American-born jazz warbler Marion Montgomery, who frequented British television and was known for her smooth, relaxed, versatile and intimate singing voice, died Monday July 22 at her home in Bray, Berkshire, west of London, after a 10-year battle with cancer that she believed she contracted passively from the cigarette smoke of cabarets she performed in during a 30-year career. She was 67.
Born Maud Runnells in Natchez, Miss., she lived in England more than 30 years and was well-known to Brit TV auds as a resident singer on the BBC talkshow “Parkinson” through the 1970s. (Her husband, Brit composer-pianist Laurie Holloway, is “Parkinson” musical director.)
After performing in Atlanta, she recorded a demo in the early 1960s that found its way to singing great Peggy Lee, who reportedly told a Capitol Records A&R man, “Forget the song and sign the singer.” That led to the albums “Swings for Winners and Losers” and “Let There Be Marion Montgomery” (both 1963), followed in 1965 by gigs in Las Vegas, New York and L.A. That same year, she played a season at with John Dankworth’s band in London’s then-new Cool Elephant and went on to star in the West End production of “Anything Goes” as well as “Lionel.”
With Holloway, she developed a one-woman show in the 1970s for the BBC and the TV show “A Dream of Alice” while continuing to perform onstage and in cabarets.
During the 1980s, she made numerous recordings with Richard Rodney Bennett, including “Surprise Surprise,” “Town and Country,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and “I Gotta Right to Sing” as well as her own “Sometimes in the Night” (1989).
She is survived by her husband and two daughters.