Mildred Bailey (February 27, 1907 – December 12, 1951) was a popular and influential American jazz singer during the 1930s, known as "The Rockin' Chair Lady" and "Mrs. Swing". Her number one hits were "Please Be Kind", "Darn That Dream", "Rockin' Chair" and "Says My Heart".
Born Mildred Rinker in Tekoa, Washington, her mother, Josephine, was half Coeur d'Alene Indian and a devout Catholic. Her father, Charles, played fiddle and called square dances. Her mother played piano every evening after supper and taught Mildred to play and sing. Her brothers were the vocalist and composer Al Rinker, and the lyricist Charles Rinker.
At the age of seventeen, Bailey moved to Seattle and worked as a sheet music demonstrator at Woolworth's. She married and divorced Ted Bailey, keeping his last name because she thought it sounded more American than Rinker. With the help of her second husband, Benny Stafford, she became an established blues and jazz singer on the West Coast. According to Gary Giddins' book Bing Crosby – A Pocketful of Dreams – The Early Years 1903-1940, in 1925 she secured work for her brother, Al Rinker, and his partner Bing Crosby. Giddins further states that Crosby first heard of Louis Armstrong and other Chicago black jazz records from Bailey's own record collection. Crosby helped Bailey in turn by introducing her to Paul Whiteman. She sang with Paul Whiteman's band from 1929 to 1933 (Whiteman had a popular radio program and when Bailey debuted with her version of "Moaning Low" in 1929, public reaction was immediate, although she did not start recording with Whiteman until late 1931).
Her first two records were as uncredited vocalist for an Eddie Lang Orchestra session in 1929 ("What Kind O' Man Is You?", an obscure Hoagy Carmichael song that was only issued in the UK) and a 1930 recording of "I Like To Do Things For You" for Frankie Trumbauer. She was Whiteman's popular female vocalist through 1932 (recording in a smooth crooning style), when she left the band due to salary disagreements. She then recorded a series of records for Brunswick in 1933 (accompanied by The Dorsey Brothers), as well an all-star session with Benny Goodman's studio band in 1934 that featured Coleman Hawkins.
In the mid 1930s, she recorded with her third husband Red Norvo. A dynamic couple, they earned the nicknames "Mr. and Mrs. Swing". During this period (1936–1939) Norvo recorded for Brunswick (with Bailey as primary vocalist) and Bailey recorded her own set of recordings for Vocalion, often with Norvo's band. Some of her recordings instead featured members of Count Basie's band. Despite her divorce from Norvo, she and Red would continue to record together until 1945. Suffering from diabetes and depression (during her adult life Bailey was overweight), she only made a few recordings following World War II.
Mildred Bailey died December 12, 1951, in Poughkeepsie, New York, of heart failure, aged 44, chiefly due to her diabetes. Her ashes were scattered. Red Norvo outlived Bailey by nearly half a century, dying in April 1999, a week after his 91st birthday.
In 1989, Bailey was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.
Listen to almost every jazz and pop vocalist of the '30s to the '60s.....white and black. You'll hear a little bit of Mildred in all of them. Truth. She influenced everyone....you'll hear why in this collection. She should be better known for that alone.....well, that and much much more....One of the most overlooked voices in the history of popular music.....give a listen, eh?
A Bee Gezind
A-Tisket, A-Tasket Tk1
A-Tisket, A-Tasket Tk2
After All I've Been to You
After Dinner Speech (Tk 1)
After Dinner Speech (Tk 2)
Ain't That Good News
All Of Me 1932
All Of Me
All the Things You Are
All Too Soon
Always And Always
And the Angels Sing
Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry [Alternate Take]
Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry
As Long As You Live (Rehearsal Tk)
As Long As You Live
At Your Beck And Call
Begin the Beguine
Blame It on My Last Affair
Blue (And Broken Hearted).
Bluebirds in the Moonlight
Bob White (Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight)
Born To Be Blue
Born To Swing
But I Can't Make a Man
Maybe not her most famous recording, but probably my favourite version of it :)