The Girl with the Pale Pink Voice… FUCK YEAH Rose Murphy! (via grant)
Rose Murphy may well be an acquired taste, and indeed her performances here border, at times, on the bizarre. My father, however, “on the scene” throughout the 1940s, had this to say: “There was nobody in L.A. would could touch Tatum or Nat Cole, but there were three ladies that we listened to a lot, Julia Lee, Nellie Lutcher and Rose Murphy. Murphy was into strange novelty vocals, but when she was in the mood, boy, could she play!” These two films are part of a longer set, made by Standard Pictures Corporation in early 1944. At this time that Murphy was playing at the Valley Lodge in North Hollywood. These films were apparently not intended for jukebox use, but were to be made available through film libraries to “road showmen” who could rent or purchase various music items to accompany the other films on their programs.- via
If you never heard Rose Murphy, you would be completely mystified when Ella Fitzgerald, at mid-fifties concerts like her famous 1958 birthday set Ella In Rome, takes a very strange detour in the middle of I Can’t Give You Anything But Love. After the opening chorus, the First Lady of Song makes mysterious noises, chirping like a butterfly would, if it could sing, twitting about on the nonsense phrase chee chee.
If Fitzgerald fans were puzzled by this in 1958, their kids were fully flabbergasted when, in 1962, they heard Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons sing the same song. Here too, Valli intones the Jimmy McHugh melody in a voice even more stratospherically high – and sexually ambiguous – than usual, and here too he dwells on that mysterious phrase: chee chee.
Even while Valli is chee-chee-ing in the foreground, the other singers, presumably the other three “Seasons,” repeat the phrase over and over, as if it were some kind of spiritual mantra or magical incantation. Like Fitzgerald, Valli here produces high-pitched, non-verbal noises that apparently originated in the animal kingdom, sounds more like humming birds and purring kittens than pop singers doing the songbook or the blues.
Fitzgerald and Valli are both, of course, affectionately imitating that famous femme follower of Fats, Rose Murphy, who was once billed as The Chee Chee Girl, and recorded an album called Not Cha Cha But Chi Chi Ok, it’s spelled slightly differently, but I think Murphy was chee chee long before it was chi-chi. via
Rose Murphy (born April 28, 1913 in Xenia, Ohio, USA–died November 16, 1989 in New York City, USA.) was a pianist and vocalist most famous for the song ‘Busy Line’.
Described by Allmusic’s Scott Yanow as having “a unique place in music history”, Rose was known as “the chee chee girl” thanks to her habit of regularly singing the phrase “chee chee” in many of her numbers. She was also known as ‘The Girl with the Pale Pink Voice’ She began her musical career in the late 1930s, playing intermission piano for such performers as Count Basie, and achieved strong popularity in both the US and UK in the late 1940s. Despite being a very talented pianist, she is best known for her high pitched singing style, which incorporated a range of jazz style ad lib scat, giggling, and percussive sound effects.‘Busy Line’, one of her most well known songs, made use of perhaps her most famous vocal sound effect: the ‘brrp, brrrp’ of a telephone ring. A version of the song was later used in 1990 by BT (British Telecom) in one of their television adverts. The advert was such a success that RCA reissued Rose’s original recording of the song.
Her recording of “Pennies From Heaven” was used on the soundtrack of the otherwise-silent award-winning 2011 film The Artist.
From the fifties to the eighties, Rose continued to play at “many of the top clubs of New York, like the Cookery, Michael’s Pub, Upstairs At the Downstairs, and was “usually accompanied by bassist Slam Stewart or Morris Edwards.”These were interspersed with engagements in London and tours of the Continent. During a two week engagement at Hollywood Roosevelts Cinegrill in June 1989, she became ill and returned to New York City.
She was 76 when she died, and, though married 4 times, left no direct descendants.