BALTIMORE (WJZ) — She was called Baltimore’s “First Lady of Jazz” and Monday morning, the city woke up to the news that Ethel Ennis had died at the age of 86.
For Jazz fans, she was an icon.
Ethel Ennis was born in west Baltimore and always called the city home.
One person who knew her said that she would have it no other way.
Her smooth voice drew people in and gave her world wide-acclaim as she performed with the likes of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.
A pride of Charm City, she was recognized as Baltimore’s “First Lady of Jazz” who made many proud.
At Morgan State’s WEAA Radio, Master Class host Robert Shahid dedicated an entire hour to Ennis.
“Oh my goodness, a majestic angelic voice,” Shahid said. “I guess I can’t tell you about it more than saying those things because we want to apply words to something that is so beautiful as her voice, you just have to hear her.”
He even replayed interviews where Ennis talked about staying true to herself, despite pressures from big record labels.
“I remember in the 50s, they would say ‘oh Ethel, if you were only Jewish,” Ennis said. “I don’t know why I can’t be me doing what I do.”
Ennis’ commitment to Baltimore made others take notice. According to Shahid, her club “Ethel’s Place” right across the street from the Meyerhoff, drew big-name performers to Charm City.
“She was asked, ‘why do you keep coming to Baltimore?’” Shahid said. “and her first answer was ‘why not?” and then she used the quote ‘you bloom where your roots are planted.’”
Despite her worldwide notoriety, Ennis paid tribute to others.
She was found in the WJZ archives as she remembered the late jazz singer, Damita Jo.
“Always admired her work,” Ennis said. “And in fact, I recorded a song that she wrote 32 years ago.”
According to The Baltimore Sun, Ennis died from complications related to a stroke inside her Greater Mondawmin home.
“Come and celebrate life, always do your best,” she said in one of her songs.
She was one of Charm City’s gems to the end.