singer Roberta Sherwood dead at 86
(adds comment from Don Rickles)
By Sarah Tippit
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Roberta Sherwood, a
bespectacled suburban housewife who in
1956 rose from obscurity to become a headlining
torch singer and entertainer, performing with the likes of Mickey Rooney, Don Rickles, Joey Bishop and Milton Berle, has died.
Sherwood died Monday at her home in the Los Angeles suburb of Sherman
Oaks, California, of complications of Alzheimer's disease, family
members said. She was 86.
Born in 1913 into a carnival family, Sherwood
began her 50-year-career at age 11 in
vaudeville. Although audiences always responded
to her visceral singing style, she chose to stop touring and marry
Broadway showman Don Lanning in 1938.
They settled in Miami, Florida, began a family,
and went into the local nightclub
business where Sherwood sang her way through the 1940s and
'50s, pausing between acts to breastfeed her three sons.
It was not until 1956, with her husband dying of
lung cancer and a family to feed, that
Sherwood's career took off. Initially passed over as
too old to perform, she sang only at local events until she was hired
by a Miami Beach club owner.
Soon, people packed the bar to hear the woman
with the glasses who banged on a
battered cymbal while she sang. Television comic Red Buttons brought in Walter Winchell, who raved about her in his column
and on radio broadcasts.
Not long after Sherwood was earning up to $5,000
a week at the nation's top nightclubs
and was signed to record an album for Decca Records. She played New York's famed Copa Cabana, made the rounds
at the major clubs in Las Vegas and opened in Hollywood to an
Her style was described by Time magazine as
"flashy, richly sentimental, as
unsubtle as her crashing cymbal and as unpretentious as
her $49.50 dress.''
"I dug up the cymbal because Murray Franklin didn't have a drummer,''
she once said. "I started wearing a sweater because of the
air-conditioning ... I wear the glasses when I'm walking through the
audience because I can't see without them, and I don't want to walk
into somebody's shrimp cocktail.''
also was known for helping young, struggling performers, including Rickles,
who said he was saddened by her death.
had the honor of sharing the stage with Roberta in Miami Beach ... when she was a star and I was struggling,'' Rickles said. ``With her help and Walter Winchell's, I started to gain recognition. She was
one of a kind. Her style and personality will be missed.''
Over the years Sherwood's dozens of hit recordings included ''You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You,'' and ``Up A Lazy River.'' She became
a favorite in the early days of television, appearing on ``The Ed
Sullivan Show, ``The Steve Allen Show, ''The Jackie Gleason Show,''
``The Garry Moore Show'' and ''Person To Person'' with Edward R. Murrow.
Sherwood is survived by three sons, two
grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.