The genius of vocalese, Jon Hendricks' ability to write coherent lyrics to the most complex recorded improvisations was quite notable, as were his contributions to the classic jazz vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Hendricks grew up in Toledo, Ohio, singing on local radio. After a period in the military (1942-1946), he studied law but eventually switched to jazz. He spent a period of time playing drums before becoming active as a lyricist and vocalist. In 1952, his "I Want You to Be My Baby" was recorded by Louis Jordan. In 1957, Hendricks made his recording debut, cutting "Four Brothers" and "Cloudburst" while backed by the Dave Lambert Singers. Soon, he teamed up with fellow singers Dave Lambert and Annie Ross to form their vocal trio, starting off with a re-creation (through overdubbing) of some of Count Basie's recordings. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross (after 1962, Yolande Bavan took Ross' place) stayed together up to 1964, and were never topped as a jazz vocal group, influencing those who would follow (including the Manhattan Transfer).
In 1960, Hendricks wrote and directed the show Evolution of the Blues for the Monterey Jazz Festival; he would revive it several times during the next 20 years. During 1968-1973, he lived and worked in Europe. After returning to San Francisco, Hendricks wrote about jazz for The San Francisco Chronicle; taught jazz; and formed a group with his wife Judith, children Michelle and Eric, and other singers (including for a time Bobby McFerrin) called the Hendricks Family, which was active on a part-time basis for decades to come. Although he never recorded often enough, Hendricks did cut a classic Denon album featuring McFerrin, George Benson, Al Jarreau, and himself, re-creating all the solos in the original version of "Freddie the Freeloader." He also recorded through the years as a leader for World Pacific, Columbia, Smash, Reprise, Arista, and Telarc. Jon Hendricks died in Manhattan on November 22, 2017; he was 96 years old.