Joni James was born into an Italian family in Chicago. As an adolescent, she studied drama and ballet, and on graduating from Bowen High School, located in the South Chicago neighborhood, went with a local dance group on a tour of Canada. She then took a job as a chorus girl in the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. After doing a fill-in in Indiana, she decided to pursue a singing career. Some executives at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) spotted her in a television commercial, and she was signed by MGM in 1952. Her first hit, "Why Don't You Believe Me?" sold over two million copies. She had a number of hits following that one, including "Your Cheatin' Heart" (a cover of Hank Williams' hit) and "Have You Heard?"
She was the first American to record at London's Abbey Road Studios, and recorded five albums there. She was also very popular across parts of the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Philippines where she performed at Manila's now defunct EM Club in 1957. She also scored a big hit in Manila with Filipino composer Salvador Asuncion's work entitled "In Despair."
James had seven Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "Why Don't You Believe Me?" (#1 in 1952) "Have You Heard?" (#4 in 1953) "Your Cheatin' Heart" (#2 in 1953) "Almost Always" (#9 in 1953) "My Love, My Love" (#8 in 1953) "How Important Can It Be?" (#2 in 1955) and "You Are My Love" (#6 in 1955) as well as sixteen other Top 40 hits from 1952 to 1961. She has sold more than 100 million records and recorded more than 25 albums.
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