Dardanelle Hadley (1917 - 1997)



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Biography of Dardanelle Hadley
Dardanelle (Marcia Marie Mullen) Hadley was born Dec. 27, 1917, and grew up in Avalon, Mississippi,where she studied with Gladys Bacon, a Greenwood music teacher. An internationally known singer and pianist, Dardanelle’s father Marcius Mosley “Buck” Mullen never studied music, never read it, but could play anything, particularly ragtime. Dardanelle once said she doesn’t practice practice. Her “perfect” execution on the piano is a gift from her father. Her sister Marie was also a marvelous pianist, but she died at the age of nineteen from the flu. Their grandmother closed up the piano for seven years at Marie’s death. The blue-eyed, talented performer was nicknamed “Peter” or “Pete” as a child because she was such a tomboy.
She majored in music at Louisiana State University and supported herself by working as a house pianist at a local radio station. Her name became “Dardanelle” from newspaper stories about the Second World War in the strait of the Dardanelles.
Musically Dardanelle had an intricate, improvisational style which has labeled her a “jazz musician.” Her career included many recordings and live performances from New York to London. In the 1940s, Dardanelle formed a trio which included herself on vibes and piano, guitarist Tal Farlow and Paul Edenfield on bass. After some successful touring, the group became resident at New York City’s famed Copacabana club.
In the 1950s, Dardanelle Hadley moved to Chicago where she raised her family and supported herself as a staff pianist for WGN-TV. She also worked on a highly regarded children’s television show called Lunchtime Little Theater where she was known as Aunt Dody.
Dardanelle moved to New Jersey in the 1970’s and formed a new trio with her son “Skip” Hadley on drums. She performed and recorded with Jazz stars Bucky Pizzarelli, George Duvivier, and Grady Tate.
She appeared at many festivals and concerts and worked on cruise ships and television programs. She played at the Cookery and Carnegie Hall in New York. She was also a popular performer in Tokyo, Japan, where she lived for some time. In 1984 Dardanelle returned to Mississippi where she was an active radio and TV personality, recording artist, and jazz performer (her second son, Brian Hadley, often played bass with her). From 1986-1988 she was Artist in Residence at Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi). Stories about her past were recorded during a radio show she did in Senabobia for WJNC. WKNO in Memphis then picked them up and in 1996 the vignettes ran on PRM. The cassette is entitled “Dardanelle Down Home: The Way Things Used to Be.” The jazz legend died August 8, 1997, at the age of 79 in Memphis, Tennessee, of complications following heart surgery.

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Dardanelle Hadley was also known as:

Marcia Marie Hadley (Mullen)


in Avalon, Mississippi United States


on in Memphis, Tennessee United States

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DARDANELLE, the singer and pianist who was a fixture at Bar None for more than two years, has moved into a new restaurant, Park Place, Park Avenue South at 26th Street, where she ispearing Wednesdays through Saturdays in a setting that allows her to be more expansive than she could be at Bar None.
Previously, she was performing alone, playing piano and singing to her own accompaniment. At Park Place, she has the support of a bassist (over the weekend, it was George Duvivier, who has since moved uptown to join Barbara Carroll at the Carlyle Hotel), and she is playing vibraharp as well as piano.
In addition, there is an interestingly feminist tone to Dardanelle's programming that gives it a distinctive flavor. Lou Carter, the pianist who was once part of the Soft Winds trio with Herb Ellis, the guitarist, has written a jaunty song for her called “For a Girl” that makes its consciousness‐raising points with a light touch.
Dardanelle also has a rich array of rewarding but relatively little known songs from the repertories of female singers — Billie’ Holliday's “I Can't Face the Music Without Singing the Blues” and “That Old Devil Called Love,” June Christy's “Something Cool” and a lovely song by Loonis McGlohan that was introduced by Teddi King just before Miss King died a year ago, “The Wine of May.”
Dardanelle is an interesting cross between a supper‐club singer and a jazz pianist. Each talent supports the other but it is difficult to typify her as one or the other. Her singing is essentially sweet toned, but there is an underlying positiveness that gives it character.
Her piano playing tends to be light and swinging, particularly when she has a strong and supportive a bassist as Mr. Duvivier, while on vibes this same lightness, at its best, can sometimes suggest the feathery sound of Red Norvo. But she is not as consistently in command with mallets as she is at the piano which may be why she limits her performances on vibes to one selection in a set.


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1917 - In the year that Dardanelle Hadley was born, Russian government offices were seized and the Romanov's Winter Palace was stormed in the Russian February and October Revolutions. The February revolution resulted in the abdication of Tsar Nicholas and a coalition of the Parliament and workers parties taking control of the government. The October revolution resulted in Lenin and the Bolsheviks taking complete control.

1929 - Dardanelle was only 12 years old when on October 29th (Black Tuesday), the stock market crashed in the United States. Billions of dollars were lost and some investors committed suicide as a result, having lost their fortunes. This ushered in the 12 year, worldwide Great Depression.

1931 - She was only 14 years old when on May 1st, the Empire State Building opened in New York City. At 1,454 feet (including the roof and antenna), it was the tallest building in the world until the World Trade Center's North Tower was built in 1970. (It is now the 34th tallest.) Opening at the beginning of the Great Depression, most of the offices in the Empire State Building remained unoccupied for years and the observation deck was an equal source of revenue and kept the building profitable.

1988 - Dardanelle was 71 years old when on December 16th, 1988 the popular film Rain Man was released. Featuring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. this film brought attention to autistic savants and was based on the "megasavant" Laurence Kim Peek. The film would later go to win four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role.

1997 - In the year of Dardanelle Hadley's passing, on August 31st, Princess Diana of Great Britain was killed when her car crashed into a pillar in the tunnel under the Pont de l'Alma bridge in Paris. The car she was riding in was trying to evade the paparazzi but it was also discovered later that the driver of the car, who was also killed, had three times the legal limit of alcohol which likely contributed to the accident.

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Dardanelle Hadley passed away on August 8, 1997 in Memphis, Tennessee at age 79. There is no known cause of death for Dardanelle. She was born on December 27, 1917 in Avalon, Mississippi. There is no information about Dardanelle's surviving family.

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