Constance Gates was born in Cleveland Heights, Ohio in 1912. She died of complications from a stroke on March 2, 1999, in Inverness, California. She was 87.
Connie was graduated from the Ursuline Academy in Cleveland in 1929, where she had a flair for drama and music. She attended Western Reserve and graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music. She performed on local radio shows in Cleveland, singing and playing the piano and ukulele. She played five one-half-hour shows per week on the WHK radio station, for which she was paid $9 per week.
After arriving in New York City at the age of 19, she auditioned and signed with Columbia Broadcasting Company. She was the featured singer with the CBS orchestra on the show Moonglow. Later she signed with NBC and was featured on the popular weekly broadcast Let's Dance. She made frequent guest appearances for Benny Goodman, and for Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, who were her friends.
Connie, a contralto, popularized many songs in the mid-30's including "Red Sails in the Sunset" and "Moon over Miami". Her show was the first one-woman show to be broadcast on both networks. During her singing career she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
She married Gilbert J. Markle, a radio engineer at NBC, in 1939, and gave up her singing career to raise a family, first in Jersey City, thenin Tenafly, New Jersey. Thereafter, in widening her artistic expression, she created hundreds of oil paintings, sculptures, stained-glass windows, and illuminated writings. The unifying theme of her art was the suffering of humanity. Her work was exhibited at the Interchurch Center in NYC, and at the United Nations. A 6-foot-high mural depicting soldiers returning from battle was donated to the Vietnam government.
She studied Depth Psychology with Ira Progroff, known for his Intensive Journal Writing Workshops. She was also a student of Ayang Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist. Connie Gates was particularly in her later years a profound spiritualist.
She is survived by three children; Gilbert Scott, William Gates, and Janet Rosemary, and by nine grand-children and three great-grand-children.
At 19, she asked her father, Augustus Gates, a Cleveland industrialist, to take her to New York City to pursue her singing career. They drove to NYC together. Her father negotiated an audition with a CBS executive from a pay phone in the street. He begged the executive to reject his daughter so she would give up her aspiration to become a singer. This reverse psychology cooked up on the spot by "Gus" Gates worked; she was "discovered" and signed to a contract with the CBS orchestra.
Connie took flying instructions from the well-known stunt pilot Swanee Taylor. She wanted to be the first female air transport pilot. She shared an interest in the ukulele with the entertainer Arthur Godfrey, another pilot.
She met her husband, Gilbert J. Markle, an NBC radio engineer, as he raised the RCA 44DX mike for her to sing.
Connie was known as "the girl without a theme song". She believed that if fans couldn't remember her without a theme, they wouldn't remember her anyway.
A huge popularizer of songs during the nineteen-thirties, Connie Gates (Markle) re-recorded a half-dozen of her favorite tunes 30 years later, accompanied by pianist Ed Otley. They can be heard here as
Connie Gates, Thirties Retrospective, 1963
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.