Helen O'Connell

Photo of Helen O'Connell
  • Born

    May 23, 1920
    Lima, Ohio
  • Died

    September 9, 1993 (age 73)
    San Diego, California
  • Orchestras

    Jimmy Dorsey
    Larry Funk

Born and raised in north­west Ohio, singer Helen O’Connell be­gan her pro­fes­sional ca­reer tour­ing with Jimmy Richards’ nine-piece or­ches­tra be­fore even­tu­ally land­ing a steady job on lo­cal ra­dio in St. Louis. She later left her ra­dio job to sing with Larry Funk and his Band of a Thousand Melodies. Her big break came dur­ing a stay in New York in February 1939 when Jimmy Dorsey heard her sing. Having just got­ten rid of Ella Mae Morse, Dorsey was in need of a fe­male vo­cal­ist, and Helen turned out to be a per­fect match. She de­buted with Dorsey on February 20th.

Though O’Connell had lim­ited vo­cal range, she be­came pop­u­lar with the pub­lic and went on to record sev­eral big hits with Dorsey, in­clud­ing Green Eyes” and All of Me.” Most fa­mous are her duets with Bob Eberly, in whom she also had ro­man­tic in­ter­est. She was voted best fe­male vo­cal­ist in a 1940 Metronome poll and won Billboard mag­a­zine’s 1942 col­lege poll for best fe­male band vo­cal­ist, hav­ing placed sec­ond in 1941 and fourth in 1940.

O’Connell left Dorsey’s or­ches­tra in February 1943 and briefly started a solo ca­reer be­fore re­tir­ing to get mar­ried in October of that year. She came out of re­tire­ment in 1947 to ap­pear in the fan­tas­ti­cal Dorsey Brothers biopic The Fabulous Dorseys but did not re­turn fully to the mu­sic world un­til 1950, when she be­gan a suc­cess­ful solo ca­reer.

She ap­peared reg­u­larly on tele­vi­sion dur­ing the 1950s, in­clud­ing a stint as co-host of NBCs Today Show. She also starred in her own tele­vi­sion pro­gram and was a fea­tured per­former on Russ Morgan’s show. For a while she toured with Kay Starr, Rosemary Clooney and Rose Marie as Four Girls Four. She re­mained ac­tive in the mu­sic busi­ness up un­til her death from can­cer in 1993, age 73.


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  • Tangerine
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly, Helen O'Connell), Decca (1941)
  • Man, That's Groovy
    Jimmy Dorsey (Helen O'Connell), Decca (1941)
  • Surrey with the Fringe on the Top
    Bing Crosby and Helen O'Connell, Radio (1943)

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  • Screenshot
    "Rubber Dolly"
    Jimmy Dorsey (Helen O'Connell)
  • Screenshot
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly, Helen O'Connell)
    from the film The Fleet’s In, Paramount (1942)
  • Screenshot
    "Green Eyes"
    Jimmy Dorsey (Bob Eberly, Helen O'Connell)
    from the film The Fabulous Dorseys, United Artists (1947)

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  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. Walker, Leo. The Wonderful Era of the Great Dance Bands. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1972.
  3. The Online Discographical Project. Accessed 5 Jan. 2016.
  4. “Helen O'Connell.” IMDb. Accessed 29 Jul. 2016.
  5. “Dorsey Chirper.” Down Beat Mar. 1939: 2.
  6. “Advertisement.” Billboard 30 Sep. 1939: 83.
  7. “Campus Picks Top Chirps.” Billboard 2 May 1942: 19.
  8. “Vaudeville Reviews: Strand, New York.” Billboard 2 Jan. 1943: 74.
  9. “Chirper O'Connell to Jolson.” Billboard 6 Mar. 1943: 6.
  10. “Marriages.” Billboard 30 Oct. 1943: 56.
  11. “Big Dough Skirts the Skirts.” Billboard 18 Dec. 1943: 18.
  12. “Capitol Snares Helen O'Connell.” Billboard 30 Sep. 1950: 12.
  13. “Big Band Vocalist Helen O'Connell Dies.” Observer-Reporter [Washington County, PA] 11 Sep. 1993: A11.