Teddi King - vocals; With the Woody Herman Orchestra: Woody Herman - clarinet; Nat Pierce - piano; John Beal - bass; Chuck Flores - drums; Art Pirie - tenor sax; Richie Hafer - tenor sax; Richie Kamuca - tenor; Jack Nimitz - baritone sax; Charlie Walp - trumpet; Jerry Kail - trumpet; Cam Mullins - trumpet; Rueben LaFall - trumpet; Dick Collins - trumpet; Cy Touff - bass trumpet; Keith Moon - trombone; Dick Kenny - trombone
Citing popular singers such as Lee Wiley and Kay Starr as key influences, King got her start in the business after winning a singing competition in Boston that was hosted by the celebrity singer Dinah Shore. She made her first recording with pianist Nat Pierce in 1949 and toured with pianist George Shearing in 1952. Impresario George Wein was so taken by this exemplary 24-year-old singer with the lovely tone and impeccable articulation that he not only signed the Boston native to his Storyville label in 1953, he also took up managing her career. Naturally, a spot on his Newport Jazz Festival lineup was great exposure for the emerging jazz vocalist. King had two records out on Storyville by the time Wein recruited her to appear at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival. She was also riding high after winning Best New Artist that year in the Down Beat Critics Poll.
On Friday, July 15, King appeared at Newport with longtime accompanist Nat Pierce on piano along with members of the Woody Herman Orchestra. Her first selection was a faithful rendition of "Basin Street Blues," an oft-covered tune by the prolific composer Spencer Williams. King's voice rings out with gusto here as she channels her inner Mildred Bailey on this blues while also nailing the appropriate behind-the-beat phrasing on this Crescent City classic. For her second selection, King and company settle into a swinging mid-tempo rendition of the oft-recorded George and Ira Gershwin standard "Our Love Is Here To Stay," with the vocalist displaying an all-knowing sense of hipness in her jazzy phrasing that belied her young age. Note how Woody's crew segues to the catchy theme from "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid" as she leaves the stage. That tune, written in 1949 by Lester Young for the popular New York jazz DJ and emcee Symphony Sid Torin, became an anthem for the jazz community at large.
After releasing three records on Wein's Storyville label between 1953 and 1955, King jumped to RCA in 1956 and scored a hit that year with the single "Mr. Wonderful" (from the album Bidin' My Time), which was originally written for a Sammy Davis Jr. Broadway production of the same name. She followed up that success in 1957 with another hit single, "Married I Can Always Get." During the 1960s, King performed in Las Vegas and at the Playboy Club. She passed away in 1977 following a bout with lupus. (Milkowski)