Vocalist Dillagene made a brief interlude into music history when she became Woody Herman’s singer in April 1940. Herman discovered her when the band played the prom at Oklahoma A&M on April 1 and hired her to replace singer Carol Kay when she departed the band that month. Reports said that Dillagene was both a student at Oklahoma A&M and 17 years old. One of those is likely untrue, as seventeen is generally too young to be a college student. It’s more likely that she fibbed about her age, as a March 1940 Oklahoma A&M gossip column mentions a girl by the name of Dillagene.
Dillagene joined Herman’s band at the Meadowbrook in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. Originally using her full name, Dillagene Plumb, she quickly dropped the Plumb from her billing and went only by her given name, the reason being, according to New York columnist George Tucker, that people kept accusing her of making up the name. Later that year, she married Herman drummer Frank Carlson, and in October she was on notice with the band, though it’s confusing as to whether she gave the notice or Herman did. In November, she was out of the band, supposedly ill, with Kathleen Lane subbing until Herman could fill her spot permanently. Dillagene retired from singing to the domestic life.
Oklahoma A&M is now known as Oklahoma State University, located in Stillwater, Oklahoma. ↩︎