A recent passing was overlooked by many and that’s a real shame, because she was one of the best of the big-band songbirds — in fact, she was sometimes known as the Savannah Nightingale. And although one of her regular singing partners – Frank Sinatra – became a legend, Connie Haines was a star in her time.
She didn’t start out life as Connie Haines. The Savannah native was born Yvonne Marie Antoinette Ja Mais, the daughter of a music teacher. Not surprisingly, her mother steered young Yvonne onto a musical route from an early age. She began appearing in amateur shows and on stage, and before she was ten she was showing up on local radio, billed as Baby Yvonne Marie, the Little Princess of the Air. Eventually she began to appear on the national scene, with a win in the Major Bowes amateur show and a stint with Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra.
By the late 1930’s, the newly-named Connie Haines had signed on as the regular female vocalist for the Harry James band, singing alongside Sinatra, who was in his early twenties at that time. She was just sixteen but even though Sinatra eventually emerged as the bigger star, Connie held her in own in most of their performances. She was attractive and vivacious, with a bouncy, upbeat singing style.
Although the James band was popular, it eventually encountered financial difficulties and both singers moved on to sign with Tommy Dorsey. It was there that they really hit their stride, with a string of hits that included “Oh, Look At Me Now,” “What Is This Thing Called Love,” and “Two Dreams Met.”
Eventually Connie moved on to the Bob Crosby band, and Sinatra went off to pursue a solo career. Connie’s career continued to flourish in the war years and later, with successes on the night club circuit, record sales, and even a few spots in the movies. By the early 1950’s, she was appearing regularly on TV variety shows, with some of her most popular appearances taking place on singer Frankie Laine’s program. (Video below.)
She continued performing for many years, although inevitably slowing down in the decades leading up to her death. She should be remembered as one of the best of the songbirds.