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Connor in 1957.
|Birth name||Mary Loutsenhizer|
|Born||November 8, 1927
Kansas City, Missouri, United States
|Died||August 29, 2009
Toms River, New Jersey, United States
She was born as Mary Loutsenhizer in Kansas City, Missouri to Clyde and Mabel E. Loutsenhizer. She studied and became proficient on the clarinet, having studied for 8 years throughout junior high and high school. Mabel Loutsenhizer died on October 13, 1940, at the age of 45. Young Mary moved in with her older sister, who took over the responsibility of raising her. She first sang publicly in 1945, at the Jefferson City Junior College's graduation.
She performed the song "Amor" and it was well received. After the positive response she received from the audience, she decided to pursue a singing career full-time. Initially, she stayed within the parameters of the Kansas City area, working during the day as a stenographer and singing on weekends. Her first professional job was with the University of Missouri college band playing various functions in the Columbia area. She moved between local bands from 1946–47; and, in 1948, she moved to New York City with the intention of having a glamorous career. Unable to find a singing job, she became an office stenographer. She spent the next seven weeks trying to secure any kind of singing job. She met a man acquainted with orchestra leader Claude Thornhill's road manager, Joe Green. Thornhill was seeking a new singer to round out his vocal group, the Snowflakes. She successfully auditioned and joined Thornhill's group, touring around the United States and recording harmonies in the studio. Of her time spent with the Snowflakes, there is only evidence of her vocal contribution on two recorded songs: "There's a Small Hotel" and "I Don't Know Why", both performed in 1949. She continued to tour with the Thornhill band sporadically until March 1952, when she joined Jerry Wald's big band and recorded five songs: "You're the Cream in My Coffee", "Cherokee", "Pennies from Heaven", "Raisins and Almonds", and "Terremoto". She also reunited with Claude Thornhill in October 1952 for a radio broadcast from the Statler Hotel in New York City. She sang four songs: "Wish You Were Here", Come Rain or Come Shine", "Sorta Kinda", and "Who Are We to Say".
In February 1953, when Connor was singing on a live radio broadcast from the Roosevelt Hotel, June Christy (then vocalist for Stan Kenton's band), was listening and heard her. By 1952, Kenton had rotated several female singers as replacements. In late 1952, Christy returned to the Kenton band for some sporadic engagements. When she informed Kenton again of her impending departure to pursue a solo career, she remembered Chris Connor and recommended her to Kenton. Connor auditioned and began touring and recording for the Stan Kenton band in February 1953. On February 11, 1953, Connor recorded her first sides with the Stan Kenton band. Her first song, "And The Bull Walked Around, Ole", peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard music charts. Other songs recorded with the band were "Baia", "Jeepers Creepers", "If I Should Lose You", "I Get A Kick Out Of You", "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" and the song that would forever be associated with the vocalist, "All About Ronnie". Additional songs Connor sang on the road (but never recorded with the band in studio) were "Taking A Chance On Love", "Don't Worry About Me", "I'll Remember April" and "There Will Never Be Another You".
By June 1953, Connor was finding the constant traveling and vocal demands of nightly performances with a big band exhausting. She abruptly left the Kenton band; and, by fall of 1953, she was back in New York. She soon hired Monte Kay to manage her impending solo career, and he found work for her at Birdland. One night after a show, the owner of Bethlehem Records, Gus Wildi, offered her a recording contract on the spot. She signed with the label in 1953 and, in 1954, released dual LPs, Chris Connor Sings Lullabys Of Birdland and Chris Connor Sings Lullabys For Lovers. At age 26, she became a best-selling solo artist for Bethlehem Records; and the label rushed her into the studios to record additional songs. Bethlehem Records released the successful follow-up albums Chris and This Is Chris in 1955. When time came for Connor's contract to expire, she signed for an album deal with Atlantic Records. Connor was the first white female jazz singer to be signed by the label. Ahmet Ertegun and his brother Nesuhi Ertegun's Atlantic label was, at the time, primarily a rhythm and blues label, with artists such as Ruth Brown and Ray Charles.
Her Atlantic albums were always polished productions; and she was given free rein to choose her own songs, as well as the opportunity to work with any musicians she wished. During her Atlantic period (1956–62), Connor worked with some of the best producers, arrangers, and musicians in the jazz field. Well-known producers and musicians such as Maynard Ferguson, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Kenny Burrell, Barry Galbraith, Peanuts Hucko, Herbie Mann, Lucky Thompson, Hank Jones, Oscar Pettiford, Zoot Sims, Ray Ellis, Al Cohn, Ralph Sharon, Jerry Wexler, and Doc Severinsen were all involved in her successful series of albums for the label. She recorded the songs of George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Margo Guryan, Cole Porter, Bart Howard, and Peggy Lee, as well as Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II compositions.
When her last Atlantic album No Strings - An After Theatre Version was released in 1962, Connor decided not to renew her contract. Monte Kay had started his own record label and persuaded Connor to be the first artist signed. Her first album for FM, Chris Connor at the Village Gate (1963), although critically acclaimed, did not sell as well as her previous Bethlehem and Atlantic albums. Her second LP for FM, A Weekend in Paris (1964), was sent to radio stations but never commercially released because FM Records declared bankruptcy.
Connor spent the remainder of the 1960s and 1970s recording for various labels: ABC/Paramount Records, Sings Gentle Bossa Nova was released in 1965 and Now! was released in 1966); an album for JVC, a Japanese label; Chris Connor Softly And Swinging was released in 1969. Further recordings were issued by Stanyan Records in 1971, Sony Japan in 1977, Progressive Records in 1978, and the Japanese Lobster Records in 1979.
Connor made her final recordings in the early 2000s, with two albums for HighNote Records. A session in April, 2002 was released as Everything I Love in 2003 as her final album. However, her last session a month later, May 17 and 19, 2002, came out first, as I Walk with Music in 2002. The voice is at its darkest. The cover shows a distant, desolate silhouette at night walking on train tracks toward a tunnel.
Connor most recently lived in Toms River, New Jersey. She occasionally performed in New York and surrounding areas. She owned the rights to both of the ABC/Paramount Records albums and hoped to release both on CD in the future.
Connor placed three songs into the popular music charts (All About Ronnie, while a radio hit in 1953, did not chart on Billboard, which did not publish charts until 1955).
- And The Bull Walked Around, Ole, recorded on Capitol Records with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, peaked at No. 30 in 1953.
- I Miss You So, Atlantic single 1105, peaked at No. 34 in 1957.
- Trust In Me, Atlantic single 1138, peaked at No. 95 in 1957.
Original album discography
- Chris Connor Sings Lullabys For Lovers (1954, Bethlehem) (10" LP)
- Chris Connor Sings Lullabys Of Birdland (1954, Bethlehem) (10" LP)
- Chris Connor Sings Lullabys of Birdland (1954, Bethlehem) (12" LP)
- Chris (1954, Bethlehem)
- This is Chris (1955, Bethlehem)
- Bethlehem's Girlfriends (a compilation with Julie London and Carmen McRae; 1956, Bethlehem)
- Chris Connor (1956, Atlantic)
- I Miss You So (1956, Atlantic)
- He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (1956, Atlantic)
- A Jazz Date with Chris Connor (1956, Atlantic)
- Chris Connor Sings The George Gershwin Almanac Of Song (1957, Atlantic)
- Chris Craft (1958, Atlantic)
- Chris Connor Sings Ballads Of The Sad Cafe (1959, Atlantic)
- Chris in Person (1959, Atlantic) (live)
- Witchcraft (1959, Atlantic)
- Sound Flights Into Jazz, Vol. 10 (US Air Force recruiting LP, with Mundell Lowe, 1959; this is a series of 5 minute performances - Chris Connor sings one full song and an intro to another; also chats about women joining the armed forces.)
- A Portrait Of Chris (1960, Atlantic)
- Double Exposure (1961, Atlantic; with Maynard Ferguson)
- Two's Company (1961, Roulette Records; with Maynard Ferguson)
- Free Spirits (1961, Atlantic)
- No Strings (1962, Atlantic)
- The Best Of Chris Connor (1963, Atlantic)
- Chris Connor at the Village Gate (1963, FM Records) (live)
- A Weekend In Paris (1964, FM Records)
- Sings Gentle Bossa Nova (1965, ABC Records)
- Now! (1966, ABC/Paramount Records)
- Treasury Dept: Radio Show For US Savings Bonds (with Jerry Vale; 1966, Treasury Dept.)
- Softly And Swingin' (1969, JVC Records)
- Sketches (1971, Stanyan Records)
- Misty (1975, Atlantic Records Japan, P-6135A)
- Chris Moves (1977, Sony Records)
- Sweet And Swinging (1978, Progressive Records)
- Alone Together (1979, Lobster Records Japan)
- Love Being Here With You (1983, Stash Records)
- Three Pearls (with Ernestine Anderson and Carol Sloane; 1984, Capitol/EMI Japan)
- Classic (1987, Contemporary Records)
- New Again (1987, Contemporary Records)
- As Time Goes By (1991, Alfa Jazz)
- Angel Eyes (1991, Alfa Jazz)
- My Funny Valentine (1993, Alfa Jazz)
- Lover Come Back To Me (Live At Sweet Basil) (recorded 1981; released 1995 Evidence Records)
- Blue Moon (1995, Alfa Jazz)
- The London Connection (recorded 1990 - released 1995 Audiophile Records)
- Haunted Heart (2001, Highnote Records)
- I Walk With Music (2002, Highnote Records)
- Everything I Love (2003, Highnote Records)
Rarities and non-released songs
Chris Connor also recorded a number of non-album sides for Atlantic Records that failed to see release. These songs were housed in a warehouse in Long Branch, New Jersey. In February 1978, a warehouse fire destroyed many of Connor's Atlantic master tapes and alternate recordings as well as those from Atlantic's "golden age" and it is believed that all of these recordings are now lost.
Unreleased songs from Atlantic Records
- Our Love Is Here To Stay, recorded in 1957
- An Open Fire, recorded in 1958
- I'm A Fool To Want You, recorded in 1959
- Fine And Dandy, recorded in 1959
- Sidney's Soliloquy, recorded in 1960
- You Go To My Head, recorded in 1960
- Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do, recorded in 1961
Rare songs from Atlantic Records
These songs were previously only available on single releases; however, some of these tracks can be found on the Japanese cd releases of the Chris Connor Atlantic catalogue (these songs were first released on cd in 1991). Other songs can only be found on the rare Japanese LP release Misty which was only sold in 1975.
- Under Paris Skies, recorded in 1958 and released as Atlantic 45 No. 1188 (available on the album Misty and the Japanese cd release I Miss You So) (AMCY-1059)
- Moon Ride, recorded in 1958 and released on Atlantic 45 No. 1188 (available on the album Misty and the Japanese cd release I Miss You So)(AMCY-1059)
- The Long Hot Summer, recorded in 1958 and available only on the album Misty
- Circus, recorded in 1958 and released on Atlantic 45 No. 2017 (available on the album Misty and the Japanese cd release Chris Connor) (AMCY-1050)
- Flying Home, recorded in 1958 and released on Atlantic 45 No. 2017 (available on the album Misty and the Japanese cd release Chris Connor (AMCY-1050)
- I Won't Cry Anymore, recorded in 1958 and released on Atlantic 45 No. 1198 (available on the album Misty and the Japanese cd release The Best Of Chris Connor) (AMCY-1078)
- Hallelujah I Love Him So recorded in 1958 and released on Atlantic 45 No. 1198 (only available on the Japanese cd release The Best Of Chris Connor)(AMCY-1078)
- I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over, recorded in 1959 and available only on the album Misty
- Senor Blues, recorded in 1959 and released on Atlantic 45 No. 2037 (available on the album Misty and the Japanese cd release A Jazz Date With Chris Connor (AMCY-1072)
- Misty, recorded in 1959 and released on Atlantic 45 No. 2037 (available on the album Misty and the Japanese cd release A Jazz Date With Chris Connor (AMCY-1072)
- All About Ronnie, recorded in 1959 (only available on the Japanese cd release The Best Of Chris Connor)(AMCY-1078)
- Invitation, recorded in 1959 and released on Atlantic 45 No. 2073 (available on the album Misty and the Japanese cd release I Miss You So) (AMCY-1059)
- To Each His Own, recorded in 1959 and available only on the album Misty
- I Sold My Heart To The Junkman, recorded in 1959 and released on Atlantic 45 No. 2073 and available only on the album Misty
- I Heard A Bluebird, recorded in 1960 and available only on the album Misty
- Fortune Cookies, recorded in 1960 and available only on the album Misty
- That's My Desire, recorded in 1960 and released on Atlantic 45 No. 2053
- I Only Want Some, recorded in 1960 and released on Atlantic 45 No. 2053 (available on the Japanese cd release I Miss You So) (AMCY-1059)
- The Best Of Chris Connor (1991, Atlantic Records Japan)
- Warm Cool: The Atlantic Years (2000, 32 Jazz)
- Chris Connor: Collectibles Classics (box) (2006, Collectibles Records)
- Complete Bethlehem Years (box) (2007, Fresh Sounds Spain)
- All About Ronnie: Bethlehem Recordings (2008, Acrobat Records)
- Introducing Chris Connor (2008, Phantom Records)
- "Jazz singer Chris Connor dead". CBC News. Associated Press. September 5, 2009. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- Musician Guide bio
- Concord Music Group bio
- Jazz Discography website
- "Chris Connor Bio-Discography - The Post-Atlantic Period". Jazzdiscography.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
- Notice of Connor's death in Theatermania