By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Her development of a vocal style occurred in the classic folk manner - as family fun and games, virtually untouched by any outside stimuli.
"Well, I'm not sure anyone did influence me," she says, "because, growing up in Oklahoma, we didn't have a radio that we could listen to all the time - my family wouldn't let us, because it was too expensive. We were allowed to listen to the WLS Chicago Barndance, and we also heard The Eddie Cantor Show, which featured Dinah Shore. When my sister came from the service, she brought some big-band records with her, and then I heard Jo Stafford and Helen O'Connell. But there were no singers I aspired to be like."
In her late teens, Page, billed as Ann Fowler, worked with Al Klauser & His Oklahomans, then got a job singing several daily programs on Tulsa's KTUL. Sponsored by the Page milk company, the source of her nom de guerre, she was soon also standing before the microphone at KVOO, radio home of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. "I did a noon show on KVOO," she says, "and Leon MacAulliffe [Wills' legendary steel guitarist] had a country show, and I did that with him. So I was doing both - at noon I was doing a country show, and singing pop at 3:15. The interesting thing about it was, I never knew there was a difference."
After Chicago saxophonist Jack Rael (Benny Goodman's cousin) heard Page's KTUL show by chance in 1947, he wooed her away to the Windy City. Rael signed on as her manager that same year and immediately got her a deal with Mercury that resulted in the Top 15 smash "Confess," the first hit record ever to feature a double-tracked vocal. This was before anyone was using tape - Page had to record one vocal onto an acetate disc, then sing along to the playback during a second take. It was an innovative technique that left no margin for error and was, in fact, dictated by circumstance - the Mercury budget wouldn't accommodate another vocalist.
Matching the melody acetate with a live harmony vocal was incredibly demanding, and it could not have been easy to get through a take. Any flub meant starting from scratch - the easily degraded acetate was only good for a single play. "That's another instance of doing something without thinking about it," Page says. "And had I known that I was doing anything innovative, I might have worried more about it!" When Les Paul and Mary Ford got into piling up vocal tracks on reel-to-reel tape several years later, it was a vastly simpler undertaking.
"Oh, I definitely feel that I haven't been given some of the recognition," Page says. "None of the innovation with the overdubbing has ever been attributed to me - I had never thought about who was first and who was second, I just knew that I came out with it before. And when this author working on a book about Les Paul contacted me to find out exactly how and when it was done, that kind of put this bug in my ear."
While Page is perhaps overlooked as a studio innovator, and the Golden Celebration set highlights her extraordinary recorded catalog, the emphasis ought to be on what is really important: her outstanding evolving artistry. Page herself hesitantly agrees that she has only improved with time:
"I guess I am a better interpreter now. I conjure up things while I'm doing a song - it may not have anything whatsoever to do with the lyrics; they're experiences that can bring on a reaction within one's self. I think that has to be done with any kind of creative medium that you're involved in. It's a natural technique . . . I never thought about it, really."