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Sunday, 1 July 2018

Ruth Olay born 1 July 1924


Ruth Olay (born Ruth Lissauer, San Francisco 1924-) is a jazz singer with Hungarian ancestry who was born in San Francisco, the daughter of a Rabbi and a professional chorister mother. She moved to Los Angeles while still an infant and became a fixture in Hollywood's nightclub scene from the late 40's to the early 60's.

Ruth was the daughter of Herman Lissauer and Nina (Weiss) Rudolf. who divorced when she was six, her father going on to become the Head of Research at Warner Bros. Initially a piano prodigy, Ruth’s interest in music developed from exposure to her mother's professional chorus singing work

At age 16 or 17, working as secretary at Twentieth Century Fox, Olay undertook singing lessons with vocal coach Florence Russell (Dorothy Dandridge). While at work, she met one of Duke Ellington's vocalists, Ivie Anderson. Together they attended the venue where Ellington was playing and Olay was persuaded to sing. In 1942, at her mother's re-marriage party she sang and impressed a guest, the wife of songwriter Irving Gordon (Throw Mama From the Train, Unforgettable). Gordon in turn introduced Olay to jazz musician Benny Carter who became her musical mentor. 

In the summer of 1951, Benny Carter's band from Los Angeles with Gerald Wiggins, Bill Douglas and Ulysses Livingston was booked into Club Royal in San Diego. People knew that Benny had a white girl singer named Sue Lowrey (Ruth Olay), who would be unwelcome. She and Benny decided to beat the system. Sue/Ruth acquired a fast sun-tan and became "Singer Rachel Davis" for four weeks. To help keep her secret—and her gig—the band joined her on the beach for two hours of sunshine and volleyball every day in July so she wouldn't lose her identity. 

She later performed with Jerry Fielding in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills clubs, all the while holding down a secretarial day job at Twentieth Century Limited, including work for celebrated screenwriter Preston Sturges. At the Cabaret Concert Theatre where she both waitressed and sang, she came to the attention of Bill Hitchcock of Zephyr Records. Olay's first LP on Zephyr in 1956 was promoted as coming from "the blues shouting tradition", "pop style" and "swinging interpretation". 

While gigging at the Little Club, Olay was approached by Bill Burton, who managed, among others, Jimmy Dorsey and Dick Haymes, and soon got her big break when Burton booked her an emergency gig at the Avant Garde Club in replacement of Billie Holiday, who had fallen ill. This developed into a headline run, along with Shelley Berman, Matt Dennis Trio and Lenny Bruce. A regular at the club was arranger Peter Ruggolo, who A&R'ed for Mercury Records. 

Her first LP on Mercury OLAY! in 1958 was followed by a guest vocalist spot on Jack Paar's Tonight Show. She became the "Singing Sensation of the Jack Paar Show" during Paar's stint, and also appeared later on Johnny Carson's watch, the latter time backed by Duke Ellington. Subsequent appearances included Jerry Fielding's TV show, and with Merv Griffin, Jackie Gleason and Steve Allen. In 1961, Olay found time to play the role of Julie in Lewis & Youngs' production of Showboat. 
 
 
                                

For the second LP Easy Living on Mercury in 1959, Olay was set up with Jerry Fielding whose credits included arranging with big bands such as those of Kay Kyser, Claude Thornhill, Jimmie Lunceford, Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet, and Les Brown. LP's followed on diverse labels after Olay's departure from Mercury and she continued nightclub appearances and TV shows well into the 1960s (e.g.: Sue Rainey on KTLA June 11, 1965).  

From 1972 to 1976 she spent some time performing in Europe where the popularity of American jazz persisted , but whist in Copenhagen she had to press jeans in a laundry to pay the rent between gigs. After returning to  the USA, she joined up with the Red Mitchell Trio in 1982 for the album "Ruth Olay Sings Jazz Today." In 1985 she released “Watch What Happens” on Laurel Records. She was still performing in 1987 with a venue at the the Vine St. Bar & Grill in Hollywood then gradually phased into retirement and withdrew from singing altogether.

In an interview with Bill Reed in 2000 she said “The voice gave out because I didn't use it.   And it's very true that if you don't use it you lose it.   I didn't vocalize and I just got very lazy and was not motivated to continue with the anxiety of working.   I just didn't want to go through that anymore. I just quit singing. Beautifully so, thank God.” 

In her later years she turned her attention more in the direction of social activism on various commissions for aging, the homeless, etc..   Also if you looked closely you could have spotted her in the crowd outside of Los Angeles' Dorothy Chandler, in 1999, protesting Elia Kazan's Lifetime Achievement Oscar.  

Ruth was married three times, firstly to Lionel Olay from 1947–1949, and whose name she adopted as her stage name. They had a daughter, Amy, born in 1949, and there is a son from a subsequent marriage. Her second divorce was in 1961. In 1963 she married her manager Lee Magid (Earl Grant, Lou Rawls, Della Reese), and together they had a son, Adam.  (Info mainly edited from Wikipedia)


1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For “Ruth Olay - The Easy Living Sounds of Ruth Olay” (2 Original LPs) go here:

https://www46.zippyshare.com/v/paxFdvel/file.html

EASY LIVING
1. JUST A-SITTIN' AND A-ROCKIN'
2. HURRY-HURRY
3. TESS'S TORCH SONG (I Had A Man)
4. NOCTURNE FOR THE BLUES
5. UNDECIDED
6. EASY LIVING
7. DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS
8. NEVER DO
9. NOW YOU KNOW
10. BLUE PRELUDE
11. SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A MOTHERLESS CHILD
12. I WANNA BE A FRIEND OF YOURS
OLAY! THE NEW SOUND OF RUTH OLAY
13. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN
14. SLOW BUT SURE
15. LOVER MAN (Oh Where Can You Be)
16. WHEN THE SUN COMES OUT
17. LUCKY DAY
18. IT NEVER ENTERED MY MIND
19. YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG
20. I LET A SONG GO OUT OF MY HEART
21. LOVE FOR SALE
22. I'M GLAD THERE IS YOU (In This World Of Ordinary People)
23. AFTER YOU'VE GONE
24. I WANNA BE LOVED

Ruth Olay is one of the many talented jazz vocalists who enjoyed a long and varied career on America's cabaret and night club scene during the 40s, 50s and 60s and she made a handful of great recordings during the LP era. Presented here for your listening pleasure are the LPs 'Easy Living' which features the arrangements of the renowned Jerry Fielding and his orchestra and her debut solo release, 'Olay!'

This great CD set from Jasmine is an interesting release and contains several lush versions of earlier R&B hits like Benny Carter's 'Hurry-Hurry', which has featured vocals by Savanah Churchill; Ruth also performs another of Churchill's songs, a version of 'I Wanna Be Loved'. This is a must have for fans of the jazz vocalists. (Jasmine web notes)

For “Ruth Olay – Soul In The Night (1966)” go here:

https://www29.zippyshare.com/v/qLyFX1YD/file.html

1. Street Of Dreams
2. I Ain't Got Nothing But The Blues
3. I Loves You Porgy
4. When A Woman Loves A Man
5. Senza Fine
6. Then You'll Know
7. Rockin' Chair
8. God Bless The Child
9. All Yours
10. Willow, Weep For Me
11. Blues For The Weepers
12. I'm Getting Sentimental Over You

Ruth Olay was one of the best song stylists in the fifties, sixties and on into the seventies. She recorded quite a few albums and luckily some of them have been put on CD. She was a phenomenal club performer. And she also made some appearances on TV (with Jack Paar, Jackie Gleason, Johnny Carson, etc). She should have been a major name because she had a major talent. But at least now some of her recordings are preserved forever. (Amazon comment)

A very big thank you to Xena Dress @ ACM2 blog AND The Cheerful Earful Blog for original posts.