Who Was This Gal?
Some time ago I found the music of Al Bowlly. Through, of all people, Richard Thomspon, whose song "Al Bowlly's In Heaven" made me wonder about the pre-war British dance band sound. I found Al, and was entranced. And as time passed, and I branched into new artists, I acquired a CD called "The Best of the British Dance Bands", released by Music & Memories (MMD 1007).
Some of this music was superlative, some bland. But no artists stood out as needing an extra listen. Except one. A song called "Woe is Me" had a sultry female voice credited to a Dinah Miller. Well, internet searching for Dinah produced nothing. No CDs of her were available, no mentions other than a few brief notes in histories of the 40s English music scene.
But I did find a posting on a geneology site. And e-mailed the author, who had received nothing in the years since her original posting. She is a relative of Dinah's and told me a few facts, which I present here, in case anyone else has found this same CD and wondered about this same artist. (The "I" in the following is my Australian contact.)
Diana, also known as Dinah, Miller was the only child of well-to-do parents. My mother and her ten siblings were brought up in poverty near the Lambeth Walk and all the family are working class Londoners. I find it interesting that someone, somewhere must have married 'up'. I think the connection was something to do with my grandfather's brother's wife. From what I remember being told, Diana's real name was Winnie, possibly Winnie Briggs. My mother knew Diana's mother, a black woman, as Aunt Winnie.
Diana won a talent contest when young, and managed to scrape together a career as a vocalist with several bands in the 30s. When the war came, she went first to Denmark, then Sweden, and seems to have remained there for the duration of the war. There were a number of 78s released in Sweden in the 40s with her as lead vocalist.
According to another source, Diana was the lover of the famous Swedish singer Ulla Billquist, who died in 1946. Diana returned to Copenhagen, and appears to have fronted an all-girl band there.
New info in 2009: I received this from a Danish correspondent:
Earlier this year I saw a new Danish movie by the name FLAMMEN & CITRONEN which I recently purchased on DVD. The film is about the resistance in Denmark during WW2 and two members in particular.
One of the main characters in the film is a KETTY SELMER of whom very little is known. In the film she is portrayed as working on both German and Danish/English/Swedish side. She had a relationship with FLAMMEN, Bent Faurschou-Hviid (1921-1944) but also with a high ranking police attorney, Vilhelm Leifer and the head of the Gestapo in Denmark, Heinz Hoffmann. In 1944 she fled to Sweden and 1976 she moved to the Balearic island of Mallorca. These seem to be historical facts, also mentioned in the "credit-end" of the movie.
Searching the internet for her name I found out that she had a long term relationship with Diana Miller.
Diana Miller lived in Sweden and Denmark for long periods of time. She was born Winifred Caroline on the 4th of November 1916. From 1944 to 1976 in Denmark. From 1976 and to Diana's death on the 1st of March 1993 they lived in Betlem, Mallorca. Ketty died in 1989 and is buried in Stockholm, Sweden. Diana is buried in the grave of the unknown in Palma, Mallorca. No relatives could be found although she had at some point been married.
In 1952 in Denmark Diana formed "The Diana Miller Trio" along with Inger Lindberg and Siw Karlén. She recorded several records and appeared in some movies but I have been unable to find out which so far.
This is a link to a Danish site where I found some of the above information; unfortunately it is only in Danish. But there is a link to a site about Diana Miller. http://www.lokalhistorier.dk/flammenogcitronen/Ketty/
Via Swedish Google under Diana Miller: http://www.donnamobile.se/donna/dianamiller.html Some mp3s and other photos, though much smaller.
"Minnesboxen" means memory box
See some old BBC stuff about Diana Here.