Reed Interview
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An Interview With Jo:

by Bill Reed


Songbirds: Jo Stafford   Winter 2000   The Songbirds Archives

Jo Stafford: 1982 and 1999

Interviewed by Bill Reed (Los Angeles)

From the salad days of the Big Band era until the early 1960s, Jo Stafford was one of the world's most successful pop singers. As of 1955,she sold more records than any other female vocalist, ranking fifth among the top sellers for either sex. With her emotional honesty, impeccable pitch and innate taste in quality material, virtually every single she released during a twenty-year span became a hit; this, in an era when the charts were overwhelmingly dominated by male singers. During the years 1944-57 she made the best selling charts 49 times, and was awarded seven gold records and a platinum disc for selling over 25 million (a first for a female singer).

Over 35 years she recorded some 800 sides. Her biggest hits included You Belong to Me, Make Love to Me, Shrimp Boats, Jambalaya, and Long Ago and Far Away. Among her numerous number one hits, there was the 1947 country music send-up, Tim-Tayshun (Temptation), with Stafford singing as "Cinderella G. Stump." But this was not the only time Stafford engaged in manic devastation of the species homo songbirdus. In 1957 she created the alternate personae of pitch-challenged Cafe Society chantoozie, Darlene Edwards. With her real-life husband, Paul Weston, one of the country's top arrangers and record producers in the role of her accompanist, Jonathan, the couple recorded a novelty record album, The Piano Artistry of Jonathan Edwards. Darlene appeared on half the tracks of the release, and prompted one critic to note, "Mrs. Edwards's intonation must be heard to be relieved."

Their second escape in the series, Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris, to Jonathan's chagrin and Darlene's confusion, won a 1960 Grammy for Best Comedy Recording. It is both an irony and a minor tragedy that this is the only Grammy ever awarded Stafford, and that this spoof of excruciatingly off-key singing is today, arguably, the thing for which he is most remembered. It was on the occasion of the release of the Edwards' latest attempt to finally get it right, Darlene Remembers Duke (Sometimes); Jonathan Plays Fats (Almost), in 1982, that I interviewed the couple for the newspaper, the L.A. Reader. I spent a memorable afternoon with them in their West Los Angeles home. This was the first time that Jonathan and Darlene laid waste to entire LP's worth of vinyl in nearly fifteen years. The Westons met in 1936 and married in 1952. It is not known as to exactly when and under what circumstances Jonathan and Darlene tied the knot.

This marked the last time that the profoundly on-key (except in her guise of Darlene) Stafford ever set foot in a recording studio. When the article was published, understandably it focused almost exclusively on the those twelve-tone Steve and Eydies: Jonathan and Darlene. Most of the interview with the Westons, covering a multitude of other subjects, ended up on the cutting room floor. Now, thanks to Songbirds, I finally have the chance to print it in its entirely (minus a bit of repetitive Jonathan and Darlene material). In addition, I recently had the chance to chat with Stafford once again (Weston died in 1996). The 1999 interview follows.

Part One: August 20, 1982

Songbirds: We know that Darlene was "born" almost as an afterthought at a Columbia Records convention when you and Paul began joking around in front of some company executives. But where did you, Jo Stafford, first see the light of day?

Jo Stafford: I was born up in the San Joaquin Valley [in California] in a little town called Coalinga. My sisters were 11 and 14 years older than me. And when I was four we moved from Coalinga to Long Beach, and my older sisters Pauline and Chris were in radio at a local station, in there doing everything: secretarial work, they acted in dramas, had a 15-minute singing show, and I just sort of stumbled into singing with my sisters. I sang with them for three or four years.

Songbirds: What kind of group did you have?

Stafford: We were kind of like the Boswell Sisters. We sang backgrounds in movies like Alexander's Ragtime Band. [The Stafford Sisters can also be heard, as madrigal singers, on the soundtrack of the 1937 Fred Astaire film A Damsel in Distress.] On the movie I met up with some other people from other groups and we formed The Pied Pipers. There were seven boys and myself. One of them was Dick Whittingill [who became a popular LA disc jockey]. Eventually Tommy Dorsey heard us through the intercession of Paul Weston. We were hired for his radio show, not to travel with the band, and off we went to New York.

Paul Weston: They were a big hit with musicians, and musicians don't usually like singers. But what happened was they were ahead of their time and Dorsey's radio sponsor, who lived in England, finally heard them in New York, and he just started sputtering and tried to claw his way through the glass in the booth he was so angry.

[They did manage to remain in New York long enough to cut four tracks for the Bluebird label, two of which appear on Sony's 4-CD boxed set, JoStafford: The Portrait Edition.]

Stafford: Eventually, we were all down to just our fare back home, and we gave up and went back to California. But one day after we were back here, I'd just picked up my last unemployment check and I came back home and there was a message that I'd gotten a long-distance call from Chicago. So I called, and it was Tommy Dorsey. He said, "I can't use eight of you but I would like to have you and three of the boys as a quartet." And it all worked out well because three of the guys had dropped out by that time anyway. I wasn't the so-called "girl singer" with solos for a about a year. Off we went to Chicago.

Songbirds: Wasn't it about at this time that Frank Sinatra came with the band?

Stafford: We were at the Palmer House [in Chicago] for about a month, then went to Minneapolis, and Tommy told us we were going to have a new singer. And it was Sinatra. He had been with Harry James but I was almost entirely unfamiliar with him. In fact I never laid eyes on him until he actually walked on stage for the first time. We were sitting on the stage when Dorsey introduced him. And he came on and sang Stardust and it was quite an experience. You knew after eight bars that you were hearing something just absolutely new and unique. Up until then, the great sound you were looking for was the always the Crosby sound. I was with the band the entire two-and-a-half years of Sinatra's run with Tommy Dorsey. And when he left he was well on his way. The pandemonium was in full swing. When we played the Paramount [in New York] I had my hair yanked out and clothes torn. There was never anything like it before in history. It was a different kind of joyous, happy screaming. Once when he was playing the Paramount he decided that he'd had enough of the five bodyguards and their flying wedge. He just got sick of it, so he said, "I just know that I can stare them down. I'll just walk out and look very dignified and stern. They'll let me out the stage door without going bananas." The guards tried to stop him. "No, Frank!" And so he came out, gave these hundred kids standing there this dignified stare for about ten seconds and [laughs] they charged him. And he just literally disappeared into this mob of people. The guards gave each other these "we told you so" looks for about ten seconds before they rushed in to rescue him. Obviously he never tried that again.

Songbirds: I saw Helen O'Connell in person one time, and she told the audience that she couldn't remember anything that happened to her during her days on tour with the Jimmy Dorsey band. She wasn't quite serious, but she was very funny about it. What are your recollections, if any? Was it all just a blur for you, like is was for her?

Stafford: It was a real great experience. Even with all the traveling. Even though the longest we were ever in one place was four months in New York. That was very unusual. Most of the time you never even saw a bed. Maybe once every couple of weeks. The rest of the time, you slept and dressed on the band bus. A different city every night. Sometimes really long hops. Once, after an unusually long, trip the bus rolled into town real early one morning and there were all these college students waiting to greet us. And I had my hair up in curlers, all be rumpled, and I overheard one kid say, with terror and pity in his voice, "My Gawd! I think that's Jo Stafford!"

Songbirds: Yet you kept moving right on along up until the time of the big industry changeover to kid music.

Stafford: The pop music as we knew it didn't have any boundaries. It could go as far as we wanted harmonically. There were no limits. You can read a review of rock music now, and it could be about anything. There's hardly ever any reference to actual sound. I know because I keep completely up to date with what's happening musically. I know all about X and Fear, all of it. I mean, I have two kids who are musicians, after all. When rock came in I wasn't bitter about it. I was puzzled. Because with the music I had known, I had never known anything but progress. From [bandleader of the Casa Loma Orchestra] Glen Gray, which I thought was marvelous when I was a kid, then the first time I heard the Goodman five-saxophone section, well that made Glen Gray sound old hat. So all through the years in my career all I heard was progress. Things getting better and more complex. We were adding all this stuff on, and all of a sudden it started falling off. For the first time in my life the music I was hearing was going backwards. We were losing chord changes. We were losing complexity.

Songbirds: How did this affect you personally?

Stafford: The industry used to be much more structured. You had publishers over here. Over there you had songwriters. And then you had singers to sing what the songwriters had written. When I was doing my radio show in the late Forties, when I was through there'd be 15 or 20 song-pluggers there with material they presented to me. Some I liked, some I didn't. But whatever I finally chose to record there'd also be other versions coming out by other performers. And someone's recording would be the one to win out. But a song really got a good, big push. Now they write them, sing them, and publish them all by themselves. And they're the only one that does that song. No songs get a chance. They suffer at the mercy of the performer. When the Presleys and other first, popular, legend-in-their-own-time performers started to come along it was the first time in the U.S. where a ten-year-old had enough money to influence something to the extent that they did. So when you've got a ten-year-old picking the music it's going to be pretty simple. Just above the level of a nursery rhyme. The other music is too sophisticated for young ears. I'm not being judgmental at all; it's a simple statement of fact that that's the first time kids had enough money to influence a market and they did.

As for the performers becoming publishers and writers as well, that's probably a case of economics, too. As a rule, their lives are pretty short-lived professionally, and they don't have any way of keeping any money if they just work for a salary. But that doesn't mean that the songs are necessarily any good. For songwriting is an art unto itself, not to be confused with performing.

Songbirds: You haven't been in a recording studio for four years, when you cut a spiritual with your daughter, Amy, in 1978. Do you miss it?

Stafford: I wasn't driven. I just really loved what I did. I just loved the music, and I'm really a frustrated group singer. My being in show business and the solo star business was a complete accident. Whatever fame came did so not because I sought it. I just learned my lyrics and tried not to bump into the trumpet player. That was my philosophy.

Songbirds: Why did you stop? Was it because of rock? Quitting with dignity while you were ahead?

Stafford: I stopped singing because to do so I still had to travel to New York so much and I just didn't want to leave my family. I still remember the moment I made the decision. I got a call from my manager one day. He said, "You're due back in New York in ten days to do The Telephone Hour." And I was holding the phone and I thought, "I don't want to go to New York and do The Telephone Hour. And I'm not sure I want to go to New York to do any hour." And that was kind of it. I just slowly ground down after that. I'll probably never put out another album, because I'm a tough critic of my work, and I just don't think I could come up to those standards anymore. I was the only singer where the red needle on the [audio] meter didn't move. I studied old-fashioned classical singing for five years when I was a teenager. The kind where you bounce books on your diaphragm and you blow on feathers. Then you'd go for six months and not sing but just do exercises. I was studying to be a coloratura soprano, and when I started doing pop singing I still utilized all the same techniques and principles.

Weston: Just like a miler or high jumper she'd have to get back in shape. She might not make quite the technical sound she used to, but from an emotional point of view she compensates and makes up for it. Once in a while at a party she'll sing and kill the guests. We had a deal a few years back for her to make a record [for Concord] and then she just kind of lost interest.

Songbirds: You've had a lot of success with your mom and pop record company, Corinthian. How did it begin?

Weston: I started Corinthian Records in 1977 to make some educational records about Gregorian chants. At just about the time the records came out the church went from Latin to English and knocked the props out from under us. At just about that time Jo got all her masters back from Columbia, and also I became aware of the fact that copies of the old Jonathan and Darlene records were selling for 25 and 30 dollars, so instead of Gregorian chants we were in business initially with the Jonathan and Darlene records.

Stafford: I thought it odd a few months backs when an otherwise perfectly normal 16-year-old appeared at my door to ask for an autograph. He told me he'd spent a whole year trying to track me down. But I really shouldn't have been all that surprised because in the last six months I've had to send out more autographed photos than at just about any time since I've been in show business.

Songbirds: Are you surprised that there's still so much interest in Jonathan and Darlene? A new album this year, and last year you Darlene went disco and liberated in one fell swoop with a single of Stayin' Alive backed with I Am Woman.

Stafford: There's still a Jonathan and Darlene cult. That's why we made the new Fats/Duke album. After the first one came out, there was also Jonathan and Darlene in Paris, Sing Along with Jonathan and Darlene, and Song for Sheiks and Flappers.

Weston: The initial album came out in 1957 and one radio station had a contest to guess who it really was. An awful lot of people wrote in that it was Harry and Margaret Truman. Time magazine finally blew the whistle on us. Down Beat magazine gave us 48 stars. Some people bought the record and wrote in demanding their money back. We did a Jack Benny Show as Jonathan and Darlene, and in the course of the show we played a trick on Jack Benny. And our boy, Tim, who was four at the time, loved Benny so much that he was in the audience and saw us do it in the show and was so upset that we'd fooled Jack that he refused to go home afterward. We had to call Jo's sister to take him home.

Stafford: He said, "Mr. Benny's a nice man and you played a terrible trick on him."

[Tim Weston and his sister, Amy, are latter-day mirror images of their parents professionally. Tim is an A-list studio musician, arranger and record producer like his father before him. Amy is the successful session/commercial group singer that her fame prevented her mother from becoming.]

Weston: If enthusiasm and exuberance alone are the newly accepted criteria for music, then I guess you'd have to say that Jonathan and Darlene Edwards are unqualified successes. You could call them "retrograde punk," even though they don't jump off the stage and dress funny.

Stafford: Darlene is a very [New Yorker magazine cartoonist] Helen Hokinson-type lady partial to white gloves and flowered prints.

Weston: I read an interview that [Los Angeles Times rock critic] Robert Hilburn did with a local punk band in which the members said that they decided to start their group and then learn to play their instruments while on stage, even though they had no experience or training.  That's sort of the feeling you get from Jonathan and Darlene.  You could relate some of Jonathan's arpeggios to John Coltrane's sheets of sound, which are certainly not definable measured against any 12-tone scale.  After you stop laughing at Jonathan and Darlene there's still something there, and for want of a better term, I guess you'd have to call it music.  If Robert Hilburn reviewed them, he'd have to say they possess a kind of "grueling intensity."


Part Two: July 2, 1999

All the while her reputation as one of the great interpreters of American Popular Song has continued to flourish, Jo Stafford, true to her word in the 1982 interview, has remained retired. As such, she is one of the few pop culture icons to have walked away from "the biz" while still at the top of her game. Since then, there has been only one public performance, a few years back, when she took part in a Society of Singers tribute to her longtime professional and personal friend, Frank Sinatra. That night, she came full circle and once more fulfilled her original vocation of group singer. It is difficult to escape both the symbolism of the gesture and the excellence of the company she found herself in on stage that evening, the Hi-Lo's.

There was one other public appearance by Stafford, in print; in the August 26, 1996 issue of the New Yorker. It is highly recommended reading for fans of the singer. In "A Voice Like Home: Jo Stafford and the Mystery of Why Music Moves Us," writer Nancy Franklin observes that Stafford "may be the least well-known of the great pop singers of the middle part of the century." Arguably true, it's a state of affairs that appears to bother Stafford little if at all, but rankles her son, guitarist/record producer (for Shirley Horn, Shelby Flint and Don Grusin) Tim Weston.

In a recent phone interview, Tim offered: "My mom is proud of her body of work but is a very modest person. A lot of people of her generation have gotten a lot more press. I'm not saying that they don't deserve it. I think that because of her modesty and because people haven't actively been promoting her, she has not received the attention she deserves. I think Jo Stafford is one of the best singers that ever lived."

It's a sentiment shared by most readers of this magazine, as well as many musicians. If you don't know by now, just take a listen to any of a number of Stafford's sides still available on CD from the Corinthian label.

Unfortunately, Stafford's husband of more than forty years, Paul Weston, was "under the weather" at the time of the 1996 New Yorker profile, and died shortly after the piece appeared. Since Paul's passing, the label has been run, with an assist from Stafford, by Tim. Stafford was apparently not very "hungry" for stardom. Hard to believe but, according to the 1996 New Yorker article, "in her whole career, she did only one nightclub engagement, at the Martinique in New York. I'm basically a singer, period, and I think I'm really lousy up in front of an audience; it's just not me." It also "helps" that her contemporaneous Columbia Records label-mates, Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney, went into film, while Stafford remained largely behind the scenes in the recording and radio studios.

Publishing, in Songbirds, my original 1982 interview with Jo Stafford and Paul Weston is a long-deferred pleasure finally come to pass. But what about Stafford today? The death of a mate tends to send lives into a skid, especially for those long-married. I had no confidence that Stafford could be reached at her old address. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, I wrote her a brief note requesting a new interview. And while Stafford may not have been career-driven, she's polite and courteous to a fault. Two days after I dropped the letter into the mailbox, the phone rang, I picked it up, and for an instant I thought I was talking with my sister back in West Virginia. Although born in California, Stafford has still not lost the accent her Tennessee-born parents bequeathed her. After the usual salutations and amenities I got down to the business at hand.

Songbirds: When would you like to schedule the interview?

Stafford: Well, how about right now?

[It was the dinner hour, but how could I resist? One of the great pop/jazz singers of the century was on the other end of the line.]

Songbirds: Before we go any further I just want to tell you that your 1982 analysis of the record industry seems truer than ever. I go around spouting things you said as if they were the "Sayings of Chairman Jo." The idea of rock evolving from nursery rhyme, for example, is especially true of rap, which hardly existed back then. At the time, we also talked about non-kid, grown-up, adult singers, and you mentioned Marilyn Maye as a particular favorite.

Stafford: I can also mention the more obvious ones, Ella, Sarah. Peggy Lee is a great, great talent. And the remarkable thing is that she's a heck of a songwriter. She made a guest appearance on a TV show I did in England. Frank [Sinatra], of course. The last time I saw him was at the Society of Singers tribute to him. But I'm not too familiar with the current singers.

Songbirds: There are a lot of good, young ones around.

Stafford: I'm awfully glad to hear it, because the ones I see on TV, I get so fascinated with the cords in their necks standing out that I forget to listen to them. Everything is fortissimo, to use a musical term. Everything is Vesti La Giubba. Sometimes I just think, settle down, and let me hear if you can sing. As for people still active, I'm a big fan of Shirley Horn. You can do it in her milieu, the nightclub scene is still active. But if you're talking about records and television, I'm not sure if much of that exists. There's not that much music on TV of any sort.

Songbirds: Speaking of Vesti La Giubba, tell me something more about your Classical training as a teenager.

Stafford: I had four or five years in school training as a soprano. I fell into pop singing because of economics. I got out of high school and had To go work and they weren't hiring opera singers. I liked pop a lot, but the classical just came naturally with glee clubs. The singing teacher decided that I should be a classical singer. I enjoyed it, liked it. Back then, if you seriously studied singing, I'm not talking about what they call coaching, somebody teaching you how to sing a song from a stylistic standpoint, then you studied opera. This was physical training of your vocal cords, diaphragm, breathing, all that. I think it served me well.

Songbirds: What do you do on a professional basis these days?

Stafford: Corinthian has never had a Christmas album. My son Tim runs our label after Paul passed away. Last year Tim and I decided we'd put one out this year. These are masters from Columbia that I now own. This is a combination of Happy Holidays and Ski Trails. Half Christmas, half winter songs. We've titled it Happy Holidays: I Love the Winter Weather.

Songbirds: Your Corinthian label is now more than twenty years old.

Stafford: Tim does a good job of keeping it moving. He was here today packing records, sending out orders. When I left Columbia we sued them on a favored nations clause. Part of the settlement was that I got my masters back.

[The next day, in a separate phone interview, Tim Weston filled me in on a few more details of the lawsuit.]

Weston: It was a classic case of a record company in default of paying royalties. It's that simple. Her manager, Michael Nydorf, had included a clause that said, if we catch you guys messing up, here's what happens. They said okay. And that really is the cornerstone of our record label, Corinthian. Michael Nydorf was her only manager. He was "Uncle Mike" to me. A very astute businessman. He was a very forward-thinking businessman, especially in terms of master rights. My mother's ownership of her masters. That's incredible!

Songbirds: I love your Capitol Christmas album, The Joyful Season.

Stafford: You mean the one where I do all the voices. I don't know what they ever did with that. Probably sitting on a shelf some place.  I don't own the Capitol material.  I can lease it, but I don't own it.

Songbirds: It' so successful. Did you ever try to do that with non-Christmas music?

Stafford: Years ago I did it on Hawaiian War Chant. I did all four voices. You know, I'm a frustrated group singer.

Songbirds: After you got bogged down with all the business of being the top female singer in the country, did you ever just feel like you wanted to pack it in and join up with the Mel-Tones?

Stafford: Mel, Mel, Mel. I never recorded with him, but he did a great guest appearance on my TV show. The first time I saw him he wasn't even 18 yet. During the war my sisters and I used to go down to Fort MacArthur and served coffee and donuts to the soldiers. And Mel was down there in uniform playing the piano. He was in the Army. 1943, & 44. He was a baby, but already playing the piano and singing away.

Songbirds: I was so happy to see those Victor 78s with the original Pied Piper octet on The Portrait Edition. They are as good as the other vocal group standard bearers of the time, say, the Kay Thompson Singers, or the Merry Macs.

Stafford: We were pretty darn good.

Songbirds: What else do you fill your day up with besides Corinthian?

Stafford: As little as possible. After you spend a life of activity and pressure, there comes a time when it's kind of a pleasure to not do anything. Except what you want to. I'm being very selfish, doing exactly what I want to do. I was under an awful lot of pressure for 35 years.

Songbirds: Do you still sing?

Stafford: Very badly. It's passable. But it wouldn't pass my criteria. At Christmas time we have a tradition in our family; everybody comes to my house and before dinner we all sing Christmas carols. Informal things like that.

Songbirds: The last recording you made was with your daughter, Amy, in the late 1970s. What is she up to these days?

Stafford: She's found a lovely home in commercials. Maybe once a month or so she'll still do a gig at some club in the valley with her trio, Daddy's Money. Pearl Bailey's daughter was in it, but she went back east and now there's another girl in it. It's a nice little act. Of course, Paul and I did a few Jonathan and Darlene recordings after I did the spirituals with Amy.

Songbirds: Ah, yes! Jonathan and Darlene. When I interviewed you in 1982, you signed my copy, "Hooray for Music!" and Paul wrote, "To Bill, a true music lover!"

Stafford: When Paul put them on CD I thought that was the funniest thing of all times. You could hear the mistakes even more clearly. We have three of them on Corinthian and they sell. The way Darlene really developed was with some of the songs that Mitch Miller sent out for me to record, which were awful. So at record dates, when we'd have a little time left at the end, the guys in the band and I would do a take the way we felt the song really deserved. Me singing like Darlene, and the band just really square.

Songbirds: I read somewhere that on the Jonathan and Darlene records the jokes so convulsed musicians that, one time, drummer Jack Sperling had to be replaced on a session because he could not stop laughing. Changing the subject, Mitch Miller foisted a lot of really bad songs on you and others at the label.

Stafford: Not so much bad as inappropriate for the particular person. A lot of the material he gave me to record it was not my cup of tea. I couldn't do it justice. One was called Chow Willy. C-H-O-W, W-I-L-L-Y. And then there was one called Underneath the Overpass. If you can believe it.

Songbirds: A lot of what he was doing wasn't rock so much as it was country.

Stafford: I don't know what you'd call it. [Pause.] Bad!

Songbirds: Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Doris Day. All of you did this material. Why?

Stafford: I don't know their particular reasons. Mine was that I had a very unusual contract. Not many artists had the contract that I had. Most artists actually pay for their record dates and it comes out of their royalties. In my contract I paid for nothing. I think that there were maybe only four or five others that had that kind of a deal. I felt that I couldn't just I had to cooperate to a certain extent. If I had been paying for those dates there are a lot that I wouldn't have paid a nickel for. I can't speak for the others but that was my reasoning. If they're paying for it I've got to cooperate to a certain extent.

[In a separate phone conversation, her son told me:]

Weston: Her body of work was so strong by then, she'd made so many great records that it didn't really bruise her too much to do it. There's certain stuff that we own that we're not interested in re-releasing, because it's stupid. This Christmas release, we're putting a lot of time working on it, because it takes us to the point where we've pretty much used everything that we care to re-release. There are no secret "Beatle" tracks left. This new Christmas release is going to sound really good.

Songbirds: Do you still receive much fan mail?

Stafford: I send out about 30 photos a month. That's a lot considering I Haven't sung for years. I know that I enjoyed making that body of work. My grandson asked me today, when we were listening to some of the playbacks Tim has been working on, "Was that fun?" I told him that it was the most fun of all.

Songbirds: In 1982, you said that a sixteen-year-old kid had recently shown up at the door to ask for your autograph.

Stafford: He now works in San Diego. I hear from him quite often. He works at a television station in San Francisco and I've done some promos for him. They were interviewing Frankie Laine and wanted me to make a telephone call. I hear from him from time to time. His name is Kevin Taylor.

Songbirds: Any favorite album?

Stafford: I've been asked that many times. I can't really answer it. I've always loved the folk songs, but I also love G.I. Jo. But favorite album. I don't know if any artist could answer that, because the very fact that we put our heart and soul into something, we did it every time out. So how do you pick a favorite?

Songbirds: How about Jo + Jazz?

Stafford:  I was thinking about that last night.  The wonderful arrangements that Johnny Mandel made.  The original mix of that really turned me off.  Paul did a lot of work on that when it was re-released on Corinthian.  He improved on it a great deal.  The arrangements John made were perfect and small.  Intimate.  Cozy.  The studio we were working in was very echo-y, like a barn.  That intimate sound that it should have had, the close sound that John had written was bouncing off the walls.  The echo was natural, not added.  He took back through EQ and removed as much echo as he could.  It should have been made in a very small studio.

Songbirds: Do you go out and hear much live music?

Stafford: Not too much. Once in a while, Tim will take me out to hear something. He'll pick me up and we'll go to The Jazz Bakery. Not often. I'm not a go-er anymore. That's another privilege I have, of not putting makeup on and getting dressed.

Songbirds:  The way you look on most of the album covers and in your photos; that's the way I remember all women looking in the 1940's.  Looking really great.

Stafford: [laughs] The world is a pile of grunge.

Songbirds: There are lots of people who still go out in suits every day.

Stafford: I salute them. I think pretty is nice.

Songbirds: Do you have a computer?

Stafford: Tim is the computer man. I've got one but I won't go near it.

Songbirds: I think you would enjoy looking at Songbirds magazine.

Stafford: Tim was reading it today. He said it was very classy looking.

Songbirds: Thank you. I wasn't fishing for that. I will send you a hard-copy of this interview when it comes out so that you don't have to "dot-com" anything. And thanks for the interview.

Stafford: You're welcome.