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.


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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)

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