Virginia Wicks, Jazz Publicist, 1920-2013

April 5, 2013

Highly influential jazz publicist Virginia Weeks, who helped build the careers of Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, and countless more, died on March 20 at the age of 92.  Wicks worked up until her health curtailed her activities in the last few years.

Wicks’ career as a publicist began the day Nat Cole said he wanted to record her song, “You Gotta Talk Me Into It, Baby,” which was featured in a 1944 film.   She met the star and his manager, who suggested she might enjoy doing record promotion for Nat and his other clients.  Knowing nothing of the field, but thrilled with the prospect of representing Cole, Wicks opened a small one-room office in New York, and her career in public relations began.  Her first five clients were Cole, Peggy Lee, Stan Kenton, Mel Torme and Nellie Lutcher.

Among those she represented in jazz were:  Gillespie, Goodman, Shaw, Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Josh White, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Norman Granz and his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts and Verve Records, and many more.

In later years, Virginia Wicks’ contributions to jazz were recognized, one in 2000 as part of a Women Legends of Jazz ceremony and concert at New York’s Merkin Hall which also cited vocalists Nancy Wilson and Annie Ross among others.  In 2010, she received an A Team award from the Jazz Journalists Association for non-musicians whose works had far-reaching consequences in promoting the music.

Leave a Comment