[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,”  
she sang.

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