Jo Elizabeth Stafford was an American singer of traditional pop music and jazz standards whose career ran from the late 1930s to the early 1960s. Stafford was greatly admired for the purity of her voice and was considered one of the most versatile vocalists of the era.
She was also viewed as a pioneer of modern musical parody, having won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album in 1961 for their album Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris. She was also the first woman to have a No 1 on the UK Singles Chart.
Stafford was born in Coalinga, California in 1917 to Grover Cleveland Stafford and Anna York Stafford, a distant cousin of World War I hero Sergeant Alvin York. Originally, she wanted to become an opera singer and studied voice as a child. However, because of the Great Depression, she abandoned that idea and joined her sisters Christine and Pauline in a popular vocal group, “The Stafford Sisters”, which performed on Los Angeles radio station KHJ.
In 1937 she worked behind the scenes with Fred Astaire on the soundtrack of A Damsel in Distress and created the arrangement and, with her sisters, the backing vocals for “Nice Work If You Can Get It”. She claimed that her arrangement had to be adapted as Astaire had difficulty with some of the syncopation, in her words: “The man with the syncopated shoes couldn’t do the syncopated notes”.