Most singers are discovered when someone actually hears them singing: on a stage, on a street corner, on a demo tape. Not Julie London. She was discovered while standing in an elevator.
As the child of entertainers, London began singing and performing at a very young age. When her parents moved to Hollywood, she graduated to nightclubs while still a teen, but her acute shyness seemed to mark her as one destined for a life of anonymity rather than a life in the spotlight.
Then fate intervened. Twice.
In 1943, while working as an elevator operator, London began chatting with one of her passengers, who turned out to be a well-connected talent agent. Around the same time, while working her other job in a menswear store, a photographer from Esquire magazine spotted her. The photographer and the agent both signed her up and London, although still in high school, began her new career, first as a model and then acting in a series of movies. They didn’t even know she could sing.
It wasn’t until 1955, when a record producer acting on a recommendation caught her act at a jazz club, that London was finally signed to a recording contract. For her debut single, she was given a song originally intended for Ella Fitzgerald called “Cry Me A River.” Fitzgerald recorded the song for a movie two years prior but the scene was cut, so London’s would be the first version anyone would hear.
Released as a single in 1955, “Cry Me A River” became Julie London’s biggest hit, helped in part by her performance of the song in the classic 1956 rock ‘n’ roll movie, The Girl Can’t Help It. Although she never reached the pop charts again, she was named by Billboard magazine as the top female vocalist for the years 1955, 1956, and 1957, and went on to have a long career both acting and singing.
So don’t wait for fate. Paddle along on this waterway of tears … with Julie London.