Thursday, 18 April 2013
Rose Murphy born 18 April 1913
Rose Murphy (April 18,1913, Xenia, Ohio - November 16,1989) known as "the Chee-Chee Girl" was a jazz pianist and singer whose birdlike high-pitched voice brought her fame.
Surprisingly there is very sparse information on the Internet about Rose, and her history is rather sketchy, so here is an edited post from what little information I could muster.
Rose Murphy was the queen of the jump. It's a pity that her name is not included in popular jazz encyclopedias. She sang with a unique and original style. Her delicious baby-voice and her piano full of swing made her records sounds like a sort of "dadaism" in jazz. She was in good company: some of the greatest jazz inventors (Satchmo, Fats Waller, Dizzy Gillespie) put humour in their shows and records. She built a big reputation on the New York club circuit and also became very popular in the UK and Europe. At the height of her popularity, even Ella Fitzgerald was doing Rose Murphy imitations in her act. Everyone knows Marilyn Monroe's rendition of "I Wanna Be Loved By You" and most jazz listeners are familiar with Ella Fitzgerald's variations on "I Can't Give You Anything But Love". But few people are aware that the former is an unabashed copy of Rose's version, and that the latter is a mischievous yet affectionate imitation.
With her bubbly, infectious personality and lively keyboard style she was something of a female Fats Waller: pure joie de
vivre. She devised her own unconventional means of accompanying herself by tapping her right foot on a board which she carried with her from one city to the next. But it is that delicious, lightly abrasive, high-pitched, chirrupy, little-girl voice, the bright bubbles floating from her lips, the amusing "bruuup bruup" and "cheee cheee" conveyed with elegant yet explosive latent feminity which led to Rose's successful career in very posh nightclubs.
Like many old singers, there are legends concerning her style that may or may not be true. The most popular being that she stumbled on her signature phrase when she momentarily forgot the words to the title line of her biggest hit,
substituting the word "chee-chee" for "love". She never attained a great deal of respect in the Jazz world, which is a shame, for in spite of her jovial and somewhat comic approach to singing, she is a genuine talent as well as a serious musician and entertainer. Another legend is her famous "beat board" - she couldn't afford to hire a rhythm section to back her up, so legend has it that she nailed one end of two boards together with a spring in-between, and tapped them together with her free foot to keep time while playing the piano. You can hear the "beat board" plainly on a lot of her recordings, and it's exactly how you would imagine such a device would sound.
But the music! Ms. Murphy does not sing so much as she chirps; she also sighs and giggles her way through her repertoire. Her sound is totally unique; her voice is not so much a vocal as it is a high-pitched flutter, and her piano playing is amazingly suited to her upbeat, happy-go-lucky style. Even if you have never heard her before, I absolutely guarantee that she will put a smile on your face from ear to ear, and your foot will be tapping along with her beat board (that is, if you can restrain yourself from outright dancing).
In the 1960's she performed regularly at the Cookery in Greenwich Village. Even after her death she could still be heard, for the telephone company Cellnet used "Busy Line" for an ad. Although she faded from the limelight and was soon forgotten by much of the public after her early hits, she continued to record for Decca, Verve and Untied Artists records almost up to the time of her death. Rose died 16, November 1989, Queens, New York.