Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Lee Wiley (9 October 1915 - 11 December 1975) was an American jazz singer popular in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Although today less well-known than such singers of the same era as Billie Holiday, Wiley is nonetheless still much appreciated by jazz aficionados and nearly all her recordings are in print. Although she had only a small voice, she possessed a attractive, slightly husky tone and delivered lyrics with warmth and intimacy.
Wiley was born in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. While still in her early teens, Wiley left home to begin a career singing with the Leo Reisman band. Her career was temporarily interrupted by a fall while horse-riding and she suffered temporary blindness, but she recovered and at the age of 19 was back with Reisman again. She also 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 becoming an R&B hit in the 1950s.
In 1939, Wiley make an album of Gershwin songs with a small group. The record sold well and was followed by albums dedicated to 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 such musicians as Bud Freeman , Max Kaminsky , Fats Waller, Billy Butterfield , Bobby Hackett, Eddie Condon, and the bandleader Jess Stacy , the latter to whom Wiley was married for a number of years. These influential albums launched the concept of a "songbook", 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 Buddy Hackett. Later in the decade she recording two of her finest albums, West of the Moon (1956) and A Touch of the Blues (1957).
In the 1960s, Wiley essentially went into retirement, although a 1963 television film, Something About Lee Wiley, which told her life story, 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.
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