Torch singer Claire Hogan got her start in the mid-1940s singing with progressive jazz orchestras, though it wasn’t until the 1950s that she began to come into her own. Hogan’s career was a series of ups and downs. She never managed a hit song, though she was well-known enough to be regularly featured in the gossip columns of the 1950s and 1960s. She made one last attempt for stardom in 1967 before retiring from show business.
A native of Elyria, Ohio, Hogan received her first big break when she won a “Sing a Song with Johnny Long” contest. She then reportedly sang with Freddie Slack’s boogie woogie band, though she does not appear in the historical record until June 1945, when she joined Boyd Raeburn’s progressive jazz orchestra. She stayed only briefly with the band, becoming involved with saxophonist Johnny Bothwell. When Bothwell quit Raeburn after a dispute in early July, she followed him out, soon becoming Bothwell’s fourth wife. Hogan made her first recordings later that year on the Signature label with an all-star band led by Bothwell, and when Bothwell put together a full-time orchestra in February 1946, she became its vocalist. Bothwell’s band struggled, and he eventually disbanded in November 1947. He and Hogan divorced at that time.
Hogan remained active as a singer, though she does not appear in the press again until 1949, when, by March of that year, she had joined Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra. She became quite popular while with the elder Dorsey, remaining in his band until leaving to go solo in April 1950. London Records quickly signed her and rushed recordings into stores by the end of that month. Over the next few years, Hogan made the night club circuit on each coast and spent time in Las Vegas and Miami. She rejoined Dorsey in the studio in 1952. That same year she married comedian and actor Jay Lawrence, younger brother of Larry Storch. The marriage lasted on a short while, with Lawrence quipping that their “lawyers fought over custody of the wedding cake.”
Hogan quit singing at some point in 1953 or 1954. In 1955, MGM Records lured her out of retirement, and she released several sides on the label. In a 1955 interview, Hogan “sneered” at rock and roll. “Standards and show tunes—that’s what I like to do,” she told columnist Earl Wilson. “I’m in better voice now that I ever have been in my life.”
Hogan toured and continued singing through at least 1956 but after that disappears until 1959, when she recorded both for the new Monocle label and for Disney’s Buena Vista label, performing songs from Sleeping Beauty on the latter. From 1954 to 1966, gossip columns linked her romantically to jazz pianist and composer Cy Coleman, with whom she often sang in clubs. In 1966, Hogan was identified by one columnist as Coleman’s secretary. Her singing career had floundered by that time, and she attempted a comeback in 1967 with an MGM album titled “Boozers and Losers,” which featured several songs by Coleman, who also wrote the liner notes. Hogan told Billboard magazine that she hoped to regain her status as a torch singer. Unfortunately that failed to happen, and she disappeared into the mists of history for the final time.
Hogan was reportedly a descendant of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. She gave her age as 20 years old in mid-1946.
A 1955 news item identifies Hogan as an ex-canary of Gene Krupa. If true, this would have been in the early 1950s. ↩︎