Thursday, July 17, 2008

G.I. Jo (1917-2008)

I have just learned from Terry Teachout at About Last Night that popular 1940s/1950s female vocalist Jo Stafford has passed on at the age of 91. I haven’t been able to track down an online obituary yet, but Terry’s post will more than suffice. (Update: As astute TDOY reader Julia notes, The Washington Post now has one up.)

Terry points out that Stafford isn’t remembered by anyone save those who were young a half-century ago…which is really a shame, since the lady was truly one of the most popular singers in America at the time. She was a former member of the Pied Pipers, a successful vocal group known for their multiple appearances with Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The group later had a disagreement with Dorsey and left his musical aggregation, but they were fortunate to be signed by the legendary Johnny Mercer (Savannah: genuflect!) for his burgeoning Capitol Records music label in 1943. (Stafford also started appearing on the radio show Johnny Mercer’s Music Shop at this time; previously she had been the female vocalist for Al Jolson’s Colgate Program during its single 1942-43 season.)

Stafford left the Pipers in 1944 to concentrate on her own career, and for a while gave countless performances for the troops overseas as part of her stint with the USO (her nickname, incidentally, is the title of this post). She also made more inroads into radio, becoming the Tuesday-Thursday night host of NBC’s The Chesterfield Supper Club and also finding time for popular AFRS broadcasts like Mail Call, G.I. Journal and Command Performance. Once returning stateside, she continued her radio appearances—most notably on The Carnation Contented Hour (alongside Tony Martin from 1948-51) and Club Fifteen. She also continued to dominate the pop music charts (after switching to Columbia Records in 1950) both as a soloist and singing alongside the likes of Gordon MacRae and Frankie Laine. Among Stafford’s successful solo hits: Long Ago and Far Away (1944), Shrimp Boats (1950), You Belong to Me and Jambalaya (both in 1952) and Make Love to Me! (1954).

R.I.P., Ms. Stafford…you will be missed.


John said...

Jo Stafford was always one of my favorites as well.

Have you heard any of the Joanthan and Darlene Edwards comedy recordings she and husband Paul Weston recorded? They never fail to crack me up. See the link for more info.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...


I'm familiar with the work she did with Red Ingle, but not the Jonathan & Darlene Edwards material--so thanks for the link. I'll be sure to check it out.

Glad to see you around by the way--I thought about you the other day when I saw that TCM was running The Good Humor Man (1950) this month.

Pam said...

Jonathan and Darlene Edwards! My musician boyfriend (now husband) first played that album for me when I was in college (a music major). I truly don't remembering laughing so hard. Tears streaming. Sides aching. Jonathan and Darlene have become a staple reference in my house.

Of course, he didn't tell me who Jonathan and Darlene were at first. I thought it is one of the many "vanity" recordings out there. I was shocked...mouth hanging freely open.

That album was sheer brilliance. From the album cover, to the liner notes (Darlene is a "prominent club woman") to the unspeakable difficulty for those two putting in those performances.

The only link I have found to actually hear some tid-bits is at Barnes and Noble.
Not a lot, but enough to get the feel.

John said...

I am ready for "The Good Humor Man" on Monday and TCM is showing "The Fuller Brush Man" on Friday afternoon as well. Life CAN'T get any better!

By the way, I picked up the "Jonathan & Darlene Edwards in Paris" album for $1 at a yard sale. It's on my stack of albums to convert to CD...Hopefully, it's not too scratched up.

Julia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julia said...

Washington Post has an obit up now.