A musical traveler who made a brief stopover in the rock world after spending the majority of her career singing more for jazz swing outfits, but she dabbled in almost everything at one point or another and enjoyed a long career on record because of that adaptability.

Iona Wade was born in 1918 in Indiana and in her early twenties during World War Two she first gained notice singing in Isaac “Snookum” Russell’s band, though she didn’t record with him. That stint however led her to being hired by Sherman Williams as the female vocalist in his swing band and it was with Williams where she was most prolific on record, cutting a number of lead vocals over the next few years. Wade had a strong voice, good delivery and stage presence and apparently was attractive enough to also appeal to any deaf “listeners” in clubs.

She left Williams’ outfit in 1949 as this style of music had declined in popularity, but since she hadn’t made a name for herself while with him she bounced around, cutting songs under her own name for a varity of labels with little chance for long-term contracts unless something unexpectedly broke, or she resumed fronting someone’s band in the studio who needed a female singer.

Yet despite not having much to show for her efforts, she apparently impressed those she worked with as she continued to get opportunities, cutting sides with Jay McShann under Eric Von Schlitz’s name in 1950, then putting in a brief turn at the front of Joe Lutcher’s group in 1952 and lending her voice to sax man James Moody for a 1954 session. Her final appearance on record came in 1962 after which she vanished from view.

Her turns as a rocker were only a small part of her story and probably more circumstantial than intentional, but like so many others of her era she had the talent and tenacity to remain in the game for years without virtue of a hit.

IONA WADE DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Peacock 1526; March, 1950)
A very effective reading of a song positioned squarely within rock circles yet malleable enough around the edges to take into account the band’s varied stylistic backgrounds while Wade’s vocal judgement is impeccable. (7)

(Peacock 1526; March, 1950)
Musically flat, lyrically shallow, this isn’t very potent and seems as if they thought the mere idea itself would be enough to pass muster in rock, but smart audiences know when they’re getting watered down drinks. (3)