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Who Shelby Jean Davis
What Shelby Lathouwers (Shelby Jean Davis), 1926-2010: Radio’s ‘Little Mountain Sweetheart’
When March 30, 2010
Where Los Angeles, CA

As a girl transplanted to Chicago from rural Kentucky, Shelby Jean Davis made a splash on radio singing as "The Little Mountain Sweetheart."

She later sang under the name Shelby Davis (also, as Shelby Jean Davis). But she left show business in her early 30s, spending much of her adult life in Los Angeles as the wife of successful record executive Maurice Lathouwers.

Ms. Lathouwers, 83, died of pneumonia in a Los Angeles-area hospital on Tuesday, March 30, said her daughter, Camille Blinstrub.

Ms. Lathouwers' uncle was Karl Davis of Karl & Harty, a country western duo that performed regularly on the National Barn Dance radio broadcasts from Chicago in the 1930s. Karl Davis fetched his niece and her family from their home in tiny Mount Vernon, Ky., in 1936.

"He suggested they come to Chicago because there was work," Blinstrub said.

Little Shelby Jean Davis became a fan favorite on WJJD-AM radio and, according to her daughter, some of her devotees even named their newborns after her. Among her best-known tunes was "Little Girl Dressed in Blue."

She also sang on the National Barn Dance and Don McNeill's Breakfast Club, popular radio programs of the day.

A few years after graduating from Schurz High School, she married William Russo, an acclaimed jazz composer and arranger who started the Chicago Jazz Ensemble.

They were divorced in the early 1950s and shortly thereafter she married Maurice Lathouwers, a musician who became a record salesman and promoter. She continued to do studio and radio work but gave up music around 1962, her daughter said.

As Maurice Lathouwers' career with Capitol Records took off, he and his wife moved to Los Angeles in about 1965. Maurice Lathouwers, who worked with a long list of major artists including the Beatles and Grand Funk Railroad, died in February.

Ms. Lathouwers is also survived by a son, Maurice Lathouwers Jr.; another daughter, Germaine Lathouwers, and two grandchildren.

Services will be private.

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Contact Trevor Jensen
Chicago Tribune


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