Teddi King - vocals; Nat Pierce - piano; Milt Hinton - bass; Buzzy Drootin - drums
Citing popular singers such as Lee Wiley and Kay Starr as key influences, King got her start in the business after winning a singing competition in Boston that was hosted by the celebrity singer Dinah Shore. She made her first recording with pianist Nat Pierce in 1949 and toured with pianist George Shearing in 1952. Impresario George Wein was so taken by this exemplary 24-year-old singer with the lovely tone and impeccable articulation that he not only signed the Boston native to his Storyville label in 1953, he also took up managing her career. Naturally, a spot on his Newport Jazz Festival lineup was great exposure for the emerging jazz vocalist. King had two records out on Storyville by the time Wein recruited her to appear at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival. She was also riding high after winning Best New Artist that year in the Down Beat Critics Poll.
On Saturday, July 16, King returned for her second appearance at George Wein's Newport Jazz Festival, accompanied by a three-piece rhythm section of pianist Nat Pierce, bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Buzzy Drootin. In this more intimate, pared-down setting (compared to her large ensemble performance the previous night), King delivers a radiant, deliciously tongue-in-cheek rendition of the popular Rodgers & Hart tune "The Lady Is A Tramp," which has been recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Anita O'Day, Stephane Grappelli and countless others. King's version of this witty spoof of New York high society and its strict etiquette (originally written for the 1937 Broadway musical Babes in Arms) includes the rarely heard first verse: I wined and dined on Mulligan stew and never asked for turkey/as I hitched and hiked and grifted too, from Maine to Alberquerque/well as I missed to Beaux Arts Ball and what is twice as sad/I have never been to parties where they honored Noel Cad/but social circles spin too fast for me/My Hobohemia is the place to be.
By all accounts (from an August 24, 1955 report in Down Beat), King's Newport set suffered from sound problems. As Jack Tracy wrote, "Due to an abominably bad sound setup, (King) could not be heard beyond the first couple of rows." But we hear her loud and clear in all her swinging glory on these archival tapes.
After releasing three records on Wein's Storyville label between 1953 and 1955, King jumped to RCA in 1956 and scored a hit that year with the single "Mr. Wonderful" (from the album Bidin' My Time), which was originally written for a Sammy Davis Jr. Broadway production of the same name. She followed up that success in 1957 with another hit single, "Married I Can Always Get." During the 1960s, King performed in Las Vegas and at the Playboy Club. She passed away in 1977 following a bout with lupus.
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