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Nancy Wilson

Nancy Wilson is an NEA Jazz Master

Nancy Wilson blurs the line between jazz singer and pop singer, preferring to be called a “song stylist.”  Born in Chillicothe, Ohio, on February 20, 1937, she is younger than Elvis, Little Richard and Esther Phillips, and only a year older than Etta James and Tina Turner.  Yet, stylistically speaking, she is worlds away from these rhythm rocking contemporaries.  Nancy is more like an earlier generation of vocalists such as Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan or Billy Eckstine.

At 15, after appearing at a talent show in Columbus, Ohio, Nancy was given her own twice-a-week television show, Skyline Melodies.  She worked at the Carolina Club on Prom Night and six months later with the house band. Cannonball Adderley once told her, “If you ever come to New York give me a call.” He was managed by John Levy, 

When Nancy Wilson arrived in New York City in 1959, she knew what she wanted: to launch a national singing career with John Levy as her manager and Capitol as her record label. She got what she wanted and the rest, as they say, is history.  “What I heard that night,” recalled Capitol A&R man Dave Cavanaugh, “was the nasal quality of Dinah [Washington] and the tear of Billie [Holiday].  I signed her immediately.”

An early single, 1961’s “Guess Who I Saw Today,” a marvel of sophistication given the teen tenor of the times, became a staple on jazz radio and in black juke box locations throughout urban America.  An album in 1962, Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley, further raised her jazz profile and provided her with a second juke box hit, an edited-for-45 version of Buddy Johnson’s “Save Your Love For Me.”  She also paid tribute to her idol, Little Jimmy Scott, with a much-loved version of “When Did You Leave Heaven.”  Nancy’s highest charting Capitol singles, the GRAMMY® Award-winning “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am” (#11 Pop, 1964) and “You’re As Right As Rain” (#10 R&B, 1974), are highlights in the total of 20 Pop and/or R&B-charting singles for Capitol.

The two albums which made Nancy Wilson a household name were Broadway My Way and Hollywood My Way, which are just what the titles imply, current and old tunes from the Great White Way and Tinseltown.  Broadway’s standout track was Irving Berlin’s “You Can Have Him,” from Miss Liberty. Nancy the actress wrings every drop of irony out of Berlin’s heartbreakingly ironic lyric.  The hit from Hollywood was the aforementioned “When Did You Leave Heaven,” the Richard Whiting-Walter Bullock gem from the movie Sing Baby Sing.  Both albums came out in 1963 and are part of an extraordinary output of 37 original albums total in her 20 years with the label.

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Diane Marino
piano and vocals
Nancy Kelly
vocals
Amy Banks
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Léah Kline
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Emily Asher
trombone
Ann Osmond
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Monika Ryan
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Mary Cross
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Kai Brant
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George Lake BIG Band
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Alli Bean
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Sixth Street All Stars
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Photos

Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Born To Be Blue: The...

American Jazz Classics
2017

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Today - My Way /...

SoulMusic Records
2015

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...

MCG Jazz
2014

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Something Blue

atelier sawano
2014

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With Cannonball...

Capitol Records
2012

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The Complete 1956-1960

Le Chant du Monde
2011

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