Dorothy Claire

Photo of 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 Crosbys 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 Dunhams 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 Dorseys 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 as Logan’s un­der­study 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.

Music

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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, Moderniares), Bluebird (1941)
  • I'll Be Around
    Sonny Dunham (Dorothy Claire), Hit (1944)
  • Who Started Love?
    Boyd Raeburn (Dorothy Claire), V-Disc (1944)

All recordings are from the Internet Archive's 78rpm collection. Copyright owners, please see our removal policy.

Sources

  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  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.
  7. Carter, Dick. “On the Air: Bobby Bryne.” Billboard 22 Aug. 1942: 21.
  8. “Long Hard Winter Faces Those Chirps with Draft-Bait Bosses.” Billboard 17 Oct. 1942: 21.
  9. Carter, Dick. “Vaudeville Reviews: Paramount, New York.” Billboard 14 Nov. 1942: 16.
  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 Mocavo.com (Boulder, CO: 2013). Original Data: The United States Social Security Administration.