This page provides documentation on the life and career of jazz vocalist Eugenie Baird (c. 1924-1988) who had an active stage, recording and radio career in the 1940s and 1950s.
Advertisements for Baird's appearances at Pittsburgh's Stanley Theater with Tony Pastor and his orchestra in October 1941 and with Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra in November 1943 both read "featuring Pittsburgh's Own Eugenie Baird." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 3, 1941; Pittsburgh Press, November 5, 1943)
She was described as a "local vocal vision" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and "the Pittsburgh girl" in the Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph. (October 4, 1941)
In 1948, advertisements for her engagement at Pittsburgh's Copa announced, "Pittsburgh's Darling Daughter Comes Home." (Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, September 20, 1948; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tuesday, September 21, 1948)
Local bandleader Benny Burton complained that after Baird's career peak, when she returned to perform in Pittsburgh, she didn't acknowledge it as her hometown. (OHMP 103)
The Pittsburgh Press more specifically described her as "the girl from Brookline." (November 6, 1943) Brookline is a neighborhood on the southern edge of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph stated she was "the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Baird of 2715 Norabell Ave., Brookline" in an article saying she was "back home again -- singing in a local club." (September 21, 1948)
To further complicate matters, though, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described her as "the Mt. Lebanon girl who went from KDKA here to Bing Crosby's radio music hall." (September 20, 1948). It is possible that Eugenie or her family moved from Brookline to the more upscale Mt. Lebanon borough just outside the southern city limits of Pittsburgh, but this is unlikely for two reasons. An article stated she was "a student at Langley High School" which is a city school serving Brookline and not Mt. Lebanon. (Montreal Gazette, August 17, 1948) Secondly, an article about an auto crash that killed Eugenie's brother, Eugene, stated, "Police said all four youths lived within a few blocks of each other in Pittsburgh's Brookline district." (New Castle News, December 19, 1953)
New York City
Though it's unclear exactly when Baird moved away from Pittsburgh, she was on the road with Tony Pastor's orchestra as early as 1941 and was regularly recording in New York throughout the early 1940s. In 1945, she "joined Bing Crosby as his singing partner for a whole season on his NBC 'Music Hall' series." (Naugatuck Daily News, July 19, 1947)
A cruise ship passenger list from February 1951 lists the 26 year old and unmarried Eugenie Baird as living at 220 East 73rd Street, New York, NY. Interestingly, her New York apartment's cupboards were full of cups, saucers, bowls and plates that she made herself: "Back home in Pittsburgh years ago, Eugenie became interested in ceramics, and when she earned her first big check for singing pop ballads, she invested in a small kiln and all the necessary equipment to make her own pottery." (Schenectady Gazette, November 8, 1952)
According to Dave Goodrich's Key to the City: a Guide to Pittsburgh Music, History, Entertainment & More, which documents events between 1928 and 1954, we know of at least 5 performance engagements of Baird in Pittsburgh:
October 3, 1941
with Tony Pastor and His Orchestra
- Stanley Theater, 237 7th Street, Downtown
January 8, 1943
with Jan Savitt and His Famous Top Hatters Orchestra
- Stanley Theater, 237 7th Street, Downtown
November 5, 1943
with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra
- Stanley Theater, 237 7th Street, Downtown
September 20, 1948
as the headliner
- Lenny Litman's Copa, 818 Liberty Avenue, Downtown
July 31, 1950
as the headliner with comedian Lennie Colyer and dancer Harriet Lane
- Jackie Heller's Carousel, 815 Liberty Avenue, Downtown
(A September 21, 1948 article in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph proclaimed,
"Eugenie...will appear with Paul Whiteman's orchestra in Syria Mosque
on Oct. 18," but no ads, announcements, or reviews of the performance
can be found in local papers around that date. Also, liner notes to the
Eugenie Baird Sings, Duke's Boys Play Ellington album from 1958
described her as having gone from local radio to "night clubs around her
home area" and having performed at the Hotel Statler [Hotel William Penn]
in Pittsburgh but dates have yet to be confirmed.)
As with many female performers, both now and then, accounts of Baird frequently mentioned her physical appearance:
"In the vocal end are Eugenie Baird, the Pittsburgh girl, and Johnny McAfee,
each quite easy on the ear, to say nothing of Miss Baird's claim to the
eye." (Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, October 4, 1941)
"Mr. Pastor...has in Miss Eugenie Baird, a local, vocal vision..." (Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette, October 4, 1941)
"...Miss Eugenie Baird, a package of oomph from Pittsburgh...sells both
songs and sex-appeal with equal ease and in exactly the proper proportions."
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 9, 1943)
"[Baird's] entrance was the signal for a chorus of approving whistles
from the younger bloods present at the Stanley.... She certainly fills
that red gown with éclat -- with something anyway!" (Pittsburgh
Press, January 9, 1943)
"In Pittsburgh's Miss Eugenie Baird, the outfit has a voice and a face
that would caress the ear or grace a magazine cover with equal credit."
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 6, 1943)
"Mr. Gray's vocal numbers are done most pleasantly by Eugenie Baird, comely
songbird of these parts..." (Pittsburgh Press, November 6, 1943)
In 1944, the editor of Metronome magazine, George T. Simon described
her as "the prettiest girl I've ever seen in front of a band, and, in
addition, the possessor of one of the prettiest voices I've ever heard
in back of a microphone." (Ragan, David, Who's
Who in Hollywood: The Largest Cast of International Film Personalities
Ever Assembled, New York: Facts on File, 1992)
Simon also wrote years later in his Big Bands book that Tony
Pastor's bandstand "showcased the gorgeous and very talented Eugenie Baird,
who [later] became one of the top jingle singers." (Simon, George T. The
Big Bands. NY: Schirmer, 1981)
Even though it was in an article about a radio show, the Naugatuck Daily
News described Eugenie Baird as "a five-foot-four brunette" and then said
later in the same article that she had "a cascade of jet black hair."
(July, 19, 1947)
Abbot Lutz's liner notes to the 1958 album Eugenie Baird Sings, Duke's
Boys Play Ellington, declared, "Slim, curvaceous and charming, the
titian-haired darling Miss Eugenie Baird is one of the truly versatile
young singers in show business today. Here is a triple-threat professional
who can hold an audience entranced in a theatre, supper-club, radio appearance
or on your television set."
Eugenie Baird's recording career spanned from 1941-1958.
In her early career, she did numerous sessions with the following groups:
And single sessions with:
"My Heart Tells Me"
-- Recorded with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra in October 1943. According to Thomas S. Hischak's Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia, this sold over a million discs and stayed on Your Hit Parade for nineteen weeks. In Pop Memories 1890-1954, Joel Whitburn claimed it was on the charts for 21 weeks including 5 weeks at number 1.
"My Shining Hour"
-- Also recorded with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra in October 1943. In Hischak's American Musical Film Song Encyclopedia, Baird's version is described as "a bestseller" and Whitburn's Pop Memories stated it reached no. 4 on the charts.
"Suddenly It's Spring"
-- Recorded with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra in February 1944. According to Hischak, the Baird version with Gray "popularized the song."
"Don't Take Your Love From Me"
-- Recorded with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra in June 1944.
"I Fall in Love Too Easily"
-- Recorded with Mel Tormé and his Mel-Tones in April 1945.
"Say 'Si Si'"
-- Charted in 1953. Recording information unknown.
All of the above songs (except for "Say 'Si Si'") were released on the Decca record label.
More detailed discographical information can be found in the Tom Lord Jazz Discography.
KDKA Pittsburgh - early 1940s
NBC - Kraft Music Hall with Bing Crosby, 1944-1945
ABC - Forever Tops with Paul Whiteman, 1946
NBC - Alec Templeton Time, summer 1947
CBS - Sing It Again, 1948
CBS - Robert Q. Lewis Show, 1949
NBC/ABC - The Breakfast Club, unspecified year
Timothy A. Morgereth's Bing Crosby: A Discography, Radio Program List and Filmography lists all the episodes of NBC's "Kraft Music Hall," recorded in Los Angeles, from Program No. 360 (November 9, 1944) to Program No. 388 (June 28, 1945) where Baird appeared with Crosby and what songs she sang.
Thomas A. DeLong's Pops: Paul Whiteman, King of Jazz describes Whiteman's choosing of Baird for his 1946 radio show both on the West Coast and New York. He wrote, "For the next two or three years Eugenie was on call as Pops's chief band and concert singer."
Eugenie Baird also had her own radio show at various times from 1946 to possibly as late as 1965 on ABC, MBS, and CBS.
Eugenie Baird appeared in the Broadway musical "Angel in the Wings" which ran for 308 performances at the Coronet Theatre from December 11, 1947 to September 4, 1948.
The "Charming Wife of a Top Executive"
Baird's career appears to have ended in the 1960s. Her obituary in Variety stated, "She retired upon marrying Emerson (Bud) Meade [i.e., Mead], president of Smith-Corona." (Variety, June 29, 1988) They were married on July 11, 1962 and Mead (1916-1976) had four children from his previous marriage. (Who's Who in the East, 14th ed. 1974-1975; "Emerson Mead, 59, Was Head of SCM," obit., New York Times, May 19, 1976)
In 1969, an article titled "Meet Charming Wife of a Top Executive" about Mrs. Emerson E. Mead appeared in a Minnesota newspaper. It stated:
"It's nice listening to Mrs. Mead. She's enthusiastic and her voice is exceptionally pleasing. You have the feeling you've met her before. Then it all clicks and you realize you have. She's Eugenie Baird. Before her marriage she sang with Tony Pastor and Glen Gray, appeared on top television shows, toured with 'South Pacific' and made countless commercials -- the singing kind."Then, though it said, "She doesn't seem to miss the spotlight at all," it went on to quote her: "'Once in awhile I get thinking I ought to do something about singing again. It would be fun to do some commercials...and if something came up, I might.' She still gets together with her old accompanist and sings -- but just for fun." (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, July 17, 1969)
In addition to her parents Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Baird and her brother Eugene, all mentioned above, Eugenie had a sister named Kay Marie who was also a singer. In 1941, Kay Marie was "singing with Mal Hallett." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 29, 1941) In 1943, Eugenie "found her path crossing that of her sister, Kay Marie, when she auditioned for Glen Gray's Casa Loma band. Her sister was her chief competition, but Eugenie won out and got the job." (Naugatuck Daily News, July 19, 1947)
It's not surprising that the Baird sisters were both performers since their parents "had an extensive theatrical background" according to the liner notes to Eugenie Baird Sings, Duke's Boys Play Ellington.
A 1988 obituary in Variety magazine announced that "Eugenie Baird, 63, big band and radio singer, died June 12 of heart failure in Brewster, N.Y." (Variety, June 29, 1988)
This page was created in November 2011 by Timothy R. Williams, Music Librarian, in collaboration with Mike Plaskett of the radio show Rhythm Sweet & Hot. Updated July 2012.
Go to Pittsburgh Jazz Musicians page.