Ernie Andrews, jazz singer known for his soulful, charismatic voice, dies at 94

Ernie Andrews, the jazz and R&B singer whose smooth, soulful voice made him a favourite among both fans and fellow musicians during a decades-long careerhas died. He was 94.

Andrews was known for his velvety voice, romantic style and casual confidence with a microphone, as well as his ability to bring the best out of the songs he sang.

“Ernie Andrews was one of the most versatile singers that I ever heard — and certainly ever worked with,” jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, one of Andrews’ closest friends in music, told the Los Angeles Times after learning of Andrews’ death.

Andrews died the evening of Monday, Feb. 21, at a hospital in Conroe, Texas, due to complications from a blood clot that formed after he suffered a broken hip in a fall, his family told reporters.

Ernest Mitchell Andrews Jr. was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 25, 1927, but he grew up in Los Angeles. He moved with his family to Jeanerette, La., at the age of 13, before finally settling in Los Angeles in 1945. There, he began to dedicate himself to singing and quickly caught the attention of Joe Greene, who brought him into the studio to record his first hit record, Soothe Me.

From there, Andrews went on to work with some of the greatest names in jazz. Described as the “Crown Prince of the Blues” in a late-’40s newspaper ad, Andrews became a frequent performer at the jazz and blues clubs along Central Avenue in Los Angeles following the Second World War. There, he made his name in the company of instrumentalists such as Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Erroll Garner. He joined the Harry James Orchestra in 1958 and sang for the band for more than a decade.

“All I’ve ever known in life is singing,” Andrews said in the 1986 documentary Blues for Central Avenue. “I just sing and sing and sing and sing.”

Andrews’ wife Dolores died in 1997, after 52 years of marriage. He leaves four of their five children: Stephanie Williams, Dueal Ernie Andrews, Mark Anthony Andrews and Daryl Mitchell Andrews; their other son, Dana Dee John, died in 2013. He also leaves 12 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren.