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May 28, 2023
This week on Echoes of Indiana Avenue we’ll celebrate the May birthday of Pha Terrell, an influential big band singer that had strong ties to the Avenue.
Pha Terrell was born in Kansas City, Missouri on May 25th of 1910. In 1934, he was discovered by Andy Kirk, bandleader for the Twelve Clouds of Joy. Terrell enjoyed a successful partnership with Kirk - from 1936 to 1940, Terrell cut over 40 songs with the Twelve Clouds of Joy, including their hit single “Until the Real Thing Comes Along”. Terrell’s unique falsetto singing set a new trend for rhythm and blues singers, and traces of his influence can still be hard among R&B vocalists today.
After leaving Kirk's band in 1940, Terrell formed a partnership with Denver Ferguson – an important Indiana Avenue businessman. Denver Ferguson owned the Indianapolis nightclub Sunset Terrace, and the Ferguson Brothers’ Talent Agency – a booking agency based in the Avenue neighborhood. In 1942, Terrell worked with the Indianapolis-based bandleader Clarence Love, and some have speculated that he lived in Naptown during this time.
Tune in this week for an hour of classic music, featuring Pha Terrell’s work with Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy.