Remembering Annie Ross

July 25, 1930 – July 21, 2020

 

A tribute to the popular jazz singer

Annie Ross passed away on July 21, 2020 at the age of 89.

She was born as Annabelle Allan Short on July 25, 1930 in London, England.

The daughter of vaudevillians, she sailed with them to New York when she was four, won a contract with MGM after appearing on a children’s radio contest organized by Paul Whiteman, and moved in with her aunt singer-actress Ella Logan in Los Angeles.

When she was seven, she made her film debut in an edition of Our Gang (singing “Loch Lomond”).

In 1943 she appeared as Judy Garland’s younger sister in Presenting Lily Mars and the following year her song “Let’s Fly” won a songwriting contest and was recorded by Johnny Mercer.

Dropping out of school after tenth grade, she changed her name to Annie Ross and began a singing career in Europe.

In 1950 she made her recording debut in Paris as a singer with Jacques Dieval, making her first recordings as a leader in 1952.

That year she wrote the lyrics to a Wardell Gray tenor solo; the result was “Twisted,” her trademark vocalese song, which was soon followed by her “Farmer’s Market.”

Ross recorded a variety of titles during 1953-57 but it was when she joined Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks to form Lambert, Hendricks & Ross that Annie Ross became famous.

Arguably the finest of all jazz vocal groups, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross took vocalese singing to a new level, emulating the Count Basie Orchestra on two albums and becoming a poll winner and a major attraction.

Ross, who also recorded solo albums using Gerry Mulligan and Zoot Sims, left Lambert, Hendricks and Ross in 1962, returned to London, had an on and off solo career, ran a nightclub in the mid-1960s, and primarily worked as a character actress in films and in the theater.

She made a comeback as a singer in her later years, recording a Billie Holiday tribute album in 2013 and recording a song with the Royal Bopsters in 2015.

From a 1959 edition of Playboy After Dark, here is a 29-year old Annie Ross singing “Twisted” and, as part of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross (with guest Joe Williams), “Everyday I Have The Blues.”

-Scott Yanow

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