Julie Wilson Biography

Julia May Wilson, 21 October 1924, Omaha, Nebraska, USA. An actress and singer, Wilson is acknowledged as one of the greatest interpreters of standard popular songs in the world of cabaret. Her sophisticated image, with a figure-hugging gown, and a gardenia tucked into her swept-back gleaming black hair, is a reminder of a bygone era. She started young, being voted ‘Miss Nebraska’ when she was only 17. A year later, she joined the chorus of a touring edition of the Earl Carroll Vanities which was passing through Omaha, and ended up in New York. From there, she moved to a Miami nightclub, doing a solo act five shows a night. It was in Miami that she believes she learnt how to control an audience with the occasional aggressive ‘drop-dead bitchy’ remark. Next stop was Los Angeles where she won a contest on Mickey Rooney’s radio show. The prize was a two-week engagement at Hollywood’s top nightclub, the Mocambo. Soon afterwards she was offered the part of Lois Lane in the touring version of the musical Kiss Me, Kate, and in 1951 recreated the role at the London Coliseum. She stayed in London for nearly four years, appearing in various shows, including Bet Your Life (1952), and undergoing voice training at RADA.

Back in the USA, during the remainder of the 50s and throughout most of the 60s, Wilson took over roles on Broadway in The Pajama Game and Kismet, played in various regional productions, returned to London for Bells Are Ringing, and did some television work, including the soap opera The Secret Storm. In the 1969/70 Broadway season she appeared in two flop musicals, and subsequently played several cabaret engagements at New York’s Brothers and Sisters club, as well as continuing to tour. In the mid-70s she went into semi-retirement in order to look after her ailing parents in Omaha. She returned to the New York cabaret scene with an evening of Cole Porter songs at Michael’s Pub in 1984. Since then, she has attracted excellent reviews in two otherwise unsuccessful New York musicals, Legs Diamond (1988) and Hannah... 1939 (1990), recorded several superb albums, as well as, in critic Clive Barnes’ words, ‘putting over a torch song with the sultry heat of a flame thrower’ in cabaret. There was great rejoicing at nightspots around the world, including London’s Pizza On The Park, when in 1993, along with her long-time accompanist William Roy, she celebrated her 50 years in showbusiness.

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

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