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|Born||October 9, 1908|
Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||December 11, 1975 (aged 67)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
Wiley was born in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. At fifteen, she left home to pursue a singing career. Her career was interrupted by a fall while horseback riding. She suffered temporary blindness but recovered, and at the age of 19 was with the Leo Reisman Orchestra, with whom in 1931 she recorded three songs: "Take It From Me", "Time On My Hands", and her own composition, "Got the South in My Soul".
She sang with Paul Whiteman and later, the Casa Loma Orchestra. A collaboration with composer Victor Young resulted in several songs for which Wiley wrote the lyrics, including "Got the South in My Soul" and "Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere."
During the early 1930s, Wiley recorded very little, and many sides were rejected:
- "Take it From Me" (with Leo Reisman's Orchestra, June 30, 1931, issued)
- "Time On My Hands" (with Leo Reisman's Orchestra, October 19, 1931, rejected & October 26, 1931, issued)
- "Got the South in My Soul" (with Leo Reisman's Orchestra, June 15, 1932, issued)
- "Just So You'll Remember" (with Victor Young's Orchestra, January 21, 1933, rejected)
- "Juanita" (with Victor Young's Orchestra, January 21, 1933, rejected)
- "A Tree Was a Tree" (with unknown orchestra, February, 1933, rejected)
- "You're an Old Smoothie" (duet with Billy Hughes) (with Victor Young's Orchestra, January 21, 1933, issued)
- "You've Got Me Crying Again" &
- "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" (with Dorsey Brothers, March 7, 1933, both rejected)
- "Let's Call It a Day" (with Dorsey Brothers, April 15, 1933 and May 3, 1933, both rejected)
- "Repeal the Blues" &
- "Easy Come, Easy Go" (with Johnny Green's Orchestra, March 17, 1934, issued)
- "Careless Love" &
- "Motherless Child" (with Justin Ring's Orchestra, August 13, 1934, issued)
- "Hands Across the Table" &
- "I'll Follow My Secret Heart" (with Victor Young's Orchestra, November 26, 1934, issued)
- "Mad About the Boy" (with Victor Young's Orchestra, August 25, 1935, rejected)
- "What Is Love?" &
- "I've Got You Under My Skin" (with Victor Young's Orchestra, February 10, 1937, issued)
(There were multiple takes of many of the unissued sides.)
In 1939, Wiley recorded eight Gershwin songs on 78s with a small group for Liberty Music Shop Records. The set sold well and was followed by 78s dedicated to the music of Cole Porter (1940) and Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart (1940 and 1954), Harold Arlen (1943), and 10" LPs dedicated to the music of Vincent Youmans and Irving Berlin (1951).
The players on these recordings included Bunny Berigan, Bud Freeman, Max Kaminsky, Fats Waller, Billy Butterfield, Bobby Hackett, Eddie Condon, Stan Freeman, Cy Walter, and the bandleader Jess Stacy, to whom Wiley was married for a number of years. These influential albums launched the concept of a "songbook" (often featuring lesser-known songs), which was later widely imitated by other singers.
Wiley's career made a resurgence in 1950 with the much admired ten-inch album Night in Manhattan. In 1954, she opened the first Newport Jazz Festival, accompanied by Bobby Hackett. Later in the decade she recorded, West of the Moon (1956) and A Touch of the Blues (1957).
Wiley retired from singing in the early 1960s, acting in a 1963 television film, Something About Lee Wiley, which told her life story. The film stimulated interest in her and she resumed her career, making her last public appearance at a 1972 concert in Carnegie Hall as part of the New York Jazz Festival, where she was enthusiastically received.
Wiley married the jazz pianist Jess Stacy in 1943. The couple was described by their friend Deane Kincaide as being as "compatible as two cats, tails tied together, hanging over a clothesline"; they divorced in 1948. Her response to Stacy's desire to get a divorce was, "What will Bing Crosby be thinking of you divorcing me?", while Stacy said of Wiley, "They did not burn the last witch at Salem." Wiley remarried in 1966, to retired businessman, Nat Tischenkel.
Wiley died on December 11, 1975, aged 67, in New York City after being diagnosed with colon cancer earlier that year.
- Night in Manhattan (1951)
- Sings Vincent Youmans (1952)
- Sings Irving Berlin (1952)
- Sings Rodgers and Hart (1954)
- West of the Moon (1956)
- A Touch of the Blues (1957)
- Back Home Again (1972)
- Duologue 1954 (1988)
- Lee Wiley Rarities (1991)
- Hot House Rose (1996)
- The Music of Manhattan 1951 (1998)
- Legendary Song Stylist (1999)
- The Legendary Lee Wiley: Collector's Items 1931-1955 (1999)
- Manhattan Moods: Outstanding Live Recordings (2000)
- Night In Manhattan/Sings Youmans/Sings Berlin (2001)
- Time on My Hands: 24 Original Mono Recordings 1932-1951 (2002)
- Completist's Ultimate Collection Vol.1 (2002)
- Completist's Ultimate Collection Vol.2 (2002)
- The Complete Golden Years Studio Sessions (2003)
- A Touch of the Blues (2003)
- Lee Wiley: Complete Fifties Studio Masters (2003)
- Completist's Ultimate Collection Vol.3 (2004)
- Completist's Ultimate Collection Vol.4 (2004)
- The Carnegie Hall Concert (2004)
- Sings Porter and Gershwin (2004)
- Sings Rodgers, Hart and Arlen (2004)
- S Wonderful (2005)
- Songbooks & Quiet Sensuality: 1933-1951 (2005)
- Follow Your Heart (2005)
- West of the Moon (2007)
- Live on Stage Town Hall New York (2008)
- Back Home Again (2008)
- Lee Wiley. Any Time, Any Day, Anywhere. Her 25 finest (1932-1954) (2009)
- What Is Love? (2009)
- Yanow, Scott (2000), Swing, Hal Leonard Corporation, pp. 293–95, ISBN 161774476X
- Stanley Green, Liner Notes, Lee Wiley Sings Rodgers and Hart and Harold Arlen, Monmouth-Evergreen Record, LP MES/6807
- John Chilton, Who's Who in Jazz, 1978 Time-Life, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 72-188159.
- Coller, D. (1998). Jess Stacy: The Quiet Man of Jazz, GHB Jazz Foundation, 1998; ISBN 978-0-9638890-4-1