Saturday, January 13, 2007

We Agree on Lee

Awhile back, Craig and I sparred over who was the more enchanting jazz age singer: he said Ruth Etting; I said Annette Hanshaw. As it turns out, we both agree that there was one gal who trumps 'em both.
Hang on to your mouse, because you're about to meet the incomparable Lee Morse.

Says Ian House, keeper of fansite
"She was 5 feet tall. She was less than 100 lbs "soaking wet". She spent her childhood in Oregon and Idaho yet was proud of her family's Southern roots. She could hunt and fish and, if you deserved it, she could punch your lights out! She was Lee Morse, one of the most popular female recording artists during the Jazz Age 20's and 30's. And, she is worth remembering.

Start your journey with a listen to "Moanin' Low." It'll give you a sense of her effortless bluesy style and her incredible range. She was able to sing so low that many of her early recordings were labeled Miss Lee Morse, so listeners would know she was a woman. She often accompanied herself on the ukulele: we might assume this is her playing on "Tonight You Belong to Me." I love her hybrid of eefin' and yodeling on "Ukulele Lady."

Next, read this article; it'll give you a quick sense as to Lee's colorful and tragic life.

"Morse's vaudeville and stage career continued to grow during her Columbia years, and in 1930 she landed a huge role in Florenz Ziegfeld's "Simple Simon," a Rodgers and Hart musical.

The role would have catapulted her to Broadway stardom, but the day before the show's debut she fell ill from a bender and was unable to perform. Another Columbia recording artist, Ruth Etting, stepped in for Morse and the show's hit song, "Ten Cents a Dance," became her signature tune.

This stumble essentially ended Miss Lee Morse's Broadway career. Alcoholism haunted her for the rest of her life."
The fact that you may be hearing her name for the first time tells you something about the end of her story. She was on the brink of a comeback when she died in 1954.

To learn more about Lee and her music, check out the following sites. (And if you're a screenwriter, you might think about bringing Lee's story to the screen. But there's only one person you can cast in the lead. Her visual and vocal resemblance to Lee Morse is spooky. Just be sure to credit Ukulelia!) -- photos, videos, and recordings -- more photos and biographical info
Lee Morse at
The Lee Morse Collection at The University Idaho


craig said...

Yes...oh, yes.

Nina Coquina said...

Great stuff. Loved her take on Ukulele Lady, and now I finally know what the intro to You Belong to Me sounds like ;-)

robgonzo said...

so, who is that 'one person'? The link doesn't work and I'm dying of curiosity. I must be part cat.

Gary said...

try again robgonzo, I just fixed it.

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