She was born as Mary Loutsenhizer in Kansas City, Missouri to Clyde and Mabel Loutsenhizer. She studied and became proficient on the clarinet, having studied for 8 years throughout junior high and high school. Mabel Loutsenhizer died in 1940 and young Mary moved in with her older sister, who took over the responsibility of raising her. She first sang publicly in 1945, at the Jefferson City Junior College's graduation.
She performed the song "Amor" and it was well received. After the positive response she received from the audience, she decided to pursue a singing career full-time. Initially, she stayed within the parameters of the Kansas City area, working during the day as a stenographer and singing on weekends. Her first professional job was with the University of Missouri college band playing various functions in the Columbia area. She moved between local bands from 1946–47; and, in 1948, she moved to New York City with the intention of having a glamorous career. Unable to find a singing job, she became an office stenographer. She spent the next seven weeks trying to secure any kind singing job. She met a man acquainted with orchestra leader Claude Thornhill's road manager, Joe Green. Thornhill was seeking a new singer to round out his vocal group, the Snowflakes. She successfully auditioned and joined Thornhill's group, touring around the United States and recording harmonies in the studio. Of her time spent with the Snowflakes, there is only evidence of her vocal contribution on two recorded songs: "There's a Small Hotel" and "I Don't Know Why", both performed in 1949. She continued to tour with the Thornhill band sporadically until March 1952, when she joined Jerry Wald's big band and recorded five songs: "You're the Cream in My Coffee", "Cherokee", "Pennies from Heaven", "Raisins and Almonds", and "Terremoto". She also reunited with Claude Thornhill in October 1952 for a radio broadcast from the Statler Hotel in New York City. She sang four songs: "Wish You Were Here", Come Rain or Come Shine", "Sorta Kinda", and "Who Are We to Say".
Chris Connor (1927 - 2009) was an American jazz singer. She was with her companion Lori Muscarelle for 47 years until her death. Jazz historian Marc Myers wrote, 'You never got the feeling with Chris that she was a helpless female, but you never got the feeling she was bossy either. And, as a result, almost everyone who heard her fell in love with her.' Connor made her final recordings in the early 2000s, with two albums for HighNote Records. Everything I Love in 2003 is her final album.
In February 1953, when Connor was singing on a live radio broadcast from the Roosevelt Hotel, June Christy (then vocalist for Stan Kenton's band), was listening and heard her. By 1952, Kenton had rotated several female singers as replacements. In late 1952, Christy returned to the Kenton band for some sporadic engagements. When she informed Kenton again of her impending departure to pursue a solo career, she remembered Chris Connor and recommended her to Kenton. Connor auditioned and began touring and recording for the Stan Kenton band in February 1953. On February 11, 1953, Connor recorded her first sides with the Stan Kenton band. Her first song, "And The Bull Walked Around, Ole", peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard music charts. Other songs recorded with the band were "Baia", "Jeepers Creepers", "If I Should Lose You", "I Get A Kick Out Of You", "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" and the song that would forever be associated with the vocalist, "All About Ronnie". Additional songs Connor sang on the road (but never recorded with the band in studio) were "Taking A Chance On Love", "Don't Worry About Me", "I'll Remember April" and "There Will Never Be Another You".
By June 1953, Connor was finding the constant traveling and vocal demands of nightly performances with a big band exhausting. She abruptly left the Kenton band; and, by fall of 1953, she was back in New York. She soon hired Monte Kay to manage her impending solo career, and he found work for her at Birdland. One night after a show, the owner of Bethlehem Records, Gus Wildi, offered her a recording contract on the spot. She signed with the label in 1953 and, in 1954, released dual LPs, Chris Connor Sings Lullabys Of Birdland and Chris Connor Sings Lullabys For Lovers. At age 26, she became a best-selling solo artist for Bethlehem Records; and the label rushed her into the studios to record additional songs. Bethlehem Records released the successful follow-up albums Chris and This Is Chris in 1955. When time came for Connor's contract to expire, she signed for an album deal with Atlantic Records. Connor was the first white female jazz singer to be signed by the label. Ahmet Ertegun and his brother Nesuhi Ertegun's Atlantic label was, at the time, primarily a rhythm and blues label, with artists such as Ruth Brown and Ray Charles.
Her Atlantic albums were always polished productions; and she was given free rein to choose her own songs, as well as the opportunity to work with any musicians she wished. During her Atlantic period (1956–62), Connor worked with some of the best producers, arrangers, and musicians in the jazz field. Well-known producers and musicians such as Maynard Ferguson, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Kenny Burrell, Barry Galbraith, Peanuts Hucko, Herbie Mann, Lucky Thompson, Hank Jones, Oscar Pettiford, Zoot Sims, Ray Ellis, Al Cohn, Ralph Sharon, Jerry Wexler, and Doc Severinsen were all involved in her successful series of albums for the label. She recorded the songs of George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Margo Guryan, Cole Porter, Bart Howard, and Peggy Lee, as well as Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II compositions.
When her last Atlantic album No Strings - An After Theatre Version was released in 1962, Connor decided not to renew her contract. Monte Kay had started his own record label and persuaded Connor to be the first artist signed. Her first album for FM, Chris Connor at the Village Gate (1963), although critically acclaimed, did not sell as well as her previous Bethlehem and Atlantic albums. Her second LP for FM, A Weekend in Paris (1964), was sent to radio stations but never commercially released because FM Records declared bankruptcy.
Connor spent the remainder of the 1960s and 1970s recording for various labels: ABC/Paramount Records, Sings Gentle Bossa Nova was released in 1965 and Now! was released in 1966); an album for JVC, a Japanese label; Chris Connor Softly And Swinging was released in 1969. Further recordings were issued by Stanyan Records in 1971, Sony Japan in 1977, Progressive Records in 1978, and the Japanese Lobster Records in 1979.
Connor made her final recordings in the early 2000s, with two albums for HighNote Records. A session in April, 2002 was released as Everything I Love in 2003 as her final album. However, her last session a month later, May 17 and 19, 2002, came out first, as I Walk with Music in 2002. The voice is at its darkest. The cover shows a distant, desolate silhouette at night walking on train tracks toward a tunnel.
Connor most recently lived in Toms River, New Jersey. She occasionally performed in New York and surrounding areas. She owned the rights to both of the ABC/Paramount Records albums and hoped to release both on CD in the future.
Chris Connor died on August 29, 2009, from cancer, aged 81. She is survived by a nephew and her long-time partner and manager Lori Muscarelle. She was with her companion Lori Muscarelle for 47 years until her death. Jazz historian Marc Myers wrote, 'You never got the feeling with Chris that she was a helpless female, but you never got the feeling she was bossy either. And, as a result, almost everyone who heard her fell in love with her.'
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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