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June Christy

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June Christy
Christy at the Club Troubador, New York, c. 1947
Christy at the Club Troubador, New York, c. 1947
Background information
Birth nameShirley Luster
Also known asSharon Leslie
Born(1925-11-20)November 20, 1925
Springfield, Illinois, U.S.
DiedJune 21, 1990(1990-06-21) (aged 64)
Sherman Oaks, California, U.S.
GenresPop, jazz, cool jazz
Years active1938–1988

June Christy (born Shirley Luster; November 20, 1925 – June 21, 1990)[1] was an American singer, known for her work in the cool jazz genre and for her silky smooth vocals. Her success as a singer began with The Stan Kenton Orchestra. She pursued a solo career from 1954 and is best known for her debut album Something Cool. After her death, she was hailed as "one of the finest and most neglected singers of her time."[2]



Early life


Shirley Luster was born in Springfield, Illinois, United States.[1] She moved with her parents Steve and Marie (née Crain) Luster to Decatur, Illinois, when she was three years old. She began to sing with the Decatur-based Bill Oetzel Orchestra at thirteen. While attending Decatur High School she appeared with Oetzel and his society band, the Ben Bradley Band, and Bill Madden's Band. Her first work outside of Decatur was with the Dick Cisne Orchestra of nearby Champaign, IL, performing as far away as Texas and Louisiana. After high school she moved to Chicago, changed her name to Sharon Leslie, and sang with a group led by Boyd Raeburn. Later she joined Benny Strong's band. In 1944, Strong's band moved to New York City at the same time Christy was quarantined in Chicago with scarlet fever.[3]

Work with Stan Kenton's Orchestra


In 1945, after hearing that Anita O'Day had left Stan Kenton's Orchestra, she auditioned and was chosen for the role as a vocalist. During this time, she changed her name once again, becoming June Christy.

Her voice produced hits such as "Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy", the million-selling "Tampico" in 1945, and "How High the Moon".[1] "Tampico" was Kenton's biggest-selling record. When the Kenton orchestra temporarily disbanded in 1948, she sang in nightclubs for a short time, and reunited with the band two years later.[4][5] Christy appeared as guest vocalist on the Kenton albums: Artistry in Rhythm (Capitol BD-39, 1946 [1947]), A Presentation of Progressive Jazz (Capitol CD-79, 1947 [1948]), Encores (Capitol CC-113, 1945–47 [1949]), Innovations in Modern Music (Capitol P-189, 1950), Stan Kenton Presents (Capitol L/P-248, 1950), Stan Kenton Classics (Capitol H/T-358, 1944–47 [1952]), and The Kenton Era (Capitol WDX-569, 1940–54, [1955]).

Beginning on September 28, 1959, Christy began a five-week road tour of 38 performances called Road Show. The all-star billing: Stan Kenton and his Orchestra, June Christy, and The Four Freshmen. Capitol recorded highlights on October 10 at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, for a two-disc LP, reissued on CD in 1988.

Solo career


From 1947, she started to work on her own records, primarily with arranger and bandleader Pete Rugolo. In 1954, she released a 10" LP entitled Something Cool, recorded with Rugolo and his orchestra,[1] a gathering of notable Los Angeles jazz musicians that included her husband, multi-instrumentalist Bob Cooper and alto saxophonist Bud Shank. Something Cool was re-released as a 12" LP in 1955 with additional selections, and then entirely rerecorded in stereo in 1960 with somewhat different personnel. Christy would later say the album was "the only thing I've recorded that I'm not unhappy with".[6] Something Cool was also important in launching the vocal cool movement of the 1950s, and it hit the Top 20 Charts, as did her third album, The Misty Miss Christy.

Bob Cooper and June Christy c. 1947

In the 1950s and 1960s, Christy appeared on a number of television programs, including the short-lived CBS show Adventures in Jazz (1949), Eddie Condon's Floor Show (1949), The Jackie Gleason Show (1953), The Tonight Show (1955), The Nat King Cole Show (1957), Stars of Jazz (1958), The Steve Allen Show (1959), The Lively Ones (1963), and The Joey Bishop Show (1967). She also appeared on the first sponsored jazz concert on television, The Timex All-Star Jazz Show I (December 30, 1957),[7] which also featured Louis Armstrong, Carmen McRae, Duke Ellington, and Gene Krupa.

Christy played in Europe, South Africa, Australia, and Japan, but the extensive touring eventually began taking a toll on her marriage, and she pulled back from touring by the 1960s.[8]

R.M. Cook and Brian Morton, writers of The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, appreciated the singer's body of work: "Christy's wholesome but particularly sensuous voice is less an improviser's vehicle than an instrument for long, controlled lines and the shading of a fine vibrato. Her greatest moments – the heartbreaking 'Something Cool' itself, 'Midnight Sun', 'I Should Care' – are as close to creating definitive interpretations as any singer can come."[8]

June Christy c. 1947

Personal life


Christy was married to Bob Cooper in 1947.[1] In 1954, she gave birth to a daughter, Shay Christy Cooper (September 1, 1954 – February 21, 2014).[6][9] She also had an older brother, Jack A. Luster (1920 – 2013).[10]

Later years and death


Christy semi-retired from the music business in 1969,[11] in part because of her battle with alcoholism.[12][13]

In 1972, she sang at the Newport Jazz Festival in New York City, where she was reunited with the Kenton Orchestra. She also performed at a handful of jazz festivals during the late 1970s and 1980s, playing with a band of all-star West Coast jazz musicians led by Shorty Rogers, as well as taking part in a number of world tours.[13]

Christy returned to the recording studio in 1977 to record her final solo LP, Impromptu. She recorded an interview in 1987 for a Paul Cacia produced album called "The Alumni Tribute to Stan Kenton" on the Happy Hour label. A number of other Kenton alumni (Shorty Rogers, Lee Konitz, Jack Sheldon, among them) interspersed their tunes with reminiscences of the man and the years on the road.

Christy toured one final time in 1988, again with Shorty Rogers. Her final performance was sharing the stage with Chet Baker.[14]

Christy died at her home in Sherman Oaks, California, of kidney failure on June 21, 1990, at the age of 64.[11]




Released Album Label & Number
1950 Day Dream (10" 78rpm 4-disc album set) Capitol CC-126 (?)
1953 Get Happy With June Christy (7" 45rpm EP) Capitol EAP 1-448
1954 Something Cool -with Pete Rugolo & His Orchestra (10" LP, 7 songs) Capitol H-516
1955 Duet -with Stan Kenton (12" LP) Capitol T-656
1955 Something Cool -with Pete Rugolo & His Orchestra (12" LP, 11 songs) Capitol T-516
1956 The Misty Miss Christy (12" LP) Capitol T-725; reissue: Discovery DS-919, 1985
1957 Fair and Warmer![15] Capitol T-833
1957 Gone for the Day Capitol T-902; reissue: Discovery DS-911, 1985
1958 This Is June Christy! (compilation) Capitol T-1006
1958 June's Got Rhythm Capitol ST-1076
1958 The Song Is June! Capitol ST-1114
1959 June Christy Recalls Those Kenton Days Capitol ST-1202; reissue: Pausa PR-9064, 1986
1959 Ballads for Night People Capitol ST-1308
1959 Road Show -with Stan Kenton and The Four Freshmen (2-LP set) Capitol STBO-1327; reissues: Creative World ST-1019 (Vol. 1), ST-1020 (Vol. 2)
1960 The Cool School Capitol ST-1398
1960 Something Cool (newly recorded "stereo" version) Capitol SM-516
1960 Off-Beat Capitol ST-1498
1961 Do-Re-Mi (A Modern Interpretation of the Hit Broadway Musical) -with Bob Cooper Capitol ST-1586
1961 This Time of Year Capitol ST-1605
1962 The Best of June Christy (compilation) Capitol T-1693
1962 Big Band Specials Capitol ST-1845; reissue: Pausa PR-9039, 1985
1963 The Intimate Miss Christy Capitol ST-1953
1963 The Swinging Chicks (shared album with Fran Warren; 5 songs by each) Camay Records CA-3042
1965 Something Broadway, Something Latin -with Ernie Freeman's Music Capitol ST-2410
1977 Impromptu -with Lou Levy Sextet Interplay IP-7710; reissue: Discovery DS-836, 1981
1986 A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening (transcriptions: 6 from Stand By For Music radio show, 1956; 8 from The Navy Swings radio show, 1966) Jasmine JASM-2528
1986 The Uncollected June Christy with The Kentones (from Capitol Transcription sessions, 1946–1947) Hindsight SR-219
1987 The Uncollected June Christy, Vol. II (transcriptions: 12 from U.S. Marine Corps radio show, 1956; 2 from The Bob Crosby Show radio show, 1956) Hindsight SR-235

Compilation CDs

Release date Album Label
1994 June Christy and the Stan Kenton Orchestra Collectors' Choice Music CCM-001
1995 Day Dreams (1947–1955) Capitol
1995 Through the Years (1946/1957/1965) Hindsight HCD-260
1995 Spotlight On...June Christy Capitol
1997 The Best of June Christy: The Jazz Sessions Capitol
1998 A Friendly Session, Vol. 1 (with the Johnny Guarnieri Quintet) Jasmine JASCD-341
1999 A Friendly Session, Vol. 2 (with the Johnny Guarnieri Quintet) Jasmine JASCD-349
1999 Live at the Newport Jazz Festival, July 1972 (with Stan Kenton & His Orchestra) Jazz Band EBCD 2145-2
2000 The Ballad Collection Capitol
2000 A Friendly Session, Vol. 3 (with the Johnny Guarnieri Quintet) Jasmine JASCD-369
2002 Cool Christy (1945–1951) Proper PVCD-112 [2-CD]
2012 101 Essential June Christy: Something Cool AP Music Ltd.
2019 The June Christy/Stan Kenton Collection 1945–1955 Acrobat ADDCD-3290 [2-CD]

Television appearances

Date Series Songs
1949 Adventures in Jazz Unknown
1949 Art Ford Show Unknown
1949 Eddie Condon's Floor Show Unknown
1950 The Alan Young Show Unknown
1950 Jack Carter Show Unknown
9/29/1950 Penthouse Party Unknown
1/12/1951 Penthouse Party Unknown
3/7/1953 The Jackie Gleason Show Unknown
1955 The Tonight Show with Steve Allen Unknown
9/3/1956 Stars of Jazz Unknown
7/9/1957 Nat King Cole Show I Want to Be Happy; How High the Moon
12/30/1957 Timex All Star Jazz I Want to be Happy
3/3/1958 Stars of Jazz Get Happy; That's All
6/2/1958 Stars of Jazz I Want to Be Happy; That's All
10/1/1959 Playboy's Penthouse How High the Moon; I Want to Be Happy; Something Cool
11/23/1959 The Steve Allen Plymouth Show Midnight Sun; Medley with Steve and Mel
9/10/1962 The Steve Allen Playhouse Midnight Sun; Willow Weep for Me
2/11/1963 One O'Clock Show Unknown
8/8/1963 The Lively Ones I'll Take Romance; Midnight Sun
1/10/1964 On Stage Unknown
2/24/1965 The Mike Douglas Show Unknown
6/2/1965 Not Only But Also You Came a Long Way From St. Louis; Just in Time; Remind Me; My Shining Hour
8/12/1965 Mike Douglas Show Unknown
11/8/1967 The Joey Bishop Show Unknown
2/20/1968 Woody Woodbury Show A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening; My Shining Hour; Midnight Sun (with Stan Kenton)
6/30/1972 The Dick Cavett Show A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening; Remind Me; My Shining Hour
1972 Words & Music by Bobby Troup (with Stan Kenton) The Meaning of the Blues; Hey Daddy; Lonely Girl
6/2/1975 New Morning Unknown


  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 260. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ Cook, Richard (1998-12-11). "Carrying a torch". New Statesman. Retrieved 2015-05-24.
  3. ^ "Shirley Luster, Decatur Singer, Gets Movie Role". newspapers.com. The Decatur Herald. December 10, 1945. p. 3. Retrieved 2023-05-10.
  4. ^ Sparke, Michael. Stan Kenton: This Is an Orchestra!
  5. ^ "June Christy". Belten.freeserve.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2013-07-18. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  6. ^ a b Holden, Stephen (June 24, 1990). "June Christy, Singer, 64, Is Dead; Gained Fame With Kenton's Band". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  7. ^ Terrace, Vincent. Encyclopedia of Television: Series, Pilots and Specials, 1937-1973, p. 438.
  8. ^ a b McClellan, Lawrence. The Later Swing Era, 1942 to 1955, pp. 92–93.
  9. ^ "California Birth Index, 1905-1995". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2015-05-23.
  10. ^ Weber & Rodney Funeral Home. "Obituary for Jack Luster". Weberfuneralhome.com. Retrieved 4 May 2024.
  11. ^ a b "Solid! – June Christy". Parabrisas.com. Archived from the original on 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  12. ^ Friedwald, Will (2010). A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers. Pantheon Books. ISBN 9780375421495. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Obituary: Bob Cooper". The Independent. 6 August 1993. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  14. ^ Champlin, Charles (1988-03-26). "Let's Hear It for High C-manship". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2023-09-12.
  15. ^ Scott Yanow. "Fair and Warmer! – June Christy | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-08-09.