Vocalist Eugenie Baird grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and got her first professional break singing on local radio station KDKA while still in high school. Baird worked with local bandleader Baron Elliot before joining Tony Pastor in March 1941. Pastor picked her as his female vocalist after she sent him a picture and a recording of her voice. Baird remained with Pastor until late 1942, when reports had her suffering from “bad tonsils” in September and planning a vacation. Marcia Rice had taken her place by November, with Baird joining Jan Savitt at about the same time. In early 1943, she became part of Glen Gray’s Casa Loma Orchestra. Baird’s sister, Kay Marie, was also a vocalist, singing with Mal Hallett in 1941. Both Eugenie and Kay Marie auditioned for the Casa Loma Orchestra at the same time, with Eugenie winning the position.
Baird left Gray in November 1944 to become a regular on Bing Crosby’s radio program, spending a year there before getting her own program on the Mutual Network in 1946. She then went to work on Paul Whiteman’s show that same year. Baird was Whiteman’s go-to vocalist throughout the rest of that decade when he needed someone for a performance, touring with him in 1948. Baird also worked the theater and night club circuit as a solo act. She made a screen test for Paramount in early 1945.
Baird recorded with both Pastor and Casa Loma but not with Savitt, as her time with his group coincided with the American Federation of Musician’s recording ban. She also recorded two sides solo backed by Mel Torme and the Mel-Tones on Decca in 1945. She recorded on the Hi-Tone label in 1949.
In March 1948, Baird took over singing duties from Eileen Barton for the Broadway musical Angel in the Wings, earning her a Down Beat magazine cover on June 2, 1948. She remained with the show until it closed in September. In November 1951, Baird understudied Janet Blair during the Chicago run of the South Pacific touring unit.
Baird made regular appearances on radio and television in the late 1940s and early 1950s and had her own radio program on the Mutual network again in 1952-1953. The Mutual program cast Baird as a disc jockey, spinning the most requested songs from across the network’s affiliate stations. She recorded with Art Mooney’s orchestra on the MGM label in 1950 and solo on the small Vinrob label in 1953. In 1959, she recorded a popular album of Duke Ellington songs backed by members of Ellington’s orchestra. Baird was also popular for singing commercial jingles on television. In 1956, she toured military bases with Buddy Morrow’s band under a sponsorship from the Mennen Company, where she was plugged as “Miss Skin-bracer.”
Baird remained active singing through the 1950s, spending a year in England during the middle part of that decade. She retired in 1962 when she married Emerson “Bud” Mead, president of Smith-Corona, famous for their typewriters. Mead died in 1976. Eugenie Baird passed away from heart failure in 1988.
Mennen made toiletry products, such as deodorant and after-shave. Skin Bracer was their popular after-shave product of that time. The company is now owned by Colgate-Palmolive. ↩︎