Monday, April 28, 2008
My father was in the Marine Corps, stationed in San Diego, in the early 1950's. My Mother, his High School steady, flew out to California on a Lockheed Constellation four-propeller airplane after he proposed (by letter) in 1954. Her scrapbook contains her plane ticket, in flight menu, and even her American Airlines cocktail napkin. It had to have been paradise, to be in uncrowded and unspoiled San Diego in the mid-fifties.
One of the perks at the time was an outdoor theatre called the Starlight Bowl, in Balboa Park. In Mother's scrapbook are several programs from performances they attended there- mostly musicals but some orchestras as well. One of the programs was for a concert by the Stan Kenton Orchestra featuring vocals by June Christy. From that night, June Christy would be my father's favorite singer, and later on one of mine as well.
Born Shirley Luster, she auditioned for and joined Kenton in 1945. They immediately had a hit record with a slightly satirical novelty song called "Tampico", which would become Kenton's best selling recording of all time. It was in the band that she met saxophonist and sports car racer Bob Cooper, whom she married shortly thereafter. Tanned, blond, and casual, the personified the Southern California lifestyle. They were known to their friends as Christy and Coop.
Christy recorded a tune which became her signature piece, "Something Cool", in 1950. It's a slow paced jazz piece where her voice is as much of an instrument as anything in Kenton's band. It is credited with starting what was called the "vocal cool" movement of the mid 50's. She released several albums for Capitol in the 1950's which did well in the jazz world, and achieved some crossover success in the mainstream as well.
Not one for the spotlight, Christy's last major album was released in 1960, with a new stereo recording of "Something Cool", this time as the title piece of an album. She went into semi-retirement, gardening and raising their daughter, Shay. She appeared occasionally at Jazz festivals and nightclubs. She was most usually spotted in Sherman Oaks, driving her beloved white 1964 Thunderbird convertible.
Her most successful album, 1956's top 20 charting "The Misty Miss Christy" was Dad's favorite. He literally listened to it hundreds of times in my youth. I have it now, along with all his old Christy LP's. I gave him the CD versions so he is not deprived.
Here's Christy at her peak- recorded in 1958, she puts her inimitable mark on "I Want to Be Happy":
And for your misty cool listening pleasure, here is a 1965 appearance of the Misty Miss Christy, backed by Stan Kenton singing "A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening":
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