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Singer Teresa Brewer Dies at 76
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Singer Teresa Brewer Dies at 76

Music

Singer Teresa Brewer Dies at 76

Singer Teresa Brewer Dies at 76
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While still a teenager, Teresa Brewer became a star when she released a perky little song called "Music, Music, Music" in 1950. For four decades, she continued to enchant with songs like "Ricochet," "Till I Waltz Again With You," and "A Sweet Old Fashioned Girl." Teresa Brewer died last week at the age of 76, and we reprise a 1991 interview as a remembrance.

(Soundbite of song, "A Sweet Old Fashioned Girl")

Ms. TERESA BREWER (Singer): (Singing) Scoobely dooby doo, bedoo, bedoo, bedooby dooby doo.

Wouldn't anybody care to meet a sweet old fashioned girl? Scoobely dooby dum.

Wouldn't anybody…

LIANE HANSEN, host:

No one fit the image of the sweet old-fashioned girl more than Teresa Brewer did. She scored hit after hit in the 1950s and sang for more than three decades after that. Her voice finally fell silent last week. Teresa Brewer died at the age of 76. She was tiny but her voice was not. Time magazine called Brewer a topnotch singer with a voice somewhere between a blowtorch and a cello.

In 1991, she released an album of Louis Armstrong tunes. Back then, I asked Brewer if it was Ed Sullivan who first called her the little girl with the big voice.

Ms. BREWER: Yeah. Oh, he had a few names for me. He's the - yeah, that was one of his…

HANSEN: Do you remember what else he used to call you?

Ms. BREWER: No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BREWER: No. He used to call - I think he call me the face one time because they used to love to get close ups of my face. I was very, very young. I was like, what? Seventeen - sixteen and half, 17 when I did the first show with him.

HANSEN: Yeah.

Ms. BREWER: I was a little teenager.

HANSEN: Teenager…

Ms. BREWER: Yeah.

HANSEN: …when you did "Music, Music, Music?"

Ms. BREWER: "Music, Music, Music." Yeah.

(Soundbite of song, "Music, Music, Music")

Ms. BREWER: (Singing) Put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon. All I want is having you and music, music, music. I'd do anything for you, anything you'd want me to. All I want is kissing you and music, music, music. Closer, my dear, come closer. The nicest part of any melody…

HANSEN: I used to listen to that when I was a kid over and over and over again.

Ms. BREWER: Yeah.

HANSEN: It was such a big hit.

Ms. BREWER: Oh, it was a tremendous hit and that - I recorded that on London Records. And I at that time, they were having a strike, and they couldn't press enough records. So it actually could have sold much, much more. I did over a million, but it could have really sold so much and they just couldn't press enough records.

HANSEN: How did that song come to you? How did you did it?

Ms. BREWER: Oh, I think it was Tutti Camarata that played it for me first. And it was done on a demonstration record. It was by a man with a German accent playing piano and singing. I can't think of his name. And Eddie Jean Miller(ph), maybe that was his name. And I said, oh that's a stupid song. You know, he had a German accent (singing). And I said, oh my goodness, it's stupid, you know. So he says no, do it. It will be a hit. I said, all right. I'll do it. Sure enough he was right. Maybe it was the time. Everybody was light harder and they wanted that type of song.

HANSEN: Yeah.

Ms. BREWER: But I would have preferred to songs that I'm doing today.

HANSEN: People don't associate you as a jazz singer. I mean, when people mention the name Teresa Brewer, they think "Music, Music, Music."

Ms. BREWER: Well, that's how I'm known, of course. I mean, that's how I got start in recording. But when people say jazz singer, I don't know that they mean. I really don't know what they mean by jazz singer. I am singing with great jazz musicians. I'm singing the types - the type of song I do like to sing all standards and good music, good songs, good lyrics. But when you say jazz singer, when people say that to me I kind of - I'm taken aback because I consider someone like Ella Fitzgerald, you know, a jazz singer. But they tell me when she started out, she wasn't exactly singing the way she, you know, scats. But you remember Ella, the girl…

HANSEN: Yeah. Yeah.

Ms. BREWER: …when she - she did that later on but she had, you know, tit to the tat - little poo-poo-pi-doo(ph) songs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BREWER: We all have to start somewhere, right?

(Soundbite of song, "Come On and Drive Me Crazy")

Ms. BREWER: (Singing) Squeeze me, hug me, hold me tight. I wanna make love with you tonight. Oh baby, come on and drive me crazy. Whisper sweet things in my ear, make the sounds I love to hear. Oh baby, now you drive me crazy.

HANSEN: You've worked with some extraordinary people in the last 15 years. Stephane Grappelli.

Ms. BREWER: Right.

HANSEN: Count Basie.

Ms. BREWER: Earl "Fatha" Hines. World's greatest jazz band. Dizzy Gillespie was on my - it was the album that came out. It was two concerts I did. One was in Montreux and the other one was at Carnegie Hall, I guess. Dizzy did the "Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." And he played a Jew's harp on it.

HANSEN: No.

Ms. BREWER: He did. We did the intro and we - he was fooling around with his Jew's harp. And we said, gee that sounds great. So we started out the intro to the song "Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)."

HANSEN: He plays on the new album too, right?

Ms. BREWER: Yes. But he doesn't play Jew's harp.

HANSEN: No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: I was going to say. I don't think I heard it.

Ms. BREWER: No. But that was really something. He is so sweet.

HANSEN: On the album you did with Stephane Grappelli, there's a song that you wrote. "Come on and Drive me Crazy."

Ms. BREWER: Yeah.

HANSEN: A little swing tune.

Ms. BREWER: Uh-huh. I've been writing a song, mostly country. I love country music. That's my very favorite of anything.

HANSEN: Now, "Come On and Drive Me Crazy" is about as far from country as you…

Ms. BREWER: Yeah. I know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BREWER: That's a jazz one. That's a little jazz ditty. Yeah. But I wrote those songs - most of the songs that I write I usually write them under a hair dryer in about 30 minutes - words and music.

HANSEN: No kidding.

Ms. BREWER: No kidding. I get an idea in my head and sit under the dryer, hum it to myself and get the words written down and then tape it. Put it on a little tape recorder and do the melody.

HANSEN: Teresa Brewer - she died Wednesday at the age of 76.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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