||Jo Stafford, “America’s Most Versatile Singer,” is one of America's most successful and celebrated vocalists. In the 1940’s and 1950’s she amassed 31 top-ten hits, was regarded as the favorite singer of the Armed Forces and was the first female artist to sell 25 million records.
Jo Elizabeth Stafford was born on November 12, 1917, in Coalinga, California. She was born to Grover Cleveland and Anna York Stafford. Her mother was a distant cousin of the Word War I Medal of Honor recipient, Alvin York.
Jo Stafford began her professional career singing with her sisters, Christine and Pauline, in a group known as The Stafford Sisters. They performed on radio shows such as David Brockman’s California Melodies and the Crockett Family of Kentucky Show. They were also featured as off-screen voices with the major motion picture studios.
After her sisters married, the group disbanded, and members of the Three Rhythm Kings and The Four Esquires joined Jo to form the Pied Pipers vocal group. Including Jo, this group consisted of (8): John Huddleston (Stafford's husband at the time), Hal Hopper, Chuck Lowry, Bud Hervey, George Tait, Woody Newbury, and Dick Whittinghill. Like the Stafford Sisters, the Pied Pipers also worked on radio and motion pictures.
In 1938, Tommy Dorsey’s arrangers, Axel Stordahl and Paul Weston, heard the Pied Pipers and convinced Tommy Dorsey to sign them for his radio show. They appeared briefly on Tommy Dorsey’s radio show in New York until the show’s sponsor fired them after hearing their rendition of “Hold Tight.” In late-1939, Tommy Dorsey rehired them, this time as a quartet, and they stayed with him until 1942. The group featured Chuck Lowry, John Huddleston and Clark Yocum (who replaced Billy Wilson).
After leaving the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, the group traveled to California. In 1943, Capitol Records signed them to a recording contract. Their first appearance, which predated their first recording session, was on the radio show Johnny Mercer’s Music Shop. In October - the month the recording ban was lifted for Capitol - they recorded their first sides with Johnny Mercer and Paul Weston. Some of the songs they recorded were released on Capitol’s first album, Songs By Johnny Mercer.
In 1944 Jo left the Pied Pipers and embarked on her solo career. She appeared with the USO during this time and established the nickname “G.I. Jo.” Jo became a top radio personality during the 1940’s starring on the Chesterfield Supper Club, The Revere Show, and The Carnation Show. She became Capitol Records’ top selling artist during the 1940’s with 21 top ten records.
When Paul Weston left Capitol Records for Columbia Records in 1950, she followed suit. Shortly afterward she recorded some of her most successful albums, “Shrimp Boats,” “You Belong To Me,” and “Make Love To Me.” In 1952, she received the distinction of being the first female artist to sell 25,000,000 records.
In February 1952 she married Paul Weston. They celebrated their honeymoon in Europe by capping it off with her most celebrated concert appearance of her career at the London Palladium. In 1952 they had a son, Tim; a daughter, Amy, was born in 1956.
Her radio career continued in the 1950’s with her appearance on two international radio shows, the Voice of America and the Jo Stafford Show on Radio Luxembourg. Her popularity in the United States and abroad gained her recognition as a cultural ambassador for democracy and as “America’s Most Versatile Singing Star.” She also starred in her first television show in 1954, The Jo Stafford Show.
Jo’s versatility is well shown in the diversity of records that she made in a range of styles from the blues, pop, jazz, country, comedy, folk and spiritual. She also recorded popular duets with Frankie Laine and Gordon MacRae. Her 1960 record as Darlene Edwards resulted in a Grammy Award.
In the mid-1960’s, she retired from the record business
and focused on her family and charity work with her husband.
She is a past president of SHARE, one of Hollywood’s
most charitable organizations, dedicated to helping mentally
Jo passed away on July 16, 2008 leaving two children and