TIMI YURO (By Tony Wilkinson)
Born Rosemarie Timotea Aurro, 4 August 1940, Chicago, Illinois
Known as the 'Lost Voice Of Soul', Timi had a long run of hits in the sixties. She possessed a powerful belting voice that was put to great use on some classic recordings, especially in the sixties when she broke through in hit parade terms with the likes of 'Hurt' and 'What's A Matter Baby'.
Born Rosemarie Timotea Aurro in Chicago on 4th August 1940, her mother Edith resolved that she should receive vocal training and this resulted in a demo recording of the operatic tune 'Butterfly' at the age of eight (no, Cynthia, not the Charlie Gracie song). However there are also stories that her nanny used to smuggle her into nightclubs to witness performances by the likes of Dinah Washington and Mildred Bailey. In 1952, the Aurro family had relocated to Los Angeles and soon Timi was receiving free voice training from noted coach Dr. Lilian Goodman, who also had Elizabeth Taylor and Frankie Laine on her list of clients.
At the age of 14, Yuro was waiting tables to supplement the family income and in 1955 her dad opened his own restaurant. When the business was showing signs of going belly up in 1957, Timi persuaded her folks to promote a concert in the venue. This was a success and by 1959, the restaurant ('Alvolturnos') was one of the in places in Hollywood with live music shows in abundance. Sonny 'Confidential' Knight acting as a talent scout for Liberty Records introduced her to Si Waronker and Al Bennett and she was signed to the label. However the people at Liberty kept her recording lightweight pop and supper-club type material that went nowhere.
Legend has it that Timi crashed a board meeting of Liberty Records in the spring of 1961 and demanded that she be allowed to record material more suited to her voice. Al Bennett asked what she wanted to sing and she launched into an impromptu version of 'Hurt', previously a hit in 1954 for Roy Hamilton. She then entered the recording studio and with the help of Clyde Otis, Belford Hendricks and Bones Howe, she laid down her version of the song on June 23rd. Timi sneaked out acetate copies of the record to a couple of disc jockeys thus forcing Liberty to release. It took off big time, peaking at #4 on the pop hit parade, #2 on the easy listening list and #22 on the R&B charts. This was followed up by her versions of 'Smile', previously a hit for Nat King Cole, and 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart' - both being reasonable successes. But these, together with a tour of Australia supporting Frank Sinatra, were turning her in the direction of the nightclub circuit.
As a step to go in another direction, she started recording contemporary pop compositions of the aforementioned Clyde Otis. The first of such releases stiffed but the next release 'What's A Matter Baby', which was polished by Phil Spector for release, was a resounding smash. The resulting album of the same title, her fourth for the label, contained her version of 'The Right Time' (aka 'The Night Time is The Right Time'). For this writer, this is the definitive reading of the song and that is taking into consideration the original version by Nappy Brown and the hit treatment from Ray Charles. Boy, does the little lady scream and maul the lyrics with a passion that is scary. Sadly, this track appears to have escaped the various CD compilations of her material.
Still I digress, and the hits such as 'The Love Of A Boy' and 'Insult To Injury' kept on coming. In another attempt to change musical direction, she tried her hand at country music but more in the mould of Ray Charles who had broken through big time with the likes of 'I Can't Stop Loving You. This realised her version of Hank Cochran's 'Make The World Go Away' that peaked at #24 but which was also her last significant US hit. The follow up, a great version of Billy Grammer's 'Gotta Travel On' did manage to struggle to #64 but Yuro was reaching the end of her time with Liberty. In 1964, she signed with Mercury Records for whom only one record scraped into the Hot 100. As a consequence, she resigned with Liberty in 1968 but in chart terms there was no more.
In 1969, she recorded an album 'Live At PJs' for Liberty that did not see the light of day until 2000 and that was here in the UK. In the seventies there were a few one off singles for labels such as Playboy and Frequency and a compilation L.P. 'The Timi Yuro Album'. There was also a set of recordings for the Dutch Dureco label that included a re-cut of 'Hurt'. Sadly in 1980, Timi lost her voice whilst in the recording studio and found she had cancer of the throat. But following a period of recuperation, she cut a couple of LPs for the Dutch Arcade label and it is this material that often turns up on various cheapie CD issues.
But in 1982, and with the assistance of Willie Nelson and his band, she recorded the album 'Timi Yuro Today' which included her treatment of many Nelson songs. Unfortunately she lost her voice again in 1984 and underwent a tracheotomy operation and was unable to record again until 1989, when she laid down another set of Willie Nelson tunes. This album was available for a short time by mail order only. She had further serious surgery in 1993 and is unlikely to perform again. A high profile benefit concert was held on her behalf a couple of years ago in New York at which Timi put in an appearance.
There is no doubt that she is a lady who possessed a tremendous and unique voice. She made some great records.
There are numerous compilations available but for a good selective overview, the following three are recommended:
(UK) RPM 117 - 'The Lost Voice Of Soul' - 1993
(UK) RPM 167 - The Voice That Got Away' - 1996
(UK) RPM 197 - 'Live t PJs' - 2000
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