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Pearl Bailey

An uninhibited vocalist who gave more to her performances than any other singers around, Pearl Bailey gained fame for her work in Broadway, cabaret, and Hollywood. Bailey's sultry, slurred delivery livened up many a stale standard, including "Baby It's Cold Outside" and her only hit, "Takes Two to Tango."

The daughter of a preacher, Bailey began singing at the age of three (her brother, Bill Bailey, also taught her a few dance steps). She was performing professionally by her early teenage years and after touring as a dancer for several years, she featured both as a singer and dancer with jazz bands led by Noble Sissle, Cootie Williams, and Edgar Hayes. She began performing as a solo act in 1944, and wooed night club audiences with her relaxed stage presence and humorous asides. After briefly replacing Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Cab Calloway's Orchestra during the mid-'40s, she debuted on Broadway during 1946 in the musical St. Louis Woman. Bailey earned an award for most promising newcomer, and made her first film, Variety Girl, in 1947.

Though it wasn't a hit, her version of "Tired" (from Variety Girl) increased her standing in the jazz community. She recorded for several different labels, including Columbia, during the '40s and finally found a hit in 1952 after signing to Coral. Her version of "Takes Two to Tango," backed by Don Redman's Orchestra, hit the Top Ten. That same year, she married drummer Louie Bellson, and he left his position with Duke Ellington to become her musical director. Bailey recorded several albums for Coral during the early '50s, and starred as a fortune teller in the 1954 film Carmen Jones. More starring roles followed, in the W.C. Handy biopic St. Louis Blues as well as the first filmed version of Gershwin's classic operetta Porgy and Bess.

In 1959, a new recording contract (with Roulette) resulted in a change of direction. After her double-entendre LP For Adults Only was banned from radio play, it became a big seller and occasioned a string of similar albums during the early '60s. She continued to perform on Broadway, and won a Tony award in 1970 for her title role in Hello, Dolly!. She led her own television variety show in 1971, but retired from active performance several years later. Pearl Bailey was named to the American delegation to the United Nations in 1976, and awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1988. ~ John Bush
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Takes Two To Tango - Asv / Living Era

1. Takes Two To Tango

3. He Didn't Ask Me

4. St. Louis Blues

5. Tired

6. Fifteen Years

8. Personality

9. Legalize My Name

10. Womans Perogative

11. Row, Row, Row

12. Little Learnin Is A Dangerous Thing

13. I'm Lazy That's All

14. Who

15. Ma (He's Makin' Eyes At Me)

16. Baby, It's Cold Outside

18. Johnson Rag

19. Saturday Night Fish Fry

20. Vagabond Shoes

22. Let There Be Love

23. As Long As I Live

24. Me And My Shadow

25. Shes Something Spanish

x

Track List: 1947-1950

1. That's No Way To Do

3. Old Man, You Been Gone Too Long

4. I'm Lazy That's All

5. Don't Ever Leave Me

6. Who

7. Protect Me

8. Ma (He's Making Eyes At Me)

9. Don't Sit On My Bed

10. Here You Come With Love

11. Baby, It's Cold Outside

12. The Hucklebuck

13. It's A Great Feeling

14. Ain't She Sweet

15. Frankie And Johnny

16. Not Tonight

17. Johnson Rag

18. Saturday Night Fish Fry

19. Mamie Is Mimi

20. For You My Love

21. Nothing For Nothing

22. They Didn't Believe Me

23. There Must Be Something Better Than Love

x

Track List: It's A Great Feeling

1. He Didn't Ask Me

2. Protect Me

3. Ma (He's Making Eyes At Me)

4. It's A Great Feeling

6. Mamie Is Mimi

Comments

Report as inappropriate
I say this for people to Treasure Your Oppurtunty!- She's an Icon to me!!- -No matter what is going on!- LOVE LIFE!- And People!!!(No t meant to be negative!- Im sure someone will take it that way!)! Not meant that way!
Report as inappropriate
The Boss!- PEARL! Its easy to walk into open doors! Like Black female singers! Actresses! and Rappers do today!-They claim they the" stuff" but I Guarantee you they couldnt withstood what this woman with threw!- For them to have the previlige to 'Act A Fool" Now!
Report as inappropriate
Love Pearl but not really into Queen Latifah!- But have to admit!- Latifah! Is Pearl!- If they ever do a Biography!- Nobody else is qualified!- Dana Owens!(Queen ) is the only one I wanna see! She will do her justice!!!!
Report as inappropriate
nstockford
My wife wife was a student at Georgetown in the early '80s. She was walking with crutches on the sidewalk and low and behold Pearl Bailey stopped her car and gave her a
ride!
Report as inappropriate
Pearlie Mae was great. They broke the mold. She also wrote SIX books person that wrote this review.
Graduated from George Washington university at age 68!
Report as inappropriate
Loved me some PeArl
Report as inappropriate
beachgirls19 6 2 1
a great lady
Report as inappropriate
effee84
Most amazing awsome lady.
Report as inappropriate
beachgirls19 6 2 1
Love my Pearl
Report as inappropriate
Beautiful--- a performer of the finest!
Report as inappropriate
sassyjan
oh Perlie May Perlie May... you are terrific.
Report as inappropriate
Pearl was one sassy lady. I remember her fondly on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and other variety shows. Great personality.
Report as inappropriate
alias173
"Just another" (sensational ) singer from that wonderful era! Pearlie Mae certainly had her own delivery style... a wonderful style!
Report as inappropriate
sassyjan
I love me some Perlie May
Report as inappropriate
Love Pearl Bailey. She was definitely before the right time for her talent. Was glad she won a Tony for "Hello Dolly". She certainly earned her way and was great doing it. This another performer that my Daddy loved. We had similar tastes in music. Perhaps my leanings were greatly influenced by his. NO DOUBT!
Report as inappropriate
why not make available for purchase her album, "For Adults Only"?
Report as inappropriate
ackerbex3
I always loved her delivery - makes you feel like you're sharing a private joke with her. Never could understand why she wasn't a bigger star.
Report as inappropriate
Amazing underrated super talented artist!
Report as inappropriate
sassyjan
I just love everything Perlie May ever sang

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