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Alphabe Thursday … J is for the Queen(s) of Jazz

January 24, 2013

Queen (s) of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald, Connee Boswell and Mamie Smith

Ella Fitzgerald AKA First Lady of Song , Queen of Jazz and Lady Ella was a jazz singer with a vocal range spanning three octaves.  She was noted for her purity of tone, perfect diction, phrasing and intonation and a ‘horn-like improvisational ability, particularly in her scat – singing’.

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) was born to William and Temperance Fitzgerald who split up soon after her birth.  Mother and baby moved from Virginia to Yonkers, New York, where Ella’s mother reunited with an old boyfriend and had another daughter Frances in 1923.

The family were Methodists and regularly attended worship services, bible study and Sunday School at the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Ella wanted to be a dancer and loved to listen to records by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby and the Boswell Sisters in particular Connee.  Her mother brought home one of her records and Ella ‘fell in love with it’ and went to great lengths to sound like her.
After her mother died in 1932; Ella missed a lot of schooling and was abused by her stepfather. After being in several institutions, for orphans and ‘training,’ Ella was homeless.
Ella made her first appearance at a one of the earliest ‘Amatuer Nights’ at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem where she already pulled a regular audience.  She planned to dance, but that night the Edward Sisters a  local dance troupe looked favourable, so Ella decided to sing a songs recently recorded by the Boswells;  Judy and The object of my affection and won the first prize of 25 dollars.

Connee Boswell, in turn was was influenced by Mamie Smith (nee Robinson) (1883-1946)


It is thought that Mamie Robinson was born in Cincinnati. She began working as a dancer at 10 years old and continued touring with various troupes until she began to sing in Harlem clubs and married a waiter called William Smith.
Soon after this Mamie became recognised as a vaudeville singer, dancer, pianist and actress. She appeared in several films, first was an early sound film Jailhouse Blues.  Mamie retired from recording and performing in 1931 but appeared in a couple more films in the early 1940s.
However it was as a vaudeville performer,  singing in various styles including jazz and blues, that she made her biggest impact and go on to influence other rising stars.
She made a significant mark in blues history as being the first African American artist to make a vocal blues recording in 1920.
Mamie died in 1946 in New York.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2013 12:09 pm

    I enjoyed this post – I learnt something new about these wonderful jazz singers. Thanks for sharing!

  2. January 24, 2013 12:36 pm

    Happily with the recording abilities today, we will be able to keep the beautiful voices of these women forever. When I was reading about Ella’s early life, I thought of the idea that one can’t sing the blues unless they have lived them. Well, I guess Ella Fitzgerald certainly paid her share. When hearing her voice, she just makes you smile. It was like she just enjoyed singing so much and she shared it with us!

    • January 24, 2013 1:04 pm

      Yes she I believe she loved to sing not the stardom! Thanks for visiting _/\_x

  3. January 24, 2013 2:29 pm

    Fascinating and creative post for ‘J’ ~ Love Ella! She is the Queen.

    (A Creative Harbor) ^_^ on Blogger

  4. January 24, 2013 2:42 pm

    I love Ella Fitzgerald!

  5. January 24, 2013 9:50 pm

    I do love me some Ella

  6. January 25, 2013 7:01 am

    thank you – learned some more about jazz and fun stuff too..

  7. January 25, 2013 1:36 pm

    Great, creative post for *J*!
    Here’s mine!

  8. January 29, 2013 4:01 pm

    Ella certainly can sing and its no wonder there is so much emotion in her words… She has dealt with so much in her life…

    Thanks for linking and sharing all this information about some Jazz greats…

    Great Job on the letter J…


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