THE death has been announced of Annie Ross, once one of Scotland’s biggest musical stars who had an astonishing singing and acting career over eight decades. She was once acclaimed as Scotland’s Shirley Temple, and was later a brilliant and innovative jazz singer-songwriter and character actress who also overcame drug addiction to return to stage and screen.

She would have been 90 tomorrow and was performing until a few years ago. Her former manager Jim Coleman confirmed that Ross had succumbed to heart failure and emphysema.


SHE was born Annabelle Macauley Allan Short on July 25, 1930. Her father and mother Jack Short and Mary Dalziel, née Allan, were vaudevillians who were performing on tour.

Showbiz was in her blood and the Short family also included her brothers Jimmy Logan, one of Scotland’s greatest entertainers, and singer and variety show trouper Buddy Logan, and her aunt Ella Logan, a noted Broadway performer.

By the age of four, it was clear she was destined for a career in showbusiness. On a trip to New York, she won a radio contest which got her a contract with MGM, and at the age of seven she sang “Loch Lomond” in the film Our Gang Follies of 1938. Her aunt Ella moved with Ross to Los Angeles where she appeared alongside Judy Garland in the film Presenting Lily Mars.


MUSIC was her passion from an early age, and at 14 she won a songwriting contest with Let’s Fly, a song later recorded by Johnny Mercer. She moved back home, changed her name to Annie Ross and began singing with jazz bands. She met the black jazz drummer Kenny Clarke and had an affair which produced a son, Kenny Clarke Jnr.

In those censorious days, having a mixed-race child was frowned on, and after moving to the USA, Ross sent her son to live with his uncle in Pittsburgh while she struggled to find work.

Her big break came in 1952 when she wrote “Twisted” and didn’t recognise its potential – she only found out after she was back in Scotland that her song had become a hit. Returning to the USA once again, she began working in jazz clubs and theatres, singing with Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.

She became particular friends with Billie Holiday, despite once having to tell her that she was replacing Holiday as top of the bill.

By the late 1950s, Annie Ross was a huge star of the jazz world, having teamed up Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert in an all-vocal group where she pioneered “vocalese”, singing lyrics, many of which she wrote or improvised, alongside or in place of instrumental solos.

Lambert, Hendricks and Ross were huge stars for several years. Music critic and historian Will Friedwald would call them “the greatest jazz vocal group that ever was”.


ROSS had a long-running relationship with the comedian Lenny Bruce, and while with him she became addicted to opioids. She managed to get clean enough to marry actor Sean Lynch and they opened Annie’s Room, a music club in London.

But Ross was heading into the depths, getting divorced and being made bankrupt before re-emerging as a talented actress on stage, television and film.

She appeared in films as diverse as Alfie Darling and Superman III, and she was a particular favourite of the director Robert Altman who featured her in Short Cuts and The Player.


AS well as appearing at Glasgow Jazz Festivals and at the Glasgow Film Festival where the film of her life, Annie Ross: No One But Me, was shown, she trod the boards in Glasgow almost 20 years ago.

In 2001, the Scottish theatre producer Ed Crozier, former president of the Scottish Rugby Union, was working on the revival of the hit musical play The Celtic Story. Jimmy Logan had appeared in the original production by Dave Anderson and David MacLennan, so Crozier asked Ross if she would like to do the revival which was going to star Tony Roper and my late brother, Stevie Hannan.

In tribute to Logan who died in 2001, she agreed to appear in the production.

At the age of 71 she stole the show at the premiere on July 4, 2002, singing the lament for tragic goalkeeper John Thomson.

Crozier recalled yesterday: “She had charisma, that special ‘it’, but she was also so considerate, with no airs and graces and made everybody feel the same whether they were a prince or pauper.

“She was a wonderful storyteller, and would regale us with tales of her friends like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett who asked her to marry him, and the many actors she worked with.

“Annie was the Scottish icon that too many Scots didn’t know about.”