Teresa Brewer found fame as a novelty vocalist in 1950 with the chart-topping “Music! Music! Music!,” but reinvented herself as a jazz stylist who performed with some of the genre’s biggest names.
Ed Sullivan introduced her as “the little girl with the big voice” when she was a regular on his television show. The petite 100-pounder sang her way through the 1950s with a string of successful recordings that included another No. 1 hit, the sentimental ballad “Till I Waltz With You Again,” which reportedly sold more than a million copies.
With rock ‘n’ roll changing the pop landscape — and four daughters to raise — Brewer pulled back from performing in the 1960s to focus on her family.
After marrying her second husband, jazz producer Bob Thiele, she segued into jazz in the 1970s and became known for recording with such legends as Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie.
She was born Theresa Breuer on May 7, 1931, in Toledo, Ohio, the eldest of five children of a glass inspector for Libby Owens Co. and his homemaker wife.
At 2, Brewer made her public debut singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on a children’s radio program in Toledo. She was paid in cupcakes and cookies from the show’s sponsor.
By the 1950s, she recorded hits such as “Jilted,” “Ricochet” and the blues ballad “Pledging My Love.” She once estimated that she had made 300 records by the mid-1960s.
For decades, she also regularly performed in Las Vegas and on the national nightclub circuit.
Cast in the 1953 film “Those Redheads From Seattle,” Brewer dyed her blond hair but turned down Paramount’s offer of a long-term contract, according to a biography on her website.
The high-pitched voice that could easily go from a squeak to a roar became smoother with age, and critics noted that Brewer embraced jazz with the same vocal exuberance she had displayed in the 1950s.