Saturday, November 21, 2009


Vocalist June Christy was born as Shirley Luster on November 20,1925 in Springfield,Illinois and was best known for her work in the cool jazz genre. Her success as a singer began with The Stan Kenton Orchestra. Upon her death, she was hailed as "one of the finest and most neglected singers of her time."

She moved with her family to Decatur,Illinois when she was three years old. She began to sing with the Decatur based Bill Oetzel Orchestra at the young age of 13. While attending Decatur High School she appeared with Oetzel and his society band, the Ben Bradley Band, and Bill Madden's Band. After high school she moved to Chicago, changed her name to Sharon Leslie, and sang with a group led by Boyd Raeburn. Later she joined Benny Strong's band. In 1944, Strong's band moved to New York, while at the same time Christy was quarantines in Chicago with scarlet fever.

In 1945, after hearing that Anita O'Day had left Stan Kenton's Orchestra, she auditioned and got the role as a vocalist. At first, she bore a heavy resemblance to Anita O'Day, both physically and vocally. During the time when she sang in the Orchestra, she changed her name once again, this time to June Christy.

Her unique voice produced successful hits such as "Shoo Fly Pie an Apple Pan Dowdy," the million-selling "Tampico" in 1945, and "How High the Moon". "Tampico" was Kenton's biggest-selling record. When the Kenton Band temporarily disbanded in 1948, she sang in nightclubs for a short time, and reunited with the band two years later in 1950.

From 1952, she started to work on her own records, primarily with the arranger and bandleader Pete Rugolo. In 1954, she released her own 10" LP "Something Cool", recorded with Rugolo and his orchestra, a gathering of notable Los Angeles jazz musicians that included her husband, multi-instrumentalist Bob Cooper and alto saxophonist Bud Shank. "Something Cool" was rereleased as a 12" LP in 1955 with additional selections, and then entirely rerecorded in stereo in 1960 with a somewhat different personnel. Christy would later say that the album was "the only thing I've recorded that I'm not unhappy with. "Something Cool" was also important in launching the vocal cool movement of the 1950s, and it hit the Top 20 Charts, as did her third album "The Misty Miss Christy". She continued to release more records, which influenced future jazz vocalists and set new standards for the music.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Christy appeared on a number of television programs, including The Nat King Cole Show,The Steve Allen Show, and the short-lived variety show The Lively Ones. Christy embarked on a number of concert tours, playing such far away locales as Europe,South Africa,Australia and Japan.

R.M. Cook and Brian Morton, writers of The Penguin Guide to Jazz recordings, appreciated the singer's body of work: "Christy's wholesome but particularly sensuous voice is less an improviser's vehicle than an instrument for long, controlled lines and the shading of a fine vibrato. Her greatest moments—the heartbreaking 'Something Cool' itself, 'Midnight Sun,' 'I Should Care'—are as close to creating definitive interpretations as any singer can come."

Christy was married to Bob Cooper. In 1954, she gave birth to a daughter, Shay Cooper. Christy's nephew claims that although she was agnostic, she was very well versed in religion and philosophy, identifying at least partially with Buddhism.

Christy retired from the music business in 1965, rarely taking the stage again after that point. In 1972, she sang at the Newport Jazz festival in New York City, where she was reunited with the Kenton Orchestra. She also performed at a handful of jazz festivals during the 1980s, playing with a band of all-star west coast jazz musicians led by Shorty Rivers. Christy returned to the recording studio in 1977 to record her final LP " Impromptu".

After struggling with illness for many years, she died at her home in Sherman Oaks,California of kidney failure on June 21,1990 at the age of 64. Her remains were cremated and scattered off the coast of Marina Del Rey.

June sings "Something Cool"

Reference - Wapedia

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