The initial musical career of Vivien Garry was intertwined with the emerging guitar career of Arv Garrison. They met in Monroe, Michigan at The Silver Moon, a nightclub where Garrison was performing with a Toledo band led by Bud Ziegler. Monroe was a lakeside town located twenty miles north of Toledo. Vivien and Arv began to see each other and Vivien was able to transfer her job with the Walgreen Company from Monroe to a store in Toledo to be closer to Arv.
Vivien attended the Ziegler band rehearsals and often was allowed to sing along with the vocalist for the trio, Johnny Zilba, who played rhythm guitar. The Bud Ziegler Trio accepted a booking at The Riverside Nite Club in Rhinelander, Wisconsin for their grand opening on September 1, 1941. Vivien decided to travel to Wisconsin to surprise Arv and the trio. He was pleased to see her and was able to add her to the billing during the second week of their engagement. The newspaper ad in the Rhinelander Daily of September 13th announced – “For a Limited Time Only We Present – VIVIAN – Songbird of Ohio.”
The trio returned to Toledo following the Rhinelander engagement and resumed their gig at The Town Pub. Vivien’s understanding of the musical basics of the trio’s repertoire led her to observe that Ziegler was not very competent as a bassist. She noticed the wrong notes being played by Ziegler. Vivien was now working as a waitress at Kin Wah Low, a Chinese restaurant that included live entertainment. She asked the bassist in the Kin Wah Low band about playing the bass. His attempts to dissuade her from becoming a bassist fell flat and he sold Vivien a used instrument. Arv was enlisted to teach her how to play the bass and learn some of the basic repertoire that the trio had in their book.
The Bud Ziegler Trio dissolved in 1942 when Ziegler and Zilba were drafted after America entered WWII. Vivien’s continuing musical career with Arv as the Vivien Garry Trio is detailed in Nick Rossi’s ten-part liner notes in the recently released Fresh Sound Records box set that chronicles Arv Garrison’s recorded legacy, 1945-1948.
Vivien and Arv performed independently outside of their commitments as the Vivien Garry Trio. Leonard Feather heard the trio during their lengthy engagement at Kelly’s Stable, NYC, in 1945. He wrote a complimentary review of the trio for his regular column in Esquire magazine and invited Vivien to sing on a session for Black & White records featuring an all female group, The Hip Chicks, in March of 1945.
The session was reviewed in the Pittsburgh Courier:
NEW YORK—The first all girl jam session in recording history took place last week, when an all-star date, featuring America’s foremost feminine jazz musicians, was assembled by composer-critic Leonard Feather for the Black & White label. The group, which will he known as the Hip Chicks, was drawn from various bands, and had never worked together as a unit before.
The personnel included Jean Starr, diminutive trumpet player, featured for the past eight months with Benny Carter’s band; Marjorie Hyams, sensational vibra-harpist from the Woody Herman orchestra, L’Ana Hyams, her sister-in-law, on tenor sax; Vicky Zimmer, solo star from Kelley’s Stable, on piano; Marion Gange, alumnus of the old Ina Ray Hutton bunch, on guitar, and two members of Estelle Slavin’s band, Rose Gettesman on drums, and Cecelia Zirl on bass.
Vivien Garry, a new singing discovery, sang the vocal on one side. “I Surrender Dear.” Five other numbers were waxed, three of them written by Feather, “Strip Tease,” “Seven Riffs With the Right Woman,” and “Moonlight on Turban Bay.” The other two instrumental numbers were composed by Flip Phillips and arranged by Marjorie Hyams, “Popsie” and “The Sergeant on Furlough.” The records, all twelve-inchers, will be released late in the Spring, according to Les Schriber of the Black & White Company.
Vivien’s next performance outside of the trio was with Leonard Feather for RCA Victor Records on September 5, 1946. The Vivien Garry Quintet with Edna Williams (tp), Emma Colbert (vln), Wini Beatty (p), Vivien Garry (b,vcl), and Dody Jeshke (d) cut four sides for the label. “I’m in the Mood for Love” and “Operation Mop” were released as a 78 rpm single, RCA 20-2352.
“A Woman’s Place is in the Grove” and “Body and Soul” were released as part of an album, Girls in Jazz featuring America’s Greatest Feminine Jazz Musicians, RCA Victor Hot Jazz Series, HJ-11. The other all female jazz musician combos on the four disk album included Mary Lou Williams’ Girl Stars, Mary Lou Williams Trio, The Sweethearts of Rhythm, and the Beryl Booker Trio. Vivien’s inclusion in this set and her RCA 78 single provided a boost to her solo career.
Leon Rene included Vivien in a September 1946 recording session with Buddy Baker’s orchestra backing Herb Jeffries performing “Basin Street Blues” where Vivien is heard briefly at the opening singing – “Blackberries, get your sweet blackberries…” The Jeffries recording was a best seller for Rene’s Exclusive label and was released as part of a three disk album, Magenta Moods, Exclusive EX-1001.
Arv Garrison and Vivien performed separately on a session for the Armed Forces Radio Service “Jubilee” program on October 14, 1946. The Benny Carter Orchestra was the featured group on the program. Vivien reprised her interpretation of “I’m in the Mood for Love” accompanied by Benny Carter (as), Sonny White (p), Thomas Moultree (b) and Percy Brice (d). Arv performed “How High the Moon” accompanied by the same rhythm section from Carter’s orchestra. Arv’s peers, Irving Ashby, Barney Kessel, and Les Paul were also featured as solo artists on the program.
Garry was featured as vocalist on another Exclusive session from November 24, 1946. Buddy Baker Orchestra – Clyde Hurley, Lou Obergh, “Slim” Davis, Karl George (tp) Les Robinson, Clinton Neagley (as) Lucky Thompson, Don Morris (ts) Bob Lawson (bar) Hoyt Bohannon, Elmer Smithers, Gerald Foster, Dave Hallett (tb) Milt Raskin (p) Irving Ashby (g) Phil Stevens (b) Frank Carlson (d) – “I’m Stuck With A Sticker” Exclusive 11xA. Buddy Baker and Vivien Garry were featured in a photo in Down Beat that announced Vivien would record two sides with Baker’s orchestra. Vivien recorded the one vocal noted above. Emma Lou Welch was the vocalist on the other single release, Exclusive 10xB.
Miltone Records was established by blues singer, drummer and bandleader Roy Milton in 1946. Originally as Roy Milton Record Company but changed to Miltone Records in 1947. Vivien was featured with the Dick Taylor Group on Miltone 5220, November, 1948 – “Tenderly” (Vivien Garry vocal) and “A Little Bird Told Me” (Vivien Garry vocal with The Blenders).
Vivien Garry was on two 78 rpm singles with the Eddy Edell Four, Eddy Edell (ts), Maurice Diffenbach (p), Hayden Causey (g), and Vivien Garry (b). Both singles were reviewed in the May 21, 1949, edition of The Billboard. Superb Records, Hollywood, SR-600 – “Wha! Hopp’n” (group vocal) and “I Don’t Know Why” (group vocal). SR-601 – “I Want a Little Girl” (Eddy Edell vocal) and “Popcorn Polka” (group vocal). Eddy Edell was on a Signature Records session with Johnny Bothwell in May of 1946 in NYC, other information regarding his background is unknown.
Vivien’s nightclub work in September 1949 included some time with the “Bumps” Myers Trio at Astor’s on Ventura Boulevard. Myers was primarily a tenor saxophonist who recorded with many groups who were active in the Los Angeles scene in 1949 including Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson, and Russell Jacquet.
Dave Ehrhard, a record collector and one of Vivien’s greatest fans, compiled a discography that she included in her autobiography, The Blues in “B” Flat. The entry on the last page of Ehrhard’s discography notes unissued demo recordings with Moe Diffenbach accompanying Garry on piano. The tunes listed include: “I’m Mad About Your Music But I Just Don’t Dig Your Words,” “I’d Rather Have You,” “This Is a Crazy World,” “You Got Me Drowning in an Ocean of Tears,” “Why Don’t You Give My Broken Heart a Break,” “Go On About Your Bizness,” “Helpless Lonely Lover,” “Kissin’ in Corners,” “Borderline Blues,” “I Got de Jackpot,” “Kisses Are a Dime a Dozen,” “I Don’t Care What You Used To Be” (with Linda Keene), “Saturday Night in Hollywood” and “Sunday.” Additional information noted Hope Rider Recordings, Hollywood, 1950. Hope Rider and Lida Dolan were songwriters whose “Popcorn Polka” was a minor hit in the late 1940s, a novelty tune in support of the growing campaign against popcorn munchers in theaters.
Vivien’s association with Dick Taylor continued into the 1950s. Taylor was associated with Robert Scherman and acted as musical director for Scherman’s Webster, Skylark, and Tampa labels. Musician credits for Taylor’s groups on these Webster and Skylark recordings is not known. Most labels credit Dick Taylor and His Taylor Made Music. The Webster 78 rpm singles from 1950 include: WE508 with “The Bread and Butter Song” (The Knightingales) and “Sentimental Journey” (Walt Peterson vocal) – WE510 with “Boggin’ in the Swamp” (The Knightingales) and “Go On About Your Bizness” (Vivien Garry with The Blenders) – WE519 with “Home Isn’t Home Without You” (Vivien Garry vocal) and “Rainbow Romance” (Vivien Garry vocal).
A column in the June 23, 1950, edition of the California Eagle noted that WE510 was the only platter to escape the $315,000 fire at Alco Research and Engineering, the pressing plant that handled all of Scherman’s record releases. Scherman had picked up stock of the release before setting off on a promotional tour of mid-Western and Southern states.
Vivien was on several recording sessions for Scherman’s Skylark label in the early 1950s where the instrumental backing was by Dick Taylor and His Taylor Made Music. SK521 – “The Popcorn Man” (The Knightingales) and “The Old Carousel” (group vocal). SK525 – “Trading Kisses with You” (Vivien Garry vocal) and “Campus Moon” (The Knightingales). SK526 – “Just Supposin’” (Vivien Garry vocal) and “I Get a Kick Out of You” (Vivien Garry vocal). SK527 – “Whispering” (Vivien Garry vocal) and “Love Me” (Vivien Garry vocal). SK537 – the labels credit a Lighthouse All Stars group as accompanying Garry on “You Know I’m in Love with You” and “Desire.” When Scherman reissued “Whispering” and “I Get a Kick Out of You” on SK12, a ten inch LP, the credit line reads Jimmy Giuffre Orch whereas the credit on the original 78 single releases credit Dick Taylor and His Taylor Made Music.
The Skylark sessions appear to be the last recordings of Vivien Garry. She continued to be active on the West Coast. Some of that activity as confirmed by newspaper ads is noted below in closing.
Vivien Garry and the Dick Taylor Quartet along with vocalist Herb Jeffries appeared at Eddie De Sure’s Oasis Club at 3801 S. Western Avenue in Los Angeles as noted in the Daily News July 7, 1950 edition of the paper. Vivien organized another trio but members are not known. If she followed the same format it would have included piano and guitar. Her new trio appeared at Tiffany Club in November of 1950 with Helen Forrest, then the Mural Room in January of 1951, and the Music Box in February.
George Redman (d) organized a band in 1953 that included Bill Perkins (ts), Maynard Ferguson (tp), Maury Feld (p), and Vivien Garry (b). The group had an extended engagement at the Stadium Club, 3977 South Vermont Avenue. In 1954 the group played Paul Mandell’s La Maldelon for another extended stay. Vivien also played the Royal Room in October of 1954. Her trio with Wini Beatty and Arv Garrison had played the nightclub in the 1940s when it was known as the Susie Q. Her trio had also performed previously at Le Madelon when it was known as the Tabu Club in the 1940s. Some of the band members changed when Redman’s group was booked at The Continental at 1508 North Vermont Avenue in 1957, but Vivien Garry was still featured in ads for the group.