From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

McLawler, Sarah

(born: 1926) 

Born in Louisville, KY, Sarah McLawler is a vocalist, performer, and jazz organist (she played the Hammond B-3 organ). When she was a child her family moved to Chicago, where McLawler learned to play the piano and later attended Fisk University. McLawler returned to Chicago and played piano in nightclubs and led all-female combos (McLawler on piano, Lula Roberts on sax, Vi Wilson on bass, and Hetty Roberts on drums). In 1950, McLawler recorded "My whole Life Through" and reportedly "Your Key Won't Fit My Door." However, recent studies of the latter song claim it was recorded in 1950 for Premium Records in Chicago, IL - #857 by Terry Timmons; see note and link on the entry for "Your Key Won't Fit My Door"). McLawler later married Richard Otto, a classical violinist, and together they formed a duo with Otto on violin and McLawler on organ. She helped popularize the jazz organ, which few women were playing. The couple resided in New York, recording such tunes as "Rainbow on the River" and "My Funny Valentine." Richard Otto died in 1979. For more see The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 3rd ed., by C. Larkin; Sarah McLawler, by World Wind Records; and H. Boyd, "Black New Yorkers; Pioneer organist in concert," New York Amsterdam News, 04/24/2003, p. 34. 

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“McLawler, Sarah,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 18, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-03-11 17:06:46