Lee Morse Biography

Lena Corinne Taylor, 30 November 1897, Portland, Oregon, USA, d. 16 December 1954, New York, USA. A popular singer of the 20s and 30s, Morse sang a wide range of music in a pleasingly jazzy manner. Raised in rural Idaho, she married Elmer Morse in 1915 and after the birth of a son, began singing at local venues. In 1920 she sang on a show at the Democratic Convention in San Francisco where she was spotted by a producer of musical comedies. She left her husband and followed a career as a singer, mainly in vaudeville, first appearing on Broadway in 1923. A year later she began recording for Pathé Perfect Records including sides with her Blue Grass Boys, on which she also played kazoo. Her popularity at this time was such that four 1926 sides, on which Red Nichols and, probably, Miff Mole appear, were released under her name even though she neither sings nor plays on them. These tracks were reissued by Broadway International Records on Real Rare Red, Vol. 2. A 1929 recording, ‘Sweetness’, found her accompanied by Phil Napoleon, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Frank Signorelli and Stan King.

The Dorseys and Signorelli were also present on a 1930 recording session that produced ‘Tain’t No Sin’, while another session that same year, from which came ‘Wasting My Love On You’ and ‘Loving You The Way I Do’, had Jimmy Dorsey, Signorelli and Eddie Lang. Among her best known recording was 1931’s ‘I’ve Got Five Dollars’. Morse continued recording from the 30s onwards, but hereafter her star gradually waned. After health problems that affected her singing, Morse and her second husband, pianist Bob Downey, opened a nightclub in Texas in 1935. In 1939 she was living in New York state and singing there in clubs. Her career dipped still further but in 1946, now married to Ray Farese, she enjoyed a brief return to the spotlight.

An effective singer in the manner of the day, Morse’s voice was clear and true. When heard today her performance style sometimes sounds a trifle dated although this is often a matter of setting and presentation rather than any deficiency of this very good and always interesting singer.

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

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