December 14, 1963 – Dinah Washington was born Ruth Lee Jones on August 29, 1924 in Tuscaloosa Alabama, but moved to Chicago as a child. She sang gospel music in church and played piano, directing her church choir in her teens and being a member of the Sallie Martin Gospel Singers. She sang lead with the first female gospel singers formed by Ms. Martin, who was co-founder of the Gospel Singers Convention.
After winning a talent contest at the age of 15 at Chicago’s Regal Theater where she sang “I Can’t Face the Music”, she began performing in clubs. By 1941–42 she was performing in such Chicago clubs as Dave’s Rhumboogie and the Downbeat Room of the Sherman Hotel (with Fats Waller). She was playing at the Three Deuces, a jazz club, when a friend took her to hear Billie Holiday at the Garrick Stage Bar. Club owner Joe Sherman was so impressed with her singing of “I Understand”, backed by the Cats and the Fiddle, who were appearing in the Garrick’s upstairs room, that he hired her. During her year at the Garrick – she sang upstairs while Holiday performed in the downstairs room – she acquired the name by which she became known.
October 11, 1963 – Édith Piaf born Edith Giovanni Gassion on Dec 19, 1915 became a legendary French singer and actress; one of the most popular French singers of the 1940s and ’50s, famous internationally for her husky, mournful voice and her songs of loneliness and despair.
At aged 14, she joined her father in his acrobatic street performances all over France, where she first sang in public, before going it alone as a street singer at the age of 16.
In 1935 she was discovered in the Pigalle area of Paris by nightclub owner Louis Leplée, whose club Le Gerny off the Champs-Élysées was frequented by the upper and lower classes alike. Louis taught her stage presense and nicknamed her La Môme Piaf …The Waif Sparrow or Little Sparrow as she was only 4ft 8in tall. Continue reading Edith Piaf 10/1963
May 24, 1963 – Elmore James was born Elmore Brooks on January 27, 1918 in the old Richland community in Holmes County, Mississippi, the illegitimate son of 15-year-old Leola Brooks, a field hand. His father was probably Joe Willie “Frost” James, who moved in with Leola, and Elmore took his surname. He began making music at the age of 12, using a simple one-string instrument (diddley bow, or jitterbug) strung on a shack wall. As a teen he performed at dances under the names Cleanhead and Joe Willie James, before playing with the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, and the legendary Robert Johnson.
James was strongly influenced by Robert Johnson, Kokomo Arnold and Tampa Red. He recorded several of Tampa Red’s songs. He also inherited from Tampa Red’s band two musicians who joined his own backing band, the Broomdusters, “Little” Johnny Jones (piano) and Odie Payne (drums). Continue reading Elmore James 5/1963
March 5, 1963 – Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8th 1932 in Gore Virginia. Her parents, forty-three-year-old Samuel Lawrence Hensley, a blacksmith, and his second wife, sixteen-year-old Hilda Virginia Patterson Hensley, had married six days before the birth. Until 1937 Hensley lived on her paternal grandparents’ farm near Elkton and with her maternal grandparents in Gore, just outside Winchester in Frederick County. The Hensley family moved nineteen times in sixteen years to various towns in the Shenandoah Valley, including Lexington, and during World War II to Portsmouth.
Patsy had been introduced to music at an early age, singing in church with her mother. She liked stars such as Kay Starr, Jo Stafford, Hank Williams, Judy Garland, and Shirley Temple. She also as it turned out had perfect pitch. Self-taught, she could not read music. Continue reading Patsy Cline 3/1963