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Annie Ross

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Annie Ross
Annabelle McCauley Allan Short

(1930-07-25)25 July 1930
Mitcham, Surrey, England
(now in London)
Died21 July 2020(2020-07-21) (aged 89)
  • Singer
  • Actress
Sean Lynch
(m. 1963; div. 1977)
Musical career
Years active1937–2017
Formerly ofLambert, Hendricks & Ross

Annie Ross (born Annabelle McCauley Allan Short[1][2]; 25 July 1930 – 21 July 2020) was a British-American singer and actress, best known as a member of the influential jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. She pioneered the vocalese style of jazz singing,[3][4] with a style described by critic Dave Gelly as "a kind of dreamy watchfulness that is a definition of 1950s hip."[4] In 2010, she was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.[5]

Kenneth Tynan, who wrote liner notes for Ross, called her "a fallen angel" who "moves us and then brushes off our sympathy with a shrug of her lips."[6]

Early life[edit]

Ross was born in Surrey, England,[2] the daughter of Scottish vaudevillians John "Jack" Short and Mary Dalziel Short (née Allan). Her brother was Scottish entertainer and theatre producer and director Jimmy Logan.[7] She first appeared on stage at age three.[2] At the age of four, she travelled to New York by ship with her family; she later recalled that they "got the cheapest ticket, which was right in the bowels of the ship."[8]

Shortly after arriving in the city, she won a token contract with MGM through a children's radio contest run by Paul Whiteman. She subsequently moved with her aunt, Scottish-American singer and actress Ella Logan, to Los Angeles, and her mother, father and brother returned to Scotland.[8] She did not see her parents again until fourteen years later.[2] At the age of seven, she sang "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond" in Our Gang Follies of 1938, and played Judy Garland's character's sister in Presenting Lily Mars (1943).[9][10]

At the age of 14, she wrote the song "Let's Fly", which won a songwriting contest and was recorded by Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers.[10][11]

At the end of 10th grade, she left school, changed her name to Annie Ross, and went to Europe, where she established her singing career.[9] She changed her surname to Ross during the plane trip to Prestwick; in a 2011 interview, she said: "My aunt was very fanciful and she said I had an Irish grandmother called Ross, so that's where that surname came from."[12]


In 1952, Ross met Prestige Records owner Bob Weinstock, who asked her to write lyrics to a jazz solo in a similar way to King Pleasure, a practice that would later be known as vocalese. The next day, she presented him with "Twisted", a treatment of saxophonist Wardell Gray's 1949 composition of the same name, a classic example of the genre.[8][13][14] The song, first released in 1952 (later collected on the album King Pleasure Sings/Annie Ross Sings), was an underground hit, and resulted in her winning Down Beat magazine's New Star award.[9][13][15]

In February 1956, the British music magazine NME reported that Ross's version of the song "I Want You to Be My Baby" was banned by the BBC due to the lyric "Come upstairs and have some loving".[16]

She recorded seven albums with Lambert, Hendricks & Ross between 1957 and 1962.[17] Their first, Sing a Song of Basie (1957), was to have been performed by a group of singers hired by Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert with Ross brought in only as vocal consultant. It was decided that the trio should attempt to record the material and overdub all the additional vocals themselves, but the first two tracks were recorded and deemed unsatisfactory so they ditched the dubbing idea. The resulting album was a success, and the trio became an international hit. Over the next five years, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross toured all over the world and recorded such albums as The Hottest New Group in Jazz (1959), Sing Ellington (1960), High Flying (1962), and The Real Ambassadors (1962), written by Dave Brubeck and featuring Louis Armstrong and Carmen McRae.[18][19]

Ross left the group in 1962.[13] In 1964 she opened a nightclub in London. Annie's Room hosted Joe Williams, Nina Simone, Stuff Smith, Blossom Dearie, Anita O'Day, Jon Hendricks, and Erroll Garner.[19]

Her adulthood film roles included Liza in Straight On till Morning (1972), Claire in Alfie Darling (1976), Diana Sharman in Funny Money (1983), Vera Webster in Superman III (1983), Mrs. Hazeltine in Throw Momma from the Train (1987), Rose Brooks in Witchery (1988), Loretta Cresswood in Pump Up the Volume (1990), Tess Trainer in Robert Altman's Short Cuts (1993), and Lydia in Blue Sky (1994). She also appeared as Granny Ruth in the horror films Basket Case 2 (1990) and Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1991). She also had a bit part in Robert Altman's The Player in 1992. Ross also starred in Scottish Television's comedy-drama Charles Endell Esquire (1979).[20]

She provided the speaking voice for Britt Ekland in The Wicker Man (1973), and Ingrid Thulin's singing voice in Salon Kitty (1976). On stage, she appeared in Cranks (1955; London and New York City), The Threepenny Opera (1972), The Seven Deadly Sins (1973) at the Royal Opera House, Kennedy's Children (1975) at Arts Theatre, London, Side by Side by Sondheim, and in the Joe Papp production of The Pirates of Penzance (1982).[19]

Personal life[edit]

In 1949, Ross had a brief affair with drummer Kenny Clarke. This affair produced a son, Kenny Clarke Jr. (born 1950), who was raised by Clarke's brother and his wife.[9][21] During her time with Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, she became addicted to heroin and in the late 1950s had an affair with the comedian Lenny Bruce, who was also having drug problems. By 1960, Carol Sloane was substituting for her on tour. After a performance by the trio in London in May 1962, she remained in London to confront her drug addiction.[9]

In 1963, she married actor Sean Lynch; they divorced in 1975, and he died in a car crash soon afterwards.[9][10] By that time, she had also lost her home and declared bankruptcy.[9]

She became a United States citizen in 2001.[8]

Ross died in New York City on 21 July 2020 from emphysema and heart disease, four days before her 90th birthday.[22][18][23]

Awards and honours[edit]

Ross received the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame award (2009),[2] the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters' Award (2010),[8] and the MAC Award for Lifetime Achievement (2011).[24]

In July 2006 a one-woman play entitled TWISTED: The Annie Ross Story by Brian McGeachan premiered at The Space Theatre in London, starring Verity Quade. It focused on her stormy relationship with her aunt, Broadway legend Ella Logan, her brief affair with the comedian Lenny Bruce and her addiction to heroin.[25] The play transferred to the Brockley Jack Theatre in London that same year, with Ross being played by Betsy Pennington.[26]

A documentary about Ross's life, entitled No One But Me, premiered at the Glasgow Film Festival in 2012.[27]


  • New Sounds from France with Jack Dieval, James Moody (Prestige, 1950)[28]
  • Annie by Candlelight with Tony Crombie (Pye, Nixa, 1956)[29]
  • Cranks with John Cranko, John Addison (His Master's Voice, 1956)[29]
  • Gypsy with Buddy Bregman (World Pacific, 1959)[29]
  • A Gasser! with Zoot Sims (World Pacific, 1959)[29]
  • Annie Ross Sings a Song with Mulligan! with Gerry Mulligan (World Pacific, 1959) [8]
  • Sings a Handful of Songs (Ember, 1963) [8]
  • Loguerhythms: Songs from the Establishment with Tony Kinsey (Transatlantic, 1963)[29]
  • Portrait of Annie Ross (Pye, 1965)[30]
  • Recorded at the Tenth German Jazz Festival in Frankfurt with Pony Poindexter (SABA, 1966)[31]
  • Fill My Heart with Song (Decca, 1968)[29]
  • Singin' 'n' Swingin with Dorothy Dunn, Shelby Davis (Savoy, 1969)[28]
  • You and Me Baby (Decca, 1971)[29]
  • In Hoagland with Hoagy Carmichael, Georgie Fame (Bald Eagle, 1981)[29]
  • Like Someone in Love (Bulldog, 1983)[32]
  • Music Is Forever (DRG, 1996)[8]
  • Live in London (Harkit, 2003)[28]
  • To Lady with Love (Red Anchor, 2014)[28]

With Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks


Year Title Role Notes
1943 Presenting Lily Mars Rosie [34]
1972 Straight On till Morning Liza [35]
1974 The Beast Must Die Caroline Newcliffe Voice, uncredited[36]
1974 Dead Cert Mrs. Mervyn Uncredited[37]
1976 Alfie Darling Claire [35]
1976 Salon Kitty Kitty Kellermann Singing voice[38]
1979 Yanks Red Cross Lady [35]
1983 Superman III Vera Webster [35]
1983 Funny Money Diana Sharman [35]
1987 Throw Momma from the Train Mrs. Hazeltine [35]
1988 Trading Hearts Deputy [39]
1988 Witchery Rose Brooks [40]
1990 Basket Case 2 Granny Ruth [35]
1990 Pump Up the Volume Loretta Creswood [35]
1991 Basket Case 3: The Progeny Granny Ruth [35]
1992 The Player Herself [35]
1993 Short Cuts Tess Trainer / Vocals – Annie Ross & The Low Note Quintet [35]
1994 Blue Sky Lydia [35]


  1. ^ "Annie Ross on piano jazz". NPR. 17 December 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e Piccalo, Gina (22 July 2020). "Annie Ross, jazz singer and actress who overcame demons, dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  3. ^ Gavin, James (22 July 2020). "Annie Ross, Mid-Century Jazz Icon, Dead At 89". NPR.
  4. ^ a b Fordham, John (27 July 2020). "Annie Ross obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  5. ^ "Annie Ross". www.arts.gov. 25 July 1930. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  6. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (21 October 1993). "We're All Connected". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  7. ^ Annie Ross profile, FilmReference.com; accessed 12 November 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Don Ball, ed. (22 September 2009). "Interview by Molly Murphy for the National Endowment for the Arts". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Gavin, James (3 October 1993). "A Free-Spirited Survivor Lands on Her Feet". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  10. ^ a b c Hendry, Steve (16 December 2012). "Jazz icon Annie Ross discusses her life and why she'd do it all again". Daily Record. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  11. ^ Russell, Sue. "Ross, Annie (Annabelle Short)". Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  12. ^ Simpson, Anne (14 June 2011). "A Gift from the Gods". heraldscotland.com. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  13. ^ a b c Bush, John. "Annie Ross biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  14. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Wardell Gray". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 December 2011.
  15. ^ "Annie Ross". B.H. Hopper Management. Retrieved 24 December 2011.
  16. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books. p. 23. CN 5585.
  17. ^ a b c d Voce, Steve (3 October 2019). "Lambert, Hendricks And Ross: The Early Years 1954-59". Jazz Journal. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  18. ^ a b c d Schudel, Matt (21 July 2020). "Annie Ross, mainstay of 'the greatest jazz vocal group that ever was,' dies at 89". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  19. ^ a b c Barnes, Mike. "Annie Ross, Grammy-Winning Jazz Singer, Dies at 89". Billboard. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  20. ^ "Annie Ross". IMDb. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  21. ^ Kernfeld, Barry (1999). "Clarke, Kenny". American National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1802594.
  22. ^ Tarby, Russ (21 July 2020). "'Twisted' lyricist, vocalese pioneer Annie Ross has Died". The Syncopated Times. Retrieved 21 July 2020.
  23. ^ "Jazz singer Annie Ross dies aged 89". BBC News. 22 July 2020. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  24. ^ "Annie Ross". Manhattan Association of Cabarets. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  25. ^ "Star Wars fan gets phonecall from Princess Leia". Kirkintilloch Herald. 11 July 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  26. ^ "Productions". Brockley Jack Theatre. Archived from the original on 6 March 2010. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  27. ^ "Musician/Actress Annie Ross Coming to the Festival". glasgowfilm.org. 9 February 2012. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  28. ^ a b c d e f "Annie Ross Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h "Annie Ross Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  30. ^ "Portrait Of Annie Ross". All About Jazz. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  31. ^ "Annie Ross & Pony Poindexter with The Berlin All Stars – Recorded At The Tenth German Jazz Festival In Frankfurt (1967)". AnyJazz. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  32. ^ "Like Someone In Love". Amazon. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  33. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Lambert, Hendricks and Ross Sing Ellington". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  34. ^ "Presenting Lily Mars". Library of Congress. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Annie Ross List of Movies and TV Shows". TV Guide. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  36. ^ "The Beast Must Die". Library of Congress. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  37. ^ "Dead Cert". Library of Congress. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  38. ^ "Salon Kitty". Library of Congress. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  39. ^ Gifford, Storm (22 July 2020). "'Short Cuts,' 'Twisted' actress-singer Annie Ross dead at 89". New York Daily News. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  40. ^ "Witchery (1988)". Rotten Tomatoes. March 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2020.

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