Born: June 18, 1940 Primary Instrument: Vocal
Sue Raney has one of the most beautiful voices in music. She is always in-tune, displays complete control over her vibrato, and has the rare gift of being able to interpret lyrics with such deep understanding that she makes them sound fresh, even if the words are familiar. Raney would be much better known today if she did not spend most of her time as a well-respected voice teacher, living in the Los Angeles area, and if she had recorded more extensively throughout her career. But she is one of the greats.
Sue was born Raelene Claire Claussen on June 18,1940, in McPherson, Kansas, and her career started very early. I came From a musical background for my mother was a singer and my great great aunt had been in German opera When I was about four my mother realized that I could sing. My first public appearance was at a party in Wichita, Kansas when I was five.
Unable to find a voice teacher for her daughter at that time (due to her extreme youth), Raney's mother (who later in life became a vocal teacher) took voice lessons herself and then passed what she learned down to Sue.
Early on I sang the hits, tunes that the girl singers in the big hands were performing. While growing up in the 1950's. I first listened to Doris Day, Patti Page, Rosemary Clooney and Kay Starr. I discovered jazz when I was 16 or 17 and of course soon loved Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan.
After working steadily in New Mexico and taking several trips out to Los Angeles during a couple of summer vacations, Sue Raney joined the Jack Carson radio show in 1954. That is why the family moved out to Los Angeles. I had auditioned for Frankie Laine and made a couple of demos for his office. It was through him that I ended up on the Jack Carson show. It was one of the last major radio programs on CBS and at 15 I was the teenager on the show for nine or ten months. After Jack Carson I started appearing on Ray Anthony's television program and then became the vocalist with his hand when he played the Palladium. When I was 19, I put an act together and started working on the road.
She was already an established singer when most young girls were making a rather awkward transition from Elvis Presley to Clearasil. It took time to polish her vocal talent. There were ups and downs, good breaks and bad ones. There was the time in Australia when the critics banged nothing but praise out of their typewriters and the crowds came early and stayed and stayed and stayed. Then, for a time, things couldn't be better, She completed her third album for Capitol Records and was swamped with hotel and night club bookings as well as offers for various television appearances. Then came a down. An auto accident crumbled the classic stairway to stardom. Bedridden for months, Sue faded out of the musical picture. But no one seemed to forget. With the help of crutches, she made an appearance on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, and became an instant hit.
In the 1960's Sue Raney worked with the Four Freshmen at Las Vegas, toured with her own group, and appeared frequently on television variety shows including those of Red Skelton, Dean Martin and Danny Kaye. During the following decade she became active in the studios where her impressive voice helped sell products. But when asked to name her favorite gig, Sue Raney says Possibly the highpoint of my life musically was when I toured with Michel Legrand in the 1980's. We worked with symphony orchestras in addition to having a self-contained rhythm section. I had a chance to sing Michel's lovely songs and it was wonderful. Of her own personal recordings she says I think the trio of records that I made for Albert Marx, on Discovery in the 1980's are the ones that I am most proud of. I also like the Henry Mancini tribute Dreamsville that I did with Alan Broadbent. Sue is also an accomplished songwriter, contributing lyrics to several songs including Statue Of Snow.
These days Sue Raney is quite active as a voice teacher. I've been teaching since the early 1980's, originally at the Dick Grove school and now privately nearly every afternoon. It is very rewarding. Teaching has allowed me to relearn what I thought I knew and explore new areas. I find that I'm now in better shape vocally than I've ever been. I sing with the L.A. Voices and Supersax, occasionally appear at the Moonlight Tango Cafe in Sherman Oaks near Los Angeles with Bill Watrous' big band and still go on the road when it feels right and it is artistically rewarding. When asked about her future goals, Sue Raney replied I'd like to record a duet album with Alan Broadbent. But basically I just want to keep on doing what I'm doing, singing the music I love.