June Christy

June was born as Shirley Luster on November 20, 1925 at the Memorial Hospital in Springfield, Illinois and was raised from the age of three in Decatur, Illinois; and from the beginning always wanted to sing.

She was singing with local bands when she was just 13, and later with society bands around Chicago, the big city 150 miles from Springfield, using the name Sharon Leslie. None of her family knew anything about music, so she had to persuade them to let her sing with the local home town band. The band was led by Bill Oetzel, and as Shirley Luster she sang with it for four years. Next she joined Boyd Raeburn's first great band at Chicago's new Band Box Theatre. A bout of scarlet fever meant leaving after just four months. On recovering she found work hard to come by due to the effect of a 20% amusement tax on the music business. Nevertheless a short stint followed with Benny Strong's band, and there was some club work. By 1945, demoralised by the continuing panic in the business she was ready to call it quits and return home. Then she heard that Anita O'day was leaving the Stan Kenton band. The actual details of how she met and was auditioned vary according to the source but the fact remains that she was hired on March 22nd 1945 by Kenton. June was to say later “I don't think Stan ever cared for singers really, but at that time he felt he needed one fast”

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