110"Julie and me."
- Oct 30, 2008Reissue of Julie London's "Julie is Her Name" LP
Stan Cornyn, the King of liner note prose back in the 1960s, sent me the
following piece, which he wrote for a forthcoming Boxstar Records vinyl
reissue of Jule London's legendary LP, "Julie is Her Name." It's such a
terrific item I asked if I could share it, and he graciously agreed.
The info about the vinyl reissue can be found at:
Julie and Me
Our affair, Julie's and mine, lasted too short a time back in the 1950s.
About twenty weeks as I recall. She was a young divorcee when we met, and
it wasn't too long 'til I would awake to find her face on my pillow. She
sounded to me like we two'd be together a long, long time. To me, she felt
Julie was seven years my senior, born in the year 1926 along with Marilyn
Monroe, Jerry Lewis, Hugh Hefner, and Fidel Castro ? while I was just
getting out of college, where I had in a single room with a pawn-size bed,
and a hi-fi on wire legs that would play those new LPs real loud through its
Felt like fate all right. I'd heard how Julie had already dropped out of
school when she was just 15, hiring on as a $19 a week department store
elevator operator. She'd already been divorced from a cornet player named
That was 12 or 13 years earlier, when we'd had World War II, when Julie was
good looking and well-shaped enough to become a teen pin-up ? a cheesecake
darling inside G.I. lockers. But Julie and I didn't talk all the time.
People having affairs do what they dream of doing. I certainly did.
Through it all, Julie was so cool. I mean she sang for me, and she didn't
belt like one of those big band dolls like Ella or Sarah. Julie sang JUST
for me. One song I liked best was "Cry Me a River."
What I didn't know at that time was how Julie came to end up on my pillow.
Later, I learned this: Julie had been a show biz darling. Born of show biz
parents (her name then was Gayle Peck) and she turned out to be a visible
hottie who could sing. Before she and I coupled up in 1955, she'd met a
jazz pianist-composer named Bobby Troup, whose claim to notice was his song
"Route 66" (for Nat "King" Cole and dozens more).
Troup had taken on Julie's singing career. That led them into a start-up
label called Liberty Records, headed by Si Waronker (Simon of The Chipmunks,
I must point out). She auditioned for Si in Beverly Hills at the 881 Club,
singing soft into a mike, her gown clinging to her 110 well-distributed
pounds. She captivated audiences. Waronker said "you bet," and an album
deal was made. Troup to produce.
Songs were fitted to her singing style: soft. From a high school classmate
(now and still a Hollywood songwriter) named Arthur Hamilton came "Cry Me a
The first Liberty sessions took place at Troup's favorite L.A. studio, Gold
Star, located at Vine and Santa Monica Blvd. The room: 23' by 35', and
into it Troup brought only two musicians to work with Julie: fleet
guitarist Barney Kessel and big band bass player Ray Leatherwood. Three
silver Telefunken mikes linked in to engineer John Neal's console knobs, and
his mix of those three mikes then sent across the booth for preservation:
onto a ?" mono tape on a 10 ?" reel, to be stored in a sturdy box marked
In the studio, Julie is the focus, and (I didn't know this yet) fitting in
with the guys. She had a mouth, tough like a Marine. Constantly smoking
(she would become the spoke-singer for Marlboro cigarettes ? "You get a lot
to like with a Marlboro ? filter, flavor, flip top box" ? this before
Marlboro would turn to a new image, its cowboy Marlboro Man).
Julie sang the album's songs her only way. Soft, breathy, intimate with the
mike, and of course a bit smoky. She knew her voice wasn't big band; "I'm a
girl who needs amplification," she'd purr. "I've got a thimbleful of voice,
and have to use it very close to the mike."
Liberty Records turned to photographer Phil Howard for the album cover.
They spent days on that cover. And ohhhh, did it work. In an age when pop
singing girls were cute, tiny, and covered up, Howard's shot displayed a
full female: bare shoulders, the tops of her boobs, her face perfectly
inviting, blue eyes right on you. For album covers, this was astonishing;
Julie was a full woman, while the others' covers looked like teen kids who
had to be home before 11.
The album took off. "Julie Is Her Name" sold and sold, and nobody could
figure out if it was that cover or its songs. Both were anti-Doris Day.
Even the album jacket's cornball original liner notes called Julie "goddess
of the bodice." But if we have to choose which made it sell so well ? its
cover or its songs -- very probably the song, because "Cry Me a River" hit
the singles chart for 13 weeks, and the album followed for 20 weeks. Or, as
Julie herself later summed it up, "Just as long as they buy the records, I
don't care why they buy 'em."
For Julie and me, our affair lasted those hot 20 weeks on the charts, then
both of us moved on. She married Bobby Troup for 40 years, lived in the San
Fernando Valley, recorded 30 more albums (no charts for those), and was a
medium-star on TV and films.
I too lived in the San Fernando Valley, I too in the record business, but it
was utterly different for both Julie or me now. It was now a business where
I dealt with acts like Kiss and Alice Cooper and the Sex Pistols, in a
business that had outgrown "good" music. Now it was tongues that poked out
at you, not pointy bras. Now it was yelling, not crooning. Julie's became
a world that's gone forever, I'm afraid, a world of cocktail glasses and
witty rhymes. And singers, like Julie, who sounded vulnerable and you
wanted her on your pillow.
Julie died a year after her husband Bobby, died on Bobby's birthday,
October 18, 2000. She was 74, and had more than outlived her era.
In 2008, the box labeled "London" was located in a storage basement at EMI.
Still clean inside. Tape good as the day it was born.
When I was asked to write these notes, I traveled to look at what might be
left of this woman, only her metal star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame out
front of the Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd.). I stared down at her
star. I wondered how many tourists passing by even knew whom they were
There was nothing of my Julie about that star in the sidewalk. No picture.
None of that sultry voice that had lured me over half a century earlier.
No, not there.
But then, that's what records are for.
By Stan Cornyn