Nordine, Ken, American singer; b. Des Moines, Iowa, April 13, 1920. He grew up in Chicago during the glory days of television and radio. His rich, sonorous voice was well-suited for storytelling and poetry readings, which he would also perform in local clubs with the accompaniment of some of his musician friends during the ’50s. Coming to the attention of Dot Records, he was invited to appear on a track from easy-listening bandleader Billy Vaughn titled “The Shifting, Whispering Sands,” providing an epic monologue that drove the song to the top of the charts. Throughout the late ’50s, he released a series of his own records that featured his surreal stories read over a musical backdrop provided by session musicians like Fred Katz, Richard Marx, Paul Horn, and others. Ad-libbing his way through tracks like “The Sound Museum” and “Faces in the Jazzamatazz,” he created a unique mix of witty recitation and jazzy music that was unforgettable, making him an obvious choice to be a pitchman for products ranging from Taster’s Choice coffee to Levi’s Jeans. Over the next three decades, he worked consistently, doing several hundred commercials a year, and releasing the occasional record, often on his own cassette-only label. His work continues to be fresh, whimsical, and laced with the soul of bebop bass.
The Best of Word Jazz, Vol.1 (1990); Colors (1995).
—Eric J. Lawrence