Julie London

Cover Girl

IN THE FIRST PLACE, this unqualified doll
didn't think she could  sing: Secondly, the very idea of appearing in public threatened her with psychosomatic lockjaw. Finally, when a booking in a top supper club was arranged for her by Bobby Troup, she resoutely refused to audition and, perhaps unprecedented for an untried singer, was promptly hired without the club owner having the vaguest idea of what to expect.

    Reflecting on her first opening night about one and a half years ago, Julie laughs. “It was all pretty ridiculous, really. There I was on my opening night in one of the smartest rooms in Hollywood, John Walsh’s 881 club---hiding in the restroom! It’s true. I was scared to death. Bobby had to twist my arm before I could go out there and face an audience.”

    Sitting across from Beauteous Julie, Troup guffawed. “Twist your arm? I almost broke it! But you knocked ‘em dead, and that’s all that matters.” Bobby, ever-present valued advisor in Miss London’s career, ignited the initial spark of encouragement in the star, where there was towering lack of self-confidence.

   The winsome strawberry-blonde singer crossed her not unattractive legs, leaned back and chuckled, “Funny thing was, that opening Barney Kessel was making $250 a week and I was getting all of $125. We had a heck of a job trying to get Barney to take that gig, too.”

   REGARDLESS of the money initially involved, Barney seemed to be Julie’s good-luck charm. When she recorded her first Liberty album, Julie Is Her Name, it was Barney, backed by Ray Leatherwood’s bass, who arranged and played throughout. What became mere success at the 881 club was parlayed into triumph extraordinary when Cry Me A River, a single from that first album, hit the nation’s record stores and sold over a million copies.

    “After that, I at least felt better,” she said. “Maybe I really could make it after all. But I still wasn’t fully broken into recording. The thought of making a record date with a full orchestra gave me the shivers. It wasn’t till we did the Calendar Girl album that I got over that bugaboo. I’m sure Pete King cured me once and for all. He’s such a brilliant arranger, and he knew just how I felt . . . When the time came for the first take, I just shut my eyes and hoped for the best. Now I’m happy I went through with it.” On the basis of the album cover alone, it seems reasonable to presume the existing male population is happy, too.

    Now that Miss London’s insinuating tones are well established in the record industry--- so well established, incidentally, that trade observers credit her record sales with launching Liberty Records on its present lucrative course---she is concentrating more and more on her future in motion pictures. With a background of eight movies, including The Great Man which is just out of the can, and two yet to be released at this writing, the London career in films has really just hit tempo.

    On the subject of music and singers, Julie is very definite in her choice of favorites. “Aside from Ella, who’s right where she belongs---on top---I most prefer Peggy Lee. Why? I just like everything she does, I guess. Her whole approach to a song just gasses me!” A thoughtful pause. “Then Beverly Kenny. Looks to me that 1957 will really be her year. I dig her because, well, she phrases like mad. She sings in tune, too; matter of fact, she sings like a musician.

    “THEN THERE’S Carmen McRae and Rosemary Clooney because they’ve got so much taste. You get the feeling they couldn’t sing badly if they tried.”

    Julie makes no bones about being a dyed-in-the-cool Kenton fan. “He’s my all-time big band favorite. Thanks to Stan, a whole new school of jazz musicians developed. He really got it going.” This month will mark Julie’s appearance with the Kenton band on a U.S. marine corps recruiting program scheduled for NBC radio network and Armed Forces radio. (How many can recall bad old days when Leatherneck recruiting was never like this?)

    Still expressing her preferences, Julie suddenly gasped, “I forgot June Christy! Speaking of Kenton reminded me. I really like the way June handles a song. Always have. She came up with a sound of her own and, the way I see it, singers who make it have to have an individual sound.”

    Easily introduced was the topic of pairing the London sound with that of a jazz group: “Would I did that! One group I’d love to record with is Chico Hamilton’s. I think those guys are so great . . . so original.

    “Don’t get the idea, though, that I’m strictly a modern jazz fan. I like Dixieland very much. Dick Cathcart is a particular favorite. He plays cornet.”

    NOW THAT Julie London is big time in the record business, it seemed germaine to re-pose a question she publicly answered about a year ago . . . Does she still feel as strongly as before about not playing clubs?

    “Yes, definitely. I don’t care if I ever see the inside of another club---as a working singer, I mean. So long as I can make money in other ways, I just won’t play clubs. They don’t have any appeal at all for me. Actually, they never did have, but for a time it was necessary I work them---so I did. But no more.”

    Whatever may be the theme, Julie knows her own clear mind. “With all this hullaballoo today in some responsible quarters about whether rhythm & blues (or rock ‘n’ roll) means musical ruin for us, there is something I’d like to say,” she declared, at once animated. “I positively do not think R&B will influence popular music --- lastingly, I mean. Not at all. And for those who say, ‘Well it’s got the kids dancing,’ if standing four feet apart and jumping over each other’s shoulders is dancing . . . well, just let me out at the next stop, that’s all.”

    A new London album just recorded but as yet unreleased is titled About The Blues. Eyes shining, Julie explains, “Russ Garcia did the arranging. What a musician that Russ is! Naturally, the record is all blues tunes. We did four sides with strings. Then we used a Les Brown type band with Shelly Manne, Maynard Ferguson, Barney Kessel, and other really fine jazz musicians. And on the up tunes, Willie Smith is featured in quite a few solos. Too much! This album is really something new for me, but I’m certainly thrilled about the way it turned out. The boys seemed to have fun doing it, too.”


Down Beat Magazine

Wednesday - January 23, 1957

By John Tynan