Constance Foore "Connee" Boswell (December 3, 1907 - October 11, 1976) was an American female vocalist born in Kansas City, Missouri but raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. With her sisters, Martha and Helvetia "Vet" Boswell, she performed in the 1930's as The Boswell Sisters and became a highly influential singing group during this period via recordings and radio.
The Boswells came to be well known locally while still in their early teens, making appearances in New Orleans theaters and radio. They made their first recordings for Victor Records in 1925, which included "Cryin' Blues" where Connee is featured singing in the style of her early influence, the African American singer Mamie Smith.
The Boswell Sisters travelled to Los Angeles where they performed on local radio and "side-miked" for the soundies, including the 1930 production "Under Montana Skies." did not attain national attention, however, until they moved to New York City in 1930 and started making national radio broadcasts. After a few recordings with Okeh Records, they made numerous recordings for Brunswick Records from 1931-1935. In 1935, the sisters had a #1 hit with "The Object of My Affection", the biggest of twenty top 20 records they would enjoy.
In 1936, the group signed to Decca Records and after just three releases called it quits (the last recording was February 12, 1936). Connee Boswell continued to have a successful solo career as a singer for Decca. She had changed the spelling of her name from Connie to Connee, reputedly because it made it easier to sign autographs.
Connee sang from a wheelchair - or seated position -
entire career, due to either a childhood bout with polio or a childhood accident (sources differ). The general public was not aware of her condition although Boswell herself did not keep this secret. During World War II, she tried to get involved with the U.S.O. but was not given permission to travel overseas, the "powers that be" apparently thought it might not be a morale-booster to have a "cripple" perform for the troops.
In 1954, Connee recorded her last charted hit, “If I Give My Heart to You.” The song was a smash hit for Kitty Kallen but Boswell’s version rose to the #10 spot in September, 1954, and spent 11 weeks on the charts. In April of 1956 Connee was back in Decca’s recording studios in NYC with Sy Oliver and His Orchestra. The subsequent recordings were issued as her second album, simply named “Connee.” This is her last recording session with Decca records, ending a twenty-five year collaboration that had yielded many hit recordings.
In 1958 Connee unfortunately made her last album "Connee Boswell Sings The Rodgers & Hart Songbook" on the Design Record label. It is unfortunate that Verve never signed Connee as they did Ella Fitzgerald. Connee still had an amazing voice in the 1950s.
Connee moved on to more causes that are dear to her heart by the 1960s. She was on the board of an organization called, “Comeback, Inc,” whose focus is rehabilitation of the chronically ill, aged and handicapped. By 1962 she decided to limit her performances to some occasional television work and club dates and stays much closer to home to care for her husband Harry. She continued in her humanitarian work and volunteer appearances at children’s hospitals, and in her hobby of training dogs.
On January 1, 1975 After nearly forty years of marriage, Harry Leedy died in New York City. Connee began to make more frequent appearances in clubs and even appears with Benny Goodman in an anniversary concert. However, before long, it is clear to all that Connee was also ill. She has always had a very healthy appetite, saying herself that she could “eat like a horse.” She experienced severe stomach pain so she sought medical attention. On February 11, 1976 Connee underwent surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC to remove a tumour from her stomach. Doctors were optimistic that they could remove the tumor successfully.
Sometime afterward though, they discovered that the cancer had returned and began chemotherapy. By the early fall, she was confined to her hospital room at Mt Sinai and finally asked doctors to stop all treatments. On October 12, 1976 Constance Foore Boswell Leedy died at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. She was 68 years old. She was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York, next to her husband Harry. (Info edited from Wikipedia & an article by David Lobosco)