Twenty years later, Gogi Grant--the singer who blew an Elvis Presley hit off the top of the pop charts in 1956 with her rendition of “Wayward Wind"--wants to set the record straight.
Grant, who launched a comeback Monday night in the first of three concerts at the Westwood Playhouse, is still a bit miffed over “a distortion of fact” in connection with the 1957 Warner Bros. movie “The Helen Morgan Story.”
“Some writers referred to me as a ghost singer,” she said. “I did not ghost. I had full screen credit.”
Singer Ann Blyth starred in the film, but the voice on the sound track belonged to Grant, who sang “almost two dozen of the greatest standards in the world that I had been learning from a very young age.”
Among them were such romantic gushers as “April in Paris,” “Why Was I Born,” “Bill,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man,” “The Man I Love,” “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby” and “Body and Soul.”
Blyth, under contract to Warner Bros. at the time, was upset about losing the vocal role in her portrayal of the dynamic torch singer of the ‘20s and ‘30s, Grant said, “but her lip-syncing was outstanding, superb. She must’ve worked very hard on that.”
Indeed she did, Blyth acknowledged.
“I thought it worked well,” she said the other day during a phone conversation from her Toluca Lake home. “Many people did think it was me.”
It’s true, Blyth admitted, that she was greatly disappointed about not singing in the movie, “but Jack Warner and people in the music department wanted a different sound. I tried my best, but it just didn’t work. I thought Gogi’s recordings were wonderful.”
Grant was firmly established in the pop music world when she made the sound track, having recorded such hits as “Suddenly, There’s a Valley” in 1955 and “Wayward Wind,” which replaced Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” at the top of the charts the following year.
According to Grant, Warners’ musical director, Ray Heindorf, signed her after hearing one of her recordings--"The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else"--on the radio while driving home one night.
Grant recounted many such memories the other night at her apartment in Rancho Park, where she recently moved after selling her home in Beverly Hills.
“I’ve been going through a divorce settlement for 10 years,” she said, preferring not to dwell on the subject.
Grant did, however, enjoy talking about her two children, Joshua, 22, and an older daughter, Geri Brown.
Joshua, an aspiring actor who just graduated from UC Berkeley and lives with his mother, was an infant when Grant decided to give up her career after 15 years in the business, during which she recorded 14 albums.
“My last date was in 1967 in Las Vegas,” she recalled. “I didn’t want to travel. I wanted to be home with my daughter and son. . . . I became a housewife. I love to cook and I love my home.”
Born in Philadelphia, daughter of a salesman, Audrey Arinsberg was the eldest of six children. At age 12, she moved with her family to Los Angeles.
Although young Audrey’s talent was quickly recognized at Venice High School, it wasn’t until she was 28--when she won an amateur singing contest at the Mocambo nightclub in Hollywood--that she was “discovered.”
“I was a very naive 28-year-old,” she recalled with a laugh. “I was really dumb. My life was very provincial. I didn’t even know that Beverly Hills existed.”
She soon discovered the glitter, however, and agents and recording executives soon discovered Gogi Grant, who at the time used her married name, Audrey Brown.
Dave Kapp of RCA Victor records decided on the name Gogi, the singer said, because of a restaurant he liked in New York--Gogi’s LaRue--"although he claimed it came to him in a dream.” And the name Grant was selected because of the success it had brought an actor named Cary.
“I thought it was very stagey,” Grant recalled, “very unlike me. ‘Why Gogi?’ I asked him. ‘Do I look like a Gogi? Do I sing like a Gogi?’ ”
One of the first advertising slogans used to introduce the singer to the public, she remembered, was “What Is a Gogi?”
After retirement, Grant became heavily involved in community work and has given numerous benefits during the last two decades.
For 18 years, she has been on the board of directors of Vista del Mar, a child-care center in Los Angeles, and has been active in the Society of Singers, a 2-year-old nonprofit organization “whose purpose is to see that no professional singer is ever left destitute without someone to turn to.”
Now, however, at age 62 (she will be 63 Sunday), Grant has decided to resume her career after friends urged her to do so following a benefit with Frankie Laine last June at the Cinegrill in Hollywood.
Grant originally was booked for two dates at the Westwood Playhouse, but both concerts quickly sold out, so a third show has been added. Her remaining concerts are Monday and Tuesday.
“The real reason I’m coming back,” she said, “is that I’m bored with so much community and volunteer work. I want to be productive. I want to sing.”