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Roberta Sherwood, singer, 86



Torch Singer Roberta Sherwood Dead At 86
By Sarah Tippit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Roberta Sherwood, a bespectacled suburban
housewife who in 1956 rose from obscurity to become a headlining torch
singer and entertainer, performing with the likes of Mickey Rooney, Don
Rickles, Joey Bishop and Milton Berle, has died.

Sherwood died Monday at her home in Sherman Oaks, California, of
complications of Alzheimer's disease, family members said. She was 86.

Born in 1913 into a carnival family, Sherwood began her 50-year-career at
age 11 in vaudeville. Although audiences always responded to her visceral
singing style, she chose to stop touring and marry Broadway showman Don
Lanning in 1938.

They settled in Miami, Florida, began a family, and went into the local
club business where Sherwood sang her way through the 1940s and '50s,
stopping in-between acts to breastfeed her three sons.

It was not until 1956, with her husband dying of lung cancer and a family
to feed, that Sherwood's career took off. Initially passed over as too old
to perform, she sang only at local events until she was hired by a Miami
Beach club owner.

Soon, people packed the bar to hear the woman with the glasses who banged
on a battered cymbal while she sang. Television comic Red Buttons brought
in Walter Winchell, who raved about her in his column and on radio
broadcasts.

Not long after Sherwood was earning up to $5,000 a week at the nation's
top nightclubs and was signed to do an album by Decca Records. She played
New York's famed Copa Cabana, made rounds at the major clubs in Las Vegas
and opened in Hollywood to an enthusiastic reception.

Her style was described by Time magazine as ``flashy, richly sentimental,
as unsubtle as her crashing cymbal and as unpretentious as her $49.50
dress.''

``I dug up the cymbal because Murray Franklin didn't have a drummer,'' she
once said. ``I started wearing a sweater because of the air-conditioning
... I wear the glasses when I'm walking through the audience because I
can't see without them, and I don't want to walk into somebody's shrimp
cocktail.''

Over the years Sherwood's dozens of hit recordings included ''You're
Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You,'' and ``Up A Lazy River.'' She became a
favorite in the early days of television, appearing on ``The Ed Sullivan
Show, ``The Steve Allen Show, ''The Jackie Gleason Show,'' The Garry Moore
Show'' and ``Person To Person'' with Edward R. Murrow.

Sherwood is survived by three sons, two grandchildren and five
great-grandchildren. 



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