Cybill Shepherd got her first taste of Memphis music singing folk songs for her High School Assembly. When she won Model of the Year and left Memphis, she had a "perfect little southern voice". Filming the Last Picture Show, Eileen Brennan encouraged her to sing and suggested a teacher. Cybill studied opera and learned discipline.
After Cybill finished filming Special Delivery and Silver Bears, her brother Bill came to Bel Air to visit. "One afternoon when we were all alone he showed me a film he produced of the Beale Street Musical Festival. I was flabbergasted by the whole sound of Memphis music and I knew I had to go home and connect with it".
Orson Welles advised her to forget her singing lessons and go learn from doing it.
August, 1978, Memphis, Tennessee, Sam Phillips Studio: Fred Ford, the man who howled like a dog on Willie Mae "big mama" Thorton's classic record "You Ain't Nothin' But A Hound Dog," is there to produce Cybill's homecoming. He is surrounded by his Beale Street USA Orchestra, usually 20 pieces but "mortified down to 12 for the date."
One of the main production goals for this album is to record live with no overdubbing. "Anything But Love" is the first song cut. Jamil Nasser's bass becomes the hub of the wheel playing straight ahead (up top, Charlie Freeman would have said). Fred does an 8 bar alto solo and Cybill takes command of the last verse. Then move over, here comes "Infinity at the Keyboard" playing like "Patta-whiskey," dominating the moment with his incredible piano, Phineas Newborn, Jr.
Afterward, everybody flipped.
Cybill pulled the arrangement for "My Ship" out of her music case. Phineas said, "I don't play this much," which might mean he hadn't played it for thirty years. Fred said, "You can do it." They turned on the tape and that's what it is.
The last cut "Foggy Day In London Town" goes so far beyond the classic Frank Sinatra version it reaches a frenzy. The horn solos alternate at 4 bar intervals with Fred Ford on alto, William "no key" Taylor on trumpet, and Irvin Reason (teacher of Charles Llyod and Frank Strozier) on alto. That's not a train rollin at the fade - that's Cybill Shepherd and the rocking Memphis underground.
Cybill is "Fortune's favorite child" come home. Delta painter Walter Anderson wrote, "When the proper relation of two things produces a third which is completely satisfactory - that third thing is a miracle."
This miracle will move you. Lay back and let the music do the rest.
Actresses who moonlight as singers often have difficulty being taken seriously -- and quite often, the skepticism is well-founded. But Cybill Shepherd, though far from breathtaking, is in fact, a decent and likable jazz-pop singer. From the balladry of &"More than You Know" and &"My Ship" to vibrant and surprisingly swingin' interpretations of &"'S Wonderful" and Fats Waller's &"Ain't Misbehavin," Vanilla presents Shepherd as a very warm and enjoyable interpreter of standards whose phrasing at times suggests a more jazz-oriented Peggy Lee. Reissued on CD in 1990, the album also features solos by pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr., a masterful bebopper and Bud Powell disciple, also well worth hearing.
- Alex Henderson, Rovi
- I Can't Give You
Anything but Love, Baby
- More than You Know
- Ain't Misbehavin'
- When It's Sleep
Time Down South
- S' Wonderful
- I Didn't Know What
Time It Was
- My Ship
- A Foggy Day