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Bobby Short

Nightclub entertainer Bobby Short performed from the 1930s to the 2000s, primarily singing the songs of the masters of pre-rock popular song, especially Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Noël Coward, and Rodgers & Hart, while accompanying himself on piano. The quintessential cabaret artist, the dapper Short, who often made best-dressed lists, perfectly articulated the lyrics in a husky baritone, delighting his well-heeled customers, particularly at the ritzy Cafe Carlyle of the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where he was in residence from 1968 to 2004. Live performance was his métier, but he also made a series of recordings for Atlantic Records, Telarc, and other labels, along with occasional forays into film and television acting as well as the musical theater.

The ninth of ten children born to Rodman Jacob Short, a coal miner, and Myrtle (Render) Short, a domestic, in Danville, IL, Robert Waltrip Short, nicknamed Bobby, took an early interest in the family piano and, despite a few lessons, was essentially self-taught. He began playing professionally in local roadhouses at the age of eight or nine. Soon, he was performing at society parties in a white tuxedo. In July 1936, when he was 11, he attracted the attention of booking agents who, with his mother's permission, took him to Chicago to perform in vaudeville and on radio. In June 1937, after finishing grade school, he traveled to dates in Cleveland and Toledo, then moved to New York City, where he appeared at the Frolics Cafe in October and at La Grande Pomme, as well as at other clubs and theaters around the country. He returned to Danville in the summer of 1938 to attend to high school and performed only in local venues over the next several years. But after graduating in 1942 he went back to show business permanently, opening at the Capitol Lounge in Chicago that July, followed by engagements in Cleveland, Omaha, and Los Angeles, where he settled in 1943. By the following year, however, he was working in Milwaukee and St. Louis, and in the spring of 1945 he was an opening act at the Blue Angel in New York City for four weeks. He then returned to California, by way of an appearance in Phoenix, where he performed at the Haig and the Café Gala over the next few years. While he was at the Haig, in the late '40s or early '50s, he made a record that was sold at the club. He also appeared without credit in the film musical Call Me Mister, released in January 1951, singing "Going Home Train."

In 1952, Short moved to Paris, where he appeared at the Mars Club and Spivy's, also playing at the Embassy Club in London over the course of the year. He returned to the U.S. for an engagement at the Black Orchid in Chicago, then went back to Los Angeles and the Café Gala, and made a 10" album, Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter, released by Atlantic Records. His first full-length LP, Songs by Bobby Short, recorded in March 1955, featured seven songs (out of 13) composed by Vernon Duke, who wrote its liner notes when it was released by Atlantic later that year. In February 1956, he began an 18-week engagement at the Beverly Club in New York City, which became his home. From May 9 to May 27, 1956, he made his Broadway debut in the City Center's limited-run revival of the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate, performing "Too Darn Hot" at the start of the second act. His second 12" LP for Atlantic, Bobby Short, was released in 1957, and at the same sessions in the late summer and fall of 1956, he recorded material for his third album, Speaking of Love, released in 1958. In the winter of 1956-1957, he appeared at the Red Carpet in New York, followed by an engagement at Le Cupidon. During the summer of 1957, Atlantic hired a horn section for what was intended to be a two-LP set, but only one disc, Sing Me a Swing Song, appeared as his fourth album in 1958. (The rest of the material was issued in 1971 as the LP Nobody Else But Me.)

Short returned to the Blue Angel with top billing and a salary of 1,000 dollars a week on November 14, 1957, continuing to appear at the club off and on until 1963. In late 1958 and early 1959, he recorded his fifth full-length Atlantic LP, The Mad Twenties, an album of songs from the 1920s. Meanwhile, he appeared at the Living Room, then at the Weylin Hotel, where, in March 1959, he recorded the live album Bobby Short on the East Side before moving on to the Arpeggio. He also worked in California, Florida, and Chicago during the summer in the early '60s. In March 1962, along with LaVern Baker and Chris Connor, he recorded an album of the score of Richard Rodgers' Broadway musical No Strings, billed as "An After Theatre Version." In June 1963, he recorded My Personal Property, an album of songs composed by pop and Broadway songwriter Cy Coleman. He gave his final performance at the Blue Angel on July 10, 1963, then moved to the Café Ambassador of the Sheraton East Hotel. In early 1964, he invested in a French restaurant, the Caprice, with Blue Angel co-owner Herbert Jacoby and began appearing there. It lasted only 15 months, and in 1965, having lost his savings in the venture, Short faced a career crisis brought on by the rise of television and rock & roll, trends that led to a decline in the nightclub business. He played where he could around the country, including stints in Provincetown, MA, and Chicago, and in the winter of 1965-1966 appeared in the second edition of Ben Bagley's off-Broadway revue, The Decline and Fall of the Entire World as Seen Through the Eyes of Cole Porter, at Square East in Greenwich Village. (The show was recorded live by Painted Smiles Records, and Short, temporarily free of his Atlantic Records contract, also made recordings for Bagley's series of various-artists composer collections, including Cole Porter Revisited, George Gershwin Revisited, Irving Berlin Revisited, Jerome Kern Revisited, and Rodgers and Hart Revisited, Vol. 2.) He then went into L'Intrigue, a club on West 56th Street, later returning to the Living Room. He appeared at Paul's Mall in Boston and spent ten weeks during the summer of 1966 at the Playboy Club in London. Also in 1966, he appeared in a television production of the musical revue Pins and Needles.

Short's luck finally turned in the spring of 1968. The Carlyle Hotel, looking for a substitute for pianist George Feyer, who had long reigned at its 120-seat Cafe Carlyle and was going on vacation, took the advice of Atlantic president Ahmet Ertegun and hired Short in the interim. He proved so popular that, when Feyer's contract expired, the Carlyle hired him as a permanent replacement, performing three shows a night eight months a year. (Later, it became two shows a night and two three-month stints in the fall and spring.) Meanwhile, he was second-billed to Mabel Mercer in concerts held at Town Hall in New York in May 1968 and recorded for a double LP by Atlantic, Mabel Mercer and Bobby Short at Town Hall. The shows were so successful that they were repeated the following year, resulting in a another two-LP set, Second Town Hall Concert. Atlantic renewed its association with Short and commissioned a new solo studio album, Jump for Joy, released in 1969. The 13-year-old Nobody Else But Me followed, and in 1972 Short took another crack at Cole Porter, this time recording a double LP that repeated the title of his two-decades-old 10" record, Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter. Amazingly, the album, supported by a concert appearance at New York's Avery Fisher Hall, reached the Billboard pop chart, and Atlantic followed with a series of two-disc collections: Bobby Short Is Mad About Noël Coward (1972); Bobby Short Is K-RA-ZY About Gershwin (1973); Live at the Cafe Carlyle (1974); and Bobby Short Celebrates Rodgers & Hart (1975). Meanwhile, he published a memoir of his youth, Black and White Baby (1971).

Over the years, Short came to represent the elegance and sophistication of New York with his tuxedoed appearance and repertoire of standards. As a result, he became attractive to advertisers, who frequently featured him in television commercials and print ads for such products as perfume and designer jeans. He also got other opportunities to perform. In February 1979, he acted in the ABC television mini-series Roots: The Next Generations, and in May 1980 he was a producer and participant in the Broadway revue Black Broadway, which had a brief run at Town Hall. His other TV guest appearances included the series The Love Boat, Tattingers, In the Heat of the Night, Central Park West, Frasier, and 7th Heaven. There were also films. He was seen and heard as himself, performing Cole Porter's "I'm in Love Again" at the Cafe Carlyle in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters in 1989, and his recording of Porter's "I Happen to Like New York" was heard over the titles of Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery in 1993. (Other soundtrack-only appearances included Savages [1972] and Love Affair [1994].) He also appeared in the films For Love or Money (1993) and Man of the Century (1999), and in the TV movies Hardhat and Legs (1980), A Night on the Town (1983), and Blue Ice (1992). He published a second memoir, Bobby Short: The Life and Times of a Saloon Singer, written with Robert Mackintosh, in 1995.

On records, Short moved to Elektra/Asylum for 1982's Moments Like This (which reached the jazz charts), but returned to Atlantic for Guess Who's in Town: Bobby Short Performs the Songs of Andy Razaf (1987), a tribute to the little-known wordsmith who worked with Fats Waller and Eubie Blake. He didn't cut any new records for several years, but in the early '90s he signed with Telarc for a series of CDs starting with the live album Late Night at the Cafe Carlyle (March 1992), which reached the jazz charts and was nominated for the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, and including Swing That Music (August 1993), recorded with the Howard Alden-Dan Barrett Quartet; the live Songs of New York (1995); another jazz-chart entry, Celebrating 30 Years at the Cafe Carlyle (January 1998); How's Your Romance (January 1999); and You're the Top: The Love Songs of Cole Porter (June 1999). He switched to the audiophile Surrounded by Entertainment label for 2001's Piano, an album on which he performed mostly piano instrumentals. He sang the title song on clarinetist Ken Peplowski's 2004 album Easy to Remember.

Short announced his retirement from the Cafe Carlyle with his final appearance on New Year's Eve 2004, but later agreed to return in May 2005 to mark the club's 50th anniversary. Instead, he died of leukemia at the age of 80 on March 21, 2005. In a profile in The New Yorker magazine in December 1970, Whitney Balliett had described Short as "one of the last example (and indubitably the best) of the cafe singer or the supper-club singer or 'troubadour.'" Thirty-five years later, other examples had emerged, notably Michael Feinstein, Harry Connick, Jr., and Peter Cincotti. But Balliett's assessment that Short was the best of his time remained inarguable. ~ William Ruhlmann
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Mercer & Short: Second Town Hall Concert (Live)

1. My Personal Property (Live At Town Hall)

2. Isn't It A Pity (Live At Town Hall)

3. I've A Shooting Box In Scotland (Live At Town Hall)

4. Chicago, Illinois (Live At Town Hall)

5. Before I Kiss The World Goodbye (Live At Town Hall)

6. Summer Is A-Comin' In (Live At Town Hall)

7. Round About (Live At Town Hall)

8. Sweet Bye And Bye (Live At Town Hall)

9. What Is There To Say / This Is Romance / Now (Medley) (Live At Town Hall)

10. Not A Care In The World (Live At Town Hall)

11. In My Old Virginia Home, On The River Nile (Live At Town Hall)

12. I Can't Get Started (Live At Town Hall)

13. I Like The Likes Of You (Live At Town Hall)

x

Track List: Rhino Hi-Five: Bobby Short

1. Let's Fall In Love

2. From Now On

3. Rocks In My Bed

4. My Personal Property

5. The Best Is Yet To Come

x

Track List: The Cafe Carlyle Presents Bobby Short: You're The Top

1. C'est Magnifique

2. I Love You, Samantha

3. You Do Something To Me

4. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To

5. Only Another Boy And Girl

6. I Concentrate On You

7. So Near And Yet So Far

8. Can-Can

9. I've Got You Under My Skin

10. You're Sensational

11. What Is This Thing Called Love?

12. In The Still Of The Night

13. You're The Top

14. We Shall Never Be Younger

15. Love Of My Life

x

Track List: How's Your Romance?

1. When Love Beckoned (In Fifty-Second Street)

2. Tea For Two

3. Night And Day

4. Too Marvelous For Words

5. (Our) Love Is Here To Stay

6. Easy To Love

7. Take Love Easy

8. Can This Be Love?

9. Tenderly

10. The East Side Of Heaven

11. How's Your Romance?

12. At Long Last Love

13. I Can't Get Started

14. Hooray For Love

15. Body And Soul

16. Romance In The Dark

x

Track List: Songs Of New York

1. New York, New York (It's A Helluva Town) (Live)

2. Penthouse Serenade (Live)

3. She's A Latin From Manhattan (Live)

4. Autumn In New York (Live)

5. Manhattan (Live)

6. The East Side Of Heaven (Live)

7. When Love Beckoned (In Fifty-Second Street) (Live)

8. Way Out West On West End Avenue (Live)

9. Black Butterfly / Harlem Butterfly (Live)

10. My Personal Property (Live)

11. Broadway (Live)

12. The Sidewalks Of New York (Live)

13. Take Me Back To Manhattan (Live)

14. Upper Madison Avenue Blues (Live)

x

Track List: Swing That Music

1. Take Love Easy

2. They Say It's Spring

3. Gone With The Wind

4. If Dreams Come True

5. Can This Be Love?

6. Chez Moi

7. Killin' Myself

8. Sleep, Baby, Don't Cry

9. Restless

10. Tenderly

11. Drop Me Off In Harlem

12. Ghost Of Yesterday

13. Swing That Music

x

Track List: Late Night At The Cafe Carlyle (Live)

1. Do I Hear You Saying I Love You? (Live)

2. Tea For Two (Live)

3. Night And Day (Live)

4. Too Marvelous For Words (Live)

5. Love Is Here To Stay (Live)

6. Drop Me Off In Harlem (Live)

7. Body And Soul (Live)

8. I Can't Give You Anything But Love (Live)

9. I Can Dream, Can't I? (Live)

10. I Get A Kick Out Of You (Live)

11. Satin Doll (Live)

12. Street Of Dreams (Live)

13. The Nearness Of You (Live)

14. Paradise (Live)

15. Easy To Love (Live)

16. After You, Who? (Live)

17. Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye (Live)

x

Track List: Bobby, Noel & Cole

1. Rap Tap On Wood

2. You've Got That Thing

3. You Don't Know Paree

4. Pilot Me

5. Katie Went To Haiti

6. How's Your Romance

7. At Long Last Love

8. By Candlelight

9. So Near And Yet So Far

10. How Could We Be Wrong

11. Hot-House Rose

12. Let's Fly Away (Soundtrack Version)

13. Why Shouldn't I

14. Once Upon A Time

15. Weren't We Fools

16. Do I Love You

17. I've Got You On My Mind

18. Where Have You Been

19. I Hate You, Darling

20. I'm In Love Again

21. Just One Of Those Things

22. Why Don't We Try Staying Home

23. The Younger Generation

24. Medley: You Were There/Then

25. Matelot

26. A Room With A View

27. Nina

28. Any Little Fish

29. World Weary

30. We Were Dancing

31. Never Again

32. Josephine

33. If Love Were All

34. Let's Fly Away

35. Something To Do With The Spring

36. Someday I'll Find You

37. Imagine The Duchess's Feelings

38. Poor Little Rich Girl

39. Medley: Where Are The Songs We Sung/Dear Little Cafe/Hearts and Flowers

40. Wait A Bit, Joe

41. I Travel Alone

42. I'll See You Again

x

Track List: Guess Who's In Town: Bobby Short Performs The Songs Of Andy Razaf

1. Guess Who's In Town

2. Honeysuckle Rose

3. How Can You Face Me

4. A Porter's Love Song To A Chambermaid

5. S'posin'

6. Ain't Misbehavin'

7. Tan Manhattan

8. Black And Blue

9. Make Believe Ballroom

10. I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town

11. Lonesome Swallow

x

Track List: 50 by Bobby Short

Disc 1

1. I Like The Likes Of You

2. Manhattan

3. You Make Me Feel So Young

4. You Are Not My First Love

5. Gimme A Pigfoot

6. Sweet Bye And Bye

7. Autumn In New York

8. From This Moment On

9. Down With Love

10. I've Got Five Dollars

11. Sand In My Shoes

12. At The Moving Picture Ball

13. Bye Bye Blackbird

14. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World

15. Easy Come Easy Go

16. So Near And Yet So Far

17. Bedelia

18. I Love You Samantha

19. Hooray For Love

20. Down In Mexico

21. This Is What I Call Love

22. Dream Dancing

23. It's Bad For Me

24. From Now On

26. Be My Host

Disc 2

1. Some Fine Day

2. Wake Up Chillun Wake Up

3. Sweet So And So

4. Changes

5. Don't Bring Lulu

6. Delia's Gone

7. Just For Today

8. Romance In The Dark

9. Simon Smith & His Dancing Bear

10. I Love To Rhyme

11. Don't Mention Love To Me

12. The Best Is Yet To Come

13. Bojangles Of Harlem

14. Something To Live For

16. On The Amazon

17. I Can't Get Started

18. Rap Tap On Wood

19. A Room With A View

20. If Love Were All

21. I'll See You Again

22. Losing My Mind

23. Spring Is Here

24. Our Love Is Here To Stay

x

Track List: Moments Like This

1. Someone To Light Up My Life

2. Georgia Blues/Georgia On My Mind (Medley)

3. Sigh No More

4. I'm Satisfied

5. Evergreen

6. Memphis In June

7. Moments Like This

8. I Am In Love

9. Say It Isn't So

10. Body & Soul

11. Sometime When You're Lonely

x

Track List: Bobby Short Celebrates Rodgers & Hart

1. On Your Toes

2. Medley: Hollywood Party No. 1/Hollywood Party No. 2

3. You Mustn't Kick It Around

4. Where Or When

5. Have You Met Miss Jones

6. Hallelujah, I'm A Bum

7. Johnny One Note

8. With A Song In My Heart

9. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

10. My Romance

11. Wait Till You See Her

12. There's A Small Hotel

13. Soon

14. Spring Is Here

15. Every Sunday Afternoon

16. Glad To Be Unhappy

17. I Still Believe In You

18. Nobody's Heart

19. You're What I Need

20. No Place But Home

21. You Took Advantage Of Me

22. It's Got To Be Love

23. Isn't It Romantic

24. Everything I've Got

25. Bewitched

26. I Wish I Were In Love Again

x

Track List: Live At The Café Carlyle

1. Real Live Girl (From Little Me Live)

2. Miss Brown To You (Live From The Big Broadcast Of 1936)

3. On The Sunny Side Of The Street (Live From Lew Leslie's Internationa Revue)

4. Mister And Missus Fitch (Live From The Gay Divorce)

5. Losing My Mind (Live From Follies)

6. Losing My Mind (Reprise) (Live From Follies)

7. All Of You (Live From Silk Stockings)

8. Let's Misbehave (Live From Paris)

9. Sorry-Grateful (Live From Company)

10. I Get A Kick Out Of You (Live From Anything Goes)

11. New Orleans Hop Scop Blues

12. Medley: Four Walls / Roller Coaster Blues

13. Send In The Clowns (Live From A Little Night Music)

14. When A Woman Loves A Man

15. Ill Wind (Live From Cotton Club Parade Of 1934)

16. Miss Otis Regrets

17. It's Not You (Live From Stand Up And Sing)

18. I Happen To Like New York (Live From The New Yorkers)

19. One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)

20. As Time Goes By (Live From Casablanca)

21. I've Got The World On A String

22. Medley: If I Had A Talking Picture Of You/I'm A Dreamer, Aren't We All/Turn On The Heat

23. For All We Know

24. I Like The Likes Of You

x

Track List: Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter

1. Rap Tap On Wood

2. You've Got That Thing

3. You Don't Know Paree

4. Pilot Me

5. Katie Went To Haiti

6. How's Your Romance

7. At Long Last Love

8. By Candlelight

9. So Near And Yet So Far

10. How Could We Be Wrong

11. Hot-House Rose

12. Let's Fly Away

13. Why Shouldn't I

14. Once Upon A Time

15. Weren't We Fools

16. Do I Love You

17. I've Got You On My Mind

18. Where Have You Been

19. I Hate You, Darling

20. I'm In Love Again

21. Just One Of Those Things

22. Why Don't We Try Staying Home

x

Track List: Nobody Else But Me

1. Over And Over Again

2. Don't Mention Love To Me

3. World Weary

4. Where's That Rainbow

5. Dream Dancing

6. It Never Was You

7. Wind In The Willows

8. I Love To Rhyme

9. Nobody Else But Me

10. I'm One Of Your Admirers

11. Love Is Love Anywhere

12. Love Is A Dancing Thing

13. Here's A Kiss For Cinderella

x

Track List: Jump For Joy

1. Jump for Joy

2. Romance In The Dark

3. Whoever You Are I Love You

4. I'm Confessin' That I Love You

5. If You're a Viper

6. I Cannot Make Her Jealous

7. I'm So Glad To See You've Got What You Want

8. Medley: I've Been In Love Before/Falling In Love Again, Can't Help It

9. Just For Today

10. Simon Smith & His Dancing Bear

11. The Gypsies, The Jugglers & The Clowns

x

Track List: My Personal Property

1. The Best Is Yet To Come

2. Witchcraft

3. I've Got Your Number

4. It Amazes Me

5. On The Other Side Of The Tracks

6. My Personal Property

7. Hey Look Me Over

8. I Walk A Little Faster

9. Here's Hoping

10. You Fascinate Me So

11. The Rules Of The Road

12. Its

x

Track List: On The East Side

1. Slumming On Park Avenue

2. Look At You

3. You Fascinate Me So

4. Flying Down To Rio

5. Moanin' In The Mornin'

6. I Left My Hat In Haiti

7. I Like The Likes Of You

8. Let There Be Love

9. It Never Entered My Mind

10. Truckin'

11. Pretty Girl

12. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter

13. Delia's Gone

14. I Like The Likes Of You (Reprise)

x

Track List: The Mad Twenties

1. Nagasaki

2. That's My Weakness Now

3. That Society Bear

4. Don't Bring Lulu

5. Changes

6. Tiger Rag

7. Sweet So And So

8. Heebie Jeebies

9. At The Animal's Ball

10. I'm Bringing A Red Red Rose

11. Laugh, Clown, Laugh

12. I'm Cert'ny Gonna See 'Bout That

x

Track List: Sing Me A Swing Song

1. It's Bad For Me

2. How Can You Forget?

3. From Now On

4. Some Fine Day

5. I'm Checkin' Out, Goombye

6. I Got What It Takes

7. For No Rhyme Or Reason

8. Ebony Rhapsody

9. Ace In The Hole

10. Lydia

11. Don't Let It Get You Down

12. Montevideo

13. Rocks In My Bed

14. Wake Up, Chillun, Wake Up

x

Track List: Bobby Short

1. At The Moving Picture Ball

2. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World

3. Bye Bye Blackbird

4. I've Got Five Dollars

5. I've Got The World On A String

6. Is It Always Like This

7. Sand In My Shoes

8. Carioca

9. Down With Love

10. Hottentot Potentate

11. Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home

12. Bedelia

13. Fun To Be Fooled

x

Track List: Songs By Bobby Short

1. I Like The Likes Of You

2. Now

3. Island In The West Indies

4. Suddenly

5. You Are Not My First Love

6. Sweet Bye And Bye

7. From This Moment On

8. Dinah

9. You Make Me Feel So Young

10. Manhattan

11. I Can't Get Started

12. Autumn In New York

13. Gimme A Pigfoot

Comments

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I was lucky enough to see Bobby at the Carlyle twice. Unique. And wonderful. Love him so
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My dad was bobby shorts drummer from the late 60s thru the 70s - Richard Sheridan!
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Amazing that I was watching a rerun of 7th Heaven and he was appearing as a favorite of Lucy. I can not believe the talent!
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AGAIN SAW HIM IN THE SPRING OF1970..WHEN I CAME BACK STATESIDE IN THE SPRING OF 1973 I WENT TO SEE BOBBY. A CLASS ACT
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WAS SHIPPIN' OUT TO GERMANY WITH THE 82ND AIR BORNE LAST NIGHT OUT...AWESOM E THE GREATEST CABERET PIANO PLAYER EVER
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bpvickroy
The tops!He's missed
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kate.paolucc i
Saw him at the Carlyle in 2000. He was unforgettabl e .
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i became aware of him,one nite on the computer/i think young people ,don'T KNOW the beauty of his style corky /fort wayne
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The One and Only!
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Absolutely inimitable, instantly recognizable , Bobby Short brought something fresh and new to every song he performed--e v e n those that other singers all but owned. He could not only express love, desire, loss, and the other celebrated emotions to songs, but also playfulness, naughtiness, and fun. We will never again see his like.

Tastefully yours,
Tom Fitzmorris
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I can't think of another artist who left a greater impression on me. I feel truly blessed to have seen him in his element at the Carlyle.
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Watching him at the Carlyle was really a thrill.
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Love his stuff, especially from Carlyle days
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The Great American Songbook -- at its best.

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