Sheila Jordan grew up in Summerhill, Pennsylvania before returning to her birthplace in 1940/41 playing the piano and singing semi-professionally in Detroit clubs. She was influenced by Charlie Parker and was part of a trio called Skeeter, Mitch and Jean (she was Jean) which composed lyrics to Parker's Arrangements. Sheila also claimed in her song "Sheila's Blues" that Charlie Parker wrote the song, "Chasing the Bird" for her, as she and her friends were known to chase him around the jazz clubs in the 1940s.
In 1951 she moved to New York and started studying harmony and music theory taught by Lennie Tristano and Charles Mingus. From 1952 to 1962 she was married to Charlie Parker's pianist Duke Jordan.
In the early 1960s she had gigs and sessions in the Page Three Club in Greenwich Village, where she was performing with pianist Herbie Nichols, and was working in different clubs and bars in New York.
In 1962 she was discovered by George Russell who did a recording of the song "You Are My Sunshine" with her on his album The Outer View (Riverside).
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