Saturday, 30 November 2013

Luther Ingram born 30 November 1937

Luther Ingram (November 30, 1937 – March 19, 2007) was an American R&B and soul singer and songwriter. His most successful record, "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right", reached no. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and no. 3 on the Hot 100 in 1972.

Born Luther Thomas Ingram in Jackson, Tennessee, he spent the majority of his adolescence in Alton, IL, launching his singing career in a group featuring his siblings. As a teen he also began writing songs, and later ventured out as a solo act, most notably opening for Ike Turner in East St. Louis. Ingram eventually migrated to New York City, where according to legend he briefly roomed with a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix.

In 1965 he signed to Decca and cut his debut single, "You Never Miss Your Water," followed by a cover of Jamo Thomas' "(I Spy) For the FBI" on Smash. After little-heard efforts for indies Hurdy-Gurdy ("Run for Your Life") and HIB (the instrumental "Exus Trek"), Ingram relocated to Memphis, signing to producer Jimmy Baylor's fledgling KoKo label. Initial efforts like the 1967 single "I Can't Stop" and the next year's "Missing You" failed to generate much interest, but when Baylor negotiated a distribution deal with Stax Records in 1969, Ingram's fortunes improved dramatically. Later that same year he scored his first R&B Top 20 hit with "My Honey and Me."

Ingram is best known for the hit, "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right", written by Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and Raymond Jackson. The song reached number one on Billboard's R&B chart and peaked at number three on that publication's Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1972. The track stayed in the Hot 100 for 18 weeks, ultimately selling a reported four million copies. The song was later successfully covered by Millie Jackson and Barbara Mandrell; it has also been recorded by Bobby "Blue" Bland, Rod Stewart and Isaac Hayes.

Other popular tracks for Ingram included "Ain't That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)", "Let's Steal Away To The Hideaway" and "I'll Be Your Shelter." He also co-authored "Respect Yourself", a million seller for the Staples Singers in 1971. The acetate demo version of Ingram's, "Exus Trek", became a sought after Northern soul track. With the Stax connections, Ingram recorded at the Memphis label's studios, as well as other southern-based studios such as Muscle Shoals. He was opening act for Isaac Hayes for some years, and often used Hayes' Movement band and female backing group for his 1970s recordings. He recorded into the 1980s, and whilst only managing lower R&B chart hits, he remained a popular stage draw.

Ingram died on March 19, 2007, at a Belleville, Illinois, hospital of heart failure. According to his wife Jacqui Ingram, he had suffered for years from diabetes, kidney disease and partial blindness. (Info edited from Wikipedia & All Music)

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Bruce Channel born 28 November 1940

Bruce Channel (pronounced "shuh-NELL") (born Bruce McMeans, 28 November 1940, Jacksonville, Texas) is an American singer, known for his 1962 number one hit, "Hey! Baby".

Channel originally performed on the Louisiana Hayride radio show, and then joined up with harmonica player Delbert McClinton singing country music. Channel wrote "Hey! Baby" with Margaret Cobb in 1959 and performed the song for two years before recording it for Fort Worth record producer Bill Smith. It was originally released on Bill Smith's label, but as it started to sell well it was picked up for distribution by Smash. The song reached No. 1 in the U.S. in March 1962 and remained in that position for 3 weeks. Besides topping the U.S. pop charts, it became No. 2 in the UK in 1962 as well. In the United States Channel was a one-hit wonder. 

Channel toured Europe and was supported at one gig by The Beatles, who were then still unknown. John Lennon, who had "Hey! Baby" on his jukebox, was fascinated by McClinton's harmonica. A popular urban legend has it that Lennon was taught to play harmonica by McClinton, but by that time, Lennon had already been playing the instrument live for some time. The harmonica break in "Hey! Baby" inspired Lennon's playing on The Beatles' first single, 1962's "Love Me Do" as well as later Beatles records and the harmonica break on Frank Ifield's "I Remember You."  Ironically, it was the Beatles who led the British Invasion of the mid-60's which swamped artists such as Bruce Channel. He became a very popular act in England.

UK Tour 1962  (L to R: Pete Best, John Lennon, Delbert McClinton, Bruce, Paul McCartney and George Harrison)

The key to the appeal of "Hey! Baby" is the sustained first note, with a rhythmic shuffle in the background. This had previously occurred on another recent hit, "Sherry" (1962) by The Four Seasons, and was later to recur on a Beatles song, "I Should Have Known Better" (on A Hard Day's Night - 1964).

Delbert McClinton went on to have success as a solo artist and songwriter, penning songs recorded by Waylon Jennings and Emmylou Harris. Channel's only other Top 40 recording in the UK singles chart was 1968's "Keep On," which was produced by Dale Hawkins. Channel disliked touring, so he settled in as a songwriter in Nashville, quietly scoring a number of BMI Award-winning songs in the '70s and '80s - "As Long As I'm Rockin' With You" for John Conlee; "Don't Worry 'Bout Me Baby" for Janie Fricke; "Party Time" for T.G. Sheppard; "You're the Best" (co-written with and recorded by Kieran Kane); and "Stand Up" for Mel McDaniel. in 1988 made a surprise guest appearance while on a visit to the UK, as a disc jockey on BBC Radio 2.

In 1995 Channel recorded his own version of "Stand Up" for the Memphis, Tennessee based Ice House label. Delbert McClinton reprised his role on harmonica on it and several other tracks including a heavy duty version of "My Babe." Channel then recorded a project with singer-songwriter Larry Henley (ex-The Newbeats) as Original Copy.

(Info mainly from Wikipedia)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Liza Morrow born 27 November 1913

Liza Morrow, 27 Nov 1913 New York (Brooklyn), NY, USA. - 24 June 2001, was an American big band vocalist mainly in the 1940's.

Again there is not much information regarding Liza, and only a few photographs (one of which I cannot confirm) but after researching on the web, here goes.

Liza Morrow was born Ruth Morrow in 1913. There is no information about her early life but while she was working as a publicist she was persuaded to take up singing as a career by United Press correspondent Bob Musel who later wrote "Band Of Gold."

As a singer Ruth changed her name to Liza Morrow. She played with actor/cellist Morrie Amsterdam; Bobby Hackett; Robert Q. Lewis; Mitchell Ayers; Eddie Condon; Benny Goodman; George Paxton; and was heard on NBC & CBS radio programs. It was with Benny Goodman's Band Liza sang on the hit song "Symphony" in 1946.

She married Dale McMickle who was a top trumpeter at the time and had another name change to Mrs. Dale McMickle and retired from singing to become a housewife. After two or three years Mrs. McMickle (now a mother) emerged from retirement and as Kit Carson recorded a tune on King Records called “Washing Machine Blues”. It didn’t score many points with radio programmers but it did win her an inking with Capitol records.

She recorded "Band Of Gold" in 1955 which became her only hit recording (reaching number 17 of the Billboard top 100 in January 1956). The flip side of that single was: “Cast your bread upon the waters”, the first One-Hit Wonder of the year. She promptly disappeared after that.

Publisher Howie Richmond queried her husband "Do you have any difficulty rememberimg her real name?" "No, I just call her honey," he said.

Liza died 24th June 2001. (Info edited from various sources, mainly Billboard magazine)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Teddy Wison born 24 November 1912

Theodore Shaw "Teddy" Wilson (November 24, 1912 – July 31, 1986) was an American jazz pianist whose sophisticated and elegant style was featured on the records of many of the biggest names in jazz, including Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

Wilson was born in Austin, Texas in 1912. He studied piano and violin at Tuskegee Institute. After working in the Lawrence 

"Speed" Webb band, with Louis Armstrong and also "understudying" Earl Hines in Hines's Grand Terrace Cafe Orchestra, Wilson joined Benny Carter's Chocolate Dandies in 1933. In 1935 he joined the Benny Goodman Trio (which consisted of Goodman, Wilson and drummer Gene Krupa, later expanded to the Benny Goodman Quartet with the addition of Lionel Hampton). The trio performed during the big band's intermissions. By joining the trio, Wilson became the first black musician to perform in public with a previously all-white jazz group.

Noted jazz producer and writer John Hammond was instrumental in
getting Wilson a contract with Brunswick, starting in 1935, to record hot swing arrangements of the popular songs of the day, with the growing jukebox trade in mind. He recorded fifty hit records with various singers such as Lena Horne and Helen Ward, including many of Billie Holiday's greatest successes. During these years he also took part in many highly regarded sessions with a wide range of important swing musicians, such as Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers, Red Norvo, Buck Clayton and Ben Webster.

Wilson formed his own short-lived big band in 1939, then led a sextet at Café Society from 1940 to 1944. He was dubbed the "Marxist Mozart" by Howard "Stretch" Johnson due to his support for left-wing causes (he performed in benefit concerts for The New Masses journal and for Russian War Relief, and chaired the Artists' Committee to elect Benjamin J. Davis). In the 1950s he taught at the Juilliard School. Wilson can be seen appearing as himself in the motion picture The Benny Goodman Story (1955).

Wilson lived quietly in suburban Hillsdale, New Jersey in the 1960s and 1970s. He performed as a soloist and with pick-up groups until the final years of his life. Teddy Wilson died on July 31, 1986. He was interred at Fairview Cemetery in New Britain, CT  (Info Wikipedia)

 Above clip taken from the 1963 TV special International Hour - American Jazz, filmed at the Civic Opera House in Chicago, and hosted by Willis Conover.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Judy Canova born 20 November 1916

Judy Canova (November 20, 1913–August 5, 1983), born Juliette Canova, was an American comedienne, actress, singer and radio personality. She appeared on Broadway and in films. She hosted her own network radio program, a popular series broadcast from 1943 to 1955.

Born in Starke, Florida to Joseph Francis Canova, a businessman, and Henrietta Perry, a singer, Judy Canova's show-business career began with a family vaudeville routine. She joined her sister Annie and brother Zeke, and their performances as the Three Georgia Crackers took them from theaters in Florida to a club in Manhattan, the Village Barn. Canova sang, yodeled and played guitar and was typed as a wide-eyed likable country bumpkin, often barefoot, and wearing her hair in braids, sometimes topped with a straw hat. She was sometimes introduced as The Ozark Nightingale, though she had no connection to the region.

When bandleader Rudy Vallée offered her a guest spot on his radio show in 1931, The Fleischmann Hour, it opened the door to a career that spanned more than five decades. The popularity of the Canova family led to numerous performances on radio in the 1930s, and they made their Broadway theater debut in the revue Calling All Stars. An offer from Warner Bros. led to several bit parts before she signed with Republic Pictures. She recorded for the RCA Victor label and appeared in more than two dozen Hollywood films, including Scatterbrain (1940), Joan of Ozark (1942) and Lay That Rifle Down (1955).

In 1943, she began her own radio program, The Judy Canova Show, that ran for 12 years—first on CBS and then on NBC. Playing herself as a love-starved Ozark bumpkin dividing her time between home and Southern California, Canova was accompanied by a cast that included voice master Mel Blanc as Pedro (using the accented voice he later gave the cartoons' Speedy Gonzales) and Sylvester (using the voice that later became associated with the Looney Tunes character), Ruth Perrott as Aunt Aggie, Ruby Dandridge as Geranium, Joseph Kearns as Benchley Botsford and Sharon Douglas as Brenda—with Gale Gordon, Sheldon Leonard and Hans Conried also making periodic appearances. The Sportsmen Quartet joined the show in 1943 and backed Judy on most of her songs, and the Charles Dant Orchestra provided the rest, usually supporting Canova's country warble. Western singer and actor Eddie Dean also appeared with Canova on numerous occasions during the 1930s.

During World War II, she closed her show with the song "Goodnight, Soldier" ("Wherever you may be... my heart's lonely... without you") and used her free time to sell U.S. War Bonds. Canova made frequent appearances on other popular radio programs of the day, including and especially those hosted by Abbott and Costello and Fred Allen.

By the time her radio program ended in 1955, Canova easily made a smooth transition to television with appearances on The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Steve Allen Show, Matinee Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and other shows. In 1967, she portrayed Mammy Yokum in an unsold TV pilot adapted from Al Capp's Li'l Abner. She also worked on Broadway and in Vegas nightclubs through the early 1970s, touring with No, No Nanette in 1971.

In 1983, Judy Canova died from cancer at age 69, and her ashes were interred in the secluded Columbarium of Everlasting Light section, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. Her ashes are among those of her siblings Anne (1901–1994), and Zeke Canova (1898–1980).

Canova is honored with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to the film industry (6821 Hollywood Boulevard) and a second star for her radio career (6777 Hollywood Boulevard). (Info edited from Wikipedia)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Jeanine Deckers born 17 October 1933

Jeanine Deckers (17 October 1933 – 29 March 1985) was a Belgian singer-songwriter and initially a member of the Dominican Order in Belgium (as Sister Luc Gabrielle). She acquired world fame in 1963 as Sœur Sourire (Sister Smile) when she scored a hit with her French-language song "Dominique". She is sometimes credited as "The Singing Nun".

More often than not, the buzz going around in 1963 was about the Vietnam War, sex, drugs, and rock & roll. The Feminine Mystique hit bookstore shelves, Harvard gave Timothy Leary the boot over LSD, and the promiscuous fictional character of Tom Jones was a smash on the silver screen. While Elvis was singing about Girls, Girls, Girls and young people took as their slogan "Make Love, Not War," the most surprising star burst onto the pop scene.

The Singing Nun, an unassuming member of a Belgian religious order who was also known as Soeur Sourire, hit the top of the music charts with a song about St. Dominic, who established the Dominicans. The Singing Nun, whose real name was Jeanine Deckers, sang "Dominique" in both English and French. The single relegated the Kingsmen and their "Louie Louie" to the number two spot.

"Dominique" is a French song about Saint Dominic, Spanish-born priest and founder of  the Dominican Order, of which the Singing Nun was a mmember."Dominique" reached the top ten in eleven countries in late 1963 and early 1964, topping the hit lists in the U.S., Canada and New Zealand. It outsold Elvis during its stay on the Billboard Pop Charts in 1963.

Sister Luc-Gabrielle, who entered the religious order in 1959, penned "Dominique" and recorded it and a few of her other compositions for personal release only, mainly to be used as gifts. When the Philips Record Company discovered her potential appeal, they offered the nun a contract and christened her Soeur Sourire. To American audiences she was the Singing Nun. She did not actively seek fame, although she sang for Ed Sullivan's television program in 1964 via tape. Live performances did not appeal to her, and in fact even the taped broadcast was almost blocked by her Mother Superior. She underscored her aversion for the limelight in 1967 by releasing the album I Am Not a Star.

Her successful single did not endear her to the Dominicans' Mother Superior, who viewed the popular song as "impertinent." It probably didn't help matters when MGM based a musical on her life in 1965 and cast "Debbie Reynolds" as a moped-riding nun who was romantically drawn to Chad Everett. That same year, the Singing Nun withdrew from the public eye and gave up her burgeoning musical career.

 By 1966, she had a complete change of heart, returned to music, and quit the convent. After the release of I Am Not a Star, her music tackled controversial subjects. "The Golden Pill" concerned the issue of birth control pills, of which she was in favor and the Pope condemned. Together with a woman named Annie Pescher in Belgium, she founded a school for children who suffered from the disability of autism.

Unfortunately, her previous success in music did not bring lasting happiness. In fact, it added to her troubles. The government ordered her to pay back taxes amounting to more than 60,000 dollars which accrued from her time as a singer and recording artist. The demand, which put their school in jeopardy, came despite the fact that the Singing Nun had given all profits to her order. In a state of severe depression, she and friend Annie Pecher downed a fatal dose alcohol and barbiturates on March 30, 1985, in Wavre, Belgium. (Info mainly All Music Guide)

Below is the last video clip of Belgian Jeannine Deckers, The Singing Nun or Soeur Sourire. It's a remake of her smash hit 1963, Dominique.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Bob Gibson born 16 November 1931

Samuel Robert ("Bob") Gibson (November 16, 1931 – September 28, 1996) was a folk singer who played an important role in popularizing folk music to American audiences in the 1950s at the very beginning of the folk boom. His 12-string guitar style influenced performers like Gordon Lightfoot and Harry Chapin; he was a mainstay at one of the first established folk clubs in the U.S., the Gate of Horn in Chicago; and he wrote songs with Shel Silverstein and Phil Ochs, as well as performing in a duo with Hamilton Camp. Most of all, he was one of the first folkies on the scene--when he began performing and recording in the mid-'50s, there was hardly anyone else playing guitar-based folk music for an educated, relatively affluent audience.

Bob Gibson was born on November 16, 1931 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in various communities outside New York City - Tuckahoe, Yorktown Heights, and Tompkins Corners, Putnam County, New York. He left high school in his senior year and hitchhiked around the country. Eventually returning to New York City, becoming a salesman for a developmental reading company before he was inspired by take up folk music in 1954, after hearing Pete Seeger perform. He learned Jamaican music while working cruise boats off Florida, and taught some to the Terriers, who recorded the "Banana Boat Song" (made famous by Harry Belafonte). On his first recordings for the Riverside label in the late '50s, he played banjo and 12-string guitar with light accompaniment, presenting a wide assortment of traditional folk tunes, as well as some originals.

Gibson helped Joan Baez and Phil Ochs in their early days, and was managed by Albert Grossman, who later handled the affairs of such giants as Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary. In fact, Gibson has said that Grossman wanted to team Bob and Hamilton Camp up with a female singer before hitting upon the same type of trio approach with Peter, Paul & Mary, although Gibson wasn't interested in the idea. But Gibson probably was a little too retro for bigtime folk success in the '60s anyway. He was older than most of the performers on the scene, and his approach too tame and clean-cut, even though he and similar performers had helped created the sparks of the folk boom just by playing such material to begin with.

                   Here's "Noah" from above 1956 album.

Bob was an abuser of alcohol even in his teens. He had also experimented with drugs. By the time of his rise to success in Chicago he was a heavy user of speed. Gibson was in and out of jails in Canada, Chicago, and Cleveland for various drug-related charges. In the mid-1960s, Gibson began a three-year period of complete isolation where drugs were his only priority. From 1969 to 1978, Gibson tried repeatedly to restart his career, but his addictions made it impossible. During this period he tried often, but unsuccessfully, to get sober. He knew that he needed structure, but, at first, disavowing God he rejected AA. In 1978 he attended an AA meeting in Cleveland and learned to live a life without alcohol and drugs. He regained his sobriety through AA and became both an advocate as well as a sponsor to much of the young, upcoming talent across America. One of his proudest moments was receiving his twenty year "chip" before he became too ill to comprehend the importance of that success. He had indeed become "A Living Legend".

In 1978 Gibson gave up drugs for good. A musical comeback, however, was not to be as the musical scene had changed and his traditional style of folk music was out of favor with young audiences. He did, however, continue his artistic career with albums, musicals, plays, and television performances. Starting about 1990, Gibson started to experience the symptoms of an illness that would not be diagnosed until four years later. Loss of balance and falling backwards were among Gibson's first symptoms. Later, his vision and then his voice were affected. In 1993 he was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).

He finally returned to a major label in 1995 to record one last CD. Fittingly, his "Makin' a Mess" album was a showcase of songs written by Shel Silverstein, many together with Bob. Some were funny, some were poignant. And Bob showed he still hadn't lost his ability to bring either kind of song to life.

He died from PSP on September 28, 1996 in Portland, Oregon at the age of 64.
(Info edited from Wikipedia & All Music)

Friday, 15 November 2013

Mantovani born 15 November 1905

Annunzio Paolo Mantovani (November 15, 1905 – March 29, 1980), known by the mononym Mantovani, was a popular conductor and entertainer in the "light orchestra" style. Mantovani is probably more associated with the light orchestra genre than any other person, and is well known for his signature "cascading strings".

Mantovani was born in Venice, Italy and his father was the concertmaster of the La Scala orchestra under Arturo Toscanini. His family moved to England in 1912, where he studied at Trinity College of Music in London. After graduation, he formed his own orchestra, which played in and around Birmingham. By the time World War II broke out, his orchestra was one of the most popular in England, both on the BBC and in live performances.

He was also musical director for a large number of musicals and other plays, including ones by Noel Coward. After the war, he concentrated on recording, and eventually gave up live performance altogether. He worked with arranger and composer Ronnie Binge, who developed the "cascading strings" sound (also known as the "Mantovani sound"). His records were regulars in stores selling hi-fi stereo equipment, as they were produced and arranged for stereo reproduction. In 1952 Binge ceased to arrange for Mantovani, but his distinctive sound remained.

He recorded for Decca until the mid-1950s, and then London Records. He recorded over 50 albums on that label, many of which were top-40 hits. These included Song from Moulin Rouge and Cara Mia, which reached No. 1 in Britain in 1953 and 1954, respectively. The latter was also Mantovani's first U.S. Top Ten hit.


In the United States, between 1955 and 1972, he released over 40 albums with 27 reaching the Top 40 and 11 the Top Ten. His biggest success was with the album Film Encores, which made it to No. 1 in 1957. Similarly, Mantovani Plays Music From 'Exodus' and Other Great Themes made it to No. 2 in 1961 and sold over one million albums. Mantovani made his last recordings in 1975.

The cascading strings technique developed by Binge became Mantovani's hallmark in such hits arranged by Binge as "Charmaine". Binge developed this technique to replicate, by arrangement alone, the echo, experienced in venues such as cathedrals, in an echo-free surrounding.

Author Joesph Lanza describes Mantovani's string arrangements as the most "rich and mellifluous" of the emerging light music style during the early 1950s. He stated that Mantovani was a leader in the use of new studio technologies to "create sound tapestries with innumerable strings", and that "the sustained hum of Mantovani's reverberated violins produced a sonic vaporizer foreshadowing the synthesizer harmonics of space music."

In 1958 Mantovani and his family bought a holiday home in Bournemouth in Durley Chine Road, then in 1961 acquired a new property in Burton Road (now part of Poole). He moved, finally, to a new home in Martello Road in Poole.

Since his death at a care home in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in 1980, his music has enjoyed a minor revival,with much of his catalogue reappearing on CD and an orchestra bearing his name performing concert tours. The saleability of the Mantovani name is underscored by new recordings being made as the Mantovani Orchestra. Unfortunately, a large number of CDs are also available of unauthorized recordings, billed as Mantovani or Mantovani Orchestra. There have also been CDs released under the Mantovani name of recordings made by others while Mantovani was still alive. Thus, consumers of this music are advised to familiarize themselves with the conductor's discography. Material with the London Records logo on it is apt to be genuine Mantovani, while other recordings are less likely to be actual Mantovani recordings.

The continued popularity of Mantovani's music is evident by the number of original albums which are being released, on labels such as Dutton-Vocalion, and by the many compilations available throughout the world. In 2008, as a result of successful, ongoing CD sales, amongst other contributing factors, the Mantovani Orchestra (performing from the original scores) was recreated for a tremendously successful historical tribute concert, held at the Lighthouse, in Poole, England, on 27th January, conducted by Sam Newgarth, MBE. Much critical acclaim has led to the planning of a second concert, to take place in January 2009, at the same venue. There are two Mantovani websites in honour of the maestro, a written biography by Colin MacKenzie entitled Mantovani - A Lifetime In Music (ISBN 1-905226-19-5), and the International Mantovani Association. (info Wikipedia)

Monday, 11 November 2013

LaVern Baker born 11 November 1929

LaVern Baker (November 11, 1929 – March 10, 1997) was an American rhythm and blues singer.

She was born Delores LaVern Baker in Chicago, Illinois. She is occasionally referred to as Delores Williams because of an early marriage to Eugene Williams; in the late 1940s he was identified in RCA Victor record company files as "D. L. McMurley." She was the niece of blues singer Merline Johnson and was also related to Memphis Minnie. 

She began singing in Chicago clubs such as the Club DeLisa around 1946, often billed as Little Miss Sharecropper, and first recorded under that name in 1949. She changed her name briefly to Bea Baker when recording for Okeh Records in 1951, and then became LaVern Baker when singing with Todd Rhodes and his band in 1952.

In 1953 she signed for Atlantic Records as a solo artist, her first release being "Soul on Fire". Her first hit came in early 1955, with the Latin-tempo "Tweedlee Dee" reaching #4 on the R&B chart and #14 on the national US pop charts. Georgia Gibbs scored the bigger hit with her version of "Tweedle Dee", for which Baker unsuccessfully attempted to sue her. LaVern did manage to get in a jab, however. When LaVern was flying to Australia, she took out flight insurance at the airport and sent it to Gibbs with a note: "You need this more than I do because if anything happens to me, you're out of business."

Baker had a succession of hits on the R&B charts over the next couple of years with her backing group The Gliders, including "Bop-Ting-A-Ling" (#3 R&B), "Play It Fair" (#2 R&B), and "Still" (#4 R&B). At the end of 1956 she had another smash hit with "Jim Dandy" (#1 R&B, #17 pop). It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Further hits followed for Atlantic, including the follow-up "Jim Dandy Got Married" (#7 R&B), "I Cried a Tear" (#2 R&B, #6 pop in 1959), "I Waited Too Long" (#5 R&B, #3 pop, written by Neil Sedaka), "Saved" (#17 R&B, written by Leiber and Stoller), and "See See Rider" (#9 R&B in 1963).

In addition to singing, Baker also did some work with Ed Sullivan and Alan Freed on TV and in films, including Rock, Rock, Rock and Mr. Rock & Roll. In 1964, she recorded a Bessie Smith tribute album, before leaving Atlantic and joining Brunswick Records, where she recorded the album "Let Me Belong to You," as well as a hit duet single, "Think Twice," with Jackie Wilson.
In the late 1960s, she became seriously ill after a trip to Vietnam to entertain American soldiers. About that same time, a friend recommended that she stay on as the entertainment director at a Marine Corps night club at the Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines, and she remained there for 22 years.

In 1988 she returned to perform at Madison Square Garden for Atlantic Records' 40th anniversary. She then worked on the soundtracks to films such as Shag, (1989), Dick Tracy, (1990) and A Rage in Harlem (1991), which were all issued on CD.

In 1990, she made her Broadway debut replacing Ruth Brown as star of the hit musical Black and Blue. In 1991, Rhino Records released a new album Live in Hollywood recorded at the Hollywood Roosevelt Cinegrill, as well as a compilation of her greatest Atlantic hits entitled Soul on Fire. In 1992 she recorded a well-received studio album, Woke Up This Morning, for DRG Records.

She received the 1990 Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and in 1991, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her song "Jim Dandy" was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and was ranked #343 on the Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Towards the end of her life, she suffered from diabetes and a series of strokes. The diabetes ended up claiming both her legs in 1994. But Lavern performed to the end, impressing crowds of fans with her exuberance, even when singing from a wheelchair.    

 She made her last recording, "Jump Into the Fire," for the 1995 Harry Nilsson tribute CD, For the Love of Harry on the Music Masters label. The wonderful, booming, gospel-tinged voice of Lavern Baker was silenced on March 10, 1997 due to cardiovascular disease; a tragic loss to the world of music. She was interred in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, New York and was originally laid in an unmarked grave, but a fundraiser was scheduled by local historians to give LaVern a headstone, and this was accomplished on May 4, 2008. (Info mainly Wikipedia)

Go here for "I Cried A Tear"