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About Jennie Smith

Jennie Smith was a young vocalist who emerged briefly in the late '50s as a would-be Polly Bergen, or a potential rival to Patti Page as a pop singer. Born Jo Ann Callison in Burnwell, West Virginia, in 1938, she started singing at a very early age and by age six was doing solos in church. She was fortunate to have a connection to the entertainment business through her stepfather, John Kristof, who was working at a radio station. She made her professional debut at 14 with the Al Waslohn band and later came to the attention of Charleston, West Virginia DJ Hugh McPherson, with whose help she secured better gigs, starting with Lionel Hampton, and later including bands led by Billy May and Johnny Long.

A stylist with a sound well beyond her years, at 19 Smith made her recording debut on RCA Victor with the backing of arranger/conductor Ray Ellis, releasing her own album that year. Smith was significant enough in her time to rate a featurette in Look magazine, and she later appeared with Frankie Randall in a series of Chevrolet ads (she was "Miss Chevrolet" to his "Mr. Chevrolet"). She went on to release one more LP with Ellis, entitled Love Among the Young, at Columbia Records, in 1959, where she cut two more LPs. Her singles included "(I Won't) Go Away Little Boy" on the Canadian American label.

According to journalist and longtime fan Bill Reed, she subsequently retired from performing and was married. Her debut album, Jennie, which compares favorably to the work of both Julie London and Chris Connor, was re-released by BMG in Japan on CD in the late '90s, and proved quite successful in that format. ~ Bruce Eder

Burnwell, WV
13 Nov 1938