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Connor in 1957
|Birth name||Mary Jean Loutsenhizer|
|Born||November 8, 1927|
Kansas City, Missouri, United States
|Died||August 29, 2009 (aged 81)|
Toms River, New Jersey
Chris Connor was born Mary Jean Loutsenhizer in Kansas City, Missouri, to Clyde Loutsenhizer (1882-1949) and Mabel E. Shirley (1896-1941). She became proficient on the clarinet, having studied for eight years during middle school and high school. After the death of her mother in 1941, her father, at the age of 59, was unable to care for her. Connor moved in with her older sister, who was married and took over responsibility for raising her.
Connor first sang publicly in 1945 at the Jefferson City Junior College's graduation. She performed the song "Amor", and it was well received. After the positive response, she decided to pursue a singing career. She remained near Kansas City, working as a stenographer during weekdays and singing on weekends. She sang with the college band at the University of Missouri, playing at functions in Columbia, Missouri.
In 1948, Connor moved to New York City, intending to have a glamorous career. Unable to find a job as a singer, she worked as a stenographer. She spent the next seven weeks trying to find any kind of singing job. She was kicked out of the hotel where she was staying for failing to pay her bill, and the hotel kept her belongings, including her winter coat.
She met a man acquainted with Joe Green, the road manager for band leader Claude Thornhill. Thornhill was seeking a singer for his vocal group The Snowflakes. After auditioning, she was given the job and then went on tour in the U.S. with Thornhill's band. In 1940 she recorded two songs with The Snowflakes: "There's a Small Hotel" and "I Don't Know Why". She toured intermittently with Thornhill until 1952 she became the singer for Jerry Wald's big band. With Wald she recorded "You're the Cream in My Coffee", "Cherokee", "Pennies from Heaven", "Raisins and Almonds", and "Terremoto". Connor and Thornhill reunited in 1952 for a radio broadcast from the Statler Hotel in New York City for which she sang "Wish You Were Here", Come Rain or Come Shine", "Sorta Kinda", and "Who Are We to Say".
When June Christy left the Stan Kenton band, she recommended Connor as a replacement after hearing her on the radio. Connor passed the audition and began touring and recording with Kenton in 1953. Her recording of "And the Bull Walked Around, Ole" peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard magazine music chart. The demands of performing nightly with Kenton began to wear her down, and she left the band and hired Monte Kay to manage her solo career. He found work for her at the Birdland club in New York City. She signed a contract with Bethlehem Records and at age 26 became the label's bestselling act. After her contract expired, she became the first white female jazz singer to sign with Atlantic Records, which had been primarily a rhythm and blues label for acts such as Ruth Brown and Ray Charles. After that contract expired, she joined a FM Records, a label started by Monte Kay. Her albums for FM didn't sell as well as her albums for Bethlehem and Atlantic. The label went bankrupt. Connor spent the remainder of the 1960s and 1970s recording for other labels. ABC-Paramount released Sings Gentle Bossa Nova in 1965 and Now! in 1966. JVC released Chris Connor Softly and Swinging. She also recorded for Stanyan, Progressive, and Lobster.
Billboard reported in 1955 that Connor's first two solo albums for Bethlehem, Sings Lullabys of Birdland and Sings Lullabys for Lovers ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on the jazz chart for the week ending April 23, 1955. In 1957, she ranked No. 10 in the Favorite Female Vocalist disk jockey popularity poll behind Lena Horne and June Christy.
- Sings Lullabys for Lovers (Bethlehem, 1954)
- This Is Chris (Bethlehem, 1955)
- Sings Lullabys of Birdland (Bethlehem, 1954)
- Chris (Bethlehem, 1956)
- He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (Atlantic, 1956)
- Chris Connor (Atlantic, 1956)
- I Miss You So (Atlantic, 1957)
- Chris Connor Sings the George Gershwin Almanac of Song (Atlantic, 1957)
- Chris Craft (Atlantic, 1958)
- A Jazz Date with Chris Connor (Atlantic, 1958)
- Sings Ballads of the Sad Cafe (Atlantic, 1959)
- Witchcraft (Atlantic, 1959)
- Chris in Person (Atlantic, 1959)
- A Portrait of Chris (Atlantic, 1960)
- Two's Company with Maynard Ferguson (Roulette, 1961)
- Double Exposure with Maynard Ferguson (Atlantic, 1961)
- Free Spirits (Atlantic, 1962)
- At the Village Gate: Early Show/Late Show (FM, 1963)
- A Weekend in Paris (FM, 1964)
- Sings Gentle Bossa Nova (ABC-Paramount, 1965)
- Chris Conner Now! (ABC 1966)
- Sketches (Stanyan, 1972)
- Sweet and Swinging (Progressive, 1978)
- Live (Applause, 1983)
- Three Pearls with Ernestine Anderson, Carol Sloane (Eastworld, 1984)
- Love Being Here with You (Stash, 1984)
- Classic (Contemporary, 1987)
- New Again (Contemporary, 1988)
- As Time Goes by (Enja, 1991)
- The London Connection (Audiophile, 1993)
- Chris Connor/He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (Collectables, 1999)
- Haunted Heart (HighNote, 2001)
- I Walk with Music (HighNote, 2002)
- Everything I Love (HighNote, 2003)
- "Jazz singer Chris Connor dead". CBC News. Associated Press. September 5, 2009. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- Profile, MusicianGuide.com; accessed March 5, 2017.
- http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/artists/Chris-Connor/ Concord Music Group bio
- http://www.jazzdiscography.com/Artists/Connor/Connor_preBeth.html Jazz Discography website
- "Chris Connor Bio-Discography – The Post-Atlantic Period". Jazzdiscography.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
- Jazz Best Sellers. Nielsen Business Media. 23 April 1955. p. 18. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
- Grevatt, Ren (25 November 1957). On the Beat. Nielsen Business Media. p. 34. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
- Notice of Connor's death, Theatermania.com; accessed March 5, 2017.
- Holden, Stephen. "Chris Connor, Jazz Singer Whose Voice Embodied a Wistful Cool, Dies at 81", The New York Times, September 1, 2009. Accessed September 17, 2019. "Chris Connor, the great jazz singer whose lush, foggy voice and compressed emotional intensity distilled a 1950s jazz reverie of faraway longing in a sad cafe, died on Saturday in Toms River, N.J. She was 81 and lived in Toms River."