Helen Oakley Dance
Helen Margaret Oakley Dance, née Oakley (February 15, 1913 — May 27, 2001) was a jazz journalist, producer, historian, and musician. She is perhaps best known for production and for her biography of T-Bone Walker. She was married to critic Stanley Dance for over 50 years.
Born into a wealthy Canadian family in Toronto, Ontario, she capped-off her "coming out" as a debutante by attending a Duke Ellington concert . A jazz enthusiast from an early age, she made efforts to become a singer, however had more success as a journalist and producer. Her first act of note in jazz history was in introducing Teddy Wilson to the Benny Goodman Orchestra. She later made other efforts to help interracial music collaboration, and was the host of significant parties and concerts for the jazz world.
She also produced much of Duke Ellington's small band work in the late 1930s. When issued, these records were usually credited to Ellington's sidemen Cootie Williams, Barney Bigard, Rex Stewart or Johnny Hodges, in order to differentiate them from the big band sound associated with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Notable among these recordings are Bigard's original hit version of "Caravan", and jazz classics such as Hodges' "Jeep's Blues" and Williams' "Dooji Wooji" (all written or co-written by Ellington).
Following the death of her brother during the Second World War she joined the Women's Army Corps and later did secret operations with the Office of Strategic Services. These primarily involved the Mediterranean region, particularly North Africa and Italy. After the war she returned to the jazz world. She also relocated to England for a time on marrying Stanley Dance. In 1959, the couple moved to the United States.
In the 1960s, Dance became active in the Civil rights movement and was a founder of Catholic Interracial Council in Connecticut. She also wrote for a diocesan publication that concerned racial and social justice. Her civil rights work also involved human rights organizations unrelated to Catholicism.
In 1987, she wrote Stormy Monday: The T-Bone Walker Story, arguably among the best regarded biographies of a blues musician. The book was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001.
She was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 2004.
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