Sallie Blair: Barefoot Bombshell

In the October 1963 Negro Digest a reader asked "Once Sallie Blair seemed en route to the Bigtime. Her photo made Esquire's center spread, and she was booked into the de luxe supper clubs. What happened?"
The reply was "That's show business, really. However, Miss Blair now has a new act and a new look and is on the way up again."
Walter Winchell called the beautiful nightclub singer who often performed barefoot "Sex with a capital X" and "sort of like Lena Horne with baby fat." She received mentions in Dorothy Kilgallen's column as well as in often gossipy-toned items in Jet magazine.

Born Sarah Bolling Mason Hutchins in Baltimore, Md. to Sarah Mason and Carlos Hutchins (a golf pro, who in 1942 was secretary of the Citizens' Civil Rights Committee, which formed in response to the segregation of Baltimore's all-white — and better-maintained — golf courses), Sallie Blair had all the ingredients to be a much bigger star than she was. In his memoir There and Back, Jazz drummer Roy Porter claims it was an alcohol problem that held her back from greater success, though I have not seen any corroboration of this.

Jet March 5, 1953

Jet July 23, 1953
Click on the pictures for a closer look

Jet May 13, 1954

Washington Afro-American January 17, 1956

"The jaded eye I reserve for night-club openings (the one on the left that droops a little) got the shock of its life (and that's a metaphor that droops a little) the other night … it was present with the rest of me for the Sunset Strip debut of a lady who electrified an audience like nothing I've seen since the dawn of Eartha Kitt … Her name is Sallie Blair … and her opening night was a spectacle of the crazy, wonderful things that happen once in a while in show business … She came here unknown to Mocambo's ringside regulars. But before she had returned for a final encore, even Herman Hoover had heard about her … Miss Blair is going to be a star … And while I'm not a gambling man, I'd take a friendly bet on it … She looks like Abbe Lane … And when she sings, she sighs … A combination like that, I can tell you from personal experience, does more for us folks over 35 than Serutan … If I sound a little giddy about the lady, I am … This young lady could sing 'Old Gray Bonnet' and make it sound suggestive." Paul Coates, The Los Angeles Mirror-News (as reported in The Baltimore Afro-American December 22, 1956)

The Afro American January 6, 1957

Life Dec. 2, 1957 "Sallie, Season's Hit Singer" Photo by Eliot Elisofon

"She Serves a Nice Cup of Tea"
"The thrush handles the tune nicely and with class.
Strong competition looms, however, from the Tony Martin disk.
Playable for Jocks." Billboard October 27, 1958

A closeup of my copy of Hello, Tiger! Nicely arranged and conducted by Neal Hefti but with way too much reverb on Sallie's voice. My favorite tracks "Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)," "When the Sun Comes Out," "Fever," "Daddy." Her LP Squeeze Me does a better job of letting her stage persona shine through as well as what Mr. Winchell was talking about.

"A striking cover (featuring the sultry thrush on a tiger-skin rug) gives this package sock display value; while the canary's sexy, intimate vocalizing makes the LP's sure-fire Jockey programming. Gal shines on a group of standards and show tunes, including the infectious 'Daddy,' 'Fever' and 'Witchcraft.'" Billboard November 3, 1958

"Ev'rything I've Got (Belongs to You)"
Hello, Tiger!

Esquire, January 1959 "A Blare for Sallie" photo by Bert Stern
This issue of Esquire is famous for Art Kane's two-page spread photograph of four decades of jazz musicians, often called "A Great Day in Harlem."

"I believe every woman should emphasize her natural attributes. If the new look coincides with her figure, she should wear it. As for myself—not this year."
Jet April 7, 1960 "Paris' new flat look has debates bustin' out all over"

Jet May 9, 1963

Still getting mentioned in Jet as late as 1978 but they've gone back to misspelling her name!

The Baltimore Afro-American February 22, 1992