Una Mae Carlisle

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Una Mae Carlisle
Una Mae Carlisle, c. 1945
Una Mae Carlisle, c. 1945
Background information
Born(1915-12-26)December 26, 1915
Zanesville, Ohio, United States
DiedNovember 7, 1956(1956-11-07) (aged 40)
Harlem, New York, United States
GenresJazz, swing, stride
Occupation(s)Singer, pianist, composer
Instrument(s)Vocals, piano

Una Mae Carlisle (December 26, 1915 – November 7, 1956)[1] was an American jazz singer, pianist, and songwriter.

Early life[edit]

Carlisle was born in Zanesville, Ohio, the daughter of Mellie and Edward Carlisle.[2][3][4][5] She was of African and Native American descent.[6] Trained to play piano by her mother, she was performing in public by age three.


Still a child, she performed regularly on radio station WHIO (AM) in Dayton, Ohio.

In 1932, while she was still in her teens, Fats Waller discovered Carlisle while she worked as a local Cincinnati, Ohio, performer live and on radio.[7] Her piano style was very much influenced by Waller's; she played in a boogie-woogie/stride style and incorporated humor into her sets.

She played solo from 1937, touring Europe repeatedly and recording with Waller late in the 1930s.[7]

In the 1940s, Carlisle recorded as a leader for Bluebird Records, with sidemen such as Lester Young, Benny Carter, and John Kirby.[7] She had a longtime partnership with producer/publisher/manager Joe Davis, which began after her contract with Bluebird expired. Her records under Davis included performances from Ray Nance, Budd Johnson, and Shadow Wilson.

She also saw success as a songwriter. Her 1941 song "Walkin' By The River" made her "the first black woman to have a composition appear on a Billboard chart".[6] Cab Calloway and Peggy Lee were among those who covered her tunes. She had her own radio show, The Una Mae Carlisle Radio Show on WJZ-ABC, making her the "first black American to host a national radio show";[6] and television programs in the 1940s.

Personal life[edit]

Carlisle was married to Johnnie Bradford, a former Marine Merchant. They married in September 11, 1941. Bradford was the owner of Gee-Haw Stables, a jazz venue in Harlem.

Carlisle suffered from chronic mastoiditis, requiring repeated surgeries and hospitalizations.[8]

Partial discography[edit]


  1. ^ Wagner, Paulette (1994). "Carlisle, Una Mae (1915–1956)". Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 218. ISBN 0-253-32774-1.
  2. ^ "Una Mae's Hit Sweeps Nation". The Afro American. April 26, 1941. Retrieved 26 March 2015 – via news.google.com.
  3. ^ Budds, Michael J. (2000). "Carlisle, Una Mae (1915 - 1956), Songwriters, Jazz Musicians, Jazz Singers, Pianists". American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1802748. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  4. ^ "City Of Lost Boundaries". Jet. November 22, 1951. Retrieved 26 March 2015 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Rye, Howard. "Una Mae Carlisle". nationaljazzarchive.co.uk. Storeyville. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Scheinman, Ted (January–February 2021). "Fascinating Women". Smithsonian. Smithsonian Institution. p. 20.
  7. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 415. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  8. ^ "Una Mae Carlisle Buried In Ohio". The New York Age. November 17, 1956. p. 3. Retrieved 26 March 2015 – via newspapers.com.
  9. ^ Berry, S. Torriano; Berry, Venise T. (2015-05-07). Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-4702-4.
  10. ^ "Una Mae Carlisle". Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved 2023-10-19.

External links[edit]