Summer Jazz – William Price King meets Ella Fitzgerald

William and his music

We continue with the Summer Jazz  with  the First Lady of Song Ella Fitzgerald. An incredible talent and listening to her voice makes me wish that I could have heard her singing live. This series was first posted in February 2015 so although some of you may have read it before, I hope you will enjoy listening to her performances again. For new readers, during the summer months, whilst William Price King is away, I will be repeating the early artists that we featured.

Ella_Fitzgerald_(1940)A young Fitzgerald, photographed by Carl Van Vechtan in 1940

Ella Jane Fitzgerald would become ‘The First Lady of Song‘ and was one of the most popular American Jazz singers for over 60 years. During her career she won 13 Grammy awards and sold 40 million copies of her over 70 Albums. She was also was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush.

Her greatest hits include ‘Let’s Fall In Love’, ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’, ‘Every time We Say Goodbye’ and ‘Summertime’. Her versatility and range enabled her to sing everything from soulful ballads through to the most popular jazz standards of the day. She worked with all the big names in the business including Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme. She travelled the world performing to packed houses and the audiences loved her.

Here is her wonderful performance of Summertime.…by George Gershwin and lyrics by Dubose Heyward from the 1935 hit show ‘Porky and Bess’

Her start in life was tough but Ella would later say that she appreciated how much the difficult times had matured her and how the memories helped her build the emotion into her performances. She also understood what it was like to face challenges and setbacks in life and she treasured her success all the more for them.

Her vocal range spanned three octaves (D♭3 to D♭6). Often referred to as the First Lady of Song, the Queen of Jazz and Lady Ella, she was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

Her Early Years.

Ella was born in Newport News, Virginia on April 25th 1917 to William and Temperance (Tempie) but they split up shortly after Ella was born. Tempie and Ella moved to Yonkers, New York and Tempie moved in with Joseph Da Silva father to Ella’s half-sister Frances who was born in 1923. Jo supported the family by digging ditches and was a part-time chauffeur, while Ella’s mother Tempie worked in a Laundromat and restaurants. As she grew older Ella would take on small jobs to add to the family’s upkeep. Times were tough.  It was the height of the prohibition and the numbers racket business and Ella spent some time as a runner for some of the local gamblers.

There was however time for social activities and Ella and her friends spent time singing and dancing and would head into Harlem to watch the variety acts at the Apollo Theatre.

According to Ella’s biography on her official website her mother, Tempie died from serious injuries that she received in a car accident in 1932 when Ella was just 15. Ella went to live with Tempie’s sister Virginia and she was joined shortly afterwards by Frances when Joe suffered a fatal heart attack.

This was not a happy time for the young Ella and schooling took a back seat as she began to get into trouble with the police. Eventually she was sent to reform school which was unbearable, especially as she suffered beatings at the hands of the caretakers. Still only 15 she escaped and found herself on the streets along with thousands of others displaced by the Great Depression.

It was not until 1934 when 17 year old Ella’s luck would change. Her name was pulled out of a draw at the Apollo and she won the chance to compete on Amateur Night. Her first thought was to dance for the audience but having seen the Edwards Sisters, Ruth and Louise, considered the fastest tap dancing team in the business, she decided she could not compete and would sing instead.

The crowd was rowdy and the young Ella stood scared and ‘unpolished’ before them on stage. She asked the band to play Hoagy Carmichael’s “Judy,” a song she knew well as it was one of her mother’s favourites. As she began to sing the audience quieted down and at the end of her performance demanded an encore. She obliged and sang the flip side of the Boswell Sister’s record, “The Object of My Affections.” She won the first prize of $25.

Ella was not confident away from the stage but once in the spotlights she came alive.. She was to say “Once up there, I felt the acceptance and love from my audience,” Ella said. “I knew I wanted to sing before people the rest of my life.”

The musicians in the band that night were impressed with Ella and her singing voice. One of these was saxophonist and arranger Benny Carter. He knew talent when he heard it and he began to mentor Ella and introduce her around contacts in the music business. They would maintain that friendship and working relationship their entire lives.

Here is Ella singing I’ll Chase the Blues Away with Chick Webb in 1935.

With the backing of Benny and her growing audience of fans, Ella began entering and winning every available talent show in town. In January 1935 she won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House and there she met drummer and bandleader Chick Webb. Although he already had a male singer he gave Ella the chance to test with the band at a dance at Yale University… It was a tough crowd by in her usual style Ella won their hearts and Chick hired her to travel with the band for $12.50 a week.

Ella was on her way… time we will look at the rest of the 30s and the 40s as she sang her way into the hearts of a nation.


About William Price King.


William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.

William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King
Download the new album.

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

Connect with William

Links to website –
Facebook –
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue –

You can explore all of William’s series at this link:

Thanks for dropping by and hope you have enjoyed part one of the Ella Fitzgerald Story. Sally


A Man and his Music – William Price King meets Mel Tormé – Part Five – The 70s and 80s

Welcome to the Saturday Jazz session with singer and composer William Price King and his series on the incomparable Mel Torme.  Many of us grew up listening to him perform and I seem to remember a couple of romances being helped along by his smooth style…. Anyway enough reminiscing – on with the show in the capable hands and voice of William Price King…


We catch up with Mel Tormé in the early 70s and he had not released an album since 1969. He continued to work in television and film however and by 1971 he was host and co-producer for an ABC documentary series ‘It Was a Very Good Year,. The major events of all the years from 1919 to 1964 were presented each week and Mel would sing musical hits and interview personalities of the featured dates. He would appear in acting and singing roles on TV during those leaner years as well as continue to perform live at every opportunity.


Mel would not release any studio recordings until 1977 but he did privately record a new live album Mel Tormé live at the Maisonette in 1975, recorded at the Maisonette room in the St. Regis Hotel in New York, which he sold to Atlantic Records.. Despite not making money on the album it did produce a nomination in 1976 for the Grammy Award for Best Accompanying Vocalist for the 15 minute Gershwin medley. One of the songs that he performed live on the album was the 1972 Stevie Wonder Motown hit ‘Superstition’

After a seven year gap, in 1976, Mel signed a new record contract with Gryphon Records and recorded the LP Tormé! A New Album in London in June 1977. One of the tracks on the album was New York State of Mind by Billy Joel

Whilst this album was being produced Mel was working in collaboration with long-time friend, drummer and band leader Buddy Rich and their January 1978 sessions, Together Again: For the First Time was released before his Gryphon label album.


However both albums would provide Mel with further Grammy nominations – for his album with Buddy he was nominated in the Best Jazz Vocal Performance category in 1978 for the fourth time and a fifth nomination followed in 1979 in the same category for his work on Tormé! A New Album.

Jazz vocals were making a great comeback in the 70s and Mel’s consistent loyalty to live performing in the 60s stood him in good stead now. He had developed a reputation as a talented Jazz singer and he was in big demand to perform around the world with often over 200 performances a year. He headlined at Jazz festivals, concert halls and with symphony orchestras and was booked to appear annually in major cities around the globe. His awards were not limited to the US or the Grammys as he was honoured in Europe as well.


His success continued into the early 80s with more traditional pop music making a return to the charts. There was a sixth Grammy nomination, again for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, for his LP, Mel Tormé and Friends Recorded Live at Marty’s New York City, which was released on Finesse Records in 1981 and reached number 44 in the Billboard jazz chart. One of the songs on that album was The Best is Yet to Come by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh which was very apt considering how well Mel’s career was doing as he entered the new decade.

The 80s continued on track for Mel and his next collaboration with jazz pianist George Shearing in 1982 at the Peacock Court of the Hotel Mark Hopkins in San Francisco would result in the album An Evening with George Shearing & Mel Tormé released by Concord Records. It reached number 34 in the jazz chart and cemented their association for the rest of the 80s. Mel was nominated for his seventh Grammy again in the Best Jazz Vocal performance and this time he won in February of 1983. Here is a live performance from the album.. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.

The pair teamed up for the album Top Drawer, winning Mel his second Grammy win and their album An Evening at Charlie’s released in 1984 provided his ninth nomination with a studio album An Elegant Evening producing the tenth for 1986.

At last Mel Tormé was receiving the recognition he deserved and next time we will explore the rest of the 80s and the 90s with this amazing singer and performer.

Additional sources


William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His debut jazz album is called ‘Home,’ a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area. His album ‘Home’ is available to download and more details in the Buy Music for Christmas.

Links to website –
Facebook –
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue –

William Price King meets Mel Tormé Part One. Part Two Part Three Part Four