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Helen Humes
 
 
  • Born in Louisville in 1913, Humes got her gift of song from her parents, who often performed duets together at church and social functions.
  • By 1937 her aspirations to perform had taken her as far away as Albany, New York.  While performing with the Al Sears band at the Cotton Club in Cincinnati, Helen Humes was spotted by “The King of Swing,” Count Basie.  He invited her to replace Billie Holiday and join his band as a singer, but she declined because she didn’t want to venture too far from home.  The following year, Count Basie again invited her to join his band, and this time she accepted.
  • Helen Humes left the Count Basie Orchestra  in 1942 and settled in California.  She worked with various bands and wrote and recorded “Be-baba-leba,” which was a commercial hit. 
  • Humes recorded tunes for films and television, and appeared in the Hollywood production of Langston Hughes’ play, Simply Heaven.  In between projects she came home to Louisville, occasionally staying for months at a time.
  • Upon her mother’s death in 1973, Humes sold her records and piano and resolved  never to sing again.  In 1973, music critic Stanley Dance asked her to appear with Count Basie at the Newport Jazz Festival. 
  • Slowly she resumed her career and during the late 1970s, Humes enjoyed a second career hiatus.