Photo of Dillagene
  • Birth Name

    Dillagene Plumb
  • Born

    February 9, 1923
    Fort Worth, Texas
  • Died

    February 1995 (age 72)
    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Orchestras

    Woody Herman

Born in Texas but raised in Oklahoma City, 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 he hired her to replace singer Carol Kay, who departed the band that month. Reports said that Dillagene was both a student at Oklahoma A&M and 17 years old. She was indeed seventeen, but just barely, and seventeen is too young to be a college student.[1] It’s more likely that she was simply the singer for a college band. University bands of that period often used teen girl singers who were neither students nor of college age.[2]

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 left the band of her own accord or if Herman fired her. In November, she was out of the band, supposedly ill, with Kathleen Lane subbing until Herman could fill her spot permanently.

After leaving Herman, Dillagene retired to the domestic life. She and Carlson divorced at some point prior to 1950, and she returned to Oklahoma City, where she lived with her parents that year. She married three more times, in 1953 to a man named Wrightsman, in 1957 to a husband named Dollarhide, and finally in 1961 to Robert Smith. She and Smith had three children. She lived in Oklahoma City for the rest of her life, passing away in 1995 at age 72.


  1. By Oklahoma school system standards during that period, Dillagene would have a junior in high school on April 1, 1940. ↩︎

  2. A March 1940 Oklahoma A&M gossip column is written as if it were a letter to a girl named Dillagene, insinuating that she was a student, though any connection to Plumb would be circumstantial. Oklahoma A&M is now known as Oklahoma State University, located in Stillwater, Oklahoma. ↩︎


  1. “Aggie Action.” The Daily Ardmoreite [Ardmore, Oklahoma] 14 Apr. 1940: 7.
  2. “Carol Kay Out Of Herman Ork.” Down Beat 1 May 1940: 2.
  3. “Cowgirl Vocalist.” Down Beat 15 May 1940: 2.
  4. Tucker, George. “Man About Manhattan.” Denton, Texas, Record-Chronicle 28 Oct. 1940: 6.
  5. “Podners.” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1940: 1.
  6. “Woody Herman in Market for Thrush.” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1940: 2.
  7. “Dummy Sax Man.” Down Beat 1 Dec. 1940: 7.
  8. “Comes Through in the Clutch.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1940: 12.
  9. “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:HKMC-33Z : Thu Oct 05 03:58:42 UTC 2023), Entry for Roy Plumb and Maxine Plumb, 1930.
  10. “United States Census, 1940,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VB23-79S : Tue Nov 28 08:56:13 UTC 2023), Entry for Ray Plumb and Maxine Plumb, 1940.
  11. “United States, Social Security Numerical Identification Files (NUMIDENT), 1936-2007,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6K9Q-QVR1 : 10 February 2023), Dillagene Plumb.
  12. “United States 1950 Census,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6FSC-PSL9 : Fri Oct 06 02:09:15 UTC 2023), Entry for Ray E Plumb and Maxine Plumb, April 6, 1950.
  13. “United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JKGN-CMJ : 7 January 2021), Dillagene Smith, Feb 1995; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).