TRACING LINDA KEENE, PART 1: THE FLORENCE SUTTLE YEARS

    Well, it’s the 2nd of July and I’ve just completed my second blahg on Linda Keene.  Florence Suttle in 1935If you haven’t read my blahg from last month Down A Rabbit Hole With Linda Keene, then you should take the time to do it now.  This blahg is a continuation of sorts.  I couldn’t get Linda Keene off my mind.  I’ve been working hard to track down the four tracks with Lennie Hayton that she recorded in December of 1939 and February of 1940.  These were included on the CD ‘The Velvet Voice of the Forgotten Linda Keene’ produced by Prov. Eves I. Raja for Hunter Music in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  I finally found a copy of the CD to purchase and it’s on its way.  Part two in this series should include samples of the Hayton/Keene collaboration. 

   My research into Linda Keene for my last blahg was very sparse but I referenced a reprint of an article from “Doctor Jazz Magazine” out of Holland by Opal L. Nations titled “Unlucky Woman – The Story of Linda Keene.”  At the time, that was the only article I had encountered but it did reference the CD put out by Prov. Eves I. Raja.  I was curious as to what there was still to learn about Linda Keene and my further research found another article about Linda Keene that predated the one published in Doctor Jazz Magazine.  This first article was authored by none other than Prof. Eves I. Raja.  It was published in the IAJRC (International Association Of Jazz Record Collectors) journal in August of 2007.  Below is the original article, “Linda Keene, Her Elusive Fame”.  Give it a read and don’t forget to click on each page to get a larger image: 

Linda Keene, Elusive Fame Page 1

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Linda Keene, Her Elusive Fame, Page 2

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Linda Keene, Her Elusive Fame, Page 3

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Linda Keene Her Elusive Fame Page 4
   If you’re like me, this article left me with more questions than answers.  I compared this article written by Prof. Eves I. Raja with the one written by Opal Nations in the Dr. Jazz Magazine.  The one by Opal Nations gave her name at birth as Florence McCrary born December 1st, 1911 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Prof Raja’s article has the correct name of Florence McCrory but notes she was born in Taylorsville, 35 miles north of Hattiesburg.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  What I wanted to know was if there were more errors in the two articles and if I could trace Linda Keene from Florence McCrory to Florence Suttle to Linda Keene. 

   The main problem with my research is I’m a nobody in Canada and most of the the people who knew Florence/Linda have long since passed.  I also don’t believe, outside of these two articles, there were any other scholarly articles or books about Linda Keene.  That left me with newspapers or magazines published years ago that gave reference to Florence/Linda.  I decided that was where I would start my research and see if I could trace Florence McCrory over the years into Florence Suttle and on to Linda Keene.  This is part one in a series and the focus here will be on Florence and a commentary on what I found as it relates to the two articles.  In fact, the picture at the top, not being me this time around, is a young married Florence Suttle in 1936.  What follows is my research of Florence McCrory but mostly her married and performing life as Florence Suttle. 

   The earliest article I can find that even mentions Florence McCrory comes from the Hattiesburg American, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on April 19, 1929.  She is part of the Honor Roll where she seemed to excel in English with an “85”.  Florence McCrory at schoolThis places her at the Forrest County Agricultural High School in Brooklyn, Mississippi in April of 1929.  In Professor Raja’s article he states that “the McCrory’s were living in Shreveport, Louisiana…Florence at the age of 16 left her father, younger brothers and her half sister never to return.”  If she left at the age of 16 from Shreveport, which would have been 1927/28 then why was she still in the Hattiesburg, Mississippi region in 1929?  Brooklyn is in fact only 20 miles outside of Hattiesburg.  Subsequent articles related to her marriage also place her in Mississippi in the early 1930’s. 

   Next up is Florence’s wedding notice Florence McCrory marries Spurgeon Suttlefrom the Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi) Wednesday, September 16, 1931.  The article alludes that  the ceremony was held on the previous Saturday, September 12, 1931.  It is clear however that Florence is still in Mississippi and it mentions that her parents “Mr. and Mrs. Lee McCrory are still in Hattiesburg.  The article also mentions that both Florence and her husband attended Forrest County Agricultural High School. 

   I’m going to side-step here a minute to offer what I’ve found on “Spurgeon Suttle.”  Spurgeon Suttle GraduatesI found a mention of him in the graduating class  of Forrest County Agricultural High School in 1930.  The article to the right comes from the Hattiesburg American, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, May 10, 1930.  This suggests that Spurgeon graduated a year later than Florence.  Further research revealed a birth date for Spurgeon Suttle on May 13th, 1912; making him six months younger than Florence.  He was also now living in Lucedale, Mississippi. 

   It’s interesting to try and add some context for Spurgeon Suttle.  Here’s what else I could find out.  Spurgeon was an athelete.  In fact he is mentioned not only in the Hattiesburg American on May 13, 1930 Spurgeon is an athletebut also in the Clarion Ledger from Jackson, Mississippi on May 19, 1930.  Spurgeon returns homeSo was it Spurgeon’s athletic prowess that Florence fell in love with or did they share something else in common?

   Just about a year before Florence and Spurgeon were to marry, Spurgeon is referenced in an article from Suttle and his Father.the Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), September 7, 1930 about his father Reverend G. H. Suttle.  “The song services and special musical programs during the meeting will be under the direction of Mr. Spurgeon Suttle, son of the conductor.  His voice has been heard in the past by many Jacksonians and as a musician he is said to possess those qualities so essential to the success of a revival meeting.”  Was music and singing what drew Florence to Spurgeon?  Suttle and McRaineyIn the spring of 1931, Spurgeon is again mentioned as a performer in the Clarion-Ledger on June 7, 1931.  This time it’s “popular numbers by Robert McRainey and Spurgeon Suttle.”  Robert McRainey’s name will factor in again later on. 

   Not much is known about the early married life of Florence and Spurgeon Suttle. I could find nothing to suggest what either was doing for a living.  Florence and Spurgeon sing togetherI did find though that they both were talented singers and performed together.  Barely two weeks after they were married, the Hattiesburg American from September 25, 1931 publishes an article about the Hattiesburg Lions Club and in the last line mentions “the club had for a program today musical numbers presented by Robert McRainey, pianist, and Mr. and Mrs Spurgeon Suttle, who sang.” 

   We don’t hear about the young Suttle couple again for about 18 months when they are mentioned in the Spurgeon's sister is marriedMarch 15, 1933 Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi) marriage notice for Spurgeon’s sister.  In the notice Spurgeon is referenced as the bride’s youngest brother and that his full name is Virgil Spurgeon Suttle and that he and his wife are “wonderfully gifted and sing out of Memphis. Mrs. Suttle being known as Florence Suttle.  I can find no reference to either Spurgeon or Florence in Memphis around that time. 

   Three months later on June 18, 1933 the Clarion-Ledger offers up an odd reference to an extra attraction at the Majestic Theatre in Jackson.  Strut SuttleWe notice that they are presenting Robert McCrainey in an organ interlude and that he will be “assisted by “Strut” Suttle who will sing some of the latest and peppiest songs.  “Strut Suttle” has to be Spurgeon because his partner “Robert McRainey” is also featured.  A larger ad, below, gives a larger notice of the appearance of McRainey and Suttle.  McRainey & SuttleWe get another reference review of McRainey & Suttleto “Strut” Suttle in a review in the Clarion-Ledger on June 21st, 1933.  Apparently “Strut” Suttle has won fame as an interpreter of popular songs. 

   There has been no reference in any of these articles to Florence Suttle.  But finally on July 2, 1933 Florence Suttle, Blues Singerthe Clarion- Ledger does mention Florence and this time she’s billed as a “Blues Singer.”  Was this a label she gave herself or was it something the Clarion-Ledger tagged her?  Florence Suttle Blues Singer # 2She would be labelled as a “Blues Singer” throughout her career but here is the first reference.  The Clarion-Ledger would run a similar article on July 3, 1933 referencing “Florence Suttle, Blues Singer” but the only difference in the articles is that they also mention the film playing at the Majestic which was “Cocktail Hour” with Bebe Daniels and Randolph Scott.  Oh, and the performance would be on the eve of July 4th, the “Glorious Fourth.” 

   1933 finally concludes for Florence again at the Majestic in Jackson, Mississippi.  Florence and Strut SuttleThe Clarion-Ledger on December 24th, 1933 ran an ad for their current film “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” with an on stage performance of the “Follies of ’34”.  This was a “Musical Revue, Featuring”, among others, Florence and Strut Suttle.  This time it’s the eve of another holiday, Christmas.  For a year and half “Strut” Suttle and now Florence have been in or around Jackson and connected with stage shows at the Majestic.  Would the “Follies of ’34” herald good things for them to come in 1934k? 

   1934 was a slow news year for either of the Suttles.  By the end of 1933, Florence was 22 years old and Spurgeon was only 21.  They were still young.  Was there a break ahead for them? We know that Florence would go on to be Linda Keene but what happened after the “Follies of ’34”?  The first article for this year I could find about Florence and her husband was from the Clarion-Ledger from January 28, 1934.  Again, Florence is performing with “Strut” Suttle and this time it’s at the Jackson Ball.  

Performing for the Jackson BallFlorence and Strut Suttle in 1934

   At this point, I want to jump out of chronological order to offer a section from an interview that Florence Suttle gave to the Birmingham News, (Birmingham, Alabama) in June of 1936.  I will reprint the entire article later in this blahg but the essential part is the following: 

“They were married the day they graduated from Forest County High School, down in Brooklyn, Miss., after a courtship which began when they were in the first grade, and went to Jackson, Miss, on their honeymoon to obtain a job singing over the Capital City radio station. Engagements following in Memphis, Dallas, New Orleans and Shreveport. But the real “break” for the young couple came when Jan Garber heard them in New Orleans and took them along with him to Chicago where Florence sang with Garber’s orchestra.” 

If their break came in New Orleans that might have been in 1934.  Florence also references in the article possible work with Danny Rouseau, Ted Weems, Guy Lombardo, and other orchestras.  The first reference I found for the couple with any orchestra was from the August 3, 1934 Detroit Times, below, where they were performing at the Oriole Terrace as part of a floor show including Bob Chester and His Music.  In Detroit with Bob ChesterFrom advertisements running that week, the Suttles began on August 3rd and ran through the 9th.

  The Suttles in Chicago with Danny Russo Florence Suttle’s claim that she appeared with Danny Rousseau, which should be Danny Russo, were probably correct.  The article on the left is from the Chicago Daily News on October 30, 1934.  It is possible that Florence was in the show or joined later but clearly her husband Frank is listed as being with Russo.  This is the last reference for 1934 that I could find for either Frank or Florence.

   So let’s move on to April of 1935 and catch up with Florence and her husband, now in Cleveland.  On April 16, 1935,Duffy hires Florence and Frank Suttle the Plain Dealer out of Cleveland ran the article to the right.  It is an announcement that not only are Florence and Frank Suttle appearing at Freddie’s Cafe in Cleveland but more importantly that George Duffy has “engaged them to sing with his orchestra when it leaves the Mayfair.”  Duffy at Summit Beach in AkronDuffy left the Mayfair on or around April 24th because he performed at the Summit Beach Park in Akron Ohio on April 25th, 1935.  None of the articles or the ad announcing his appearance at Summit Beach Park mentioned Florence or Frank Suttle.  This was Duffy’s first appearance after ending his engagement at the Mayfair but it may not have been the first one in which Florence and Frank were included.

   Suttle with DuffyThe ad to the right ran in The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio), June 21, 1935 announcing the opening that evening of the George Duffy Orchestra at the Gibson Roof Garden.  In itself it means nothing other than it begins a three month appearance of the George Duffy Orchestra in Cincinnati.  Florence Suttle with George DuffyIt isn’t until almost a week later in the June 27th, 1935 Cincinnati Enquirer that we can connect the dots to Florence Suttle.  Florence is listed as “Florence Suttler” but in other articles over the next three months her name would be corrected to Florence Suttle.  First appearance with George Duffy?When I factored in that her name might have been misspelled my search discovered an earlier appearance with George Duffy at  the Crystal Beach Ballroom in Vermilion, Ohio on June 9, 1935.  This is from the June 7th, 1935, Sandusky Star Journal, Sandusky, Ohio and Florence is called Frances in this article.  Below is the ad that ran in the June 8th, 1935  Sandusky Star Journal.  Florence is still Frances and again she is appearing with her brother Frank.  But who is this brother, Frank? 

Frances Suttle at Crystal Beach

   Throughout that three month run at the Gibson Roof Garden in summer of 1935 there would be several references to the brother and sister team of Florence and Frank Suttle.  Florence and Frank SuttleThe article to the right from the Cincinnati Enquirer on June 30th of 1935 states that the two Suttles are “brother and sister”.  Other articles would follow claiming Florence and Frank as siblings.  It wasn’t until the interview that Florence gave to the Birmingham News, (Birmingham, Alabama) in June of 1936 before the mystery would be solved: 

“Yes, her husband! Frank and Florence are not “brother and sister”, as Danny Rouseau, Ted Weems, George Duffey, Jan Garber, Guy Lombardo and other orchestras have billed them.”

First he’s Spurgeon then we learn his first name is Virgil and then he appears as “Strut” Suttle and now he’s just plain Frank. 

   Other articles like this one from the July 1st, 1935 Cincinnati Enquirer Florence and Frank Suttle with George Duffyreference the two Suttles but do not mention their relationship to one another.  A week later on July 7th, the Enquirer highlights the duo as brother and sister and even publishes a picture of the two.  Photo of Florence and Frank SuttleThis is the earliest photo I can find of either Florence or Frank/Spurgeon and the photo of Florence is of course the one I feature at the top of this blahg.  Florece and Frank Suttle in CincinnatiSimilar articles to this one from the July 7th, 1935 Cincinnati Enquirer appear in that same paper on July 11th and July 18, 1935.  Florence Suttle with Georege DuffyBy the time the August 1st, 1935 edition of the Enquirer is published, Florence is the only Suttle getting the notices and the Roof Garden is now being referred to as the “Japanese Roof Garden”.  Florence is billed as vocalist in the August 8th, August 12th, and August 19th, 1935 Enquirer editions with no reference to Frank.  George Duffy finishes at the Rooftop GardensGeorge Duffy and his Orchestra would conclude their run at the Rooftop Garden on Thursday, September 19th, 1935 as mentioned in the Enquirer on September 15, 1935 but there would be no mention of Florence. 

   Just because there was no mention of Florence during that last week at the Gibson Rooftop doesn’t mean she wasn’t working.  Florence Suttle at LakesideIn these articles on the left from the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio), September 8, 1935 and the one below on the right from September 13, 1935, we find Florence is still singing with George Duffy but this time they’re performing at the Suttle and Duffy at Lakeside September 14Lakeside Amusement Park in Dayton Ohio.  This would place Florence Suttle with Duffy’s Orchestra opening at the Lakeside on September 14th.  This means the Orchestra was playing at both the Lakeside in Dayton and the Rooftop Garden at the same time Ad for Florence Suttle at the Lakesidebecause they did not close at the Rooftop Garden until September 19th.  The Saturday September 14th appearance at the Lakeside might have been a one night only appearance.  The only other ad or Florence Suttle at Lakesidearticle related to their appearance appeared in the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio), the day of the performance, September 14, 1935.  One can assume if Florence was appearing with Duffy and his band at the Lakeside then she surely finished out the run with the band at the Rooftop Gardens.  In fact, Florence wasn’t finished yet with George Duffy and his Orchestra. 

   Throughout Duffy’s three month run at the Rooftop Gardens in Cincinnati in 1935, I have found several radio listings for Ohio radio stations carrying remotes of George Duffy and His Orchestra.  Perhaps some of these have survived and contain vocals with Florence Suttle.  I have not been able to locate any.  Duffy and his Orchestra with Florence Suttle stayed on in Ohio and next appeared at Perry’s Summit Beach Ballroom in Akron, Ohio.  The advertisement below is from the The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) on September 26, 1935.

Duffy at Summit Beach Ballroom

  George Duffy and Florence Suttle at Columbia ClubDuffy and his Orchestra kept busy at the end of September and were found at the formal opening of the Columbia Club in Indianapolis, Indiana. The article to the left from the September 18, 1935 Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana) announces the programs for the opening and at the bottom of the article we learn that “Florence Suttle and a harmony trio croon the tunes and provide distinctive entertainment.”  George Duffy at the Columbia ClubAnother smaller article was found in the September 23, 1935 Indianapolis Star highlighting the appearance of George Duffy and once again Florence is mentioned. 

   The next night, September 29, 1935, after Duffy coming to Crystal BeachIndianapolis, Duffy and his Orchestra with Florence Suttle are back again in Ohio. This time they’re back at the Crystal Beach Ballroom in Vermilion, Ohio as referenced Duffy at Crystal Beach September 29. 1935in this article from
the Sandusky Star Journal, Sandusky, Ohio, on September 13, 1935 and the article from September 26.

   Already, Florence Suttle’s series of appearances with George Duffy and His Orchestra in 1935 contradict the article in Doctor Jazz Magazine that stated that her first “advertised singing engagement under her married name – Florence Suttle – came about on May 9, 1936 at the Booker Cadillac Hotel in Detroit.”  Both Opal Nation’s and Professor Raja’s articles have her separated from her husband.  I could find no continued reference of Frank Suttle with George Duffy and his Orchestra in the later summer and fall of 1935 and Frank Suttle has left Duffya small article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer on September 8th, notes that he has left Duffy  This wasn’t the end of Frank Suttle with Florence because his name would soon appear in press again with Florence in 1936. 

   Let’s first finish with George Duffy.  The first appearance I could find of Florence Suttle with Duffy’s orchestra was the one listed earlier in this blahg at the Crystal Beach Ballroom in Vermilion, Ohio on June 9, 1935 where Florence was listed as “Frances.”  Then the three month run began at the Rooftop Garden in Cincinnati on June 21, 1935.  Were there earlier appearances for Florence with George Duffy before June 9th or after the Crystal Beach Ballroom but before the Rooftop Garden?  I haven’t found any.  George Duffy at the University of Michigan April 26, 1934I did however find an article from the The Michigan Daily of the University of Michigan from April 26, 1935 mentioning an appearance on campus in Ann Arbor that evening featuring Marjorie Black as the the soloist with Duffy.  So, sometime between April 26, 1935 and June 9th Florence and Frank were in and Marjorie Black was out. Obviously the Suttles were not with Duffy when he played Summit Beach Park in Akron Ohio on April 25th as speculated earlier.  Marjorie Black probably appeared with Duffy in Akron because she was still with him in Ann Arbor the next night on the 26th.

   The next stop for Florence Suttle after the September 29th 1935 Crystal Beach Ballroom that I could find wasn’t until December of 1935.  Before I reference that article, I want to quote again from Florence’s interview in the Birmingham News, (Birmingham, Alabama) from June of 1936:

“Frank came down to Birmingham this Spring after a visit back home, decided to spend the summer and wrote his wife requesting that, following her appearance with George Burns and Gracie Allen at the Cleveland Auto Show in January…she join him down South.”

The reference to the Cleveland Auto Show in January of 1936 is an error.  Duffy at the Cleveland Auto ShowThe Cleveland Auto Show was actually in November of 1935.  The article to the right states that the Cleveland Automobile Show ran for a week from November 23rd to November 30, 1935.  The big attraction of course, other than the automobiles, were the appearance of George Burns and Gracie Allen in a stage show.  George Duffy’s band was relegated to the arena for for the fashion show.  Florence is not mentioned in the article or in anything I have found related to the Automobile Show.  Burns and Allen did broadcast from the Cleveland Automobile Show but I haven’t found a radio transcription of the show. 

   Was Florence Suttle still with George Duffy when he appeared in late November in Cleveland at the Automobile Show?  1935 at the Hotel Syracuse Duffy with SuttleI would think it is highly likely she was there because her next appearance that I traced was up in New York state in the Terrace Room of the Hotel Syracuse in starting December 12, 1935.  The article on the left from the Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, New York on December 9th, 1935 clearly shows that Florence Suttle was still with the Duffy Orchestra and was the featured soloist “Miss Florence Suttle.”  Obviously Florence did not head back down south after the Cleveland Automobile Show. 

   So, where was George Duffy and his Orchestra appearing before starting at the Hotel Syracuse on December 12, 1935?  One clue comes from the article earlier in this blahg from the Sandusky Star Journal, Sandusky, Ohio, on September 13, 1935 talking about the Crystal Beach Ballroom performance on September 29th:

“This will be Duffy’s only appearance in this territory, before playing the opening night at Cleveland’s Mayfair Casino, after which he leaves immediately for the west coast.”

We have to assume that the Mayfair Casino 

Billboard review of Duffy at the Mayfair

appearance had to occur before the Automobile Show at the end of November.   One review of that Mayfair Casino show  that I found was from Billboard Magazine on November 23, 1935.  The article does not mention the start date of the engagement but I found an interesting radio listing from the Santa Ana Register (Santa Ana, California) on November 8, 1935: 

Duffy's Mayfair Orchestra

“George Duffy’s Mayfair Casino Orchestra” suggests that Duffy was broadcasting from the Mayfair on November 8.  

George Duffy mentioned in Variety

Another article from Variety on September 4, 1935 noted that Duffy would be at the Mayfair Casino around the beginning of November.  And later in the same edition of Variety we find the following notice: 

Again there’s the reference of going to the West Coast.  Unfortunately the review doesn’t mention Florence Suttle but we do know that she was with George Duffy at Hotel Syracuse in December.  When did Duffy get a chance to head to the west coast?   

Florence Suttle’s appearances with the George Duffy Orchestra appear to have ended some time in December 1935 during the run at the Hotel Syracuse.  The following notice was in the Syracuse Herald n December 29, 1935:  New singer with Duffy

 Just as Marjorie Black was replaced by Florence Suttle earlier in 1935 with the George Duffy Orchestra, Florence was out and Terry Walker was in. 

   Moving into 1936, it appears that Florence was back in Cleveland because she is spotted at two establishments.  Florence with Pinky From the Cleveland Plain Dealer on January 25th, 1936 we learn that Florence is singing with Pinky Hunter at the Lotus GardenPinky Hunter’s Lotus Orchestra.  This is a reference to the Lotus Gardens in Cleveland where Pinkey (or is it Pinky) was appearing.  I could not find a start or end date for Florence Suttle with Pinkey Hunter.  The article from January 25th, mentions her being the “wife of the master of ceremonies”.  Is this Frank? 

  On February 21st, the Cleveland Plains Dealer ran the advertisement below:

Florence Suttle at the Terrace Cocktail Lounge

This time Florence is at the Terrace Cocktail Lounge in Cleveland with the Johnny Joyce Orchestra, having moved on from the Pinkey Hunter Orchestra,  performing as the “dainty songbird”.  Florence is appearing at the Mayfair Room

   It wasn’t until, April 17, 1936  that we find the next reference to Florence and it’s the reference alluded to by Professor Raja and Opal Nations.  Finally, Florence was appearing at the Mayfair Room of the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit beginning on April 17th.  This time she was with the Sam Jack Kaufman Orchestra.  Billboard reviews the MayfairThe May 9th, 1936 issue of Billboard Magazine carried the review, on the left which was favourable to Florence.  Not only that but she had her Florence at the Mayfairpicture in the Detroit Times on May 13th.  This was her first picture since appearing a year earlier with Duffy.  The notice under her photo stated the Mayfair was closing for the season on he Saturday which would make it May 16, 1936; therefore ending her run at the Mayfair.  I also found an interesting photo advertisement from the Detroit Press, also on May 13, 1936 (click on the photo below for a larger image):

Mayfair Room, Book-Cadillac Hotel

Notice the girl singer in the upper left singing at the Mayfair Room.  Unfortunately we don’t know who the mysterious singer is in this advertisement nor the orchestra.  The Mayfair Room certainly would have been a step up from any of the dead end ‘blood and bucket bars’ that Professor Raja mentions. 

   As I have said, Florence was billed at the Mayfair Room from mid-April to May 16th  of 1936.   Florence Suttle at the RexShe was next spotted in Birmingham, Alabama on May 22, 1936 at the Club Rex where she was billed as Saturday’s Guest Artist.  This time she was appearing with Coleman Sachs and his 14-Star Band.  The advertisement also says she’s a “CBS and NBC Star Direct From Dan Russo’s Orchestra in Detroit.”  Being billed as a CBS and NBC Star must have been from all of those remotes with George Duffy’s orchestra.  Were there any radio broadcasts with other orchestras?

Article about Suttle at the Rex   What brought Florence Suttle back down south?  I think the answer is, her husband Frank.  In the article on the right from the Birmingham News (Birmingham, Alabama) from May 22, 1936, Frank Suttle’s name finally resurfaces.  The appearance for Florence at the Club Rex was not just for the Saturday night.  Her name and Frank’s appeared in ads and articles from May 29, and May 30th in The Birmingham News:  

Florence and Frank at Club Rex
Florence and Frank at Club Rex

Florence and Frank appeared to pull double duty on May 30th Florence and Frank at Club Rexbecause they not only performed in the evening at the Club Rex but they did an afternoon performance at the meeting of the Birmingham Civitan Club.  The program was also broadcast over WSGN and Frank’s old pianist friend Robert McRainey was the accompaniment.  The performances at the Club Rex also continued into June as is evidenced from the advertisement and ad from The Birmingham News on June 6th, 1936.  Florence Suttle held over at the Rex“Florence Suttle the radio and stage star has been retained for another week.”  I’m not sure what the “stage star” reference refers to unless the article is referencing her 1933 stage appearances at the Majestic in both the “Zig Zags of 1933” and the “Follies of ’34.” 

   Finally, on June 9th, 1936 we come to the first and only interview that Florence Suttle provided to a newspaper.  This is the article I eluded to and quoted from earlier that appeared in The Birmingham News on June 9, 1936: 

The Florence Suttle Interview 1936

This is the article where Florence talks about returning down south at the request of her husband Frank.  Of course there are some inaccuracies.  We know that she did not return immediately after the Cleveland Auto Show, which was in late November of 1935 and not January of 1936, and she did come “last week” because she had been advertised as having been at the Club Rex for at least two weeks.  We also notice that Danny Russo is misspelled as “Rouseau” and George Duffy misspelled as “George Duffey”.  But everything else is here, if it’s to be believed.  She explains about attending the same school as Frank and marrying him after graduating.  She talks about appearances in Memphis, Dallas, New Orleans, Shreveport, and her appearance with Jan Garber in Chicago.  I have found nothing to dispute or substantiate these claims.  We also get another beautiful photo of a young Florence Suttle. 

   The engagement at the Florence and Frank at Club RexClub Rex in Birmingham continued into mid-July of 1936.  Articles would appear in the Birmingham News on June 13th and a week later on June 20th.  Florence’s name was still linked with Frank’s at Club Rex Florence at Club Rex June 20and that would continue into July with that the last notice on July 18, 1936 in the Birmingham News.  It’s not clear when the engagement ended at the Club Rex but Florence’s reunion with Frank provided them with what looked like an The last notice for the Suttles in Birminghameight week engagement at the Club Rex. 

  I want to jump backwards a little bit to talk about where Frank was before Florence returned to Birmingham.  Neither Frank nor Florence were from Birmingham but it soon became clear why Frank showed up in Birmingham in 1936:

Frank's in Birmingham   That article was from the March 27, 1936 Birmingham News.  Bob McRainey, his former schoolmate and piano accompaniment was the draw to Birmingham.  The following article from the April 8, 1936 Birmingham News profiles both young men:

Frank Suttle and Bob McRaineySo, Bob McRainey was working at WSGN in Birmingham and helped get Frank a job on the radio and then with Coleman Sachs at the Rex.  Before Birmingham, Frank was apparently up in Chicago with Danny Russo and his Orioles.  Was this the same Danny Russo that Florence had been appearing with before coming to Birmingham?  Frank would join Coleman Sachs at the Rex in late March or early April of 1936.  This was a full six weeks before Florence Suttle would appear at the Rex. 

   One can only speculate the real reason why Florence rejoined her husband in Birmingham in May of 1936.  Was it one last chance at reconciliation?  Was Florence trying to protect her interest?  After all, the March 27, 1936 Birmingham News painted Frank as an eligible bachelor quoting him: “Mr. Suttle insisted that he is heartwhole and fancy free and that there are at least six girls in Birmingham who he already fancies freely and he hasn’t been here a week.”  IFrank Suttle's name is bigf Florence was at all still interested in her husband, she surely would have hurried fast to Birmingham.  Maybe all of the articles about Frank and Florence were whims of fantasy to sell newspapers.  One thing is clear, Frank’s name appeared much bigger in print at the Rex until Florence started appearing there.

   The day after the last notice ran in the July 18, 1936 Birmingham News, featuring Florence’s name in connection with the Club Rex, we find that Florence is still down south but she’s now in Atlanta, Georgia.   From the Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia from July 19, 1936 we learn that she’s appearing at the Casa Loma starting July 22nd as part of the floor show:Her billing is small and there’s no mention of Frank.  (My apologies for the quality of the article scan but it was cut off on the left at the source.)  An advertisement with Florence Suttle’s name in small print also ran on July 19th, 1936 in the Atlanta Constitution: 

Ad for the Casa Loma 1936-07-19The last article regarding the show at the Casa Loma that featured Florence’s name ran in the July 26th, 1936 Atlanta Constitution. (Again the fault of the cropped image is from the source.)The last article that mentions Florence Suttle at the Casa Loma in 1936 There would be a final advertisement as well in the July 26th, 1936 Atlanta Constitution: 

1936-07-26 The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Ad   

Notice that Florence has now been billed erroneously again as “Frances Sutttle.”  This had of course happened a year earlier in June  of 1935 at the Crystal Beach Ballroom back in in Vermilion, Ohio.  If getting the wrong billing wasn’t bad enough, Florence Suttle’s run at the Casa Loma was abruptly ended when the Casa Loma nightclub was raided and closed July 31st, 1936.  The Casa Loma had only been open for six weeks.  The following article from the August 1st, 1936 Atlanta Constitution explains why: 

The Casa Loma is closed!

Solicitor General Claude C. Smith was right, the Casa Loma did not reopen Saturday night August 1st, 1936.  In fact there were several arrests and convictions for illegal gambling and the Club would never reopen.  The Casa Loma mysteriously caught fire and burned to the ground on November 12, 1936.  The final chapter in the Casa Loma saga appeared in the August 20, 1937 edition of the Atlanta Constitution; more than a year after the raid and eventual closure: 

The end to the Casa Loma   

   What did Florence do after the closure of the Casa Loma?  I suspect she wanted to get as far away as possible from Atlanta and the scandal that had been associated with the Casa Loma.  It’s been hard to trace her after the closure of the Casa Loma on July 31, 1936.  She might have still been in Atlanta waiting for the Casa Loma to reopen as a legitimate night club as the owners had hoped.  Florence at the 20th Century Club in PhiladelphiaThe trail goes cold after Atlanta for almost five months.  It isn’t until December 12, 1936 that her name pops up in an article in the December 16, 1936 Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) about the program at the 20th Century Club and this time she’s receiving accompaniment from Barney Zeeman and his Orchestra.  It must have been a short engagement at the 20th Century Club because Florence’s name is not mentioned in ads and articles for the Club late in December and early January of 1937. 

   Tracing Florence Suttle was easier sometimes in my research when I looked for Frank Suttle.  Even Frank’s name is hard to locate for the second half of 1936.  Frank Suttle in New York in 1937The next line I could find for Frank was from the Birmingham News on January 17, 1937.  It states that Frank Suttle is now on the stage in New York and is being groomed for the movies.  The last we heard from Frank, he was appearing with Florence at the Club Rex in Birmingham and according to the Birmingham News from March 27, 1936, “he joins at Club Rex where he will appear at the weekly dances until he joins Jack Hilton’s English band for a tour of the British Isles.”  I could find no reference to the British Isles tour or how Frank ended up in New York.  Needless to say, I could not connect Florence and Frank through the last half of 1936 or the first half of 1937. 

   Our story as it relates to tracing Florence Suttle Florence is Linda Keenethrough the media ends with a very small notice in the  Birmingham News on December 4th, 1937.  The article relates to Frank Suttle but there is a mention that his wife “Flo, is singing with the Nye Mayhew’s Band in Boston under the name of Linda Keene.”  Florence Suttle had finally made the transition to Linda Keene.  It had been a long road from  Florence McCroy born in 1911 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and through her married years as Florence Suttle.  From 1931 through 1937 she appeared as Florence Suttle starting with the Hattiesburg Lions Club in September of 1931 in Jackson, Mississippi and performances at the Majestic in the same town in 1933 and throughout Ohio with George Duffy and his Orchestra in 1935 and then down to Birmingham at the Club Rex and over into Atlanta for an ill-fated run at the Casa Loma.  Finally, ending up in Philadelphia and the 20th Century Club in late 1936.  It had been a long road from Jackson and she had put in her time.  In the next instalment, I will trace her beginnings as Linda Keene and focus on her recording years up to 1945. 

   But wait, what became of Spurgeon “Frank” Suttle?  In Professor Raja’s article he claims “when her husband became a recluse, Florence took steps to reinvent her stage name.”  Frank Suttle was hardly a recluse if he was working in New York in 1937 and was being groomed for the movies.  Unfortunately I don’t believe the movies wanted Frank.  I can find no reference that Frank Suttle had a Hollywood career.  There was in fact a Frank Suttle who did work during the silent film era but he was was born on March 1, 1893 in Edwardsville, Illinois and made only a couple of shorts in 1913 and 1915.  Spurgeon “Frank” Suttle never made it onto the silver screen. Frank and Florence, now Linda, separated in 1937 with the divorce coming in June of 1941.

  Tracing Frank Suttle, I found this interesting advertisement that puts him back in Mississippi: 

Frankie King

The advertisement is from the The Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, Mississippi) March 26, 1938 and Frank is now “Frankie King” appearing at the Club Casino with Duke Campbell and his Orchestra.  He’s billing himself as an RKO Singing Star but I can find nothing for Frankie King in the listings for RKO.  The advertisement was followed the next day, March 27, 1938 in The Delta Democrat-Time with the following photo:

Frankie King the movie star

Again, I believe that Frank aka Frankie never returned to Hollywood.  I can find no reference to the “Campus Frolics of 1938.”  The film and Frank’s movie career were probably shelved. 

   Oh, Frank’s name would pop again over the next couple of years but gone was “Frankie King”.  In the Billboard from July 27, 1940 it is announced that Frank Suttle is the new vocalist with Alvino Rey’s band who are set to record for Bluebird.  Frank Suttle with Alino ReyUnfortunately, although Alvino Rey did record with Bluebird, I cannot find any recordings that featured Frank Suttle.  Even the comparison to Fred MacMurray probably did not help Frank.  After that, the next major announcement for Frank Suttle, using his given name of “Spurgeon” was from the Monroe Morning World (Monroe, Louisiana), October 18, 1942:

Spurgeon Suttle is off to war

Spurgeon Sproule Suttle was a Private in Navigation School.  Spurgeon Suttle did survive the war but not much is known of him after this last article.  He relocated at some point to Little Rock, Arkansas where his name popped up in Obituaries for his brother, his father, and mother in the 1950s and 1960s.  Spurgeon Suttle died on August 31, 1989 in Little Rock, Arkansas.  He outlived Florence Suttle/Linda Keene by eight years.  I do not know if he ever remarried.  I have not been able to locate his obituary.  I hope he had a good life.

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One Response to “TRACING LINDA KEENE, PART 1: THE FLORENCE SUTTLE YEARS”

  1. […] to trace musical star Linda Keene through the media. If you haven’t read the first two parts, TRACING LINDA KEENE, PART 1: THE FLORENCE SUTTLE YEARS or TRACING LINDA KEENE, PART 2: THE MOMENT IN MY LIFE then do yourself a favour and stop now and […]

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