One of the most talented and overlooked vocalists of the '40s, Ella Mae Morse blended jazz, country, pop, and R&B; at times she came remarkably close to what would be known as rock & roll. When she wasn't yet 14, Morse had her first taste of the big time, when Jimmy Dorsey's band came to Dallas for a stay at the Adolphus Hotel and she called for an audition. Unbeknownst to her, the band needed a new female vocalist. Believing that Morse was indeed 19, as she and her mother claimed, Dorsey hired her. When he received a letter from the school board declaring that he was responsible for The Morse's care, Dorsey fired her. Morse joined former Dorsey pianist Freddie Slack's band in 1942; she was only 17 when they cut "Cow Cow Boogie," which became Capitol Records' first gold single. The following year, Morse began recording solo. Although her recordings were consistently solid and sold fairly well (frequently charting better on the Black charts than on the pop charts), Morse never obtained a huge following. She retired from recording in 1957, and died of respiratory failure on October 16, 1999. ~ Stephen Thomas ErlewinePortions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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