Gisele MacKenzie Biography

Gisele Marie Louise Marguerite La Fleche, 10 January 1927, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, d. 5 September 2003, Burbank, Los Angeles, California, USA. Encouraged into music by her father, a doctor who played violin, and her mother, a singer and organist, MacKenzie attended the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto as a teenager, where she studied classical violin. Informally, she also sang and played piano, adopting a popular repertoire. During World War II, she was heard singing at a party for servicemen by military band leader Robert Shuttleworth. Later, he hired her to sing with his hotel orchestra, subsequently becoming her business manager. In 1958, they were married. Fate, in the form of a thief, decided her choice of career. Her plans to be a concert violinist ended when her valuable violin was stolen. Turning to singing, she became popular on Canadian radio and in 1946 had her own show, Meet Gisele. Very soon, she became known as Canada’s First Lady of Song.

At the start of the 50s, the singer adopted her father’s middle name as her surname and became just as well known on radio in the USA. For two years she was a regular on Club 15, Bob Crosby’s radio show, and then went on tour with Jack Benny. This, and Benny’s networked shows gave her a very high profile. As a result she was offered her own radio show, Your Hit Parade, which ran from 1953-57. On this show, she played piano and sang the most popular songs of the week, along with other cast members who included Russell Arms, Dorothy Collins and Snooky Lanson. After the show ended, she starred in the short-lived variety series, The Gisele MacKenzie Show. In the early 60s, MacKenzie became a regular on television’s The Sid Caesar Show. During the 70s and on through until shortly before her death, she played starring roles in regional theatre in the USA, made occasional appearances on television game shows, and played roles in a number of television drama series, including MacGyver and Murder, She Wrote. MacKenzie’s sense of humour was evident on some of her recordings, with the cod-hillbilly duets she sang with Helen O’Connell being a notable example. MacKenzie had a rich contralto voice, was an able pianist, and a very good violinist. In all that she did, she showed her inherent musicality and mature professionalism.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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