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Johnny Holiday: Johnny Holiday Sings

A little known fact: the 1950s boasted two excellent jazz singers named Holiday. There was Billie, of course, but there was also Johnny Holiday, a Chicago tenor-turned-baritone, with a rich sound suggestive of Mel Torme crossed with Vic Damone, who recorded the critically-acclaimed 10-inch LP Johnny Holiday Sings for Contemporary in 1954. His disc ignored by the record-buying public, Holiday jumped to ever-smaller labels-Kapp, then Mode then Contract-as he remained in unfair obscurity. He toured Europe, then abandoned singing in favor of various careers as a film editor, light and sound director (for Sergio Mendes), hotel entertainment director and door-to-door salesman.

Then, in 1998, at the urging of his pal Terry Gibbs, Holiday, age 74, returned to the studio for the first time in nearly four decades, cutting an album’s worth of standards. Those 13 tracks have now been combined with the eight tracks from the ’54 disc for the identically-titled Johnny Holiday Sings (Contemporary). Wonderful as it is to at last hear Holiday’s half-century old renditions of “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Baby, Baby, All the Time” and the first recorded version of Bobby Troup’s ode to his sultry wife, “Julie Is Her Name,” it is equally delightful to discover that he sounds nearly as wonderful on septuagenarian interpretations of “Stardust,” “By Myself,” “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” and such. Buy Johnny Holiday Sings for those ultrarare ’54 tracks, but savor it just as much for the others, then pray that somebody has the smarts to unearth the rest of Holiday’s 1950s catalog.

Originally Published