Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

Anita O’Day: Remembering The Boogie Ride

This week on Afterglow we note the passing of a legendary jazz vocalist, Anita O’Day, who scored a smash hit with the song “Let Me Off Uptown”.

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Anita O'Day Album Cover

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Anita O'Day's vo-cool style influenced a whole school of singers that included June Christy and Chris Connor.

This week on Afterglow we note the passing of a legendary jazz vocalist, Anita O’Day, who died on Thanksgiving Day 2006 at the age of 87.

O’Day began her career as a dancer in Depression walkathons, then moved on to the 1940s world of big-band singing, where she became a star in Gene Krupa’s orchestra, scoring a smash hit with the song “Let Me Off Uptown” (which also earned notoriety in then-segregated America for its vocal wordplay between the white O’Day and black trumpeter Roy Eldridge).

She went on to record other swing-era hits with Krupa and Stan Kenton and made a stunning series of small-group and big-band albums for jazz impresario Norman Granz in the 1950s. Her vo-cool style influenced a whole school of singers that included June Christy and Chris Connor.

Drug busts and a long-running heroin addiction darkened O’Day’s image, leading the press to dub her “the Jezebel of Jazz.” Her 1981 autobiography, High Times Hard Times , details her personal struggles and her overwhelming love of music. Passionate and hard-living even as she performed into her final years, O’Day is routinely ranked among the all-time greats of vocal jazz. In this program we’ll hear many of her classic recordings from the 1940s and 50s, as well as excerpts from an interview I did with her in 2003. “Anita O’Day: Remembering the Boogie Ride” airs Friday, December 1 at 10:05 EST on WFIU.

(Note: the Frank Sinatra V-disc program scheduled for this week will be broadcast on Friday, January 5 instead.)

Music Heard On This Episode

Opus 1
Anita O'Day/Gene Krupa — Let Me Off Uptown (Columbia/Legacy, 1945)
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Opus 1
Anita O'Day/Gene Krupa — Let Me Off Uptown (Columbia/Legacy, 1945)

Notes: With Gene Krupa's orchestra.

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Exactly Like You
Anita O'Day — I Get a Kick Out of You (Evidence, 1975)
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The Lady in Red
Anita O'Day/Stan Kenton — The Young Anita (Proper, 1944)

Notes: Live recording from 1944.

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I Can't Get Started
Anita O'Day — This Is Anita (Verve/Mosaic, 1955)

Notes: Also on JAZZ MASTERS cd and Mosaic COMPLETE VERVE/CLEF SESSIONS. With Buddy Bregman's orchestra.

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Georgia On My Mind
Anita O'Day/Gene Krupa — Let Me Off Uptown (Columbia/Legacy, 1941)
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Let Me Off Uptown
Anita O'Day/Gene Krupa — Let Me Off uptown (Columbia/Legacy, 1941)

Notes: With Roy Eldridge.

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Skylark
Anita O'Day/Gene Krupa — Let Me Off Uptown (Columbia/Legacy, 1941)
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And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine
Anita O'Day/Stan Kenton — Complete Capitol Recordings 1943-47 (Mosaic, 1944)
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Them There Eyes
Anita O'Day — Classic Capitol Jazz Sessions (Mosaic, 1945)

Notes: Also on Anita O'Day 1949-50 on the Baldwin Street label.

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Ain't Misbehavin'
Anita O'Day/Nat King Cole — King Cole Trio: the MacGregor Years, 1941-45 (Music and Arts, 1945)
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What Is This Thing Called Love?
Anita O'Day — I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out (Signature, 1947)
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Key Largo
Anita O'Day — I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out (Signature, 1947)
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How High the Moon
Anita O'Day/Count Basie — At the Royal Roost 1948 (Drive, 1948)
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Lover Come Back to Me
Anita O'Day — Complete Verve/Clef Sessions (Mosaic, 1952)
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Waiter, Make Mine Blues
Anita O'Day — Jazz Masters (Verve, 1960)

Notes: With Russ Garcia's Orchestra. Also on the LP WAITER, MAKE MINE BLUES and the Mosaic collection.

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You're the Top
Anita O'Day — Swings Cole Porter With Billy May (Verve, 1955)

Notes: Bonus track on CD--actually recorded with Buddy Bregman's orchestra.

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A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
Anita O'Day — This Is Anita (Verve, 1955)

Notes: With Buddy Bregman's orchestra. Also on Mosaic collection.

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Man With a Horn
Anita O'Day — Pick Yourself Up With Anita O'Day (Verve, 1956)

Notes: With Buddy Bregman's orchestra. Also on the Mosaic collection.

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That's What You Think
Anita O'Day/Gene Krupa — Drummer Man (Verve, 1956)

Notes: Also on the Mosaic collection.

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That Old Devil Moon
Anita O'Day — Anita Sings the Most (Verve, 1957)

Notes: With the Oscar Peterson trio. Also on the Mosaic set.

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Sweet Georgia Brown
Anita O'Day — Jazz On a Summer's Day

Notes: 1958 Newport jazz festival.

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Tea for Two
Anita O'Day — Jazz On a Summer's Day

Notes: From the Newport Jazz Festival 1958.

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To Keep My Love Alive
Anita O'Day — Anita O'Day and Billy May Swing Rodgers and Hart (Verve, 1960)
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If the Moon Turns Green
Anita O'Day — Travlin' Light (Verve, 1961)

Notes: Tribute to Billie Holiday. Recorded with Johnny Mandel's orchestra.

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Your Red Wagon
Anita O'Day/Cal Tjader — Time for Two (Verve, 1962)

Notes: Also on the Mosaic collection.

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A Song For You
Anita O'Day — I Get a Kick Out of You (Evidence, 1975)

Notes: Leon Russell song.

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In a Mellotone
Anita O'Day — In a Mellotone (DRG, 1989)
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The Song Is You
Anita O'Day — At Mr. Kelly's (Verve, 1958)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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