The Artistry of… Julie London

Memorable for the imagery of smoky sensuality and fifties feminine cool is the voice of the late Julie London — immediately recognized as the voice of so many ‘50s and ‘60s jukeboxes, so much radio airplay, and many film soundtracks. London said about her own voice that she had “…only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate.”

Provocative and voluptuous album cover poses reflected the pulp-fiction-like imagery and attitudes of the day. Some contemporary album covers of female jazz artists seem to indicate that things may not have changed that much. London’s prowess as a jazz vocalist belied simple surface dimensions of publicity images.

Born Julie Peck, her parents had been a vaudeville song-and-dance team. London’s second husband, jazz musician and songwriter Bobby Troup, guided her music career in the mid-1950s. Her acting career was impressive and prolific. To many, she is fondly remembered as Nurse Dixie McCall in the ‘70s TV series Emergency!, produced by her first husband Jack Webb of Dragnet fame. His love of jazz included a collection of more than 6,000 recordings.

London’s sound was as instantly recognizable as her public image. Her music artistry held a depth of dimension that can be heard in every phrase.

The Artistry of… airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish.