Database entry - Lee Morse

Lee Morse
(Lena Corinne Taylor)
11/30/1897 - 12/16/1954
Portland, OR - Rochester, NY

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Born in Oregon as the youngest of twelve children, Lena Corinne Taylor spent her early years in the small town of Kooskia, Idaho with a musical family. She learned to sing by the age of three by impersonating her older brothers, which helped her to later master deeper registers in her vocal range.

Lena's first professional performance happened in 1918, when she performed under her married name, "Mrs. Elmer Morse," at a local silent movie house. During the next few years, she played in many small Pacific Northwest towns. During a visit to San Francisco with her father, a delegate to the Democratic Convention in 1920, she performed at the Hotel St. Francis and caught the eye of famous vaudeville producer Will King, who quickly signed her to a contract. With her career ahead of her, Lee left Kooskia and her husband behind for good. (Her husband, Elmer, would later file for divorce on the grounds of desertion in 1925 and lose custody of his son, Jack)

In 1921, Lee began working in musical revues and in 1922 she joined the Pantages circuit with a 15-minute act where she sang baritone, bass, and soprano in one set. In 1923, she won a role in the touring version of the musical revue Hitchy Koo and later that year performed in the Shubert revue Artists and Models on Broadway.

In 1924, Morse signed a recording contract with the Pathe label, who allowed her the opportunity to experiment and record her own compositions. On many of these early recordings, she whoops, yips, and yodels. After moving to the Columbia label in 1927, Lee became one of the label's most popular female performers and secured a role in Ziegfeld's Simple Simon, but her alcoholism left her unable to perform and her once promising Broadway career came to an end.