From time to time I chose to write about music that has nothing to do with Creed Taylor, this is one of those times.
In recognition of Womens History Month 2022, and in remembrance of her passing in February 2022, this post is about actress and singer Sally Kellerman.
It includes a video of a little-known singing performance she made on Saturday Night Live and an even more obscure recording she did with Ray Brown and Quincy Jones. The story behind that track is great, and I’m indebted to Morgan Ames, a longtime friend of Sally Kellerman, for keeping me straight on the story.
Sally KellermanSally Kellerman – Wikipedia is almost exclusively remembered for her performance as “Hot Lips” in the film M*A*S*H in 1969. One way or another, she was defined by the role. She was much more than that though. She’d have been disappointed but unsurprised if I’d titled this post “Hot Lips Sings”. She wrote in her excellent timepiece autobiography,
M*A*S*H WAS THE GREATEST EXPERIENCE OF MY ENTIRE CAREER, and I’ve had a lot of great ones. Still, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t push a button or two every time someone calls me Hot Lips. I’ve been working for more than fifty years and made at least fifty movies, but for better or worse, I’m most notably remembered as Hot Lips Houlihan. Recently, as I walked through New York City, a truck driver leaned out the window and yelled, “Hey, Hot Lips!” That put a big, crooked smile on my face. Anything that keeps me connected to Bob Altman makes me happy.Read my lips : stories of a Hollywood life – Sally Kellerman, 2013 – ISBN 9781602861671 – Weinstein Books.
Sadly, Ms. Kellerman passed away in February, the New York Times has an excellent obituarySally Kellerman, Oscar-Nominated ‘MASH’ Actress, Is Dead at 84 – The New York Times (nytimes.com), it opens by describing her as “the willowy, sultry-voiced actress and singer” but then barely mentions her singing.
Coming and Going In The Adventurers
Sally Kellerman, then a “Jazz groupie”, was offered a contract by VerveVerve Records – Wikipedia in it’s start-up 1955-57 period, when Kellerman was only 18. However, the contract was terminated early, according to Kellerman due to her debilitating stage frightSally Kellerman, Oscar-Nominated ‘MASH’ Actress, Is Dead at 84 – The New York Times (nytimes.com).
The first recorded track of Ms. Kellerman’s I was able to find was a dialogue track with Jack Lemon. She played his wife in the 1969 film “The April Fools”. The track is included on the soundtrack albumThe April Fools: Selections From The Soundtrack | Discogs.
In early 1970, just after the film M*A*S*H had opened in New York City on January 25th, Sally Kellerman was recruited to record one of her first music tracks. The track was on an expanded soundtrack album, “Music From “The Adventurers”” recorded and arranged by Quincy Jones and Ray Brown with author Harold RobbinsThe Adventurers – Q, Jobim, Deodato – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com). It was part of an attempt to rescue a film that had received bad early reviews.
Some 5-years before Donna Summer would sit alone in a studio in Munich, to record “Love To Love You Baby”, with electronic music legends Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, Sally Kellerman was in the studio with Ray Brown, Quincy Jones and author Harold Robbins. Kellerman was asked, and then coached by Robbins to “moan”Read my lips : stories of a Hollywood life – Sally Kellerman, 2013 – ISBN 9781602861671 – Weinstein Books..
In a private email conversation, used here with permission, Morgan Ames described the recording thus:
There was an instrumental track they excavated from somewhere. No song. Ray got this idea of having a woman make sexy sounds over the track. Of course I thought of Sal. She was hot at that time anyway. So she goes into the studio with Ray, who sits across from her on a tall stool. Already an unusual situation. They roll the track and Ray…directs… Sal as if she is in bed with someone. You know, when you direct an actress, she will perform. It was more like conducting without a baton. His hands go up, she groans louder. Seems to me there were a few squeaks in there as she was figuring out what he wanted. Then orgasm, very broad and long. That was the funniest part. I was howling in the booth. Ray really liked the orgasm part so he conducted that over and over. Basically it was one long orgasm. We laughed over this for a long time. She was a little self conscious after the take, but they assured her that it would never be released in the US.Private email exchange between Morgan Ames and ctproduced.com – used with permission
Page-109 in Kellerman’s autobiography is simply crazy, given Kellerman’s comment, I’m not sure if it’s the definition of #mansplainingMansplaining is, at its core, a very specific thing. It’s what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with … Continue readingMansplaining | Merriam-Webster but Harold Robbins is certainly in with a shot.
Despite the assurance the track wouldn’t be released in the US, in March 1970, the promotional version of the album came out. Robbins and Brown were doing publicity for the albumThe Adventurers – Q, Jobim, Deodato – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com). The promo album included a large label on the front which listed three featured tracks, one of which was “Coming And Going”Music From “The Adventurers” | Discogs.
Sally Kellerman isn’t in the film, wasn’t credited on the album, but news of her performance soon leaked out, likely through Robbins himself.
By June 1970, Kellerman was in Houston with Director Robert Altman to film “Brewster McCould”Brewster McCloud (1970) – Soundtracks – IMDb. She would get a soundtrack credit for a 31-second track “Rock-A-Bye Baby”. Kellermans star would continue to shine with increasing brightness through the 1970’s.
The recording of “The Music Of “The Adventurers”” didn’t do either Kellerman or Quincy Jones any harm. Jones would be the orchestra leader/conductor for the 43rd Annual Academy Awards (1971 TV Special) and Kellerman would sing on the show with Petula Clark, Burt Lancaster and Ricardo Montalban. Kellerman was also nominated that year for “Best Supporting Actress” but lost out to Helen Hayes.
The same can’t be said of Robbins, after the failure of “The Adventurers”, later listed as a “turkey”The golden turkey awards : nominees and winners, the worst achievements in Hollywood history : Medved, Harry : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive, it took until 1977 before anything of his made even for the small screenHarold Robbins – IMDb.
Ms Kellerman’s Academy Award nomination was 51-years this week.
Sally Kellerman’s singing style was a mix of pop, folk, as was popular at the dawn of the 1970’s, it also had just a touch of jazz chanteuse. She would record her only album of the 1970’s with the Page brothers, Gene and Billy. The album, entitled “Roll With The Feelin'”” was recorded and released in 1972. Gene Page had worked on the “Brewster McCloud” soundtrack and often worked with Lou AdlerLou Adler – Wikipedia.
Kellerman tributes that album to Lou Adler. She says in her autobiography
I have Lou Adler to thank for my first record deal. After we got back from filming Brewster McCloud in Houston, Lou was producing Carole King’s album Tapestry. He slipped me into the studio, and I got to record my first demo with Carole King’s rhythm’s section.
Life magazine’s Alfred Eisenstaedt was there too, and he took some wonderful photographs of the session. My album, Roll with the Feelin’, produced by Gene Page and his brother Billy, had been released in 1972. It was rock oriented, a departure from the standards I used to sing when I was younger. The track titles speak to me even now: “Roll with the Feelin,” “Sweet Journey’s End,” “Take a Chance,” “Child of Mine,” “It All Works Out.” Billboard magazine gave the album four stars—a huge thumbs-up for me, or for anyone else for that matter.Read my lips : stories of a Hollywood life – Sally Kellerman, 2013 – ISBN 9781602861671 – Weinstein Books.
In a January 20th, 1973 an interview with Sally Kellerman by Dick Kleiner (NEA) and syndicated in newspapers across the US,cast a shadow on Kellerman’s acting career by quoting her as saying “Now I’m going all-out for my singing career” while she was in fact only planning to head out on a singing tour for 4-6 months. Once the tour was organized, it was only 3-months long.
Kellerman’s singing tour proved to be exhausting, and she ended up in debt, as well as owing the IRS money. Later that year Kellerman invited Neil Diamond to a performance, afterwards Diamond would tell Kellerman “You should never sing again. It’s not your thing. You really can’t do it.”
Despite the advice, she would continue with her singing career, her passion, and while Ms Kellerman did have roles in films that allowed her to sing, her focus remainded acting. Another Kellerman album didn’t come until her self-titled “Sally” in 2009Sally Kellerman – Sally (2009, CD) – Discogs but she did make a number of TV performances, including this one on Saturday Night Live in 1981.
The full episode this was taken from is available at archive.orgSaturday Night Live S06E09 – Sally Kellerman : SNL : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive, Sally Kellerman is in a number of acts.
Her autobiography “Read My Lips” is available for the Kindle.
The full album for “Music from “The Adventurers”” can be streamed from
Sally Kellermans album can be found on the following streaming services
Update: 3/30/2022 thanks to Doug Payne for pointing out the car Kellerman was driving in Brewster McCloud was an AMC Gremlin, also that in her autobiography Kellerman misspelt Carole King. I’ve corrected it anyway.