Jo Stafford Biography

12 November 1920, Coalinga, near Fresno, California, USA. Although the birth date above is the one that has been accepted for some time, the alternative year of 1917 is given in the booklet accompanying the 1991 CD in the Capitol Records Collectors Series.

One of the most popular female singers of the 40s and 50s, while still at high school Stafford studied serious music with the intention of pursuing a career as a classical soprano. After five years of intensive work, she abandoned the idea and joined her two older sisters in their country music act, but later left to freelance on radio with the seven-man vocal group the Pied Pipers. In 1939, after appearing on radio with Tommy Dorsey, they reduced the group to a quartet and joined Dorsey permanently. A large part of their appeal was Stafford’s pure, almost academic tone, her distinctive vocal timbre and the complete lack of vibrato, which provided a rock-steady lead. While with Dorsey she had solo success with ‘Little Man With A Candy Cigar’, ‘Manhattan Serenade’ and a 12-inch disc of ‘For You’. She also duetted with Dorsey arranger Sy Oliver on his own composition, ‘Yes Indeed’.

When the Pipers left Dorsey in 1942 and started recording for Capitol Records, Stafford was soon out on her own as one of the top stars of the 40s. She stayed with the label until 1950, having hits such as ‘Candy’ (with Johnny Mercer), ‘That’s For Me’, ‘Serenade Of The Bells’, ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and ‘Tennessee Waltz’. There were also several duets with Gordon MacRae, including ‘My Darling, My Darling’ from the Broadway musical Where’s Charley?, and ‘Whispering Hope’, an old religious song also recorded by Pat Boone. In 1950 she switched to Columbia Records, immediately having further success with ‘Make Love To Me’, ‘Shrimp Boats’, ‘Keep It A Secret’, ‘Jambalaya’ and her biggest seller, ‘You Belong To Me’. Just as important as the singles were a series of high-class albums of standards scored by her husband, ex-Dorsey arranger Paul Weston, who had become her musical alter ego. Her reputation in some quarters as being a purely academic singer was given the lie on two notable occasions. The first was when she recorded pseudonymously as the lunatic Cinderella G. Stump on Red Ingle and the Natural Seven’s 1947 comedy hit ‘Temptation’; and the second was a decade later when, with her husband, she made a series of albums as ‘Jonathan And Darlene Edwards’, in which they wickedly sent up amateur pianists and singers. In 1959 Stafford retired from public performing, but recorded until the mid-60s, sometimes for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records. Dissatisfied with their former recording companies’ neglect of their output, Stafford and Weston acquired the rights themselves and released them on their own Corinthian label.

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

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