Sunday, December 30, 2018



Song stylist Nancy Wilson’s over five decade singing career is notable for more than 70 albums, and three Grammy Awards.     Her musical vocal style has been described as jazz, blues, cabaret, and pop though she declined being relegated to any one category.  

Her singing has been characterized  as sensitive, sensual, soulful, but she always said that she simply told stories.    She was a consummate entertainer with class, beauty, elegance.   Others have observed "She sold her VOICE ... not her body ... embodied poise and respect."

I awoke to the sad news on Thursday December 13th -- that vocalist Nancy Wilson had died -- and want to remember her here.

Ms Wilson’s talents became nationally prominent beginning in the mid-1950’s, continuing until her retirement in early-2010s.   She was born February 20, 1937 in Chillicothe, Ohio south of the state’s capitol, Columbus, where she later attended high school.  She began singing as a teen, then won a talent contest with appearances on the ABC affiliate WTVN.  She entered college for a teaching degree but returned to her original talents after winning an audition to sing with Rusty Bryant’s band. She sang at local clubs, in 1956 toured Canada and the Midwest to 1958 with the band when she made her first record under Dot Recording.    

She followed jazz alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s advice and moved to New York City in 1959 where filling in for another singer at the blue Morocco earned her a regular booking.  Singing four nights a week and working days as a secretary at the New York Institute of Technology.  Capitol Records signed her in 1960 as she successfully released her first single with which she’s often identified: “Guess Who I Saw Today”.

Subsequently her career flourished with TV appearances, national coast to coast prominence and international recognition as she continued recording for American and Japanese labels.  Later years she engaged in youth education programs, hosted NPR’s Jazz Profiles from 1996 to 2005. 

My husband had recalled to me her early years during his avocational professional jazz musician years with his own groups in Columbus, Ohio.   Many years later prior to his retirement he came home from the office one day saying he had surprisingly encountered her in the hall of the local California university where he was now an administrator.  She was there to engage with that University’s Music Department and students. 

I was reminded of when working in Columbus  at NBC-TV affiliate, WLW-C, with the live daily audience participation weekday talk show and quintet that Ms Wilson had been one of the many celebrity guests who welcomed performing with our talented musicians whenever appearing in concert or at prominent clubs in town.  She was in peak popularity and renown but had returned to  provide support to a friend opening a club called The Sacred Mushroom (jazz-folk-beat-coffee house) near the Ohio State University campus.  She was a warm, gracious personable young woman who cared about others. 

Nancy Wilson has been the recipient of much recognition including NAACP Image Award – Hall of Fame Award; Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame award, Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; was a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement with many awards; received honorary degrees; recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and so many more awards.   “She co-founded the Nancy Wilson Foundation, which exposes inner-city children to the country.   as noted HERE.

She was the first recipient of the United Negro College Fund Award where she sang
"These Golden Years"

She married again in 1973 and subsequently gave up singing in some venues, such as supper clubs. For the next two decades was busy with her personal and professional life – singing, family, and adjusting to the death of both parents.   In 2006 medical issues became evident, eventually some lung issues developed, also her husband died after a long illness with renal cancer. 

“On September 10, 2011, she performed on a public stage for the last time at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio” south of her birth city.    Wilson is quoted,  "I'm not going to be doing it anymore, and what better place to end it than where I started – in Ohio."

Nancy Wilson died December 13, 2018 at her home in Pioneertown near Southern California's Joshua Tree National Monument after a long battle with kidney cancer.  She was 81 years old..   

Nancy Wilson sings some more tunes in her inimitable  style........

"An Older Man Is Like An Elegant Wine" at this link since the video not readily embedded here:

"Teach Me Tonight"  John B. Williams on acoustic upright bass

"Midnight Sun" – Capitol Records 1967

"Did I Remember"    Video has pictures of lovely Nancy Wilson at various stages of her life. 

Her final album “Turned to Blue” won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Album in 2006.

"My Life Has Turned to Blue"        A poem written by Maya Angelou is the title track.

"When Sunny Gets Blue"     1962 album "Hello Young Lovers"

Thank you, Nancy Wilson ...
... for the musical pleasure you’ve given us 
... the positive difference you've made in others lives


Monday, December 24, 2018


Wishing you the merriest of Christmases ... happiest Hanukkah !

Early twentieth century Christmases my Mother described are surely different than what I experienced mid-century.   The differences are magnified in our twenty-first century.   She grew up on a farm in northeastern Ohio, actually born in the nineteenth century.   As youngsters she and her brothers and sisters led interesting horse and buggy days lives. 

My mother described occasional dates her father believed to be to attend a church meeting, that sometimes might have ended up elsewhere as she loved to dance.  Then the ride home, whether buggy in amenable seasons or sleigh in snowy winter, would be cozy for snuggling with the horse needing no guidance -- always knowing the way home -- just like self-driving cars will be.  

Her father, my grandfather who died many years before I was born, was considered by his friends and neighbors as progressive.   He was strongly supportive of women's rights.  He also felt women and girls should not be expected to perform outdoor heavy-duty farm work with all they had to do -- keeping house, cooking, though tending the foul, gathering the eggs and engaging in any gardening with flowers, herbs and vegetables they might enjoy was agreeable.  

Farmer friends used to tease him by asking when he was going to get a car.  He sarcastically told them that he was waiting for an aero plane.  What would he think of cars today?   Little did he imagine the development of the airline industry, a trip that went to the moon, projected space travel.

He's also noted for having become frustrated waiting for one of the neighbor women on their telephone party line to finally end her call.  The telephone system then was a technology requiring the caller to crank a set number of short and long rings to reach the party they wanted.   One day there was some important matter he needed to reach a neighbor farmer about, but every time he checked the line after long waits in between the line was still busy as that neighbor kept talking, a frequent problem with her.  The last check he listened long enough to hear her say, "...and so I washed far as... 'possible'..." when he interrupted by saying, "Why don't you go wash 'possible' and get off this line?"

An ancestor helping settle northeastern Ohio was a protestant minister of a major religion prevalent yet today.  Church involvement and activities were always a significant part of life, providing spiritual sustenance and a social network for the far-flung rural community residents.   Christmas was a most significant time of year with special serious meaning, but the secular Santa Claus joys were enjoyed, too, during my Mother’s youth.

Farms then and now, especially if there are animals on the land require 24/7 care.  My grandfather had several cows to provide milk for butter, cheese, smearcase (cottage cheese), plow horses to work, some fast trotters for buggy pulling when the family needed to travel and smart walking horses for individual riding.  Of course, there were a few hogs, chickens, ducks.  To control any vermin in the corn storage area (beginning of silo usage), also the barn and hay mow, domestic cats prowled and resided there, also often becoming pets along with the family dog(s) to ward off strangers and predatory creatures. 

Animals showcased creature and human life, procreation activities, birth, the unique attraction of helpless newborn piglets, foals, calves, kittens, puppies, chicks.   Love and loss,  sometimes injury and illness, also death was a natural stage of life.  Responsibility for others was vital.  Care for the earth's vegetation, insects such as bees needed for pollination of plants and so much more pertinent to human survival and environmental preservation was learned.  Despite all,  prayers were not always answered.  Life was not always fair. 

Indoor plumbing had not yet been adopted by many in rural areas, so unheated outhouses sat off some distance from the house – usually one-seaters, but some accommodating more users simultaneously were luxurious two and three-seaters, probably appreciated by families with many children.   A hand pump for water was centrally located at the front yard’s distant edge from the house, but also accessible to the barn since buckets of water would be needed both places. 

Fresh water was needed daily for wash basins placed on small stands (one lovely maple wood stand with a birdseye maple drawer I have) in each bedroom to provide moisture for clearing sleep from the occupants eyes each morning, or to cleanse the hands during the night if the beside covered pot had to be used.   Who would want to trudge down the stairs in the dark, to the outhouse, especially in a stormy or icy snowy cold winter?   Of course, these prone to being smelly pots had to be lugged daily to the outhouse to be relieved of their contents, freshened so they could be returned bedside for the next night, a job not readily welcomed. 

Downstairs firewood previously cut to kindling and larger split log sizes had to be carried inside, kept in supply for the wood burning kitchen stove and oven, any other heat-producing stoves or fireplaces in other rooms. 

How baking was done still marvels me -- sustaining an even consistent temperature with a wood stove -- no temperature dial there.   Meats butchered earlier in the year and relegated to the outdoor refrigerator-like storage room dug into the earth and earlier harvested fruits from the apple, peach, plum trees and vegetables in a fruit cellar were at the ready when needed, some dried, if care had been taken to prepare each year’s supply at harvest time. 

Plenty of water was needed for cooking with some heated on the stove for other usage.   Hot water was especially needed on nights a periodic tub bath was scheduled for the various individuals.   Bath tub/shower type bathing was not a daily activity for each person as we indulge ourselves today, sometimes soaking in luxury with hot water readily flowing with the turn of a knob.  

Woolen clothes to be worn during winter would have been brought out from storage earlier, aired of moth ball aromas.   There was no dry cleaner to regularly freshen them after wearing, plus people had no deodorants.  Mother said she didn't recall any B.O. (body odor), but speculated that "Maybe we all just smelled bad so nobody noticed".  
The parlor as one room in the house was known, was kept pristine for special family occasions and entertaining visitors.  (I have a rich-looking dark cherry drop leaf table from my grandmother's parlor.)  Everyday living activities took place in the rest of the house, often frugally to conserve wood,  they centered around a single heated stove in the kitchen as outdoors winter’s winds howled in blizzards, freezing temperatures.

Mother’s recollection of the Christmas holiday and preparations was intriguing to me.  She said the actual setting up their decorated Christmas tree was never done in advance.  The children went to bed Christmas Eve and when they awoke in the morning, miraculously a colorful ornamented tree appeared downstairs.  When the oohs and awes subsided Santa would make his grand entrance with his bag of presents for distribution.    

The ecstatic children were so accustomed to their father being in the barn doing his daily early morning chores they thought nothing of the fact he wasn’t in the house with them when Santa arrived.   Mother said years later she marveled that it never occurred to them that Santa was their Dad so he must have had a pretty good costume and disguise.  

I wish I had talked further with her, or maybe I’ve forgotten what she said, about Christmas tree ornaments, what sort of gifts they received.   I expect there were a lot of handmade items, especially from the girls who would be learning all sorts of sewing skills, knitting, crocheting, tatting, hooking rugs, making quilts, sewing clothes items, also for their Hope Chests. 

Likely the boys were into various crafts of woodworking, little toys maybe, or sleds.  Store-bought gifts would likely have been rare, perhaps expensive.  I know she spoke of my Grandmother’s wealthy sister and her husband, a doctor in Atlanta, Ga, sometimes sent special items -- or, remembrances from the uncle sailing around the world during his U.S. Navy career.  No doubt hand-me-down clothing had been remade as a matter of practicality and was like-new to the recipient.   I know books were treasured items, all sorts of print, pictures, and writing instruments with ink, paper to write and draw. 

Christmas preparations, singing in the choir, pageants, and celebrating with religious music, for which my Mother played the church piano as she did for weekly services was her practice when she became older.  

Some traditions from days of yore continue, others change, commercialization has increased from her generation to mine and from mine to that of my children, even more for their children. 

Will there be more Christmas changes and in what way in future decades, I wonder?  

How do those who observe Hanukkah perceive any changes through these same decades, including with their gift giving rituals?