AS GOOD AS HOLIDAY? Peggy Lee: With the Benny Goodman Orchestra 1941-47

I always stump my friends when I play a “Blindfold Test” with vocalist Peggy Lee from her 1940s recordings. Invariably, people will think it is Billie Holiday, or they’ll say, “It’s some black singer; I just can’t figure out which one.” That was the allure of Ms. Peggy Lee; she had a delivery and style at was both innocent and sultry. This collection of studio and radio broadcasts from 1941-47 have her in vintage form.

She was only 21 when she started out as Benny Goodman’s vocalist in August, 1941. Career-wise she was with the best white  band in the land, as Goodman had an all star cast including Billy Butterfield/tp, Cootie Williams/tp, Vido Muso/ts, Sid Weiss/b, Mel Powell/p-arr and Nick Fatool or  Sidney Catlett/dr. Lee fits in with the band like a nightgown on Ursula Andres, with sensuous reads of “My Old Flame,” “How Deep is the  Ocean” and “How Long Has This Been going On?”.  Her big hit with Goodman was the infectiously sweet and bluesy swing of  “Why Don’t You Do Right?” while her take of “Blues in the Night” in a sextet form is an indigo’d delight.

There are a handful of radio broadcasts and unissued pressings that are worth a listen. There’s a gas of ”Let’s Say A Prayer” from the shelves, and radio plays of “Praise the Lord (and Pass The Ammunition)” capture the WWI era. You’re going to be amazed how well these recordings stand up over the years, and also help you appreciate the scouting skills of Mr. Goodman.

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