In the liner notes of Pinky's 2002 recording, Rain Sometimes, legendary vocalist Carol Sloane writes:
no fault of your own, you may be unfamiliar with the work of Pinky
Winters, but with resolute confidence in the exquisite music contained
on this disc, I believe you will join the hundreds of musicians and
other singers who have been her staunchest admirers for many years,
in spite of the fact that so few of her precise interpretations have
been heretofore readily available. This is a voice which will enchant
you for now and evermore.
When asked about her early influences, she unhesitatingly remembers
the time when she was fifteen years old and living in Indiana, she
heard Sarah Vaughan for the first time. With a jolt of comprehension,
her devotion to singing was etched indelibly because that experience
helped seal her fate, so to speak, setting a standard which she has
consistently maintained. As Pinky describes the incident, hearing
Sarah Vaughan was a true milestone for her, "making me realize
that the only things worth singing were songs that touched me, made
me feel alive and willing to strive to learn what I now call The Great
Pinky Winters recorded two albums in the 1950s ("Pinky"
 and "Lonely One ), then married and retired from
continuous music involvement in order to focus on her family. She
was not heard from for over a decade, and then in 1979 she emerged,
accepting engagements in the Los Angeles area with additional appearances
in major US cities. However, her recordings did not resume until 1985,
with the truly superb album called "Let's Be Buddies", sadly
followed by another desert-dry period before "This Happy Madness"
(Verve-France) became available in 1994. This quickly lead to "As
Long As There Is Music" (Koch Jazz) with Netherlands Metropole
Orchestra. An album exists called "Pinky and Zoot" (Norma
Records) which includes tracks from the original 1954 "Pinky"
LP as well as some jam session material not really up to today's digital
standards in terms of sound quality. However, the music is joyous
and high-spirited as only a jazz date with Zoot Sims could be. Today,
all of these highly-prized recordings are avidly sought by collectors
around the world, determined to acquire them at any price.
Drawn from Producer Bill Reed's interview with Pinky (click
here for full interview):
Phyllis Wozniak was born in Michigan City, Indiana. Young Phyllis
studied piano for twelve years as a child, starting at age "four,
four-and-a-half. I gave my first concert when I was five."
A young Pinky
- Michigan City, Indiana
Her first influence
was..."Oh I loved listening to Frank Sinatra. As a kid I was
crazy about him and got every record I could find... I listened to
him on the radio. Then I loved Judy Garland. Give me a break! Loved
her in the movies. Thought she was just so special and real."
Pinky used to listen to Dinah Shore and the Andrews Sisters on her
dad's wind-up Victrola. She fondly remembers one of the first Great
American Songbook albums she owned was Ella Sings Gershwin with
Following high school, Pinky worked for a few years in an office until
her girlfriend said, "We gotta leave this town!" Off they
moved to Denver in their Nash Rambler convertible.
Upon arriving in Denver, they went to a club called "Dante's
Inferno" that had a band. Pinky's girlfriend asked the drummer
(Shelly Rims) if her friend could sing. "Oh, ok, what's her name?"
"Phyllis Wozniak." "WHAT?" "Well, it's really
Pinky Winters." Pinky's stage name was born. The pianist that
night was Dick Grove (who became one of the country's foremost jazz
educators). Pinky took piano lessons from and performed in Denver
Dick (and Pinky's first husband to be Jim Wolf [a bassist]) moved
to Los Angeles and soon convinced Pinky to follow around 1953 where
she settled in Manhattan Beach. In her early days in LA, Pinky worked
with Stan Levey and Bud Lavin. She performed in a club on Western
Avenue called "Starlight".
Pinky divorced Jim Wolf and got an office job to make money to raise
her daughter. Eventually she met and married Bob Hardaway (who was
on NBC staff as a saxophone/reeds player), had another daughter and
happily raised her children in their lovely home in Hollywood Hills.
During that time, she didn't sing for thirteen years.
1980 brought a return to the stage for Pinky. Lanny Morgan, the saxophone
player, got Pinky back into the fray with a gig at Donte's. The piano
player on the gig was Lou Levy. 1980 also brought a divorce from Bob
Hardaway. Pinky self-assesses her life as "more straight-laced
than not. I've been married twice, and (had) a relationship with (the
late) Lou Levy (beginning in) 1982". Lou Levy, in addition to
being a renowned pianist, spent the better part of his career as regular
accompanist to three of the great voices of the century: Frank
Sinatra, Peggy Lee, and Ella Fitzgerald - and for the last couple
of decades... Pinky Winters.
In 1983, Pinky
was invited by
Joel E. Siegel
to perform as part of the Great American
Songwriters series at Washington, DC's Corcoran Gallery - a prestigious
series that would feature such greats as Shirley Horn, Chris Connor,
Mark Murphy, Carol Sloane, Blossom Dearie, Dave Frishberg and Sheila
now cites her favorite singer: "I'm crazy about Shirley Horn.
I can't help it!" She also cites Al Cohn as "my hero".
Since her return to active performing, Pinky has enjoyed stellar recordings
and continues to be featured in choice concert settings to the
delight of her fans.