[MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, "MOONGLOW"]
MARK CHILLA: Welcome to Afterglow, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
This week on the program, I’m going to continue my “Voices That Time Forgot” series, highlighting a few traditional pop vocalists who never made it into the spotlight. On a previous episode, I featured a number of white male singers who I called “would-be Sinatras,” and this week, I’m going to feature a number of African-American female singers from the late 50s and early 60s, some “would-be Nancy Wilsons” or “would-be Della Reeses.” Coming up, we’ll hear recordings from little-remembered singers Pat Thomas, Gloria Smyth, Norene Tate, and more.
It’s The Voices That Time Forgot: Jazz-Soul Divas, coming up next on Afterglow
[MUSIC - PAT THOMAS, “ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE”]
[MUSIC - PAT THOMAS, “IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU”]
Singer Pat Thomas in 1960 with Van Heusen and Burke’s “It Could Happen To You,” and before that, Lerner and Loewe’s “Almost Like Being In Love.” That comes from her album Jazz Patterns, featuring Teddy Charles on vibes, Curtis Fuller on trombone, and Kenny Burrell on guitar.
[MUSIC CLIP - MILES DAVIS QUINTET, "IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU"]
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, I’m featuring a number of lesser-known interpreters of the Great American Songbook. All the singers we’ll hear this hour were African-American female singers who all recorded sometime in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Had the winds shifted slightly across the popular music landscape, these singers might have become something akin to Nancy Wilson, Della Reese, Ernestine Anderson, or Dakota Staton. But instead, none of these singers got a chance to break through. Luckily for us, some intrepid jazz aficianados uncovered these albums, and they were remastered and reissued recently by Fresh Sound Records, as part of their “The Best Voices Time Forgot” series. As a result of those reissues, we’ll be hearing their music this hour.
I’ll begin with singer Gloria Smyth. Smyth (spelled with a “y”) was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, and had stage debut at the Apollo in 1951. From there, she worked her way across the night club scene on the East Coast, performing alongside well-known names like Max Roach and Billy Eckstine. She ended up in Vegas in 1958, performing at The Sands, and then onto Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, where she performed with Ahmad Jamal, Lionel Hampton, and Teddy Wilson.
Her most frequent partner, however, was tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards, and that’s who she recorded with in 1960 for her album called Like Soul!, recorded for World Pacific Records.
I’ll play two recordings from that session now, beginning with the Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn tune “Time After Time.” This is singer Gloria Smyth with “Time After Time,” on Afterglow
[MUSIC - GLORIA SMYTH, “TIME AFTER TIME”]
[MUSIC - GLORIA SMYTH, “IMAGINATION”]
Singer Gloria Smyth in 1960 from the album called Like Soul. We just heard the Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke tune “Imagination” and before that the Styne and Cahn tune “Time After Time.” Both of those recordings featured Teddy Edwards on tenor saxophone and Les McCann on piano.
The next singer I want to feature, Helyne [he-leen] Stewart, also worked frequently with saxophonist Teddy Edwards. While Gloria Smyth might be compared to Nancy Wilson, Helyne Stewart sounds a little more like Della Reese.
Stewart got her start in Illinois singing with an a cappella group called the Caldwells. By the late 1950s, she settled in Los Angeles and started singing solo. That’s where she got the attention of saxophonist Teddy Edwards, who helped her record an album for Contemporary Records in 1961 called Love Moods.
I’ll play a few songs from that album now. First, here’s Helyne Stewart and the Teddy Edwards Quartet performing a song that Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman made famous back in 1942. This is “Why Don’t You Do Right,” on Afterglow.
[MUSIC - HELYNE STEWART, “WHY DON’T YOU DO RIGHT”]
[MUSIC - HELYNE STEWART, “I HADN’T ANYONE TILL YOU”]
[MUSIC - HELYNE STEWART, “THIS CAN’T BE LOVE”]
Singer Helyne Stewart with saxophonist Teddy Edwards in 1961. Just now, that was the Rodgers and Hart song “This Can’t Be Love,” before that, the Ray Noble song “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You,” and starting that set, the 1936 song “Why Don’t You Do Right.”
Our next singer is Barbara Long. Long was born in Chicago in 1932, and became a promising musician at a young age, playing piano, cello, and harp. She nearly left music to become a doctor, but then moved out to New York to pursue a career as a singer. She eventually landed a recording contract with Savoy Records, making the album simply titled Soul in 1961.
The “soul” in Long’s voice is not the kind of “soul” that you might expect from an African-American female from the early 1960s. She’s no Etta James. Rather, Long’s soul is quiet, intimate, and breathy. In fact, if I had to draw a comparison between Barbara Long’s voice and the voice of another traditional pop singer, it’d probably be Helen Merrill, who is decidedly not African American.
I’ll play a few songs from her 1961 album now, beginning with a song written by the pianist in this recording, Nat Phipps. Here is Barbara Long in 1961 with the song “Where Is Lonesome,” on Afterglow.
[MUSIC - BARBARA LONG, “WHERE IS LONESOME”]
[MUSIC - BARBARA LONG, “CALL ME DARLING”]
Singer Barbara Long with the Billy Howell Quintet in 1961. Just now, we heard the song “Call Me Darling” and before that, the song “Where Is Lonesome.” “Where Is Lonesome” was written by the pianist in that recording session Nat Phipps.[MUSIC CLIP - TEDDY CHARLES, "ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET"]
Coming up in just a moment, we’ll hear from some more little-remembered singers, including Pat Thomas, Norene Tate, and Mae Barnes. Stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to the Voices That Time Forgot, on Afterglow.
[MUSIC CLIP - DEXTER GORDON, "CONFIRMATION"]
[MUSIC CLIP - TEDDY CHARLES, "HE'S GONE AGAIN"]
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring a handful of African-American female singers that never made it into the spotlight. All of these singers have been given a spotlight today, thanks to some reissues from Fresh Sound records, as part of their “Best Voices Time Forgot” series.
Our next singer is Pat Thomas. Thomas was just a few years younger than Nancy Wilson, and very nearly broke through in the early 1960s. Although, if I had to describe her singing style, she had the full-throated jazz chops of Dakota Staton She got her start in Chicago, but soon moved to New York and worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Gigi Grice, and Art Blakey. In 1962, she even recorded a version of the bossa nova tune “Desafinado” that hit the Billboard charts. But, sadly, that was the closest she got to mainstream success.
In 1960, she recorded an album for the Strand Record label titled Jazz Patterns, featuring a couple of heavy hitters in the rhythm section, including Kenny Burrell on guitar, Teddy Charles on vibes, Tommy Flanagan on piano, Roland Alexander on flute and saxophone, and Curtis Fuller on trombone.
Here’s singer Pat Thomas in 1960 with the Rodgers and Hart song “Blue Room,” on Afterglow.
[MUSIC - PAT THOMAS, “BLUE ROOM”]
[MUSIC - PAT THOMAS, “MEAN TO ME”]
Singer Pat Thomas in 1960 with the Fred Ahlert and Roy Turk song “Mean To Me,” and before that, the Rodgers and Hart song “Blue Room.”
Our next “Voice That Time Forgot” is Norene Tate. If Pat Thomas sounds similar to Dakota Staton, then Norene Tate might be compared to Sarah Vaughan in her later years. I haven’t been able to precisely track down her age. But I know that in the late 1950s, she Tate had already been singing ballads and playing piano in the New York City night club circuit for 20 years, and that she got her start singing with Noble Sissle’s orchestra sometime in the 1930s.
If Norene Tate had a signature song, it would be the 1947 Walter Gross and Jack Lawrence ballad “Tenderly,” a song that, naturally, was also a big hit for Sarah Vaughan.
Here’s her version of that song now. This is Norene Tate in 1957 with the tune “Tenderly,” on Afterglow.
[MUSIC - NORENE TATE, “TENDERLY”]
[MUSIC - NORENE TATE, “I COVER THE WATERFRONT”]
Singer Norene Tate in 1957, from her album titled Tenderly. First in that set, we heard the title song, “Tenderly,” and just now, that was the Johnny Green and Edward Heyman tune “I Cover The Waterfront.”
I have one more singer to feature this hour, and that’s Mae Barnes. If I had to compare Barnes to any of the great singers of the American Songbook, she is like Ella Fitzgerald with a dash of Bessie Smith. Barnes got her start on stage in the early days of Broadway, dancing the Charleston in 1920s Broadway productions of Running Wild and Shuffle Along. By the 1930s, she began to focus more on singing, becoming a fixture in Greenwich village singing ballads, vaudeville comedy numbers, and, of course, jazz. It turns out, this former dancer really could swing, just like another former dancer, Ella Fitzgerald.
Let’s listen to the inimitable Mae Barnes now, performing in a variety of styles. First, here’s Barnes in 1958 performing the Ann Ronnell ballad “Willow Weep For Me,” on Afterglow.
[MUSIC - MAE BARNES, “WILLOW WEEP FOR ME”]
[MUSIC - MAE BARNES, “UMBRELLA MAN”]
[MUSIC - MAE BARNES, “OL’ MAN RIVER”]
Singer Mae Barnes in 1958, featuring Jo Jones on drums, performing Kern and Hammerstein’s “Ol’ Man River.” Before that, that was the old vaudeville song “Umbrella Man.” And starting that set, we heard Barnes with the ballad “Willow Weep For Me.”
And thanks for tuning in to this “Voices That Time Forgot” edition of Afterglow.
[TEDDY CHARLES, "MOONGLOW"]
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.
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.