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Profile of Jo Elizabeth Stafford
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||Jo Elizabeth Stafford
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|Date of Birth:
||12th November 1917
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Jo Elizabeth Stafford (born November 12, 1917) is a singer whose career spanned the late 1920s through the early 1960s. Stafford is greatly admired for the purity of her voice and is considered one of the most versatile vocalists of the era. She is also considered a pioneer of modern musical parody, having won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album in 1961 (with husband Paul Weston) for their album "Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris."
Stafford was born in Coalinga, California to Grover Cleveland Stafford and Anna York Stafford, a distant cousin of Sergeant Alvin York. Originally, she wanted to become an opera singer and studied voice as a child. However, because of the economic Great Depression, she abandoned that idea and joined her sisters Christine and Pauline in a popular vocal group, "The Stafford Sisters," which performed on Los Angeles radio staton KHJ.
The Pied Pipers
When her sisters married, the group broke up and Stafford joined a new vocal group, The Pied Pipers. This group consisted of eight members: John Huddleston (who was Stafford's husband at the time), Hal Hooper, Chuck Lowry, Bud Hervey, George Tait, Woody Newbury, and Dick Whittinghill, besides Stafford. The group became very popular, working on local radio and movie soundtracks, and caught the attention of two of Tommy Dorsey's arrangers, Axel Stordahl and Paul Weston.
In 1938, Weston persuaded Dorsey to sign The Pied Pipers for his radio show, and they went to New York for a broadcast date. Dorsey liked them enough to sign them for ten weeks, but after the second broadcast the sponsor heard them and disliked them, firing the group. They stayed in New York for three months, but landed only a single job that paid them just $3.60 each, though they did record four sides for RCA Victor Records.
Half the members of he Pied Pipers Returning to Los Angeles, but they had a difficult time trying to make a living until they got an offer from Dorsey to join his big band 1939. This led to success for the whole group, but especially for Stafford, who was also featured in solo performances. The group also backed Frank Sinatra in some of his early recordings.
In 1942, the group had an argument with Dorsey and left, but in 1943 it became one of the first groups signed to Johnny Mercer's new label, Capitol Records. Capitol's music director was the same Paul Weston who had been instrumental in introducing Stafford to Dorsey. Weston and Stafford married in 1952. They went on to have two children, Tim and Amy.
In 1944, Stafford left the Pied Pipers to go solo. Her tenure with the USO, in which she gave countless performances for soldiers stationed overseas, acquired her the nickname "GI Jo." In 1950, she left Capitol for Columbia Records, returning to Capitol in 1961. At Columbia, she was the first recording artist to sell twenty-five million records. In 1948 Stafford and Gordon MacRae had a million-seller with their version of "Say Something Sweet to Your Sweetheart" and in 1949 repeated their success with "My Happiness".
Stafford briefly experimented with comedy under the name Cinderella G. Stump, with Red Ingle and the Natural Seven. True succes in the comedy genre, though, would come about almost accidentally.
Throughout the 1950s, Stafford and Paul Weston would entertain guests at parties by putting on a skit in which they assumed the identities Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, a bad lounge act. Stafford, as Darlene, would sing off-key in a high pitched voice; Weston, as Jonathan, played an untuned piano off key and with bizarre rythms.
Finding that she had time left over following a 1957 recording session, Stafford, as a gag, recorded a track as Darlene Edwards. Those who heard bootlegs of the recording responded positively, and later that year, Stafford and Weston recorded an entire album of songs as Jnathan and Darlene, entitled "Jo Stafford and Paul Weston Present: The Original Piano Artistry of Jonathan Edwards, Vocals by Darlene Edwards."
As a publicity stunt, Stafford and Weston claimed that the Edwardses were a New Jersey lounge act that they had discovered, and denied any personal connection; much time would pass before people realized (and Stafford and Weston admitted) that they were in fact the Edwardses.
The album was a commercial and critical success. The couple continued releasing Jonathan and Darlene albums, with their 1961 album, "Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris" winning that year's Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album (they "tied" with Bob Hope, as the Grammys decided, in a rare move, to issue two comedy awards that year. Hope was given an award for "Spoken Word Comedy.") It was the only major award that Stafford ever won.
The couple continued to release Jonathan and Darelene albums for several years, and in 1977 released a final, one-off single, a cover of The Beegees Stayin' Alive backed with I Am Woman. The same year also saw a brief resurgance in the popularity of Jonathan and Darlene albums, when their cover of Carioca was featured as the opening and closing theme to The Kentucky Fried Movie.
Today, the Jonathan and Darlene albums are seen as an important step in musical comedy, and some see them as the predesscessors to parody comedians such as Weird Al.
In 1966, Stafford went into semi-retirement, retiring completely from the music business in 1975. In 1977, she and Paul Weston recorded a one-off cover of The Beegees "Stayin' Alive." Stafford wouldn't perform again until 1990, at a ceremony honoring Frank Sinatra.
Stafford won a breach-of-contract lawsuit against her former record label in the early 1990s, which won her the rights to all of her old recordings, including the Jonathan and Darlene Edwards recordings. Following the lawsuit, Stafford, along with son Tim, started the Corinthian Record label, and began releasing her old albums. With Paul Weston's help, she compiled a pair of "Best of Jonathan and Darlene" albums, which were released in 1993. In 1996, Paul Weston died of natural causes. As of 2005, Stafford continues to operate Corinthian Records.
- Download sample of "Basin Street Blues" by Stafford and Frankie Laine
- "Allentown Jail"
- "Black Is The Color"
- "Day By Day"
- "Early Autumn"
- "Feudin' and Fightin'"
- "Goodnight Irene" (better known version by The Weavers)
- "Here I'll Stay"
- "I Love You"
- "It Could Happen To You"
- "It's Almost Tomorrow" (better known version by The Dream Weavers)
- "Keep It a Secret"
- "Just One Way To Say I Love You"
- "The Last Mile Home"
- "Let's Take the Long Way Home"
- "Long Ago (And Far Away)"
- "Make Love to Me!"
- "No Other Love" (a different song from the one of the same name done by Perry Como)
- "On London Bridge"
- "Out Of This World"
- "Ragtime Cowboy Joe"
- "September Song"
- "Serenade Of the Bells"
- "Shrimp Boats"
- "Some Enchanted Evening" (better known version by Ezio Pinza)
- "Suddenly There's a Valley" (better known version by Gogi Grant)
- "Swingin' On Nothin'"
- "Teach Me Tonight" (better known version by The DeCastro Sisters)
- "Thank You for Calling"
- "That's For Me"
- "Now And Then) There's A Fool Such As I" (better known version by Elvis Presley)
- "There's No You"
- "The Things We Did Last Summer"
- "You Belong to Me" (her best-selling hit)
- "White Christmas" (better known version by Bing Crosby)
with Gordon MacRae
- "'A' — You're Adorable" (better known version by Perry Como)
- "My Darling, My Darling"
- "Say Something Sweet To Your Sweetheart"
- "Whispering Hope"
with Johnny Mercer
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