Connie Haines, a big band singer who performed in the Tommy Dorsey and Harry James orchestras in the 1940s, died Sept. 29 in Clearwater, Fla. She was 87 and the cause was myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune neuromuscular disease.
Haines was born Yvonne Marie Antoinette JaMais in Savannah, Ga., in 1921. She won a radio singing contest at age 9 and was singing with big band leader Paul Whiteman at 10. By 18 she was fronting James’ band, alongside another young singer named Feank Sinatra.
When Dorsey heard JaMais in Dorsey’s group, he lured her away, and before long the newly named Connie Haines was singing on Dorsey’s hit records, several of which also featured Sinatra. She continued to record as a solo artist over the ensuing decades, and at one point became the first white singer to record for Motown Records. She also toured as a gospel singer, was a regular on the Abbott and Costello radio show, and was heard in films.