Boswell in 1941.
|Birth name||Constance Foore Boswell|
December 3, 1907|
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||October 11, 1976
Manhattan, New York City, U.S,
Constance Foore "Connee" Boswell (December 3, 1907 in Kansas City, Missouri – October 11, 1976 in New York City, 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." In 1936, Connee's sisters retired and Connee continued on as a solo artist (having also recorded solos during her years with the group).
She was born on December 3, 1907 in Kansas City, Missouri. 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, African-American singer Mamie Smith. 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, part owner of Decca Records, would become the sisters' manager on a handshake and Connee's husband.
The 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 Radio's Kraft Music Hall in 1940-41, she subsequently had radio series for CBS Radio Tonight On Broadway (1946) and NBC Blue Network (later ABC Radio) 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 sang from a wheelchair - or seated position - during her 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.
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. (Crosby and The Boswell Sisters first sang together in 1931 on a 12" medley of songs from the current George White's Scandals Broadway revue, issued on Brunswick 20102.) She 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 had several dozen solo hits, including "Moonlight Mood" (1942). Her last charted hit was "If I Give My Heart to You" (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 as "Savannah Brown".
Death and legacy
She was married only once (to Harry Leedy) and had no children. Her 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 the centenary of Connee's birthday in 2007. The documentary was also screened as "La Vida es un Cancion" in Spain at the Swing Sevilla Festival on April 2, 2016, with Spanish subtitles.
A number of her recordings are now available on CD, both as a soloist and part of the Boswell Sisters.
Hit singles (solo)
|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 the 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|
|"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|
- "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
- "Sand In My Shoes- Connie Boswell 20 Classic Tracks" MCA Records, 1975
- 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)
- Werner Bamberger (October 12, 1976). "Connee Boswell Is Dead at 68. Long a Popular Singer and Actress". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-12-09.
Connee Boswell, one of the brightest stars in popular American music, died yesterday of cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital. She was 68 years old and lived at 101 Central Park West
- Stephen Holden (1996-06-16). "Ella Fitzgerald, the Voice of Jazz, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-06.
- Connee Boswell at the Internet Movie Database
- Laffler, William D. (July 17, 1957). "Record Review". California, Redlands. Redlands Daily Facts. p. 2. Retrieved November 29, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- SDKP 101 Copyright by Pickwick International, Inc. Long Island City 1, N.Y.