Savannah Churchill Biography

Savannah Valentine, 21 August 1920, Colfax, Louisiana, USA, d. 20 April 1974, New York City, New York, USA. Raised in Brooklyn, New York City, as a child Churchill played violin and sang with the choir at St. Peter Claver Catholic School in Brooklyn. Soon after graduating from Brooklyn’s Girls’ High School, she married David Churchill and they had two children. To help support the family, she took a course in dress design at New York University but when her husband was killed in a car accident she needed to find work quickly.

She began her professional career in music in 1941, and a year later made her recording debut with Jimmy Lytell And His All Star Seven, producing the notable jump hits ‘Fat Meat Is Good Meat’ and ‘Two-Faced Man’ for Beacon Records. In 1943, she recorded with Benny Carter and remained with him for two years, recording ‘Hurry Hurry!’ and ‘Just A Baby’s Prayer At Twilight’ for Capitol Records. By 1944 Churchill’s stature was sufficient to allow her to risk a solo career. A year later she was signed to Manor Records and her recordings for the label brought her national renown, notably ‘Daddy Daddy’ (number 3 R&B, 1945), ‘I Want To Be Loved (But Only By You)’ (number 1 R&B, 1947), and ‘Time Out For Tears’ (number 10 R&B, 1948). Later in the decade she made brief appearances in films including Miracle In Harlem (1948) and Souls Of Sin (1949). Churchill typified the urbane R&B style of the 40s that could be characterized as jazz, blues, or pop depending on the song and the arrangement. However, during 1951/2 she made some of the finest recordings of her career, largely sad and mellow ballads, for RCA Victor Records. On both Manor and RCA she generally recorded with a vocal harmony group, at first the Sentimentalists (later changing their name to the Four Tunes) and also with her own touring group, the Striders. In 1953 she joined Decca Records, and recorded more in a R&B vein, covering Faye Adams’ ‘Shake A Hand’ and the Harptones’ ‘Life Is But A Dream’, but the company could not return her to the charts.

In 1956, her career nearly came to an end when a drunk fell on top of her from a balcony while she was appearing at the Midwood Club in Brooklyn. After years of treatment and recuperation for the injuries she received in the accident Churchill was able to record again. In 1961, she released her debut, Time Out For Tears, which featured remakes of her 40s hits. However, by this time Churchill’s sophisticated mellow style was out of vogue with musical trends and she did not record again. She died in 1974 from pneumonia.

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

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