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Lee Wiley occupies her own place in jazz history. Although a cool-toned and sophisticated singer, her interpretations of superior standards were often quite sensuous and, even if she did not improvise much, she was a favorite of many musicians, particularly Eddie Condon. She came to New York in the early '30s and at age 17 was singing and recording with Leo Reisman's orchestra. She spent most of the that decade singing with commercial radio orchestras (including Victor Young and Johnny Green) but eventually also appeared at clubs backed by small jazz groups, having a close relationship with Bunny Berigan. Starting in 1939 Lee Wiley became the first singer to devote an entire album to the music of one composer; her George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and Rodgers & Hart sessions are considered classic and the highpoints of her career. Wiley married Jess Stacy in 1943 but after five years both their big band and marriage were history. She appeared at a few of Eddie Condon's Town Hall concerts but from the late '40s on Wiley performed and recorded less frequently. After some sessions for Columbia during 1950-51, Storyville in 1954 and Victor during 1956-57, all that remained was a final record for Monmouth-Evergreen in 1971. By then she was forgotten to all but veteran record collectors but Lee Wiley had made her mark decades earlier.

--Scott Yanow, All Music Guide


Born : October 5, 1915, Fort Gibson, OK
Died : December 11, 1975, New York, NY

Although Lee Wiley had faded into obscurity by the time of her death in 1975, she had made her mark on the jazz world some 40 years earlier. Although she was not a "jazz" singer in the sense that she rarely improvised or scatted during her songs, she was known to her legion of fans as a sensuous interpreter of standards.

Part Cherokee Indian, Lee was born and raised in northeast Oklahoma. After traveling to New York in the early 1930's, Lee Wiley began singing and recording professionally, recording "Time on My Hands" with Leo Reisman's orchestra as a featured vocalist in 1931, when she was only 16. Frequent work continued through the 1930's, mainly as a vocalist with some of the major commercial radio orchestras of the day.

It was during this time that she met many of the jazz stars that she would later record with, including Eddie Condon and Bobby Hackett. Condon was especially fond of Lee Wiley's singing, and used her on several sides he made for Decca in the 1940's. Beginning in 1939, Ms. Wiley recorded several sets of songs, with each featuring the music of one composer. She was the first singer to take this "songbook" approach to standards, an idea later used with great success by Ella Fitzgerald.

In 1943, Lee Wiley was married to pianist and bandleader Jess Stacy but the marriage was troubled and only lasted five years. She still continued to record, with Stacy and also with Bobby Hackett. Her recordings slowed down in the 1950's, but included an excellent album for RCA ("West of the Moon") at the urging of NBC television personality Dave Garroway, who also used her on his album "Dave Garroway Presents the Wide, Wide World of Jazz."

Lee Wiley made no recordings during the 1960's, and her final recording session was for Monmouth Records ("Back Home Again") in the fall of 1971. She died in New York in 1975 at the age of 60.

--Yahoo! Music
Lee Wiley - Biography


b. 9 October 1915, Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, USA, d. 11 December 1975, New York City, New York, USA. While still in her early teens, Wiley left home to begin a career singing with the Reisman, Leo band. Her career was interrupted when, following a fall while horse-riding, she suffered temporary blindness. She recovered her sight and at the age of 19 was back with Reisman again. She also sang with Whiteman, Paul and later, the Casa Loma Orchestra (The). A collaboration with composer Young, Victor 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 50s. In the early 40s Wiley began a long succession of fine recording dates, singing many classic songs, usually with backing from small jazz groups, which included musicians such as Freeman, Bud, Kaminsky, Max, Waller, Fats , Butterfield, Billy , Hackett, Bobby , Condon, Eddie, and Stacy, Jess, the latter to whom she was married for a while. In 1943 she sang with Stacy's big band and subsequently continued to perform with small groups, notably with Condon-directed jazzmen, and pursued her prolific recording career.

Although she had only a small voice, she possessed a wistful and charming sound and delivered lyrics with a low-key sensuality. The warmth and intimacy she projected resulted in many of her performances becoming definitive versions of the songs. "I've Got A Crush On You", from 1939 with Waller and Freeman in support, "How Long Has This Been Going On?", "Baby's Awake Now" and "You Took Advantage Of Me", all from 1939 and 1940, and "I've Got The World On A String", from 1945, with Condon and Ernie Caceres, are all excellent examples of her distinctively delicate singing style. She made fewer appearances and records in the 50s and 60s, although a 1963 television film, Something About Lee Wiley, which told a version of her life story, boosted interest in her work. One of her final appearances came in 1972 at the New York Jazz Festival, where she was rapturously received by audiences who were beginning to appreciate what her fellow musicians had known all along: that she was one of the best jazz singers the music had known even if, by this time, her always fragile-sounding voice was no longer at its best.

--Music Excite by Muse


I was singing in the Big Room of an elegant club in New York City called The Blue Angel. One night after the show, I joined some friends in the Art Deco lounge and saw a sight I'll never forget: a woman, draped in sable, seated at one of the black leather upholstered banquettes, surrounded by five or six gentlemen in black tie. The men were clearly enchanted with this glamourous creature, lighting her cigarettes, pouring her champagne, laughing ever so delicately at her witticisms, and not a one paying the slightest attention to darling Bobby Short, singing Cole Porter tunes on a little upright over in the corner with all the persuasion and enthusiasm he possesses to this day. "WHO is that?", I asked. "THAT" is Lee Wiley!"

I was dazzled and thrilled to see the great Lee Wiley, and determined I'd be the center of attention at a similar party one day... Best I've done so far is that night backstage at the Newport Jazz Festival when some guy offered me a joint, a bottle of beer and a ride home.

--Comment by Carol Sloane on All about jazz


b. 9 October c.1910, Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, USA, d. 11 December 1975. While still in her early teens, Wiley left home to begin a career singing with the Leo Reisman band. Her career was interrupted when, following a fall while horse-riding, she suffered temporary blindness. She recovered her sight and at the age of 19 was back with Reisman again. She also sang with Paul Whiteman and later, the Casa Loma Band. 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 '50s. In the early '40s Wiley began a long succession of fine recording dates, singing many classic songs, usually with backing from small jazz groups, which included musicians such as Bud Freeman, Max Kaminsky, Fats Waller, Billy Butterfield, Bobby Hackett, Eddie Condon, and Jess Stacy, the latter to whom she was married for a while. In 1943 she sang with Stacy's big band and subsequently continued to perform with small groups, notably with Condon-directed jazzmen, and pursued her prolific recording career.
Although she had only a small voice, she possessed a wistful and charming sound and delivered lyrics with a low-key sensuality. The warmth and intimacy she projected resulted in many of her performances becoming definitive versions of the songs. I've Got A Crush On You, from 1939 with Waller and Freeman in support, How Long Has This Been Going On?, Baby's Awake Now and You Took Advantage Of Me, all from 1939 and 1940, and I've Got The World On A String, from 1945, with Condon and Ernie Caceres, are all excellent examples of her distinctively delicate singing style. She made fewer appearances and records in the '50s and '60s, although a 1963 television film, SOMETHING ABOUT LEE WILEY, which told a version of her life story, boosted interest in her work. One of her final appearances came in 1972 at the New York Jazz Festival, where she was rapturously received by audiences who were beginning to appreciate what her fellow musicians had known all along: that she was one of the best jazz singers the music had known even if, by this time, her always fragile-sounding voice was no longer at its best.

--Centrohd.Com