If you answered “yes” to the title question, this is not for you. This is going to be a post I’ll write almost entirely for my own enjoyment, about a musical artist you’ve never heard of, whose era and style have been out of fashion since the day she died on this date in 1956. But I love the music and I love the artist and it’s my blog, so there!
The artist in question is Una Mae Carlisle (12/26/15 – 11/7/56), a local (Cincinnati) area gal born in nearby Xenia, Ohio, who played as a pianist in Cincinnati while still a youngster. As it happens, Fats Waller, who was the staff pianist/organist at radio station WLW in Cincinnati in the early 1930s, was in New York to make records, concluding with a session with Billy Banks Rhythmakers on July 26, 1932. Fats’ son, Maurice, picks up the story from there in his bio titled simply FATS WALLER:
In Dad’s last recording session before coming [back] to Cincinnati, Una Mae Carlisle had done the vocals on “Mean Old Bed Bug Blues.” Una Mae, an exceptionally gifted pianist, was in New York during her summer vacation when she cut that record. I don’t know why she was picked to sing if she was a pianist, but she must have made a lasting impression on my father, because he remembered her in December [when he invited her to Cincinnati to perform with him on radio].
My own speculation is that Fats already knew, or at least knew of, Una Mae, and was instrumental in getting her the “Mean Old Bedbug Blues” gig, on which Fats was the pianist and Una Mae shared the vocals with Billy Banks. Fats, after all, had been the organist in 1931-32 on “Moon River,” a popular radio program on Cincinnati’s WLW (not WWL, as Maurice erroneously states in his book). How else could an unknown 16 year old Ohio high school girl on vacation in NYC have gotten such a gig? Whatever the case, here is that recording (Billy Banks takes the first chorus, Una Mae the second):
Continuing from son Maurice Waller’s book: Una Mae lived with her family in Xenia, Ohio. Dad knew that she was still attending school, so he waited until Christmas vacation to invite her to Cincinnati to appear on his holiday-week shows. Her parents were reluctant to let her go, but eventually they gave in. In short order Una Mae became Dad’s shadow. Everywhere he was, she was close behind. Pop taught her to drink and stay up late and party. Their relationship soon went far beyond the protege-master level.
You’ll have to buy the book to learn how that turned out. Suffice it for my purposes to close with an audio of an Una Mae/Fats duet, followed by a video of Una solo: