In May 1953, a sprightly 23-year-old girl by the name Ruth Price took the audience at Birdland by surprise when she jumped on stage to sing with the Johnny Smith trio. Ruth, a recent discovery of Charlie Ventura’s manager Don Palmer, hailed from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where she was born in 1930.
She was a former ballet dancer and had only switched to singing recently. A month later though, Ruth was back to dancing, mostly because her reputation as a ballerina cast enough of a shadow that no club believed she was serious about singing jazz. Luckily, at Palmer’s suggestion, in the summer of 1954 Ruth found herself singing with the Charlie Ventura quintet for about a week, replacing regular singer Mary Ann McCall who was on sick leave. This was Ruth’s first major job, and even though it was only a sub, it opened the doors to a number of club engagements.
In 1955 she signed for Kapp...