Una Mae Carlisle


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A native of Xenia, Ohio, 17-year-old Una Mae Carlisle was performing in Cincinnati when Fats Waller heard her in 1932 and decided to give the young lady a boost into show business. It's not surprising then that she emulated Waller in style and repertoire. Her first recording date as a leader occurred in London on May 20th 1938. Una Mae takes "Don't Try Your Jive on Me" at a faster clip than the famous version by Fats Waller and His Continental Rhythm. Her piano is solid, the band swings and she has a pleasantly smooth voice. These qualities blossom during "I Would Do Anything for You" and especially throughout George Gershwin's "Love Walked In." Leonard Feather, composer of "My Fightin' Gal" and several other abject blues numbers based on unsavory topics, collaborated with Carlisle on "Hangover Blues." Una's hot and humorous handling of "Mean to Me" is light years away from the original weepy pop hit by Ruth Etting. Fats Waller had many imitators over the years, and Una Mae was one of the very best. When she urges the band on with a stream of friendly comments, even using authentic Waller phrases like "swing it on out there," the results are usually excellent. When she sinks her teeth into Waller's "Crazy 'Bout My Baby" she is a healthy off-shoot seeking out arable turf, ready to put down some original roots of her own. Legend has it the two of them became entangled in a tempestuous love affair, during which Una Mae's mother threatened Fats with violent retaliation after her daughter came home with a blackened eye! This adds a layer of subtext to Una Mae's duet with Waller, backed by His Rhythm on November 3 1939. It is one of the best recordings either of them ever made. Listen to the sultry texture of this woman's velvety voice, Waller's perfectly timed salty commentary, and his gleeful dismembering of the lyrics during his own vocal chorus. This was more than enough to secure steady work for Carlisle as a Bluebird recording artist. A quartet of Waller's best players supported her on four sides cut in August of 1940. "Papa's in Bed" is a bit silly but she makes it work. The gorgeous delicacy of "You Made Me Love You" and "If I Had You" make these two performances more substantial and timeless than the cute stuff. "Walkin' by the River" is Carlisle's best composition, and her little band renders it up delicately, Benny Carter's muted trumpet mingling nicely with her voice. Shad Collins and Lester Young showed up on her session of March 10 1941, during which Clyde Hart handled the piano. "There'll Be Some Changes Made" was made famous by Fats Waller in 1935. For her own rendition Una sings the often-deleted verse. Aside from being an almost high camp example of hip WWII topicality, "Blitzkrieg Baby (You Can't Bomb Me)" has a very relaxed solo by Lester Young. Compare these sides with the many records Pres made in the company of Billie Holiday. Volume one of the Carlisle chronology finishes up with four examples of what Carlisle sounded like when backed by the John Kirby Sextet. "Booglie Wooglie Piggy" with its incidental chorus of "Oink! Oink!" makes one wish that this Ohio native would have recorded "Cincinnati Dancing Pig" instead. "Oh I'm Evil" is very catchy and a bit nasty as Una Mae brandishes a "brand new shotgun" declaring that she's "got to do it now!"

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:52
2 2:56
3 2:51
4 2:38
5 2:40
6 2:40
feat: Fats Waller
8 3:04
9 2:42
10 3:27
11 2:54
12 3:04
13 2:53
15 3:03
16 2:45
17 3:31
18 3:03
21 2:42
blue highlight denotes track pick