Lee Wiley

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Lee Wiley
Lee Wiley singer.jpg
Background information
Born(1908-10-09)October 9, 1908
Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedDecember 11, 1975(1975-12-11) (aged 67)
New York City
Years active1920s–1950s

Lee Wiley (October 9, 1908 – December 11, 1975) was an American jazz singer during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.


Wiley was born in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.[1] At fifteen, she left home to pursue a singing career, singing on New York City radio stations.[2] Her career was interrupted by a fall while horseback riding. She suffered temporary blindness but recovered. At the age of 19 she was a member of the Leo Reisman Orchestra, with whom in 1931 she recorded three songs: "Take It from Me", "Time On My Hands", and her composition "Got the South in My Soul".[3]

Wiley began her radio career at KVOO in Tulsa, Oklahoma.[4] She sang on the Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt program on NBC in 1932,[5] and was featured on Victor Young's radio show in 1933.[6] From June 10, 1936, until September 2, 1936, she had her own show, Lee Wiley, on CBS.[7]

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.[citation needed]

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).[citation needed]

Wiley retired from singing in the early 1960s, and she made her last public appearance at a 1972 concert in Carnegie Hall as part of the New York Jazz Festival, where she was enthusiastically received.[citation needed]

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."[8]

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.)

Personal life[edit]

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."[9] In 1966 Wiley married retired businessman Nat Tischenkel[citation needed]


Wiley died on December 11, 1975, aged 67, in New York City after being diagnosed with colon cancer earlier that year.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

On October 11, 1963, Bob Hope Theater on NBC-TV presented "Something About Lee Wiley". Piper Laurie portrayed Wiley in the episode, which was produced by Revue Studios.[10] Wiley's singing voice was provided by Joy Bryan.[11]


  • Night in Manhattan with Bobby Hackett (Columbia, 1950)
  • Cole Porter Songs by Lee Wiley (Liberty Music Shops, 1950)
  • Eight Show Tunes from Scores by George Gershwin (Liberty Music Shops, 1950)
  • Lee Wiley Sings Irving Berlin (Columbia, 1952)
  • Lee Wiley Sings Vincent Youmans (Columbia, 1952)
  • Duologue with Ellis Larkins (Storyville, 1954)
  • Lee Wiley Sings Rodgers & Hart (Storyville, 1954)
  • Lee Wiley Sings and Lennie Tristano Plays (Allegro Elite, 1954)
  • West of the Moon (RCA Victor, 1957)
  • A Touch of the Blues with Billy Butterfield (RCA 1958)
  • The One and Only (Recording Industries 1964)
  • Back Home Again (Monmouth Evergreen, 1971)
  • On the Air (Totem, 1977)
  • The Complete Session of April 10, 1940 with Bunny Berigan (Blu-Disc, 1984)
  • Sings the Songs of George & Ira Gershwin & Cole Porter (Audiophile, 1985)
  • Sings the Songs of Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart and Harold Arlen (Audiophile, 1986)
  • As Time Goes By (Bluebird, 1991)
  • At Carnegie Hall 1972 (Audiophile, 1995)
  • The Legendary Lee Wiley Collectors' Items 1931–1955 (Baldwin Street Music, 1998)
  • Complete Fifties Studio Masters (Jazz Factory, 2001)
  • Live On Stage: Town Hall, New York (Audiophile, 2007)


  1. ^ Yanow, Scott (2000), Swing, Hal Leonard Corporation, pp. 293–95, ISBN 161774476X
  2. ^ Wright-McLeod, Brian (30 January 2018). The Encyclopedia of Native Music: More Than a Century of Recordings from Wax Cylinder to the Internet. University of Arizona Press. pp. 209–. ISBN 978-0-8165-3864-5. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  3. ^ Stanley Green, Liner Notes, Lee Wiley Sings Rodgers and Hart and Harold Arlen, Monmouth-Evergreen Record, LP MES/6807
  4. ^ Stuart, William L. (September 6, 1936). "Listen to the Echo of a Distant Drum". Detroit Free Press. Michigan, Detroit. p. 55. Retrieved 3 August 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.
  6. ^ Hoffmn, J. (September 30, 1933). "Air Briefs" (PDF). Billboard. p. 13. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  7. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 390. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3.
  8. ^ John Chilton, Who's Who in Jazz, 1978 Time-Life, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 72-188159.
  9. ^ Coller, D. (1998). Jess Stacy: The Quiet Man of Jazz, GHB Jazz Foundation, 1998; ISBN 978-0-9638890-4-1
  10. ^ Witbeck, Charles (October 11, 1963). "N.B.C. To Feature Jazz Singer of '30's, Lee Wiley's Life, on Bob Hope Theater". The Journal News. New York, White Plains. p. 21. Retrieved 3 August 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ Stern, Harold (October 22, 1963). "Hope Missed Chance To Feature Lee Wiley". The Troy Record. New York, Troy. p. 8. Retrieved 3 August 2019 – via Newspapers.com.