Julia Rich is a preacher’s daughter from Nashville, Tennessee, who loves to sing. When Julia was three years old her mother, teacher June Blankenship, told Margaret Wright of the Middle Tennessee State University music department, “I’ll be sending you a singer.” Rich grew up in church choirs and singing at revivals held by her father, Rev. H. Fred Blankenship. Her fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Helen Philpot of Shelbyville, TN, taught her to sing “Faraway Places.” A few years later, classified as a lyric coloratura, Rich received a Bachelor of Music degree from MTSU, having studied under both Margaret and Neil Wright.
Julia picked up harmony singing from the Methodist hymnal and the Beatles. A fondness for Judy Garland led her to Tony Bennett and how it felt to snap on 2 and 4. (If you’re snapping on 1 and 3, you’re at the wrong gig.) While house sitting for a college professor, she discovered a Cleo Laine record and ran to the piano to see what those notes were. After a stint as a singing waitress at the Chattanooga Choo Choo complex, Julia performed in a theatre production of “Side By Side By Sondheim” and was offered a nightclub job, which brought her together with pianist Paul Lohorn and bassist Joey Smith. Smith became a mentor and introduced Rich to the music of Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, Ethel Ennis, Billie Holiday, June Christy and the only diamond in the sea: Ella Fitzgerald. Voice lessons had been helpful, but the best instruction turned out to be Ella in the headphones.
Join the Miller Band; see the world.
In 1985, Julia became the featured female vocalist (girl singer) with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Joey Smith, who was playing bass in the band at the time, recommended her. Stanley Turrentine organist Butch Cornell played for Julia’s audition tape, which they made in the Chattanooga classroom where she taught junior high school music. Rich sang her first show with the GMO at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville on November 16.
Touring with the Glenn Miller Orchestra has taken Julia to every state in the union, from one side of Canada to the other, throughout Central and South America, to the World’s Fair in Seville and even New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik. After twenty-one tours of the Japanese Islands, Rich speaks a little Nihongo and is a big fan of the food, the people, the culture, and the concert halls of Japan. From the Hollywood Bowl to Lincoln Center, from the Place des Arts in Montreal to historic theatres and opera houses in the USA, Julia has found friendly people who like good music. Watching couples who have danced together for 50 years, hearing them share what the music has meant in their lives, and having fans quote her own lyrics to her delight and inspire Julia.
Julia Rich has sung Chattanooga Choo-Choo and Kalamazoo in Chattanooga and Kalamazoo and from Reykjavik to Honolulu to San Salvador to Saskatoon. She has visited the faraway places with strange sounding names. Rich even sings “Faraway Places” with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and was able to dedicate the song one night to a special friend in the concert audience: her fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Philpot.
Plays well with others
Girl singer Julia Rich has worked with and learned from many fine musicians on the road and in the studio including GMO leaders Larry O’Brien and Dick Gerhart, singers Jeannie Dennis, Joe Francis, Bryan Anthony, and Nick Hilscher, players Mike Duva, Marc Vinci, Andy Hagan, Bill Washer, and Richy Barz. The counsel and encouragement of Dr. Paul Tanner of the original Glenn Miller Orchestra and his wife Jan have been invaluable. Glenn Miller’s sister, the late Irene Wolfe, was a cherished friend and a source of inspiration. June Alyson, who played Helen Miller in “The Glenn Miller Story,” was also special.
During Rich’s tenure with the GMO, the band has performed with such notables as The Mills Brothers, Helen O’Connell, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, Lynn Roberts, Kay Starr, Connie Haines, Teresa Brewer, Jerry Vale, The Four Aces, Kathie Lee Gifford, Joan Shepherd, and former GMO leader Buddy de Franco. The Glenn Miller Orchestra has shared the stage with The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, the Guy Lombardo Orchestra, The Harry James Orchestra and the Count Basie Orchestra. A treat: Julia and Count Basie Orchestra singer, the gifted Carmen Bradford, shared a dressing room at the Hollywood Bowl, where Ella Fitzgerald had appeared only a few days prior. Carmen regaled Julia with stories of Ella, Sarah Vaughan, and Joe Williams.
On the business end, Rich served as road manager for the Glenn Miller Orchestra from 1995-2000, from 2004-2005, and as assistant road manager to r.m. and saxophonist Mike Duva from 1987-1992. It was as GMO road manager that she acquired the nickname “that woman.”
Rich was also vocal director for GMO’s “Moonlight Serenaders” from 1989 through 2008.
Julia Rich has sung solo at various clubs in Nashville including Mere Bulles, The Merchants, Clayton-Blackmon, and F. Scott’s; and in Chattanooga at the Fairyland Club, the Choo Choo, and Union Square. She has entertained the Literacy Volunteers of America, the Chorale Society of Murfreesboro, at Maximilian’s in San Francisco, aboard the Crystal Harmony and the Westerdaam cruise ships, impromptu at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City (with Helen O’Connell), the Village Vanguard in Sendai, the St. James Club in Osaka, and at night spots in Chicago, Sao Paulo, and Tokyo.
Rich especially enjoys singing with a combo or as a duo with just a piano or just a guitar or just an upright bass. In addition to the players on the Glenn Miller Orchestra and in the studio, Julia has been fortunate to make music with the late John Propst, Eddie Edwards, Jeffrey Steinberg, Johnny Veith, Jim White, Lennie Foy, Lori Mechem, Roger Spencer, Charles Dungey, Rex Peer, Butch Cornell, and Takehisa Tanaka.
Julia met saxophone great Rickey Woodard on an airplane near Tokyo. He was on board with the Ray Charles band, she with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. As guys met guys, there were Rickey and Julia–two “Nashville Cats” (though Rickey’s home has been Los Angeles for many years). Rickey is perhaps world’s nicest human. (along with Tony Migliore) One Sunday afternoon, Rickey sat in the kitchen of Julia’s parents’ home and played guitar while Julia sang standards. Gracious and giving, Rickey Woodard is on all of Julia’s recordings and has brought his saxophone to many of Julia’s gigs, whether she could afford him. He makes the music levitate.
The musicians on Julia’s albums are the toppermost of the poppermost, to borrow from the fab four. They are the players with whom Julia performs solo and are creative, engaging, and overflowing with chops. (Just watch out for Jim Ferguson’s jokes.) See “Getting it on wax” for the list.
. . . ‘Cause I wrote this song about you
Julia Rich wrote her first song in a piano practice room as a college senior at Middle Tennessee State University. (No one remembers the year.) It was about someone dating someone else’s boyfriend (tart!) and was followed by other compositions expressing snaky young love and angst. The song, “Lady, I Love You,” is included on Julia’s six-song sampler, A LITTLE TASTE.
Even as a public school music teacher, “Mrs. Highmith” wrote and choreographed songs for her performing glee club for Valentines Day, Halloween, Christmas (”Santa Claus is a Big Bad Daddy”), and end of school (”Boogie into Summer”). Her ninth grade boys did a mean “This Diamond Ring” (complete with a James Brown turn) to compliment the young ladies’ “Chapel of Love,” by the way.
Each of Julia’s songs tells a story. Occasionally, people want to know the rest of the story… That, of course, is classified.
“With All My Heart” on THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL album is the story of her parents’ meeting and was written to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
“My First Love” from IF I SPOKE FRENCH is a true juliastory, melody and a couple of adjectives provided by Benita Hill. (”green,” “old,” “best)
A high spot in Rich’s songwriting experience is Benita Hill. Friends since 1992, they became collaborators over dinner one night in Nashville when Rich answered a Hill question with, “Basically, it just boils down to two afternoons in December.” Benita countered, “Are all that I want to remember.” And they were off!! (Hear the result on I’LL TAKE ROMANCE.)
A year or so later, Benita sipped her wine and asked, “How was the cruise?” to which Julia replied, “It was raining in Rio.” (Hear it on THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL.) The two have conspired to create an array of fine material recorded by one or both singers: “Holidays at our House,” “Wineglow,” “I’ll See You in My Song,” by Benita; “Working Girls,” “Boyfriends,” “My First Love,” recorded by Julia.
The Glenn Miller Orchestra currently performs “Two Afternoons in December,” “The Irises,” “If I Spoke French,” “My First Love,” and “Tete-a-Tete” from Julia’s original catalog. The big band arrangements by pianist Tom McDonough are deftly done. Strings have been added to “The Irises” for GMO performances with various symphony orchestras.
Getting it on wax
Julia Rich has recorded five full-length albums for Cardinal Records: “I’ll Take Romance,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “If I Spoke French,” “They Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Get In The Car,” and “Moonshine in Nashville.” “A Little Taste” is a 6-song sampler, and “The Pirate” is a single-song CD inspired by and dedicated to Johnny Depp, the best thing since the Beatles. All produced by Julia Rich and Tony Migliore. Rich credits Migliore with shining the best light on her original compositions via his fresh arrangements. Musicians and technicians who appear on these projects are listed below.
Tony Migliore – piano / arrangements / co-producer
Gary Weaver – piano / arrangements
Laura Hoffman – piano / arrangements
Jim Ferguson – bass
Bob Mater – drums and percussion
Ron Gannaway – drums and percussion
George Tidwell – trumpet and flugelhorn
Rickey Woodard – tenor saxophone, vocal harmony
Quitman Dennis – tenor saxophone
Denis Solee – clarinet
Larry O’Brien – trombone
Joey Smith – guitar / arrangements
Pete Bordonali – guitar
Pat Bergeson – guitar, harmonica
Amelia Lawrence – flute
Benita Hill, Nick Hilscher, Jeannie Dennis, Lynne Cook, Freddie Summers – duet or harmony vocals
Chuck Haines – engineer, mixing
Brendan Harkin – engineer
Chris Milfred – mastering
Matt Mattingly – engineer, mastering
Recorded at Chelsea Studio – Nashville
“Moonshine in Nashville” recorded at Wildwood Recording – Nashville