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She was born Gayle Peck in California, the only child of vaudeville parents who hosted their own radio show on which, aged just three years old, Julie gave her first public performance. When she was 14 the family moved to Hollywood where she attended the private Hollywood Professional School, whose alumni included the likes of Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and Betty Grable. As a teenager in the Forties, she began singing jazz in local nightclubs, until she was barred for being under age. She was spotted by Sue Carol, a former silent movie actress turned talent scout, and the wife of actor Alan Ladd. Carol renamed her Julie London and began casting her in B-movies.
Julie London recorded 32 albums during her career. Forced to give up band singing when her true age was discovered, she was primarily a torch singer. Her vocal range was described by "sultry" and "low-keyed". Her own favorite singers were Barbra Streisand and Roberta Flack. She was known in some circles as "The Liberty Girl" for helping establish Liberty Records, where she began singing in , as a successful label. Billboard Magazine named her the most popular female vocalist for , and ".
She sang as a teenager in a band on the West Coast, prior to her first film appearance. She attended Hollywood Professional High School and graduated in She was discovered by talent agent Sue Carol the wife of actor Alan Ladd while an elevator operator. She appeared in her first film, Nabonga , in Her first public professional singing performance was at the Club.