Mississippi-born Florence McCrory took her professional name from Ginger Rogers’ character in the 1937 movie Shall We Dance. Prior to becoming Linda Keene, she sang with Jan Garber’s orchestra. But by the 1950s her career was petering out.
The reasons for that aren’t clear from this set, although the process of a talent being overtaken by a crowded market place and passing fads and time is apparent. Keene’s way with a lyric is never in question, but along with many of the “girl singers” of the era she enjoyed a moment in the spotlight which amounted also to no more than a touch from the fickle, in some ways capricious hand of fame.
From Blue And Disillusioned with Bobby Hackett in 1938 to Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You? with Charlie Shavers and other notables in 1945 it’s possible to chart the course of an interpretive skill developing at its own pace. In many respects it was worthy of far better material than a lot of what’s to be heard here, Number Ten Lullaby Lane being a case in point.
As the bottom dropped out of the big band business towards the end of the 1940s, so too did work for the likes of Keene. By the early 1950s she was cutting acetates for a label called Gold Star, one of which, One For My Baby, offers evidence of a singer still taking on depth, and who could have survived, but for the ways of the world.
The title of this set is a little contentious by the way – not least because it doesn’t include any of the titles Linda Keene & Her Backroom Boys cut for the Signature label.
CD1: Blue And Disillusioned; Poor Butterfly; White Sails; Octoroon; The Sheik Of Araby; Tears From My Inkwell; Yankee Doodle; Especially For You; You’re The Moment In My Life; At The Balalaika; The Starlight Hour; As Long As I Live; AC-DC Current; I Love You Too Much; Times Square Scuttle; One Cigarette For Two; For Whom The Bell Tolls; Number Ten Lullaby Lane; Strictly From Dixie; Embraceable You; Somebody Loves Me; Mound Bayou (64.22)
CD2: Georgia On My Mind; Way Down Yonder In New Orleans; Shine; Someone To Watch Over Me; Ja-Da; Frankie And Johnny; When My Sugar Walks Down The Street; Romance; Zero Hour; Joe-Joe Jump; Unlucky Woman; Blues In The Storm; Don’t Let It End; Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You?; I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You; Blues On My Weary Mind; I Must Have That Man; Muddy Water; One For My Baby (63.12)
Keene (v); Bobby Hackett (t); Henry Levine (t); Charlie Shavers (t); Jack Teagarden (tb); Tony Pastor (ts, v); Joe Marsala (cl); Lennie Hayton (p) and many others. Numerous locations, 1938 to early 1950s.
Fresh Sounds FSR-CD 1115