Joya Sherrill (August 20, 1924, Bayonne, New Jersey – June 28, 2010, Great Neck, New York) was an American jazz vocalist, lyricist and children's television show host.
In the early 1940s, Duke Ellington discovered a seventeen year old with remarkable poise and singing ability. Joya Sherrill joined the Ellington band for a few months, with her mother as chaperon. Rejoining the group in 1944, Sherrill scored a major hit with "I'm Beginning To See The Light." In 1946, she married Richard Guilmenot.
In 1948, she left Ellington to become a solo vocalist. Rejoined Ellinton in 1956 for the TV Show 'A Drum Is A Woman'. She stayed with Duke Ellington's jazz band well into the fifties and is generally considered to be one of the finest (and smoothest) jazz vocalists of that era.
Here is a brief reminiscence of some of her finest early work - from standards she created during her first stay with the Ellington band such as I'm Beginning To See The Light and I Didn't Know About You delivered with malted milk smoothness to fine, rare work with Rex Stewart at Capitol and her appearance at Carnegie Hall in January 1946, singing The Blues from Black, Brown and Beige.
She toured the U.S. in 1959 and then took a role in the Broadway show The Long Dream. She toured with. She toured with Benny
Goodman in the USSR in 1962 and became the first female American Jazz singer to perform beyond the Iron Curtain. So successful was her run with the Russians, the decidedly vain and jealous Goodman refused to live up to his name and left her completely out of the Tour LP. She returned to sing with Ellington in 1963.
Backstage at a Convention she told a friend that becoming a singer had never even crossed her mind when she went to sing her rendition for The Duke. She saw herself as a writer and was unaware of her hidden talent. It took Duke Ellington himself to recognize her excellent diction and articulation and Perfect Pitch .
Sherrill also worked with Ellington alumni like Rex Stewart and Ray Nance into the '60s, and albums like 1965's Sings Duke reunited her with Ellington's songs and players.
In the spring of 1970 she chalked up another first by becoming the first African-American NYC-based female entertainer to host a children’s TV show: ‘Time for Joya’ on WPIX TV. The show enjoyed a healthy run and re-invention into 1972 and was still seen in reruns up until 1982. An episode of ‘Time for Joya’ would also mark one of Ellington’s last appearances on TV before his death. Later in the 1980s she hosted a children's show in the Middle East.
She died of complications from leukemia in 2010, aged 85. She was survived by a son, a daughter, a sister and two grandchildren.
Although not as well remembered as Ella Fitzgerald, her legacy in Jazz is up there along with The Duke. And, according to her, only Jazz. At the Convention a girl turned around to her and said she couldn’t wait to hear her sing. With the glint of entertainer-wit she replied that “if it’s not Jazz I don’t sing it so well.”
(Info scarce but edited from various sources mainly Alec Corday & Wikipedia. A big thankyou to http://villesville.blogspot.co.uk for the mp3's)
The Duke still swung when the band recorded this rare version of "Take The A Train" in 1943. The vocalist is Joya Sherrill who, according to some, actually wrote the lyrics to this famous Billy Strayhorn composition, although others denie that and claim that Strayhorn also wrote the lyrics.