[Dixielandjazz] Connie Haines Obit
Stephen G Barbone
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Sep 25 09:50:28 PDT 2008
September 25, 2008 - NY TIMES - by Douglas Martin
Connie Haines, Peppy Singer, Dies at 87
Connie Haines, a peppy, petite, big-voiced singer with a zippy,
rhythmic style who most famously teamed up with Frank Sinatra as lead
vocalists with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, then went on to a prolific
career of her own, died on Monday in Clearwater Beach, Fla. She was 87.
The cause was myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease, said
Roseanne Young, a friend.
Miss Haines made 200 recordings, including 24 records that sold more
than 50,000 copies; regularly filled up prestigious nightclubs like
the Latin Quarter in New York; and performed five times at the White
House. Polls in music magazines in the 1940s rated her as one of the
top female band singers.
While Sinatra specialized at the time in ballads and slow foxtrots,
Miss Haines threw herself into rhythmic up-tempo tunes.
“Where did you learn to swing like that?” Dorsey asked when he first
heard her at a club in New Jersey. “And when can you join my band?”
Her recordings including gospel, pop and soul, as well as big-band
barnburners. The best-selling ones included “You Might Have Belonged
to Another”; “Oh! Look at Me Now”; “What Is This Thing Called Love?”;
and “Will You Still Be Mine?” A crowd favorite was “Snootie Little
Cutie,” which often elicited ad libs from Sinatra.
She made the most of her sultry Southern accent, sometimes to
Sinatra’s amusement. In her personalized rendition of “Let’s Get Away
From It All,” she improvised, “We’ll spend a weekend in Dixie. I’ll
get a real Southern drawl.”
Sinatra piped in, “Another one?”
Miss Haines appeared on the radio with Abbott & Costello, Bing Crosby,
Bob Hope and Jack Benny, among others. On television she appeared
withMilton Berle, Ed Sullivan, Eddie Cantor and Perry Como. Her work
on Frankie Laine’s variety show drew particular note.
Her movies included her favorite, “Duchess of Idaho” (1950), with
Esther Williams and Van Johnson.
Yvonne Marie Antoinette JaMais was born on Jan. 20, 1921, in Savannah,
Ga., but grew up in Florida. Her mother, who taught voice and dance,
pushed her talented daughter to excel. At 4, Yvonne appeared at the
Bijou Theater in Savannah in a “Saucy Baby” show. At 5, Baby Yvonne
Marie won state contests in the Charleston dance in Georgia and Florida.
At 9 she won a talent contest sponsored by Uncle Ralph Feathers, who
in the South ran the sort of amateur contests for which Major Bowes
was famous. Before she turned 10, she parlayed that into a regular
radio show on the NBC affiliate in Jacksonville, Fla., billed as Baby
Yvonne Marie, the Little Princess of the Air. At 10 she appeared with
the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and things accelerated even faster.
She won the actual Major Bowes contest in New York, and appeared on
Fred Allen’s radio show. At 16 she was auditioning for a job in the
Brill Building, headquarters of Tin Pan Alley. Harry James, the
orchestra leader, happened to hear her and immediately hired her. But
he asked her to change her name, saying she looked like a Connie. More
pointedly, he said that if she used her full name, there would be no
room for him on the marquee. At first she thought he had named her
Ames, not Haines, and for a few days signed autographs that way.
After James ran into financial trouble, both singers ended up with
Dorsey when he was adding a robustness and kick to his style, taking
on an innovative new arranger, Sy Oliver, and six new vocalists. The
others were Jo Stafford, who died on July 16, and the three-man vocal
group the Pied Pipers. Miss Haines said that Dorsey taught her
phrasing, how to take one big breath and let the words flow, she told
The Tampa Tribune in 1998. He told her to always think of telling a
story, of “acting to music.”
At one point when she was performing with Dorsey, she remembered,
Sinatra saved her life. She was about to go on stage in Madison Square
Garden when a smoker in a balcony tossed a match and set her ruffled
tulle dress on fire. Sinatra threw his coat over her and fell on her,
smothering the flames, she said.
Miss Haines’s marriage to Robert DeHaven, a World War II fighter ace
who died in July, ended in divorce. She is survived by her sister,
Barbara JaMais of Hemet, Calif.; her daughter, Kimberly Harlan of
Prineville, Ore.; her son, Robert DeHaven Jr. of San Francisco; and
her mother, Mildred JaMais of Clearwater, Fla., who is 109.
On Wednesday Miss Haines’s voice — still strong and swinging — could
be heard on her answering machine. “I’ve got the world on a string,”
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