Category Archives: Jo Stafford

A Mitch in Time

Mitch Miller, the man who seemed to have inspired the formation of countless gay men’s choruses, has died. Miller was a major force in the music industry for many years, and his importance can’t be minimized, but his music wasn’t for me. Twenty years ago, a review I liked of a Mitch Miller Christmas album that had been released on CD was short and to the point — “Welcome to Hell.” Ray Conniff worked with Mitch Miller at Columbia, and I love his album We Wish You A Merry Christmas. I’ve always wondered if that’s Mitch on the cover. (I had a huge crush on the girl when I was a kid, whoever she is.)

I also have an appreciation for the singing of the delightful Lennon Sisters, who were favorites of Lawrence Welk. But there was always something too cloying and mechanically rote for my taste in Mitch Miller’s recordings. His most famous failing was not realizing that the times they were a’changin in the 60′s, when John Hammond brought Bob Dylan to Columbia. But an inability to appreciate talent outside of one’s own taste is something that could be said of many of the old-style A&R (artist and repertoire) men in the music business.

The superb vocalist Jo Stafford worked with Miller. In the persona of the perfectly off-key Darlene Edwards, Jo recorded a dead-on parody of the famous Mitch Miller sound.

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Getting away from it all

Denro says this one has it all — Tommy Dorsey’s band with Frank Sinatra, Connie Haines, and Jo Stafford. From June, 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor, this is ‘Let’s Get Away From It All.’ It starts with Jo’s pure, clean voice and the Pied Pipers, then Frank and Connie, with her distinctly different sound, come in.

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Connie Haines, 1922-2008

With the death of singer Connie Haines coming so soon after the passing of the extraordinary Jo Stafford, we are getting very close indeed to the end of the Big Band era. Like Doris Day, Haines got her start when she was only sixteen. Sharing the Tommy Dorsey spotlight with Jo didn’t sit well with Connie, as recounted in the Washington Post.

In her three years with Dorsey, Ms. Haines made several solo recordings, and she bristled a little when Jo Stafford, who died in July, was recalled as Dorsey’s “girl vocalist” during the time Ms. Haines was with the band. Ms. Haines would remind people that Stafford arrived in the band as a member of the Pied Pipers when Ms. Haines was the featured vocalist. Stafford emerged as a soloist later.

A well-known recording of Haines singing with Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey band is “Oh, Look at me Now”.

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A V-J Record

I missed noting V-J Day back on August 14, but I’ll do it now. It’s hard to believe I was born only ten years after the end of the war.

The famous photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in Times Square wasn’t the only view of the sailor grabbing the girl and kissing her. From a different angle, Navy photographer Victor Jorgensen also caught the moment.

A song that’s strongly reminiscent of World War II is “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Don’t confuse it with “We’ll Meet Again,” that’s heard at the end of Dr. Strangelove. Liberace renewed the popularity of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and stressless songstress Jo Stafford recorded it in ’58.

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Jo Stafford Was A Lady

Fool that I am, I missed Jo Stafford in the 1943 movie “Dubarry Was A Lady,” shown recently on Turner Classic Movies. Somebody has posted a clip from it, but the quality is only so-so, especially the sound synch. Now that YouTube has blessed us with working playlists again, you’ll find Dubarry after Jo’s appearance on “What’s My Line” from October 14, 1956.

The Buzz on Mitch Miller

An audio magazine I used to get, back when audio magazines existed, had a memorably succinct review of a CD release of a Mitch Miller Christmas Album — “Welcome to Hell.” Jonathan and Darlene Edwards paid tribute to the unforgettable music of Mitch Miller, as only they could, in “Baby Bumble Bee.”

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Darlene’s friend, the late Jo Stafford, can be seen with Frank Sinatra in this old film clip, performing “I’ll Never Smile Again,” a song I featured at this link.