Pat Cameron

aka Milli VernonMillie Vernon

Photo of Pat Cameron

Singer Pat Cameron had only minor success as a big band vocalist before finally hitting her stride in the mid-1950s as a jazz artist under a new name. Her first big break came early in 1944 when she joined Sonny Dunham’s orchestra, where she replaced Dorothy Claire. She remained with Dunham through at least mid-1944. By November she had become staff vocalist at WCAU in Philadelphia.

While with Dunham, Cameron met fellow vocalist Billy Usher, and the two married late in 1944. In early September 1945, Cameron, identified only as Usher’s wife, was attacked by a “crazed veteran” who “tried to kill her,” according to gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen. She “narrowly escaped with her life.”

At the beginning of 1946, Cameron joined her husband in Randy Brooks’ band. They both left by March. In mid-1946, she and Usher became part of George “Pee Wee” Erwin’s new outfit, where they spent two months in rehearsals. Erwin had no plans to tour with the band, intending it to supplement his recording and other work around the New York area.

In 1949, Cameron was expecting a child in October. By 1952, she had become a fixture in Atlantic City clubs. She signed with the BBS label that year, making her first recording, “Give Me, Give Me, Give Me.”

In 1956, Cameron changed her professional name to Milli Vernon[1] and released a jazz album on the Storyville label, her first LP. Introducing Milli Vernon received positive reviews and propelled her into the ranks of the era’s popular jazz singers. She recorded on the Argo label in 1959, and in 1962 Duke Ellington chose her to sing with his orchestra in a series of concerts. Vernon made her only known television appearance on The Merv Griffin show that year as well. She recorded on the Colpix label in 1963.

Vernon continued to sing and perform through at least 1970. Columnist Walter Winchell once referred to her as the protégée of tobacco heir L. Lorillard, though it’s unknown what part Lorillard might have played in Vernon’s career.

Notes

  1. Milli Vernon’s name is often misspelled “Millie” Vernon, especially on modern re-issues. “Milli” is the spelling used on her original record releases in the 1950s and 1960s. ↩︎

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  • One Night Stand: Sonny Dunham
    April 14, 1944 (AFRS) 29:10

Sources

  1. “What Goes On in the Entertainment World Back Home.” Yank 24 Mar. 1944: 17.
  2. “Vaudeville Reviews: Capitol, New York.” Billboard 1 Apr. 1944: 25.
  3. “Chicago Band Briefs.” Down Beat 15 May 1944: 4.
  4. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1944: 5.
  5. “Takes The Air.” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1944: 10.
  6. Kilgallen, Dorothy. “On Broadway.” Lowell Sun [Lowell, Massachusetts] 15 Sep. 1945: 11.
  7. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 14 Jan. 1946: 1.
  8. “Randy Brooks Changes Men.” Down Beat 8 Apr. 1946: 16.
  9. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1946: 1.
  10. “Pee Wee Erwin To Stay In NYC With New Band.” Down Beat 9 Sep. 1946: 3.
  11. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 8 Apr. 1949: 5.
  12. “Music as Written.” Billboard 16 Aug. 1952: 22.
  13. “Music as Written.” Billboard 18 Oct. 1952: 50.
  14. “L. Quarter Sets Name Parade.” Billboard 25 Oct. 1952: 17.
  15. “Alexander Agency.” Billboard 19 May 1956: 32.
  16. “Popular Records.” Down Beat 8 Aug. 1956: 19.
  17. Winchell, Walter. “Of New York.” The Terre Haute Tribune 8 Mar. 1957: 4.
  18. “Reviews of This Week's Singles.” Billboard 5 Oct. 1959: 37.
  19. “It Happened Last Night.” Sarasota Herald Tribune 26 May 1962: 19.
  20. “Complete Daily TV Schedule.” The Wilson Daily Times [Wilson, NC] 7 Nov. 1962: 14.
  21. “Singles Reviews.” Billboard 9 Mar. 1963: 29.
  22. “Signings.” Billboard 15 Aug. 1970: 26.