Teddi King was born Theodora King on September 18, 1929 in Boston, Massachusetts. She won a singing competition hosted by Dinah Shore at Boston’s Tributary Theatre and later began performing in a touring revue involved with cheering up the military troops in the lull between the Second World War and the Korean conflict.
Improving her vocal and piano technique during this time, she first recorded with Nat Pierce in 1949, later recorded with the Beryl Booker Trio and three albums with several other small groups recorded between 1954 and 1955 for the Storyville label. She then toured with George Shearing for two years in the summer of 1952, and for a time was managed by George Wein. King went on to perform for a time in Las Vegas.
Teddi landed a contract with RCA and recorded three albums for the label, beginning with 1956’s Bidin’ My Time. She also had some minor chart success with the singles Mr. Wonderful, Married I Can Always Get and Say It Isn’t So. Her critically acclaimed 1959 album All the Kings’ Songs found her interpreting the signature songs of contemporary male singers like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.
In the 1960s, she opened the Playboy Club, where she often performed, however, after developing lupus, she managed to make a brief comeback with a 1977 album featuring Dave McKenna. She recorded two more albums for Audiophile that were released posthumously. She also recorded for the Coral, Inner City and Flare labels as well as having a compilation released on the Baldwin Street Music label. Jazz and pop standard vocalist Teddi King, who was influenced by Lee Wiley, Mildred Bailey and Mabel Mercer, passed away from lupus on November 18, 1977.
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Teri Thornton was born Shirley Enid Avery on September 1, 1934 in Detroit, Michigan. She began performing in the local clubs of her home city in the 1950s. Moving to New York City in the 1960s, where she found work singing for television advertisements, and recorded for several different labels.
By the 1960s Thornton faded from public view and only decades later was discovered to have been singing on various song poem records in Los Angeles, California on the Preview label as Teri Summers. After moving back to New York City in 1983 she was back on the club circuit and in the Nineties fully revived her career. In 1998, she won the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Vocal Competition in Washington, DC. performing against runners-up Jane Monheit, Tierney Sutton and Roberta Gambarini.
Thornton signed with Verve Records in 2000, releasing I’ll Be Easy to Find, working with Ray Chew, Norman Simmons, Lonnie Plaxico, Jerome Richardson, Dave Bargeron, Howard Johnson and J. T. Lewis.
She was a resident of the Actors’ Fund Home and diagnosed with bladder cancer, vocalist Teri Thornton passed away that same year on May 2, 2000 in Englewood, New Jersey.
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James Andrew Rushing was born on August 26, 1901 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma into a family with musical talent and accomplishments. His father, Andrew, was a trumpeter and his mother, Cora and her brother were singers. He studied music theory with Zelia N. Breaux at Douglass High School, and was unusual among his musical contemporaries, having attended college at Wilberforce University.
Rushing was inspired to pursue music and eventually sing blues by his uncle Wesley Manning and George “Fathead” Thomas of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers. Touring the midWest and California as an itinerant blues singer in 1923 and 1924, he eventually moved to Los Angeles, California, where he played piano and sang with Jelly Roll Morton. He also sang with Billy King before moving on to Page’s Blue Devils in 1927. He, along with other members of the Blue Devils, defected to the Bennie Moten band in 1929.
When Moten died in 1935 Jimmy joined Count Basie for what would be a 13-year tenure. Due to his tutelage under his mentor Moten, he was a proponent of the Kansas City jump blues tradition as heard in his versions of Sent For You Yesterday and Boogie Woogie for the Count Basie Orchestra. After leaving Basie,, as a solo artist and a singing with other bands.
When the Basie band broke up in 1950 he briefly retired, then formed his own group and his recording career soared. He also made a guest appearance with Duke Ellington for the 1959 album Jazz Party. In 1960, he recorded an album with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, known for their cerebral cool jazz sound. Rushing appeared in the 1957 television special Sound of Jazz, singing one of his signature songs I Left My Baby backed by many of his former Basie band compatriots. In 1958 he was among the musicians included in an Esquire magazine photo by Art Kane, later memorialized in the documentary film A Great Day in Harlem.
In 1958 Jimmy toured the UK with Humphrey Lyttelton and his band, appeared in the 1969 Gordon Parks film The Learning Tree, and by 1971 was diagnosed with leukemia, that sidelined his performing career. On June 8, 1972 vocalist Jimmy Rushing, who was known as a blues shouter, balladeer and swing jazz singer, passed away in New York City. He was one of eight jazz and blues legends honored in a set of United States Postal Service stamps issued in 1994. Among his best known recordings are “Going to Chicago” with Basie, and “Harvard Blues”, with a famous saxophone solo by Don Byas.
Carrie Louise Smith was born August 25, 1925 in Fort Gaines, Georgia. Her mother moved her to Newark, New Jersey to escape an abusive husband but left her to be raised by an older cousin when she joined Father Divine’s church.
Leaving school after the eighth grade, Carrie taught herself to play piano, began singing in church and worked a number of jobs including train announcer at Newark’s train station. She became a member of the Back Home Choir that performed at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival. She first gained notice singing with Big Tiny Little in the early 1970s, but became internationally known by 1974 when she played Bessie Smith (no relation) in Dick Hyman’s Satchmo Remembered at Carnegie Hall.
This was when Smith launched a solo career, performing with the New York Jazz Repertory Orchestra, with a sextet led by trombonist Tyree Glenn in 1973, Yank Lawson in 1987, and then with the World’s Greatest Jazz Band. In addition to recording numerous solo albums, she starred in the Broadway musical Black and Blue from 1989 to 1991.
Though not well known in the U. S. she had a cult following in Europe and recorded thirteen albums between 1976 and 2002 as a leader. She also recorded with Art Hodes, Buddy Tate, Doc Cheatham, Hank Jones, Winard Harper, Dick Hyman, Clark Terry, Bross Townsend, Bob Cunningham and Bernard Purdie among others over the course of her career.
Jazz and blues vocalist Carrie Smith, lauded by jazz critics Rex Reed, Leonard Feather, Richard Sudhalter and John S. Wilson, passed away of from complications due to cancer at the age of 86 in Englewood, New Jersey on May 20, 2012.
Anna Mae Winburn was born Anna Mae Darden on August 13, 1913 to a musical family in Port Royal, Tennessee and along with her three sisters migrated to Kokomo, Indiana, at a young age. Her first known publicized performance was singing with the studio band of Radio WOWO, Fort Wayne, Indiana. She worked at various clubs in Indiana, at times appearing under the pseudonym Anita Door.
From there she moved to North Omaha, Nebraska where she sang and played guitar for a variety of territory bands, or groups whose touring activities and popularity were geographically limited to several adjoining states, that were led by Red Perkins. During that time Winburn was a collaborator of Lloyd Hunter, frequently singing with Lloyd Hunter’s “Serenaders”. She also led the Cotton Club Boys out of Omaha, a group that at one point included the amazing guitarist Charlie Christian.
When many of the musicians were lost to the World War II draft she left for Oklahoma City and led bands for a short while. It was there that she led Eddie Durham’s “All-Girl Orchestra”, which eventually earned her an invite to join the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. Durham had been the composer for the International Sweethearts of Rhythm for two years before leaving to join Count Basie’s band.] After being recommended by Jimmie Jewel, who owned North Omaha’s Dreamland Ballroom, Anna Mae became the leader of the band in 1941. She was reportedly hired for her attractive figure, with the intention of doing little actual composing or singing but was the leader of the band until it folded in late 1949.
Vocalist and bandleader Anna Mae Winburn, who flourished beginning in the mid-1930s and led the all-female big band International Sweethearts of Rhythm, that was perhaps one of the few and one of the most racially integrated dance-bands of the swing era, passed away in Hempstead, New York on September 30, 1999.
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