Alice Darr: Feature Story


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Alice Darr
In January, I posted on obscure singer Alice Darr, who recorded her first album in 1962. While researching another subject recently, I came across a feature on the singer in the Cumberland News in Cumberland, Md., from January 31 1963. The headline was “Local Singer to Record Second LP Album Soon." It's hard to know why Darr wasn't a bigger name except that labels had shifted to rock and soul, leaving her stranded in jazz.

Here's the article typed out...

Alice Darr, who won a local amateur contest at the age of seven and was playing piano and singing professionally at 17, is now a success—and the pride of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Darr, 342 Davidson Street.

Miss Darr's long-play album, I Only Know How to Cry—Music for Lovers and Losers, is now selling well and she has another in preparation.

Cumberlanders will remember Miss Darr's piano-and-vocal performances at the old Cadillac and at the Alibi, later Al's Chateau and now a parking lot. Miss Darr played the two night spots for more than a year, alternating with out-of-town professional acts.

She's been singing in New York, Florida, Chicago and Mexican supper clubs for the past six years and has been at The Toast (1068 First Avenue) in Manhattan for a total of about two years, with a time out for an eight-month engagement at The Left Bank.

An unusual feature of Miss Darr's career to date is that she hasn't been out of work since her first New York booking. The clubs keep asking her to come back.

Her present album (on Charlie Parker label PLP 811), takes its title from the lead-off song composed by Joan Moskatel, who wrote or co-authored four of the 12 numbers. Arrangements are by guitarist Mundell Lowe, who also co-authored four of the songs and supplies background along with bassist George Duvivier. Both men are widely known and respected in the jazz field.

As the album's subtitle indicates, all the numbers are new and blue. Miss Darr's mother said Alice, primarily a “pop jazz'"singer, found making the album a challenging experience. Her next, still to be titled, will have six new songs and six standards with Alice fronting a full band.

Miss Darr, who never had a formal singing lesson, came by her talent honestly. Her father was well known in local musical circles for nearly 30 years as a banjo player, bassist and saxophonist with the Black Diamonds, the Original Bellhops and other bands and combos. His brother, John, who died last year, was a singer and violinist.

Alice, the seocnd of the Darrs' three daughters, began singing with her sisters when she was a first-grader. With help from their dad, the girls learned to sing in Harmon before they could read.

By the time she took her first piano lesson at about the age of 10, Alice already was a veteran performer, having won $50 in an amateur contest, and having been billed as the “star" of any number of school and church functions afterward.

At 17, she was a full-time professional with a contract in Pittsburgh. Then began the climb to bigger and better-paying club jobs in various parts of the country and finally in New York itself.

Her parents, justly proud and happy about her success, are hoping for “that one chance" on television that could some day make their daughter a top-ranking star.

Here's the second album Darr would record around 1972...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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