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Lee Wiley sings Youmans' "Time On My Hands", 1931




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Published on Nov 15, 2007

LEE WILEY (1908--1975) was an American jazz singer popular in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Although today less well-known, Wiley is still appreciated by jazz aficionados. Although she had only a small voice, she possessed an attractive, slightly husky tone and delivered lyrics with warmth and intimacy.
Born in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, Wiley left home early to begin a career singing with the Leo Reisman band. Her career was temporarily interrupted by a fall while horse-riding and she suffered temporary blindness, but she recovered and at the age of 19 was back with Reisman again. She also sang with Paul Whiteman and later, the Casa Loma Orchestra. A collaboration with composer Victor Young resulted in several songs for which Wiley wrote the lyrics, including "Got The South In My Soul" and "Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere".
In 1939, Wiley made a 78 album set of eight Gershwin songs with a small group for Liberty Music Shops. The set sold well and was followed by 78 album sets dedicated to Cole Porter (1940) and Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart (1940 and 1954), Harold Arlen (1943), and Vincent Youmans and Irving Berlin (1951). The players on these recordings included such musicians as Bud Freeman, Max Kaminsky, Fats Waller, Billy Butterfield, Bobby Hackett, Eddie Condon, and the bandleader Jess Stacy, the latter to whom Wiley was married for a number of years. These influential albums launched the concept of a "songbook" (often featuring lesser-known songs), which was later widely imitated by other singers.
Wiley went into retirement in the 1960s. Her last public appearance was a concert in Carnegie Hall in 1972 as part of the New York Jazz Festival, where she was enthusiastically received.

ZIEGFELD THEATRE in Sixth Ave. at 54th Street was butli in 1927 by architect Joseph Urban. The owners were: Florenz Ziegfeld (1927-1932) and Billy Rose (1943-1965). This theatre was an art deco masterpiece with a unique egg-shaped auditorium. Placed several blocks Northeast of the theatre district, it was a landmark unto itself. After Ziegfeld's death, it became a movie venue for a decade until producer Billy Rose purchased the theatre and made it his headquarters. The Ziegfeld housed a series of long-running hits over the next decade, but its uptown location eventually made it less popular. Rose bought adjoining properties to make the location attractive to developers, but died before he could close a deal. His estate sold off the property for demolition in 1966. A skyscraper and an 1,100 seat movie theatre now share the site. Called The Ziegfeld, the movie house has a lobby exhibit covering Ziegfeld's career.

Recording: LEO REISMAN & His Orch., vocal: Lee Wiley -- Time On My Hands (from the Ziegfeld Theatre musical "Smiles", 1930);(Words: Harold Adamson / Mack Gordon / Vincent Youmans), Victor 1931


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