DECEMBER 12, 1951


Born February 27, 1907, in Tekoa, WA, Mildred Rinker grew up on the Coeur d’Alene reservation and later in Spokane.  A brief marriage gave her the name “Bailey.”  Moving to Los Angeles, she started singing at nightclubs.  Her light soprano voice, articulation, and phrasing was influenced by Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith.  In 1926, her brother, Al Rinker, and friend Bing Crosby, joined Paul Whiteman’s band.  Eventually Whiteman made her the 1st featured female big band vocalist.  “Georgia on My Mind” and “Rockin’ Chair” were her signatures.  In 1933, marrying xylophonist, Red Norvo, she launched a solo career recording with the top jazz musicians of the era and appearing nationally.  From 1936-39, she performed with Norvo’s group.  After 1939, she resumed her solo career and had her own radio series in 1944 until her health slowed her after 1945.  She died in Poughkeepsie, NY.  In 1989, she was inducted into the Big Band Hall of Fame and, in 1994, the US Postal Service issued a postage stamp in her honor.

Source:  "Mildred Bailey: American singer," Retrieved 8/8/2019,
Photo:  William P. Gottlieb (1917-2006), 4/1947.  Library of Congress.  Public Domain in U.S.  Public Domain elsewhere where copyright term is author’s life plus 70 years or less.

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