[Dixielandjazz] Bobby Short Obit

Ron L'Herault lherault at bu.edu
Mon Mar 21 09:27:26 PST 2005

I met Short in the early 1970s.  He played a major part in a program for
WGBH channel 2, Boston, that the New Black Eagles were featured on, called
"Roaring Through the 20s".  Claude Hopkins also performed.   Short played
the owner/host of the speakeasy and the Eagles were the house band.
Friends and fans were the "patrons" of the posh blind pig.   It was a great
night of music and entertainment, including some fancy dancing (the female
dancer, who was from my home town, has passed away also as has Hopkins) and
clips from a couple of movies, a silent and Jolson's "Jazz Singer".  GBH had
a caterer who supplied us with wine and cheese during the taping.   Short
performed his MC duties, played piano and sang.  The Eagles accompanied and
played for dancers.   I have a taped-from TV-copy somewhere, done when the
show was rebroadcast later during a pledge drive. I'll have to dig it out.

Ron L

-----Original Message-----
From: dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com
[mailto:dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com]On Behalf Of Steve
Sent: Monday, March 21, 2005 11:48 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Bobby Short Obit

Don Ingle posted the sad news about Bobby Short.

Here is the AP Obit for Bobby Short. He played almost till the end, closing
out the winter season at the Carlyle in NYC this past February. A great
performer and a great guy.

Steve Barbone

March 21, 2005 By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 10:10 a.m. ET

Bobby Short, New York's Cabaret Singer, Dies at 80

NEW YORK (AP) -- Cabaret singer Bobby Short, the tuxedoed embodiment of New
York style and sophistication who was a fixture at his piano in the Carlyle
Hotel for more than 35 years, died Monday. He was 80.

Short, whose career stretched over more than 70 years, died of leukemia at
New York Presbyterian Hospital, said Virginia Wicks, a Los Angeles-based
publicist. The hospital did not immediately return a call seeking further

As times changed and popular music shifted from Sinatra to Springsteen to
Snoop Dogg, Short remained irrevocably devoted to the ``great American
songbook'': songs by Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, the Gershwins, Billy
Strayhorn, Harold Arlen.

``I go back to what I heard Marian Anderson say once: `First a song has to
be beautiful,''' Short told The New York Times in 2002. ``However,
`beautiful' covers a wide range of things. I have to admire a song's
structure and what it's about. But I also have to determine how I can
transfer my affection for a song to an audience; I have to decide whether I
can put it across.''

With his classic songs and suave presence, he entertained thousands over the
years in the Carlyle's Upper East Side boite. In 2003, he celebrated his
35th anniversary there.

His fans inevitably included New York's rich and famous: Norman Mailer and
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the '70s, Barbara Walters and Dominick Dunne
in the new millennium.

He planned to make this his final year at the Carlyle, but was far from

``He wanted to be able to travel and accept engagement in different parts of
the world,'' Wicks said.

Short, despite his veneration of the classics, was no nostalgia act. His
musical taste, like his smooth voice and elegant wardrobe, was always
impeccable. As an ambassador of vintage songs, Short played the White House
for presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Clinton.

``My audience,'' he once said, ``expects a certain amount of sophistication
when they are coming to hear me.''

He was nominated for a Grammy in 2000 for ``You're the Top: Love Songs of
Cole Porter.'' In 1993, he was nominated for ``Late Night at the Cafe

When Short first played the Cafe Carlyle in 1968, the Vietnam War was raging
and Mayor John Lindsay was in City Hall. The quintessential ``saloon
singer'' remained through another five administrations, becoming as familiar
a New York landmark as the Empire State Building or Central Park.

He appeared in the movies ``Hannah and Her Sisters'' and ``Splash,'' along
with the television miniseries ``Roots'' and the program ``In The Heat of
the Night.''

While suffering from a vocal problem in 1970, Short began work on an
autobiography, ``Black and White Baby.'' In 1995, he updated his memoirs
with ``Bobby Short: The Life and Times of a Saloon Singer.''

Robert Waltrip Short was born Sept. 15, 1924, the ninth of 10 children in a
musically inclined family. By age 4, he was playing by ear at the well-worn
family piano, recreating songs heard on the radio.

His mother, he told The Associated Press in 1992, ``taught survival. I think
she had a framework of cast iron.''

By age 9, the self-taught pianist was performing in saloons around his
Danville, Ill., home to earn extra money during the Depression. Even then,
his material included Ellington's ``Sophisticated Lady.''

Within two years, Short graduated to playing Chicago under his nickname, the
``Miniature King of Swing.''

Short played the vaudeville circuit: St. Louis, Milwaukee, Kansas City. On
one date, he teamed with Louis Armstrong. And by age 12, he was headlining
Manhattan nightclubs and regular engagements at the Apollo Theater.

But Short, afraid of missing out on his youth, returned to his hometown and
his high school. Four years later, a still-teenage Short was back
performing; by 1948, he had a regular gig at a tony Los Angeles club, the
Cafe Gala.

Three years there left Short in what he called ``a velvet rut,'' and he left
the United States for gigs in London and Paris. His success overseas led to
an album for Atlantic Records.

During the '60s, Short's audience began to shrink. The Beatles and the
British Invasion dominated music; suburban flight and urban crime cut into
the nightclub business.

He overcome those woes in 1968 with an extraordinary concert featuring
singer Mabel Mercer in Manhattan's Town Hall; their live album became a
success. He signed a deal with the Cafe Carlyle in the same year: six nights
a week, eight months a year at the lounge inside the posh East 76th Street

``I've survived in the city of New York, not an easy thing to achieve,''
Short once told the AP. ``Most of the dreams I've had for myself have come
true. I wanted to come to New York and become successful and work in a smart
room and make recordings. I guess I wanted to be famous in a kind of way. I
wanted to have money.''

During his vacations, Short spent much of his time in Mougins, France.

Short hobnobbed with the upper crust, most notably with designer Gloria
Vanderbilt. He was one of only a handful of blacks to make it onto the elite
Social Register.

``I think it's an expression of democracy at work. I don't come from a high
society background. I'm not even a college graduate,'' he told the AP in

In 1980, after Short appeared with Vanderbilt in television ads promoting
her designs, Vanderbilt filed a discrimination complaint against the posh
River House apartments, which had rejected her bid to buy a $1.1 million
duplex. She claimed the board was worried that the black singer might marry
her. She later dropped the suit.

Short, who never married, lived on Sutton Place in Manhattan, sharing an
apartment overlooking the East River with his pets. Short is survived by his
adopted son Ronald Bell and brother Reginald Short, both of California,
Wicks said.

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