One of the great things about this job is that we get to meet interesting people, learn things from them and then pass it on to you! About two months ago I received a request from a researcher in California looking for any local information about a nonagenarian female jazz singer from Aubrey, Texas. Naturally, being a jazz junkie, my ears perked up. Texas has been the home and genesis of many greats but this one had me intrigued. It didn’t take me long to find alot of information about Mary Louise Tobin and her website.
The Newspaper Archives database available from our Special Collections/Genealogy page has the Denton Record-Chronicle from 1909-1977 searchable by keyword. You can read her biography at her homepage linked above and there are other articles here and here. But, for those who want to dig a little deeper, she shows up frequently in the DRC in the early-to-mid ’30s:
She was on the honor roll for the North Ward School in January of 1931 (DRC, 1/30/31).
Sang “Nobody Cares If I’m Blue” at a Junior High fundraiser (DRC, 4/28/31).
Recovering from an attack of diptheria (!) (DRC 2/29/32).
Elected officer of the 1934 Denton High School “Justimere” (?) Club (DRC, 1/29/34).
Performed as part of a dance program at DHS in Feb. 1934 (DRC, 2/13/34).
But, finally we see when she makes the jump from semi-pro to professional (and eventually drops “Mary” from her name)-
One of the most fascinating, perhaps even startling, things to read was that she was described as a “blues singer” when she began her professional career. Pretty cool for a 16-17 year old. In fact, when she resumed her career in the late 1950’s, noted jazz critic Whitney Balliett compared her to Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald. YouTube goodness here.
Ah, the joys of reading a small town newspaper where everyone knew everyone else’s business, and then published it!