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Singer Jo Stafford, Popular in the Pre-Rock Era, Dies at 90

Jo Stafford, a big band and pop singer ranked by Billboard as the top female singer of the pre-rock 1940-54 era, died July 16 at her home in Century City, Calif. The cause was congestive heart failure. Stafford, who also sang in a comedic duo with her husband Paul Weston under the names Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, was 90.

Stafford was born in Coalinga, Calif., in 1917. After performing in a singing group with her sisters, she joined the Pied Pipers, who sang with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra, which included a young Frank Sinatra. The Pied Pipers signed to the new Capitol Records in 1943 and Stafford later married the label’s musical director, Paul Weston, in 1952. By that time Stafford had already placed some 60 records on the charts as a solo artist, the most popular being the single “You Belong to Me,” which topped the Billboard chart for 12 weeks in 1952. Stafford also scored a number one in 1954 with “Make Love to Me” and placed a number one in 1948 with “My Darling, My Darling,” a duet with Gordon MacRae.

In 1947, Stafford launched a side career as a novelty singer when she sang with Red Ingle and the Natural Seven on a number one single called “Temptation (Tim-Tayshun),” under the name Cinderella G. Stump. In the late ”50s, as Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, Stafford and husband Weston performed as an exaggerated New Jersey lounge act. Their 1961 album, Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris, won that year’s Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album.

Stafford left Capitol for Columbia Records in 1950 but returned to Capitol in 1961. During her time with Columbia, Stafford hosted her own musical TV series. She retired from the music business in 1975, although she performed in 1990 at a ceremony honoring Frank Sinatra.

Originally Published