I came into the world with my eyes wide open, they tell me. Consequently the nurses named me “Bright Eyes.” Guess I was excited to see this world.
I never got to meet my father. His plane was shot down picking up P.O.W’s, after the war. When my mother remarried, we moved away, leaving my father’s family, who I would never meet until entertaining the Troops in Hawaii.
By the age of 8, I was a competitive swimmer and my classical piano teacher’s prodigy. At 11 the singing bug hit me after my first solo. Music and sports seemed to be my thing, until High School, and then I added boys to the list!
During College I became the “go to girl” for entertaining at special events, then my girlfriend coaxed me into a local beauty pageant for fun, and the next thing I knew, I was “Miss California.” When our Glendale Mayor told Lawrence Welk I was a great singer, the Hollywood Palladium curtains opened and I was singing with his band. I appeared on Welk’s TV Show and he offered me a job. My parents were thrilled, I wasn’t. I decided to go on tour with a Rock & Roll Band instead. I was young and stupid!
My naivety faded, touring with 5 male musicians! Unwillingly, I left my virginity on the road. And like most women, blamed myself. Today it is still happening, but glad to see women speaking up.
I knew no one in show business until the musicians union gave me a manager’s name. I sang in his tiny office, and he signed me on the spot. With his guidance, I began to open for famous comedians.
During my first appearance in Las Vegas, with Tony Martin and Louis Armstrong, I met Jimmy Webb, who pitched me songs backstage. I fell in love with his music and him, in that order.
I auditioned for a TV Variety show, a year later, and sang for the President of the studio in his office. I had guts. I think when you’re young and stupid you have no fear! He signed me on the spot, but not before he took me out to dinner. I was young and he had white hair! He was a kind man who believed in my talent. I was a young girl looking for a “Father” in my life.
This TV show introduced me to my idols, who I would later work with: Bob Hope, Jack Benny, George Burns, Don Rickles, Joey Bishop, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Gig Young, Walter Matthau, Sid Caesar, Glen Campbell, Lou Rawls, Anthony Quinn, Glen Campbell and more.
The highlight of my career, though, was being the “Singing Star” of The Bob Hope USO Tours. Bob was amazing. I have fond memories of playing Gin with Bob & Jim (Nabors) into the wee hours. Entertaining the troops was so special to me, and somehow I hoped my father was looking down with a smile.
Everything was happening so fast! I was writing and recording songs that flew up the charts, singing and dancing on The Tonight show, Merv Griffin show, David Frost Show and England’s most popular TV shows.
Then at 23, I found out I had stage 4 Cancer. I landed in the hospital right before I was to record a theme song for a movie. It was my dream and nothing was going to stop me, so my first trip to Italy was in a wheelchair, Doctor’s orders! I never regretted it, because it was nominated for an Academy Award!
On a Christmas Eve, I met my future husband, and my priorities changed. I began to sing on the “Hour of Power” Television show and recorded my first Christian album For MCA. When it was finished, I realized I couldn’t promote it. God had given me a “Miracle Baby,” not to leave her alone.
So acting in Television, film and commercials gave me my creative fix. Years later when my songwriting coach, Jack Segal (When Sunny Gets Blue, Here’s to the Losers), said “with that voice we’ve got to get you back into the studio,” it started me back on my musical path! Unfortunately, Jack had open-heart surgery and wasn’t able to finish the CD. Then my 30-year marriage ended.
And 6 months ago, Mike Sutton, famous Motown Producer, turned “this best kept secret” as he calls me, into a marketable Jazz Artist. Our first project “When Sunny Gets Blue” went to #No 1 on AOL’s Smooth Jazz chart, followed by “There’s Nothing Like Christmas,” which went to #4 on the Smooth Jazz chart.
Mike has put his usual “Jazz Magic” into my new CD “Way of a Woman,” and I’m excited because it includes six of my own songs.
I want to say to everyone struggling in their own endeavors, never give up hope!