A life in performance: legacy of legendary jazz singer and movie star Annie Ross finds new home at RCS

A life in performance: legacy of legendary jazz singer and movie star Annie Ross finds new home at RCS

Published: 22/07/2021

Legendary jazz singer and movie star Annie Ross

Image © Barbara Bordnick

A lifetime of movie and musical memories from a world-renowned jazz icon and Hollywood star have found a new home at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland … reuniting a legendary performer with her famous Scottish sibling.

Performance and personal items from the estate of the multi-award-winning jazz singer and actress Annie Ross have been bequeathed to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Archives and Collections. It means Annie’s legacy is entwined with that of her brother, the much-loved Scottish entertainer, actor, comedian and musician Jimmy Logan.

Jimmy’s archive, which spans his life’s work, was donated to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2005 by his widow, Angela Logan. Annie, who passed away four days before her 90th birthday in July 2020, had made it known that she would like some of her memorabilia to be donated to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Archives and Collections, based at The Whisky Bond in Glasgow.

The Annie Ross Memorabilia Collection includes:

  • Silver quaich from Jimmy Logan to Annie inscribed with ‘Royal Scottish Variety Show/2nd October 1983’ and ‘from the brother to the sister with love’.
  • President Barack Obama’s 2010 letter to Annie Ross congratulating her on receiving one of her many awards, the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master’s Award.
  • Programmes, playbills, posters, press cuttings and photographs including a production still from Presenting Lily Mars (1943). The film is often cited as Judy Garland’s first film in which she performed an adult role and Annie’s first experience of the bright lights of cinema. Although Annie is uncredited in the studio still, she wrote her name in pen later before having it framed.
  • Outfits and jewellery including Annie’s signature statement earrings and a jacket worn at the NEA Jazz Awards.
  • Audio and video recordings including the vinyl LP of Let’s Fly. At the tender age of fourteen, Annie entered her own song Let’s Fly into a song-writing competition and won. It was recorded on LP by Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers and released by Capitol Records.

Stuart Harris-Logan, Keeper of Archives and Collections at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “We are honoured to accept these wonderful items from Annie’s luminous life and career into our collections, reuniting Annie with her brother Jimmy Logan.

“Annie was no ordinary talent, she was a magnificent, multi-award-winning entertainer who had a career that was so varied, long and colourful. Her enduring influence and popularity are her legacy, and that story is told with a clear voice in the archive of memorabilia she bequeathed to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.”

Annie was born in London to Scottish vaudevillians Jack Short and Mary Dalziel. Her first big break came in 1943 when, at just twelve years old, Annie starred alongside Judy Garland and Van Heflin in Norman Taurog’s Presenting Lily Mars, an MGM production. In 1952, she met Bob Weinstock, owner of Prestige Records, who asked her to write lyrics to jazz solo known as ‘vocalese’.

In twenty-four hours, she came back to him with Twisted, a vocalese treatment of saxophonist Wardell Gray’s composition of the same name. It was so popular, Twisted became an underground sensation, winning her Downbeat Magazine’s ‘New Star Award.’ Just one of many she was to garner throughout her many years of performance.

“It’s fair to say that from the mid-1950s Annie’s career as a jazz vocalist and performer just took off, and never really came back down to ground again,” said Stuart Harris-Logan.

“She recorded no fewer than seven albums as part of the celebrated group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross with co-stars Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert, and – when she left the group – opened her own jazz lounge in London: Annie’s Room. An early booking was a young Nina Simone who, in 1965, was already breaking new ground with provocative and overtly political performances.”

An archive of material relating to Annie’s jazz music career was bequeathed to Rutger’s University in the United States, whereas much of the material in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s archive relates to her film and other performance career. The complete catalogue of the Annie Ross Memorabilia collection at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland can be found on Archives Hub.

RCS Keeper of Archives and Collections, Stuart Harris-Logan, has written more on Annie and the items in the collection. Read more on the RCS blog.

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