Give Now

Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

The Best-Known Unknown in Show Business: Thelma Carpenter

Singer Thelma Carpenter's career stretched from the swing era to "The Wiz" and "The Cosby Show," and she counted songwriter Alec Wilder among her champions.

Play Episode (Real Audio)

Singer and actress Thelma Carpenter had a long and successful career in the entertainment field, but she never really gained wider fame, leading her to joke in later years that she was “the best-known unknown in show business.”

Influenced by vocalists such as Ethel Waters and Mabel Mercer, Carpenter had a style that critics have described as both “rhythmic and lusty” and “trans-racial,” and shaped with a classic 1940s sound that uses just a little vibrato.

A veteran of the swing era, in later years she performed on Broadway and also appeared in the 1979 movie version of The Wiz as “Miss One.”

This program features Carpenter’s earliest recordings with Teddy Wilson and Coleman Hawkins, several of her little-heard sides with Count Basie’s orchestras, a number of her post-World War II solo records (including a collaboration with an early version of the Ames Brothers), and music from a 1970s NPR popular-song series with popular-song maven Alec Wilder, as well as two tracks from a lost album of duets with pianist Ellis Larkins.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Afterglow:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Afterglow

About The Host

Search Afterglow

This Week On Night Lights

Before Broadway: George Benson In The 1960s

In the 1970s George Benson was a crossover star with a smooth pop style, but he’d already established a legacy as a jazz guitarist brimming with talent.

Read more »

Night Lights is WFIU's weekly program of classic jazz hosted by David Brent Johnson.

More from Night Lights »