Ethel Ennis

Ethel Llewellyn Ennis, born November 28, 1932 and died February 17, 2019, was an American jazz musician. Her career spanned seven generations. Ennis lived the majority of her adult life in Baltimore, Maryland. She was affectionately called the “First Lady of Jazz”. Ennis was born in Baltimore’s North Calhoun Street row house and grew up in Sandtown-Winchester. Ennis began her career as a church pianist when she was just a teenager. She began a solo singing career and recorded several songs for Atlantic Records. Her LP debut, Lullabies for Losers was released in 1955 by Jubilee Records. She signed a two-album deal with Capitol Records in 1957 and released A Change of Scenery. Ennis went on a six year hiatus after her 1958 album, Have You Forgotten. During this time, she toured Europe together with Benny Goodman. Ennis recorded four LPs in 1963 for RCA Victor. Ennis was dissatisfied with the creative direction and artist management of the label, and she decided to take another hiatus. She would not receive another recording contract for eight years. She sang the title song of the 1967 feature film Mad Monster Party. In 1973, the BASF LP 10 Sides Of Ethel Ennis was released. Later that year Ennis, a Democrat from New York, was invited to sing at Richard Nixon’s re-inauguration. Although her unusual rendition of the national anthem was shocking to some, it inspired many others. Ennis was back in Baltimore by that time and had only performed outside of the region a few times over the years. To the delight of her faithful fans, she returned to public life in 1980 and released a live album. Ennis returned to national attention with the self-titled NYC studio album, produced by Paul Hildner, her long-time drummer. It reached the Jazz Top 40 radio charts. James Gavin, New York Times, wrote that “Her long, seductive Save the Best for Last’ has surprising depth in Vanessa Williams’ hit. She also unlocks all of the quiet wisdom of Michael McDonald’s ballad ‘I Can Let Go Now’ about the moment when the pain from a failed relationship ends. The album’s dark, moody atmosphere is created by Mr. Gress, Marc Copland and Stefan Scaggiari, as well as Paul Hildner, the drummer. Ennis recorded again for If Women Ruled the World, a major label in 1998. Ennis’ most recent recording was a 2005 live set that she recorded at Montpelier in Maryland. It was highly praised by critics. Ennis passed away from stroke on February 17, 2019, at the age of 86. She was 86.

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