Sullivan, Maxine jazzsinger, valve trombonist, flugelhornist; b. Homestead, Pa., May 13, 1911; d. Bronx, N.Y., April 7, 1987. In the early 1930s, Sullivan did radio work in Pittsburgh and sang locally with The Red Hot Peppers. She was heard by pianist Gladys Mosier, who took her to the Onyx Club where Claude Thornhill (who worked briefly as her musical director) arranged her recording debut. Sullivan worked regularly with John Kirby (to whom she was married from 1938 to 1941) and recorded a big-selling version of “Loch Lomond,” arranged by Claude Thornhill. She got national exposure for two years on CBS Radio singing with Kirby; the show Flow Gently Sweet Rhythm was the only African American show on the radio network at that time. In the late 1930s Sullivan worked regularly on the West Coast before returning to N.Y. She toured with Benny Carter’s Band in the summer of 1941, then temporarily retired to Philadelphia in 1942. In the mid-1940s, she returned to N.Y. and began long residencies at various clubs. She worked in Europe in 1948, then left the music profession for a while and worked as a nurse. Beginning in 1950, Sullivan began a successful comeback that featured her valve trombone playing. She returned to Europe in 1954 before retiring once more that same year. She returned again in 1958 and resumed club work through the 1960s. Sullivan first appeared with The World’s Greatest Jazz Band in 1969, and continued to work with them through the decade. She recorded the songs of Harold Arlen, Jules Styne, and Ted Koehler during the 1980s.
Maxine Sullivan and John Kirby (1940); Biggest Little Band in the Land (1940); Maxine Sullivan (1955); Complete Charlie Shavers with Maxine Sullivan (1956); Sullivan Shakespeare, Hyman (1971); With Ike Isaacs Trio (1978); Uptown (1985); Together (1986); At Vine St. Live (1986).
—John Chilton/Lewis Porter