Singer Anita Boyer was perhaps the most peripatetic vocalist of the big band era, working with more than a dozen bands during the 1940s. Boyer began her career at age 14 on radio station WMSK in Dayton, Ohio, and later studied voice at Northwestern University. While still in college, she signed with bandleader Frankie Masters as a regular on the NBC Jamboree. She soon began appearing on other radio shows for that network and later for Mutual, including Funnybone Follies and Broadway Cinderella. She also sang on the New York theater circuit.
In February 1936, Boyer joined husband Dick Barrie’s new band as female vocalist, staying with him through the summer of 1939, when she quit during an engagement in Pittsburgh. The couple subsequently divorced. In October of that year, Boyer signed with Tommy Dorsey, replacing Edythe Wright. She stayed with Dorsey only two months however, parting ways with the bandleader in January 1940.
Throughout the rest of the 1940s, Boyer hopped between orchestras, rarely staying more than a few months in each. She also worked freelance, filling in for bands that needed a temporary replacement or a female vocalist in the studio. In mid-1940, she sang and recorded with Leo Reisman, leaving for Artie Shaw in September, with whom she also recorded. When Shaw disbanded his outfit in early 1941 she briefly sang with Reisman again before joining Shaw imitator Jerry Wald. She worked with Wald through October 1942, being replaced by Lillian Lane when she left.
In December 1941, Boyer recorded a failed attempt at adding the Pepsi jingle to jukeboxes. Backed by Harry Sosnick’s orchestration, the disk, released on the fictitious Nocturne label, featured an original tune, “Get Hep,” on the A-side, while the B-side featured a non-branded version of the company’s current commercial tune, called “Swinging the Jingle.” Machine operators saw through the blatant attempt at promotion and refused to order the disk.
Boyer was a regular on radio in the early 1940s and had her own program. In February 1943, New York radio station WOR signed her for a regular singing spot on its Keep Ahead show. She also recorded two sides for Okeh in 1941, and in early 1943 she signed to the newly-announced Lion label. In January 1942, she filmed a Soundie under her own name, released by Minoco, in which she sang a very patriotic version of “Hi, Neighbor,” and in 1943 she appeared in “He’s 1-A in the Army and He’s A-1 in My Heart” for the same company.
In May 1943, Boyer did temporary vocal duties for Bobby Sherwood’s new orchestra when it was called to fill in for one week at the Paramount Theater. In July of that year, Boyer married sax player Bobby Dukoff, whom she had met while they both were members of Wald’s group. Dukoff at the time was with Abe Lyman. The couple tied the knot in Toledo. In late 1943, she filled in temporarily as vocalist for Hal McIntyre’s orchestra.
Boyer joined Jimmy Dorsey’s band in mid-1944, remaining with them through at least November of that year. In mid-1945, she sang and recorded with Hoagy Carmichael’s orchestra. She then joined Harry James in October 1945, replacing the departing Kitty Kallen, staying only two months before leaving in January 1946. In 1946, she sang with Opie Cates’ new dance band as well as recorded with Red Nichols. In 1948, she recorded “When Apple Blossoms Fall” on the Tempo label.
Boyer had her own radio program on the Mutual network in 1952 and 1953, and in 1953 she recorded with the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra. As the mid-50s rolled around, she began to sing more blues-oriented tunes. In 1955, she released two R&B styled songs on Columbia and was touring the nightclub circuit with husband Dukoff’s band as late as 1958.
Anita Boyer passed away in 1984.