Obituaries: Jo Stafford, Hayward Carbo, Les Crane and more

Band singer Jo Stafford, known to soldiers in the 1940s and 1950s as “GI Jo,” died of congestive heart failure on July 16, 2008. She was 90.

The honey-voiced band singer who starred in radio and television sold more than 25 million records with her ballads and folks songs.

Stafford had 26 charted singles and nearly a dozen top 10 hits, her son said. She won a Grammy for her humor.

Stafford’s records of “I’ll Walk Alone,’’ “I’ll Be Seeing You,’’ “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You’’ and other sentimental songs struck the hearts of servicemen far from home in both World War II and the Korean War.

In 1939, she was working with a group of male singers called the Pied Pipers. The group
was invited to join the Tommy Dorsey band, a big attraction in the swing era. A year later, 24-year-old Frank Sinatra joined Dorsey after a brief stint with Harry James, and he and the Pied Pipers melded ideally. After the temperamental Dorsey got into an argument with one of the Pied Pipers and fired the group, The Pied Pipers signed with Capitol Records, but Stafford left the group to join Johnny Mercer, one of the Capitol founders, who guided her new career with hits such as “Candy,’’ “Serenade of the Bells’’ and “That’s for Me.’’

She alternated with Perry Como on a nightly 15-minute radio show in 1944, guest starred on many TV variety shows and had her own series, “The Jo Stafford Show,’’ in 1955-56.
She recorded more than 800 songs during a versatile career that included ballads, folk, Scottish, country and novelty. She even tried comedy, for which she eventually won a Grammy in 1960.

Jo Elizabeth Stafford was born Nov. 12, 1917, in Coalinga, Calif., where her Tennessee father had come to work in the oil fields.

Stafford made her last recording in 1970, although her songs continue to be used in movie soundtracks, her son said.

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Les Crane, a talk radio innovator and Grammy winner remembered as the first television host to take on Johnny Carson, died of natural causes July 13, 2008, at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, Calif. He was 74.

In 1964, Crane landed the first U.S. television interview with the Rolling Stones, and months later the network slotted him against Carson, who had started hosting “The Tonight Show” on NBC two years earlier. “The Les Crane Show” lasted only a few months.

Crane’s won a best spoken-word Grammy for his 1971 recording of  “Desiderata,” an inspirational prose poem embraced by the 1960s counterculture. Casey Kasem also credited Crane in a 1990 interview with helping to develop the Top 40 countdown of most popular songs.

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Hayward “Chuck’’ Carbo, whose smooth baritone fronted the 1950s quintet The Spiders, died July 11, 2008, in New Orleans after a long illness. He was 82.

Both sides of their 1954 debut for Imperial Records, “I Didn’t Want to Do It’’ and “You’re the One,’’ cracked the Top 10 of the national rhythm and blues charts. The singles “I’m Slippin’ In,’’ “Tears Began to Flow,’’ “21’’ and “The Real Thing’’ followed. Dave Bartholomew, best known as Fats Domino’s producer and co-writer, wrote the group’s 1955 hit “Witchcraft.’’ They toured with Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and the Drifters. But by the late 1950s, The Spiders had disbanded as the Carbo bro

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