She only recorded two albums. She may or may not have died in a car accident. Her year of birth is up for grabs. Who is Helen Carr?
It's a mystery, or at least a mystery in terms of digging up information about her on the Internet. She was born in Utah in 1924, or perhaps 1922, and once her career took off, she fronted for a number of big bands, including Stan Kenton and Charlie Barnett. Her voice is breathy and distinctive, and while some liken her to Billie Holiday, I think a sharp-toned Blossom Dearie is a much closer match if we're going for comparisons.
Yet why compare? She has her own sound, one that never quite comes at you directly, but sneaks up on you sideways and around corners. Her first - or was it her second? - LP, 1955's "Down In The Depths Of The 90th Floor" is also noteworthy because her set, including "Tulip or Turnip" and "I Don't Want To Cry Anymore" haven't all been done to death. Everything about it feels fresh.
Adding to the mystery of Helen is the fact that she never reveals her face on her LP covers, including 1955's (or 1956's?) "Why Do I Love You" - a Cheerfully Heavenly Helen Exclusive! - which features two models (I'm assuming) making out on the beach. This version's been remastered, yet what makes it truly stand out, again, are the off-the-beaten-track song selections and Helen's gorgeous vocals, which can turn hot or cool on a dime.
Helen died in 1960, either in a car accident or due to breast cancer, leaving behind her husband, pianist/arranger Donn Trenner (who's still kinkin' at age 90). They even wrote a song together, "Memory Of The Rain," which is featured on "90th Floor." Treasure these two LPs, because that's all there is.*
(*Actually, that's not true. See below.)
In the comment section of this post, Michael, who's a better music detective than I am, correctly points out that Helen has two tracks on the 1957 LP "Max Bennett Plays." Now we have more Helen tracks to listen to, plus a terrific jazz album to boot. Hooray! Thanks, Michael.
But wait, there's more. Though I never intended this post to be a constantly revised all-Helen collection (I thought her two LPs were all there was) (shows what I know), it's turning out to be, this time thanks to commenter Max80, who helpfully pointed out that she has a track, "Say It Isn't So," on Charles Mingus' "West Coast Recordings." Helen + Mingus. What's not to love? Thanks, Max80!
Meanwhile: "I serve Corn Flakes on the rocks!" Who else but Fang's Wife would have said that?
The Mother Of Modern Female Comics (uncharacteristically glammed out above) had to look like a kook back in the day - with wild outfits and even wilder, proto-punk hair - in order to be accepted by audiences, since no "normal lady" would dare be a raucous stand-up comic. In fact, at the time she started, there wasn't a single female comic on the circuit. Her mentor Bob Hope called her look "a Warhol mobile of spare parts picked up along the freeway."
Her 1959 comic LP, "Wet Toe In A Hot Socket" - a Killer Diller Cheerful Exclusive! - was her very first and it's a delightful giggle-fest, as you'd expect, and with an audience that sounds positively soused (their laughter sputters and dribbles from their mouths). Recorded at the teensy Bon Soir nightclub in Greenwich Village, Phyllis shared her dressing room with a certain buttery-voiced singer:
Yes, it's true, a then unknown Barbra Streisand was her opening act. In other words, it was a pre-Stonewall, gay gentleman's double-bill dream show.
Time to shake it, don't you think? And who better to shake it than Miss Abbe Lane.
Abbe's on the first track of this fabulous Xavier Cugat LP, "The Brand New Cha Cha Cha" - a Cheerfully Cha-Cha Exclusivo! for you and yours - with songs like "Tremendo Cha Cha Cha" and "Oyeme Mama!" and "The Chi-Chi Cha Cha Cha" and more. First released as a four-track EP in 1956, it was restored in 2009, and with scads of new Cugat Cha Cha Cha tracks from the same period added on. Resistance is futile.
As you surely know, The Secret Song File was once crowned Miss Sausage Queen USA. Get your mind out of the gutter, it wasn't for that reason (yes it was).
At any rate, her time as the Sausage Queen got her to thinking about how sausage is made, about body parts (just go with this), and how a certain late-80s/early-90s girl group singer had a moniker which made note of her left eye. And voila, she further noticed that this girl group has released a terrific new CD, minus the left eye singer, of course. She died years ago, dont'cha know, but not before taking care of her abusive ex-boyfriend. Girl definitely knew how to bring on the drama.
Sometimes people overdo things, don't you think?
Get all dramastique in the comments, if you like!