I have to say the parade of performers I grew up with was remarkably prominent. A number of them I learned about from Delco Tape Decks (8 track! or Cassette) on road trips with relatives. When calm was called for, the Fancy Miss Nancy was a regular, as were her LPs from the 1960’s and 70’s in the background at family functions of a more sophisticated variety. It’s by no doubt each time her birthday comes around I get a little profuse about the virtues of “the girl with the honey coated voice.” Truly Piscean, not knowing or caring of having really one genre she belonged to (granted, at this stage people call her a ‘Jazz Singer’), she celebrates her 79th Birthday this Saturday Brunch Hour.
Shooting into stardom as a Jazz singer alongside Cannonball Adderley in 1959 did cement her reputation moreso around being a solo spotlight chanteuse in a more 1950’s model closer to Della Reese and Ethel Ennis. It wouldn’t be until 1964 before she started molding herself a more R&B/Pop orientated style with her Grammy award winning Top 20 hit “How Glad I Am.” Moreso an LP artist that consistently had best selling LPs, more of her work traded on the mixed bag approach of Pop singers of another era. Always a great interpreter of songs, she quite often cast magic into making songs her very own.
Not exactly a shrinking violet in those days of being a pioneering woman of color in show business, here we find a wry wink at respectability politics, misogyny and racism circa 1965 smack dab in the middle of her live sets from 1965. The Sammy Cahn – Jimmy Van Heusen number about sticking to vocals, never speaking or voicing ones opinion has an extraordinary burn surrounding being a Black Entertainer expected to perform docile for majority white audiences, such as The Coconut Groove Nightclub in Los Angeles where this was recorded.
Thanks to pioneers like Fancy Miss Nancy and the strategic choices made to make chinks in the armor of repression all these years later, more women of color in entertainment get to express themselves fully. Thanks for you honey coated brilliance, Nancy.