Sweet Georgia Brown
December 21, 2012
Former WLW vocalist Juanita Vastine passed away on September 13, 2012 at the age of 94 after a brief illness. Juanita was known professionally as Georgia Brown when she started her career as a vocalist near Butler, Kentucky. In the early days of WWII, Georgia was hired as a staff vocalist on WLW where she sang on a variety of programs, most notably the late night program of poetry and soft music known as “Moon River.” Georgia sang on other programs as well and studied under famed WLW voice coach Grace Raines. She appeared as one of the voices of the WLW-created vocal trio: Mary, Jean and Betty. She also occasionally filled in for fellow staff vocalist Doris Day (they shared the same coach.)
As the war ended, Georgia Brown decided to leave the station and join up with fellow WLW artist Roy Lanham. Lanham had, by this time, formed his own band called the Whippoorwills and started to gain national attention for their style of “western swing” music. It wasn’t long before the Whippoorwills moved to Hollywood where they appeared in several films, on early television and on the radio. The band played western swing but it also played the popular music of the day. Georgia sang with the band in California for a couple years until they decided to part ways. She returned to Ohio to take care of her family and essentially left show-business.
Georgia Brown had a major health issue in the 1980s and spent the remaining years overcoming that disability. Nevertheless, she maintained a cheerful attitude and often sang for friends. Recordings have been issued on CD in recent years of the Whippoorwills and one can truly appreciate the vocal talent of Georgia. She was terrific. A few of her Moon River performances have survived as well and are in the Media Heritage archives. MH’s Mike Martini was honored to be able to meet Georgia/Juanita and she will be missed.