Tears Of Joy : Bertice Reading©2004JCMarion


Bertice Reading was born in July of 1933 in Chester, Pennsylvania. From a young age she had always been attracted by music and began to develop her talent as a singer. By the time she was in her late teens, she made up her mind that she would pursue a full time career in music. She tried her hand at a few local church and school programs and then worked up her courage for a try at the famous amateur night talent contests in her area.

Late in 1952, Bernice Reading wins first place in the "Amateur Night" contest at Philadelphia's Earle Theater . Her win gives her a spot in the Christmas week show at the Earle and she appears with the Count Basie Orchestra. The following year she secures a recording contract with RCA Victor Records. Late in 1953 RCA releases "Tears Of Joy" and "I'm Alone" on # 5567. Stan Pat, Philadelphia area radio personality and program director for radio station WTNJ in Trenton, New Jersey, resigns his post to take on the job as personal manager for Bertice Reading who is being promoted as a new Rhythm & Blues performer for RCA Victor Records. In March of 1954, RCA moves Bertice to their new Groove Records subsidiary label where they concentrate on R & B music. "I'd Gladly Do It Again" and "I Gotta Know" are released on Groove # 0004. In support of the new side Reading appears for a week at the Alamo Supper Club in Detroit and then the Elbo Room in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Reading is honored as she is named "Grand Songbird" of the Elks Club national Convention in Chicago where she will perform.

In June Bertice records the R & B version of Kitty Kallen's pop hit "Little Things Mean A Lot" on Groove # 0022. The flip side is the song "I Wash My Hands". In early 1955 Reading is still with Groove Records and there are vague plans for a new recording session, but soon Bertice Reading seemingly disappears from the R & B recording scene. What happened to Reading was the discovery of the stage musical, and her discovery of England which she soon took as her adoptive home.

One of her first London performances was in the musical show called "Jazz Train" in 1955. It was listed as a "cavalcade of Negro song and dance, and besides Reading, also starred Edric Connor and Isabelle Lucas. In 1956 a London based movement to present Western music to the people of Hungary then embroiled with Russia. A program called "The Story Of Jazz" with Bruce Turner and Bertice Reading was hugely successful. In 1957 she was featured in an all Black cast version of the story "Cinderella" which was renamed "Cindy-Ella". Also in the cast was Elisabeth Welch, Lucille Mapp, Cy Grant, and others. In 1958 Bertice starred in "Simply Heavenly" and featured the work of Langston Hughes. She also appeared in the show "Simply Heavenly" with Melvin Stewart in 1958 at London's Adelphi Theater. Bertice also appeared on the groundbreaking pop music television show "Oh Boy" produced by Jack Good. The next year Reading returned to New York and appeared in the play "Requiem For A Nun" which also starred Scott McKay and House Jameson at the Golden Theater on Broadway.

In the nineteen sixties Bertice Reading continued to record between stage shows. "Shake Baby Shake" and her version of "House Of The Rising Sun", along with "St. James Infirmary" and "Down By The Riverside" in England. She had a low profile during much of the seventies, now a full fledged citizen of England. She recorded "No Flowers By Request" and "September In The Rain" for Decca on # 70965. "Lean On Me" and "Sunday Morning" and "It's A Boy" both for Parlophone, and "The Story Of Love" and "Love Me The Way You Do". She recorded a takeoff on Sophie Tucker with "Some One Of These Days" and "Rock Baby Rock" for Parlophone. In 1982 Bertice Reading starred in the play "Valmouth" by Sandy Wilson presented at the Chichester Festival in 1982. Fenelle Fielding, Doris Hare, and Robert Helpman also starred in the production. In 1983 Reading had a role in the motion picture "La lune dans le caviveau" known in England as "The Moon In The Gutter" with Gerard Lepardieu.

In 1984 Reading appeared on British television with Lenny Henry and on the show "Blankety Blank". In 1985 she was in the cast of the TV spoof called "Cabaret" which also starred Patrick Barlow and Robyn Archer for the BBC 2 network. For two years in the mid eighties Reading starred at The Donmar Warehouse in London's West End with a night club act of music and dance. In 1986 she had a featured role in the motion picture "Little Shop Of Horrors". That same year she was featured in the television program called "Wogan", and also recorded as part of the London cast of the show "Happy Talk" for First Night # 15. Bertice also was in the cast of the musical drama "Only In America" which was presented at the Roundhouse in London. The show was set in the Bronx, New York in the mid nineteen fifties and produced by Ned Sherrin.

In 1990, Bertice Reading married Phillip George-Tutton, a psycho-therapist who was thirty one years her junior. In March of 1991, Reading takes part in a special Gershwin Night at the London Palladium that features members of many of the stage musicals in London, and the dance act the Jiving Lindy Hoppers. This proved to be Reading's last stage appearance, as sadly she passed away in London on June 8 of 1991. That is the story of Bertice Reading, who gave up a budding career as a R & B performer to follow her dream of success on the stage of London's West End and Broadway. She did indeed follow her dream.

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