Bailey, Pearl

Bailey, Pearl

(1918–88) vocalist, movie/stage actress; born in Newport News, Va. An irrepressible show business personality, she began as a dancer and won an amateur contest in Philadelphia in 1933, which led to work in touring shows. In 1938 she won a singing contest at Harlem's Apollo Theatre and was subsequently featured with big bands led by Noble Nissle, Edgar Hayes, Cab Calloway, and Cootie Williams, with whom she recorded in 1945. In 1946, she starred in the Broadway musical St. Louis Woman. In 1952, she married the drummer-bandleader Louis Bellson, whom she performed with thereafter. Beginning with Carmen Jones in 1954, she appeared in numerous films, television, and stage shows, including Hello, Dolly! in 1967–69. She hosted her own television variety show in 1970–71. Her autobiography, The Raw Pearl, was published in 1968.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.