Connee Boswell

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Connee Boswell
Connee Boswell 1941.JPG
Boswell in 1941.
Background information
Birth name Constance Foore Boswell
Born (1907-12-03)December 3, 1907
Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Died October 11, 1976(1976-10-11) (aged 68)
New York, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupations Vocalist
Instruments Vocal

Constance Foore "Connee" Boswell (December 3, 1907, Kansas City, Missouri – October 11, 1976, New York) was an American female vocalist born in Kansas City but raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. With her sisters, Martha and Helvetia "Vet" Boswell, she performed in the 1930s as The Boswell Sisters. They became a highly influential singing group during this period via recordings and radio. Connee herself is widely considered one of the greatest jazz female vocalists and was a major influence on Ella Fitzgerald who said, "My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it....I tried so hard to sound just like her."[1]

In 1936, Connee's sisters retired and Connee continued on as a solo artist (having also recorded solos during her years with the group).

Biography[edit]

The Boswells came to be well known locally while still in their early teens, making appearances in New Orleans theaters and radio. They made their first recordings for Victor Records in 1925, which included "Cryin' Blues" where Connee is featured singing in the style of her early influence, the African American singer Mamie Smith. (She also credited opera singer Enrico Caruso as one of her influences.) The Boswell Sisters became stage professionals that year when they were tapped to fill in for an act at New Orleans' Orpheum Theatre. They received an invitation to come to Chicago and perform in 1928 and honed their act on the Western Vaudeville Circuit. When their tour ended they traveled to San Francisco. The hotel that had been recommended had a less than savory reputation, and the man at the desk suggested that these three young ladies might be better off in another hotel. That man, Harry Leedy, would later become their manager on a handshake and become a permanent part of Connee's life as her husband. Harry was also part owner of Decca Records.

Connee was married only once and had no children.

The Boswell Sisters traveled to Los Angeles where they performed on local radio and "side-miked" for the soundies, including the 1930 production "Under Montana Skies." They did not attain national attention, however, until they moved to New York City in 1930 and started making national radio broadcasts. After a few recordings with Okeh Records, they made numerous recordings for Brunswick Records from 1931-1935. In 1935, the sisters had a #1 hit with "The Object of My Affection", the biggest of twenty top 20 records they would enjoy.

In 1936, the group signed to Decca Records and after just three releases called it quits (the last recording was February 12, 1936). Connee continued to have a successful solo career as a singer for Decca. In addition to being a co-star on NBC's "Kraft Music Hall in 1940 & 41, she subsequently had radio series for CBS (Tonight On Broadway, 1946) and Blue (later became ABC) (The Connee Boswell Show), 1944; Her radio guest appearances included 'The Salute To Irving Berlin / Alexander's Ragtime Band (the feature film), CBS, August 5, 1938; "America Calling" (appeal for Greek War Relief) February 8, 1941; March of Dimes Special January 11, 1940, CBC Fourth Annual Victory Loan May 21, 1943, and Philco Radio Time )ABC, June 4, 1947. She was interviewed via phone by Bill Fisher on WOWO (Fort Wayne, Indiana). The acetate disk's label contained no date. But since her then new Decca single of "Begin The Beguine" was promoted in it, the date should be presumed to be 1952.

All through her career with The Boswell Sisters, and into the early 1940s, her name was spelled "Connie". She later changed the spelling to Connee. Stories vary as to why she made the change (because it made it easier to sign autographs, or that she felt it was unique and would bring good luck).

Connee Boswell was also an arranger and a composer. While many of the Boswell Sisters recordings are the result of a collaborative effort of all three sisters, Connee is most often credited and indeed, during her solo career, she arranged large parts of her catalog. Some of her original compositions were published under the name Diane Foore.

Connee sang from a wheelchair - or seated position - during her entire career, due to either a childhood bout with polio or a fall from the back of a coaster wagon. The general public was not aware of her condition although Boswell herself did not keep this secret. During World War II, she tried to get involved with the USO tours but was not given permission to travel overseas. The Army thought it might not be a morale-booster to have a singer who used a wheelchair perform for the troops.

Connee Boswell was a favorite duet partner of Bing Crosby and they frequently sang together on radio as well as recording several hit records as a duo in the 1930s and 1940s. Boswell and Crosby recorded a version of Alexander's Ragtime Band which was introduced by Eddie Cantor that was a #1 hit in 1938. This recording benefited the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which would later become the March of Dimes. In 1939, Crosby and Boswell had three hit duet records that each climbed into the top 12 on Billboard; "An Apple For The Teacher" climbed all the way to #2.

Boswell also had several dozen solo hits, including "Moonlight Mood" in 1942. Her last charted hit was "If I Give My Heart To You," recorded in 1954. Boswell's career slackened in the 1950s but she still recorded occasionally and would be featured on a number of television broadcasts including a regular stint on the 1959 series "Pete Kelly's Blues", playing the character "Savannah Brown".

Boswell's life was chronicled in the 2006 documentary short subject, "Connee Boswell- Life is a Song," produced by director Randall Riley. Although currently unavailable, the film premiered during the Boswell Sisters Centennial, held in New Orleans to commemorate the influence of the Boswell Sisters and Connee's 100th birthday in 2007. A new documentary, "Close Harmony," produced by Joshua Tree's Dan Garrison, is set to premiere on PBS stations in December, 2014. That film will cover the Boswell Sisters' story.

Connee Boswell died from stomach cancer at age 68 in 1976, in New York. A number of her recordings are now available on CD, both as a soloist and part of the Boswell Sisters.

Hit singles (solo)[edit]

Year Single Chart positions
US
1932 "Say It Isn't So" 10
1934 "Isn't It a Shame" 19
1935 "Moon Over Miami" 19
1936 "On the Beach At Bali Bali" 3
1937 "Whispers In the Dark" 9
"Bob White (Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight?)"(with Bing Crosby) 1
"Basin Street Blues"(with Bing Crosby) 12
1938 "Fare Thee, Honey, Fare Thee Well" 11
"I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" 5
"Alexander's Ragtime Band"(with Bing Crosby) 1
"Simple and Sweet" 12
1939 "An Apple For Teacher"(with Bing Crosby) 2
"Start the Day Right"(with Bing Crosby) 12
"At Least You Could Say Hello" 14
1940 "Between 18th & 19th On Chestnut Street"(with Bing Crosby) 12
"On the Isle of May" 3
"Let's Be Buddies" 25
1941 "Sand In My Shoes" 24
"I'll Keep On Loving You" 22
1942 "South Wind" 21
"Moonlight Mood" 22
"Why Don't You Fall In Love With Me" 21
1946 "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" 9
"Who Told You That Lie?" 22
"Ole Buttermilk Sky" 14
1948 "You Were Meant For Me" 19
1952 "My Little Nest of Heavenly Blue" 25
1953 "Singin' the Blues" 27
"Main Street On Saturday Night" 29
"I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" 29
1954 "The Philadelphia Waltz" 30
"If I Give My Heart To You" 10

LPs[edit]

  • "Singin' The Blues," issued as 10" EP (extended play) in 1953, Decca Records
  • "Bing & Connee," issued as 10" EP by Decca Records (reissue of their 30's and 40's hit duets)
  • "Connee" with Sy Oliver & His Orchestra, 1956, Decca Records
  • "Connee Boswell and the Original Memphis Five in Hi-Fi" 1956 RCA/Victor
  • "Connee Boswell Sings The Irving Berlin Songbook," 1958 Design Records
  • Connee Boswell Sings The Rodgers & Hart Song Folio[2]
  • "Sand In My Shoes- Connie Boswell 20 Classic Tracks" MCA Records, 1975

Compact discs[edit]

  • Connee Boswell (1995, out of print)
  • Deep in a Dream (1996)
  • Connee Boswell Sings Irving Berlin (1997, out of print)
  • Heart and Soul (1997)
  • Connee Boswell and the Original Memphis Five in Hi-Fi (1998, out of print)
  • They Can't Take These Songs (2004)
  • Moonlight and Roses (2004)
  • With All My Heart (2005)
  • Singing the Blues (2006)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stephen Holden (1996-06-16). "Ella Fitzgerald, the Voice of Jazz, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-06. 
  2. ^ SDKP 101 Copyright by Pickwick International, Inc. Long Island City 1, N.Y.

External links[edit]