Ann Richards (singer)

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Ann Richards
Ann Richards (singer).jpeg
Ann Richards, 1955
Background information
Birth nameMargaret Ann Borden
Born(1935-10-01)October 1, 1935
San Diego, California, U.S.
OriginDanville, California, U.S.
DiedApril 1, 1982(1982-04-01) (aged 46)
Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.
Genresjazz, Pop
Occupation(s)Singer
Years active1954–1982
LabelsCapitol, Atco, Vee-Jay
Associated acts

Ann Richards (Née Margaret Ann Borden, October 1, 1935 – April 1, 1982) was an American jazz singer and the second wife of popular music and jazz artist Stan Kenton.

Early life, musical education and influences[edit]

Ann Richards was born Margaret Ann Borden on October 1, 1935 in San Diego, California but raised to the north in Danville, California. Her father deserted the family early and the mothers maiden name of Richards was adopted.[1] Her mother taught school and also wanted her daughter to become a teacher. Richards' mother gave her daughter piano lessons and the age of 15 also discovered she could sing. In nearby Oakland, Richards babysat for Judy Davis who was the later vocal coach of Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra. She tended after Davis's children in exchange for vocal lessons. Unbeknownst to her mother, late at night Richards would go out to sing in clubs getting experience in the bay area as a jazz and pop singer.[1]

Tour with Charlie Barnet and Hollywood[edit]

Early in 1954 Richards moved into a young women’s residence in San Francisco. That same year band leader Charlie Barnet heard Richards at the El Patio Ballroom in San Francisco and hired her for a five-month tour as his band's primary female singer.[2] Shortly after the tour with Barnett she moved to Hollywood.[1]

On Thanksgiving of 1954, Richards sang at the La Madelon restaurant on the Sunset Strip. Notable songwriters Joe Greene and Eddie Beal were in attendance that evening.[1] The two were very impressed with her performance and booked her to do a record demo. Shortly after, Greene and Beal played the finished demo for Stan Kenton who they had numerous successful collaborations with (Pete Rugolo heard here also). Kenton immediately got a hold of Richards and hired her as his new singer the day they met in his office on Robertson Blvd.[1] Much like when June Christy had started with Kenton 10 years early at 19 years of age, Richards was starting at this age with the Kenton organization in 1955 while coming in after singer Chris Connor (Connor left the band in 1953).

Stan Kenton and Capitol Records[edit]

Very shortly after joining the Kenton organization, Richards would record her first tracks with the orchestra on January 25, March 30 and May 15 (1955) at Capitol Studios in Hollywood.[3] The sessions were scheduled to highlight her as several pop style singles are produced from those dates to include An-Ting-A-Ling, Freddy/Winter In Madrid and The Handwriting's On The Wall. Her initial recordings never produced the hoped for hits Kenton was looking for at the time. The most notable and mature of these initial 1955 singles she records with Kenton come from a July 22, 1955 session. Richards sings two Bill Holman arrangements of the standards Black Coffee and The Thrill is Gone which are recorded at Universal Studios in Chicago.[3]

Burt Korall of Metronome magazine heard the Stan Kenton Orchestra at Birdland in New York City and praised Richards as the band’s new “big commercial asset,” noting her jazz feeling, intonation and star quality. By October 1955, DownBeat magazine named her the "best female band singer of the year." Richards was married to Kenton shortly after on October 18, 1955 in Detroit.[4] Her appearance on any of Kenton's LP production releases for Capitol Records started with Kenton with Voices (1957) where she is a featured soloist on three tracks to include vocalese scatting on Gene Roland's Opus in Chartreuse.

Shortly after the birth of the couples two children, Richards was again regularly touring with the Kenton orchestra in the late 1950s (she had flown back early to the U.S. from U.K. tour due to stress during pregnancy). From February 7 - April 19, 1958 she performed on weekends with the Kenton at Balboa. During that time Kenton helped her secure a recording contract with Capitol Records. The record label supported her exclusively, featuring Richards on two high exposure releases backed by full studio orchestra. She was paired with conductor Brian Farnon and arranger Warren Barker for her debut album, I'm Shooting High (1958). The Many Moods of Ann Richards was then recorded with Capitol and released in 1960 with music arranged by Bill Holman, Ralph Carmichael and Tak Shindo. Shindo's Japanese folk style arrangement of Jerome Moross's Lazy Afternoon is especially notable as a feature for Richards for the second Capitol LP with her "vocal beauty and dramatic flair." In 1960 Richards was featured at Carnegie Hall with the Kenton orchestra and also appeared on Steve Allen’s NBC-TV show.[1]

Recorded at Capitol in July 1960, Two Much! was released in 1961 featuring Ann Richards with the Stan Kenton orchestra. Noted as the highlight of her recording career, she is backed by arrangements of Bill Holman, Johnny Richards and Gene Roland. In a glowing review of Two Much!, Billboard magazine predicted that Richards would take her place among past Kenton singing stars such as Anita O’Day, June Christy and Chris Connor.[5]

By August 1961 Richards personal and professional relationship with Kenton came to a quick end due to posing for Playboy magazine and concurrently signing a contract with Atco Records without Kenton's knowledge. The cover of her 1961 Atco release Ann, Man! was taken from the June 1961 Playboy photo shoot.[1]

1962 - 1982[edit]

By 1962 Richards was in demand at jazz clubs all over the country, including Playboy Clubs due to her pictorial in the magazine. Her Atco release (Ann Man!) was an album of bluesy, sex-kitten songs backed by trumpeter Jack Sheldon and guitarist Barney Kessel.[1]

In 1963 Richards opened for George Shearing on a tour of Japan. That same year she obtained a regular singing engagement into The Losers jazz club in Hollywood. Her next release with Vee-Jay Records was a live album there, Live at the Losers, but sold disappointingly for Vee-Jay. As rock & roll got bigger, singers like Richards were becoming passé. In 1965 she got a short cameo as a bar patron in Angel’s Flight, a lesser known B film.[1] Her singing career never regained the traction she enjoyed in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

By the mid-’70s Richards became the resident singer in the lounge of the upscale Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles backed by pianist Bud Herrmann. Film critic Rex Reed, “She performed half a set seated at my table, with a mic in one hand and a scotch in the other,” he recalls. “She sang like a dream.” Her last major singing tour was in December 1981 (in Japan). She had lost her regular singing engagement at the Hotel Bel-Air when coming home from Japan and was in serious money problems due to her second husband's financial dealings.[1]

Personal life and death[edit]

Marriages and family[edit]

On October 18, 1955 Richards married Stan Kenton and soon after had two children: Dana Lynn and Lance. Richards was only 20 years of age at the time and 23 years Kenton's junior. After 6 years of marriage they separated in 1961 and eventually divorced.[6]

In 1961, Richards posed for a nude layout for Playboy magazine's June 1961 issue.[7] She signed a contract to record with Atco, a company other than Capitol Records that her husband was unaware of.[8] The Playboy shoot was also done without Kenton's knowledge, and he only found out about it while playing at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago when handed the magazine by Charles Suter, who was the editor of Down Beat magazine at the time.[9] Kenton then filed for divorce from Richards in August 1961.[1] Stan Kenton won custody of their two children and Ann Richards agreed to a settlement of $50,000 and declined alimony. Her divorce money bought her a small house in the Hollywood Hills.[1] Eventually she took a secretarial job to augment her singing income in the mid-1960's. According to Kenton's third wife, Jo Ann Hill, he was secretly sending Richards checks in order to help with her living expenses.[1]

Late in 1978 she married her second husband Bill Botts (Frederick William Botts Jr.). She had been introduced to him through her pianist Bill Marx. By 1980 the two were separated. Richards struggled with drug and alcohol problems until her death in April 1982.

Her son, Lance Kenton, in 1980 was sentenced to a year in jail and three years' probation in a high profile case in Los Angeles for helping to put a rattlesnake in the mailbox of lawyer Paul Morantz. Morantz had handled a successful civil suit against the controversial drug rehabilitation organization Synanon. Kenton was a member of the Imperial Marines, Synanon's internal security force.[10]

Death and controversy[edit]

Richards was found dead on April 1, 1982 at her home in the Hollywood Hills and was ruled a suicide by the Los Angeles Police Department.[1] Her estranged husband during that time (Bill Botts) found the body.

To this day Richards death is surrounded by controversy according to her daughter Dana Lynn Kenton. There was a bullet wound in Richards' right temple with a rifle lying close by in the room. A letter was also there seemingly written by Richards which discussed certain aspects of the singer's depression. The police read it as a suicide note, although according to Dana Kenton it voiced no clear motive for the death.[1]

Richards' daughter (Dana) went to the house after her mother's body had been removed; she witnessed signs of normal activity that had been "interrupted." Dana Kenton found cocaine and marijuana that had been planted in the house; later discovered to be fake substances. Both Dana and Lance Kenton pushed for a further investigation with Los Angeles Police Department but it got nowhere. Due to connections with insurance policies on Richards' life and other circumstances Bill Botts is suspected to be involved (though unsubstantiated).[1]

Later, Richards close friend Ted Sitterley requested the police report but was turned down. The Los Angeles Police Department currently reports Ann Richards police report as unavailable and perhaps destroyed. Botts later appeared to claim his share of Richards estate; Richards had left no will. “We argued all the way down to a vacuum cleaner,” Dana Kenton says. “He took my mom for every penny she had.”[1]

Memorial and legacy[edit]

Later in 1982, long time friend from Donna Shore organized an all-day memorial at Carmelo’s Jazz Club in Sherman Oaks, California for Richards. Albert Marx, Jack Sheldon, Lou Levy, Bill Henderson and other named jazz musicians favorites paid tribute.

Discography[edit]

  • I'm Shooting High (Capitol, 1958)
  • The Many Moods of Ann Richards (Capitol, 1960)
  • Ann, Man! (Atco, 1961)
  • Live...at the Losers (Vee-Jay, 1964)

With Stan Kenton

Film and Television[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Gavin, James (September 20, 2017). "Ann Richards: Dreams Have a Way of Fading". JazzTimes.
  2. ^ Harris, Steven D. "The Kenton Kronicles: A Biography of Modern America's Man of Music, Stan Kenton" Dynaflow, 2003. pp. 131
  3. ^ a b Sparke, Michael. Stan Kenton: The Studio Sessions Balboa Books. Lake Geneva. WI. 1998. pp. 111 and 113
  4. ^ Sparke, Michael. "Stan Kenton: This is an Orchestra!" University of North Texas Press. pp. 127
  5. ^ Review. Spotlight Winner of the Week. Two Much! Billboard. January 9, 1961. pp 20
  6. ^ Grudens, Richard. Jukebox Saturday Night: More Memories of the Big Band and Beyond. Page 58. Celebrity Profiles Publishing, 1999.
  7. ^ Playboy Magazine, June 1961, Ann Richards photo layout Archived November 6, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ The LP cover photo of Ann Richards for the Atco Records release was a picture taken from the Playboy photo shoot, but edited
  9. ^ Harris, Steven. The Kenton Kronicles. Dynaflow Publications. 2000. ISBN 0-9676273-0-3.
  10. ^ UPI Archives, Los Angeles, "Probation sentences in Synanon rattlesnake attack," November 21, 1980

External links[edit]