Time Out For Tears : Savannah Churchill©2004JCMarion


Savannah Valentine was born in August of 1920 in southern Louisiana. At a young age her family moved to Brooklyn, New York. During her formative years she was a prized member of her church choir. While still a teenager she married David Churchill and soon had children, and did not harbor any desire to pursue a career in music. That soon changed because of a personal tragedy when her husband was killed in an automobile accident. Now faced with raising two young children, music seemed to be her salvation. In the early nineteen forties she became the featured vocalist with the orchestra of Benny Carter with whom she made her first record on the Capitol label. Soon she signed a recording contract with the Manor label and "All Alone" and "Daddy Daddy" was released on #1004. "Too Blue To Cry" and "I Can't Get Enough Of You" with the band of Jazz At The Philharmonic star Al Killian on #1014. By 1947 she had her first big hit record of "I Want To Be Loved" with the Four Tunes on #1046 ("Foolishly Yours" was the flip side). In 1948 and 1949 she continues to record for Manor with the Four Tunes and another vocal group called the Five Kings. The best of these are "I'll Never Belong To Anyone Else" on #1142 , and "All Of Me" on #1168 both with the Four Tunes.

In April of 1950 Erskine Hawkins organizes a show to play during Easter Week at Philadelphia's Earle Theater. The show will feature along with Hawkins and his band, Errol Garner, Derby Wilson and Savannah Churchill. Later that month "I'll Never Be Free" and "Get Another Guy" are recorded with the Red Norvo combo and released on Arco #1202. In St. Louis in May Churchill joins Timmy Rogers, Peg Leg Bates, and Buddy Johnson and his band for a show for the "Y" Circus charity event at the city's Kiel Auditorium. Arco re-releases two earlier sides on Manor with "I Want To Cry" and "My Baby-kins" with the Four Tunes on # 1220, and "Daddy Daddy" and "Why Was I Born?" with Benny Carter on #1222. More re-releases from Manor follow - "Don't Try To Explain" / "Savannah Sings The Blues" on #1229, and "Time Out For Tears"and "All My Dreams" with the Four Tunes on #1257. In July Churchill's recording of "Can Anyone Explain?" for Arco on #1259 is released ("I Sat Down And Cried" is the flip side). Savannah plays Chubby's in South New Jersey and then heads West to open at Ciro's in Hollywood. In August "Can Anyone Explain?" is reported to be a big seller in Atlanta and South Florida. Box office for Savannah Churchill's stay at Las Vegas Thunderbird Lounge breaks all records. In October "Can Anyone Explain?" is still selling, this time taking off in the Midwest in Kansas City and St. Louis. One last record for Arco is "Changeable You" on #1263. In December Regal records of New Jersey announces that it has signed Churchill to a recording contract, ending her stay at Manor-Arco (also based in New Jersey). At year's end noted Harlem night spot Small's Paradise celebrates its 25th anniversary with an all star show that features both Savannah Churchill and Dinah Washington. Also part of the festivities are The Ravens and Earl Bostic.

Churchill's very first release for the Regal Records label comes right after New Year's Day with #3309 and the songs "Once There Lived A Fool" and "When You Came Back To Me" accompanied by The Striders. Soon "Fool" is picked as one of the top ten records in the Northeast. In late March "Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Old Gang Of Mine" and "And So I Cry" are released on Regal #3313. In early April Churchill goes over to London for dates at The Palladium and the Colony Club accompanied by The Striders. In June Savannah appears at the Minsky Rialto in Chicago. In August of 1951 Churchill changes record labels again. This time she is signed to a pop music major - RCA Victor Records. In September the first RCA Victor side by Savannah is released featuring the songs "It's No Sin" (a pop hit for both the Four Aces and Eddy Howard) and "I Don't Believe In Tomorrow" (an R & B hit for The Larks on Apollo) on #4280. Over the Labor Day weekend, Churchill stars at the Earle Theater in Philadelphia with Illinois Jacquet and his band. "Sin" becomes a big seller in New Orleans and Atlanta. "In Spite Of Everything You Do" and "Don't Grieve Don't Sorrow Don't Cry" with The Striders is released on RCA #4448 at the end of 1951.

In April of 1952 "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "My Affair" are released on RCA Victor #4583. During the summer RCA comes out with "Waiting For A Guy Named Joe" and "Don't Worry 'Bout Me" on #4773. In November RCA Victor releases "Walking By The River" and "If I Didn't Love You So" on #5031. That month Churchill does an extended engagement at the Club Alabam on Central Avenue in Watts, California, and returns to the club for another week in February 1953. In May Savannah does a turn at the Stage Coach Inn, in New Jersey, then goes to Philadelphia to star with Lester Young at the Academy of Music. In early August Churchill moves from one major label to another as she leaves RCA Victor and goes to Decca. Her first record for Decca is out in late August - a cover of Faye Adams "Shake A Hand" and "Shed A Tear" on Decca #28836. In October Savannah plays the Farm Dell in Cleveland, while her new record for Decca comes out which features the songs "Stay Out Of My Dreams" and "Peace Of Mind" on #28899.

Starting out in 1954 Churchill records "Last Night I Cried Over You" and "Weep My Heart" on Decca #28973. In March Churchill appears for a week at Detroit's famous Flame Show Bar. In May Savannah takes part in the return of live entertainment to the Club Zel-Mar in Philadelphia. In July "I Cried" and "My Memories Of You" are released on #29194 for Decca. There is one last recording for the Decca label which is released in November on #29262 that features the songs "The Gypsy Was Wrong" and "Just Whisper". Churchill returns to the Flame Show Bar in Detroit in December for a week. In early February of 1955 Savannah plays dates in Los Angeles including a stint at Robert Lee's Club. In May she does personal appearances for two weeks at the Orchid Room in Honolulu, Hawaii. Late in the year Leonard Chess announces that he has signed Savannah Churchill to his new Marterry label, and that recording sessions will commence early in the new year. In February of 1956 Chess discards the name Marterry for their new subsidiary label and eventually settle on Argo. In May "Let Me Be The First One To Know" and "They Call Me A Fool" is released on Argo #5251. Tragedy struck Churchill in the summer of 1956 as a result of a freak accident at a Brooklyn night club and left her hospitalized and then under medical care for a number of months. She did not record or make personal appearances for a couple of years.

Her last recorded efforts were for the Jamie label in 1960 with an LP album titled after her most successful song - "Time Out For Tears" (#3016). The label also released a single from the album featuring the title tune and "I Want To Be Loved" on jamie #1172. She made very few appearances after that and fell ill with pneumonia, and died from complications in April of 1974.

Her music survives on a few available CDs. "Queen Of R & B" for Jazz Classics, and "Una Mae Carlisle & Savannah Churchill : 1944" for Harlequin. The best and most complete are CDs made by the group harmony web site (www.group-harmony.com). Vol. 1 covers the sides for Beacon, Capitol, and Manor labels from 1942-1949. Vol. 2 covers the Arco, Regal, RCA, and Decca sides from 1949-1956. A third CD from this source is made up only of tunes recorded with vocal groups (mainly the Four Tunes and The Striders) from the two volumes. There is one more interesting item for collectors - an aircheck from network radio from October of 1943 of the show "Jubilee" which featured The Delta Rhythm Boys, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Joe Turner, and Savannah Churchill on this killer lineup.

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