Considered by many to be the best vocalist of her era, Bea Wain studied piano, dancing and elocution as a youth but had no inclination to take up singing until high school. She soon began appearing on local radio stations in the New York area, including WOR in 1934. That same year she joined Gene Kardos’ orchestra, then residing at Delmonico’s, recording one song with them in May 1937 on the Melotone label. She also appeared on NBC’s Children’s Hour.
Wain spent time as a member of Ted Straeter’s choir before forming her own vocal group, Bea and the Bachelors. The Bachelors consisted of Al Rinker, Ken Lane, and John Smedberg. The quartet performed on Fred Waring’s radio program as part of the vocal group V-8, a combined effort with the Modernaires. Wain then joined Kay Thompson in 1937 where she formed part of Thompson’s choir of 13 girls. Later that same year she appeared on Kate Smith’s radio show as part of the “Four Stars” quartet and Smith’s choir.
In September 1937, Artie Shaw hired Wain for a recording session during which she sang “If It’s the Last Thing I Do.” Brunswick credited her incorrectly as Beatrice Wayne, which led many sources to cite Wayne as her last name. She has indicated in an interview that Wain is the correct spelling.
While on Smith’s program, bandleader Larry Clinton offered Wain a job in his newly-formed orchestra based solely on the strength of an eight-bar solo he had heard her sing on Thompson’s radio program. Wain was known for her perfect diction, sounding each syllable when she sang, and Clinton was looking for just such a vocalist. Though reluctant to leave a steady paycheck for a new, untested orchestra, she accepted, making recordings with Clinton in November 1937. Having spent her last few years working as a part of choirs, Wain had to quickly learn about being a band vocalist but soon emerged as Clinton’s star attraction, singing on their biggest hits and gaining national fame.
In early 1938, Wain and CBS radio announcer André Baruch, whom she had met while working together on Kate Smith’s program, announced their engagement. The wedding was set for May 19, 1938. Wain had gone by Beatrice prior to joining Clinton, but it was shortened to simply Bea for record labels as her full name wouldn’t fit, and it remained that way. She earned a flat $10 for each record she made for Clinton.
Wain stayed with Clinton only a year-and-a-half before leaving in May 1939 for radio work. She landed a spot on Your Hit Parade that August, remaining there for two years. In late 1941, She began to appear on Merry-Go-Round and in early 1942 also became part of Manhattan Merry-Go-Round. She returned to Your Hit Parade on July 31, 1943, when Joan Edwards left to have a baby and also began singing on Your All-Time Hit Parade on August 6. She left the former show on November 27 when Edwards returned. All were NBC programs. She made the cover of Billboard magazine’s October 16, 1943 issue.
Wain recorded several titles on Victor and Bluebird under her own name and received much critical acclaim, though she only managed to chart one song. Wain went into the recording studio once a month. On the same day, singers Barry Wood and Dick Todd also had their scheduled recording times. All three vocalists used the same studio orchestra. As soon as one of them finished their numbers, another would step into the studio. The similarity in sound of the music on each artist’s releases was notable. The recording ban of 1942 marked the end of Wain’s commercial recording career. In summer 1942, she made a musical short for Pathe with Johnny Long’s band.
Wain continued to sing, perform, and appear on radio throughout the 1940s, often with her husband. The couple had a son on June 1946. In December 1946, Wain joined Baruch as disk jockey on New York station WMCA with a daily program titled Mr. and Mrs. Music, where they interviewed major recording stars of the day. The popular show ended in April 1949 when WMCA switch its emphasis to sports. Wain gave birth to a daughter in April 1951. She and Baruch had their own show on WABC radio in New York in the mid-1950s. She returned to the recording studio in 1956, making an album for the Key label.
Wain and Baruch later moved to Florida and eventually settled in Beverly Hills during the late 1970s. Baruch passed away in 1991. Wain continued to perform off and on into her 90s. She passed away in 2017 at the age of 100 in Beverly Hills, California, where she resided in an assisted-living community.
In 1940 and 1941, Wain wrote a series of articles for Down Beat magazine in which she gave make-up and clothing advice to vocalists. A columnist in 1939 reported that Wain “steps into a cold tub without batting an eye and believes yodeling is the correct singing style while in the tub.” Another columnist reported that she always wore a sunbonnet while in the recording studio.
Wain, in a 1940 article, wrote that she was working for Straeter when Clinton offered her a job. This doesn’t fit with the plethora of sources that indicate she had worked for Kay Thompson and then on Kate Smith’s show, including Clinton himself who stated he heard Wain on Thompson’s show. ↩︎
The story goes that Baruch, who was French, rattled off his full name to her one day—André Bernard Jean Jacques Rousseau Octavius le Troisiene Baruch de la Pardo—and Wain repeated it back to him without a mistake. Baruch was so fascinated that he asked her to marry him. ↩︎