings for Impulse Records. Then it makes me think about Impulse Records and the fact that they issued extremely few records by vocalists (Johnny Hartman, another exception), despite the fact that Bob Thiele loved singers. Then I think of the other notable jazz labels of the 1950's to 1960's, particularly Prestige, Blue Note and Riverside, and how extremely few vocalists these labels would issue (Prestige more than the others, but still a tiny percentage of their catalog).

    And this was all in the golden age of jazz singers - the 1950s. The jazz labels were part of that elitist jazz snobbery that prevailed, a great prejudice against singers that still largely prevails among most jazz fans (who sometimes will tolerate one or two singers in their collection).

    I never quite got where that anti-vocalist prejudice came from. It seemed to me to be an anti-romantic attitude (romance? terrible! sappy. not hip), because (let's face it) most singers are romantics. It also seemed that a certain type of jazz hipster ran as fast as he could away from anything that had any air of popularity. Thus, Nat Cole committed a great sin when he surrendered to his romantic talents when he could have languished in obscurity as one of the best pre-bop pianists. Strings? Oh my god, how could they use strings!

    Singers were left to the major popular labels (Columbia, RCA, Decca, and most fortunately Capitol), and to some minor, often extremely minor, labels.

    I think the jazz purist labels made a huge cultural (and ultimately financial) error by largely ignoring the great jazz vocal talents of the 1950s and 1960's. First, there would have been a far greater number of quality albums of great songs with simple arrangements - actually a rarity in the days when the majors wanted everything to be big. Second, many singers would have been able to record much more frequently without the pressures that the major labels exerted to sell big, or not record at all. Finally, as the 1960's wore on and most singers were being pushed into singing hip 60's song with hip 60's arrangements (Winchester Cathedral, anyone), the jazz labels could have persisted in recording quality singers doing quality songs with simple arrangements and using the great jazz musicians still looking for work. As most of us know, the 1960's became a virtual desert for quality vocal LPs.

    Those jazz labels did not help. Outside of the handful of exceptions where a vocal album made it through, their elitism pushed great singers aside and lost a generation of possible masterpiece recordings. Thankfully, years later many of these singers were able to re-emerge and start recording again - mostly for a new generation of minor or artist owned labels. And in turn they inspired countless thousands of singers who are performing all over the world today.

    The financial error that I mentioned? If these jazz purists labels had built a catalog of fine singers doing great material with good arrangements - something that the major labels seemed to struggle with based on their emphasis on the immediate bottom line - they would be rolling in licensing money today.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
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  13. Stu02

    Stu02 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Can you post a few pictures. It sounds like quite an archival find!
     
  14. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    Pictures from my own collection are difficult as I don't do digital photography, not even on a cell phone. But I might occasionally grab something from the web.

    But I think the FBI has been tracking my record purchases since the time in the 1980's that I bought over 1,000 Russian records in Toronto and got them across the border without paying duty. They may have plenty of photos.
     
  15. Stu02

    Stu02 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    It's always the Russians!

    With anyone else I would assume the comment was facetious but coming from you anything is possible.

    It doesn't have to be a direct photo , posting an image of a 10 inch lp of one of your finds via a web image would be most appreciated when you get around to it... I find them to be the holy grail , damn near impossible to stumble across up here
     
  16. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    That part about buying 1,000 Russian records is true. It was mostly classical and folk. The guy who sold them to me, from a warehouse with over a million records on the Melodiya label, also made me buy a subscription to "The Ukrainian Canadian" magazine. True! I am pretty sure that I have an FBI file too, but mostly because I was friendly with some crazy people.

    How that warehouse of Russian records ended up in Toronto is the big question. Somehow, I think that someone ended up in a Siberian work camp over that. When I crossed the border, I was very worried that US agents would look through the records and find the ones with songs like "Lenin is Our Hero" (some had English songlists, the Russians wanted to sell records to the west, though they totally botched that). But they used to let me cross with 16 cases of Canadian beer with no problem, so why should Communist records be an issue?
     
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  17. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    I should have mentioned that those records only cost me $500, and that I shared the stash with a friend who was one of the world's best experts on Russian music.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
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  18. toilet_doctor

    toilet_doctor Forum Resident

    Tribute, it's very simply:
    You think, if it looks like Tchaikovsky's record and sounds like Tchaikovsky's music, it is Tchaikovsky. It would be too naive from your side.

    If you take some Russian music performed by certain Russian orchestra and reconvert it back into the notes, you can get pages of musical notes.
    On some of these pages each note belongs to a letter or letters (Egyptian hieroglyphs are possible). So, if you know the code, you can get an encrypted text from "innocent" Russian music. That's how Russian spies were getting their instructions from the "big land" back then.

    The fact that you bought 1000 Russian records for such a cheap price ($500) only confirmed that the guy in the Russian warehouse was not interested in money...
    What was his interest, then? Think about it...
    You have to be fair... Put yourself in the FBI place. They did not know the code. How to stop these spy actions?
    They were very gentle with you... The KGB would have killed you on the spot. 1000 records! Are you kidding?
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
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  19. ezbud

    ezbud New Member

    Location:
    Missouri
    So glad I checked in today! It's great to see the love for Lorez Alexandria and Brenda Lee--love the album with Pete Fountain. Thanks for introducing me to Kiz Harp!!! I've got to hear more of her; she reminds me of Ruth Price.
     
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  20. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    I believe there are only two records by Kiz Harp, both available on the Japanese SSJ label.
     
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  21. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    I bought a nice pile of Mildred Bailey originals today at an estate sale. A small stack of original 1930s (including early 30s) 78s, a mint 10 inch LP and a mint first pressing of her 12 inch Regent label LP. Very nice. All for $1. The original owners were such fans that I bet they saw Mildred perform.

    I do remember meeting Red Norvo, who was very chatty. He talked about Mildred, along with many other jazz legends.

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  22. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    Here is the 1950 10 inch LP that I picked up today in that pile. The incredible Columbia Records art department blew it again!

    This was probably her first LP, though it was mostly reissued songs and one new song.

    It is very interesting that Mildred Bailey - one of the most influential popular and jazz singers of all time - was a Native American. She grew up on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation in Idaho. She died in her early 50's on December 12, 1951 - so she never left a legacy of LPs in the High Fidelity era. It was all 78s.

    [​IMG]
     
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  23. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    This was the 12 inch LP in the pile (super mint!), apparently issued in 1957 (circa 1946-1947 sessions). This image is from the web.

    See if you can make out that scribbling on the web image. She was the first! It is sad that she is largely forgotten. But at least the reissues - no matter how scarce today - keep her memory alive. I encourage people to learn about her.

    She spent her last days on a farm that she bought in the Hudson River Valley.

    [​IMG]

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  24. toilet_doctor

    toilet_doctor Forum Resident

    [​IMG]

    Great Mildred Bailey is a highly underrated singer, being one of the most influential in the Jazz world:

    "One of the most dynamic musicians of the swing era, Mildred Bailey directly influenced the vocal style of legendary singers such as Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett and Billie Holiday, and recorded some of the most uplifting music ever made. Not only was she a stylistic innovator, Bailey also helped many stars get their start in the business -- Crosby sought her help when he was starting out in the late 1920s, and Holiday was also a protégé of sorts. The anecdote frequently recited by the great A&R man, John Hammond, of how he spotted Holiday singing in a small club and plucked her out of obscurity to become America's greatest jazz vocalist leaves out one little detail: when he found Holiday, Hammond was out nightclubbing with Mildred Bailey and her husband, vibraphonist Red Norvo, and it was Bailey who pointed Holiday out. Besides, if you ever listen to Bailey's best recordings, the first thing that smacks you in the face is how much she and Holiday sounded alike -- the phrasing, the lilt, the warmth and even the timbre of their voices. Bailey was there first, and she pioneered the style. She also frequently worked with the same musicians -- pianist Teddy Wilson was a frequent collaborator; apparently he preferred working with Bailey, as opposed to Holiday -- and the feel of many of Bailey's recordings is very similar to Lady Day's best Depression-era material.

    Mildred Bailey's story is, ultimately, quite tragic. Despite her tremendous success and the high regard with which other musicians held her, Bailey -- a fairly hefty gal -- suffered from low self-esteem and body image problems which ultimately crippled her career. She gradually became unable to work, or to get work, and died in poor health. Crosby, Sinatra and others tried to help her out, but were unable to get her out of her downward spiral, and she died young, in 1951, after rounding off some recording sessions with Decca the year before."

    1937 version of her signature song is very touching:




    (comment)
    "Vaudeville star Belle Baker introduced the public to "All of Me" over the radio in 1931. Detroit songwriters, Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks, offered Baker the song, and she sang it onstage at the Motor City's famous Fisher Theatre. As the story goes, the singer had just lost her husband, and, struck by the personal sense of loss conveyed in the lyrics, broke down weeping during a performance. The national press picked up the story and before long the song was a hit. December 1, 1931, recording of "All of Me" by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, with vocalist Mildred Bailey, was the song's first major hit. It entered the pop charts in January of 1932 and rose to the number one position where it held for three weeks" (1931)
    Mildred Bailey - All of me (1931).wmv

    Sweetest version ever recorded (1935):
    Mildred Bailey and Her Alley Cats - Someday Sweetheart (1935)

    Red Norvo and Mavis Rivers teamed up to pay tribute they called "We Remember Mildred Bailey" recorded Live in 1964 and released by Blue Moon, Spain in 1997 as a twofer of two Vee Jay LPs. (Ann Richards Live.. at "The Losers" is another album paired here). It was one of the first 24-bit mastering and good sound too.

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    Unfortunately, there're no samples on youtube of this album... but I can recommend it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017 at 11:12 PM
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  25. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    If Mildred Bailey had lived a longer life to age 75-80, she would have received applause and acclaim all through her later years and would still be widely celebrated. She likely would have recorded a major series of LPs all through the 1950's, when she herself would only have been in her 50's, especially if she had signed with Norman Granz, which seems like a real probability. There would be biographies and documentaries. Few are aware that she was a principal influence on Bing Crosby, who in turn influenced countless singers. She may be the originator of a softer and more nuanced approach to popular and jazz singing. Less projection, more introspection.

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