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Friday, October 22, 2010

Lee Wiley..........

Lee Wiley

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

Wiley was born in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. While still in her early teens, she left home to pursue a singing career with the Leo Reisman band. Her career was temporarily interrupted by a fall while horseback riding. Wiley suffered temporary blindness, but recovered, and at the age of 19 was back with Reisman again, with whom 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," the latter an R&B hit in the 1950s.

In 1939, Wiley recorded eight Gershwin songs on 78s with a small group for Liberty Music Shops. 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 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, 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 very first Newport Jazz Festival accompanied by Bobby Hackett. Later in the decade she recorded two of her finest albums, West of the Moon (1956) and A Touch of the Blues (1957). In the 1960s, Wiley retired, although she acted in a 1963 television film, Something About Lee Wiley, which told her life story. The film stimulated interest in the singer. Her last public appearance was a concert in Carnegie Hall in 1972 as part of the New York Jazz Festival, where she was enthusiastically received.

Wiley died on December 11, 1975 in New York City after being diagnosed with colon cancer earlier that year. She was 67 years old. She was survived by her second husband, Nat Tischenkel, whom she married in 1966.


Sensual and dignified, sophisticated and warm, Lee Wiley has inspired outbursts of sheer poetry from many a captivated listener. Her sound induces a “marvelous,” “ticklish” sensation, akin to “running your hand over a piece of fine Harris tweed,” marveled producer Dave Garroway. She “blows smoke rings, each note a puff that melts into wisps of vibrato,” conceptualized author Will Friedwald. Her voice and style “have long since made me extremely eager to go to bed with her,” disclosed critic James Frazier. Not content with this daring confession, he also bluntly labeled her “one bitch of a singer.”

Protested singer and Wiley scholar Barbara Lea: “She had more fire, more rhythm, more roughness, more silkiness, more deep personal warmth, than the job description of Pop Singer called for.” Asked writer Richard Hadlock, in an open letter to Wiley, “Lee, have you ever wondered why so many… from road-tough musicians to jaded pub-crawlers, act like kids on Christmas when they hear you sing?” (Wiley did wonder.) The eulogies could go on for pages, but the point is clear enough: Lee Wiley is a singer with a certain mystique.

The Wiley mystique was generated by both personal and professional circumstances, and further fed by some willful biographical manipulation by her musical associates, her record labels, and the artist herself. Nicknamed “Pocahontas” and characterized as regal by her friends, Wiley descended from the princess of a Cherokee tribe and from an English missionary who married an American parishioner... according to publicity material. Her birth date remains uncertain - initially given as 1915, then moved back to 1910, still more recently to 1908 - and revisionism has taken over the more sensational aspects of her biography (running away from home in the late 1920s, temporary blindness after a fall from a horse in the early 1930s, a near encounter with tuberculosis in the mid-1930s, etc,).

Her looks most certainly contributed to the Wiley allure. Her brother Ted once reported that everybody wanted to marry the tall, strikingly attractive Oklahoman with corn-colored hair and olive skin. (”Everybody” included the eight-times-married bandleader Artie Shaw, whose offer was declined by the twice-married singer.) One motivation for her long retirement (from about the age of 50 until the years preceding her death from cancer, in 1975) was the apparently high price that Wiley placed on physical attractiveness. It was her contention in 1971 that “singing includes a number of things ... aside from the voice ... these girls who are trying to get up on the bandstand at forty years old ... doesn't make any sense to me.”

An enigmatic personality likewise fueled the fascination. Various oral and written accounts paradoxically depict her as difficult and easy to work with; proud and/or bitter about the treatment received from the music business; heavily addicted to alcohol but outspokenly intolerant of other musicians' addictions; foul-mouthed, even unkind to other singers yet fiercely loyal to those within her own circle; hesitant while speaking though assured when singing. Friends and colleagues further portray her as a woman with a strong sense of integrity and a fierce sense of independence, traits that caused her to give up on various “golden” opportunities to further her career. The best documented of such opportunities happened in 1935 when she departed from a feature role in the top-rated Kraft radio show because its producers refused to give billing to composer Victor Young, who was then personal and musical partner.

Wiley's relatively small discography further contributes to her mythic status. Over a four-decade career, she recorded less than ten albums and about 40 singles; live and radio broadcasts make up for the remainder of her material in circulation. Thus her mystique stems not only from her biography and her persona, her looks and her sound, but also from a sort of bittersweet adoration accorded to great but under-recorded artists.

Always a favourite of mine, I don't know why I hadn't gotten to a list of her stuff I have :)

And so..........some Lee Wiley

Manhattan (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
Any time, any day, anywhere (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
I've got a crush on you (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
I don't stand a ghost of a chance (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
How deep is the ocean (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
Don't blame me w/ the Eddie Condon's Town Hall 1944
The man I love  w/ the Eddie Condon Orch 1944
I've got a crush on you w/ Fats Waller 1939
A Hundred years from today w/ Glen Grey and the Casa Loma Orch. 1934
Lady be good w/ the Joe Bushkin Orch.
Easy to love
Keepin' out of mischief now
Looking at you (longer version)
Looking at you (shorter version)
Long about Midnight
As time goes by 1956
Baby's awake now 1940
Baby won't you please come home (b'cast) 1951
Back home again in Indiana 1971 (From her last studio LP, "Back Home")
Between the devil and the deep blue sea 1940
Body and soul 1946
Come to me my melancholy baby w/Billy Butterfield and His Orchestra, 1957
Deed I do 1952
Don't blame me 1945
Find me a primitive man 1939
Give it back to the Indians 1954
Glad to be unhappy 1940
Hands across the table w/ The Victor Young Orch.  1934
Here's love in your eye (b'cast) 1936
Hot house Rose 1940
I don't stand a ghost of a chance
I leave these reminders for you 1933 w/ The Victor Young Orch.
I left my sugar standing in the rain
I'm coming Virginia 1934 (b'cast)
I'm in love tonight It's only a paper moon 1945 w/ The Jess Stacy Orch.
I've got Five Dollars 1940
I've got the world on a string 1940
Kalman/Ruby medley 1938 (b'cast)
Let's call it a day w/ The Dorsey Brothers  1933
Let's fly awayThe Memphis blues 1957
I gotta right to sing the blues w/ The Dorsey Brothers 1933
Easy come easy go w/ Johnny Green Orch. 1934
But not for me w/ The Max Kaminsky Orch./Fats Waller
Good night medley- 1934 (b'cast) Paul Whiteman Orch, V=Ramona, Bob Lawrence, Jack Fulton, Lee Wiley
Funny little world w/ the Paul Whiteman Orch 1934 (b'cast)
If I love again w/ The Paul Whiteman Orch 1934 (b'cast)

Soft lights and sweet music (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
More than you know (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
Oh, look at me now (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
Time on my hands (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
Street of dreams  (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
A woman's intuition (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
Sugar (That Sugar Baby O'Mine) (from the 'Night in Mahattan" 10" LP) 1950
You're an old smoothie 1933  (duet with Billy Hughes) w/ Victor Young Orch. 1933
Sugar (That Sugar Baby O'Mine) w/ Bunny Berrigan 1935
Someone to watch over me w/ Fats Waller
My One and Only (What Am I Gonna Do?) w/ Joe Bushkin's Orchestra
Sweet and Low Down w/ Joe Bushkin's Orchestra
S'wonderful w/ Joe Bushkin's Orchestra
You've got me crying again w/ The Dorsey Brothers 1933
A woman alone with the blues 1947
Motherless child w/ Justin Ring's Orchestra  1934
My funny valentine 1954
My melancholy baby 1957
On the sunny side of the street 1945
Rise and shine 1950
Some sunny day
Stars fell on Alabama 1956
Stormy weather 1940
Summertime 1938
Suppertime 1933
Take it from me 1931 w/ Leo Reisman Orch.
Three little words 1936
Too good to be true 1936
Wherever there's love 1944
You Came To My Rescue (b'cast)
You Do Something To Me 1940
You turned the tables on me 1936
Sugar w/ The Jess Stacy Orch. 1940
Got the south in my soul 1932 w/ Leo Reisman Orch.
Time on my hands 1931 w/ Leo Reisman Orch.
A Thousand goodnights 1934 (b'cast) w/ Paul Whiteman Orch.
Upside down  1934 (b'cast) w/ Paul Whiteman Orch.


  1. I love Lee Wiley. She's my favorite singer. You have a beautiful blog.

  2. Thanks. She's long been a favourite of mine, too. :)

  3. incredible share! - what a treasure this blog is! - bless ya!

  4. Wow! Thanks!! that was a fun list to put together.....Ms. Wiley is one of my favourite vocalists :)

  5. I'm tickled to find these Lee Wiley selections here but it seems that the link for the second group -- from "Soft lights and sweet music" to "Upside down" is the same as that of the first group. If so, can you fix? Thanks, O Antique Trader.

  6. I'm checking that....will let you know ASAP. Thanks. :)

  7. You are so very right! I will make the correction, and let you know. I am amazed no one has bothered to tell me that before! Thank you!!

  8. The link to the 2nd half is corrected. Thanks, again!

  9. To me it's not fixed :'(
    I love Lee Wiley

  10. Ahhh.....try it now....should work. :)

  11. Thank you for the Lee Wiley! I downloaded the list last month, and I've really enjoyed it. Since then, I have acquired her 4-CD "Manhattan Nights" collection as well as "West of the Moon" and "A Touch of the Blues."

  12. I love her. I didn't know about the 4 cd set, tho....interesting.

  13. I think the collection can be found on the internet ;-)

  14. Thank you, the email :)

  15. You're very welcome!


  16. My english is very poor, i´m sorry.
    Unfortunately, the download links of this post no longer work, and I can not find them ... perhaps through you, be that lucky.

  17. Well, I worked with Joe Bushkin for several years and he was always drunk or high on drugs. A real bummer!!!