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Swing Music Net Biography
Maxine Sullivan
Jazz Vocalist Maxine Sullivan
Maxine Sullivan
Unique jazz vocalist with a light and intimate style sadly recorded far too few jazz songs in her career
Rising jazz star was cast in the role of recording numerous Scottish type ballads after the success of her reading of the song Loch Lomond
Maxine Sullivan
Sullivan, Maxine (Marietta Williams)
Born; Homestead, Pa., 5-13-1911
Died; 4-7-1987
Radio Show Audio Archives
Streaming live online Tuesdays from 4-6 PM Pacific it's the live feed of our weekly jazz radio show. Due to bandwidth limitations potato salad no longer included with transmission.

Our Jazz Radio Show Info Page
The sordid history of our weekly big band music radio show, live since 1985. Proves that FCC radio deregulation survival may be linked to narcissistically twisted disorders.

Pre Swing Era Jazz History
Early hot jazz bands, the hotel dance bands and early jazz history leading up to the Big Band era.

Pre Swing Era World Report
The role of economics, early recording technology, and radio relative to the conception of the Big Band era.

The Recording Ban Of 1942
Scans of a 1942 Down Beat magazine article detailing one of the most devastating events of the Big Band era; the James Petrillo / AFM recording ban.

Webb Cuts Basie At The Savoy
Another of the many historic jazz magazine articles from Down Beat here on the site. This piece details the Count Basie vs. Chick Webb big band music Battle Of Swing held at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom in January of 1938.

Maxine Sullivan had very little formal music training. She was discovered while singing at the Benjamin Harrison Literary Club in Pittsburg by Gladys Mosier. Mosier was, in the mid 1930's, working in Ina Rae Hutton’s big band and an acquaitance of fellow pianist Claude Thornhill. She soon introduced her new find to Thornhill and as his protege', Maxine Sullivan made her first records in June of 1937, accompanied by the pianist's all-star band.

The critics at Metronome magazine received Maxine's first records warmly, giving the discs good ratings and reviews. Around the same time Maxine became the vocalist at The Onyx Club in New York. It was here that she formed both a music and personal partnership with bass-man John Kirby who she soon married. Kirby had worked with Fletcher Henderson in the early 1930’s as well as Henry Red Allen. A busy man in 1937, the stellar bassist recorded with Teddy Wilson, Willie The Lion Smith, Frankie Newton, Midge Williams, Charlie Barnet, and Lionel Hampton all prior to the first records he made with Maxine on August 6th, 1937 which also saw accompaniment from Thornhill on piano. Sullivan and Kirby remained married until 1941.

It was this first session with Kirby that proved to be both a blessing and a curse for Maxine Sullivan. It produced a hit record, a swing version of a Scottish folk song called Loch Lomond. Unfortunately it "typed" her and she depended on similar folk style performances for many subsequent records, despite her ability to adapt to other forms of Pop and jazz songs equally well. Her cool, soft, tone and subtle and intimate style was equally swinging on records like Nice Work If You Can Get It, Blue Skies, St Louis Blues, and Stop Your Breaking My Heart. Unfortunately there were a bevy of records like Darling Nellie Gray, Annie Laurie, Molly Malone and others that began to sound all very similar.

In 1940 Sullivan and Kirby were featured on the radio program Flow Gently Sweet Rhythm. They were the first black jazz stars to have their own weekly radio series. Sullivan and Kirby’s last shows together were in the fall of 1941 and were recorded by two different transcription companies, World and Associated. In the mid 1940s she was recorded with the bands of Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, and Jimmie Lunceford and can be heard singing mainly ballads with all three groups.

Aside from sessions with Ellis Larkins and Bob Haggart, her recorded output was little until 1955 and 1956. Finally recorded singing better material in the company of musicians like Dick Hyman, and old cohorts Buster Bailey, Charlie Shavers, and Russell Procope; Sullivan produced a series of sides that were her most exciting since her 1937 sessions. In the late 50’s she branched out to new areas of study, in nursing and playing valve trombone, which she played at numerous concerts and festivals in 1958. From 1958 to 1966 nursing took up her career. In ’66 she reemerged playing several festivals with her new husband pianist Cliff Jackson. From then until 1986 she continued to appear at festivals and can be heard with musicians from Doc Cheatham to Scott Hamilton. Her last recorded concert was at The Fujitsu-Concord Jazz festival held in Tokyo in September of 1986.

Maxine Sullivan appeared in the movies St. Louis Blues and Going Places, the latter opposite of Louis Armstrong. On stage, she was seen in Swingin’ The Dream in 1939, and Take A Giant Step in 1953. She toured Great Britain in 1948 and again in 1954. In her later concert appearances she traveled to France for several performances in 1984 and to Sweden many times beginning in 1975 and ending in 1984. Maxine Sullivan died in April of 1987, little more than one month short of her 76th birthday and just 8 months after her last recorded concert appearance. The last song she performed at the Fujitsu – Concord Jazz Festival and her last performance on record…was Loch Lomond.

Anita O’Day Biography
Not your typical big band “canary” Anita’s voice was heard soaring over the brassy bands of Gene Krupa and Stan Kenton during the Swing era. She later released a number of fine swinging albums for Norman Granz on his Clef, Norgran and Verve record labels. She died 11-23-06 at 87.

Ray Charles Biography
Known as "The Genius" Ray Charles recorded a wide variety of music but got his start playing big band music and jazz. He passed away 6-10-04.

Shirley Horn Biography
Shirley Horn predated Dianna Krall and Harry Connick Jr.as the premiere singing pianist in jazz since Nat "King" Cole. The use of pauses and breaks in her playing and singing ala Basie and Ahmad Jamal conveyed a relaxed, confident feeling of swing. She passed away in October of 2005.

Louis Armstrong Biography
The trumpet solos and vocals of the great Satchmo are the most identifiable in jazz. This biography traces the career of Louis Armstrong from his days in New Orleans.

Dakota Staton Biography
In her early career Dakota Staton showed the influences of Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan. In later years her huskier tone leaned more toward blues and gospel. Discography is included.

Nina Simone Biography
Nina Simone was a classically trained pianist who switched to jazz. Throughout her career she crossed over into many other genres of music.

Additional jazz biographies and Swing era photos are coming soon. We invite you to join our weekly radio show live on Tuesdays via the Jazz Joint Jump jazz radio Audio Archives page where jazz that swings is still king.

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