Una Mae Carlisle

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Una Mae Carlisle, c. 1945

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


Carlisle was born in Zanesville, Ohio, the daughter of Edward and Mellie Carlisle.[2][3][4][5] 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 still in her teens, Fats Waller discovered Carlisle while she worked as a local Cincinnati performer live and on radio. Her piano style was 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.

In the 1940s Carlisle recorded as a leader for Bluebird Records, with sidemen such as Lester Young, Benny Carter, and John Kirby. 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; Cab Calloway and Peggy Lee were among those who covered her tunes. She had her own radio and television programs late in the 1940s. Her last recordings were for Columbia Records with Don Redman early in the 1950s.

Chronic mastoiditis, requiring repeated surgeries and hospitalizations,[6] forced her to retire in 1952, and she died of pneumonia in a Harlem hospital in 1956.[7] She is buried in Old Silvercreek Cemetery in Jamestown, Ohio.[8] Carlisle was survived by her husband, former merchant seaman John Bradford, who she had married in 1941.

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". news.google.com. The Afro American. April 26, 1941. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "Carlisle, Una Mae (1915 - 1956), Songwriters, Jazz Musicians, Jazz Singers, Pianists". American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "City Of Lost Boundaries". Jet. November 22, 1951. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Howard Rye. "Una Mae Carlisle". nationaljazzarchive.co.uk. Storeyville. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "Una Mae Carlisle Buried In Ohio". newspapers.com. The New York Age. November 17, 1956. p. 3. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "Una Mae Carlisle Loses Fight For Life". newspapers.com. The Pittsburgh Courier. November 17, 1956. p. 25. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  8. ^ "Una Mae Carlisle". findagrave.com. Retrieved 25 March 2015.