Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


HAINES, Connie

 (b Yvonne Marie Antionette JaMais, 20 January 1922, Savannah GA; d 22 September 2008, Clearwater FL) Pop singer with big bands. Her little-girl voice was an acquired taste at first, but her pert personality and her sure rhythmic sense was very popular with audiences. She grew up in Florida; her mother taught voice and dance, and she sang on stage at age four. She won talent contests, and by the time she was ten was a regular on the radio as Baby Yvonne Marie, the Little Princess of the Air, and appeared with Paul Whiteman, then still one of the biggest names in show business.

She was auditioning for a job in the Brill Building at age 16 when bandleader Harry James, who had left Benny Goodman and was just starting out on his own, heard her and hired her on the spot. He also changed her name, saying that if she used her full name there would be no room for his on a marquee. James was also the first to hire Frank Sinatra, his first big-time job, but the James band was struggling; first Sinatra and then Haines left James and went with Tommy Dorsey. Haines freelanced for a while after leaving James; Dorsey heard her at a club in New Jersey and allegedly asked, 'Where did you learn to swing like that? And when can you join my band?' 'Oh, Look At Me Now' in 1941 was a duet with Sinatra, backed by the Pied Pipers, and one of the biggest hits in the country for several weeks. She sang better on the other side of the record, also a hit duet, called 'You Might Have Belonged To Another'.

Sinatra disliked her. She said many years later that Sinatra, the northen urbanite, thought he was superior to her, a southerner from Savannah. But she gave as good as she got: if Sinatra gave her a hard time on the bandstand, she might upstage him by making eyes at a guy in the audience, or step away from the mike between choruses and dance a little, and Sinatra would say, 'Do your thing, cornball.' Finally he demanded that Dorsey fire her, but Dorsey fired Sinatra instead. For two weeks the band worked with Milburn Stone (who later played Doc on TV's Gunsmoke) until Sinatra apologized. Another of their hit duets was 'Snootie Little Cutie', written by Bobby Troup, who was on Dorsey's staff in 1942 (and who would later write 'The Girl Can't Help It' for Little Richard). 'Snootie' was loaded with period slang: Haines was the 'dapper little flapper', Sinatra the 'mellow little fellow'; when he sings 'You're a vain little Jane, but you're sweet,' you can almost hear his clenched teeth. She made the most of her Southern accent; singing 'Let’s Get Away From It All,' she improvised a line, 'We’ll spend a weekend in Dixie; I’ll get a real Southern drawl,' Sinatra wisecracked, 'Another one?' But she also said that Sinatra saved her life. She was about to go on stage in Madison Square Garden when a smoker in the balcony tossed a match and set her ruffled tulle dress on fire; Sinatra threw his coat over her and fell on her to smother the flames.

Her solo hits with Dorsey included 'Two Dreams Met', 'Kiss The Boys Goodbye', 'What Is This Thing Called Love', and 'Will You Still Be Mine?', the latter recorded in 1941 but reissued for a hit in 1944 after she had left the band, during the musicians' union strike against the record companies. She won music polls during the 1940s, packed clubs like the Latin Quarter in New York, and performed five times at the White House. She appeared on the radio with Abbott & Costello, Fred Allen, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Jack Benny, and later on TV with Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan, Eddie Cantor, Perry Como and Frankie Laine. She appeared in films, of which her favorite was Duchess of Idaho in 1950 with Esther Williams and Van Johnson.

She had her own solo hits in 1949 on Coral with 'How It Lies, How It Lies, How It Lies!' and Maybe It's Because'. She sang in a gospel quartet in 1954 with Jane Russell, Beryl David and Della Russell; 'Make A Joyful Noise Unto The Lord - Do Lord' was issued on a single. She released an album, I Am What I Am, in 1985 on Bainbridge.