Elmer "Pha" Terrell (May 25, 1910 in Kansas City, Missouri - October 14, 1945 in Los Angeles) was an American jazz singer with a smooth, mellow baritone, but was also capable of singing in falsetto, a popular feature among the singers of the time.
Pha Terrell, (pronounced Fay) sometimes known to his friends as Elmer, was discovered by Kirk in the early '30s while toiling as a combination of dancer, singer, and semi-hustler at a Kansas City club. Terrell sang with the Kirk band between 1933 and 1941.
Available recordings by this singer can basically be evenly split between Kirk collections and various compilations based on themes such as early R&B and the Kansas City scene. His biggest hit with the Kirk outfit was the patient "Until the Real Thing Comes Along" in 1936. and 1938's "I Won't Tell a Soul (I Love You)".
In addition to his first number one hit in 1936, was the song "All the Jive Is Gone" from 1937, this was probably Terrell's best performance. Willfried Wald spoke critically about the high tenors of the Swingara, such as Dan Grissom and Pha Terrell, "who replaced the influences of blues and jazz with something that sounded like a hiss with an open mouth, and on the genuine, but not at all, unpleasant tradition of black falset singing ". A follower of Terrell's singing style was the young Earl Coleman.
The character of Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy would change in the 40’s when Mary Lou Williams left, followed by the departure of Pha Terrell. He headed for Indianapolis, at that time a thriving jazz centre. He worked there in Clarence Love's Orchestra, often tying knots in whatever strings of one-nighters were available to this type of territory band. Like just about any stand-up singer, Terrell eventually decided to go it alone, a career move that in his case he made out on the West Coast. A kidney ailment took him down when he was just getting started. And he died of kidney failure in Los Angeles,1945.
(There is very scant info on the web. This bio mainly edited from All Music & Wikipedia)