Singer Teresa Brewer, who topped the charts in the 1950s with such hits as “Till I Waltz Again with You” and performed with jazz legends Count Basie and Duke Ellington, died Wednesday. She was 76.
Brewer died at her home in New Rochelle of a neuromuscular disease, family spokesman Bill Munroe said. Her four daughters were at her bedside.
Brewer had scores of hits in the 1950s and a burgeoning film career but pared down her public life to raise her children. She re-emerged a decade later to perform with jazz greats Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Wynton Marsalis.
“She was just a wonderful, lovely lady,” said Munroe, a longtime family friend. “Her career was always a hobby with her; her family always came first. She always considered her legacy not to be the gold records and the TV appearances, but her loving family.”
Brewer had close to 40 songs that topped the charts, Munroe said, including “Dancin’ with Someone,” “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall,” “Ricochet” and “Let Me Go Lover.”
Throughout her decades-long career, Brewer performed on TV with Mel Torme, sang with Tony Bennett and guest-hosted several variety shows, including “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
She was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1931, and her mother took her to her first audition at age 2 – for a radio show called “Uncle August’s Kiddie Show.” Brewer sang “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” and performed for pay consisting of cupcakes and cookies from the show’s sponsor.
Brewer continued appearing on radio shows off and on until high school, when she quit and moved to New York. There, she started performing in a string of talent shows, which eventually led to a recording career.
By 1952 she had her first hit, the single “Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now,” on Coral Records, and her first child.
In 1953, “Till I Waltz Again With You” sold more than 1.4 million copies. That year she also won a poll conducted by Paramount Pictures to select the country’s most popular female singer to cast in the studio’s 3-D Technicolor movie, “Those Redheads from Seattle.”
She landed one of the title roles, and reviews were rave. Paramount offered her a seven-year contract, but she declined, choosing instead to stay in New Rochelle.
Brewer continued to record and make TV appearances, but she had four girls by then and spent most of her time raising them, Munroe said. Her popularity waned until the 1970s, when she became reacquainted with jazz producer Bob Thiele and began recording jazz standards with jazz greats. The two eventually married after she and her first husband divorced.
Funeral arrangements weren’t complete, Munroe said. Brewer’s survivors include her four daughters, four grandsons and five great-grandchildren. Thiele died in 1996.