Give Me Time : Jeri Southern©2008JCMarion


Jeri Southern was born Genevieve Hering in August of 1926 in the town of Royal, Nebraska. At an early age she took to the piano and she studied the classical side of music at Sacred Heart School in Omaha. Later after finishing at Notre Dame High School she got her first job in music as a cocktail paianist at Omaha's Blackstone Hotel. She moved to Chicago in 1949 and gained some notoriety as a pianist and especially as a singer of romantic ballads. She was "discovered" by television personality Dave Garroway singing at the Hi-Note Lounge in Chicago where she was an intermission performer for well established jazz and pop singers. Soon the word was out on this new and interesting artist. In 1951 she recorded one side for London Records - "I'm In Love Again" and "You're The Cause Of It All" were the tunes, on London # 1071 which was released in late September of the year. Soon after Southern was signed to Decca Records and began a string of recordings that defined her singular singing style in the fields of jazz and mainstream popular music.

One of her first recordings was "You Better Go Now" on # 27840 (with "Baby Did You Hear?"). It charted on the national pop best seller lists late in 1951 and had many admirers that immediately used the musical cliches to describe her voice as "smokey" and her style as a "torch" singer. "Give Me Time" and "What Good Am I Without You" on Decca # 27950 was followed by "I Thought Of You Last Night" and "Something I Dreamed Last Night" on # 27989. Southern recorded an early album for the label in an eight song 4 disc 78 that was soon released on a ten inch 33 1/3 format. It was called "Warm Intimate Songs" on Decca # 5531 and seemed to perfectly categorize her style. Another Decca recording followed with "When I Fall In Love" on # 28224 which also became one of Southern's signature songs. "Forgive And Forget" and a movie tune recorded originally by Nat Cole - "The Ruby And The Pearl" on # 28426, "Dancing On The Ceiling" long a favorite of listeners, and "Querida" on # 28464, "Just Got To Have Him Around" and "Willow Weep For Me" on # 28622, "I Saw You Again" and "Call Me Tonight" on # 28715, "That Old Devil Called Love" and "Autumn In My Heart" on # 29042, "Joey" on # 29184 with Sonny Burke's orchestra was a top twenty five seller during the summer of 1954 (with "The Man That Got Away" on the flip side). Other Decca singles were "Come By Sunday" and "Nothing At All " on # 29502, "An Occasional Man" / "What Do You See In Her?" on # 29647, "While Walking With My True Love" and "Don't Explain" on # 29768, "I've Got A Lot Of Living To Do" and "Kiss And Run" 0n # 29856, and "What To Do" and "I Won't Be Around Anymore" on # 29937 in late 1956.

Jeri Southern continued on with Decca in the mid fifties with the albums "Jeri Gently Jumps" with Ralph Burns on # 8472, and "Southern Hospitality" with the Dave Barbour Trio on # 8761. She also had a bit part in the motion picture "I, Mobster" playing, what else, a club singer. A few more single record releases complimented her popularity as a club vocalist with a dedicated following. "Stop Me" and "Would I?" on # 30021, "Who Am I To Say?" and "Do I Love You Because?" on # 30254, "How Did He Look" and the theme song from the motion picture "Fire Down Below" (which starred Rita Hayworth) on # 30343, "If You Kiss Me" and "You Walked Out" on # 30457, "The Mystery Of Love" and "I Waited So Long" on # 30556, two Broadway show tunes - "Bells Are Ringing" and "Just In Time" on # 30114, "I'm Gonna Try Me Some Love" and "There's Something In My Eye" on # 30065, and "The Touch Of Love" and the wonderfully wistful "You're Gonna Flip, Mom" on # 30445. In late 1957 Jeri had moved over to Roulette Records, and an album recorded with jazz guitarist Johnny Smith was released on the labels jazz outlet Royal Roost Records. Singles for Roulette included "Life Does A Girl A Favor" and "We're Not Children" on # 4051, and "Just When We're Falling In Love" and "Oh Sure I Do" on # 4080.

By 1960 Jeri had changed labels again, and was now with Capitol Records. As with most other pop music performers, by the start of that decade, single 45 rpm records were left to the rock 'n rollers and teen idols, and Jeri like most others concentrated on LP albums in the recording studio. A live LP recorded at The Crescendo night club in Hollywood, in 1959 for Capitol was well received. "Don't Look At Me That Way" and "Run" was a Capitol single on # 4250 from 1960. By 1965 Jeri Southern had enough of the grind of performing, and so retired from recording and personal appearances to teach piano and voice and also compose music for Hollywood. She also authored a serious book about music interests called "Interpreting Popular Music At The Keyboard" in 1972. After years of living a quiet and rewarding life she succumbed to pneumonia and passed away one day shy of her sixty fifth birthday in August of 1991 in Hollywood.

We are lucky indeed to have available a wonderful collection of cd recordings that will keep Jeri Southern's musical legacy well preserved. Two all encompassing cds (watch for duplication) are "The Very Thought Of You - The Decca Recordings 1951-57" from Verve in 1999 with 21 tracks and backing on some of the original tunes by Victor Young and his orchestra. A more recent release is "When I Fall In Love" from Living Era in 2005 with 25 tracks covering much the same ground. EMI released a cd called "The Ultimate Jeri Southern" in 2002 that contains 24 tracks of songs recorded for Capitol Records. The most interesting cds are the reissued LPs that are coupled together in two-fers that are a great buy. EMI has "Southern Breeze" / "Coffee, Cigarettes, and Memories" from 1998 which were originally on Roulette recorded with Marty Paich's band, and "Jeri Meets Cole Porter" with Billy May, and the fabulous "Live At The Crescendo" with Dick Hazard's small group from EMI in 1997. Jasmine coupled two Decca LPs with "You Better Go Now" and "When Your Hearts On Fire". Others are EMI's cd of the "Jeri Southern Meets Johnny Smith" LP from 2003, "Prelude To A Kiss" originally recorded with Gus Levine for Decca on Universal from 2007, two European imports - "Southern Style" (originally on Decca) and "Southern Breeze" (originally on Roulette), and finally an interesting addition from Jasmine in 1998 "The Dreams On Jeri" with 22 tracks from radio, television, and live sources.

Jeri Southern is surely one of the greatest interpreters of modern American music, and deserves to be discovered and re-discovered by admirers of the past and those yet to be enlightened.

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