Savannah Churchill (August 21, 1919*, Colfax, Louisiana – April 19, 1974, Brooklyn, New York) was a successful American singer of pop, jazz, and blues music in the 1940s and 1950s. (*some sources state 1920).
Savannah Valentine was born in August of 1920 in southern Louisiana. At a young age her family moved to Brooklyn, New York. During her formative years she was a prized member of her church choir. While still a teenager she married David Churchill and soon had children, and did not harbor any desire to pursue a career in music. That soon changed because of a personal tragedy when her husband was killed in an automobile accident.
Now faced with raising two young children, music seemed to be her salvation. In the early nineteen forties she became the featured vocalist with the orchestra of Benny Carter with whom she made her first recordings on the Capitol label,including her first hit "Hurry, Hurry".
In 1945 she signed with Manor Records, and that year "Daddy Daddy" reached # 3 on the R&B chart. Two years later she had her only R&B # 1 with "I Want To Be Loved (But Only By You)", which topped the charts for eight weeks. The record was billed as being with vocal group The Sentimentalists, who soon renamed themselves The Four Tunes. Subsequent recordings with The Four Tunes, including "Time Out For Tears" (# 10 R&B, # 24 pop) and "I Want To Cry", both in 1948, were also successful.
Billed as "Sex-Sational", she performed to much acclaim, and appeared in the movies Miracle in Harlem (1948) and Souls of Sin (1949). She toured widely with backing vocal group The Striders, including a visit to the London Palladium in 1951 and Hawaii in 1954. From 1949 she recorded with Regal, RCA Victor and Decca Records. "Shake A Hand" was her last chart entry in the spring of 1953. In 1956 she was one of the first artists signed to the Argo label, set up as a subsidiary to Chess Records. Sadly her time in the limelight was coming to an end. The fickle market had moved on, sentimental ballads were going out of fashion and male vocal groups were busy establishing themselves as headline acts in their own right.
Tragedy struck later in 1956 when a drunk in the audience at the Midwood Club, Brooklyn fell out of a balcony directly on top of her, breaking her pelvis and causing long-term debilitating injuries from which she would never fully recover. She was still able to record, and in 1961 managed a session for Jamie Records, for which she recorded her debut album "Time Out For Tears" featuring remakes of her 1940's hits and covers of other r&b numbers, but, although the voice was still intact, the arrangements were uninspired and lacked the sensuous nature of her best work.
Savannah smoked cigarettes for many years as did most people during her heyday and later she developed cancer of her esophogus, which permanently ended any possibilities of singing. The operations for treating the cancer meant she was in and out of the hospital many times over the years. However, later she fell down the stairs and broke her hip, which landed her back into the hopital where she developed pneumonia and died in 1974, at the age of 53.(Info edited mainly from Wikipedia & Audrey Churchill)