Bob Eberly

aka Bob Eberle

Photo of Bob Eberly
  • Birth Name

    Robert Eberle
  • Born

    July 24, 1916
    Mechanicsville, New York
  • Died

    November 17, 1981 (age 65)
    Glen Burnie, Maryland
  • Orchestras

    Dorsey Brothers
    Jimmy Dorsey

Popular singer Bob Eberly spent much of his career with Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra. Eberly gained prominence in his early years by winning Fred Allen’s amateur hour and began his professional career performing in clubs around his hometown of Hoosick Falls, in upstate New York. His act consisted of singing while accompanying himself on the guitar. One reviewer described his style as “individual.” It was in Troy, New York, where the Dorsey Brothers discovered him, later hiring him to replace the departing Bob Crosby.

Eberly started work in the spring of 1935, three weeks before Tommy walked out on the orchestra. Having been hired by Tommy, he feared losing his job, but both brothers offered him a position. He chose Jimmy, as Tommy wouldn’t be able to pay him for several weeks until his new band was ready to perform. At the beginning of 1939, he changed the spelling of his last name from Eberle because the announcer of the Milton Berle radio program kept mispronouncing it.

Eberly stayed with Jimmy for eight years and ranked as one of the top male vocalists of his day, rivaling Bing Crosby and later Frank Sinatra for that title. He placed third in Billboard magazine’s 1940, 1941 and 1942 college polls for best male vocalist, moving up to second in 1943. He placed third in Down Beat magazine’s 1939 poll for best male singer and second in 1940, narrowly behind Bing Crosby. He placed second again in Down Beat’s 1941 poll, ahead of Crosby but behind Sinatra, but fell to third in 1942 and 1943, behind both his rivals. Most famous are his duets with Helen O’Connell, who joined the band in 1939 and in whom it was also said he had romantic interest. Eberly married Florine Callahan in Chicago in early 1940.

Well-liked by his peers, Eberly became best friends and eventually roommates with Jimmy Dorsey. Throughout his career, he was encouraged by many in the industry to strike out on his own, but he refused. He was perfectly happy earning a weekly salary with Dorsey’s group, saying “all I got to do here is sing a couple of songs, keep my suit pressed, and collect my check… I ain’t got no worries, so why should I want to change a set up like that?” In early 1941, rumors circulated that Eberly would leave Dorsey to start his own band, backed by Dorsey’s money. Both Eberly and Dorsey declared the rumor “crazy as hell.” Eberle appeared with Dorsey’s band in two film musicals, The Fleet’s In in 1942 and the Red Skleton vehicle I Dood It in 1943.

In November 1943, Eberly’s relationship with Dorsey finally ended when he entered the army and was stationed at Gardiner General Hospital in Chicago, where he was a projectionist for films shown to patients. While there, he also sang for Wayne King, who was directing show units for Chicago’s Sixth Service Command. Even though he spent the entirety of 1944 in the service, Eberly won Down Beat’s 1944 poll for best band singer, garnering three times the number of votes of second place winner Buddy DeVito.[1] In late 1944, while still in the service, he signed a record contract with Decca.

After he received his discharge, Eberly began recording and touring as a solo act, finding though that, outside of Down Beat readers, he had been largely forgotten by the general public. When his solo Decca recordings didn’t sell, the label teamed him up with other Decca artists, including Carmen Cavallaro, Russ Morgan, Bob Haggart, and the unusual combo of organist Ethel Smith and The Bando Carioca, before eventually dropping him in 1948. He recorded for Coral in 1949 and Riviera in 1950. In 1947, he and O’Connell sang together in the fantastical biopic The Fabulous Dorseys, and when Eberly signed to Capitol in 1951 he was reunited O’Connell on duets. That same year the pair also became regulars on the television program TV’s Top Tunes. By the middle of the decade, however, Eberly had faded from the public eye. He spent the rest of his career singing mostly in small clubs.

In 1980, Eberly had one lung removed but still continued to sing. Frank Sinatra paid for the operation, even though the two singers had never met. Bob Eberly died of a heart attack in 1981. His younger brother, Ray Eberle, sang with Glenn Miller and later led his own band. A third Eberle brother, Walter, briefly sang for Hal McIntyre in 1941.


  1. Down Beat broke their singer category into band and non-band categories starting in 1944. Eberle didn’t compete with Crosby and Sinatra that year. ↩︎


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  • Chasing Shadows
    Dorsey Brothers (Bob Eberle), Decca (1935)
  • I've Got a Feelin' You're Foolin'
    Dorsey Brothers (Bob Eberle), Decca (1935)
  • Me and Marie
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberle), Decca (1935)
  • A Picture of Me Without You
    Jimmy Dorsey (Kay Weber and Bob Eberle), Decca (1935)
  • I'm a Gambler
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberle), Decca (1935)
  • One, Two, Button Your Shoe
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberle), Decca (1936)
  • Pennies from Heaven
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberle), Decca (1936)
  • Slap That Bass
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberle), Decca (1937)
  • Jamboree
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberle), Decca (1937)
  • Change Partners
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberle), Decca (1938)
  • Love Is Here to Stay
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberle), Decca (1938)
  • It's Funny to Everyone But Me
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly), Decca (1939)
  • Do It Again
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell), Decca (1939)
  • Body and Soul
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly), Decca (1939)
  • If I Forget You
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly), Decca (1940)
  • Blue
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell), Decca (1940)
  • I Can't Resist You
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly), Decca (1940)
  • Tangerine
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell), Decca (1941)
  • The Breeze and I
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly), Decca (1941)
  • Green Eyes
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell), Decca (1941)
  • Once and for All
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly), Decca (1941)
  • Amapola
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell), Decca (1941)
  • The President's Birthday Ball
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly), Decca (1942)
  • Brazil
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell), Decca (1942)
  • I'm Glad There Is You
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly), Decca (1942)
  • Yours
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell), Decca (1942)
  • My First Love
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly), Decca (1943)
  • Besame Mucho
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly and Kitty Kallen), Decca (1943)
  • My Ideal
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly), Decca (1943)
  • Star Eyes
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly and Kitty Kallen), Decca (1943)
  • As Long as I Live
    Bob Eberly, Decca (1945)
  • I'm Goin' Home
    Bob Eberly, Decca (1945)
  • Someday (You'll Want Me to Want You)
    Bob Eberly and Frank Froeba Trio, Decca (1946)
  • Come Closer to Me
    Bob Eberly and Carmen Cavallaro, Decca (1946)
  • And Then I Looked at You
    Bob Eberly and The Song Spinners, Decca (1946)
  • When I Write My Song
    Eddie Heywood and Bob Eberly, Decca (1947)
  • Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps
    Ethel Smith and The Bando Carioca with Bob Eberly, Decca (1947)
  • Made for Each Other
    Ethel Smith and The Bando Carioca with Bob Eberly, Decca (1947)
  • Matinee
    Bob Eberly with Russ Morgan and His Orchestra, Decca (1947)
  • Lucky in Love
    Monica Lewis and Bob Eberly with Russ Morgan and His Orchestra, Decca (1947)
  • Rendezvous with a Rose
    Bob Eberly with The Sunshine Serenaders, Decca (1948)
  • Hair of Gold (Eyes of Blue)
    Bob Eberly with The Sunshine Serenaders, Decca (1948)
  • The Little Things in Life
    Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell, Capitol (1951)
  • Don't Play That Song
    Helen O'Connell and Bob Eberly, Capitol (1952)

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  • Screenshot
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly, Helen O'Connell)
    from the film The Fleet’s In, Paramount (1942)
  • Screenshot
    "Green Eyes"
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly, Helen O'Connell)
    from the film The Fabulous Dorseys, United Artists (1947)

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  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. Walker, Leo. The Wonderful Era of the Great Dance Bands. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1972.
  3. The Online Discographical Project. Accessed 5 Jan. 2016.
  4. “Vaudeville Reviews: Roxy, New York.” Billboard 16 Mar. 1935: 15.
  5. “Club Reviews: Palomar, Los Angeles.” Billboard 28 Mar. 1936: 30.
  6. “Vaudeville Reviews: Stanley, Pittsburgh.” Billboard 14 Aug. 1937: 16.
  7. “Night Club Reviews: Terrace Room, Hotel New Yorker, New York.” Billboard 12 Mar. 1938: 20.
  8. “Vaudeville Reviews: Paramount, New York.” Billboard 23 Jul. 1938: 20.
  9. “Night Club Reviews: Bon Air Country Club, Wheeling, Ill.” Billboard 20 Aug. 1938: 18.
  10. “Edythe Wright Leaves.” Down Beat Jan. 1939: 2.
  11. “Advertisement.” Billboard 30 Sep. 1939: 83.
  12. “Contest Results.” Down Beat1 Jan. 1940: 13.
  13. “Final Poll Results.” Down Beat1 Jan. 1941: 13.
  14. “Anniversary.” Down Beat1 Mar. 1941: 21.
  15. “Brantley with Jim Dorsey.” Down Beat1 May 1941: 5.
  16. “Poll Tabulations.” Down Beat1 Jan. 1942: 21.
  17. “Campus Picks Top Chirps.” Billboard 2 May 1942: 19.
  18. “O'Connell and Eberly Say That Fronting a Band Just Ain't Nowhere!” Down Beat15 May 1942: 6.
  19. “Poll Results.” Down Beat1 Jan. 1943: 14.
  20. “Students Select Singers.” Billboard 5 Jun. 1943: 20.
  21. “Bob Eberly in New Uniform.” Down Beat 1 Dec. 1943: 1.
  22. “1943 Band Poll Winners.” Down Beat1 Jan. 1944: 13.
  23. “Los Angeles Band Briefs.” Down Beat1 Feb. 1944: 4.
  24. “Ravings at Reveille.” Down Beat1 Jun. 1944: 13.
  25. The Billboard 1943 Music Year Book Cincinnati: Billboard, 1944. 139.
  26. “Chicago Band Briefs.” Down Beat1 Jan. 1945: 4.
  27. “Poll Results.” Down Beat1 Jan. 1945: 15.
  28. “Music as Written.” Billboard 1 Dec. 1945: 17.
  29. “Eberly's Cap Pact Relinks Warbler Team.” Billboard 1 Dec. 1945: 17.
  30. “Bob Eberly Recalls Those Dorsey Days.” Ludington Daily News [Ludington, MI] 26 Jul. 1977: 13.
  31. “Sinatra Hasn't Met Bob Eberly But He's Footing His Cancer Bill.” Lakeland Ledger [Lakeland, FL] 4 Sep. 1981: 2A.
  32. “Jimmy Dorsey's Singer, Bob Eberly, Dies at 65.”: The Milwaukee Journal 18 Nov. 1981: 15.