Morgan, Jane (Contemporary Musicians)
Jane Morgan, pop sensation and actress of the 1950s and 1960s, found success in France and England before achieving recognition in the United States. Born Florence Currier on May 3, 1924, in Newton, Massachusetts, Morgan was the daughter of Bertram Currier and Olga Brandenberg Currier, both of whom were dedicated and accomplished musicians. She was the youngest of five children. Morgan's father played the cello and other stringed instruments with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for many years, and her mother majored in piano and graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music. In addition, they were both music teachers, operated a family music school in Newton, and composed music. Morgan was taught to sing, play the piano, dance, and act, but she abandoned violin lessons. When she was ten, Morgan's mother trained her to perform operatic roles while she continued to master the piano. During the summers, Morgan would frequently take on child roles and appear in theater productions at the Kennebunkport Playhouse in Kennebunkport, Maine, which had been started by her brother. By the time she was 13, Morgan was singing as a lyric soprano.
At four years old, Morgan moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, after her father died. She attended grade school there, actively engaged in singing and competing against other students throughout Florida and the Southeast. Upon graduating from Daytona Beach High School, Morgan's multiple musical skills and overall background enabled her prompt acceptance into the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York City where she intended to become an opera singer.
In the 1940s, Morgan began singing popular songs in nightclubs, private parties, bar mitzvahs, and small restaurants to earn spending money to help pay for her tuition expenses at Juilliard. She was hired as a singer at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan with the house second band for $25 a week, six nights a week. While still attending Juilliard, Morgan was hired by orchestra leader Art Mooney, and he changed her name to Jane Morgan by taking the first name of one of his vocalists, Janie Ford, and the last name of another, Marian Morgan.
Morgan was chosen by the well-known French impresario Bernard Hilda to accompany him to Paris. Hilda was one of the finest society bandleaders in France and he wanted to take a young singer back with him to Paris to perform at a new nightclub he planned to open near the Eiffel Tower. He offered to take Morgan to Paris and make her a star at one of the top night clubs there. She left school and began to appear regularly at the Club Des Champs Elysees, where she performed American songs to mostly French audiences two shows each night. Morgan's mother taught her French and Italian, so she quickly became proficient in French, and within a short time was performing her entire act in flawlessly spoken French, singing the classic songs of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, French songs, and standards of the century.
Morgan became a sensation in Paris, and accompanied by Hilda and his gypsy violin, quickly became known throughout France. All of French café society would frequent Hilda's upscale club, and it was likened to the Copacabana in New York. Many of the top songwriters in France including Charles Trenet began to come to the club, and they wrote many songs that became subsequent hit recordings for Morgan. Morgan and Hilda soon opened a new weekly hour-long television show, and she began recording on the French Polydor label as well as EMI, Philips, and others. Morgan performed seven days a week except in the summertime when she was booked in clubs in other European countries including Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, and England. During this time Morgan was making very little money but was treated elegantly, and many of the finest designers in the world, including Balmain and Dior, provided her with gowns. Her hats were the work of well-known milliners such as Jean Barthet and John Frederick, and Morgan was regarded as one of the best-dressed performers in the world. She remained in Europe for more than four years, becoming a "continental chanteuse," though virtually unknown in the United States.
In the early 1950s, Morgan went to Montreal, Canada, and opened at the Ritz Hotel as a soloist with a bilingual act using French and English. She returned to New York with regular performances in upscale nightclubs and her own radio show on NBC that was complemented by the 50-piece Toscanni Symphony Orchestra. Morgan returned to Europe in 1954 and appeared in a London West End review with comedian Vic Oliver, and later at the Savoy Club and London Palladium.
Morgan wanted to advance her career and become an American recording star, but booking agents and managers in show business tried discouraging her by telling her she would never make it outside the nightclub circuit because she was too specialized. Determined to reach her goal and gain wide public acceptance, she left her agent and began singing at Lou Walter's Latin Quarter in New York. Walters, father of television newswoman Barbara Walters, kept Morgan at the Latin Quarter for a year. There she was noticed by Dave Kapp, an entrepreneur, who had just begun a new recording label, Kapp Records. Kapp signed Morgan at the same time pianist Roger Williams was contracted.
Fearful that she had the reputation as only a French singer, Kapp came up with the idea to have Morgan record a song called "Baseball, Baseball," and her first album release was entitled The American Girl from Paris. She recorded several additional albums and soon was paired with Williams, who had gained national acceptance with his recording of "Autumn Leaves." They recorded 'Two Different Worlds," and it was the first time Morgan received a large amount of airplay by American radio disc jockeys.
In 1957, Kapp brought The Troubadors, a virtually unknown group of five musicians, to his studio. They had appeared in the 1957 comedy film Love in the Afternoon which starred Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, and Maurice Chevalier. Morgan, who was scheduled to record at this time, was asked by Kapp to join The Troubadors and sing a song popular in France entitled "Fascination." Although written in 1904 by Italian F. D. Marchetti and entitled "Valse Tzigane," it had been modified and used in Paris at the Follies Bergere as a "strip" number. With English lyrics added by Dick Manning in 1932, it had also been played throughout Love in the Afternoon. The French words were written by Maurice de Ferandy in 1942. In the fall of 1957, Morgan and The Troubadors' rendition was released, and it became an instant sensation, remaining on the best selling charts for 29 weeks and selling millions of records. It marked for the first time Morgan's acceptance as a top flight vocalist by the American public. She became in demand with agents wishing to book her in variety television programs, new nightclub venues, and with major corporations such as IBM, NCR, and Buick. The following year, "The Day the Rains Came," composed by Gilbert Becaud with lyrics by Carl Sigman, was recorded and Morgan's rendition rose to the top 20 on the British charts.
Although she had achieved her goal of being recognized internationally, Morgan's remaining goal was to perform in musicals on the stage and Broadway. She soon appeared in Can Can with David Brooks, and it was a huge success. This was followed by Kiss Me Kate with Earl Wrightson, Gentleman Prefer Blondes, Bells Are Ringing, Anniversary Waltz with Russell Nype, Affairs of State with Edward Everett Horton, and others. In the summer and winter she appeared in nightclubs around the United States, complemented with television appearances and bookings in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. She also appeared at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Canada in 1964. She was the lead singer with Bea Lillie and Carol Lawrence in the Broadway musical production of the Ziegfeld Follies and in Marne in 1966. "Being on Broadway was one of the most exciting things in my life because I had always dreamed of it," Morgan said.
In the early 1960s after the death of her agent, Morgan obtained a new manager, Jerry Weintraub. Weintraub played a key role in helping book her in many of the finest venues in the United States. They were subsequently married in 1965 and Weintraub later became responsible for major enhancements to the careers of Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, and Bob Dylan.
Morgan's television credits include appearances on major television programs including the Andy Williams, Jerry Lewis, Jackie Gleason, Perry Como, Johnny Cash, and Dean Martin shows, as well as more than 50 performances on the Ed Sullivan Show. Morgan also toured with Jack Benny and John Raitt and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
Morgan's first American recordings were on the Kapp label in 1956, but other recordings were made on the Epic, London, ABC Colpix, Elektra, MCA, and RCA labels. Morgan recorded more than 30 albums. In addition, she appeared on the RCA soundtrack Marry Me, Marry Me in 1969. She has worked with Burt Bacharach, Roger Williams, The Troubadors, Frank Hunter, Nick Perito, Marty Manning, Peter Matz, Chet Atkins, Maurice Chevalier, Michele Legrand and has recorded in five languages.
Fascination, Kapp, 1956.
Jane Morgan, 1957.
The Day the Rain Came, Kapp, 1958.
Jane in Spain, Kapp, 1959.
Jane Morgan Time, 1960.
Lady Jane, 1960.
More Golden Hits, 1960.
The Ballads of Lady Jane, Kapp, 1961.
The Great Golden Hits, Kapp, 1961.
The Second Time Around, Kapp, 1961.
Love Makes the World Go Round, Kapp, 1962.
Jane Morgan at the Cocoanut Grove, Kapp, 1963.
In My Style, Epic, 1965.
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, 1965.
What Now My Love, Kapp, 1965.
Fresh Flavor, Epic, 1966.
Jane Morgan in Nashville, 1969.
Traces of Love, 1970.
Jane Morgan Greatest Hits, 1990.
Jane Morgan Collection, 1992.
Jane Morgan Time, 1997.
Kaplan, Mike, Variety Who's Who in Show Business, Garland Publishing Inc., 1983.
Kapp, Dave, liner notes, 1956.
Lax, Roger, and Frederick Smith, The Great Song Thesaurus, Oxford University Press, 1989.
Maltin, Leonard, Movie and Video Guide 1995, Penguin Books Ltd., 1994.
McAleer, David, The All Music Book of Hit Singles, Miller Freeman Books, 1994.
Murrells, Joseph, Million Selling Records from the 1900s to the 1980s, Arco Publishing Inc., 1984.
Osborne, Jerry, Rockin Records, Osborne Publications, 1999.
Additional information was obtained through an interview with Jane Morgan on May 22, 2000.
Francis D. McKinley