Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

HUMES, Helen

(b 23 June '13, Louisville KY; d Sep. '81, Santa Monica CA) Singer. Only child of attorney father, schoolteacher mother; played piano and organ in church, sang and played in band at Booker T. Washington Community Center with Jonah Jones and Dicky Wells; recorded 'Black Cat Blues'/'Worried Woman's Blues' for OKeh '27 while still in school. Later worked in a bank; sang with Al Sears band on trip to Buffalo NY, joined full-time '37, worked at Cincinnati Cotton Club, where Count Basie heard her. Recorded with mixed group led by Harry James '37--8; joined Basie '38 at $35 a week. Sides with Basie incl. 'Thursday', 'Dark Rapture' '38; 'My Heart Belongs To Daddy', 'Sing For Your Supper', beautiful 'Blame It On My Last Affair', 'If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight', 'Bolero At The Savoy', 'Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea' all '39; 'All Or Nothing At All', 'It's Square But It Rocks' '40. Quit due to hardship of the road, began solo career in NYC clubs '41--3; toured with Clarence Love band '43- -4; settled on West Coast; joined Norman Granz for JATP tours; also played solo gigs. R&B hit with Bill Doggett 'Be-Baba-Leba' '45 on Philo label, similar sides for Aladdin, Modern, Mercury, Decca, other labels into early '50s; live record from LA Shrine concert 'Million Dollar Secret' had risqu, lyric, made no. 6 R&B chart '50. Contributed to film soundtracks Panic In The Streets, My Blue Heaven '50; toured Hawaii '51 and '52; syndicated TV film with Basie Showtime At The Apollo '55; to Australia with Red Norvo '56: popular there, she returned three times, staying ten months in '64. Appeared in show It's Great To Be Alive LA '57; Newport Jazz Festival '59; toured the world '59--67. Retired on death of her mother '67 until persuaded to sing at a Basie concert '73; then flood of dates: Montreux Jazz Festival (live LP On The Sunny Side Of The Street for Black Lion '74); NY Cookery New Year's Eve show, etc. Keys to the City of Louisville '75; Nice Jazz Festival that year, again '78. A singer of quality ballads, she said, 'The blues never did interest me very much'; down beat ranked her with Ella Fitzgerald and Mildred Bailey as one of the best singers of the Big Band Era. Other LPs incl. Swingin' With Helen with Wynton Kelly on Contemporary '61, two others on that label; Helen and And The Muse All Stars on Muse '79--80 with Buddy Tate, others.