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 "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. 


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: My whole life through (song)
NKAA Source: Your key won't fit my door (song)
NKAA Source: Rainbow on the river (song)
NKAA Source: My funny valentine (song)
NKAA Source: Encyclopedia of popular music 3rd ed.
NKAA Source: New York Amsterdam news (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  Kentucky African American Musicians in Illinois (Chicago)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“McLawler, Sarah,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 1, 2023,

Last modified: 2017-07-19 17:51:26