Friday, September 26, 2008
R.I.P. “Snootie Little Cutie”
I was shuffling through my massive music collection and went to what I labeled my “Frank Sinatra Section.” There were other artists in this bunch... particularly the members of the infamous Rat Pack. However... there was another artist that many of you may not know.
Born Yvonne Marie Antoinette JaMais on January 20, 1921 -- she was renamed “Connie Haines” by band leader Harry James who joked she needed a shorter name to leave room for his on the marquee. A genuine Southern belle, Connie began her immensely successful singing career at the age of five and continued crooning up until recent years.
Like I said, I first discovered her music while listening to some Sinatra tunes. She and Frank were good buddies, singing with both the James and Tommy Dorsey bands. During one performance in Madison Square Garden, a careless smoker tossed a match over the balcony and her dress went up in flames. Frank saved her life by extinguishing the fire and Connie went on stage with much of her tight black slip being exposed.
In later years, Connie gave service to her Lord Jesus Christ. In the 1950’s, she joined actresses Jane Russell and Rhonda Fleming and British-born singer Beryl Davis in a gospel quartet. In the 1970’s, she became an ordained minister with Unity Church.
Those mourning her passing include two children, three grandchildren, her sister and her 109-year-old mother, Mildred JaMais. And, of course, millions of adoring fans... myself included.