I’ve written a lot of posts about various Songbirds — the ladies who got their start by singing with the big bands — and even though many of them went through bad times, most managed to persevere and have a nice career. However, that wasn’t always the case. Ann Richards seemed to have everything going for her, including talent, beauty, and even marriage to a famous bandleader, but she came to a tragic end when she took her own life in 1982.
A native of San Diego, Margaret Ann Borden pointed toward a musical career while growing up, studying singing and even teaching herself to play the piano. By the time she was in her late teens she was calling herself Ann Richards, and was looking for professional opportunities in the West Coast jazz world of the early 1950s.
Although the age of the big bands was winding down by then, several good outfits were riding out the transition to a newer style of music. After spending some time learning the ropes with Charlie Barnet’s group she moved on in 1955 to a job with Stan Kenton, who was then in the midst of a long career as a bandleader, one that would see many ups and down. Kenton was much taken with the gorgeous and talented young singer, featuring her front and center in concert and on records. Before long he even married her in spite of their nearly 25-year age difference.
The rest of the decade went well — the couple even had two children along the way — but the 1960s brought a lot of change. It started in 1961, with the duo sharing the cover of a new album, Two Much!, but later the same year they split up. Details are fuzzy, but the timing seemed to match her decision to appear in Playboy magazine. Hoping for a boost to her solo singing career, she instead found herself in the midst of a scandal. Even though the pictures were tame by today’s standards, at that time it was unusual for a celebrity — even a minor one — to pose in Playboy, and it seemed to begin a downward spiral for the singer. Although she made a few more records and continued to make occasional club appearances in later years, she never really recovered her equilibrium and finally committed suicide at just age 46.
Ann Richards – “An Occasional Man”
10 thoughts on “The Lost Voice Of Ann Richards”
At first glance this morning at your post I concluded that it was no wonder why Ann Richards had been elected governor of Texas. Further investigation revealed however that was the wrong Ann Richards.
Actually I was not aware at all of this young lady, either as an artist or as having graced the pages of Playboy. She has a great voice and as I listen to her the voice is quite reminiscent of someone but as to who I can’t say! Thanks for sharing…
Yeah, when I was researching for this I kept getting a raft of stuff about the Gov. Finally put a -texas into the search field and that narrowed it down. Still not a lot of detail around about the 1961 kerfuffle, although I did find something about Stan Kenton’s daughter (from his first wife) writing about resurfaced memories of her dad’s improper behavior towards her when she was a pre-teen. He died in 1979 and she wrote about it in 2010.
Saw a Lp from her recently… that I didn’t get. Should have as I find her very very good.
Her Playboy pic seem tame enough if w compare to all the silly nude pics some singer do all the time nowadays.
Thanks for another nice lady to discover.
A couple of her Playboy pics were a little more risque than the one I chose but still pretty tame, even for 1961 as I remember it.
Whoops! My comment: I was lucky enough to see Ann Richards on a tour with Stan Kenton. I thought that she had the ideal voice singing with a big band jazz band, especially the likes of Kenton. I do recall hearing of Kenton being furious over the playboy appearance and probably led to the divorce. However, with all the BS out there I could be wrong. At one time there was a forum for Kenton alumni players where this info should have been posted. Maybe this is where I read about it. Someone mentioned that AR voice reminded her of someone and that could be, with a stretch, Ella Fitzgerald. I’m off to see where I can once again listen to her work. The album here on this site was fabulous!
Always enjoy hearing about real-life experiences with the subjects of our posts. Best I can do is a dim memory of seeing a touring rock and roll show that might – or might not – have included Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
Interesting to see the comments. I knew Ann reasonably well, have all of her recorded work, and saw her at various venues dozens of times. Without trying to start anything inappropriate, I’ll point out that she was understandably proud of her looks. Thus, it seems highly unlikely that she would shoot herself in the
head with a rifle, which, by the way, belonged to her estranged husband William Botts, and was supposedly left behind when he moved out of the house she owned. Also interesting is the fact that the home had been free and clear prior to the marriage, but had been mortgaged by Botts while Ann was performing in Japan. He fancied himself a movie producer and became involved in a project that did not pan out as anticipated and the funds were lost.
I met her back in 1954…..she was the childhood friend of a friend of mine who I worked with. We were all jazz lovers and she at the time had been singing with the Charlie Barnet band. Soon after, she got a gig with Stan Kenton……she was a beautiful young woman…..so sad she took her own life….
I was a close friend of Dear Ann. We met at the Etc. Club when she was performing and later at the Bel Air lounge. She was a great talent. She appeared in a staged reading of my musical. This was before and after her tragic death. She was under so much stress and was counting on a concert session becoming a New Album. It was great and should be released Now!
I still think of her last message on my answering machine machine. It happened at Easter time. Driving the freeway in pouring rain, my car radio had the news and all the Jazz stations finally rediscovered her special voice. We were all too late. KA.
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Thank you so much for sharing what you know about Ann! Never heard of her while I grew up in the sixties…not until I rode the bus with the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra as their lark for the last few years. Stan had finally found a voice to match his trumpets! Last year, someone at the Los Angeles Jazz Institute suggested they wanted to hear me sing Ann Richards’ repertoire. Scott Whitfield directed a Kentonesque band, and I sang Bill Holman and Johnny Richards’ arrangements that Ann sang. Wow…what a challenge!
I would like to hear more about Ann from any of you that would like to chat with me about your impressions…anything you know about Ann, Stan, the band(s), seeing her perform… I’m at email@example.com. You can keep up with my goings-on and gigs at Ginger Berglund on Facebook, or call me at 310 428 5515.
Thank you so much,