During the big band era almost every orchestra had a songbird, a female vocalist who not only performed with the band but also provided a little glamour. For some of them it was their first real exposure to the big time, but there were a few who were already pretty well established before they joined a band. A good example was Lurlean Hunter, who was a Chicago club performer well before her service as a band singer.
Mississippi-born but raised in Chicago, while still in her teens she began showing up in area clubs during the years leading up to World War II. She continued to work pretty steadily during the conflict and in the post-war years, often appearing at the Club DeLisa. She also had stints with several bands, including those of Fletcher Henderson and Johnny Campbell.
A talented and stylish singer with a lush, smooth voice, within a few years Hunter had established herself well enough to land a recording contract, and by the 1950s had begun to build up a solid collection of good records. She then moved up to a better deal with RCA Records in New York and did some of her best work, making several well-received albums. That success paved the way for her to make some high profile appearances on national TV and in some of the bigger clubs around the country.
By the 1960s she was mostly working in and around Chicago again, appearing regularly in a musical radio show while continuing to issue the occasional record. She would eventually manage a club of her own, but she was also ready to slow down a little and raise a family, and she soon did just that. By the time she died at age 63 in 1983, she was living in Michigan and was pretty much retired from music.