June Christy

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June Christy
June Christy and Red Rodney at Club Troubadour, New York, ca. Sept. 1947, by William Gottlieb (LOC gottlieb.01251).jpg
June Christy at the Club Troubador, New York, ca. 1947
Background information
Birth name Shirley Luster
Also known as

Sharon Leslie

June Christy
Born (1925-11-20)November 20, 1925
Springfield, Illinois, United States
Origin American
Died June 21, 1990(1990-06-21) (aged 64)
Sherman Oaks, California, United States
Genres Pop, jazz, cool jazz
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1938–1969, 1972, 1975-1980, 1983-1988
Labels Capitol
Associated acts Pete Rugolo
The Stan Kenton Orchestra
Boyd Raeburn
Benny Strong

June Christy (November 20, 1925 – June 21, 1990), born Shirley Luster, 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."[1]


Early life[edit]

Shirley Luster was born in Springfield, Illinois, and moved with her family 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. 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 at the same time Christy was quarantined in Chicago with scarlet fever.

Work with Stan Kenton's Orchestra[edit]

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 successful hits such as "Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy," the million-selling "Tampico" in 1945, and "How High the Moon". "Tampico" was Kenton's biggest-selling record. When the Kenton Band temporarily disbanded in 1948, she sang in nightclubs for a short time, and reunited with the band two years later.[2][3]

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, The Four Freshmen. Capitol recorded highlights on October 10 at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, for a two-disc LP, reissued in 1988 on CD.

Solo career[edit]

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, 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 a somewhat different personnel. Christy would later say that the album was "the only thing I've recorded that I'm not unhappy with."[4] 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, ca. 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),[5] 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),[6] which also featured Louis Armstrong, Carmen McRae, Duke Ellington and Gene Krupa.

Christy embarked on dozens of concert tours, playing in Europe, South Africa, Australia and Japan. She toured to such an extent that eventually it began taking a toll on her marriage. She began to pull back from touring in the early 1960s.[7]

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."[7]

June Christy, ca. 1947

Personal life[edit]

Christy was married to Bob Cooper. In 1954, she gave birth to a daughter, Shay Christy Cooper (9-1-1954 - 2-21-2014).[4][8]

Later years and death[edit]

Christy semi-retired from the music business in 1969,[9] in part due to her battle with alcoholism.[10][11]

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.[11]

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.[12]

Christy died at her home in Sherman Oaks, California of kidney failure on June 21, 1990, at the age of 64.[9][13] Her remains were cremated and scattered off the coast of Marina Del Rey.[14]



Released Album Label & Number
1947 Artistry in Rhythm - Stan Kenton & His Orchestra (78" RPM Album- 4 records) Capitol Records BD-39
1950 Day Dream (78" RPM Album- 4 records) Capitol Records CC-126
1953 Get Happy Capitol Records EAP 1-148
1953 The Swinging Chicks (10" Album) Camay Records
1954 Something Cool (10" LP) Capitol Records H 516
1955 Duet Capitol Records T-656
1955 Something Cool (12" LP) Capitol Records T-516
1956 The Misty Miss Christy Capitol Records T 725
1957 Fair and Warmer![15] Capitol Records T 833
1957 Gone for the Day Capitol Records T 902
1958 This Is June Christy Capitol Records T1006
1958 June's Got Rhythm Capitol Records S/T1076
1958 The Song Is June! Capitol Records S/T1114
1959 Recalls Those Kenton Days Capitol Records S/T1202
1959 Ballads for Night People Capitol Records S/T1308
1959 Road Show (with Stan Kenton & The Four Freshmen) Capitol Records ST1327
1960 The Cool School Capitol Records S/T1398
1960 Something Cool (stereo version) Capitol Records SM 516
1960 Off-Beat Capitol Records S/T1498
1961 Do-Re-Mi (with Bob Cooper) Capitol Records S/T1586
1961 This Time of Year Capitol Records S/T1605
1962 Big Band Specials Capitol Records S/T1845
1962 Best of June Christy Capitol Records SM 11961
1963 The Intimate Miss Christy Capitol Records S/T1953
1965 Something Broadway, Something Latin Capitol Records S/T2410
1977 Impromptu (with The Lou Levy Sextet) Interplay Records IP 7710
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 Records JASM 2528
1986 Uncollected June Christy with the Kentones (from Capitol Transcription sessions, 1946-1947) Hindsight SR 219
1987 Uncollected June Christy Volume Two (transcriptions - 12 from US Marine Corps radio show, 1956; 2 from The Bob Crosby Show radio show, 1956) Hindsight SR 235


Release date Album Label
1995 Day Dreams (compilation, 1947–1955) Capitol Records
1995 Through the Years Hindsight
1995 Spotlight on June Christy Capitol Records
1997 The Jazz Sessions: The Best of June Christy Capitol Records
1998 June Christy with The Johnny Guarnieri Quintet Jasmine Records
1999 Live at the Newport Jazz Festival with Stan Kenton, July 1972 Jazz Band EBCD 2145-2
2002 Cool Christy (compilation, 1945–1951) Proper Records Ltd
2012 Something Cool - 101 Essential June Christy AP Music Ltd

Television appearances[edit]

Date Series Songs
Adventures in Jazz
Art Ford Show
Eddie Condon's Floor Show
The Alan Young Show
Jack Carter Show
Penthouse Party
Penthouse Party
The Jackie Gleason Show
The Tonight Show with Steve Allen
Stars of Jazz
Nat King Cole Show
I Want to Be Happy; How High the Moon
Timex All Star Jazz
I Want to be Happy
Stars of Jazz
Get Happy; That’s All
Stars of Jazz
I Want to Be Happy; That’s All
Playboy's Penthouse
How High the Moon; I Want to Be Happy; Something Cool
The Steve Allen Plymouth Show
Midnight Sun; Medley with Steve and Mel
The Steve Allen Playhouse
One O'Clock Show
The Lively Ones
I’ll Take Romance; Midnight Sun
On Stage
The Mike Douglas Show
Not Only But Also
You Came a Long Way From St. Louis; Just in Time; Remind Me; My Shining Hour
Mike Douglas Show
The Joey Bishop Show
Woody Woodbury Show
A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening; My Shining Hour; Midnight Sun (with Stan Kenton)
The Dick Cavett Show
A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening; Remind Me; My Shining Hour
Words & Music by Bobby Troup (with Stan Kenton)
The Meaning of the Blues; Hey Daddy; Lonely Girl
New Morning


  1. ^ Cook, Richard (1998-12-11). "Carrying a torch". New Statesman. Retrieved 2015-05-24. 
  2. ^ Sparke, Michael. Stan Kenton: This Is an Orchestra!
  3. ^ "June Christy". Belten.freeserve.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "June Christy". IMDb. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Terrace, Vincent. Encyclopedia of Television: Series, Pilots and Specials, 1937-1973, p. 438.
  7. ^ a b McClellan, Lawrence. The Later Swing Era, 1942 to 1955, pp. 92–93.
  8. ^ "California Birth Index, 1905-1995". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2015-05-23. 
  9. ^ a b "Solid! - June Christy". Parabrisas.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  10. ^ A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers. Books.google.com. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "Obituary: Bob Cooper". The Independent. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  12. ^ "Los Angeles Times: Archives - Let's Hear It for High C-manship". Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. 1988-03-26. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  13. ^ "June Christy Discography at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  14. ^ "June Christy (1925 - 1990) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  15. ^ Scott Yanow. "Fair and Warmer! - June Christy | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 

External links[edit]