Category: Miles Davis

Sallie Blair

(1934 – 1992)

was an African-American jazz singer from Baltimore. She began her career singing with Johnny Otis and Duke Ellington in the early 1950s before she won the talent competition Chance of a Lifetime on ABC-TV. Soon after she joined Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club Revue and then became a popular nightclub act. Sallie was a reoccurring performer on Ed Sullivan’s shows and was rumored to have had an affair with him. She performed for the royal family at the London Palladium and broke protocall by kicking off her shoes and doing a sexy barefoot dance. Although Sallie released two albums as a solo artist, Squeeze Me (1957) and Hello, Tiger! (1958), she was more known for her beauty and sex appeal. Sallie often changed her hair color, but early in her career she was known for being a blonde. The press referred to her as the  "blonde bombshell” and Miles Davis called her the “brown Marilyn Monroe.” She married pianist and arranger Rene DeKnight in 1963 and still appeared on TV throughout the the 1960s as her popularity waned. In 1978, Sallie was linked to Warren Beatty then she disappeared from the public. She died at the age of 57 in 1992.

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Funk singer Betty Davis with her husband Miles Davis in front of one of his paintings at their home in New York City, October 1969.

Photos by Baron Wolman

Frances Taylor Davis (September 28, 1929 – November 17, 2018) was the first wife of jazz musician Miles Davis. She was a successful dancer before Miles made her give up her career.

Frances received a scholarship to study dance at the Katherine Dunham Company. She toured with the dance troupe in Europe and South America.  In 1948, she became the first black ballerina to perform with the Paris Opera Ballet, when they recruited her for a special presentation. Frances’ popularity grew and she regularly appeared in African-American publications like Hue magazine and Jet magazine.

In 1954, Frances was set to star opposite Sammy Davis Jr in his sitcom, but television networks couldn’t get a sponsor for the show. Probably because the the African-American cast weren’t depicted as the usual stereotypes of the time. The show had a theme about struggling musicians.

After a brief marriage to a member of the dance troupe in 1955 and giving birth to a son, Frances moved to New York City where she was cast in various Broadway musicals between 1956 and 1958, including Mr. Wonderful, Shinbone Alley, and West Side Story. While she was dancing in the original production of West Side Story, Miles made her quit in 1958. She had first met Miles in 1953, they reconnected around 1957 and began dating. He let her teach her own dance classes for a little while before they married in December 1959. She became a dutiful housewife following Miles on his international tours. She introduced him to theater and influenced a few of his albums and she also was put on the cover of a few. Soon his drinking and cocaine addiction began to take a toll. He would get jealous and took out his anger on Frances. She was offered a part in the film West Side Story (1961) and the Broadway musical Golden Boy (1964), but Miles’s wouldn’t allow her to perform anymore. Frances finally left in him 1965 when the abuse became unbearable and moved across the country seeking refuge at her friend Nancy Wilson’s home. Their divorce was finalized in 1968.

After their divorce, France taught private dance lessons and appeared in television special, including Elvis’ 1968 Comeback Special. She became a popular restaurant waitress in her retirement years. Frances died at the age of 89 in 2018.

(Video: Frances Davis Her Story – Life Before & After Miles)

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Jet magazine

covers from 1971

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Rolling Stone magazine covers from 1969

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Funk singer Betty Davis with her husband Miles Davis in front of one of his paintings at their home in New York City, October 1969.

Photos by Baron Wolman

Funk singer Betty Davis with her husband Miles Davis in front of one of his paintings at their home in New York City, October 1969.

Photos by Baron Wolman

Betty Davis photographed by Baron Wolman

for Rags Magazine, 1970.

Miles Davis leans on his Ferrari 275 GTB in October 1969.

(Photos by Baron Wolman)

Betty Davis photographed by Anthony Barboza, 1969.