One of the great jazz singers, Sassie Sarah Vaughan got her start in her hometown of Newark NJ, playing piano and singing in nightclubs from age 15. She won an engagement at the Apollo after singing "Body & Soul" in a contest at 18.
She toured the U.S. in '43 with the great band of Earl "Fatha" Hines, featuring Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Billy Eckstine, JJ Johnson and others. After some of the stars mutinied and left Hines to start a new band, Vaughn jumped in too. Others that entered that band include Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Kenny Dorham, Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon and more. Her first recording came in '44, with Eckstine, before setting off as her own boss.
Trumpeter George Treadwell (her first husband) significantly aided in her career upswing, with his management and musical direction. Partially due to not receiving royalty checks from her labels, she signed on to a major to record a bunch of pop ballads with Columbia from '48-53. She got to work with a symphony orchestra for the first time in '49 and made some TV appearances as early as 1953.
She was always dissatisfied with the pop material at Columbia so when she signed with Mercury she was allowed to do both pop and jazz. She became quite popular in the '50s, with both fans and critics. She did an album with Clifford Brown in '54. That year she also played Carnegie Hall and toured Europe for the first time. She cut some sides with Roulette Records, working with the likes of Count Basie and Quincy Jones.
Shady business dealings led to a down period in the later '60s but she came back with some strong records with the Mainstream label in the early '70s before her focused involvement with symphonies. She worked until her passing in 1990. Working with pop, jazz, swing, symphonic or Brazilian material, she had one of the great voices. It remained strong and wide-ranging right til the end.