Hadda Brooks

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Hadda Brooks
In a Lonely Place - trailer - 04.png
Brooks as the singer of "I Hadn't Anyone Till You" in the film In a Lonely Place (1950)
Background information
Birth nameHattie L. Hapgood
Born(1916-10-29)October 29, 1916
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedNovember 21, 2002(2002-11-21) (aged 86)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresBlues, boogie woogie, jazz, R&B
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
InstrumentsPiano, vocals
Years active1940s–2000s
LabelsModern, Crown, Virgin, Point Blank, Oldie Blues

Hadda Brooks (October 29, 1916 – November 21, 2002) was an American pianist, vocalist and composer. Her first single, "Swingin' the Boogie", which she composed, was issued in 1945. She was billed as "Queen of the Boogie".[1] She sang at Hawaii's statehood ceremony in 1959 and was asked for a private audience by Pope Pius XII.[2]

Life and career[edit]

She was born Hattie L. Hapgood in Los Angeles in 1916 and was raised in Boyle Heights by parents who migrated to California from the South. Her mother, Goldie Wright, was a doctor and her father, John Hapgood, a deputy sheriff. Her grandfather, Samuel Alexander Hapgood (October 22, 1857 – November 30, 1944) moved to California from Atlanta, Georgia. He introduced her to theater and the operatic voices of Amelita Galli-Curci and Enrico Caruso. In her youth she studied classical music with an Italian piano instructor, Florence Bruni, with whom she trained for twenty years.[citation needed]

She attended the University of Chicago and later returned to Los Angeles. She came to love the subtle comedy of black theater and vaudeville entertainer and singer Bert Williams. Brooks began playing piano professionally in the early 1940s at a tap-dance studio owned by Hollywood choreographer and dancer Willie Covan. For ten dollars a week, she played the popular tunes of the day while Covan worked with such stars as Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Shirley Temple.[citation needed]

Brooks was married briefly during this period to a Harlem Globetrotter named Earl "Shug" Morrison in 1941. She toured with the team when they traveled. Morrison developed pulmonary pneumonia and died about a year after they were married.

Brooks preferred ballads to boogie-woogie,but worked on her style by listening to Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, and Meade Lux Lewis records. Her first recording, "Swingin' the Boogie", for Modern Records, was a regional hit in 1945. Another R&B Top Ten hit, "Out of the Blue," was her most famous song.[3] Jules Bihari gave her the recording name "Hadda Brooks".[4] Clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman recommended Brooks to a film director friend of his who placed her in Out of the Blue in 1947.

Encouraged by orchestra leader Charlie Barnet, Brooks practiced singing "You Won't Let Me Go", and the song became her first vocal recording in 1947. She usually played the small part of a lounge piano player in films and often sang the title song. "Out of the Blue" became a hit, followed by "Boogie Woogie Blues" in 1948. She appeared in In a Lonely Place (1950) starring Humphrey Bogart and in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) with Lana Turner and Kirk Douglas.

She was the second African-American woman to host her own television show—after Hazel Scott with The Hazel Scott Show on DuMont in 1950—with The Hadda Brooks Show (1957), a combination talk and musical entertainment show that was broadcast on KCOP-TV in Los Angeles. The show began with Brooks seated behind a grand piano, cigarette smoke curling about her, and featured "That's My Desire" as her theme song. She appeared in 26 half-hour episodes of the show which were broadcast live in Los Angeles and repeated on KGO-TV in San Francisco.

In the 1970s, she commuted to Europe for performances in nightclubs and festivals. She performed rarely in the United States, living for many years in Australia. Queen of the Boogie, a compilation of recordings from the 1940s, was released in 1984. Two years later manager Alan Eichler brought her out of a 16-year retirement to open a jazz room at Perino's in Los Angeles, after which she continued to perform in nightclubs in Hollywood, San Francisco, and New York City.[5]

In 1993, Brooks was presented with the Pioneer Award by Bonnie Raitt on behalf of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in a ceremony at the Hollywood Palace. She returned to movies with a cameo in the Jack Nicholson film The Crossing Guard (1995), directed by Sean Penn, in which she sang "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere." Three years later she made another singing appearance in The Thirteenth Floor (1999). Her last performance on screen was an acting role in John John in the Sky (2000).

She resumed her recording career with the 1994 album Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere for DRG. Virgin Records acquired the old Modern catalogue and, thanks to Brooks' new-found success, issued a compilation of her 1940s and 1950s recordings entitled That's My Desire. The label signed her to record three songs for the Christmas album Even Santa Gets the Blues, made more unusual by the fact she had releases on the same label 50 years apart. Time Was When (Virgin, 1996) included Al Viola (guitar), Eugene Wright (bass) and Richard Dodd (cello), and she wrote two of its songs: "You Go Your Way and I'll Go Crazy" and "Mama's Blues". She began playing at Johnny Depp's Viper Room, the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room, and Michael's Pub in New York City, and such Hollywood clubs as Goldfinger's, the Vine St. Bar and Grill, and the Hollywood Roosevelt Cinegrill. She celebrated her 80th birthday in 1996 by performing two full shows at Depp's Viper Room.[6]

In 2000, the Los Angeles Music Awards honored Hadda Brooks with the Lifetime Achievement Award.


Hadda Brooks died at the age of 86 at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles after open-heart surgery.[7]

In 2007, a 72-minute documentary, Queen of the Boogie, directed by Austin Young and Barry Pett, was presented at the Los Angeles Silver Lake Film Festival.[8]


Year Title Genre Label
1956 "Femme Fatale" Jazz, blues Modern
1958 Boogie Jazz, blues Crown
1963 Sings & Swings Jazz, blues Crown
1984 Queen of the Boogie Jazz, blues Oldie Blues
1994 Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere Jazz, blues DRG
1995 That's My Desire (released as Romance in the Dark in the UK) Jazz, blues Virgin (Ace-UK)
1995 Even Santa Gets the Blues Jazz, blues Virgin
1996 Time Was When Jazz, blues Virgin
1999 I've Got News for You Jazz, blues Virgin


Year Title Role Notes
1947 Out of the Blue Herself
1948 Boogie Woogie Blues Herself
1949 The Joint Is Jumpin' Herself
1950 In a Lonely Place Herself
1952 The Bad and the Beautiful Piano Player Uncredited
1995 The Crossing Guard Piano Player
1999 The Thirteenth Floor Lounge Piano Player
2000 John John in the Sky Mrs. Kendricks (final film role)


  1. ^ Larkin, Colin. The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Guinness Limited, page 563, (1995); ISBN 1-56159-176-9
  2. ^ Hadda Brooks, the 'Queen of Boogie' dies, sfgate.com; accessed November 9, 2014.
  3. ^ Vladimir, Bogdanov. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues, Backbeat Books, page 68 (2003); ISBN 0-87930-736-6
  4. ^ Cohassey, John F. Toast of the Town: The Life and Times of Sunnie Wilson, Wayne State University Press, page 156, (1998); ISBN 0-8143-2696-X
  5. ^ Watrous, Peter (July 26, 1989). "With Boogie-Woogie, Hadda Brooks Is Back". The New York Times.
  6. ^ E-notes: Hadda Brooks Biography; accessed November 9, 2014.
  7. ^ Morris, Chris (November 26, 2002). "Billboard Bits: Cher, El Mocambo, Hadda Brooks". Billboard. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  8. ^ "Queen of the Boogie", audience.silverlakefilmfestival.org; accessed November 9, 2014.

External links[edit]

  • Interview of Hadda Brooks Center for Oral History Research, UCLA Library Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles