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Una Mae Carlisle


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Xenia, Ohio, U.S.A. (1915 – 1956)

Una Mae Carlisle (1915-1956) was a U.S. popular-music and jazz singer, songwriter, and pianist.

Carlisle was born on the 26th December 1915, in Xenia, Ohio, U.S.A… She was discovered by Fats Waller late in 1932. He invited her to play on his radio show at station WLW in Cincinnati during Christmas week when Una Mae turned seventeen. She was still in High School at the time, and her mother had approved her Christmas vacation in Cincinnati because she was to stay with her elder sister. When her vacation was over, she refused to return home, becoming a professional musician working with Waller at WLW. It has been stated by some sources that she became his mistress. Waller’s contract with WLW expired in 1934 and he left Cincinnati for New York.

Carlisle left America in 1936 to tour Europe, reportedly with the revue Blackbirds of 1936, though no record has been found to substantiate her being a member of the cast, and she spent the next three years there, mostly in London and Paris. In London, on the 20th May 1938, she recorded three discs that were released on the Vocalion label, including “Don’t Try Your Jive on Me”. Her backing band for that session included the West Indian musicians Dave Wilkins (trumpet) and Bertie King (clarinet and tenor sax).

She became highly successful in England, Germany, and France, where she worked at the Boeuf sur le Toit (“The Ox on the Roof”), a cabaret in the Rue du Colisée in Paris. While in Paris in 1939 she was one of two pianists in a combo headed by clarinetist Danny Polo (Danny Polo And His Swing Stars) which recorded four sides for Decca.


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