Dorothy Claire

Born into a musical family, blonde vocalist Dorothy Claire began singing as a young girl, winning first prize in an amateur contest at age six. She received her professional start in 1937, at age sixteen, after attending the University of Notre Dame prom, where the Indiana University dance band was playing. She knew many of the orchestra members, and they asked her to sing. Bandleader Slim Lamar also happened to be in the audience and offered her a job. Her parents initially refused to let her join Lamar’s group but were talked into it by one of her school teachers, who pointed out that she might not get such a break again. It was Lamar who changed her name, using his interest in numerology to choose Dorothy for Dorothy Lamour and Claire for Ina Claire.

Claire left Lamar in 1939 for Bob Crosby’s orchestra, where she appeared on the band’s Camel Caravan radio program. She then joined Bobby Byrne and became a key part of his group’s sound. When Glenn Miller enticed her to leave Byrne in early 1941 to replace the departed Marion Hutton, a feud erupted between Byrne and Miller over the incident, and Claire was sued for breach of contract. She returned to Byrne, however, in March after Miller decided she wasn’t a good fit. She remained with Byrne until he disbanded the orchestra in October 1942 to join the Army Air Force. She then sang for Sonny Dunham’s band, becoming the star attraction in what was an otherwise less-than-stellar group.

Claire’s voice was popular among audiences. She finished as ninth most popular female vocalist in Billboard magazine’s 1941 poll and twelfth in 1942. She left Dunham in 1944 and worked briefly with Boyd Raeburn before beginning a successful solo career singing in nightclubs, on radio and television, and on the stage. She occasionally filled in for orchestras in need of a temporary female vocalist, including Lawrence Welk’s band in 1944, when Janie Walton went on vacation, and Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra in late 1946. She recorded with Dorsey’s band in early 1946 and solo that same year on the World Wide and Enterprise labels. She also recorded on the MGM label in 1950.

In 1947, Claire landed the role of Sharon McLonergan in the Broadway production of Finian’s Rainbow, called in at the last minute to replace the ailing Ella Logan, whose understudy had been dismissed. She ended up staying in the role for eighteen months.

As the 1950s rolled around, Claire began billing herself as both a singer and a comedienne. She played heavily on the nightclub circuit and in 1950 also began appearing regularly on television’s The Paul Winchell Show. She made guest appearances on many other television programs as well. She continued performing into the 1970s, mainly in nightclubs, also appearing in two films, as a singing prostitute in Cat Ballou (1965) and in the low budget 1970 Lenny Bruce biopic Dirtymouth. Dorothy Claire passed away in 1982, age 62.


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  • Easy Does It
    Bobby Byrne (Dorothy Claire), Decca (1940)
  • Stop Pretending
    Bobby Byrne (Dorothy Claire), Decca (1940)
  • Slow Freight
    Bobby Byrne (Dorothy Claire), Decca (1940)
  • Perfidia
    Glenn Miller (Dorothy Claire, Modernaires), Bluebird (1941)
  • Who Started Love?
    Boyd Raeburn (Dorothy Claire), V-Disc (1944)

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  2. Stewart, John. Broadway Musicals: 1943-2004. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2006. Web.
  3. “Glenn Miller's Orchestra is Army Favorite.” The Victoria Advocate [Victoria, TX] 4 Feb. 1941: 2.
  4. “Campus Picks Top Chirps.” Billboard 2 May 1942: 19.
  5. “Collegiate Choice of Female Vocalists.” Billboard 2 May 1942: 21.
  6. Zatt, Sol. “Vaudeville Reviews: State, New York.” Billboard 22 Aug. 1942: 16.
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  8. “Long Hard Winter Faces Those Chirps with Draft-Bait Bosses.” Billboard 17 Oct. 1942: 21.
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  10. “No Male Voices for Dunham.” Billboard 19 Dec. 1942: 25.
  11. “Collegiate Choice of Female Vocalists.” Billboard 5 Jun. 1943: 21.
  12. “On the Stand: Sonny Dunham.” Billboard 25 Dec. 1943: 35.
  13. “Music Grapevine.” Billboard 5 Aug. 1944: 17.
  14. Baker, Jack. “Reviews: Helsing's Vodvil Lounge.” Billboard 23 Sep. 1944: 36.
  15. “In Short.” Billboard 7 Oct. 1944: 23.
  16. “In Short.” Billboard 2 Dec. 1944: 33.
  17. “Night Club Reviews: Rio Cabana, Chicago.” Billboard 7 Apr. 1945: 28.
  18. “Chi Blue Set to Produce Segs for C-to-C Net.” Billboard 2 Jun. 1945: 5.
  19. “In Short.” Billboard 2 Jun. 1945: 33.
  20. “Night Club Reviews: Copacabana, New York.” Billboard 15 Sep. 1945: 34.
  21. “Music as Written.” Billboard 2 Mar. 1946: 22.
  22. “Vaudeville Reviews: Loew's State, New York.” Billboard 16 Mar. 1946: 44.
  23. “In Short.” Billboard 30 Mar. 1946: 41.
  24. “Music as Written.” Billboard 27 Apr. 1946: 26.
  25. “Night Club Reviews: Biltmore Bowl, Los Angeles.” Billboard 7 Sep. 1946: 41.
  26. Advertisement. Billboard 5 Oct. 1946: 22.
  27. “Cattle, Free Show Hurt T.D., Bob C.” Billboard 9 Nov. 1946: 19.
  28. “Music as Written.” Billboard 9 Nov. 1946: 20.
  29. “Reis Loses His Suit Vs. Dorothy Claire.” Billboard 31 Jan. 1948: 40.
  30. “Vic Damone for Luckies?” Billboard 22 May 1948: 20.
  31. “N.Y. Latin Quarter Inks Rudy Vallee.” Billboard 11 Dec. 1948: 40.
  32. “Finian's Star, Hoosier Honey, Very Proud of Uke Playing Dad.” The Milwaukee Journal 17 Mar. 1950: 3.
  33. “Jerry Colonna Gets Top Spot in Atlantic City Steel Pier Show.” The Sunday Star [Wilmington, DE] 16 Jul. 1950: 15.
  34. “Music as Written.” Billboard 21 Oct. 1950: 19.
  35. “Television-Radio Reviews: Paul Winchell.” Billboard 29 Sep. 1951: 10.
  36. “Dorothy Claire Tops New Carousel Bill.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 24 Nov. 1952: 25.
  37. “Coinmen Hype Big Turnout at ParkDinner.” Billboard 12 Dec. 1953: 57.
  38. Verlarde, Ed. “Talent Review: Billy Gray.” Billboard 7 Aug. 1954: 46.
  39. Advertisement. The Day [New London, CT] 25 Sep. 1970: 18.
  40. “Social Security Death Index” database online at (Boulder, CO: 2013). Original Data: The United States Social Security Administration.

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