There are many hidden treasures within the Soundies output, and this is certainly one of them. Until the contracts for the session turned up many years ago, nobody had suggested that the pianist with the combo might be the legendary Lady Will Carr. More about her latter.

Featured in this Soundie is Gene Rodgers, a fine pianist perhaps best known for the four-bar introduction on Coleman Hawkins’s classic recording of Body and Soul. Rodgers was indeed a fine technician with a great deal of imagination, but here he takes the back seat to the all-woman jazz combo, The Vs. We’ll let the group’s drummer, Iverne Whittaker, take over from here in an excerpt from a telephone interview (November 1997):

“So, it was sometime in 1938, I suppose, and bandleader Floyd Ray had heard me and Willie Lee [Von] Terrell sing, I don’t recall where, and he convinced our parents to allow us to travel with him on a series of one-nighters and theater dates. We got to Texas, and Ivy [Ivy Ann Glasko] joined us, making it a trio. Ivy had a great voice, and she would get solo songs with the band, along with singing with the trio. We recorded some sides [Decca Records] in 1939, although I haven’t heard them in years. Now we were billed as The Vs, and we played many top locations with Floyd’s orchestra, including the Apollo (twice, once with the Nicholas Brothers) and the Palladium in Los Angeles. I think we recorded with the band when we were in New York City.”

After the Ray orchestra broke up — the draft did it in— we stayed together, working as a vocal trio, and then taking up instruments as a matter of convenience and necessity. Around this time, around 1944, Lady Will Carr joined the group, making it a real jumping quartet. We were really together, and we played throughout the city, including Hollywood and Central Avenue. We played Billy Berg’s Swing Club in Hollywood, also the Streets of Paris. I think the Streets of Paris was on Hollywood Blvd. We also made it down to Central Avenue and I recall playing at The Last Word and Jack’s Basket Room. Lady Will was by far the best musician in the group, and she would sit in on piano. The men all respected her playing.”

            Lady Will Carr’s discography is sadly a slender one. Along with two or three dates that also feature Charles Mingus, Carr helps back vocalists Bob Parrish and Al Hibbler. She solos on each of the three Soundies with the Vs, making this series an important one both musically and historically.