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Remember the Ladies: Una Mae Carlisle


Una Mae Carlisle

Una Mae Carlisle

Una Mae Carlisle, a pianist, and singer during the 1930s and 1940s auditioned for the Cotton Club, performed solo, and recorded in Europe. Born on December 26, 1915, to American Indian and black parents, she started singing at the age of three in her hometown of Xenia, Ohio. By the age of 17, she was working at a local radio station.
Fats Waller heard her play and asked her to join his band. He invited her to play on his radio show at station WLW in Cincinnati during Christmas week when Carlisle turned 17. She was still in high school at the time, and her mother had approved the Christmas vacation in Cincinnati because Carlisle was to stay with her elder sister.

Una Mae Carlisle

Una Mae Carlisle

When her vacation was over, she refused to return home, becoming a professional musician working with Waller at WLW. Fats’ contract with WLW expired in 1934 and he left Cincinnati for New York. Carlisle’s voice can be heard along with Waller’s on the recording “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love.”
When World War II broke out, she returned to America and recorded various songs for Blue Bird Records, including “Walkin’ By The River” and “I See A Million People.” During in the early ’40s, she became popular on the radio; before the decade was out, she had successfully transferred to television.
In between bouts of ill health she played clubs and hotels and appeared on radio shows, including a week-long salute to Fats Waller on WNEW in New York in February of 1945, approximately a year after his death. In the early ’50s, she was still popular, playing with artists such as Don Redman, but her health was failing and she retired in 1954. Her career kept going into the 1950s when she became involved in films and her own radio and television shows. Her last studio session was for Columbia in New York on May 8, 1950. She retired due to her illness in 1954 and died in New York on November 7, 1956. Carlisle sang in a husky, intimate manner, and her warm sensual voice and use of delayed phrasing proved to be as effective on swing numbers as it was on ballads.
Her last studio session was for Columbia in New York on May 8, 1950. She retired due to her illness in 1954. Una Mae Carlisle died two years later in November 1956 in New York City.
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Author: barenose

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