Irish folk star Susan Reed dies at 84


Susan Reed, a singer, harpist and zitherist who delighted nightclub and radio audiences in the years after World War II, died April 25 of natural causes at San Simeon by the Sound, a nursing home in Greenport, N.Y. She was 84.

Reed, a standout Irish folk performer in such New York venues as Cafe Society, where she starred for two years, and the Blue Angel, toured the country under the auspices of Columbia Concerts, making 107 concert appearances alone in one year that brought her the title "America's Concert Favorite."

Reed also was a regular at Carnegie Hall and Town Hall in New York and at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles, and she performed in leading nightclubs throughout the country, including Chicago's Palmer House. After a performance there, Chicago Tribune critic Claudia Cassidy labeled her "The heroine of every song she sang."

Reed also starred with drummer Gene Krupa in the Columbia musical "Glamor Girl" (1948) and in numerous TV shows of the period, including "The Firestone Hour." On Broadway, she starred in the 1946 Max Liebman production of "Billy the Kid" and co-starred with her husband James Karen in regional theater productions of "Brigadoon" and "Finnian's Rainbow."

She also appeared in concert with poet/performer Carl Sandburg, a family friend who played the guitar and sang.

Under contract to Columbia Records and RCA Red Seal, she made several albums, including the two-volume "Folk Songs and Ballads," which featured such classics as "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" and "Greensleeves." She also recorded the folk classic "Songs of the Auvergn" for Columbia.

Born in New York City on Jan. 11, 1926, Reed was raised by her father Daniel Reed, the author of the play "Scarlet Sister Mary," which starred Ethel Barrymore on Broadway, and her mother, Isadora Bennett, a Martha Graham producer. Her grandfather, Clarence Bennett, was a theatrical producer with his own stock company in the Midwest. She was introduced to folk music by members of Ireland's Abbey Players, who mingled with the family on U.S. visits, training and mentoring young Susan in the folk classics.

Survivors include a son, Reed Karen, and two grandchildren. Memorial services are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Actors Fund in New York.
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