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Noon Edition

Nancy Wilson Remembered

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Welcome to Afterglow, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.

One year ago this week, we lost one of the last great voices from the golden era of the Great American Songbook interpreters: Nancy Wilson. Wilson began her career in 1960, just as many of the other great singers were beginning to retire, but she carried on the tradition with warmth and soul, and an ability to interpret a song with emotional depth and subtlety. In this hour, we’ll remember Nancy Wilson by looking back at some of her finest recordings from the 1960s, including “Guess Who I Saw Today” and “Save Your Love For Me.”

It’s Nancy Wilson Remembered, coming up next on Afterglow.


<music - Nancy Wilson, "I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over">

Nancy Wilson in 1962 with “I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over,” written in 1939 by the songwriting team of Allie Wrubel and Herb Madigson. The only other song that they’re well-known for is probably “Gone With The Wind,” or maybe “I’ll Buy That Dream,” sung by Helen Forrest and Dick Haymes. Wrubel is more well-known for his song “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” from the Disney film Song of the South

That comes from a duet album Wilson worked on with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, although Adderley wasn’t featured on that track. Instead, it featured the combo of Sam Jones on bass, Louis Hayes on drums, and Joe Zawinul (later of Weather Report fame) on piano.


Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we remember singer Nancy Wilson, who passed away at age 81 one year ago this week. Coming up, I’ll play some of Wilson’s best recordings from the 1960s.

Nancy Wilson’s entrance into the world of fame started early. She won a talent contest in her home town of Columbus, Ohio when she was 15, which put her on television twice a week, hosting her own show. She became well-known around Columbus for the next several years, until a chance meeting with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley helped introduce her to a larger market. Adderley happened to be performing in Columbus when Wilson sat in with the band. Adderley was impressed with the 21-year-old singer, and encouraged her to move to New York. Within a year, Wilson was signed to Capitol Records.

Her earliest sessions for the label came at the end of 1959 and the beginning of 1960, a time when that style of jazz and pop singing was on the way out. But Nancy Wilson was something special, and she was able to find an audience with her soulful, emotive voice.

Her first big hit for the label was a 1952 song by Murray Grand and Elisse Boyd called “Guess Who I Saw Today.” It’s a storytelling song, and I won’t give away the ending, but listen closely to the lyrics. Wilson’s plaintive and direct delivery of the tale has an ease and naturalness to it that is mature beyond her years. Even if she had never recorded anything else again, this song alone would put Nancy Wilson in the upper echelon of pop vocalists.

Here’s Nancy Wilson in 1960 with the song “Guess Who I Saw Today,” on Afterglow.

<music - Nancy Wilson, "Guess Who I Saw Today">

Just a remarkable performance, an entire drama packed into three and half minutes. That was a twenty-three old Nancy Wilson with her signature performance of “Guess Who I Saw Today” from 1960.

That arrangement, believe it or not, was by Billy May. You may know May from his bombastic arrangements for Frank Sinatra and Anita O’Day, featuring blaring trumpets and slurping saxophones. But May’s work with Nancy Wilson proved that he could also master subtlety in addition to turning up the heat.

Billy May was one of Wilson’s most frequent collaborators throughout the 1960s, in fact, matching her every mood from emotional to swinging. They worked together in a handful of sessions right around and 1959 and 1960 and again in the second half of the decade. I’ll play some songs from their early sessions now.

Here’s Nancy Wilson and arranger Billy May at the very end of 1959 for Wilson’s debut album Like In Love. This is “Fly Me To The Moon,” on Afterglow.

<music - Nancy Wilson, "Fly Me To The Moon">
<music - Nancy Wilson, "What A Little Moonlight Can Do">

A swingin’ Nancy Wilson and a subtle Nancy Wilson with arranger Billy May. Just now, we heard them in 1960 with the Harry Woods song “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” from the album Something Wonderful. Before that, we heard them in 1959 with Bart Howard’s “Fly Me To The Moon,” from the album Like In Love. We’ll hear more of Wilson’s work with May later in the hour.

Another frequent collaborator for Nancy Wilson was pianist George Shearing. Shearing’s distinctive block-chord piano sound and light jazz combo matched the sweetness in Wilson’s voice. He would arrange songs with her throughout the 1960s, and they also collaborated on the duet album called The Swingin’s Mutual from 1961.

There are so many fine tracks on that album—it’s one of my favorites. But I play one now that draws out Wilson’s bluesy side, an aspect of her voice that often remained hidden behind her polished pop exterior.

Here’s Nancy Wilson and pianist George Shearing with “All Night Long,” on Afterglow.

<music - Nancy Wilson and George Shearing, "All Night Long">

Nancy Wilson and pianist George Shearing in 1960, from their album The Swingin’s Mutual. That was the bluesy song “All Night Long.”

Nancy Wilson was remarkably prolific throughout the 1960s, recording about 2-3 albums per year. Another one of her frequent collaborators during this time was arranger and pianist Jimmy Jones, who helped Wilson craft two albums from 1963 with similar titles: Broadway - My Way and Hollywood - My Way. Both albums feature Wilson’s original take on newer hits from stage and film, and both albums reached the top 20 on the Billboard album charts. Wilson proved that even though she was still young, the maturity of her delivery helped her develop an adult audience still wanting songs delivered in the pre-rock and roll style.

Here are some tracks from those albums now, beginning with a song from the 1956 musical West Side Story, this is “Tonight,” on Afterglow

<music - Nancy Wilson, "Tonight">
<music - Nancy Wilson, "Secret Love">

The Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster song “Secret Love,” originally from the 1953 Doris Day film Calamity Jane. Before that, we heard the Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim tune “Tonight” from the musical West Side Story. Those were from the 1963 albums Hollywood - My Way and Broadway - My Way by Nancy Wilson and arranger Jimmy Jones.

One of the highlights of Nancy Wilson’s output from the 1960s was her work with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, the person responsible for discovering her and jump-starting her career. Wilson was already making big waves for Capitol Records by the time the two of them jumped into the studio together. The album, simply titled Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley features a combination of vocal and instrumental tracks, exploring some more untrodden songs from the Great American Songbook. Wilson’s soaring vocals and the quintet’s hip jazz sound really lay down the groundwork for a lot of contemporary jazz albums—you can hear echos of this album in recent records by singers like Cecile McLorin Salvant.

I’ll feature two tracks from the album now, beginning with the Buddy Johnson song “Save Your Love For Me,” on Afterglow.

<music - Nancy Wilson, "Save Your Love For Me">
<music - Nancy Wilson, "Never Will I Marry">

Nancy Wilson and her friend and mentor Cannonball Adderley on their duet album together from 1962. That was the Frank Loesser tune “Never Will I Marry,” and before that the Buddy Johnson song “Save Your Love For Me.”

Coming up after a short break, we’ll hear more from Nancy Wilson’s work in 1960s. Stay with us. 

 

Production support for Afterglow comes from Soma Coffee House and Juice bar, specializing in juices, espressos and Fair Trade Organic Coffee. Serving from downtown at Kirkwood and Grant and on the corner of third and Jordan. Online at I Heart Soma dot com

And from Stephen R Miller C P A, in downtown Bloomington at Graham Plaza, offering personal and small business income tax preparation and financial reporting. Helping clients reach financial goals for over thirty years. 8-1-2 - 3-3-2 - 0-5-5-7

I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow


Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring some of the 1960s work of singer Nancy Wilson this hour, in memory of her passing one year this week.

Wilson was incredibly prolific for Capitol Records in the 1960s, recording a staggering 24 albums, in addition to dozens of pop singles. Her best work comes from her time collaborating with some of the best arrangers Capitol had to offer, like Billy May, George Shearing, Jimmy Jones, Oliver Nelson, and this next arranger Gerald Wilson. Wilson was best known for helping to arrange Ray Charles’s 1962 album Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music.

Gerald Wilson had a style that was a little more pop-oriented, full of lush strings and lovely orchestral effects. On top of this accompaniment, Nancy Wilson could simply shine. Her voice is crystal clear, precisely in-tune, yet still full of so much emotional depth.

Here she is at the end of 1963 from the album Yesterday’s Love Songs/Today’s Blues, this is “Someone To Watch Over Me,” on Afterglow.

<music - Nancy Wilson, "Someone To Watch Over Me">
<music - Nancy Wilson, "It Never Entered My Mind">

Nancy Wilson with two jazz standards. Just now, we heard her in 1967 with the Rodgers and Hart song “It Never Entered My Mind,” arranged there by Oliver Nelson. Before that, we heard Gershwin’s “Someone To Watch Over Me,” arranged by Gerald Wilson.

In addition to recording music from the Great American Songbook, Nancy Wilson also kept up with current hits throughout the 1960s. In fact, Wilson’s biggest hit in the 10s was a new pop tune called “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am,” which hit number 11 on the Billboard charts in 1964…

<music clip - "(You Don't Know) How Glad I Am">

Nancy Wilson released several albums that explored newer songs, done in a more traditional style, including Today, Tomorrow and Forever, A Touch Of Today, Today - My Way, and Just For Now. These songs ranged from covers of songs recently performed by Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett to songs written by The Beatles and Stevie Wonder.

Here is Nancy Wilson in 1967 recording a then brand-new song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. This is her version of “Alfie,” on Afterglow.

<music - Nancy Wilson, "Alfie">

The Burt Bacharach and Hal David song “Alfie,” from the 1966 film of the same name, sung by Nancy Wilson in 1967.

As I’ve talked about already, one of Nancy Wilson’s most frequent collaborators in the 1960s was Billy May. May worked with Wilson for her very first sessions, including her 1960 signature song “Guess Who I Saw Today,” and also joined her for a few albums in the mid-to-late 1960s, including Tender Loving Care and Nancy Naturally.

May’s buoyant and fun approach to arranging really brought out the life in Wilson’s voice, so I’d like to feature a few more of their collaborations now.

First, here’s Nancy Wilson in January 1966 with the Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke song “Like Someone In Love,” on Afterglow.

<music - Nancy Wilson, "Like Someone In Love">
<music - Nancy Wilson, "Since I Fell For You">

Nancy Wilson and arranger Billy May in July 1966 with the Buddy Johnson blues song “Since I Fell For You.” That comes from the album Nancy Naturally. Before that, we heard Wilson and May again in 1966 with “Like Someone In Love” from album Tender Loving Care.

Nancy Wilson’s final recording session in the decade was for the album But Beautiful, featuring a small jazz combo led by pianist Hank Jones. But Beautiful ended up being Wilson’s last true jazz album; in the 1970s, her style evolved more towards R&B and soul. While her jazz days were mostly behind her, she thankfully recorded so much material in the 1960s—over twenty albums—that it never feels as if we’re at a loss for great Nancy Wilson jazz recordings.

I’ll close off this Nancy Wilson remembrance with one of her final recordings from the 1960s, a soulful and dramatic reading of a Duke Ellington classic. This is Nancy Wilson with “In A Sentimental Mood,” on Afterglow.

<music - Nancy Wilson, "In A Sentimental Mood">

Nancy Wilson in 1969 with her version of the Duke Ellington standard “In A Sentimental Mood.” And thanks for tuning in to this edition of Afterglow.


Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.

Production support for Afterglow comes from Soma Coffee House and Juice bar, specializing in juices, espressos and Fair Trade Organic Coffee. Serving from downtown at Kirkwood and Grant and on the corner of third and Jordan. Online at I Heart Soma dot com

And from Stephen R Miller C P A, in downtown Bloomington at Graham Plaza, offering personal and small business income tax preparation and financial reporting. Helping clients reach financial goals for over thirty years. 8-1-2 - 3-3-2 - 0-5-5-7

Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.

I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow

Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley

The 1962 Columbia album "Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley" features the singer with the saxophonist who helped discover her in the late 1950s. (Album Cover)

One year ago this week, we lost one of the last great voices from the golden era of the Great American Songbook interpreters: Nancy Wilson. Wilson began her career in 1960, just as many of the other great singers were beginning to retire, but she carried on the tradition with warmth and soul, and an ability to interpret a song with emotional depth and subtlety. In this hour, we’ll remember Nancy Wilson by looking back at some of her finest recordings from the 1960s, including “Guess Who I Saw Today” and “Save Your Love For Me.”


"Guess Who I Saw Today"

Nancy Wilson’s entrance into the world of fame started early. She won a talent contest in her home town of Columbus, Ohio when she was 15, which put her on television twice a week, hosting her own show. She became well-known around Columbus for the next several years, until a chance meeting with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley helped introduce her to a larger market. Adderley happened to be performing in Columbus when Wilson sat in with the band. Adderley was impressed with the 21-year-old singer, and encouraged her to move to New York. Within a year, Wilson was signed to Capitol Records.

Her earliest sessions for the label came at the end of 1959 and the beginning of 1960, a time when that style of jazz and pop singing was on the way out. But Nancy Wilson was something special, and she was able to find an audience with her soulful, emotive voice.

Her first big hit for the label was a 1952 song by Murray Grand and Elisse Boyd called “Guess Who I Saw Today.” It’s a storytelling song, and Wilson’s plaintive and direct delivery of the tale has an ease and naturalness to it that is mature beyond her years. Even if she had never recorded anything else again, this song alone would put Nancy Wilson in the upper echelon of pop vocalists.

Jazz Styles with Billy May, George Shearing and Jimmy Jones

The subtle arrangement on Wilson's "Guess Who I Saw Today," believe it or not, was by Billy May. You may know May from his bombastic arrangements for Frank Sinatra and Anita O’Day, featuring blaring trumpets and slurping saxophones. But May’s work with Nancy Wilson proved that he could also master subtlety in addition to turning up the heat.

Billy May was one of Wilson’s most frequent collaborators throughout the 1960s, in fact, matching her every mood from emotional (like on the song "Fly Me To The Moon") to swinging (like on the song "What A Little Moonlight Can Do"). They worked together in a handful of sessions right around and 1959 and 1960 and again in the second half of the decade on albums like Tender Loving Care and Nancy Naturally.

Another frequent collaborator for Nancy Wilson was pianist George Shearing. Shearing’s distinctive block-chord piano sound and light jazz combo matched the sweetness in Wilson’s voice. He would arrange songs with her throughout the 1960s, and they also collaborated on the duet album called The Swingin’s Mutual from 1961.

Another one of her frequent collaborators during this time was arranger and pianist Jimmy Jones, who helped Wilson craft two albums from 1963 with similar titles: Broadway - My Way and Hollywood - My Way.

Both albums feature Wilson’s original take on newer hits from stage and film, and both albums reached the top 20 on the Billboard album charts. Wilson proved that even though she was still young, the maturity of her delivery helped her develop an adult audience still wanting songs delivered in the pre-rock and roll style.

More Jazz with Cannonball Adderley

One of the highlights of Nancy Wilson’s output from the 1960s was her work with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, the person responsible for discovering her and jump-starting her career. Wilson was already making big waves for Capitol Records by the time the two of them jumped into the studio together.

The album, simply titled Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley features a combination of vocal and instrumental tracks, exploring some more untrodden songs from the Great American Songbook, like "Save Your Love For Me" and "Never Will I Marry." Wilson’s soaring vocals and the quintet’s hip jazz sound really lay down the groundwork for a lot of contemporary jazz albums—you can hear echos of this album in recent records by singers like Cecile McLorin Salvant

Pop Styles with Gerald Wilson and Oliver Nelson

Nancy Wilson was incredibly prolific for Capitol Records in the 1960s, recording a staggering 24 albums, in addition to dozens of pop singles. While arrangers like Billy May, Cannonball Adderley, and George Shearing were able to bring out the jazz side of Wilson, her pop vocals were featured best with arrangers like Oliver Nelson and Gerald Wilson

Both of these arrangers had a more pop-oriented song, full of lush strings and lovely orchestral effects. Gerald Wilson (no relation to Nancy) was best known for helping to arrange Ray Charles’s 1962 album Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music. On top of this kind of accompaniment, Nancy Wilson could simply shine. Her voice on songs like "Someone To Watch Over Me" (arranged by Gerald Wilson) and "It Never Entered My Mind" (arranged by Oliver Nelson) is crystal clear, precisely in-tune, yet still full of so much emotional depth.

In addition to recording music from the Great American Songbook, Nancy Wilson also kept up with current hits throughout the 1960s. In fact, Wilson’s biggest hit in the 60s was a new pop tune called “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am,” which hit number 11 on the Billboard charts in 1964.

Nancy Wilson released several albums that explored newer songs, done in a more traditional style, including Today, Tomorrow and ForeverA Touch Of Today, Today - My Way, and Just For Now. These songs ranged from covers of songs recently performed by Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett to songs written by The Beatles and Stevie Wonder.

But Beautiful (1969)

Nancy Wilson’s final recording session in the decade was for the album But Beautiful, featuring a small jazz combo led by pianist Hank Jones. But Beautiful ended up being Wilson’s last true jazz album; in the 1970s, her style evolved more towards R&B and soul.

While her jazz days were mostly behind her, she thankfully recorded so much material in the 1960s—over twenty albums—that it never feels as if we’re at a loss for great Nancy Wilson jazz recordings.

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