Lorraine Letson, 67; 50-year career performing under name Laura Lane.
Lorraine Letson was 17 years old and checking hats at a dude ranch in Santee the
night the entertainent, a singer, didn’t show up. The owner was wringing his hands,
but Mrs. Letson piped up, “What are you, worried about? I can sing.
And sing she did, and a 50-year career was launched. Under the new name
Laura Lane, Mrs. Letson went on to perform at such bright night-spots as the
Edgewater Hotel in Tampa, Florida, . She once worked with Pete Fountain.
Mrs. Letson died in her sleep Sunday morning in her La Jolla home. She was 67 —
which, her husband Douglas noted, “will be a shock and surprise to most people.”
She was often mistaken for the actress Ruth Roman. She had a low, throaty voice
and performed what was described as ‘‘the kind of songs that made men sit around
and drink all night long.
|A Summer Romance|
Come Running To My Arms
Dreams Are For Living
Everybody's Got Somebody But Me
What Would You Do?
You'd Better Mend Your Ways
She was a natural with music. At age 5, she walked up to a neighbor's piano and
started playing. By 18, with the Milton Donn Band to back her, she was playing
the Café La Maze in National City. The manager would hide her when the vice
squad came around. Mrs. Letson didn’t find out why — that there was gambling
upstairs — until years later.
In 1943, she married Laird Walker, an Army Air Corps pilot. Three months later,
his plane disappeared on its way from Newfoundland to North Africa. When Army
officers came around with a $10,000 life insurance check, Mrs. Letson refused to
accept the money. “Take it to his folks,” she told them. “I wouldn’t spend a dollar
She was a vocalist with the Jay Eslick Orchestra, playing the “Rose Room” of the
U.S. Grant Hotel three years later, when she met Douglas Letson, another Army
Air Corps pilot by the way. She stood him up on their second date. The reason,
she told him later, was, “I didn’t need any more pink trousers and green jackets
(the Army dress uniform) in my life ever.
But he didn’t give up, and the singer and the flier married Oct. 1, 1946, in Tampa,
Florida. They came back to San Diego to make their home. Mrs. Letson quit
performing professionally for 10 years after her children were born. Then one night
at the Four Winds on Fifth Avenue, the piano player asked Mrs. Letson’s sister-
in-law what she wanted to hear. “I want to hear my friend sing,” she answered,
indicating Mrs. Letson, seated at the same table. So Mrs. Letson sang and the piano player, Russ Robinson, impressed, told her to stick around. The two became a
duet, appearing not only at the Four Winds, but also Horatio’s “Green Onion” and
the Moonglo.” They were the opening act at the grand opening of the La Mesa
Later, Mrs. Letson took up playing drums as one-half of Toles and Lane, with
pianist Shirley Toles. One night, a customer who was alone and feeling blue,
remarked, “Everybody’s got somebody but me.” The customer’s lament becamethe title of the first song Mrs. Letson wrote. The most requested song she ever
wrote was “Dreams Are For Living.
Even after her official retirement, Mrs. Letson could often be found singing and
playing piano duets with Margie Harmon at Kelly’s in Mission Valley.
She is survived by hex husband of 47 years, Douglas, and her two children, Mr. and
Mrs. James Schermerhorn of Gilroy, Calif., and Michael Craig Letson of La Jolla.
At her request, there will be no formal service. Mrs. Letson will be entombed at
El Camino Memorial Park and Mortuary. The family asks that love offerings be
mailed to The Church of the Science of God, P.O. Box 3131, La Jolla, Calif.,
92038, to continue this “Do Unto Others Project,” which she originally funded.