Anita Boyer

Photo of Anita Boyer

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 Barries 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 McIntyres or­ches­tra.

Boyer joined Jimmy Dorseys 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.


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  • I Have Eyes
    Dick Barrie (Anita Boyer), Vocalion (1938)
  • Darn That Dream
    Tommy Dorsey (Anita Boyer), Victor (1939)
  • Love of My Life
    Artie Shaw (Anita Boyer), Victor (1940)
  • Bewitched
    Leo Reisman (Anita Boyer), Victor (1941)
  • Mad About Him, Sad Without Him
    Jerry Wald (Anita Boyer), Decca (1942)

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    "He's 1-A in the Army and He's A-1 in My Heart"
    Anita Boyer
    Minoco (1943)

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  25. “Rum and Coke Clicks But Ops Still Say Nix.” Billboard 3 Mar. 1945: 89.
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  27. “Anita Boyer Now H. James' Thrush.” Billboard 3 Nov. 1945: 17.
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