Night Lights Classic Jazz

Detour Ahead: Mary Ann McCall

Mary McCallMary Ann McCall, whom Johnny Mandel once called “the greatest of all the big band singers,” is a secret heroine of American jazz vocal music. Little-known today, and not widely recorded during even the most active periods of her career, she has sometimes been compared to Billie Holiday and Anita O’Day for the soulful maturity of her late 1940s and 1950s work. (Musician and writer Loren Shoenberg describes her sound as “throaty and purposefully rough.”) Problems with addiction and a predilection for singing only jazz held McCall back as a marketplace force . We’ll hear a number of her recordings with the Woody Herman big band, including “Romance in the Dark” and “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” as well as small-group work with Phil Moore, Ralph Burns, and Charlie Ventura, and cuts from her late-1950s albums, including Detour to the Moon and Melancholy Baby.

Music Heard On This Episode

Shake Down the Stars
Mary Ann McCall — Easy Living (Savoy, 1956)
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Shake Down the Stars
Mary Ann McCall — Easy Living (Savoy, 1956)
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Oh, You Crazy Moon
Mary Ann McCall — Detour to the Moon (LP) (Jubilee, 1958)
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Romance in the Dark
Woody Herman — Comp. Columbia Recordings 1945-47 (Mosaic, 1946)

Notes: With Mary Ann McCall on vocals. Also available on the Hep CD YOU'RE MINE, YOU.

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Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams
Woody Herman — Comp. Columbia Recordings 1945-47 (Mosaic, 1946)

Notes: With Mary Ann McCall on vocals. Also available on the Hep CD YOU'RE MINE, YOU.

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Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet
Woody Herman — Road Band 1948: V. 1 and 2 (Hep, 1948)

Notes: With Mary Ann McCall on vocals.

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On Time
Ralph Burns/Mary McCall — You're Mine, You (Hep, 1947)

Notes: With Willie Smith on alto sax.

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Detour Ahead
Woody Herman — You're Mine, You (Hep, 1949)

Notes: With Mary Ann McCall on vocals.

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You're My Thrill
Phil Moore/Mary Ann McCall — You're Mine, You (Hep, 1948)
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Blue and Sentimental
Mary Ann McCall — Melancholy Baby (LP) (Coral, 1959)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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You're Mine, You
Phil Moore/Mary Ann McCall — You're Mine, You (Hep, 1948)
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Until the Real Thing Comes Along
Mary Ann McCall — You're Mine, You (Hep, 1950)

Notes: Group included Gerry Mulligan, Red Rodney, and McCall's husband Al Cohn.

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There'll Be Some Changes Made
Charlie Ventura — Comp. Verve/Clef Studio Sessions (Mosaic, 1954)

Notes: With Mary Ann McCall on vocals.

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Deep Purple
Mary Ann McCall — Easy Living (Savoy, 1956)
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The Moon Was Yellow
Mary Ann McCall — Detour to the Moon (LP) (Jubilee, 1958)
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Blue and Broken-Hearted
Mary Ann McCall — Melancholy Baby (LP) (Coral, 1959)
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The Thrill Is Gone
Mary Ann McCall — Melancholy Baby (LP) (Coral, 1959)
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I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good
Mary Ann McCall — You're Mine, You (Hep, 1949)
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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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