Born in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, on October 9, 1910, Lee Wiley began her jazz career in Tulsa, where she studied music and sang on local radio. In 1930, as a teenager, she migrated to New York City and began singing with Leo Reisman's orchestra at the Central Park Casino. Wiley's career peaked in the mid-1930s when she launched a successful CBS series titled Saturday Night Swing. From 1936 to 1938 she was the star vocalist. Married to bandleader Jess Stacy from 1943 to 1948, Wiley was vocalist for his big band's jazz ensemble. In addition, she sang for several other big bands, including Eddie Condon's and Paul Whiteman's. Working with composer and arranger Victor Young, she is noted for co-composing such hits as "Got the South in My Soul," "Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere," and "Eerie Moan." With more than fifty recordings to her credit, Wiley was the first jazz vocalist to record albums devoted to one composer's works, including Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and George Gershwin.
Cited in more than forty jazz publications, Wiley was featured in a 1963 television drama based on her life (Something About Lee Wiley). She continued to record into the 1970s, during which time she produced several outstanding albums. The most notable of these was Night in Manhattan with Joe Bushkin and Bobby Hackett. With Mildred Bailey and Connee Boswell, Wiley was among the first white female jazz vocalists to receive a national reputation. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 2000. Lee Wiley died on December 11, 1975 in New York City.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ian Carr, et al., Jazz: The Rough Guide (London: Penguin Books, 1995). Michel Erlewine, et al., eds., All Music Guide to Jazz (San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 1988). Barry Kernfeld, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (New York: Macmillan, 1995).
George O. Carney
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