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Jeri Southern (August 5, 1926 – August 4, 1991) was an American jazz pianist and singer.[1]

Jeri Southern
Jeri Southern.jpg
Background information
Birth nameGenevieve Lillian Hering
Born(1926-08-05)August 5, 1926
Royal, Nebraska
United States
DiedAugust 4, 1991(1991-08-04) (aged 64)
Los Angeles, California
United States
GenresJazz, pop
Occupation(s)Pianist, vocalist


Early yearsEdit

Born Genevieve Lillian Hering in Royal, Nebraska, Southern was the granddaughter of a German pig farmer who came to the United States in 1879. He built a flour mill in what is now Royal, Nebraska. Her father later ran the mill but lost it after the stock market crash of 1929. He then began operating an elevator of the Royal Farmers Union. Her secondary education came at Notre Dame Academy in Omaha, Nebraska, with vocal lessons added to her other classes.[2]

She began playing piano at age three, and at age six started formal study in classical piano.[1] She studied classical piano and voice at Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Omaha, Nebraska, where she became interested in jazz.


After beginning her career at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, she joined a United States Navy recruiting tour during World War II. In the late 1940s, she worked in Chicago clubs where she once played piano for Anita O'Day. During this period, Southern became known for her singing, particularly for her renditions of torch songs.[1]

She signed with Decca Records in 1951[2] and became known both for pop and jazz. The 1950s saw her at the height of her career. The first recording of the pop standard "When I Fall in Love" was recorded by Southern accompanied by the song's composer Victor Young and his orchestra in April 1952. In 1955, her recording of "An Occasional Man" reached number 89 in the Billboard pop chart.[1] In that decade, she sang in a few films and in 1957 she had a Top 30 hit with "Fire Down Below". The track peaked at number 22 in the UK Singles Chart in June 1957.[3] After her switch to Capitol Records, she had success doing interpretations of Cole Porter with Billy May arranging some of the more humorous examples.[1]

Southern's final recording was released by Capitol records in 1961.[2]

Personal lifeEdit

Southern's only child, daughter Kathryn King, said that Southern walked away from performing because of its emotional and psychological effect on her. In a 2010 newspaper article, King talked about Southern's shyness, saying that she had "a paralyzing case of performance anxiety. Just contemplating performing made her enormously anxious and depressed."[2]


Southern died of a heart attack[2] in Los Angeles in 1991, at the age of 64, just a day before her 65th birthday.[4] Although the immediate cause of death was a heart attack, Southern was also diabetic and had been diagnosed with double pneumonia.[5]

Selected discographyEdit


  • Warm... Intimate Songs In The Jeri Southern Style (1954, Decca [10" LP])
  • The Southern Style (1955, Decca)
  • You Better Go Now! (1956, Decca)
  • When Your Heart's on Fire (1957, Decca)
  • Jeri Gently Jumps (1957, Decca)
  • A Prelude to a Kiss (1958, Decca)
  • Southern Hospitality (1958, Decca) reissue of Warm... plus 4 newer tracks added on.
  • Southern Breeze (1958, Roulette)
  • Jeri Southern Meets Johnny Smith (1958, Roulette)
  • Coffee, Cigarettes & Memories (1958, Roulette)
  • Jeri Southern Meets Cole Porter (1959, Capitol)
  • Jeri Southern At the Crescendo (1960, Capitol)

Compilation albumsEdit

  • When I Fall in Love (1984, Decca)
  • You Better Go Now!/When Your Heart's on Fire (1996, Jasmine)
  • Meets Cole Porter/At the Crescendo (1997, EMI)
  • The Southern Style/A Prelude to a Kiss (1998, MCA)
  • The Dream's on Jeri (1998, Jasmine)
  • Southern Breeze/Coffee, Cigarettes & Memories (1998, EMI)
  • Southern Hospitality/Jeri Gently Jumps (1999, MCA)
  • The Very Thought of You: The Decca Years 1951–1957 (1999, Decca Jazz/GRP)
  • The Ultimate Jeri Southern (2002, EMI)
  • Romance In The Dark (2009, Bygone Days)


  • Southern, Jeri (1978). Sheldon, Stan (ed.). Interpreting Popular Music at the Keyboard. Studio Publications. OCLC 7285736.


  1. ^ a b c d e Bush, John. "Biography of Jeri Southern". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved April 21, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Vaughan, Carson (July 31, 2010). "Nebraska jazz singer Jeri Southern's star was bright in 1950s". Archived from the original on 9 November 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  3. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 517. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  4. ^ "Jeri Southern, Pianist and Pop Singer, 64". The New York Times. August 6, 1991.
  5. ^ Carson Vaughan. "Nebraska jazz singer Jeri Southern's star was bright in 1950s". Retrieved 28 March 2019.

External linksEdit