Happiness Is A Thing Called Jo

While brunching with a group of friends yesterday the conversation turned to forgotten girl singers. There are so many of them. It seems that everyone remembers Judy Garland, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, but what about our forgotten girls? At the same time that Peggy Lee and Doris Day were all over the radio there were also Dina Shore, Margaret Whiting, Kay Star, and Jo Stafford. I’ve recently included some recordings of Jo Stafford in my discussions of Robert Burns. I’d like to give her a little more exposure here.

It’s not only her velvety voice that’s so impressive, but also her amazing range, from the romantic to the comedic, from popular songs to folk songs and songs of faith. Below is a selection of clips and songs that spotlight only some of her talents:

Jo Stafford here with the Pied Pipers is a wonderful example of 1940s harmonies. She did so much for the war effort that she became known as GI Jo.

Moonlight In Vermont sung by Jo Stafford: I think this was the first song I’d ever heard her sing, although she’s probably more well known for songs like Shrimp Boats or Jambalaya.

Here Cinderella G. Stump (Jo Stafford) performs Temptation, or Tim-tay-shun in 1960 on the television program Startime. She’d first recorded this version with Red Ingle in 1947 when Red’s vocalist couldn’t make the recording session. The story goes that Red said it was not her “thing”, but Jo stepped up and made the recording. There were rumors that it was her voice, but her name was not attached to the recording, and she only received scale pay and waived royalties.

I usually don’t like music (especially folk songs) that have too much of the producer’s hand in them, but the arrangements by her husband, Paul Weston, beautifully spotlight the textures in Jo’s voice and bring a warmth to the songs that is equally evocative in a Manhattan apartment or around a campfire. Here Jo sings Red River Valley.

Jo and Paul had a record label called Corinthian Records which produced religious records. Jo recorded an album of Christian songs with Gordon McCrae. This is their recording of Nearer, My God, to Thee.

Cocktails for Two has been a song to send up almost from the time of its first writing. Think Spike Jones. This clip has an all star cast of comedians: Don Knotts, Pat Harrington Jr., Jo Stafford, Tony Randall, Louie Nye, and Gabe Dell all having a good time with the song. Later Jo and Paul would take on the presonae of Jonathan and Darleen Edwards. Here are the Edwards singing Cocktails For Two.

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