1917 - 2008
One of my first cars was a 1975 Ford Fairlane station wagon. Top of the line with built-in 8-Track Player, which loved to eat tapes as quickly as I would put them in. By the end of the run of the car, before it was mysteriously stolen, I only had three tapes which worked. The Village People's Macho Man, The Soundtrack to A Star Is Born (Striesand) and The Greatest Hits of Jo Stafford. Of the three tapes Jo Stafford got the most continuous play. I drove people nuts with repeated playings of Shrimp Boats Are a Comin'.
Cars came and went along with audio formats, but I've still kept my deep love for the voice of Jo Stafford. If I had to choose my third favorite Female singer it would have to be Jo. I'm sad to say, last weekend, at the age of 91, she passed away. Now it seems only Margaret Whiting and Doris Day are all that is left of the big band singers. Jo, like Doris, stopped singing in the mid-70's. When asked why she stopped recording she said: " For the same reason that Lana Turner is not posing in a bathing suit anymore. People get old, and vocal cords get old... I don't mean I couldn't sing, but there's no way it could be as good." Being one of the most prolific singers of the 40's and 50's she left behind a huge library of music.
When I listen to Peggy Lee I feel the emotion of the song, Streisand, the force of nature, but Jo is vocal perfection.
I just read a story about her that said that her music could not be played in mental institutions because her lack of vibrato sent the patients into fits. I don't know the medical reason for that happening, but her lack of vibrato and low tone made my mother nuts. She'd call her the old fog horn. Jo started singing in high school as as one of the original Pied Pipers, who later toured with Tommy Dorsey. During the 40's she was best known for her romantic ballads that were tainted with a feeling of loneliness. She struck a cord with World War Two soldiers being consistently named the number one requested singer, touring with the USO for the duration of the war. Hence her nickname GI JO. It was during the Korean War that she had what would could be called her theme song, "You Belong To Me". Besides million selling singles she was, like Sinatra, the first to record albums that followed a consistent theme; They are some of the most enduring albums ever recorded. The groundbreaking and iconic American Folk Songs is breathtaking in it's beauty and ability to make simple melodies into grand emotional statements. Her Ballad of the Blues album is also a must have.
Jo Stafford always seemed to me just to be a down to earth, fun person. More than any other singer, I bet she would have been wonderful to spend an afternoon chatting with.
Her sense of humor about herself and her music is clearly seen in her Jonathan and Darlene Edwards albums. If you don't know about them, they are hilarious. It started as a joke on their friends.
During parties they were inevitably asked to perform. So Paul Weston would go to the piano and play but just slightly off pitch. Jo would join him for 'Stardust' singing off key. They did this at a record convention when one of the executives at Columbia said you've got to record this. They did four albums of songs as these characters, keeping their identifies secret for several years. One of these albums actually won a Grammy as best comedy album. They are brilliant, and as Jo said in an interview the hardest things she's ever sung.
I was sad when I heard she passed away last week, but at 91 she had lived a good long life. As she said in a recent interview: When I think of my life, I think I'm probably on of the luckiest people to come down the pike. To spend your life doing what you like, boy, it's a gift and I appreciate it to no end. I had a great life.
Thanks for the music.
To hear and download a mix of my favorite Jo Stafford songs click HERE or go to the player below.
Jo on What's My Line!