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Corky Hale

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Her name sounding like a combination of bad wine and bad weather, Corky Hale is known on one hand as a jazz harpist gentle enough to appeal to the easy listening crowd. On the other hand, plenty of hands being needed for the harp let alone what is to follow, she is a multi-instrumentalist with abilities in both the string and woodwind families. She is also a singer, at least one talent that hands are not a requirement for. Getting all of this together required starting early: piano at three, harp five years later, flute at the close of her first decade, then cello at the dawn of teendom. Most of these lessons were taken in her hometown of Freeport, IL; however, she also studied at the Chicago Music Conservatory as well as at summer school in Interlochen, MI. Professionally she went for fairly commercial outfits, beginning with the orchestra of Freddy Martin in 1950. For a good deal of the first half of the '50s she was on the road with Liberace, then was featured as both a singer and harpist with the popular trumpeter Harry James. Ray Anthony subsequently presented her vocal stylings, but this time in combination with her pianistic skills. She comes across well onscreen in The Benny Goodman Story, while critics declared her a harp innovator following Kitty White's decision to let Hale come down, so to speak, on a 1954 album. Her real name is Merrilyn Hecht. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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Birth Name:

Merylynn Cecelia Hecht


1931 in Freeport, IL

Years Active:

'50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s