Clockwise: Mavis Rivers; Keely Smith; Martha Tilton; and Ella Mae Morse.
For tonight's collection I thought we might travel a road less traveled. By that I mean instead of going for some of the bigger names in Jazz music, I opted instead to listen to a few incredibly talented ladies who you might not have heard before. To be honest, I didn't know a couple of these ladies myself before researching this post. In fact, one of those is ladies is our first clip of the night. Mavis Rivers was born in Western Samoa, and she moved with her family to New Zealand when still young. There she grew up, and started a successful career as a club and cabaret singer, and also spent some time recording her music. After finding success in New Zealand, she come to the United States to study music at Brigham Young University. She had success on the American Jazz scene, becoming known for her thoughtful and subtle singing, favoring that over a bombastic belting style. Tonight I offer you a song recorded in New Zealand in 1950, a popular song composed by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Lorenz Hart in 1936. It was debuted on Broadway in the 1936 show 'On Your Toes', where it was introduced by Ray Bolger and Doris Carson. Here is Mavis Rivers singing "There's A Small Hotel".
It is interesting that when I came across Keely Smith's name, I actually remembered her, mainly from her appearances on the variety shows in the 1960s and 1970s that my parents would watch. But I will admit I don't have any of her music in my collection, despite the fact she has a lovely voice and recorded some of the great music of the last century. Right away, I notice how gorgeous she was, her looks favoring her Native American heritage. Smith gained popularity in the 1950s, singing with Louis Prima, who she also married. They would often duet, with Keely playing 'straight man' to Prima's comedian. After they divorced, Keely put together a solo career, and also worked with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. I have included a solo song, recorded in 1959. Here she sings a song with music by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, which was introduced in the 1930 Broadway musical 'Lew Leslie's International Revue'. Enjoy listening to Keely Smith sing "On The Sunny Side of the Street".
Next up I bring you Ella Mae Morse, a singer I hadn't really known. She began singing professionally at the age of 14, with Jimmy Dorsey. Only he didn't realize how young she was, and let her qo once he discovered it. Three years later, she joined Freddy Slack's band, and the clicked right away, making music that was popular with their fans. A Texas girl, she combined Country, Pop, R&B and Jazz in her vocal stylings. with a touch of Rock & Roll tossed in. She could swing every bit as well as she could deliver a ballad. In the late 1950s, Morse stopped recording, but continued to play clubs all across the country, including at New York's prestigious Michael's Pub. The song I chose for tonight is her 1943 recording of 'No Lovin', No Nothin'", recorded with Freddie Slack and his band.
And for the final selection of the night, I have Martha Tilton, who was also known as "The Liltin' Miss Tilton". After dropping out of high school to pursue a career in music, Tilton joined some band and vocal groups before getting her big break in 1937, when she was hired by Benny Goodman. In the mid-1940s, she went out on her own, and became one of the first solo artists to be signed by Capital Records. She was a successful artist through the 1950s, mainly singing Pop tunes. She continued singing into her later years, in clubs around the country. Martha was perhaps best known for her beautiful recording of "And The Angels Sing", recorded in 1939 with Benny Goodman and his Orchestra.
Have a great weekend!