What we know about the singer Lillie Delk Christian is minute. She doesn’t even have an entry in John Chilton’s WHO’S WHO IN JAZZ. She recorded sixteen sides for OKeh Records in 1926-28 with some of the finest jazz players of the time in Chicago: Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Jimmie Noone, Johnny St. Cyr, Artie Starks, Richard M. Jones, Mancy Carr. We know that she was St. Cyr’s girlfriend, which to some would explain her place on those records. But she has a clear, ringing, nasal voice — one that could obviously be heard in the last row of a vaudeville theatre in those pre-microphone days. It’s been fashionable to sneer at her as a vocalist who got in the way of the “artists,” but once you can get around the assertive frontal attack of her voice, she swings quite well:
On MY BLUE HEAVEN, she is clearly in command of the tune, and she swings quite respectably. There have been far worse singers on record!
Here’s the pop tune LAST NIGHT I DREAMED YOU KISSED ME:
One can hear the instrumental lines that Louis, Earl, Noone, and St. Cyr are weaving behind her — and her delivery is straightforward but not stiff. And she doesn’t get distracted by the sublime ruckus behind her. I used to roll my eyes when she was singing on TOO BUSY, but Louis has the time of his life scatting above, below, and around her, so I have readjusted my scorn (always a good thing).
So where did she come from? And where did she go? Can anyone explain?
May your happiness increase.