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.