Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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JAMES, Joni

(b Joan Carmello Babbo, 22 Sep. '30, Chicago) Singer. Worked as a dancer after high school; in chorus at Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago; switched to singing, signed by MGM. Paid for and prod. recording of 'Why Don't You Believe Me' herself: her third release, it was a million-selling no. 1 hit '52, reaching no. 11 UK. Having written that money-spinner, Lew Douglas, Frank Lavere and Ray Rodde did it again with 'Have You Heard?', her second gold disc at no. 5. In '53 'Wishing Ring', 'My Love, My Love', her cover of Hank Williams's 'Your Cheatin' Heart', 'Is It Any Wonder' and 'Almost Always' (with a Latin beat) were all hits, the last two written by Douglas and the others (his orchestra backed her on disc). No hits in '54; after 'How Important Can It Be?' and 'You Are My Love' '55 she never made the top ten again, though she had Hot 100 entries through '60. Her voice was not strong and her phrasing unexceptional, but her Prom-queen style lent an intimate wistfulness to the '52--3 hits that reeks of nostalgia for anyone who was young then.