Toni HARPER 1956

For this new post of Toni Harper I let her tell her own story…

In 1945, a mite of a girl named Toni Harper was taking dancing lessons from a friend of the Harper family -Maceo Anderson, otherwise known as one of the fastest stepping of the "4 Step Brothers". Toni, along with nearly 200 other talented children, went for an audition before Nick Castle, famous dance choreographer. Castle watched her dance. "Mmmm…yes," he said. "You don't dance badly at all. Tell me, can you sing?"
With no urging, Toni answered by promptly piping out "Waitin' for the Train to Come In". Now Nick Castle was properly impressed. He installed her in the "Christmas Follies" at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles and waited for the rave notices. After that, Nick Castle was instrumental in Miss Harper's career and there were rave notices aplenty.
What this story doesn't tell is the Nick Castle remained my friend, mentor, godfather, name it until and after I became a young woman.
At 8, Toni Harper was a star. Her recording of "Candy Store Blues" was a smash hit. Platinum in fact.

With Herb Jeffries as a foil, she recorded the popular "You're Too Tall 'n' I'm Too Small" and she even sang this song in a concert with Cab Calloway himself. She also performed this song with Cab while fulfilling a two week engagement at the Million Dollar Theatre in Los Angeles.
For those of you who remember and love Herb Jeffries as I do, maybe you'd like to check out his web site ( There you'll be able to listen to that velvet and wonderfully rich voice that we loved to hear.
She played the top theatres in New York -the Strand, the Apollo, the Paramount. She sang in television shows hosted by Ed Sullivan, Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle and Perry Como.
And then, when she was a ripe 11 years old, she reached that most wondrous pinnacle of them all -Carnegie Hall! And after Carnegie Hall… what? In Miss Harper's case, there was a period that followed when the career gave way to the so-called awkward age (which, for Toni, never occurred with any real intensity).
When and wherever she traveled, Toni's mother Fifi was at her side with her Dad and brother driving cross country to meet them here and there. Their's was a very loving and close relationship.
From the start, her parents, the Henry Harpers of Los Angeles, had laid down the dictum: School comes first and there will be no spoiled show biz brats in this family. It did and there wasn't. Toni went to Foshay Junior and Dorsey Senior High Schools in Los Angeles (where she sang in the glee clubs, choirs and school plays) and, with thanks to her parents, turned out very well indeed. Toni did sing professionally in the summers while otherwise recording and performing locally.
In 1955, and a recent high school graduate, Miss Harper was singing "One Hamburger to Go" a song aimed at the teenage market. All of the time wishing that she did not have to aim at any market and could be accepted as the grownup that she was. It was difficult to perform as an adult at the time. Being an adult meant that she would have the freedom of singing tunes of an adult nature. Most popular songs concerned love, fulfilled or unrequited. As Toni was still thought of as a youngster, these themes could hardly be expressed tastefully or from the viewpoint of the public, accepted either.

However, in the first "adult" album by Toni Harper -and her first on the Verve Recording label and her first backed with only a rhythm unit- you heard the former child star singing such unmistakably grownup songs as Cole Porter's "Love For Sale," and the insinuating "I Could Write A Book." Although the latter was sung with a beat, along with "Sittin' an' a-Rockin'," the album consists mainly of sophisticated ballads -again a marked departure from the Toni Harper of the past.
By the way, that rhythm unit was comprised of Oscar Peterson, piano; Ray Brown, bass; Herb Ellis, guitar and Alvin Stoller, drums
In 1959 through 1963 she recorded for RCA Victor Recording Studios with many wonderful arrangers, composers and musicians, Mary Paich being her most favorite.
Toni enjoyed a beautiful and rewarding Show Business career for twenty one years. She traveled the world extensively performing as a young adult.
In about 1966 she decided to retire from Show Business and has had an even more wonderful and fulfilled life to the present time.
She thanks this kind and enchanting person for that! This is " Husband ".


The two RCA albums are available on cd's. Don't miss those wonderful albums !!!

Visit Toni Harper (now Toni Dunlap) site HERE… and you'll know much more about her other talents and loves...

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