Spotlight on ……
The late, great June Christy was one of the defining vocalists of the ‘cool jazz’ singing style that emerged in the United States during the 1950s, an artiste whose musical influence is still reflected in recordings by some of today’s top young jazz performers. Equally adept at performing up-tempo songs as with handling reflective ballads, June has epitomised ‘late night’ easy listening music for successive generations of fans and bequeathed an enduring legacy of quality recordings, fifty of which are featured in this brand new collection of Christy classics.
June Christy was born Shirley Luster in Springfield, Illinois, on 20th November 1925 and, from her earliest years, she displayed a natural singing ability, even though her family lacked any musical background, and indeed she never learned to read music. June’s parents separated before she was five years old and it was during this traumatic period that she turned to music as a source of comfort. June began singing in public when she was 13, after winning an audition in the spring of 1938 to sing with a local band led by Bill Oetzel, an engagement that lasted for four years.
After her high school graduation June moved to Chicago where she temporarily changed her name from Shirley Luster to Sharon Leslie and sang with a local band led by Boyd Raeburn, performing at the Band Box Theatre. Unfortunately ‘Sharon Leslie’ contracted a bout of scarlet fever just four months later and, after recovering from the illness, she found that new singing engagements were hard to find, because of an ‘amusement’ tax which had been imposed on the entertainment business. She finally joined a band led by Benny Strong but by early 1945, disillusioned with the lack of progress in her career, was on the verge of quitting the business and returning home.
Fate intervened however when ‘Sharon Leslie’ heard that Anita O’Day had left Stan Kenton’s orchestra. The young aspiring singer turned up at Kenton’s office with a demonstration disc tucked under her arm. Suitably impressed by what he saw and heard, Kenton recruited ‘Sharon Leslie’ as his new resident vocalist in March 1945 and re-christened her June Christy. Initially June had to overcome the inevitable musical comparisons with O’Day, but she gradually developed her own distinctive vocal and performing style.
During her period with the band Christy sang on several big-selling recordings including Tampico, recorded in May 1945, which sold over a million copies. It was followed by another million-selling disc, Shoo Fly Pie And Apple Pan Dowdy, recorded in December of the same year. Despite this success the Kenton band temporarily disbanded in 1948, during which period June Christy performed as a cabaret singer, but when Kenton re-formed his orchestra in 1950 she also returned. Such was her musical stature with the Kenton orchestra that June Christy topped the influential Down Beat jazz poll on no less than four occasions, in the ‘Best Female Singer With A Big Band’ category.
June made her first solo recordings while still working with Kenton – the legendary bandleader recorded for Capitol Records and he arranged in December 1945 for Christy to have her own solo recording contract with Capitol, while continuing as resident female singer with his band. Together Kenton and Christy enjoyed a stream of hit recordings including It’s Been A Long, Long Time, Across The Alley From The Alamo, How High The Moon?, Willow Weep For Me and Lonely Woman.
In March 1947 Christy recorded Skip-Rope, her first single as a solo artist for Capitol. However her solo singing career started properly in 1952 when she teamed up with the musical arranger and bandleader Pete Rugolo who had been a member of the Kenton orchestra. One of June’s earliest solo hit singles was My Heart Belongs To Only You but it was with the birth of the long-playing ‘album’ that her solo recording career finally took off. In 1954 June released a 10-inch solo album Something Cool, recorded with Rugolo and his orchestra.
Among the musicians who performed on the album was her talented multi-instrumentalist husband Bob Cooper, whom she had met while still with the Kenton band, and married in 1946. The following year Something Cool was reissued as a 12-inch album, with extra songs, and it subsequently proved to be a defining recording of the burgeoning ‘cool jazz’ music scene, breaking into the American Top 20. Five years later, in 1960, Christy re-recorded Something Cool in stereo, and it has since become recognised as a ‘cool jazz’ album classic.
The Christy/Rugolo musical partnership continued to pay huge dividends. The Misty Miss Christy, was released in 1956 and during the next few years June’s distinctive singing style was heard on a succession of other albums including June – Fair And Warmer! (1957), Gone For The Day (also 1957), June’s Got Rhythm (1958), The Song Is June!, June Christy Recalls Those Kenton Days, and Ballads For Night People – all issued in 1959 – and 1960’s The Cool School.
June Christy continued, during the first half of the ‘60s, to release a succession of quality albums that set the benchmark for other up-and-coming jazz vocalists. 1961 saw the release of three albums, Off Beat, the film soundtrack Do-Re-Mi and That Time Of Year, followed by 1962’s Big Band Specials and The Intimate June Christy. In 1965, after an absence from the recording studios, June released Something Broadway, Something Latin, which proved to be her last album for Capitol Records.
June went into semi-retirement soon afterwards although she continued to do occasional live performances in the Los Angeles area, and in 1972 was one of the headliners at the Newport Jazz Festival. In 1977 she was persuaded to return to the recording studios to record a new album, Impromptu, and in 1985 June travelled to the south of France where she performed at a jazz festival. Sadly, however, by then her health had begun to fail and she died on 21st June 1990, at the age of 64.
This collection brings together some of the great recordings that June Christy made for Capitol Records during the ‘50s and ‘60s. The pivotal Something Cool album is represented by the title track, Lonely House, I’ll Take Romance and I’m Thrilled, while the 1955 album Duet (recorded with Stan Kenton) yields the Cole Porter classic Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye along with Lonely Woman and Angel Eyes.
From the 1956 album The Misty Miss Christy we can enjoy That’s All, Day Dream, A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening, This Year’s Kisses and For All We Know, while Let There Be Love, It’s A Most Unusual Day, Interlude and (Love’s Got Me In A) Lazy Mood originally featured on June – Fair And Warmer! From the 1958 compilation This Is June Christy come My Heart Belongs To Only You, Get Happy and I’ll Remember April.
Other musical highlights here include I’m Glad There Is You and All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm from June’s Got Rhythm, and I Remember You and As Long As I Live recall the1959 album, The Song Is June! Willow Weep For Me is taken from June Christy Recalls Those Kenton Days while the singer’s ‘cool’ style is ideally showcased via Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered, Night People and My Ship from Ballads For Night People.
The 1960 album Cool School is represented in this collection by Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair), Looking For A Boy and Swinging On A Star while Stompin’ At The Savoy and Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby are from Big Bands Specials, and the evergreen standards Spring Is Here, Fly Me To The Moon and I Get Along Without You Very Well featured on the 1962 album The Intimate Miss Christy. For good measure this collection also features five bonus Christy tracks, Live Oak Tree, Some Folks Do, I Was A Fool, I’ve Got Your Letter and I Lived When I Met You.
Time marches on but, thanks to a distinguished legacy of recordings like these, the music and ‘cool’ singing style of June Christy will never be allowed to die. Her musical influence still resonates today through a new generation of jazz performers and the fifty recordings featured here ideally showcase Ms Christy’s stylish vocal abilities.
- Something Cool
- Lonely House
- I'll Take Romance
- I'm Thrilled
- Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye
- Lonely Woman
- Angel Eyes
- That's All
- Day Dream
- A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening
- This Year's Kisses
- For All We Know
- I Want To Be Happy
- No More
- Let There Be Love
- It's A Most Unusual Day
- (Love's Got Me In A) Lazy Mood
- My Heart Belongs To Only You
- Get Happy
- I'll Remember April
- I'm Glad There Is You
- It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
- When Lights Are Low
- All God's Chillun Got Rhythm
- My Shining Hour
- I Remember You
- As Long As I Live
- Willow Weep For Me
- How High The Moon
- Bewitched, Bothered, And Bewildered
- Night People
- My Ship
- Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)
- Looking For A Boy
- Swinging On A Star
- Out Of This World
- The Bad And The Beautiful
- Cry Like The Wind
- Make Someone Happy
- Is You Is Of Is You Ain't My Baby
- Stompin' At The Savoy
- Spring Is Here
- Fly Me To The Moon
- I Get Along Without You Very Well
21. Live Oak Tree
22. Some Folks Do
23. I Was A Fool
24. I've Got Your Letter
25. I Lived When I Met You