Born: November 12, 1917
City and Country of Origin: Coalinga, California
Music Background: studied voice as a child
Awards: Grammy 1961 Best Comedy Album, Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris
Top Recordings: "Say Something Sweet to Your Sweetheart," "Hey Good Lookin'," "Jambalaya," "Shrimp Boats," "Make Love to Me," "You Belong to Me"
Jo Stafford Biography: An American pop singer, whose career spanned from the 1930s thru the early 60s. Considered one of the most versatile female vocalists of her era, she is also viewed as a pioneer of modern musical parody.
She was born to Grover Cleveland Stafford and Anna York Stafford, a distant cousin of Sergeant Alvin York. She gave up her dream of someday becoming an opera singer, during the Great Depression, to join her sisters Christine and Pauline in a popular vocal group, "The Stafford Sisters," which performed on Los Angeles radio station KHJ.
After her sisters got married, the group broke up, and Stafford joined a new vocal group, The Pied Pipers. The group working on local radio caught the attention of two of Tommy Dorsey's arrangers, Axel Stordahl and Paul Weston.
Dorsey hired them and the group went to New York to perform on his radio show in 1938. Dorsey like them enough to sign them to a 10 week contract, but after the second show the sponsor did not like them and they were fired. Three months in New York managed to land them all of $3.60 each. Half the group returned to Los Angeles, but reunited after they got an offer from Dorsey to join his band. As part of the group's function with Dorsey was backing up a young male vocalist by the name of Frank Sinatra.
In 1942 the group left Dorsey after a disagreement, and became one of the first groups to sign with Johnny Mercer's new label Capitol Records. The musical director, of Capitol at that time, was the same Paul Weston who was responsible for the group originally signing with Dorsey. Weston and Stafford would be married in 1952.
Stafford left the Pied Pipers, in 1942, to pursue a solo career. Jo soon acquired the nickname "GI Jo" for her numerous USO tours during WWII. In 1944 she hosted the Tuesday and Thursday broadcasts of an NBC musical variety radio program — the Chesterfield Supper Club.
She teamed with Gordon McRae in 1948 on the million selling single "Say Something Sweet to Your Sweetheart" and the following year repeated the success with "My Happiness." By 1950 Mitch Miller had replaced John Hammond as President of A&R at Columbia Records which marked the unofficial end of the big band era. He began signing former canaries from the big bands as solo artists and it did not take long for him to woo Stafford away from Capitol Records. The signing paid big dividends for Columbia as Stafford became the first recording artist to sell 25 million records.
In 1961 she returned to Capitol Records, but also recorded for Frank Sinatra's Reprise label. She left Reprise when Sinatra sold the label to Warner Bros. The 1950s proved to be Stafford's most successful decade. She recorded a string of pop hits with Frankie Laine as well as producing several blockbuster hits of her own like "Jambalaya," "Shrimp Boats," "Make Love to Me," and "You Belong to Me". The last song is her most well known recording.
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