Sullivan at the Village Jazz Lounge in Walt Disney World, 1975
Birth name Marietta Williams
Born May 13, 1911
Died April 7, 1987 (aged 75)
New York City, New York
Genres Jazz, swing
Maxine Sullivan (May 13, 1911 – April 7, 1987), born Marietta Williams in Homestead, Pennsylvania, was an American jazz vocalist and performer.
As a vocalist, Maxine Sullivan was active for half a century, from the mid-1930s to just before her death in 1987. She is best known for her 1937 recording of a swing version of the Scottish folk song "Loch Lomond". Throughout her career, Sullivan also appeared as a performer on film as well as on stage. A precursor to better-known later vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughan, Maxine Sullivan is considered one of the best jazz vocalists of the 1930s.
2 Personal life
5 Film and television credits
6 Theater credits
Sullivan began her music career singing in her uncle's band, The Red Hot Peppers, in her native Pennsylvania, in which she occasionally played the flugelhorn and the valve trombone, in addition to singing. In the mid-1930s she was discovered by Gladys Mosier (then working in Ina Ray Hutton's big band). Mosier introduced her to Claude Thornhill, which led to her first recordings made in June 1937. Shortly thereafter, Sullivan became a featured vocalist at the Onyx Club in New York. During this period, she began forming a professional and close personal relationship with bassist John Kirby, who became her second husband in 1938.
A photo of Maxine Sullivan in Village Vanguard, NYC around March 1947
Sullivan in 1947
Early sessions with Kirby in 1937 yielded a hit recording of a swing version of the Scottish folk song "Loch Lomond" featuring Sullivan on vocals. This early success "branded" Sullivan's style, leading her to sing similar swing arrangements of traditional folk tunes mostly arranged by pianist Claude Thornhill, such as "If I Had a Ribbon Bow" and "I Dream of Jeanie". Her early popularity also led to a brief appearance in the movie Going Places with Louis Armstrong.
In 1940, Sullivan and Kirby were featured on the radio program Flow Gently Sweet Rhythm, making them the first black jazz stars to have their own weekly radio series. During the 1940s Sullivan then performed with a wide range of bands, including her husband's sextet and groups headed by Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, and Jimmie Lunceford. Sullivan performed at many of New York's hottest jazz spots such as the Ruban Bleu, the Village Vanguard, the Blue Angel, and the Penthouse. In 1949, Sullivan appeared on the short-lived CBS Television series Uptown Jubilee, and in 1953 starred in the play, Take a Giant Step.
In 1956, Sullivan shifted from her earlier style and recorded the album A Tribute to Andy Razaf; originally on the Period record label, the album featured Sullivan's interpretations of a dozen tunes featuring Razaf's lyrics. The album also highlighted the music of Fats Waller, including versions of "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now", "How Can You Face Me?", "My Fate Is in Your Hands", "Honeysuckle Rose", "Ain't Misbehavin'", and "Blue Turning Grey Over You". Sullivan was joined by a sextet that was reminiscent of John Kirby's group of 15 years prior, including trumpeter Charlie Shavers and clarinetist Buster Bailey.
From 1958 Sullivan worked as a nurse before resuming her musical career in 1966, performing in jazz festivals alongside her fourth husband Cliff Jackson, who can be heard on the 1966 live recording of Sullivan's performance at the Manassas Jazz Festival. Sullivan continued to perform throughout the 1970s and made a string of recordings during the 1980s, despite being over 70 years old. She was nominated for the 1979 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical (won by Carlin Glynn) for her role in My Old Friends, and participated in the film biography Maxine Sullivan: Love to Be in Love, shortly before her death.
Sullivan married four times; her second husband was the band leader John Kirby (married 1938, divorced 1941), while her fourth husband, whom she married in 1950, was the stride pianist Cliff Jackson, who died in 1970. She had two children, Orville Williams (b. 1928) and Paula Morris (b. 1945). 
Maxine Sullivan died aged 75 in 1987 in New York after suffering a seizure. She was posthumously inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1998.
1956 - A Tribute to Andy Razaf (re-issued in 2006 as My Memories of You with two additional tracks)
1956 - Leonard Feather Presents Maxine Sullivan - 1956 (with Charlie Shavers, Dick Hyman, Oscar Pettiford, Milt Hinton, etc.)
1966 - Manassas Jazz Festival
1970 - Close as Pages in a Book (With Bob Wilber)
1981 - The Queen
1983 - Good Morning, Life!
1983 - It Was Great Fun
1984 - On Tour with the Allegheny Jazz Quintet
1984 - Songs from the Cotton Club
1985 - Uptown
1986 - Maxine Sullivan Live at Vine Street
1986 - Love Always
1986 - Maxine Sullivan Sings the Music of Burton Lane
1986 - Spring Isn't Everything
1986 - Swingin Sweet
1987 - Together: Maxine Sullivan Sings the Music of Jule Styne
1998 - Maxine Sullivan: The Ruban Blue Years (Complete Recordings 1944-1949)
2004 - Say it with a Kiss
2004 - Swinging Miss Loch Lomond 1952-1959
2007 - It's Wonderful
Film and television credits
1938 - Going Places (Film)
1939 - St. Louis Blues (Film)
1942 - Some of These Days (Short)
1949 - Sugar Hill Times Episode 1.2 (TV series)
1958 - Jazz Party (DuMont TV Series)
1970 - The David Frost Show (TV series)
1986 - Brown Sugar (Documentary)
1994 - A Great Day in Harlem (Documentary)
1939 - Swingin' the Dream
1953 - Take a Giant Step
1979 - My Old Friends