We haven’t featured a crooner for a while, and today the spotlight falls on a guy whose smooth, glorious baritone and mellow singing style certainly made him one of the best. In a career that spanned more than forty years, Arthur Prysock demonstrated a high comfort level with just about every type of music, including big band jazz, R&B, romantic ballads, and — unlike most — a disco hit.
A native of Spartanburg, SC, Prysock was still a teenager when he moved to Hartford, CT, to look for work during the latter part of World War II. He found it in the aviation industry, but in his spare time he also began singing with some of the small bands around the area. It wasn’t too long before he’d landed a full-time job as a singer for Buddy Johnson, who led a ‘jump blues’ band (a forerunner to R&B), and the young singer soon moved with the group into the lively Harlem music scene.
Prysock continued to work with the popular band during the post-war years but he also began exploring other opportunities, and by the 1950s was moving into a solo career. His first hit — “I Didn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night” — solidified his R&B legitimacy, but during the rest of the decade he also found a lot of success with many of the standard ballads that filled a crooner’s songbook. In fact, he began the 1960s by recording “The Very Thought of You” and it proved to be one of his best, along with classics like “My Funny Valentine” and “Autumn In New York.”
During the 1960s Prysock fulfilled some personal goals, including working with Count Basie and his orchestra. He also appeared at Carnegie Hall and even had his own TV show for a while, but things slowed a little in subsequent years until his surprising reemergence in the 1970s with “When Love Is New,” a song that fit right into the disco mood of the era. He continued to work the club circuit until the mid-1980s, when he again had a period of renewed popularity, but he was pretty much semi-retired after that. He was 73 when he died in 1997.