I See A Million People : Una Mae Carlisle©2004JCMarion


Una Mae Carlisle was born in December of 1915 in Xenia, Ohio. She had an early fascination with music and in her teenage years was an accomplished pianist and vocalist. At the age of seventeen she was discovered by Fats Waller who invited her to perform on his musical radio show which was then produced in Cincinnati for station WLW. She enjoyed her new found professional life so much that she stayed in Cincinnati with Waller for a time. By her early twenties she left for Europe with a touring group of the musical revue "Blackbirds" and soon her career flourished and she remained in Europe for five years. During the early nineteen forties she began recording for the Bluebird label which was a subsidiary of RCA Victor. She also made some recordings for Joe Davis on the Beacon label.

During the early forties she began to experience health problems that would plague her for the rest of her life. Even with this major setback she kept her career going in the ensuing years. In 1946 she made a series of recordings for the Savoy label. "That's My Man" / "Throw It Out Of Your Mind" was released by Savoy on #616, and "Crazy About My Baby" and "If It Ain't Mine Whose Is It" on #617. She recorded for Savoy under the name The Una Mae Carlisle Sextet which also included Gene Sedric on tenor sax, John Letman on trumpet, Jimmy Shirley on guitar, Cedric Wallace on bass, and "Slick" Jones on drums. In 1947 she recorded for the National label which released recordings by Carlisle sporadically over the next two years.

In early 1950 Columbia Records announces the signing of Una Mae Carlisle to their label. "Ohio Boogie" appears on Columbia #38736, and "Tonight Be Tender To Me" on #38797 in April. The next month "Strange" and "Tired Hands" are released on #38864 which was followed by the interesting titles of "Long" and "Gone" on #38881. Next came "Frenzy" and "Mad About Love" on #38973 and "I Bought Myself A Book" and "Best Idea You Ever Had" on #38974. The next Columbia release was "We've All Got A Lesson To Learn" and "Three Little Bugs" on #38979. This was apparently her last recording session for Columbia Records. RCA Victor Records recorded Carlisle in a strange format in 1950, having Una Mae record six three song medlys that were then released on three records that were special items aimed at radio disc jockeys at that time. In November of the year Carlisle lands a network television program for the American Broadcasting Company. The show airs on Monday evenings and features Carlisle backed by a combo under the direction of Lee Castle (Castaldo). The song "I See A Million People" written by Carlisle is currently available on recordings by Hadda Brooks, Peggy Lee, and Benny Goodman. In February of 1953 a motion picture called "Holiday In Harlem" was filmed and featured in the cast were Una Mae Carlisle, along with Dusty Fletcher and Eddie South.

Soon after, Carlisle retired from music due to her failing health. She passed away in New York City on November 7, 1956. She is mostly remembered for her hit singles from the early forties "Walking By The River", "Blitzkreig Baby", and "I See A Million People". There is an essential CD of music from Carlisle that is available from the Jazz Classics label. It is "Una Mae Carlisle - 1944 - 1950". It includes 25 tracks including six recorded with the under appreciated orchestra of Bob Chester, and six three song medleys she recorded for RCA Victor in 1950. There is also a 1994 release for Harlequin that features 15 selections by Carlisle and four from Savannah Churchill and two by Maxine Sullivan. Jazz Classics also has four other CDs covering the period from 1938 until 1944, one featuring the band of John Kirby composed of eleven tracks from the early nineteen forties. Una Mae Carlisle was a singular song stylist, one whose star shined bright for only a relatively short time. Her music is her legacy and it will live on.

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