Meredith Blake

Photo of Meredith Blake

Vocalist Meredith Blake worked with a variety of jazz bands in the late 1930s but switched gears during the 1940s to sing in dance orchestras. Blake had an active career during the war years, appearing regularly on the radio and in several musical shorts. She married a serviceman and retired to domestic life in 1946.

The daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Blake claimed to be a native of Columbus Junction, Iowa, but public records show that her family moved several times during her youth. She was born in Panora, Iowa, but in 1920 her family lived in Albia, Iowa, and in 1930 they resided in Seaton, Illinois. Blake graduated from Virginia Intermont College[1] before attending the University of Wisconsin, where as an aspiring actress she appeared in college drama productions and on Madison radio station WHA. She also possessed a fine singing voice and regularly performed at the city’s Club Chanticleer. Leaving Madison for New York in 1938, she originally intended to pursue an acting career but changed her mind after supposedly receiving offers from Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw.

Blake sang with Billy Baer and Johnny “Scat” Davis before becoming part of Jack Teagarden’s new orchestra in early 1939, where she stayed through at least April, appearing on the band’s radio program. While with Teagarden, she asked permission to sing and plug a tune, “Darling, You Weren’t There,” written by her brother, Charles Balcoff. The affable Teagarden agreed. The song went nowhere, and when she left the band Teagarden discarded it from his book. The following year, Charles, by that time a graduate of the University of Wisconsin’s law school who worked in the legal research department for music publisher BMI, sued Teagarden for infringement, asking $5,000 for each performance of the tune. Balcoff had never published the song but still held the copyright. Nothing came of the suit.[2]

By June 1939, Blake was with Ruby Newman. She also sang with Don Bestor before joining fellow Iowan Jack Jenney later that year, staying with his orchestra through at least January 1940. By April, she had joined Gray Gordon, well-known purveyor of corn who was often kidded for his “tic-toc” rhythm. Blake remained with Gordon for more than a year, making two soundies with his band, “Scrub Me Mama to a Boogie Beat” and “Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar.”

Gordon eventually grew tired of his tic-toc rhythm, and in spring 1941 he junked his orchestra, forming an all-new jump band in its place. Blake stayed on as vocalist. The new group proved exciting and broke attendance records in its early engagements. Gordon, however, was deeply in debt, and in July, after the orchestra had completed an engagement in Atlantic City, he suddenly disbanded and fled to Illinois, leaving his musicians and singers, including Blake, stranded without pay or transportation back to New York.[3]

Blake soon returned to the city, and in August 1941 she joined Mitchell Ayres, replacing Mary Ann Mercer. She remained with Ayres until October 1942 when she left to do radio work. Paramount also signed her for a musical short. In June 1943, she married Alfred Preston Jump, a third officer on sea duty with the Army Transportation Corps.

By August 1943, Blake had joined Shep Fields, where she stayed for the next three years. Featured on Field’s CBS, NBC Blue and the Mutual Network radio programs, she made a number of recordings with the band and appeared on Margaret Arlen’s CBS television interview program in August 1944. In late 1945, she traveled overseas with the orchestra. She remained with Fields through at least mid-1946, retiring at some point soon after that to give birth to her first child, a son.[4]

In August 1951, Blake gave birth to a second son. At that time, her husband, now a civilian, was captain of the passenger vessel Alcon Cavalier. The couple lived in Mobile, Alabama, for thirty years before moving to Marlborough, Connecticut, in 1980. Meredith Blake passed away in 1985 at age 68. Her husband survived her, passing away in 1997.[5]

Notes

  1. Virginia Intermont College was, at the time, a two-year private college for women located in Bristol, Virginia. The college later became co-ed and began to offer four-year degrees before closing in 2014. ↩︎

  2. Charles was eight years older than his sister. In 1930, he worked as a school teacher in Seaton, Illinois. ↩︎

  3. Gordon was quickly suspended by the union and sued by his agency, to which he owed $10,000 in order to buy out his contract. His lawyer announced that he was attempting to put together enough money to pay off the agency and his band members. ↩︎

  4. 1950 census records, taken in April of that year, record Blake’s first child, Alfred Preston Junior, as three years old. ↩︎

  5. Blake’s cause of death was not mentioned in her obituary, however memorial donations were encouraged to be given to the American Heart Association. ↩︎

Sources

  1. The Online Discographical Project. Accessed 2 Jan. 2022.
  2. “Sidetracked.” Down Beat Mar. 1939: 4.
  3. Advertisement. “Jack Teagarden with His Conn Trombone Heads New Band!” Down Beat Apr. 1939: 13.
  4. Advertisement. “Show of the Week.” The Bronxville Review-Press [Bronxville, New York] 11 Jan. 1940: 10.
  5. “Night Club Reviews: Hotel Edison, New York.” Billboard 27 Apr. 1940: 19.
  6. Doudna, William L. “Notes to You...” The Wisconsin State Journal [Madison, Wisconsin] 7 May 1940: 3.
  7. “Jazz Jottings.” The Gettysburgian [Gettysburg, Pennsylvania] 16 May 1940: 2.
  8. “Here's Gratitude.” Down Beat 15 Aug. 1940: 2.
  9. “Former Iowa Girl With Gray Gordon Orchestra in East.” The Burlington Daily Hawk-Eye Gazette [Burlington, Iowa] 16 Nov. 1940: 6.
  10. “Gordon Changes Men In 'Tic-Toc' Flufoff.” Down Beat 1 Apr. 1941: 12.
  11. “New Gordon Jump Band A Big Click.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1941: 6.
  12. “Gray Gordon's Men Come off 'Worst Panic.'” Down Beat 15 Aug. 1941: 1, 5.
  13. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 6 Sep. 1941: 11.
  14. Doudna, William L. “Notes for You...” The Wisconsin State Journal [Madison, Wisconsin] 3 Oct. 1941: 1, 9.
  15. “Vaudeville Reviews: State, New York.” Billboard 19 Sep. 1942: 16.
  16. “It's Meredith.” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1942: 16.
  17. Doudna, William L. “Notes for You...” The Wisconsin State Journal [Madison, Wisconsin] 27 Mar. 1943: 10.
  18. Doudna, William L. “Notes for You...” The Wisconsin State Journal [Madison, Wisconsin] 31 Mar. 1943: 15.
  19. “Miss Balcoff and Alfred P. Jump Marriage Revealed.” Muscatine Journal and News-Tribune [Muscatine, Iowa] 29 Jun. 1943: 7.
  20. “Mrs. Jump.” Down Beat 1 Aug. 1943: 16.
  21. “On the Stand: Shep Fields.” Billboard 28 Aug. 1943: 16.
  22. “Vaudeville Reviews: Oriental, Chicago.” Billboard 2 Oct. 1943: 22.
  23. “Five Years Ago This Month.” Down Beat 1 Feb. 1944: 2.
  24. “Movie Machine Reviews.” Billboard 19 Feb. 1944: 59.
  25. “Fields Ork Fair 19G at Phil Earle.” Billboard 4 Mar. 1944: 29.
  26. “Shep fields Brings Blake as Vocalist For Military Ball.” Oberlin Review [Oberlin, Ohio] 19 May 1944: 1.
  27. “Music Grapevine.” Billboard 22 Jul. 1944: 23.
  28. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Aug. 1944: 5.
  29. Reed, Rod. “Sax Appeal Socko.” Down Beat 15 Aug. 1944: 3.
  30. “Television Reviews: CBS Television.” Billboard 19 Aug. 1944: 12.
  31. Rathbun, Joe. “Joe's Radio Parade.” The Zanesville Sunday Times-Signal [Zanesville, Ohio] 27 Aug. 1944: sec. 2, 10.
  32. “Final Bar.” Down Beat 1 Apr. 1945: 10.
  33. “Vaudeville Reviews: Strand, New York.” Billboard 2 Jun. 1945: 31.
  34. “Diggin' the Discs.” Down Beat 1 Dec. 1945: 8.
  35. “Movie Machine Reviews.” Billboard 20 Apr. 1946: 123.
  36. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 27 Jul. 1946: 124.
  37. “New Numbers.” Down Beat 5 Oct. 1951: 10.
  38. “The Change in Big T.” Down Beat 26 Nov. 1959: 19.
  39. “Death Notices: Meredith B. Jump.” The Hartford Courant [Hartford, Connecticut] 9 Aug. 1985: 29.
  40. “Iowa, County Births, 1880-1935,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XVN1-DYF : 1 April 2020), Mary Edith Balcoff, 9 Jun 1917; citing Iowa, United States; county district courts, Iowa; FHL microfilm 1,651,851.
  41. “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M81R-H5X : Sat Mar 09 04:01:24 UTC 2024), Entry for Theodore Balcoff and Edith Balcoff, 1920.
  42. “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XSB1-Y47 : Fri Mar 08 01:57:56 UTC 2024), Entry for Theador Balcoff and Edith Balcoff, 1930.
  43. “United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, Births, and Marriages 1980-2014,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QK71-9686 : Tue Oct 17 13:51:11 UTC 2023), Entry for Alfred P Jump and Meredith Balcoff Jump, 17 May 1997.
  44. “United States 1950 Census,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6XPG-JGD5 : Fri Oct 06 21:03:52 UTC 2023), Entry for Alfred Jump and Maredith Jump, 21 April 1950.
  45. “Connecticut Death Index, 1949-2001,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V6WK-YNW : 9 December 2014), MERED in entry for Alfred P Jump, 16 May 1997; from “Connecticut Death Index, 1949-2001,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2003); citing Portland, Middlesex, Connecticut, Connecticut Department of Health, Hartford.