Episode 225. Joya Sherrill

Episode 225. Joya Sherrill



This week’s episode is the first in what I hope will be a series featuring vocalists who performed with Duke Ellington, Today’s artist is the playful and sophisticated Joya Sherrill (20 August 1924 – 28 June 2010) who, by a series of happy “accidents,” became one of the best-remembered and most enduring of Ellington’s songsters while still a teenager. For she was not only a musically- and vocally-gifted singer, she was also a lyricist and composer. She herself composed the lyrics to the Billy Strayhorn classic “Take the ‘A’ Train,” as well as another Ellington standard, “Kissing Bug,” she also was the first singer to record “I’m Beginning to See the Light” and numerous other Ellington and Strayhorn standards. Though she left the Ellington Orchestra before 1950, she continued to appear with them in various projects, including his 1957 television extravaganza A Drum Is a Woman (alongside soprano Margaret Tynes), and My People, his 1963 extravaganza commemorating the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation. She also performed with the Benny Goodman Orchestra on their 1962 tour of Russia, and was the first African American host of a children’s television program, Time for Joya (later renamed Joya’s Fun School) which began in 1970 and ran in reruns until 1982 on local New York television. In this endeavor she was assisted by another powerhouse Black musician, Luther Henderson, who also arranged and conducted her altogether individual 1959 studio album, Sugar and Spice, which put a sophisticated spin on old Mother Goose rhymes. As late as 1994 she continued to perform and record the music of Duke Ellington and others. Here is an artist whose combination of élan and exuberance is well worth rediscovering and celebrating.


Duke Ellington, Harry James, Johnny Hodges, Don George: I’m Beginning to See the Light. Joya Sherrill, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra [1944]

Rex Stewart, Joya Sherrill: Kissing Bug. Joya Sherrill, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra [1945]

Duke Ellington, Ruth Roberts, Bill Katz, Robert Thiele: Duke’s Place. Joya Sherrill, Ernie Harper, Cootie Williams, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, John Lamb, Sam Woodyard [1965]

Joya Sherrill: Hi Diddle Diddle. Joya Sherrill, Luther Henderson and his Orchestra [1959]

Duke Ellington, Bob Russell: Don’t Get Around Much Anymore. Joya Sherrill [1994]

M.K. Jerome, Jack Scholl: The Wish I Wish Tonight. Joya Sherrill, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra [live Summer 1945]

Duke Ellington, Don George: Hit Me with a Hot Note (And Watch Me Bounce). Joya Sherrill, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra [1945]

Duke Ellington, Mack David: Long, Strong and Consecutive. Joya Sherrill, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra [1945]

Joya Sherrill, Duke Ellington, and Margaret Tynes in A Drum Is a Woman.

Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn: Carabae Joe (A Drum Is a Woman). Joya Sherrill, Duke Ellington, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra [1957]

Billy Strayhorn photographed by Carl Van Vechten

Duke Ellington: The Blues Ain’t (My People). Joya Sherrill, Duke Ellington, Harold Ashby, Jimmy Jones conducting The Billy Strayhorn Orchestra, project conceived and supervised by Duke Ellington [1964]

Edward Redding: The End of a Love Affair. Joya Sherrill, unknown instrumentalists [1957]

Lionel Rand, Ian Grant: Let There Be Love. Joya Sherrill, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra [live Moscow 1962]

Joya Sherrill: Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater. Joya Sherrill, René Hall Sextette [1949]

Joya Sherrill: Little Bo Peep. Joya Sherrill, Luther Henderson and his Orchestra [1959]

Joya Sherrill: Mary Had a Little Lamb. Joya Sherrill, Luther Henderson and his Orchestra [1959]

Doc Pomus, Mort Shulman: Desdemona’s Lament (Visit to a Small Planet). Joya Sherrill, Luther Henderson and his Orchestra [1960]

Duke Ellington: Heritage [My Mother, My Father] (My People). Joya Sherrill, Duke Ellington [live Time for Joya television show 1970]

Duke Ellington, Johnny Hodges, Don George: The Wonder of You. Joya Sherrill, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra [1945]

Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life. Joya Sherrill, unidentified instrumentalists [1957]

Duke Ellington, Irving Gordon, Irving Mills: Prelude to a Kiss. Joya Sherrill, Ernie Harper, Johnny Hodges, John Lamb, Sam Woodyard [1965]

Duke Ellington, Barney Bigard, Irving Mills: Mood Indigo. Joya Sherrill [1994]

Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, Manny Kurtz: In a Sentimental Mood. Joya Sherrill, Ernie Harper, John Lamb, Sam Woodyard [1965]

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